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The Last of the Mohicans
A Narrative of 1757

by James Fenimore Cooper



INTRODUCTION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



 CHAPTER 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Even so.  As the psalms of David exceed all other language, so does
the psalmody that has been fitted to them by the divines and sages of
the land, surpass all vain poetry. Happily, I may say that I utter
nothing but the thoughts and the wishes of the King of Israel himself;
for though the times may call for some slight changes, yet does this
version which we use in the colonies of New England so much exceed all
other versions, that, by its richness, its exactness, and its
spiritual simplicity, it approacheth, as near as may be, to the great
work of the inspired writer.  I never 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, Duncan!"

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

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



CHAPTER 3

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

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

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

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

The frame of the white man, judging by such parts as were not
concealed by his clothes, was like that of one who had known hardships
and exertion from his earliest youth.  His person, though muscular,
was rather attenuated than full; but every nerve and muscle appeared
strung and indurated by unremitted exposure and toil.  He wore a
hunting shirt of forest-green, fringed with faded yellow*, and a
summer cap of skins which had been shorn of their fur.  He also bore a
knife in a girdle of wampum, like that which confined the scanty
garments of the Indian, but no tomahawk.  His moccasins were
ornamented after the gay fashion of the natives, while the only part
of his under dress which appeared below the 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 wooden gun?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Hawkeye! will you fight the Maquas?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"And he deceived you, and then deserted?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I will dismount."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Go! Whom call you Le Renard?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"What say you, Renard?"

"Le Subtil says it is good."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER 5

..."In such a night Did 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 banks.

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

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

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

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

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

"Name them."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"The colt."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER 6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"We are then on an island!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Anan!"

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

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

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

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

"I practice no such employment."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"What is it?" repeated Hewyard aloud.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER 7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Listen!" interrupted Alice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER 8

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Uncas delayed his fire until the scout uttered the word.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER 9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER 10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Renard smiled with cold contempt, as he answered:

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

"He is not dead, but escaped."

Magua shook his head incredulously.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"'Le Cerf Agile' is not here?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Speak; trees have no ears."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Do friends make such marks?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER 11

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Heyward, and yours!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER 12

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

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

"Le Cerf Agile!  Le Gros Serpent!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"You saw our capture?" Heyward next demanded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER 13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER 14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"And you surprised them?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Etes-vous officier du roi?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Name them quickly for time presses."

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

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

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

"Let it be done, and that instantly."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Qui va la?"

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

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

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

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

"Ami de la France."

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

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

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

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

"We shall draw their entire army upon us, and bring on a general
assault," said Duncan: "lead on, my friend, for your own life and
ours."

The scout seemed willing to comply; but, in the hurry of the moment,
and in the change of position, he had lost the direction.  In vain he
turned either cheek toward the light air; they felt equally cool.  In
this dilemma, Uncas lighted on the furrow of the cannon ball, where it
had cut the ground in three adjacent ant-hills.

"Give me the range!" said Hawkeye, bending to catch a glimpse of the
direction, and then instantly moving onward.

Cries, oaths, voices calling to each other, and the reports of
muskets, were now quick and incessant, and, apparently, on every side
of them.  Suddenly a strong glare of light flashed across the scene,
the fog rolled upward in thick wreaths, and several cannons belched
across the plain, and the roar was thrown heavily back from the
bellowing echoes of the mountain.

"'Tis from the fort!" exclaimed Hawkeye, turning short on his tracks;
"and we, like stricken fools, were rushing to the woods, under the
very knives of the Maquas."

The instant their mistake was rectified, the whole party retraced the
error with the utmost diligence.  Duncan willingly relinquished the
support of Cora to the arm of Uncas and Cora as readily accepted the
welcome assistance. Men, hot and angry in pursuit, were evidently on
their footsteps, and each instant threatened their capture, if not
their destruction.

"Point de quartier aux coquins!" cried an eager pursuer, who seemed to
direct the operations of the enemy.

"Stand firm, and be ready, my gallant Sixtieths!" suddenly exclaimed a
voice above them; "wait to see the enemy, fire low and sweep the
glacis."

"Father! father!" exclaimed a piercing cry from out the mist: "it is
I!  Alice!  thy own Elsie!  Spare, oh! save your daughters!"

"Hold!" shouted the former speaker, in the awful tones of parental
agony, the sound reaching even to the woods, and rolling back in
solemn echo.  "'Tis she!  God has restored me to my children!  Throw
open the sally-port; to the field, Sixtieths, to the field; pull not a
trigger, lest ye kill my lambs!  Drive off these dogs of France with
your steel."

Duncan heard the grating of the rusty hinges, and darting to the spot,
directed by the sound, he met a long line of dark red warriors,
passing swiftly toward the glacis.  He knew them for his own battalion
of the Royal Americans, and flying to their head, soon swept every
trace of his pursuers from before the works.

For an instant, Cora and Alice had stood trembling and bewildered by
this unexpected desertion; but before either had leisure for speech,
or even thought, an officer of gigantic frame, whose locks were
bleached with years and service, but whose air of military grandeur
had been rather softened than destroyed by time, rushed out of the
body of mist, and folded them to his bosom, while large scalding tears
rolled down his pale and wrinkled cheeks, and he exclaimed, in the
peculiar accent of Scotland:

"For this I thank thee, Lord!  Let danger come as it will, thy servant
is now prepared!"



CHAPTER 15

"Then go we in, to know his embassy; Which I could, with ready guess,
declare, Before the Frenchmen speak a word of it,"--King Henry V

A few succeeding days were passed amid the privations, the uproar, and
the dangers of the siege, which was vigorously pressed by a power,
against whose approaches Munro possessed no competent means of
resistance.  It appeared as if Webb, with his army, which lay
slumbering on the banks of the Hudson, had utterly forgotten the
strait to which his countrymen were reduced.  Montcalm had filled the
woods of the portage with his savages, every yell and whoop from whom
rang through the British encampment, chilling the hearts of men who
were already but too much disposed to magnify the danger.

Not so, however, with the besieged.  Animated by the words, and
stimulated by the examples of their leaders, they had found their
courage, and maintained their ancient reputation, with a zeal that did
justice to the stern character of their commander.  As if satisfied
with the toil of marching through the wilderness to encounter his
enemy, the French general, though of approved skill, had neglected to
seize the adjacent mountains; whence the besieged might have been
exterminated with impunity, and which, in the more modern warfare of
the country, would not have been neglected for a single hour.  This
sort of contempt for eminences, or rather dread of the labor of
ascending them, might have been termed the besetting weakness of the
warfare of the period. It originated in the simplicity of the Indian
contests, in which, from the nature of the combats, and the density of
the forests, fortresses were rare, and artillery next to useless.  The
carelessness engendered by these usages descended even to the war of
the Revolution and lost the States the important fortress of
Ticonderoga opening a way for the army of Burgoyne into what was then
the bosom of the country.  We look back at this ignorance, or
infatuation, whichever it may be called, with wonder, knowing that the
neglect of an eminence, whose difficulties, like those of Mount
Defiance, have been so greatly exaggerated, would, at the present
time, prove fatal to the reputation of the engineer who had planned
the works at their base, or to that of the general whose lot it was to
defend them.

The tourist, the valetudinarian, or the amateur of the beauties of
nature, who, in the train of his four-in-hand, now rolls through the
scenes we have attempted to describe, in quest of information, health,
or pleasure, or floats steadily toward his object on those artificial
waters which have sprung up under the administration of a statesman*
who has dared to stake his political character on the hazardous issue,
is not to suppose that his ancestors traversed those hills, or
struggled with the same currents with equal facility.  The
transportation of a single heavy gun was often considered equal to a
victory gained; if happily, the difficulties of the passage had not so
far separated it from its necessary concomitant, the ammunition, as to
render it no more than a useless tube of unwieldy iron.

* Evidently the late De Witt Clinton, who died governor of New York in
1828.

The evils of this state of things pressed heavily on the fortunes of
the resolute Scotsman who now defended William Henry.  Though his
adversary neglected the hills, he had planted his batteries with
judgment on the plain, and caused them to be served with vigor and
skill.  Against this assault, the besieged could only oppose the
imperfect and hasty preparations of a fortress in the wilderness.

It was in the afternoon of the fifth day of the siege, and the fourth
of his own service in it, that Major Heyward profited by a parley that
had just been beaten, by repairing to the ramparts of one of the water
bastions, to breathe the cool air from the lake, and to take a survey
of the progress of the siege.  He was alone, if the solitary sentinel
who paced the mound be excepted; for the artillerists had hastened
also to profit by the temporary suspension of their arduous duties.
The evening was delightfully calm, and the light air from the limpid
water fresh and soothing.  It seemed as if, with the termination of
the roar of artillery and the plunging of shot, nature had also seized
the moment to assume her mildest and most captivating form.  The sun
poured down his parting glory on the scene, without the oppression of
those fierce rays that belong to the climate and the season.  The
mountains looked green, and fresh, and lovely, tempered with the
milder light, or softened in shadow, as thin vapors floated between
them and the sun. The numerous islands rested on the bosom of the
Horican, some low and sunken, as if embedded in the waters, and others
appearing to hover about the element, in little hillocks of green
velvet; among which the fishermen of the beleaguering army peacefully
rowed their skiffs, or floated at rest on the glassy mirror in quiet
pursuit of their employment.

The scene was at once animated and still.  All that pertained to
nature was sweet, or simply grand; while those parts which depended on
the temper and movements of man were lively and playful.

Two little spotless flags were abroad, the one on a salient angle of
the fort, and the other on the advanced battery of the besiegers;
emblems of the truth which existed, not only to the acts, but it would
seem, also, to the enmity of the combatants.

Behind these again swung, heavily opening and closing in silken folds,
the rival standards of England and France.

A hundred gay and thoughtless young Frenchmen were drawing a net to
the pebbly beach, within dangerous proximity to the sullen but silent
cannon of the fort, while the eastern mountain was sending back the
loud shouts and gay merriment that attended their sport.  Some were
rushing eagerly to enjoy the aquatic games of the lake, and others
were already toiling their way up the neighboring hills, with the
restless curiosity of their nation.  To all these sports and pursuits,
those of the enemy who watched the besieged, and the besieged
themselves, were, however, merely the idle though sympathizing
spectators.  Here and there a picket had, indeed, raised a song, or
mingled in a dance, which had drawn the dusky savages around them,
from their lairs in the forest.  In short, everything wore rather the
appearance of a day of pleasure, than of an hour stolen from the
dangers and toil of a bloody and vindictive warfare.

Duncan had stood in a musing attitude, contemplating this scene a few
minutes, when his eyes were directed to the glacis in front of the
sally-port already mentioned, by the sounds of approaching footsteps.
He walked to an angle of the bastion, and beheld the scout advancing,
under the custody of a French officer, to the body of the fort.  The
countenance of Hawkeye was haggard and careworn, and his air dejected,
as though he felt the deepest degradation at having fallen into the
power of his enemies.  He was without his favorite weapon, and his
arms were even bound behind him with thongs, made of the skin of a
deer.  The arrival of flags to cover the messengers of summons, had
occurred so often of late, that when Heyward first threw his careless
glance on this group, he expected to see another of the officers of
the enemy, charged with a similar office but the instant he recognized
the tall person and still sturdy though downcast features of his
friend, the woodsman, he started with surprise, and turned to descend
from the bastion into the bosom of the work.

The sounds of other voices, however, caught his attention, and for a
moment caused him to forget his purpose.  At the inner angle of the
mound he met the sisters, walking along the parapet, in search, like
himself, of air and relief from confinement.  They had not met from
that painful moment when he deserted them on the plain, only to assure
their safety. He had parted from them worn with care, and jaded with
fatigue; he now saw them refreshed and blooming, though timid and
anxious.  Under such an inducement it will cause no surprise that the
young man lost sight for a time, of other objects in order to address
them.  He was, however, anticipated by the voice of the ingenuous and
youthful Alice.

"Ah! thou tyrant! thou recreant knight! he who abandons his damsels in
the very lists," she cried; "here have we been days, nay, ages,
expecting you at our feet, imploring mercy and forgetfulness of your
craven backsliding, or I should rather say, backrunning--for verily
you fled in the manner that no stricken deer, as our worthy friend the
scout would say, could equal!"

"You know that Alice means our thanks and our blessings," added the
graver and more thoughtful Cora.  "In truth, we have a little wonder
why you should so rigidly absent yourself from a place where the
gratitude of the daughters might receive the support of a parent's
thanks."

"Your father himself could tell you, that, though absent from your
presence, I have not been altogether forgetful of your safety,"
returned the young man; "the mastery of yonder village of huts,"
pointing to the neighboring entrenched camp, "has been keenly
disputed; and he who holds it is sure to be possessed of this fort,
and that which it contains. My days and nights have all been passed
there since we separated, because I thought that duty called me
thither. But," he added, with an air of chagrin, which he endeavored,
though unsuccessfully, to conceal, "had I been aware that what I then
believed a soldier's conduct could be so construed, shame would have
been added to the list of reasons."

"Heyward! Duncan!" exclaimed Alice, bending forward to read his
half-averted countenance, until a lock of her golden hair rested on
her flushed cheek, and nearly concealed the tear that had started to
her eye; "did I think this idle tongue of mine had pained you, I would
silence it forever. Cora can say, if Cora would, how justly we have
prized your services, and how deep--I had almost said, how fervent--
is our gratitude."  "And will Cora attest the truth of this?" cried
Duncan, suffering the cloud to be chased from his countenance by a
smile of open pleasure.  "What says our graver sister?  Will she find
an excuse for the neglect of the knight in the duty of a soldier?"

Cora made no immediate answer, but turned her face toward the water,
as if looking on the sheet of the Horican.  When she did bend her dark
eyes on the young man, they were yet filled with an expression of
anguish that at once drove every thought but that of kind solicitude
from his mind.

"You are not well, dearest Miss Munro!" he exclaimed; "we have trifled
while you are in suffering!"

"'Tis nothing," she answered, refusing his support with feminine
reserve.  "That I cannot see the sunny side of the picture of life,
like this artless but ardent enthusiast," she added, laying her hand
lightly, but affectionately, on the arm of her sister, "is the penalty
of experience, and, perhaps, the misfortune of my nature.  See," she
continued, as if determined to shake off infirmity, in a sense of
duty; "look around you, Major Heyward, and tell me what a prospect is
this for the daughter of a soldier whose greatest happiness is his
honor and his military renown."

"Neither ought nor shall be tarnished by circumstances over which he
has had no control," Duncan warmly replied.  "But your words recall me
to my own duty.  I go now to your gallant father, to hear his
determination in matters of the last moment to the defense.  God bless
you in every fortune, noble--Cora--I may and must call you."  She
frankly gave him her hand, though her lip quivered, and her cheeks
gradually became of ashly paleness.  "In every fortune, I know you
will be an ornament and honor to your sex.  Alice, adieu"--his voice
changed from admiration to tenderness-- "adieu, Alice; we shall soon
meet again; as conquerors, I trust, and amid rejoicings!"

Without waiting for an answer from either, the young man threw himself
down the grassy steps of the bastion, and moving rapidly across the
parade, he was quickly in the presence of their father.  Munro was
pacing his narrow apartment with a disturbed air and gigantic strides
as Duncan entered.

"You have anticipated my wishes, Major Heyward," he said; "I was about
to request this favor."

"I am sorry to see, sir, that the messenger I so warmly recommended
has returned in custody of the French!  I hope there is no reason to
distrust his fidelity?"

"The fidelity of 'The Long Rifle' is well known to me," returned
Munro, "and is above suspicion; though his usual good fortune seems,
at last, to have failed.  Montcalm has got him, and with the accursed
politeness of his nation, he has sent him in with a doleful tale, of
'knowing how I valued the fellow, he could not think of retaining him'
A Jesuitical way that, Major Duncan Heyward, of telling a man of his
misfortunes!"

"But the general and his succor?"

"Did ye look to the south as ye entered, and could ye not see them?"
said the old soldier, laughing bitterly.

"Hoot! hoot! you're an impatient boy, sir, and cannot give the
gentlemen leisure for their march!"

"They are coming, then? The scout has said as much?"

"When? and by what path? for the dunce has omitted to tell me this.
There is a letter, it would seem, too; and that is the only agreeable
part of the matter.  For the customary attentions of your Marquis of
Montcalm--I warrant me, Duncan, that he of Lothian would buy a dozen
such marquisates--but if the news of the letter were bad, the
gentility of this French monsieur would certainly compel him to let us
know it."

"He keeps the letter, then, while he releases the messenger?"

"Ay, that does he, and all for the sake of what you call your
'bonhommie' I would venture, if the truth was known, the fellow's
grandfather taught the noble science of dancing."

"But what says the scout? he has eyes and ears, and a tongue.  What
verbal report does he make?"

"Oh! sir, he is not wanting in natural organs, and he is free to tell
all that he has seen and heard.  The whole amount is this; there is a
fort of his majesty's on the banks of the Hudson, called Edward, in
honor of his gracious highness of York, you'll know; and it is well
filled with armed men, as such a work should be."

"But was there no movement, no signs of any intention to advance to
our relief?"

"There were the morning and evening parades; and when one of the
provincial loons--you'll know, Dunca, you're half a Scotsman
yourself--when one of them dropped his powder over his porretch, if it
touched the coals, it just burned!" Then, suddenly changing his
bitter, ironical manner, to one more grave and thoughtful, he
continued: "and yet there might, and must be, something in that letter
which it would be well to know!"

"Our decision should be speedy," said Duncan, gladly availing himself
of this change of humor, to press the more important objects of their
interview; "I cannot conceal from you, sir, that the camp will not be
much longer tenable; and I am sorry to add, that things appear no
better in the fort; more than half the guns are bursted."

"And how should it be otherwise?  Some were fished from the bottom of
the lake; some have been rusting in woods since the discovery of the
country; and some were never guns at all--mere privateersmen's
playthings!  Do you think, sir, you can have Woolwich Warren in the
midst of a wilderness, three thousand miles from Great Britain?"

"The walls are crumbling about our ears, and provisions begin to fail
us," continued Heyward, without regarding the new burst of
indignation; "even the men show signs of discontent and alarm."

"Major Heyward," said Munro, turning to his youthful associate with
the dignity of his years and superior rank; "I should have served his
majesty for half a century, and earned these gray hairs in vain, were
I ignorant of all you say, and of the pressing nature of our
circumstances; still, there is everything due to the honor of the
king's arms, and something to ourselves.  While there is hope of
succor, this fortress will I defend, though it be to be done with
pebbles gathered on the lake shore.  It is a sight of the letter,
therefore, that we want, that we may know the intentions of the man
the earl of Loudon has left among us as his substitute."

"And can I be of service in the matter?"

"Sir, you can; the marquis of Montcalm has, in addition to his other
civilities, invited me to a personal interview between the works and
his own camp; in order, as he says, to impart some additional
information.  Now, I think it would not be wise to show any undue
solicitude to meet him, and I would employ you, an officer of rank, as
my substitute; for it would but ill comport with the honor of Scotland
to let it be said one of her gentlemen was outdone in civility by a
native of any other country on earth."

Without assuming the supererogatory task of entering into a discussion
of the comparative merits of national courtesy, Duncan cheerfully
assented to supply the place of the veteran in the approaching
interview.  A long and confidential communication now succeeded,
during which the young man received some additional insight into his
duty, from the experience and native acuteness of his commander, and
then the former took his leave.

As Duncan could only act as the representative of the commandant of
the fort, the ceremonies which should have accompanied a meeting
between the heads of the adverse forces were, of course, dispensed
with.  The truce still existed, and with a roll and beat of the drum,
and covered by a little white flag, Duncan left the sally-port, within
ten minutes after his instructions were ended.  He was received by the
French officer in advance with the usual formalities, and immediately
accompanied to a distant marquee of the renowned soldier who led the
forces of France.

The general of the enemy received the youthful messenger, surrounded
by his principal officers, and by a swarthy band of the native chiefs,
who had followed him to the field, with the warriors of their several
tribes.  Heyward paused short, when, in glancing his eyes rapidly over
the dark group of the latter, he beheld the malignant countenance of
Magua, regarding him with the calm but sullen attention which marked
the expression of that subtle savage.  A slight exclamation of
surprise even burst from the lips of the young man, but instantly,
recollecting his errand, and the presence in which he stood, he
suppressed every appearance of emotion, and turned to the hostile
leader, who had already advanced a step to receive him.

The marquis of Montcalm was, at the period of which we write, in the
flower of his age, and, it may be added, in the zenith of his
fortunes.  But even in that enviable situation, he was affable, and
distinguished as much for his attention to the forms of courtesy, as
for that chivalrous courage which, only two short years afterward,
induced him to throw away his life on the plains of Abraham.  Duncan,
in turning his eyes from the malign expression of Magua, suffered them
to rest with pleasure on the smiling and polished features, and the
noble military air, of the French general.

"Monsieur," said the latter, "j'ai beaucoup de plaisir a-- bah!--ou
est cet interprete?"

"Je crois, monsieur, qu'il ne sear pas necessaire," Heyward modestly
replied; "je parle un peu fran�ais."

"Ah! j'en suis bien aise," said Montcalm, taking Duncan familiarly by
the arm, and leading him deep into the marquee, a little out of
earshot; "je deteste ces fripons- la; on ne sait jamais sur quel pie
on est avec eux.  Eh, bien! monsieur," he continued still speaking in
French; "though I should have been proud of receiving your commandant,
I am very happy that he has seen proper to employ an officer so
distinguished, and who, I am sure, is so amiable, as yourself."

Duncan bowed low, pleased with the compliment, in spite of a most
heroic determination to suffer no artifice to allure him into
forgetfulness of the interest of his prince; and Montcalm, after a
pause of a moment, as if to collect his thoughts, proceeded:

"Your commandant is a brave man, and well qualified to repel my
assault.  Mais, monsieur, is it not time to begin to take more counsel
of humanity, and less of your courage?  The one as strongly
characterizes the hero as the other."

"We consider the qualities as inseparable," returned Duncan, smiling;
"but while we find in the vigor of your excellency every motive to
stimulate the one, we can, as yet, see no particular call for the
exercise of the other."

Montcalm, in his turn, slightly bowed, but it was with the air of a
man too practised to remember the language of flattery.  After musing
a moment, he added:

"It is possible my glasses have deceived me, and that your works
resist our cannon better than I had supposed.  You know our force?"

"Our accounts vary," said Duncan, carelessly; "the highest, however,
has not exceeded twenty thousand men."

The Frenchman bit his lip, and fastened his eyes keenly on the other
as if to read his thoughts; then, with a readiness peculiar to
himself, he continued, as if assenting to the truth of an enumeration
which quite doubled his army:

"It is a poor compliment to the vigilance of us soldiers, monsieur,
that, do what we will, we never can conceal our numbers.  If it were
to be done at all, one would believe it might succeed in these woods.
Though you think it too soon to listen to the calls of humanity," he
added, smiling archly, "I may be permitted to believe that gallantry
is not forgotten by one so young as yourself.  The daughters of the
commandant, I learn, have passed into the fort since it was invested?"

"It is true, monsieur; but, so far from weakening our efforts, they
set us an example of courage in their own fortitude.  Were nothing but
resolution necessary to repel so accomplished a soldier as M.  de
Montcalm, I would gladly trust the defense of William Henry to the
elder of those ladies."

"We have a wise ordinance in our Salique laws, which says, 'The crown
of France shall never degrade the lance to the distaff'," said
Montcalm, dryly, and with a little hauteur; but instantly adding, with
his former frank and easy air: "as all the nobler qualities are
hereditary, I can easily credit you; though, as I said before, courage
has its limits, and humanity must not be forgotten.  I trust,
monsieur, you come authorized to treat for the surrender of the
place?"

"Has your excellency found our defense so feeble as to believe the
measure necessary?"

"I should be sorry to have the defense protracted in such a manner as
to irritate my red friends there," continued Montcalm, glancing his
eyes at the group of grave and attentive Indians, without attending to
the other's questions; "I find it difficult, even now, to limit them
to the usages of war."

Heyward was silent; for a painful recollection of the dangers he had
so recently escaped came over his mind, and recalled the images of
those defenseless beings who had shared in all his sufferings.

"Ces messieurs-la," said Montcalm, following up the advantage which he
conceived he had gained, "are most formidable when baffled; and it is
unnecessary to tell you with what difficulty they are restrained in
their anger.  Eh bien, monsieur! shall we speak of the terms?"

"I fear your excellency has been deceived as to the strength of
William Henry, and the resources of its garrison!"

"I have not sat down before Quebec, but an earthen work, that is
defended by twenty-three hundred gallant men," was the laconic reply.

"Our mounds are earthen, certainly--nor are they seated on the rocks
of Cape Diamond; but they stand on that shore which proved so
destructive to Dieskau and his army.  There is also a powerful force
within a few hours' march of us, which we account upon as a part of
our means."

"Some six or eight thousand men," returned Montcalm, with much
apparent indifference, "whom their leader wisely judges to be safer in
their works than in the field."

It was now Heyward's turn to bite his lip with vexation as the other
so coolly alluded to a force which the young man knew to be overrated.
Both mused a little while in silence, when Montcalm renewed the
conversation, in a way that showed he believed the visit of his guest
was solely to propose terms of capitulation.  On the other hand,
Heyward began to throw sundry inducements in the way of the French
general, to betray the discoveries he had made through the intercepted
letter.  The artifice of neither, however, succeeded; and after a
protracted and fruitless interview, Duncan took his leave, favorably
impressed with an opinion of the courtesy and talents of the enemy's
captain, but as ignorant of what he came to learn as when he
arrived. Montcalm followed him as far as the entrance of the marquee,
renewing his invitations to the commandant of the fort to give him an
immediate meeting in the open ground between the two armies.

There they separated, and Duncan returned to the advanced post of the
French, accompanied as before; whence he instantly proceeded to the
fort, and to the quarters of his own commander.



CHAPTER 16

"EDG.--Before you fight the battle ope this letter."-- Lear

Major Heyward found Munro attended only by his daughters. Alice sat
upon his knee, parting the gray hairs on the forehead of the old man
with her delicate fingers; and whenever he affected to frown on her
trifling, appeasing his assumed anger by pressing her ruby lips fondly
on his wrinkled brow.  Cora was seated nigh them, a calm and amused
looker-on; regarding the wayward movements of her more youthful sister
with that species of maternal fondness which characterized her love
for Alice.  Not only the dangers through which they had passed, but
those which still impended above them, appeared to be momentarily
forgotten, in the soothing indulgence of such a family meeting.  It
seemed as if they had profited by the short truce, to devote an
instant to the purest and best affection; the daughters forgetting
their fears, and the veteran his cares, in the security of the moment.
Of this scene, Duncan, who, in his eagerness to report his arrival,
had entered unannounced, stood many moments an unobserved and a
delighted spectator. But the quick and dancing eyes of Alice soon
caught a glimpse of his figure reflected from a glass, and she sprang
blushing from her father's knee, exclaiming aloud:

"Major Heyward!"

"What of the lad?" demanded her father; "I have sent him to crack a
little with the Frenchman.  Ha, sir, you are young, and you're nimble!
Away with you, ye baggage; as if there were not troubles enough for a
soldier, without having his camp filled with such prattling hussies as
yourself!"

Alice laughingly followed her sister, who instantly led the way from
an apartment where she perceived their presence was no longer
desirable.  Munro, instead of demanding the result of the young man's
mission, paced the room for a few moments, with his hands behind his
back, and his head inclined toward the floor, like a man lost in
thought.  At length he raised his eyes, glistening with a father's
fondness, and exclaimed:

"They are a pair of excellent girls, Heyward, and such as any one may
boast of."

"You are not now to learn my opinion of your daughters, Colonel
Munro."

"True, lad, true," interrupted the impatient old man; "you were about
opening your mind more fully on that matter the day you got in, but I
did not think it becoming in an old soldier to be talking of nuptial
blessings and wedding jokes when the enemies of his king were likely
to be unbidden guests at the feast.  But I was wrong, Duncan, boy, I
was wrong there; and I am now ready to hear what you have to say."

"Notwithstanding the pleasure your assurance gives me, dear sir, I
have just now, a message from Montcalm--"

"Let the Frenchman and all his host go to the devil, sir!" exclaimed
the hasty veteran.  "He is not yet master of William Henry, nor shall
he ever be, provided Webb proves himself the man he should.  No, sir,
thank Heaven we are not yet in such a strait that it can be said Munro
is too much pressed to discharge the little domestic duties of his own
family.  Your mother was the only child of my bosom friend, Duncan;
and I'll just give you a hearing, though all the knights of St.  Louis
were in a body at the sally-port, with the French saint at their head,
crying to speak a word under favor.  A pretty degree of knighthood,
sir, is that which can be bought with sugar hogsheads! and then your
twopenny marquisates.  The thistle is the order for dignity and
antiquity; the veritable 'nemo me impune lacessit' of chivalry.  Ye
had ancestors in that degree, Duncan, and they were an ornament to the
nobles of Scotland."

Heyward, who perceived that his superior took a malicious pleasure in
exhibiting his contempt for the message of the French general, was
fain to humor a spleen that he knew would be short-lived; he
therefore, replied with as much indifference as he could assume on
such a subject:

"My request, as you know, sir, went so far as to presume to the honor
of being your son."

"Ay, boy, you found words to make yourself very plainly comprehended.
But, let me ask ye, sir, have you been as intelligible to the girl?"

"On my honor, no," exclaimed Duncan, warmly; "there would have been an
abuse of a confided trust, had I taken advantage of my situation for
such a purpose."

"Your notions are those of a gentleman, Major Heyward, and well enough
in their place.  But Cora Munro is a maiden too discreet, and of a
mind too elevated and improved, to need the guardianship even of a
father."

"Cora!"

"Ay--Cora! we are talking of your pretensions to Miss Munro, are we
not, sir?"

"I--I--I was not conscious of having mentioned her name," said Duncan,
stammering.

"And to marry whom, then, did you wish my consent, Major Heyward?"
demanded the old soldier, erecting himself in the dignity of offended
feeling.

"You have another, and not less lovely child."

"Alice!" exclaimed the father, in an astonishment equal to that with
which Duncan had just repeated the name of her sister.

"Such was the direction of my wishes, sir."

The young man awaited in silence the result of the extraordinary
effect produced by a communication, which, as it now appeared, was so
unexpected.  For several minutes Munro paced the chamber with long and
rapid strides, his rigid features working convulsively, and every
faculty seemingly absorbed in the musings of his own mind.  At length,
he paused directly in front of Heyward, and riveting his eyes upon
those of the other, he said, with a lip that quivered violently:

"Duncan Heyward, I have loved you for the sake of him whose blood is
in your veins; I have loved you for your own good qualities; and I
have loved you, because I thought you would contribute to the
happiness of my child.  But all this love would turn to hatred, were I
assured that what I so much apprehend is true."

"God forbid that any act or thought of mine should lead to such a
change!" exclaimed the young man, whose eye never quailed under the
penetrating look it encountered.  Without adverting to the
impossibility of the other's comprehending those feelings which were
hid in his own bosom, Munro suffered himself to be appeased by the
unaltered countenance he met, and with a voice sensibly softened, he
continued:

"You would be my son, Duncan, and you're ignorant of the history of
the man you wish to call your father.  Sit ye down, young man, and I
will open to you the wounds of a seared heart, in as few words as may
be suitable."

By this time, the message of Montcalm was as much forgotten by him who
bore it as by the man for whose ears it was intended.  Each drew a
chair, and while the veteran communed a few moments with his own
thoughts, apparently in sadness, the youth suppressed his impatience
in a look and attitude of respectful attention.  At length, the former
spoke:

"You'll know, already, Major Heyward, that my family was both ancient
and honorable," commenced the Scotsman; "though it might not
altogether be endowed with that amount of wealth that should
correspond with its degree.  I was, maybe, such an one as yourself
when I plighted my faith to Alice Graham, the only child of a
neighboring laird of some estate.  But the connection was disagreeable
to her father, on more accounts than my poverty.  I did, therefore,
what an honest man should--restored the maiden her troth, and departed
the country in the service of my king.  I had seen many regions, and
had shed much blood in different lands, before duty called me to the
islands of the West Indies. There it was my lot to form a connection
with one who in time became my wife, and the mother of Cora.  She was
the daughter of a gentleman of those isles, by a lady whose misfortune
it was, if you will," said the old man, proudly, "to be descended,
remotely, from that unfortunate class who are so basely enslaved to
administer to the wants of a luxurious people.  Ay, sir, that is a
curse, entailed on Scotland by her unnatural union with a foreign and
trading people.  But could I find a man among them who would dare to
reflect on my child, he should feel the weight of a father's anger!
Ha!  Major Heyward, you are yourself born at the south, where these
unfortunate beings are considered of a race inferior to your own."

"'Tis most unfortunately true, sir," said Duncan, unable any longer to
prevent his eyes from sinking to the floor in embarrassment.

"And you cast it on my child as a reproach!  You scorn to mingle the
blood of the Heywards with one so degraded-- lovely and virtuous
though she be?" fiercely demanded the jealous parent.

"Heaven protect me from a prejudice so unworthy of my reason!"
returned Duncan, at the same time conscious of such a feeling, and
that as deeply rooted as if it had been ingrafted in his nature.  "The
sweetness, the beauty, the witchery of your younger daughter, Colonel
Munro, might explain my motives without imputing to me this
injustice."

"Ye are right, sir," returned the old man, again changing his tones to
those of gentleness, or rather softness; "the girl is the image of
what her mother was at her years, and before she had become acquainted
with grief.  When death deprived me of my wife I returned to Scotland,
enriched by the marriage; and, would you think it, Duncan! the
suffering angel had remained in the heartless state of celibacy twenty
long years, and that for the sake of a man who could forget her!  She
did more, sir; she overlooked my want of faith, and, all difficulties
being now removed, she took me for her husband."

"And became the mother of Alice?" exclaimed Duncan, with an eagerness
that might have proved dangerous at a moment when the thoughts of
Munro were less occupied that at present.

"She did, indeed," said the old man, "and dearly did she pay for the
blessing she bestowed.  But she is a saint in heaven, sir; and it ill
becomes one whose foot rests on the grave to mourn a lot so blessed.
I had her but a single year, though; a short term of happiness for one
who had seen her youth fade in hopeless pining."

There was something so commanding in the distress of the old man, that
Heyward did not dare to venture a syllable of consolation.  Munro sat
utterly unconscious of the other's presence, his features exposed and
working with the anguish of his regrets, while heavy tears fell from
his eyes, and rolled unheeded from his cheeks to the floor.  At length
he moved, and as if suddenly recovering his recollection; when he
arose, and taking a single turn across the room, he approached his
companion with an air of military grandeur, and demanded:

"Have you not, Major Heyward, some communication that I should hear
from the marquis de Montcalm?"

Duncan started in his turn, and immediately commenced in an
embarrassed voice, the half-forgotten message.  It is unnecessary to
dwell upon the evasive though polite manner with which the French
general had eluded every attempt of Heyward to worm from him the
purport of the communication he had proposed making, or on the
decided, though still polished message, by which he now gave his enemy
to understand, that, unless he chose to receive it in person, he
should not receive it at all.  As Munro listened to the detail of
Duncan, the excited feelings of the father gradually gave way before
the obligations of his station, and when the other was done, he saw
before him nothing but the veteran, swelling with the wounded feelings
of a soldier.

"You have said enough, Major Heyward," exclaimed the angry old man;
"enough to make a volume of commentary on French civility.  Here has
this gentleman invited me to a conference, and when I send him a
capable substitute, for ye're all that, Duncan, though your years are
but few, he answers me with a riddle."

"He may have thought less favorably of the substitute, my dear sir;
and you will remember that the invitation, which he now repeats, was
to the commandant of the works, and not to his second."

"Well, sir, is not a substitute clothed with all the power and dignity
of him who grants the commission?  He wishes to confer with Munro!
Faith, sir, I have much inclination to indulge the man, if it should
only be to let him behold the firm countenance we maintain in spite of
his numbers and his summons.  There might be not bad policy in such a
stroke, young man."

Duncan, who believe it of the last importance that they should
speedily come to the contents of the letter borne by the scout, gladly
encouraged this idea.

"Without doubt, he could gather no confidence by witnessing our
indifference," he said.

"You never said truer word.  I could wish, sir, that he would visit
the works in open day, and in the form of a storming party; that is
the least failing method of proving the countenance of an enemy, and
would be far preferable to the battering system he has chosen.  The
beauty and manliness of warfare has been much deformed, Major Heyward,
by the arts of your Monsieur Vauban.  Our ancestors were far above
such scientific cowardice!"

"It may be very true, sir; but we are now obliged to repel art by art.
What is your pleasure in the matter of the interview?"

"I will meet the Frenchman, and that without fear or delay; promptly,
sir, as becomes a servant of my royal master.  Go, Major Heyward, and
give them a flourish of the music; and send out a messenger to let
them know who is coming.  We will follow with a small guard, for such
respect is due to one who holds the honor of his king in keeping; and
hark'ee, Duncan," he added, in a half whisper, though they were alone,
"it may be prudent to have some aid at hand, in case there should be
treachery at the bottom of it all."

The young man availed himself of this order to quit the apartment;
and, as the day was fast coming to a close, he hastened without delay,
to make the necessary arrangements. A very few minutes only were
necessary to parade a few files, and to dispatch an orderly with a
flag to announce the approach of the commandant of the fort.  When
Duncan had done both these, he led the guard to the sally-port, near
which he found his superior ready, waiting his appearance. As soon as
the usual ceremonials of a military departure were observed, the
veteran and his more youthful companion left the fortress, attended by
the escort.

They had proceeded only a hundred yards from the works, when the
little array which attended the French general to the conference was
seen issuing from the hollow way which formed the bed of a brook that
ran between the batteries of the besiegers and the fort.  From the
moment that Munro left his own works to appear in front of his
enemy's, his air had been grand, and his step and countenance highly
military. The instant he caught a glimpse of the white plume that
waved in the hat of Montcalm, his eye lighted, and age no longer
appeared to possess any influence over his vast and still muscular
person.

"Speak to the boys to be watchful, sir," he said, in an undertone, to
Duncan; "and to look well to their flints and steel, for one is never
safe with a servant of these Louis's; at the same time, we shall show
them the front of men in deep security.  Ye'll understand me, Major
Heyward!"

He was interrupted by the clamor of a drum from the approaching
Frenchmen, which was immediately answered, when each party pushed an
orderly in advance, bearing a white flag, and the wary Scotsman halted
with his guard close at his back.  As soon as this slight salutation
had passed, Montcalm moved toward them with a quick but graceful step,
baring his head to the veteran, and dropping his spotless plume nearly
to the earth in courtesy.  If the air of Munro was more commanding and
manly, it wanted both the ease and insinuating polish of that of the
Frenchman.  Neither spoke for a few moments, each regarding the other
with curious and interested eyes.  Then, as became his superior rank
and the nature of the interview, Montcalm broke the silence.  After
uttering the usual words of greeting, he turned to Duncan, and
continued, with a smile of recognition, speaking always in French:

"I am rejoiced, monsieur, that you have given us the pleasure of your
company on this occasion.  There will be no necessity to employ an
ordinary interpreter; for, in your hands, I feel the same security as
if I spoke your language myself."

Duncan acknowledged the compliment, when Montcalm, turning to his
guard, which in imitation of that of their enemies, pressed close upon
him, continued:

"En arriere, mes enfants--il fait chaud--retirez-vous un peu."

Before Major Heyward would imitate this proof of confidence, he
glanced his eyes around the plain, and beheld with uneasiness the
numerous dusky groups of savages, who looked out from the margin of
the surrounding woods, curious spectators of the interview.

"Monsieur de Montcalm will readily acknowledge the difference in our
situation," he said, with some embarrassment, pointing at the same
time toward those dangerous foes, who were to be seen in almost every
direction.  "were we to dismiss our guard, we should stand here at the
mercy of our enemies."

"Monsieur, you have the plighted faith of 'un gentilhomme
Fran�ais', for your safety," returned Montcalm, laying his hand
impressively on his heart; "it should suffice."

"It shall.  Fall back," Duncan added to the officer who led the
escort; "fall back, sir, beyond hearing, and wait for orders."

Munro witnessed this movement with manifest uneasiness; nor did he
fail to demand an instant explanation.

"Is it not our interest, sir, to betray distrust?" retorted Duncan.
"Monsieur de Montcalm pledges his word for our safety, and I have
ordered the men to withdraw a little, in order to prove how much we
depend on his assurance."

"It may be all right, sir, but I have no overweening reliance on the
faith of these marquesses, or marquis, as they call themselves.  Their
patents of nobility are too common to be certain that they bear the
seal of true honor."

"You forget, dear sir, that we confer with an officer, distinguished
alike in Europe and America for his deeds. From a soldier of his
reputation we can have nothing to apprehend."

The old man made a gesture of resignation, though his rigid features
still betrayed his obstinate adherence to a distrust, which he derived
from a sort of hereditary contempt of his enemy, rather than from any
present signs which might warrant so uncharitable a feeling.  Montcalm
waited patiently until this little dialogue in demi-voice was ended,
when he drew nigher, and opened the subject of their conference.

"I have solicited this interview from your superior, monsieur," he
said, "because I believe he will allow himself to be persuaded that he
has already done everything which is necessary for the honor of his
prince, and will now listen to the admonitions of humanity.  I will
forever bear testimony that his resistance has been gallant, and was
continued as long as there was hope."

When this opening was translated to Munro, he answered with dignity,
but with sufficient courtesy:

"However I may prize such testimony from Monsieur Montcalm, it will be
more valuable when it shall be better merited."

The French general smiled, as Duncan gave him the purport of this
reply, and observed:

"What is now so freely accorded to approved courage, may be refused to
useless obstinacy.  Monsieur would wish to see my camp, and witness
for himself our numbers, and the impossibility of his resisting them
with success?"

"I know that the king of France is well served," returned the unmoved
Scotsman, as soon as Duncan ended his translation; "but my own royal
master has as many and as faithful troops."

"Though not at hand, fortunately for us," said Montcalm, without
waiting, in his ardor, for the interpreter.  "There is a destiny in
war, to which a brave man knows how to submit with the same courage
that he faces his foes."

"Had I been conscious that Monsieur Montcalm was master of the
English, I should have spared myself the trouble of so awkward a
translation," said the vexed Duncan, dryly; remembering instantly his
recent by-play with Munro.

"Your pardon, monsieur," rejoined the Frenchman, suffering a slight
color to appear on his dark cheek.  "There is a vast difference
between understanding and speaking a foreign tongue; you will,
therefore, please to assist me still." Then, after a short pause, he
added: "These hills afford us every opportunity of reconnoitering your
works, messieurs, and I am possibly as well acquainted with their weak
condition as you can be yourselves."

"Ask the French general if his glasses can reach to the Hudson," said
Munro, proudly; "and if he knows when and where to expect the army of
Webb."

"Let General Webb be his own interpreter," returned the politic
Montcalm, suddenly extending an open letter toward Munro as he spoke;
"you will there learn, monsieur, that his movements are not likely to
prove embarrassing to my army."

The veteran seized the offered paper, without waiting for Duncan to
translate the speech, and with an eagerness that betrayed how
important he deemed its contents.  As his eye passed hastily over the
words, his countenance changed from its look of military pride to one
of deep chagrin; his lip began to quiver; and suffering the paper to
fall from his hand, his head dropped upon his chest, like that of a
man whose hopes were withered at a single blow.  Duncan caught the
letter from the ground, and without apology for the liberty he took,
he read at a glance its cruel purport. Their common superior, so far
from encouraging them to resist, advised a speedy surrender, urging in
the plainest language, as a reason, the utter impossibility of his
sending a single man to their rescue.

"Here is no deception!" exclaimed Duncan, examining the billet both
inside and out; "this is the signature of Webb, and must be the
captured letter."

"The man has betrayed me!"  Munro at length bitterly exclaimed; "he
has brought dishonor to the door of one where disgrace was never
before known to dwell, and shame has he heaped heavily on my gray
hairs."

"Say not so," cried Duncan; "we are yet masters of the fort, and of
our honor.  Let us, then, sell our lives at such a rate as shall make
our enemies believe the purchase too dear."

"Boy, I thank thee," exclaimed the old man, rousing himself from his
stupor; "you have, for once, reminded Munro of his duty.  We will go
back, and dig our graves behind those ramparts."

"Messieurs," said Montcalm, advancing toward them a step, in generous
interest, "you little know Louis de St.  Veran if you believe him
capable of profiting by this letter to humble brave men, or to build
up a dishonest reputation for himself.  Listen to my terms before you
leave me."

"What says the Frenchman?" demanded the veteran, sternly; "does he
make a merit of having captured a scout, with a note from
headquarters?  Sir, he had better raise this siege, to go and sit down
before Edward if he wishes to frighten his enemy with words."

Duncan explained the other's meaning.

"Monsieur de Montcalm, we will hear you," the veteran added, more
calmly, as Duncan ended.

"To retain the fort is now impossible," said his liberal enemy; "it is
necessary to the interests of my master that it should be destroyed;
but as for yourselves and your brave comrades, there is no privilege
dear to a soldier that shall be denied."

"Our colors?" demanded Heyward.

"Carry them to England, and show them to your king."

"Our arms?"

"Keep them; none can use them better."

"Our march; the surrender of the place?"

"Shall all be done in a way most honorable to yourselves."

Duncan now turned to explain these proposals to his commander, who
heard him with amazement, and a sensibility that was deeply touched by
so unusual and unexpected generosity.

"Go you, Duncan," he said; "go with this marquess, as, indeed,
marquess he should be; go to his marquee and arrange it all.  I have
lived to see two things in my old age that never did I expect to
behold.  An Englishman afraid to support a friend, and a Frenchman too
honest to profit by his advantage."

So saying, the veteran again dropped his head to his chest, and
returned slowly toward the fort, exhibiting, by the dejection of his
air, to the anxious garrison, a harbinger of evil tidings.

From the shock of this unexpected blow the haughty feelings of Munro
never recovered; but from that moment there commenced a change in his
determined character, which accompanied him to a speedy grave.  Duncan
remained to settle the terms of the capitulation.  He was seen to re-
enter the works during the first watches of the night, and immediately
after a private conference with the commandant, to leave them again.
It was then openly announced that hostilities must cease--Munro having
signed a treaty by which the place was to be yielded to the enemy,
with the morning; the garrison to retain their arms, the colors and
their baggage, and, consequently, according to military opinion, their
honor.



CHAPTER 17

"Weave we the woof.  The thread is spun.  The web is wove. The work is
done."--Gray

The hostile armies, which lay in the wilds of the Horican, passed the
night of the ninth of August, 1757, much in the manner they would, had
they encountered on the fairest field of Europe.  While the conquered
were still, sullen, and dejected, the victors triumphed.  But there
are limits alike to grief and joy; and long before the watches of the
morning came the stillness of those boundless woods was only broken by
a gay call from some exulting young Frenchman of the advanced pickets,
or a menacing challenge from the fort, which sternly forbade the
approach of any hostile footsteps before the stipulated moment.  Even
these occasional threatening sounds ceased to be heard in that dull
hour which precedes the day, at which period a listener might have
sought in vain any evidence of the presence of those armed powers that
then slumbered on the shores of the "holy lake."

It was during these moments of deep silence that the canvas which
concealed the entrance to a spacious marquee in the French encampment
was shoved aside, and a man issued from beneath the drapery into the
open air.  He was enveloped in a cloak that might have been intended
as a protection from the chilling damps of the woods, but which served
equally well as a mantle to conceal his person.  He was permitted to
pass the grenadier, who watched over the slumbers of the French
commander, without interruption, the man making the usual salute which
betokens military deference, as the other passed swiftly through the
little city of tents, in the direction of William Henry.  Whenever
this unknown individual encountered one of the numberless sentinels
who crossed his path, his answer was prompt, and, as it appeared,
satisfactory; for he was uniformly allowed to proceed without further
interrogation.

With the exception of such repeated but brief interruptions, he had
moved silently from the center of the camp to its most advanced
outposts, when he drew nigh the soldier who held his watch nearest to
the works of the enemy.  As he approached he was received with the
usual challenge:

"Qui vive?"

"France," was the reply.

"Le mot d'ordre?"

"La victorie," said the other, drawing so nigh as to be heard in a
loud whisper.

"C'est bien," returned the sentinel, throwing his musket from the
charge to his shoulder; "vous promenez bien matin, monsieur!"

"Il est necessaire d'etre vigilant, mon enfant," the other observed,
dropping a fold of his cloak, and looking the soldier close in the
face as he passed him, still continuing his way toward the British
fortification.  The man started; his arms rattled heavily as he threw
them forward in the lowest and most respectful salute; and when he had
again recovered his piece, he turned to walk his post, muttering
between his teeth:

"Il faut etre vigilant, en verite! je crois que nous avons la, un
caporal qui ne dort jamais!"

The officer proceeded, without affecting to hear the words which
escaped the sentinel in his surprise; nor did he again pause until he
had reached the low strand, and in a somewhat dangerous vicinity to
the western water bastion of the fort. The light of an obscure moon
was just sufficient to render objects, though dim, perceptible in
their outlines.  He, therefore, took the precaution to place himself
against the trunk of a tree, where he leaned for many minutes, and
seemed to contemplate the dark and silent mounds of the English works
in profound attention.  His gaze at the ramparts was not that of a
curious or idle spectator; but his looks wandered from point to point,
denoting his knowledge of military usages, and betraying that his
search was not unaccompanied by distrust.  At length he appeared
satisfied; and having cast his eyes impatiently upward toward the
summit of the eastern mountain, as if anticipating the approach of the
morning, he was in the act of turning on his footsteps, when a light
sound on the nearest angle of the bastion caught his ear, and induced
him to remain.

Just then a figure was seen to approach the edge of the rampart, where
it stood, apparently contemplating in its turn the distant tents of
the French encampment.  Its head was then turned toward the east, as
though equally anxious for the appearance of light, when the form
leaned against the mound, and seemed to gaze upon the glassy expanse
of the waters, which, like a submarine firmament, glittered with its
thousand mimic stars.  The melancholy air, the hour, together with the
vast frame of the man who thus leaned, musing, against the English
ramparts, left no doubt as to his person in the mind of the observant
spectator. Delicacy, no less than prudence, now urged him to retire;
and he had moved cautiously round the body of the tree for that
purpose, when another sound drew his attention, and once more arrested
his footsteps.  It was a low and almost inaudible movement of the
water, and was succeeded by a grating of pebbles one against the
other.  In a moment he saw a dark form rise, as it were, out of the
lake, and steal without further noise to the land, within a few feet
of the place where he himself stood.  A rifle next slowly rose between
his eyes and the watery mirror; but before it could be discharged his
own hand was on the lock.

"Hugh!" exclaimed the savage, whose treacherous aim was so singularly
and so unexpectedly interrupted.

Without making any reply, the French officer laid his hand on the
shoulder of the Indian, and led him in profound silence to a distance
from the spot, where their subsequent dialogue might have proved
dangerous, and where it seemed that one of them, at least, sought a
victim.  Then throwing open his cloak, so as to expose his uniform and
the cross of St.  Louis which was suspended at his breast, Montcalm
sternly demanded:

"What means this?  Does not my son know that the hatchet is buried
between the English and his Canadian Father?"

"What can the Hurons do?" returned the savage, speaking also, though
imperfectly, in the French language.

"Not a warrior has a scalp, and the pale faces make friends!"

"Ha, Le Renard Subtil! Methinks this is an excess of zeal for a friend
who was so late an enemy!  How many suns have set since Le Renard
struck the war-post of the English?"

"Where is that sun?" demanded the sullen savage.  "Behind the hill;
and it is dark and cold.  But when he comes again, it will be bright
and warm.  Le Subtil is the sun of his tribe.  There have been clouds,
and many mountains between him and his nation; but now he shines and
it is a clear sky!"

"That Le Renard has power with his people, I well know," said
Montcalm; "for yesterday he hunted for their scalps, and to-day they
hear him at the council-fire."

"Magua is a great chief."

"Let him prove it, by teaching his nation how to conduct themselves
toward our new friends."

"Why did the chief of the Canadas bring his young men into the woods,
and fire his cannon at the earthen house?" demanded the subtle Indian.

"To subdue it.  My master owns the land, and your father was ordered
to drive off these English squatters.  They have consented to go, and
now he calls them enemies no longer."

"'Tis well.  Magua took the hatchet to color it with blood. It is now
bright; when it is red, it shall be buried."

"But Magua is pledged not to sully the lilies of France. The enemies
of the great king across the salt lake are his enemies; his friends,
the friends of the Hurons."

"Friends!" repeated the Indian in scorn.  "Let his father give Magua a
hand."

Montcalm, who felt that his influence over the warlike tribes he had
gathered was to be maintained by concession rather than by power,
complied reluctantly with the other's request.  The savage placed the
fingers of the French commander on a deep scar in his bosom, and then
exultingly demanded:

"Does my father know that?"

"What warrior does not? 'Tis where a leaden bullet has cut."

"And this?" continued the Indian, who had turned his naked back to the
other, his body being without its usual calico mantle.

"This!--my son has been sadly injured here; who has done this?"

"Magua slept hard in the English wigwams, and the sticks have left
their mark," returned the savage, with a hollow laugh, which did not
conceal the fierce temper that nearly choked him.  Then, recollecting
himself, with sudden and native dignity, he added: "Go; teach your
young men it is peace.  Le Renard Subtil knows how to speak to a Huron
warrior."

Without deigning to bestow further words, or to wait for any answer,
the savage cast his rifle into the hollow of his arm, and moved
silently through the encampment toward the woods where his own tribe
was known to lie.  Every few yards as he proceeded he was challenged
by the sentinels; but he stalked sullenly onward, utterly disregarding
the summons of the soldiers, who only spared his life because they
knew the air and tread no less than the obstinate daring of an Indian.

Montcalm lingered long and melancholy on the strand where he had been
left by his companion, brooding deeply on the temper which his
ungovernable ally had just discovered. Already had his fair fame been
tarnished by one horrid scene, and in circumstances fearfully
resembling those under which he how found himself.  As he mused he
became keenly sensible of the deep responsibility they assume who
disregard the means to attain the end, and of all the danger of
setting in motion an engine which it exceeds human power to control.
Then shaking off a train of reflections that he accounted a weakness
in such a moment of triumph, he retraced his steps toward his tent,
giving the order as he passed to make the signal that should arouse
the army from its slumbers.

The first tap of the French drums was echoed from the bosom of the
fort, and presently the valley was filled with the strains of martial
music, rising long, thrilling and lively above the rattling
accompaniment.  The horns of the victors sounded merry and cheerful
flourishes, until the last laggard of the camp was at his post; but
the instant the British fifes had blown their shrill signal, they
became mute.  In the meantime the day had dawned, and when the line of
the French army was ready to receive its general, the rays of a
brilliant sun were glancing along the glittering array.  Then that
success, which was already so well known, was officially announced;
the favored band who were selected to guard the gates of the fort were
detailed, and defiled before their chief; the signal of their approach
was given, and all the usual preparations for a change of masters were
ordered and executed directly under the guns of the contested works.

A very different scene presented itself within the lines of the
Anglo-American army.  As soon as the warning signal was given, it
exhibited all the signs of a hurried and forced departure.  The sullen
soldiers shouldered their empty tubes and fell into their places, like
men whose blood had been heated by the past contest, and who only
desired the opportunity to revenge an indignity which was still
wounding to their pride, concealed as it was under the observances of
military etiquette.

Women and children ran from place to place, some bearing the scanty
remnants of their baggage, and others searching in the ranks for those
countenances they looked up to for protection.

Munro appeared among his silent troops firm but dejected. It was
evident that the unexpected blow had struck deep into his heart,
though he struggled to sustain his misfortune with the port of a man.

Duncan was touched at the quiet and impressive exhibition of his
grief.  He had discharged his own duty, and he now pressed to the side
of the old man, to know in what particular he might serve him.

"My daughters," was the brief but expressive reply.

"Good heavens! are not arrangements already made for their
convenience?"

"To-day I am only a soldier, Major Heyward," said the veteran.  "All
that you see here, claim alike to be my children."

Duncan had heard enough.  Without losing one of those moments which
had now become so precious, he flew toward the quarters of Munro, in
quest of the sisters.  He found them on the threshold of the low
edifice, already prepared to depart, and surrounded by a clamorous and
weeping assemblage of their own sex, that had gathered about the
place, with a sort of instinctive consciousness that it was the point
most likely to be protected.  Though the cheeks of Cora were pale and
her countenance anxious, she had lost none of her firmness; but the
eyes of Alice were inflamed, and betrayed how long and bitterly she
had wept.  They both, however, received the young man with undisguised
pleasure; the former, for a novelty, being the first to speak.

"The fort is lost," she said, with a melancholy smile; "though our
good name, I trust, remains."

"'Tis brighter than ever.  But, dearest Miss Munro, it is time to
think less of others, and to make some provision for yourself.
Military usage--pride--that pride on which you so much value yourself,
demands that your father and I should for a little while continue with
the troops.  Then where to seek a proper protector for you against the
confusion and chances of such a scene?"

"None is necessary," returned Cora; "who will dare to injure or insult
the daughter of such a father, at a time like this?"

"I would not leave you alone," continued the youth, looking about him
in a hurried manner, "for the command of the best regiment in the pay
of the king.  Remember, our Alice is not gifted with all your
firmness, and God only knows the terror she might endure."

"You may be right," Cora replied, smiling again, but far more sadly
than before.  "Listen! chance has already sent us a friend when he is
most needed."

Duncan did listen, and on the instant comprehended her meaning.  The
low and serious sounds of the sacred music, so well known to the
eastern provinces, caught his ear, and instantly drew him to an
apartment in an adjacent building, which had already been deserted by
its customary tenants. There he found David, pouring out his pious
feelings through the only medium in which he ever indulged.  Duncan
waited, until, by the cessation of the movement of the hand, he
believed the strain was ended, when, by touching his shoulder, he drew
the attention of the other to himself, and in a few words explained
his wishes.

"Even so," replied the single-minded disciple of the King of Israel,
when the young man had ended; "I have found much that is comely and
melodious in the maidens, and it is fitting that we who have consorted
in so much peril, should abide together in peace.  I will attend them,
when I have completed my morning praise, to which nothing is now
wanting but the doxology.  Wilt thou bear a part, friend? The meter is
common, and the tune 'Southwell'."

Then, extending the little volume, and giving the pitch of the air
anew with considerate attention, David recommenced and finished his
strains, with a fixedness of manner that it was not easy to interrupt.
Heyward was fain to wait until the verse was ended; when, seeing David
relieving himself from the spectacles, and replacing the book, he
continued.

"It will be your duty to see that none dare to approach the ladies
with any rude intention, or to offer insult or taunt at the misfortune
of their brave father.  In this task you will be seconded by the
domestics of their household."

"Even so."

"It is possible that the Indians and stragglers of the enemy may
intrude, in which case you will remind them of the terms of the
capitulation, and threaten to report their conduct to Montcalm.  A
word will suffice."

"If not, I have that here which shall," returned David, exhibiting his
book, with an air in which meekness and confidence were singularly
blended.  Here are words which, uttered, or rather thundered, with
proper emphasis, and in measured time, shall quiet the most unruly
temper:

"'Why rage the heathen furiously'?"

"Enough," said Heyward, interrupting the burst of his musical
invocation; "we understand each other; it is time that we should now
assume our respective duties."

Gamut cheerfully assented, and together they sought the females.  Cora
received her new and somewhat extraordinary protector courteously, at
least; and even the pallid features of Alice lighted again with some
of their native archness as she thanked Heyward for his care.  Duncan
took occasion to assure them he had done the best that circumstances
permitted, and, as he believed, quite enough for the security of their
feelings; of danger there was none.  He then spoke gladly of his
intention to rejoin them the moment he had led the advance a few miles
toward the Hudson, and immediately took his leave.

By this time the signal for departure had been given, and the head of
the English column was in motion.  The sisters started at the sound,
and glancing their eyes around, they saw the white uniforms of the
French grenadiers, who had already taken possession of the gates of
the fort.  At that moment an enormous cloud seemed to pass suddenly
above their heads, and, looking upward, they discovered that they
stood beneath the wide folds of the standard of France.

"Let us go," said Cora; "this is no longer a fit place for the
children of an English officer."

Alice clung to the arm of her sister, and together they left the
parade, accompanied by the moving throng that surrounded them.

As they passed the gates, the French officers, who had learned their
rank, bowed often and low, forbearing, however, to intrude those
attentions which they saw, with peculiar tact, might not be agreeable.
As every vehicle and each beast of burden was occupied by the sick and
wounded, Cora had decided to endure the fatigues of a foot march,
rather than interfere with their comforts.  Indeed, many a maimed and
feeble soldier was compelled to drag his exhausted limbs in the rear
of the columns, for the want of the necessary means of conveyance in
that wilderness.  The whole, however, was in motion; the weak and
wounded, groaning and in suffering; their comrades silent and sullen;
and the women and children in terror, they knew not of what.

As the confused and timid throng left the protecting mounds of the
fort, and issued on the open plain, the whole scene was at once
presented to their eyes.  At a little distance on the right, and
somewhat in the rear, the French army stood to their arms, Montcalm
having collected his parties, so soon as his guards had possession of
the works.  They were attentive but silent observers of the
proceedings of the vanquished, failing in none of the stipulated
military honors, and offering no taunt or insult, in their success, to
their less fortunate foes.  Living masses of the English, to the
amount, in the whole, of near three thousand, were moving slowly
across the plain, toward the common center, and gradually approached
each other, as they converged to the point of their march, a vista cut
through the lofty trees, where the road to the Hudson entered the
forest. Along the sweeping borders of the woods hung a dark cloud of
savages, eyeing the passage of their enemies, and hovering at a
distance, like vultures who were only kept from swooping on their prey
by the presence and restraint of a superior army.  A few had straggled
among the conquered columns, where they stalked in sullen discontent;
attentive, though, as yet, passive observers of the moving multitude.

The advance, with Heyward at its head, had already reached the defile,
and was slowly disappearing, when the attention of Cora was drawn to a
collection of stragglers by the sounds of contention.  A truant
provincial was paying the forfeit of his disobedience, by being
plundered of those very effects which had caused him to desert his
place in the ranks.  The man was of powerful frame, and too avaricious
to part with his goods without a struggle.  Individuals from either
party interfered; the one side to prevent and the other to aid in the
robbery.  Voices grew loud and angry, and a hundred savages appeared,
as it were, by magic, where a dozen only had been seen a minute
before.  It was then that Cora saw the form of Magua gliding among his
countrymen, and speaking with his fatal and artful eloquence.  The
mass of women and children stopped, and hovered together like alarmed
and fluttering birds.  But the cupidity of the Indian was soon
gratified, and the different bodies again moved slowly onward.

The savages now fell back, and seemed content to let their enemies
advance without further molestation.  But, as the female crowd
approached them, the gaudy colors of a shawl attracted the eyes of a
wild and untutored Huron.  He advanced to seize it without the least
hesitation.  The woman, more in terror than through love of the
ornament, wrapped her child in the coveted article, and folded both
more closely to her bosom.  Cora was in the act of speaking, with an
intent to advise the woman to abandon the trifle, when the savage
relinquished his hold of the shawl, and tore the screaming infant from
her arms.  Abandoning everything to the greedy grasp of those around
her, the mother darted, with distraction in her mien, to reclaim her
child.  The Indian smiled grimly, and extended one hand, in sign of a
willingness to exchange, while, with the other, he flourished the babe
over his head, holding it by the feet as if to enhance the value of
the ransom.

"Here--here--there--all--any--everything!" exclaimed the breathless
woman, tearing the lighter articles of dress from her person with
ill-directed and trembling fingers; "take all, but give me my babe!"

The savage spurned the worthless rags, and perceiving that the shawl
had already become a prize to another, his bantering but sullen smile
changing to a gleam of ferocity, he dashed the head of the infant
against a rock, and cast its quivering remains to her very feet.  For
an instant the mother stood, like a statue of despair, looking wildly
down at the unseemly object, which had so lately nestled in her bosom
and smiled in her face; and then she raised her eyes and countenance
toward heaven, as if calling on God to curse the perpetrator of the
foul deed.  She was spared the sin of such a prayer for, maddened at
his disappointment, and excited at the sight of blood, the Huron
mercifully drove his tomahawk into her own brain.  The mother sank
under the blow, and fell, grasping at her child, in death, with the
same engrossing love that had caused her to cherish it when living.

At that dangerous moment, Magua placed his hands to his mouth, and
raised the fatal and appalling whoop.  The scattered Indians started
at the well-known cry, as coursers bound at the signal to quit the
goal; and directly there arose such a yell along the plain, and
through the arches of the wood, as seldom burst from human lips
before.  They who heard it listened with a curdling horror at the
heart, little inferior to that dread which may be expected to attend
the blasts of the final summons.

More than two thousand raving savages broke from the forest at the
signal, and threw themselves across the fatal plain with instinctive
alacrity.  We shall not dwell on the revolting horrors that succeeded.
Death was everywhere, and in his most terrific and disgusting aspects.
Resistance only served to inflame the murderers, who inflicted their
furious blows long after their victims were beyond the power of their
resentment.  The flow of blood might be likened to the outbreaking of
a torrent; and as the natives became heated and maddened by the sight,
many among them even kneeled to the earth, and drank freely,
exultingly, hellishly, of the crimson tide.

The trained bodies of the troops threw themselves quickly into solid
masses, endeavoring to awe their assailants by the imposing appearance
of a military front.  The experiment in some measure succeeded, though
far too many suffered their unloaded muskets to be torn from their
hands, in the vain hope of appeasing the savages.

In such a scene none had leisure to note the fleeting moments.  It
might have been ten minutes (it seemed an age) that the sisters had
stood riveted to one spot, horror- stricken and nearly helpless.  When
the first blow was struck, their screaming companions had pressed upon
them in a body, rendering flight impossible; and now that fear or
death had scattered most, if not all, from around them, they saw no
avenue open, but such as conducted to the tomahawks of their foes. On
every side arose shrieks, groans, exhortations and curses.  At this
moment, Alice caught a glimpse of the vast form of her father, moving
rapidly across the plain, in the direction of the French army.  He
was, in truth, proceeding to Montcalm, fearless of every danger, to
claim the tardy escort for which he had before conditioned.  Fifty
glittering axes and barbed spears were offered unheeded at his life,
but the savages respected his rank and calmness, even in their fury.
The dangerous weapons were brushed aside by the still nervous arm of
the veteran, or fell of themselves, after menacing an act that it
would seem no one had courage to perform.  Fortunately, the vindictive
Magua was searching for his victim in the very band the veteran had
just quitted.

"Father--father--we are here!" shrieked Alice, as he passed, at no
great distance, without appearing to heed them.  "Come to us, father,
or we die!"

The cry was repeated, and in terms and tones that might have melted a
heart of stone, but it was unanswered.  Once, indeed, the old man
appeared to catch the sound, for he paused and listened; but Alice had
dropped senseless on the earth, and Cora had sunk at her side,
hovering in untiring tenderness over her lifeless form.  Munro shook
his head in disappointment, and proceeded, bent on the high duty of
his station.

"Lady," said Gamut, who, helpless and useless as he was, had not yet
dreamed of deserting his trust, "it is the jubilee of the devils, and
this is not a meet place for Christians to tarry in.  Let us up and
fly."

"Go," said Cora, still gazing at her unconscious sister; "save
thyself.  To me thou canst not be of further use."

David comprehended the unyielding character of her resolution, by the
simple but expressive gesture that accompanied her words.  He gazed
for a moment at the dusky forms that were acting their hellish rites
on every side of him, and his tall person grew more erect while his
chest heaved, and every feature swelled, and seemed to speak with the
power of the feelings by which he was governed.

"If the Jewish boy might tame the great spirit of Saul by the sound of
his harp, and the words of sacred song, it may not be amiss," he said,
"to try the potency of music here."

Then raising his voice to its highest tone, he poured out a strain so
powerful as to be heard even amid the din of that bloody field.  More
than one savage rushed toward them, thinking to rifle the unprotected
sisters of their attire, and bear away their scalps; but when they
found this strange and unmoved figure riveted to his post, they paused
to listen.  Astonishment soon changed to admiration, and they passed
on to other and less courageous victims, openly expressing their
satisfaction at the firmness with which the white warrior sang his
death song.  Encouraged and deluded by his success, David exerted all
his powers to extend what he believed so holy an influence.  The
unwonted sounds caught the ears of a distant savage, who flew raging
from group to group, like one who, scorning to touch the vulgar herd,
hunted for some victim more worthy of his renown.  It was Magua, who
uttered a yell of pleasure when he beheld his ancient prisoners again
at his mercy.

"Come," he said, laying his soiled hands on the dress of Cora, "the
wigwam of the Huron is still open.  Is it not better than this place?"

"Away!" cried Cora, veiling her eyes from his revolting aspect.

The Indian laughed tauntingly, as he held up his reeking hand, and
answered: "It is red, but it comes from white veins!"

"Monster! there is blood, oceans of blood, upon thy soul; thy spirit
has moved this scene."

"Magua is a great chief!" returned the exulting savage, "will the
dark-hair go to his tribe?"

"Never! strike if thou wilt, and complete thy revenge."  He hesitated
a moment, and then catching the light and senseless form of Alice in
his arms, the subtle Indian moved swiftly across the plain toward the
woods.

"Hold!" shrieked Cora, following wildly on his footsteps; "release the
child! wretch! what is't you do?"

But Magua was deaf to her voice; or, rather, he knew his power, and
was determined to maintain it.

"Stay--lady--stay," called Gamut, after the unconscious Cora.  "The
holy charm is beginning to be felt, and soon shalt thou see this
horrid tumult stilled."

Perceiving that, in his turn, he was unheeded, the faithful David
followed the distracted sister, raising his voice again in sacred
song, and sweeping the air to the measure, with his long arm, in
diligent accompaniment.  In this manner they traversed the plain,
through the flying, the wounded and the dead.  The fierce Huron was,
at any time, sufficient for himself and the victim that he bore;
though Cora would have fallen more than once under the blows of her
savage enemies, but for the extraordinary being who stalked in her
rear, and who now appeared to the astonished natives gifted with the
protecting spirit of madness.

Magua, who knew how to avoid the more pressing dangers, and also to
elude pursuit, entered the woods through a low ravine, where he
quickly found the Narragansetts, which the travelers had abandoned so
shortly before, awaiting his appearance, in custody of a savage as
fierce and malign in his expression as himself.  Laying Alice on one
of the horses, he made a sign to Cora to mount the other.

Notwithstanding the horror excited by the presence of her captor,
there was a present relief in escaping from the bloody scene enacting
on the plain, to which Cora could not be altogether insensible.  She
took her seat, and held forth her arms for her sister, with an air of
entreaty and love that even the Huron could not deny.  Placing Alice,
then, on the same animal with Cora, he seized the bridle, and
commenced his route by plunging deeper into the forest. David,
perceiving that he was left alone, utterly disregarded as a subject
too worthless even to destroy, threw his long limb across the saddle
of the beast they had deserted, and made such progress in the pursuit
as the difficulties of the path permitted.

They soon began to ascend; but as the motion had a tendency to revive
the dormant faculties of her sister, the attention of Cora was too
much divided between the tenderest solicitude in her behalf, and in
listening to the cries which were still too audible on the plain, to
note the direction in which they journeyed.  When, however, they
gained the flattened surface of the mountain-top, and approached the
eastern precipice, she recognized the spot to which she had once
before been led under the more friendly auspices of the scout.  Here
Magua suffered them to dismount; and notwithstanding their own
captivity, the curiosity which seems inseparable from horror, induced
them to gaze at the sickening sight below.

The cruel work was still unchecked.  On every side the captured were
flying before their relentless persecutors, while the armed columns of
the Christian king stood fast in an apathy which has never been
explained, and which has left an immovable blot on the otherwise fair
escutcheon of their leader.  Nor was the sword of death stayed until
cupidity got the mastery of revenge.  Then, indeed, the shrieks of the
wounded, and the yells of their murderers grew less frequent, until,
finally, the cries of horror were lost to their ear, or were drowned
in the loud, long and piercing whoops of the triumphant savages.



CHAPTER 18

"Why, anything; An honorable murderer, if you will; For naught I did
in hate, but all in honor."--Othello

The bloody and inhuman scene rather incidentally mentioned than
described in the preceding chapter, is conspicuous in the pages of
colonial history by the merited title of "The Massacre of William
Henry."  It so far deepened the stain which a previous and very
similar event had left upon the reputation of the French commander
that it was not entirely erased by his early and glorious death.  It
is now becoming obscured by time; and thousands, who know that
Montcalm died like a hero on the plains of Abraham, have yet to learn
how much he was deficient in that moral courage without which no man
can be truly great. Pages might yet be written to prove, from this
illustrious example, the defects of human excellence; to show how easy
it is for generous sentiments, high courtesy, and chivalrous courage
to lose their influence beneath the chilling blight of selfishness,
and to exhibit to the world a man who was great in all the minor
attributes of character, but who was found wanting when it became
necessary to prove how much principle is superior to policy.  But the
task would exceed our prerogatives; and, as history, like love, is so
apt to surround her heroes with an atmosphere of imaginary brightness,
it is probable that Louis de Saint Veran will be viewed by posterity
only as the gallant defender of his country, while his cruel apathy on
the shores of the Oswego and of the Horican will be forgotten.  Deeply
regretting this weakness on the part of a sister muse, we shall at
once retire from her sacred precincts, within the proper limits of our
own humble vocation.

The third day from the capture of the fort was drawing to a close, but
the business of the narrative must still detain the reader on the
shores of the "holy lake."  When last seen, the environs of the works
were filled with violence and uproar.  They were now possessed by
stillness and death. The blood-stained conquerors had departed; and
their camp, which had so lately rung with the merry rejoicings of a
victorious army, lay a silent and deserted city of huts. The fortress
was a smoldering ruin; charred rafters, fragments of exploded
artillery, and rent mason-work covering its earthen mounds in confused
disorder.

A frightful change had also occurred in the season.  The sun had hid
its warmth behind an impenetrable mass of vapor, and hundreds of human
forms, which had blackened beneath the fierce heats of August, were
stiffening in their deformity before the blasts of a premature
November.  The curling and spotless mists, which had been seen sailing
above the hills toward the north, were now returning in an
interminable dusky sheet, that was urged along by the fury of a
tempest. The crowded mirror of the Horican was gone; and, in its
place, the green and angry waters lashed the shores, as if indignantly
casting back its impurities to the polluted strand.  Still the clear
fountain retained a portion of its charmed influence, but it reflected
only the somber gloom that fell from the impending heavens.  That
humid and congenial atmosphere which commonly adorned the view,
veiling its harshness, and softening its asperities, had disappeared,
the northern air poured across the waste of water so harsh and
unmingled, that nothing was left to be conjectured by the eye, or
fashioned by the fancy.

The fiercer element had cropped the verdure of the plain, which looked
as though it were scathed by the consuming lightning.  But, here and
there, a dark green tuft rose in the midst of the desolation; the
earliest fruits of a soil that had been fattened with human blood.
The whole landscape, which, seen by a favoring light, and in a genial
temperature, had been found so lovely, appeared now like some pictured
allegory of life, in which objects were arrayed in their harshest but
truest colors, and without the relief of any shadowing.

The solitary and arid blades of grass arose from the passing gusts
fearfully perceptible; the bold and rocky mountains were too distinct
in their barrenness, and the eye even sought relief, in vain, by
attempting to pierce the illimitable void of heaven, which was shut to
its gaze by the dusky sheet of ragged and driving vapor.

The wind blew unequally; sometimes sweeping heavily along the ground,
seeming to whisper its moanings in the cold ears of the dead, then
rising in a shrill and mournful whistling, it entered the forest with
a rush that filled the air with the leaves and branches it scattered
in its path.  Amid the unnatural shower, a few hungry ravens struggled
with the gale; but no sooner was the green ocean of woods which
stretched beneath them, passed, than they gladly stopped, at random,
to their hideous banquet.

In short, it was a scene of wildness and desolation; and it appeared
as if all who had profanely entered it had been stricken, at a blow,
by the relentless arm of death.  But the prohibition had ceased; and
for the first time since the perpetrators of those foul deeds which
had assisted to disfigure the scene were gone, living human beings had
now presumed to approach the place.

About an hour before the setting of the sun, on the day already
mentioned, the forms of five men might have been seen issuing from the
narrow vista of trees, where the path to the Hudson entered the
forest, and advancing in the direction of the ruined works.  At first
their progress was slow and guarded, as though they entered with
reluctance amid the horrors of the post, or dreaded the renewal of its
frightful incidents.  A light figure preceded the rest of the party,
with the caution and activity of a native; ascending every hillock to
reconnoiter, and indicating by gestures, to his companions, the route
he deemed it most prudent to pursue.  Nor were those in the rear
wanting in every caution and foresight known to forest warfare.  One
among them, he also was an Indian, moved a little on one flank, and
watched the margin of the woods, with eyes long accustomed to read the
smallest sign of danger.  The remaining three were white, though clad
in vestments adapted, both in quality and color, to their present
hazardous pursuit--that of hanging on the skirts of a retiring army in
the wilderness.

The effects produced by the appalling sights that constantly arose in
their path to the lake shore, were as different as the characters of
the respective individuals who composed the party.  The youth in front
threw serious but furtive glances at the mangled victims, as he
stepped lightly across the plain, afraid to exhibit his feelings, and
yet too inexperienced to quell entirely their sudden and powerful
influence.  His red associate, however, was superior to such a
weakness.  He passed the groups of dead with a steadiness of purpose,
and an eye so calm, that nothing but long and inveterate practise
could enable him to maintain.  The sensations produced in the minds of
even the white men were different, though uniformly sorrowful.  One,
whose gray locks and furrowed lineaments, blending with a martial air
and tread, betrayed, in spite of the disguise of a woodsman's dress, a
man long experienced in scenes of war, was not ashamed to groan aloud,
whenever a spectacle of more than usual horror came under his view.
The young man at his elbow shuddered, but seemed to suppress his
feelings in tenderness to his companion.  Of them all, the straggler
who brought up the rear appeared alone to betray his real thoughts,
without fear of observation or dread of consequences.  He gazed at the
most appalling sight with eyes and muscles that knew not how to waver,
but with execrations so bitter and deep as to denote how much he
denounced the crime of his enemies.

The reader will perceive at once, in these respective characters, the
Mohicans, and their white friend, the scout; together with Munro and
Heyward.  It was, in truth, the father in quest of his children,
attended by the youth who felt so deep a stake in their happiness, and
those brave and trusty foresters, who had already proved their skill
and fidelity through the trying scenes related.

When Uncas, who moved in front, had reached the center of the plain,
he raised a cry that drew his companions in a body to the spot.  The
young warrior had halted over a group of females who lay in a cluster,
a confused mass of dead. Notwithstanding the revolting horror of the
exhibition, Munro and Heyward flew toward the festering heap,
endeavoring, with a love that no unseemliness could extinguish, to
discover whether any vestiges of those they sought were to be seen
among the tattered and many-colored garments.  The father and the
lover found instant relief in the search; though each was condemned
again to experience the misery of an uncertainty that was hardly less
insupportable than the most revolting truth.  They were standing,
silent and thoughtful, around the melancholy pile, when the scout
approached.  Eyeing the sad spectacle with an angry countenance, the
sturdy woodsman, for the first time since his entering the plain,
spoke intelligibly and aloud:

"I have been on many a shocking field, and have followed a trail of
blood for weary miles," he said, "but never have I found the hand of
the devil so plain as it is here to be seen!  Revenge is an Indian
feeling, and all who know me know that there is no cross in my veins;
but this much will I say--here, in the face of heaven, and with the
power of the Lord so manifest in this howling wilderness--that should
these Frenchers ever trust themselves again within the range of a
ragged bullet, there is one rifle which shall play its part so long as
flint will fire or powder burn!  I leave the tomahawk and knife to
such as have a natural gift to use them.  What say you, Chingachgook,"
he added, in Delaware; "shall the Hurons boast of this to their women
when the deep snows come?"

A gleam of resentment flashed across the dark lineaments of the
Mohican chief; he loosened his knife in his sheath; and then turning
calmly from the sight, his countenance settled into a repose as deep
as if he knew the instigation of passion.

"Montcalm! Montcalm!" continued the deeply resentful and less
self-restrained scout; "they say a time must come when all the deeds
done in the flesh will be seen at a single look; and that by eyes
cleared from mortal infirmities.  Woe betide the wretch who is born to
behold this plain, with the judgment hanging about his soul!  Ha--as I
am a man of white blood, yonder lies a red-skin, without the hair of
his head where nature rooted it!  Look to him, Delaware; it may be one
of your missing people; and he should have burial like a stout
warrior.  I see it in your eye, Sagamore; a Huron pays for this, afore
the fall winds have blown away the scent of the blood!"

Chingachgook approached the mutilated form, and, turning it over, he
found the distinguishing marks of one of those six allied tribes, or
nations, as they were called, who, while they fought in the English
ranks, were so deadly hostile to his own people.  Spurning the
loathsome object with his foot, he turned from it with the same
indifference he would have quitted a brute carcass.  The scout
comprehended the action, and very deliberately pursued his own way,
continuing, however, his denunciations against the French commander in
the same resentful strain.

"Nothing but vast wisdom and unlimited power should dare to sweep off
men in multitudes," he added; "for it is only the one that can know
the necessity of the judgment; and what is there, short of the other,
that can replace the creatures of the Lord?  I hold it a sin to kill
the second buck afore the first is eaten, unless a march in front, or
an ambushment, be contemplated.  It is a different matter with a few
warriors in open and rugged fight, for 'tis their gift to die with the
rifle or the tomahawk in hand; according as their natures may happen
to be, white or red.  Uncas, come this way, lad, and let the ravens
settle upon the Mingo.  I know, from often seeing it, that they have a
craving for the flesh of an Oneida; and it is as well to let the bird
follow the gift of its natural appetite."

"Hugh!" exclaimed the young Mohican, rising on the extremities of his
feet, and gazing intently in his front, frightening the ravens to some
other prey by the sound and the action.

"What is it, boy?" whispered the scout, lowering his tall form into a
crouching attitude, like a panther about to take his leap; "God send
it be a tardy Frencher, skulking for plunder.  I do believe 'killdeer'
would take an uncommon range today!"

Uncas, without making any reply, bounded away from the spot, and in
the next instant he was seen tearing from a bush, and waving in
triumph, a fragment of the green riding-veil of Cora.  The movement,
the exhibition, and the cry which again burst from the lips of the
young Mohican, instantly drew the whole party about him.

"My child!" said Munro, speaking quickly and wildly; "give me my
child!"

"Uncas will try," was the short and touching answer.

The simple but meaning assurance was lost on the father, who seized
the piece of gauze, and crushed it in his hand, while his eyes roamed
fearfully among the bushes, as if he equally dreaded and hoped for the
secrets they might reveal.

"Here are no dead," said Heyward; "the storm seems not to have passed
this way."

"That's manifest; and clearer than the heavens above our heads,"
returned the undisturbed scout; "but either she, or they that have
robbed her, have passed the bush; for I remember the rag she wore to
hide a face that all did love to look upon.  Uncas, you are right; the
dark-hair has been here, and she has fled like a frightened fawn, to
the wood; none who could fly would remain to be murdered.  Let us
search for the marks she left; for, to Indian eyes, I sometimes think
a humming-bird leaves his trail in the air."

The young Mohican darted away at the suggestion, and the scout had
hardly done speaking, before the former raised a cry of success from
the margin of the forest.  On reaching the spot, the anxious party
perceived another portion of the veil fluttering on the lower branch
of a beech.

"Softly, softly," said the scout, extending his long rifle in front of
the eager Heyward; "we now know our work, but the beauty of the trail
must not be deformed.  A step too soon may give us hours of trouble.
We have them, though; that much is beyond denial."

"Bless ye, bless ye, worthy man!" exclaimed Munro; "whither then, have
they fled, and where are my babes?"

"The path they have taken depends on many chances.  If they have gone
alone, they are quite as likely to move in a circle as straight, and
they may be within a dozen miles of us; but if the Hurons, or any of
the French Indians, have laid hands on them, 'tis probably they are
now near the borders of the Canadas.  But what matters that?"
continued the deliberate scout, observing the powerful anxiety and
disappointment the listeners exhibited; "here are the Mohicans and I
on one end of the trail, and, rely on it, we find the other, though
they should be a hundred leagues asunder!  Gently, gently, Uncas, you
are as impatient as a man in the settlements; you forget that light
feet leave but faint marks!"

"Hugh!" exclaimed Chingachgook, who had been occupied in examining an
opening that had been evidently made through the low underbrush which
skirted the forest; and who now stood erect, as he pointed downward,
in the attitude and with the air of a man who beheld a disgusting
serpent.

"Here is the palpable impression of the footstep of a man," cried
Heyward, bending over the indicated spot; "he has trod in the margin
of this pool, and the mark cannot be mistaken. They are captives."

"Better so than left to starve in the wilderness," returned the scout;
"and they will leave a wider trail.  I would wager fifty beaver skins
against as many flints, that the Mohicans and I enter their wigwams
within the month!  Stoop to it, Uncas, and try what you can make of
the moccasin; for moccasin it plainly is, and no shoe."

The young Mohican bent over the track, and removing the scattered
leaves from around the place, he examined it with much of that sort of
scrutiny that a money dealer, in these days of pecuniary doubts, would
bestow on a suspected due- bill.  At length he arose from his knees,
satisfied with the result of the examination.

"Well, boy," demanded the attentive scout; "what does it say?  Can you
make anything of the tell-tale?"

"Le Renard Subtil!"

"Ha! that rampaging devil again! there will never be an end of his
loping till 'killdeer' has said a friendly word to him."

Heyward reluctantly admitted the truth of this intelligence, and now
expressed rather his hopes than his doubts by saying:

"One moccasin is so much like another, it is probable there is some
mistake."

"One moccasin like another! you may as well say that one foot is like
another; though we all know that some are long, and others short; some
broad and others narrow; some with high, and some with low insteps;
some intoed, and some out. One moccasin is no more like another than
one book is like another: though they who can read in one are seldom
able to tell the marks of the other.  Which is all ordered for the
best, giving to every man his natural advantages.  Let me get down to
it, Uncas; neither book nor moccasin is the worse for having two
opinions, instead of one."  The scout stooped to the task, and
instantly added:

"You are right, boy; here is the patch we saw so often in the other
chase.  And the fellow will drink when he can get an opportunity; your
drinking Indian always learns to walk with a wider toe than the
natural savage, it being the gift of a drunkard to straddle, whether
of white or red skin. 'Tis just the length and breadth, too! look at
it, Sagamore; you measured the prints more than once, when we hunted
the varmints from Glenn's to the health springs."

Chingachgook complied; and after finishing his short examination, he
arose, and with a quiet demeanor, he merely pronounced the word:

"Magua!"

"Ay, 'tis a settled thing; here, then, have passed the dark- hair and
Magua."

"And not Alice?" demanded Heyward.

"Of her we have not yet seen the signs," returned the scout, looking
closely around at the trees, the bushes and the ground.  "What have we
there?  Uncas, bring hither the thing you see dangling from yonder
thorn-bush."

When the Indian had complied, the scout received the prize, and
holding it on high, he laughed in his silent but heartfelt manner.

"'Tis the tooting we'pon of the singer! now we shall have a trail a
priest might travel," he said.  "Uncas, look for the marks of a shoe
that is long enough to uphold six feet two of tottering human flesh.
I begin to have some hopes of the fellow, since he has given up
squalling to follow some better trade."

"At least he has been faithful to his trust," said Heyward. "And Cora
and Alice are not without a friend."

"Yes," said Hawkeye, dropping his rifle, and leaning on it with an air
of visible contempt, "he will do their singing. Can he slay a buck for
their dinner; journey by the moss on the beeches, or cut the throat of
a Huron?  If not, the first catbird* he meets is the cleverer of the
two.  Well, boy, any signs of such a foundation?"

* The powers of the American mocking-bird are generally known.  But
  the true mocking-bird is not found so far north as the state of New
  York, where it has, however, two substitutes of inferior excellence,
  the catbird, so often named by the scout, and the bird vulgarly
  called ground-thresher.  Either of these last two birds is superior
  to the nightingale or the lark, though, in general, the American
  birds are less musical than those of Europe.

"Here is something like the footstep of one who has worn a shoe; can
it be that of our friend?"

"Touch the leaves lightly or you'll disconsart the formation.  That!
that is the print of a foot, but 'tis the dark-hair's; and small it
is, too, for one of such a noble height and grand appearance.  The
singer would cover it with his heel."

"Where! let me look on the footsteps of my child," said Munro, shoving
the bushes aside, and bending fondly over the nearly obliterated
impression.  Though the tread which had left the mark had been light
and rapid, it was still plainly visible.  The aged soldier examined it
with eyes that grew dim as he gazed; nor did he rise from this
stooping posture until Heyward saw that he had watered the trace of
his daughter's passage with a scalding tear.  Willing to divert a
distress which threatened each moment to break through the restraint
of appearances, by giving the veteran something to do, the young man
said to the scout:

"As we now possess these infallible signs, let us commence our march.
A moment, at such a time, will appear an age to the captives."

"It is not the swiftest leaping deer that gives the longest chase,"
returned Hawkeye, without moving his eyes from the different marks
that had come under his view; "we know that the rampaging Huron has
passed, and the dark-hair, and the singer, but where is she of the
yellow locks and blue eyes? Though little, and far from being as bold
as her sister, she is fair to the view, and pleasant in discourse.
Has she no friend, that none care for her?"

"God forbid she should ever want hundreds!  Are we not now in her
pursuit?  For one, I will never cease the search till she be found."

"In that case we may have to journey by different paths; for here she
has not passed, light and little as her footsteps would be."

Heyward drew back, all his ardor to proceed seeming to vanish on the
instant.  Without attending to this sudden change in the other's
humor, the scout after musing a moment continued:

"There is no woman in this wilderness could leave such a print as
that, but the dark-hair or her sister.  We know that the first has
been here, but where are the signs of the other?  Let us push deeper
on the trail, and if nothing offers, we must go back to the plain and
strike another scent.  Move on, Uncas, and keep your eyes on the dried
leaves.  I will watch the bushes, while your father shall run with a
low nose to the ground.  Move on, friends; the sun is getting behind
the hills."

"Is there nothing that I can do?" demanded the anxious Heyward.

"You?" repeated the scout, who, with his red friends, was already
advancing in the order he had prescribed; "yes, you can keep in our
rear and be careful not to cross the trail."

Before they had proceeded many rods, the Indians stopped, and appeared
to gaze at some signs on the earth with more than their usual
keenness.  Both father and son spoke quick and loud, now looking at
the object of their mutual admiration, and now regarding each other
with the most unequivocal pleasure.

"They have found the little foot!" exclaimed the scout, moving
forward, without attending further to his own portion of the duty.
"What have we here?  An ambushment has been planted in the spot!  No,
by the truest rifle on the frontiers, here have been them one-sided
horses again!  Now the whole secret is out, and all is plain as the
north star at midnight.  Yes, here they have mounted.  There the
beasts have been bound to a sapling, in waiting; and yonder runs the
broad path away to the north, in full sweep for the Canadas."

"But still there are no signs of Alice, of the younger Miss Munro,"
said Duncan.

"Unless the shining bauble Uncas has just lifted from the ground
should prove one.  Pass it this way, lad, that we may look at it."

Heyward instantly knew it for a trinket that Alice was fond of
wearing, and which he recollected, with the tenacious memory of a
lover, to have seen, on the fatal morning of the massacre, dangling
from the fair neck of his mistress.  He seized the highly prized
jewel; and as he proclaimed the fact, it vanished from the eyes of the
wondering scout, who in vain looked for it on the ground, long after
it was warmly pressed against the beating heart of Duncan.

"Pshaw!" said the disappointed Hawkeye, ceasing to rake the leaves
with the breech of his rifle; "'tis a certain sign of age, when the
sight begins to weaken.  Such a glittering gewgaw, and not to be seen!
Well, well, I can squint along a clouded barrel yet, and that is
enough to settle all disputes between me and the Mingoes.  I should
like to find the thing, too, if it were only to carry it to the right
owner, and that would be bringing the two ends of what I call a long
trail together, for by this time the broad St. Lawrence, or perhaps,
the Great Lakes themselves, are between us."

"So much the more reason why we should not delay our march," returned
Heyward; "let us proceed."

"Young blood and hot blood, they say, are much the same thing.  We are
not about to start on a squirrel hunt, or to drive a deer into the
Horican, but to outlie for days and nights, and to stretch across a
wilderness where the feet of men seldom go, and where no bookish
knowledge would carry you through harmless.  An Indian never starts on
such an expedition without smoking over his council-fire; and, though
a man of white blood, I honor their customs in this particular, seeing
that they are deliberate and wise.  We will, therefore, go back, and
light our fire to-night in the ruins of the old fort, and in the
morning we shall be fresh, and ready to undertake our work like men,
and not like babbling women or eager boys."

Heyward saw, by the manner of the scout, that altercation would be
useless.  Munro had again sunk into that sort of apathy which had
beset him since his late overwhelming misfortunes, and from which he
was apparently to be roused only by some new and powerful excitement.
Making a merit of necessity, the young man took the veteran by the
arm, and followed in the footsteps of the Indians and the scout, who
had already begun to retrace the path which conducted them to the
plain.



CHAPTER 19

"Salar.--Why, I am sure, if he forfeit, thou wilt not take his flesh;
what's that good for?  Shy.--To bait fish withal; if it will feed
nothing else, it will feed my revenge."--Merchant of Venice

The shades of evening had come to increase the dreariness of the
place, when the party entered the ruins of William Henry.  The scout
and his companions immediately made their preparations to pass the
night there; but with an earnestness and sobriety of demeanor that
betrayed how much the unusual horrors they had just witnessed worked
on even their practised feelings.  A few fragments of rafters were
reared against a blackened wall; and when Uncas had covered them
slightly with brush, the temporary accommodations were deemed
sufficient.  The young Indian point3ed toward his rude hut when his
labor was ended; and Heyward, who understood the meaning of the silent
gestures, gently urged Munro to enter.  Leaving the bereaved old man
alone with his sorrows, Duncan immediately returned into the open air,
too much excited himself to seek the repose he had recommended to his
veteran friend.

While Hawkeye and the Indians lighted their fire and took their
evening's repast, a frugal meal of dried bear's meat, the young man
paid a visit to that curtain of the dilapidated fort which looked out
on the sheet of the Horican.  The wind had fallen, and the waves were
already rolling on the sandy beach beneath him, in a more regular and
tempered succession.  The clouds, as if tired of their furious chase,
were breaking asunder; the heavier volumes, gathering in black masses
about the horizon, while the lighter scud still hurried above the
water, or eddied among the tops of the mountains, like broken flights
of birds, hovering around their roosts.  Here and there, a red and
fiery star struggled through the drifting vapor, furnishing a lurid
gleam of brightness to the dull aspect of the heavens.  Within the
bosom of the encircling hills, an impenetrable darkness had already
settled; and the plain lay like a vast and deserted charnel-house,
without omen or whisper to disturb the slumbers of its numerous and
hapless tenants.

Of this scene, so chillingly in accordance with the past, Duncan stood
for many minutes a rapt observer.  His eyes wandered from the bosom of
the mound, where the foresters were seated around their glimmering
fire, to the fainter light which still lingered in the skies, and then
rested long and anxiously on the embodied gloom, which lay like a
dreary void on that side of him where the dead reposed.  He soon
fancied that inexplicable sounds arose from the place, though so
indistinct and stolen, as to render not only their nature but even
their existence uncertain.  Ashamed of his apprehensions, the young
man turned toward the water, and strove to divert his attention to the
mimic stars that dimly glimmered on its moving surface.  Still, his
too-conscious ears performed their ungrateful duty, as if to warn him
of some lurking danger.  At length, a swift trampling seemed, quite
audibly, to rush athwart the darkness.  Unable any longer to quiet his
uneasiness, Duncan spoke in a low voice to the scout, requesting him
to ascend the mound to the place where he stood. Hawkeye threw his
rifle across an arm and complied, but with an air so unmoved and calm,
as to prove how much he counted on the security of their position.

"Listen!" said Duncan, when the other placed himself deliberately at
his elbow; "there are suppressed noises on the plain which may show
Montcalm has not yet entirely deserted his conquest."

"Then ears are better than eyes," said the undisturbed scout, who,
having just deposited a portion of a bear between his grinders, spoke
thick and slow, like one whose mouth was doubly occupied.  "I myself
saw him caged in Ty, with all his host; for your Frenchers, when they
have done a clever thing, like to get back, and have a dance, or a
merry- making, with the women over their success."

"I know not.  An Indian seldom sleeps in war, and plunder may keep a
Huron here after his tribe has departed.  It would be well to
extinguish the fire, and have a watch-- listen! you hear the noise I
mean!"

"An Indian more rarely lurks about the graves.  Though ready to slay,
and not over regardful of the means, he is commonly content with the
scalp, unless when blood is hot, and temper up; but after spirit is
once fairly gone, he forgets his enmity, and is willing to let the
dead find their natural rest.  Speaking of spirits, major, are you of
opinion that the heaven of a red-skin and of us whites will be of one
and the same?"

"No doubt--no doubt.  I thought I heard it again! or was it the
rustling of the leaves in the top of the beech?"

"For my own part," continued Hawkeye, turning his face for a moment in
the direction indicated by Heyward, but with a vacant and careless
manner, "I believe that paradise is ordained for happiness; and that
men will be indulged in it according to their dispositions and gifts.
I, therefore, judge that a red-skin is not far from the truth when he
believes he is to find them glorious hunting grounds of which his
traditions tell; nor, for that matter, do I think it would be any
disparagement to a man without a cross to pass his time--"

"You hear it again?" interrupted Duncan.

"Ay, ay; when food is scarce, and when food is plenty, a wolf grows
bold," said the unmoved scout.  "There would be picking, too, among
the skins of the devils, if there was light and time for the sport.
But, concerning the life that is to come, major; I have heard
preachers say, in the settlements, that heaven was a place of rest.
Now, men's minds differ as to their ideas of enjoyment.  For myself,
and I say it with reverence to the ordering of Providence, it would be
no great indulgence to be kept shut up in those mansions of which they
preach, having a natural longing for motion and the chase."

Duncan, who was now made to understand the nature of the noise he had
heard, answered, with more attention to the subject which the humor of
the scout had chosen for discussion, by saying:

"It is difficult to account for the feelings that may attend the last
great change."

"It would be a change, indeed, for a man who has passed his days in
the open air," returned the single-minded scout; "and who has so often
broken his fast on the head waters of the Hudson, to sleep within
sound of the roaring Mohawk. But it is a comfort to know we serve a
merciful Master, though we do it each after his fashion, and with
great tracts of wilderness atween us--what goes there?"

"Is it not the rushing of the wolves you have mentioned?"

Hawkeye slowly shook his head, and beckoned for Duncan to follow him
to a spot to which the glare from the fire did not extend.  When he
had taken this precaution, the scout placed himself in an attitude of
intense attention and listened long and keenly for a repetition of the
low sound that had so unexpectedly startled him.  His vigilance,
however, seemed exercised in vain; for after a fruitless pause, he
whispered to Duncan:

"We must give a call to Uncas.  The boy has Indian senses, and he may
hear what is hid from us; for, being a white- skin, I will not deny my
nature."

The young Mohican, who was conversing in a low voice with his father,
started as he heard the moaning of an owl, and, springing on his feet,
he looked toward the black mounds, as if seeking the place whence the
sounds proceeded.  The scout repeated the call, and in a few moments,
Duncan saw the figure of Uncas stealing cautiously along the rampart,
to the spot where they stood.

Hawkeye explained his wishes in a very few words, which were spoken in
the Delaware tongue.  So soon as Uncas was in possession of the reason
why he was summoned, he threw himself flat on the turf; where, to the
eyes of Duncan, he appeared to lie quiet and motionless.  Surprised at
the immovable attitude of the young warrior, and curious to observe
the manner in which he employed his faculties to obtain the desired
information, Heyward advanced a few steps, and bent over the dark
object on which he had kept his eye riveted.  Then it was he
discovered that the form of Uncas vanished, and that he beheld only
the dark outline of an inequality in the embankment.

"What has become of the Mohican?" he demanded of the scout, stepping
back in amazement; "it was here that I saw him fall, and could have
sworn that here he yet remained."

"Hist! speak lower; for we know not what ears are open, and the
Mingoes are a quick-witted breed.  As for Uncas, he is out on the
plain, and the Maquas, if any such are about us, will find their
equal."

"You think that Montcalm has not called off all his Indians? Let us
give the alarm to our companions, that we may stand to our arms.  Here
are five of us, who are not unused to meet an enemy."

"Not a word to either, as you value your life.  Look at the Sagamore,
how like a grand Indian chief he sits by the fire. If there are any
skulkers out in the darkness, they will never discover, by his
countenance, that we suspect danger at hand."

"But they may discover him, and it will prove his death. His person
can be too plainly seen by the light of that fire, and he will become
the first and most certain victim."

"It is undeniable that now you speak the truth," returned the scout,
betraying more anxiety than was usual; "yet what can be done?  A
single suspicious look might bring on an attack before we are ready to
receive it.  He knows, by the call I gave to Uncas, that we have
struck a scent; I will tell him that we are on the trail of the
Mingoes; his Indian nature will teach him how to act."

The scout applied his fingers to his mouth, and raised a low hissing
sound, that caused Duncan at first to start aside, believing that he
heard a serpent.  The head of Chingachgook was resting on a hand, as
he sat musing by himself but the moment he had heard the warning of
the animal whose name he bore, he arose to an upright position, and
his dark eyes glanced swiftly and keenly on every side of him.  With
his sudden and, perhaps, involuntary movement, every appearance of
surprise or alarm ended.  His rifle lay untouched, and apparently
unnoticed, within reach of his hand.  The tomahawk that he had
loosened in his belt for the sake of ease, was even suffered to fall
from its usual situation to the ground, and his form seemed to sink,
like that of a man whose nerves and sinews were suffered to relax for
the purpose of rest.  Cunningly resuming his former position, though
with a change of hands, as if the movement had been made merely to
relieve the limb, the native awaited the result with a calmness and
fortitude that none but an Indian warrior would have known how to
exercise.

But Heyward saw that while to a less instructed eye the Mohican chief
appeared to slumber, his nostrils were expanded, his head was turned a
little to one side, as if to assist the organs of hearing, and that
his quick and rapid glances ran incessantly over every object within
the power of his vision.

"See the noble fellow!" whispered Hawkeye, pressing the arm of
Heyward; "he knows that a look or a motion might disconsart our
schemes, and put us at the mercy of them imps --"

He was interrupted by the flash and report of a rifle.  The air was
filled with sparks of fire, around that spot where the eyes of Heyward
were still fastened, with admiration and wonder.  A second look told
him that Chingachgook had disappeared in the confusion.  In the
meantime, the scout had thrown forward his rifle, like one prepared
for service, and awaited impatiently the moment when an enemy might
rise to view.  But with the solitary and fruitless attempt made on the
life of Chingachgook, the attack appeared to have terminated.  Once or
twice the listeners thought they could distinguish the distant
rustling of bushes, as bodies of some unknown description rushed
through them; nor was it long before Hawkeye pointed out the
"scampering of the wolves," as they fled precipitately before the
passage of some intruder on their proper domains.  After an impatient
and breathless pause, a plunge was heard in the water, and it was
immediately followed by the report of another rifle.

"There goes Uncas!" said the scout; "the boy bears a smart piece!  I
know its crack, as well as a father knows the language of his child,
for I carried the gun myself until a better offered."

"What can this mean?" demanded Duncan' "we are watched, and, as it
would seem, marked for destruction."

"Yonder scattered brand can witness that no good was intended, and
this Indian will testify that no harm has been done," returned the
scout, dropping his rifle across his arm again, and following
Chingachgook, who just then reappeared within the circle of light,
into the bosom of the work. "How is it, Sagamore?  Are the Mingoes
upon us in earnest, or is it only one of those reptiles who hang upon
the skirts of a war-party, to scalp the dead, go in, and make their
boast among the squaws of the valiant deeds done on the pale faces?"

Chingachgook very quietly resumed his seat; nor did he make any reply,
until after he had examined the firebrand which had been struck by the
bullet that had nearly proved fatal to himself.  After which he was
content to reply, holding a single finger up to view, with the English
monosyllable:

"One."

"I thought as much," returned Hawkeye, seating himself; "and as he had
got the cover of the lake afore Uncas pulled upon him, it is more than
probable the knave will sing his lies about some great ambushment, in
which he was outlying on the trail of two Mohicans and a white
hunter--for the officers can be considered as little better than
idlers in such a scrimmage.  Well, let him--let him.  There are always
some honest men in every nation, though heaven knows, too, that they
are scarce among the Maquas, to look down an upstart when he brags
ag'in the face of reason.  The varlet sent his lead within whistle of
your ears, Sagamore."

Chingachgook turned a calm and incurious eye toward the place where
the ball had struck, and then resumed his former attitude, with a
composure that could not be disturbed by so trifling an incident.
Just then Uncas glided into the circle, and seated himself at the
fire, with the same appearance of indifference as was maintained by
his father.

Of these several moments Heyward was a deeply interested and wondering
observer.  It appeared to him as though the foresters had some secret
means of intelligence, which had escaped the vigilance of his own
faculties.  In place of that eager and garrulous narration with which
a white youth would have endeavored to communicate, and perhaps
exaggerate, that which had passed out in the darkness of the plain,
the young warrior was seemingly content to let his deeds speak for
themselves.  It was, in fact, neither the moment nor the occasion for
an Indian to boast of his exploits; and it is probably that, had
Heyward neglected to inquire, not another syllable would, just then,
have been uttered on the subject.

"What has become of our enemy, Uncas?" demanded Duncan; "we heard your
rifle, and hoped you had not fired in vain."

The young chief removed a fold of his hunting skirt, and quietly
exposed the fatal tuft of hair, which he bore as the symbol of
victory.  Chingachgook laid his hand on the scalp, and considered it
for a moment with deep attention.  Then dropping it, with disgust
depicted in his strong features, he ejaculated:

"Oneida!"

"Oneida!" repeated the scout, who was fast losing his interest in the
scene, in an apathy nearly assimilated to that of his red associates,
but who now advanced in uncommon earnestness to regard the bloody
badge.  "By the Lord, if the Oneidas are outlying upon the trail, we
shall by flanked by devils on every side of us!  Now, to white eyes
there is no difference between this bit of skin and that of any other
Indian, and yet the Sagamore declares it came from the poll of a
Mingo; nay, he even names the tribe of the poor devil, with as much
ease as if the scalp was the leaf of a book, and each hair a letter.
What right have Christian whites to boast of their learning, when a
savage can read a language that would prove too much for the wisest of
them all!  What say you, lad, of what people was the knave?"

Uncas raised his eyes to the face of the scout, and answered, in his
soft voice:

"Oneida."

"Oneida, again! when one Indian makes a declaration it is commonly
true; but when he is supported by his people, set it down as gospel!"

"The poor fellow has mistaken us for French," said Heyward; "or he
would not have attempted the life of a friend."

"He mistake a Mohican in his paint for a Huron!  You would be as
likely to mistake the white-coated grenadiers of Montcalm for the
scarlet jackets of the Royal Americans," returned the scout.  "No, no,
the sarpent knew his errand; nor was there any great mistake in the
matter, for there is but little love atween a Delaware and a Mingo,
let their tribes go out to fight for whom they may, in a white
quarrel.  For that matter, though the Oneidas do serve his sacred
majesty, who is my sovereign lord and master, I should not have
deliberated long about letting off 'killdeer' at the imp myself, had
luck thrown him in my way."

"That would have been an abuse of our treaties, and unworthy of your
character."

"When a man consort much with a people," continued Hawkeye, "if they
were honest and he no knave, love will grow up atwixt them.  It is
true that white cunning has managed to throw the tribes into great
confusion, as respects friends and enemies; so that the Hurons and the
Oneidas, who speak the same tongue, or what may be called the same,
take each other's scalps, and the Delawares are divided among
themselves; a few hanging about their great council-fire on their own
river, and fighting on the same side with the Mingoes while the
greater part are in the Canadas, out of natural enmity to the
Maquas--thus throwing everything into disorder, and destroying all the
harmony of warfare. Yet a red natur' is not likely to alter with every
shift of policy; so that the love atwixt a Mohican and a Mingo is much
like the regard between a white man and a sarpent."

"I regret to hear it; for I had believed those natives who dwelt
within our boundaries had found us too just and liberal, not to
identify themselves fully with our quarrels."

"Why, I believe it is natur' to give a preference to one's own
quarrels before those of strangers.  Now, for myself, I do love
justice; and, therefore, I will not say I hate a Mingo, for that may
be unsuitable to my color and my religion, though I will just repeat,
it may have been owing to the night that 'killdeer' had no hand in the
death of this skulking Oneida."

Then, as if satisfied with the force of his own reasons, whatever
might be their effect on the opinions of the other disputant, the
honest but implacable woodsman turned from the fire, content to let
the controversy slumber.  Heyward withdrew to the rampart, too uneasy
and too little accustomed to the warfare of the woods to remain at
ease under the possibility of such insidious attacks.  Not so,
however, with the scout and the Mohicans.  Those acute and
long-practised senses, whose powers so often exceed the limits of all
ordinary credulity, after having detected the danger, had enabled them
to ascertain its magnitude and duration.  Not one of the three
appeared in the least to doubt their perfect security, as was
indicated by the preparations that were soon made to sit in council
over their future proceedings.

The confusion of nations, and even of tribes, to which Hawkeye
alluded, existed at that period in the fullest force.  The great tie
of language, and, of course, of a common origin, was severed in many
places; and it was one of its consequences, that the Delaware and the
Mingo (as the people of the Six Nations were called) were found
fighting in the same ranks, while the latter sought the scalp of the
Huron, though believed to be the root of his own stock.  The Delawares
were even divided among themselves.  Though love for the soil which
had belonged to his ancestors kept the Sagamore of the Mohicans with a
small band of followers who were serving at Edward, under the banners
of the English king, by far the largest portion of his nation were
known to be in the field as allies of Montcalm.  The reader probably
knows, if enough has not already been gleaned form this narrative,
that the Delaware, or Lenape, claimed to be the progenitors of that
numerous people, who once were masters of most of the eastern and
northern states of America, of whom the community of the Mohicans was
an ancient and highly honored member.

It was, of course, with a perfect understanding of the minute and
intricate interests which had armed friend against friend, and brought
natural enemies to combat by each other's side, that the scout and his
companions now disposed themselves to deliberate on the measures that
were to govern their future movements, amid so many jarring and savage
races of men.  Duncan knew enough of Indian customs to understand the
reason that the fire was replenished, and why the warriors, not
excepting Hawkeye, took their seats within the curl of its smoke with
so much gravity and decorum.  Placing himself at an angle of the
works, where he might be a spectator of the scene without, he awaited
the result with as much patience as he could summon.

After a short and impressive pause, Chingachgook lighted a pipe whose
bowl was curiously carved in one of the soft stones of the country,
and whose stem was a tube of wood, and commenced smoking.  When he had
inhaled enough of the fragrance of the soothing weed, he passed the
instrument into the hands of the scout.  In this manner the pipe had
made its rounds three several times, amid the most profound silence,
before either of the party opened his lips.  Then the Sagamore, as the
oldest and highest in rank, in a few calm and dignified words,
proposed the subject for deliberation.  He was answered by the scout;
and Chingachgook rejoined, when the other objected to his opinions.
But the youthful Uncas continued a silent and respectful listener,
until Hawkeye, in complaisance, demanded his opinion.  Heyward
gathered from the manners of the different speakers, that the father
and son espoused one side of a disputed question, while the white man
maintained the other.  The contest gradually grew warmer, until it was
quite evident the feelings of the speakers began to be somewhat
enlisted in the debate.

Notwithstanding the increasing warmth of the amicable contest, the
most decorous Christian assembly, not even excepting those in which
its reverend ministers are collected, might have learned a wholesome
lesson of moderation from the forbearance and courtesy of the
disputants.  The words of Uncas were received with the same deep
attention as those which fell from the maturer wisdom of his father;
and so far from manifesting any impatience, neither spoke in reply,
until a few moments of silent meditation were, seemingly, bestowed in
deliberating on what had already been said.

The language of the Mohicans was accompanied by gestures so direct and
natural that Heyward had but little difficulty in following the thread
of their argument.  On the other hand, the scout was obscure; because
from the lingering pride of color, he rather affected the cold and
artificial manner which characterizes all classes of Anglo-Americans
when unexcited.  By the frequency with which the Indians described the
marks of a forest trial, it was evident they urged a pursuit by land,
while the repeated sweep of Hawkeye's arm toward the Horican denoted
that he was for a passage across its waters.

The latter was to every appearance fast losing ground, and the point
was about to be decided against him, when he arose to his feet, and
shaking off his apathy, he suddenly assumed the manner of an Indian,
and adopted all the arts of native eloquence.  Elevating an arm, he
pointed out the track of the sun, repeating the gesture for every day
that was necessary to accomplish their objects.  Then he delineated a
long and painful path, amid rocks and water-courses.  The age and
weakness of the slumbering and unconscious Munro were indicated by
signs too palpable to be mistaken.  Duncan perceived that even his own
powers were spoken lightly of, as the scout extended his palm, and
mentioned him by the appellation of the "Open Hand"--a name his
liberality had purchased of all the friendly tribes.  Then came a
representation of the light and graceful movements of a canoe, set in
forcible contrast to the tottering steps of one enfeebled and tired.
He concluded by pointing to the scalp of the Oneida, and apparently
urging the necessity of their departing speedily, and in a manner that
should leave no trail.

The Mohicans listened gravely, and with countenances that reflected
the sentiments of the speaker.  Conviction gradually wrought its
influence, and toward the close of Hawkeye's speech, his sentences
were accompanied by the customary exclamation of commendation.  In
short, Uncas and his father became converts to his way of thinking,
abandoning their own previously expressed opinions with a liberality
and candor that, had they been the representatives of some great and
civilized people, would have infallibly worked their political ruin,
by destroying forever their reputation for consistency.

The instant the matter in discussion was decided, the debate, and
everything connected with it, except the result appeared to be
forgotten.  Hawkeye, without looking round to read his triumph in
applauding eyes, very composedly stretched his tall frame before the
dying embers, and closed his own organs in sleep.

Left now in a measure to themselves, the Mohicans, whose time had been
so much devoted to the interests of others, seized the moment to
devote some attention to themselves. Casting off at once the grave and
austere demeanor of an Indian chief, Chingachgook commenced speaking
to his son in the soft and playful tones of affection.  Uncas gladly
met the familiar air of his father; and before the hard breathing of
the scout announced that he slept, a complete change was effected in
the manner of his two associates.

It is impossible to describe the music of their language, while thus
engaged in laughter and endearments, in such a way as to render it
intelligible to those whose ears have never listened to its melody.
The compass of their voices, particularly that of the youth, was
wonderful--extending from the deepest bass to tones that were even
feminine in softness.  The eyes of the father followed the plastic and
ingenious movements of the son with open delight, and he never failed
to smile in reply to the other's contagious but low laughter.  While
under the influence of these gentle and natural feelings, no trace of
ferocity was to be seen in the softened features of the Sagamore.  His
figured panoply of death looked more like a disguise assumed in
mockery than a fierce annunciation of a desire to carry destruction in
his footsteps.

After an hour had passed in the indulgence of their better feelings,
Chingachgook abruptly announced his desire to sleep, by wrapping his
head in his blanket and stretching his form on the naked earth.  The
merriment of Uncas instantly ceased; and carefully raking the coals in
such a manner that they should impart their warmth to his father's
feet, the youth sought his own pillow among the ruins of the place.

Imbibing renewed confidence from the security of these experienced
foresters, Heyward soon imitated their example; and long before the
night had turned, they who lay in the bosom of the ruined work, seemed
to slumber as heavily as the unconscious multitude whose bones were
already beginning to bleach on the surrounding plain.



CHAPTER 20

"Land of Albania! let me bend mine eyes On thee; thou rugged nurse of
savage men!"--Childe Harold

The heavens were still studded with stars, when Hawkeye came to arouse
the sleepers.  Casting aside their cloaks Munro and Heyward were on
their feet while the woodsman was still making his low calls, at the
entrance of the rude shelter where they had passed the night.  When
they issued from beneath its concealment, they found the scout
awaiting their appearance nigh by, and the only salutation between
them was the significant gesture for silence, made by their sagacious
leader.

"Think over your prayers," he whispered, as they approached him; "for
He to whom you make them, knows all tongues; that of the heart, as
well as those of the mouth.  But speak not a syllable; it is rare for
a white voice to pitch itself properly in the woods, as we have seen
by the example of that miserable devil, the singer.  Come," he
continued, turning toward a curtain of the works; "let us get into the
ditch on this side, and be regardful to step on the stones and
fragments of wood as you go."

His companions complied, though to two of them the reasons of this
extraordinary precaution were yet a mystery.  When they were in the
low cavity that surrounded the earthen fort on three sides, they found
that passage nearly choked by the ruins.  With care and patience,
however, they succeeded in clambering after the scout, until they
reached the sandy shore of the Horican.

"That's a trail that nothing but a nose can follow," said the
satisfied scout, looking back along their difficult way; "grass is a
treacherous carpet for a flying party to tread on, but wood and stone
take no print from a moccasin.  Had you worn your armed boots, there
might, indeed, have been something to fear; but with the deer-skin
suitably prepared, a man may trust himself, generally, on rocks with
safety. Shove in the canoe nigher to the land, Uncas; this sand will
take a stamp as easily as the butter of the Jarmans on the Mohawk.
Softly, lad, softly; it must not touch the beach, or the knaves will
know by what road we have left the place."

The young man observed the precaution; and the scout, laying a board
from the ruins to the canoe, made a sign for the two officers to
enter.  When this was done, everything was studiously restored to its
former disorder; and then Hawkeye succeeded in reaching his little
birchen vessel, without leaving behind him any of those marks which he
appeared so much to dread.  Heyward was silent until the Indians had
cautiously paddled the canoe some distance from the fort, and within
the broad and dark shadows that fell from the eastern mountain on the
glassy surface of the lake; then he demanded:

"What need have we for this stolen and hurried departure?"

"If the blood of an Oneida could stain such a sheet of pure water as
this we float on," returned the scout, "your two eyes would answer
your own question.  Have you forgotten the skulking reptile Uncas
slew?"

"By no means.  But he was said to be alone, and dead men give no cause
for fear."

"Ay, he was alone in his deviltry! but an Indian whose tribe counts so
many warriors, need seldom fear his blood will run without the death
shriek coming speedily from some of his enemies."

"But our presence--the authority of Colonel Munro--would prove
sufficient protection against the anger of our allies, especially in a
case where the wretch so well merited his fate.  I trust in Heaven you
have not deviated a single foot from the direct line of our course
with so slight a reason!"

"Do you think the bullet of that varlet's rifle would have turned
aside, though his sacred majesty the king had stood in its path?"
returned the stubborn scout.  "Why did not the grand Frencher, he who
is captain-general of the Canadas, bury the tomahawks of the Hurons,
if a word from a white can work so strongly on the natur' of an
Indian?"

The reply of Heyward was interrupted by a groan from Munro; but after
he had paused a moment, in deference to the sorrow of his aged friend
he resumed the subject.

"The marquis of Montcalm can only settle that error with his God,"
said the young man solemnly.

"Ay, ay, now there is reason in your words, for they are bottomed on
religion and honesty.  There is a vast difference between throwing a
regiment of white coats atwixt the tribes and the prisoners, and
coaxing an angry savage to forget he carries a knife and rifle, with
words that must begin with calling him your son.  No, no," continued
the scout, looking back at the dim shore of William Henry, which was
now fast receding, and laughing in his own silent but heartfelt
manner; "I have put a trail of water atween us; and unless the imps
can make friends with the fishes, and hear who has paddled across
their basin this fine morning, we shall throw the length of the
Horican behind us before they have made up their minds which path to
take."

"With foes in front, and foes in our rear, our journey is like to be
one of danger."

"Danger!" repeated Hawkeye, calmly; "no, not absolutely of danger;
for, with vigilant ears and quick eyes, we can manage to keep a few
hours ahead of the knaves; or, if we must try the rifle, there are
three of us who understand its gifts as well as any you can name on
the borders.  No, not of danger; but that we shall have what you may
call a brisk push of it, is probable; and it may happen, a brush, a
scrimmage, or some such divarsion, but always where covers are good,
and ammunition abundant."

It is possible that Heyward's estimate of danger differed in some
degree from that of the scout, for, instead of replying, he now sat in
silence, while the canoe glided over several miles of water.  Just as
the day dawned, they entered the narrows of the lake*, and stole
swiftly and cautiously among their numberless little islands.  It was
by this road that Montcalm had retired with his army, and the
adventurers knew not but he had left some of his Indians in ambush, to
protect the rear of his forces, and collect the stragglers.  They,
therefore, approached the passage with the customary silence of their
guarded habits. * The beauties of Lake George are well known to every
American tourist.  In the height of the mountains which surround it,
and in artificial accessories, it is inferior to the finest of the
Swiss and Italian lakes, while in outline and purity of water it is
fully their equal; and in the number and disposition of its isles and
islets much superior to them all together.  There are said to be some
hundreds of islands in a sheet of water less than thirty miles long.
The narrows, which connect what may be called, in truth, two lakes,
are crowded with islands to such a degree as to leave passages between
them frequently of only a few feet in width.  The lake itself varies
in breadth from one to three miles.

Chingachgook laid aside his paddle; while Uncas and the scout urged
the light vessel through crooked and intricate channels, where every
foot that they advanced exposed them to the danger of some sudden
rising on their progress.  The eyes of the Sagamore moved warily from
islet to islet, and copse to copse, as the canoe proceeded; and, when
a clearer sheet of water permitted, his keen vision was bent along the
bald rocks and impending forests that frowned upon the narrow strait.

Heyward, who was a doubly interested spectator, as well from the
beauties of the place as from the apprehension natural to his
situation, was just believing that he had permitted the latter to be
excited without sufficient reason, when the paddle ceased moving, in
obedience to a signal from Chingachgook.

"Hugh!" exclaimed Uncas, nearly at the moment that the light tap his
father had made on the side of the canoe notified them of the vicinity
of danger.

"What now?" asked the scout; "the lake is as smooth as if the winds
had never blown, and I can see along its sheet for miles; there is not
so much as the black head of a loon dotting the water."

The Indian gravely raised his paddle, and pointed in the direction in
which his own steady look was riveted. Duncan's eyes followed the
motion.  A few rods in their front lay another of the wooded islets,
but it appeared as calm and peaceful as if its solitude had never been
disturbed by the foot of man.

"I see nothing," he said, "but land and water; and a lovely scene it
is."

"Hist!" interrupted the scout.  "Ay, Sagamore, there is always a
reason for what you do.  'Tis but a shade, and yet it is not natural.
You see the mist, major, that is rising above the island; you can't
call it a fog, for it is more like a streak of thin cloud--"

"It is vapor from the water."

"That a child could tell.  But what is the edging of blacker smoke
that hangs along its lower side, and which you may trace down into the
thicket of hazel?  'Tis from a fire; but one that, in my judgment, has
been suffered to burn low."

"Let us, then, push for the place, and relieve our doubts," said the
impatient Duncan; "the party must be small that can lie on such a bit
of land."

"If you judge of Indian cunning by the rules you find in books, or by
white sagacity, they will lead you astray, if not to your death,"
returned Hawkeye, examining the signs of the place with that acuteness
which distinguished him.  "If I may be permitted to speak in this
matter, it will be to say, that we have but two things to choose
between: the one is, to return, and give up all thoughts of following
the Hurons--"

"Never!" exclaimed Heyward, in a voice far too loud for their
circumstances.

"Well, well," continued Hawkeye, making a hasty sign to repress his
impatience; "I am much of your mind myself; though I thought it
becoming my experience to tell the whole.  We must, then, make a push,
and if the Indians or Frenchers are in the narrows, run the gauntlet
through these toppling mountains.  Is there reason in my words,
Sagamore?"

The Indian made no other answer than by dropping his paddle into the
water, and urging forward the canoe.  As he held the office of
directing its course, his resolution was sufficiently indicated by the
movement.  The whole party now plied their paddles vigorously, and in
a very few moments they had reached a point whence they might command
an entire view of the northern shore of the island, the side that had
hitherto been concealed.

"There they are, by all the truth of signs," whispered the scout, "two
canoes and a smoke.  The knaves haven't yet got their eyes out of the
mist, or we should hear the accursed whoop.  Together, friends! we are
leaving them, and are already nearly out of whistle of a bullet."

The well-known crack of a rifle, whose ball came skipping along the
placid surface of the strait, and a shrill yell from the island,
interrupted his speech, and announced that their passage was
discovered.  In another instant several savages were seen rushing into
canoes, which were soon dancing over the water in pursuit.  These
fearful precursors of a coming struggle produced no change in the
countenances and movements of his three guides, so far as Duncan could
discover, except that the strokes of their paddles were longer and
more in unison, and caused the little bark to spring forward like a
creature possessing life and volition.

"Hold them there, Sagamore," said Hawkeye, looking coolly backward
over this left shoulder, while he still plied his paddle; "keep them
just there.  Them Hurons have never a piece in their nation that will
execute at this distance; but 'killdeer' has a barrel on which a man
may calculate."

The scout having ascertained that the Mohicans were sufficient of
themselves to maintain the requisite distance, deliberately laid aside
his paddle, and raised the fatal rifle.  Three several times he
brought the piece to his shoulder, and when his companions were
expecting its report, he as often lowered it to request the Indians
would permit their enemies to approach a little nigher.  At length his
accurate and fastidious eye seemed satisfied, and, throwing out his
left arm on the barrel, he was slowly elevating the muzzle, when an
exclamation from Uncas, who sat in the bow, once more caused him to
suspend the shot.

"What, now, lad?" demanded Hawkeye; "you save a Huron from the
death-shriek by that word; have you reason for what you do?"

Uncas pointed toward a rocky shore a little in their front, whence
another war canoe was darting directly across their course.  It was
too obvious now that their situation was imminently perilous to need
the aid of language to confirm it.  The scout laid aside his rifle,
and resumed the paddle, while Chingachgook inclined the bows of the
canoe a little toward the western shore, in order to increase the
distance between them and this new enemy.  In the meantime they were
reminded of the presence of those who pressed upon their rear, by wild
and exulting shouts.  The stirring scene awakened even Munro from his
apathy.

"Let us make for the rocks on the main," he said, with the mien of a
tired soldier, "and give battle to the savages. God forbid that I, or
those attached to me and mine, should ever trust again to the faith of
any servant of the Louis's!"

"He who wishes to prosper in Indian warfare," returned the scout,
"must not be too proud to learn from the wit of a native.  Lay her
more along the land, Sagamore; we are doubling on the varlets, and
perhaps they may try to strike our trail on the long calculation."

Hawkeye was not mistaken; for when the Hurons found their course was
likely to throw them behind their chase they rendered it less direct,
until, by gradually bearing more and more obliquely, the two canoes
were, ere long, gliding on parallel lines, within two hundred yards of
each other. It now became entirely a trial of speed.  So rapid was the
progress of the light vessels, that the lake curled in their front, in
miniature waves, and their motion became undulating by its own
velocity.  It was, perhaps, owing to this circumstance, in addition to
the necessity of keeping every hand employed at the paddles, that the
Hurons had not immediate recourse to their firearms.  The exertions of
the fugitives were too severe to continue long, and the pursuers had
the advantage of numbers.  Duncan observed with uneasiness, that the
scout began to look anxiously about him, as if searching for some
further means of assisting their flight.

"Edge her a little more from the sun, Sagamore," said the stubborn
woodsman; "I see the knaves are sparing a man to the rifle.  A single
broken bone might lose us our scalps. Edge more from the sun and we
will put the island between us."

The expedient was not without its use.  A long, low island lay at a
little distance before them, and, as they closed with it, the chasing
canoe was compelled to take a side opposite to that on which the
pursued passed.  The scout and his companions did not neglect this
advantage, but the instant they were hid from observation by the
bushes, they redoubled efforts that before had seemed prodigious.  The
two canoes came round the last low point, like two coursers at the top
of their speed, the fugitives taking the lead. This change had brought
them nigher to each other, however, while it altered their relative
positions.

"You showed knowledge in the shaping of a birchen bark, Uncas, when
you chose this from among the Huron canoes," said the scout, smiling,
apparently more in satisfaction at their superiority in the race than
from that prospect of final escape which now began to open a little
upon them. "The imps have put all their strength again at the paddles,
and we are to struggle for our scalps with bits of flattened wood,
instead of clouded barrels and true eyes.  A long stroke, and
together, friends."

"They are preparing for a shot," said Heyward; "and as we are in a
line with them, it can scarcely fail."

"Get you, then, into the bottom of the canoe," returned the scout;
"you and the colonel; it will be so much taken from the size of the
mark."

Heyward smiled, as he answered:

"It would be but an ill example for the highest in rank to dodge,
while the warriors were under fire."

"Lord! Lord! That is now a white man's courage!" exclaimed the scout;
"and like to many of his notions, not to be maintained by reason.  Do
you think the Sagamore, or Uncas, or even I, who am a man without a
cross, would deliberate about finding a cover in the scrimmage, when
an open body would do no good?  For what have the Frenchers reared up
their Quebec, if fighting is always to be done in the clearings?"

"All that you say is very true, my friend," replied Heyward; "still,
our customs must prevent us from doing as you wish."

A volley from the Hurons interrupted the discourse, and as the bullets
whistled about them, Duncan saw the head of Uncas turned, looking back
at himself and Munro. Notwithstanding the nearness of the enemy, and
his own great personal danger, the countenance of the young warrior
expressed no other emotion, as the former was compelled to think, than
amazement at finding men willing to encounter so useless an exposure.
Chingachgook was probably better acquainted with the notions of white
men, for he did not even cast a glance aside from the riveted look his
eye maintained on the object by which he governed their course. A ball
soon struck the light and polished paddle from the hands of the chief,
and drove it through the air, far in the advance.  A shout arose from
the Hurons, who seized the opportunity to fire another volley.  Uncas
described an arc in the water with his own blade, and as the canoe
passed swiftly on, Chingachgook recovered his paddle, and flourishing
it on high, he gave the war-whoop of the Mohicans, and then lent his
strength and skill again to the important task.

The clamorous sounds of "Le Gros Serpent!"  "La Longue Carabine!"  "Le
Cerf Agile!"  burst at once from the canoes behind, and seemed to give
new zeal to the pursuers.  The scout seized "killdeer" in his left
hand, and elevating it about his head, he shook it in triumph at his
enemies.  The savages answered the insult with a yell, and immediately
another volley succeeded.  The bullets pattered along the lake, and
one even pierced the bark of their little vessel. No perceptible
emotion could be discovered in the Mohicans during this critical
moment, their rigid features expressing neither hope nor alarm; but
the scout again turned his head, and, laughing in his own silent
manner, he said to Heyward:

"The knaves love to hear the sounds of their pieces; but the eye is
not to be found among the Mingoes that can calculate a true range in a
dancing canoe!  You see the dumb devils have taken off a man to
charge, and by the smallest measurement that can be allowed, we move
three feet to their two!"

Duncan, who was not altogether as easy under this nice estimate of
distances as his companions, was glad to find, however, that owing to
their superior dexterity, and the diversion among their enemies, they
were very sensibly obtaining the advantage.  The Hurons soon fired
again, and a bullet struck the blade of Hawkeye's paddle without
injury.

"That will do," said the scout, examining the slight indentation with
a curious eye; "it would not have cut the skin of an infant, much less
of men, who, like us, have been blown upon by the heavens in their
anger.  Now, major, if you will try to use this piece of flattened
wood, I'll let 'killdeer' take a part in the conversation."

Heyward seized the paddle, and applied himself to the work with an
eagerness that supplied the place of skill, while Hawkeye was engaged
in inspecting the priming of his rifle. The latter then took a swift
aim and fired.  The Huron in the bows of the leading canoe had risen
with a similar object, and he now fell backward, suffering his gun to
escape from his hands into the water.  In an instant, however, he
recovered his feet, though his gestures were wild and bewildered.  At
the same moment his companions suspended their efforts, and the
chasing canoes clustered together, and became stationary.
Chingachgook and Uncas profited by the interval to regain their wind,
though Duncan continued to work with the most persevering industry.
The father and son now cast calm but inquiring glances at each other,
to learn if either had sustained any injury by the fire; for both well
knew that no cry or exclamation would, in such a moment of necessity
have been permitted to betray the accident.  A few large drops of
blood were trickling down the shoulder of the Sagamore, who, when he
perceived that the eyes of Uncas dwelt too long on the sight, raised
some water in the hollow of his hand, and washing off the stain, was
content to manifest, in this simple manner, the slightness of the
injury.

"Softly, softly, major," said the scout, who by this time had reloaded
his rifle; "we are a little too far already for a rifle to put forth
its beauties, and you see yonder imps are holding a council.  Let them
come up within striking distance--my eye may well be trusted in such a
matter-- and I will trail the varlets the length of the Horican,
guaranteeing that not a shot of theirs shall, at the worst, more than
break the skin, while 'killdeer' shall touch the life twice in three
times."

"We forget our errand," returned the diligent Duncan.  "For God's sake
let us profit by this advantage, and increase our distance from the
enemy."

"Give me my children," said Munro, hoarsely; "trifle no longer with a
father's agony, but restore me my babes."

Long and habitual deference to the mandates of his superiors had
taught the scout the virtue of obedience.  Throwing a last and
lingering glance at the distant canoes, he laid aside his rifle, and,
relieving the wearied Duncan, resumed the paddle, which he wielded
with sinews that never tired. His efforts were seconded by those of
the Mohicans and a very few minutes served to place such a sheet of
water between them and their enemies, that Heyward once more breathed
freely.

The lake now began to expand, and their route lay along a wide reach,
that was lined, as before, by high and ragged mountains.  But the
islands were few, and easily avoided. The strokes of the paddles grew
more measured and regular, while they who plied them continued their
labor, after the close and deadly chase from which they had just
relieved themselves, with as much coolness as though their speed had
been tried in sport, rather than under such pressing, nay, almost
desperate, circumstances.

Instead of following the western shore, whither their errand led them,
the wary Mohican inclined his course more toward those hills behind
which Montcalm was known to have led his army into the formidable
fortress of Ticonderoga.  As the Hurons, to every appearance, had
abandoned the pursuit, there was no apparent reason for this excess of
caution.  It was, however, maintained for hours, until they had
reached a bay, nigh the northern termination of the lake.  Here the
canoe was driven upon the beach, and the whole party landed. Hawkeye
and Heyward ascended an adjacent bluff, where the former, after
considering the expanse of water beneath him, pointed out to the
latter a small black object, hovering under a headland, at the
distance of several miles.

"Do you see it?" demanded the scout.  "Now, what would you account
that spot, were you left alone to white experience to find your way
through this wilderness?"

"But for its distance and its magnitude, I should suppose it a bird.
Can it be a living object?"

"'Tis a canoe of good birchen bark, and paddled by fierce and crafty
Mingoes.  Though Providence has lent to those who inhabit the woods
eyes that would be needless to men in the settlements, where there are
inventions to assist the sight, yet no human organs can see all the
dangers which at this moment circumvent us.  These varlets pretend to
be bent chiefly on their sun-down meal, but the moment it is dark they
will be on our trail, as true as hounds on the scent. We must throw
them off, or our pursuit of Le Renard Subtil may be given up.  These
lakes are useful at times, especially when the game take the water,"
continued the scout, gazing about him with a countenance of concern;
"but they give no cover, except it be to the fishes.  God knows what
the country would be, if the settlements should ever spread far from
the two rivers.  Both hunting and war would lose their beauty."

"Let us not delay a moment, without some good and obvious cause."

"I little like that smoke, which you may see worming up along the rock
above the canoe," interrupted the abstracted scout.  "My life on it,
other eyes than ours see it, and know its meaning.  Well, words will
not mend the matter, and it is time that we were doing."

Hawkeye moved away from the lookout, and descended, musing profoundly,
to the shore.  He communicated the result of his observations to his
companions, in Delaware, and a short and earnest consultation
succeeded.  When it terminated, the three instantly set about
executing their new resolutions.

The canoe was lifted from the water, and borne on the shoulders of the
party, they proceeded into the wood, making as broad and obvious a
trail as possible.  They soon reached the water-course, which they
crossed, and, continuing onward, until they came to an extensive and
naked rock.  At this point, where their footsteps might be expected to
be no longer visible, they retraced their route to the brook, walking
backward, with the utmost care.  They now followed the bed of the
little stream to the lake, into which they immediately launched their
canoe again.  A low point concealed them from the headland, and the
margin of the lake was fringed for some distance with dense and
overhanging bushes.  Under the cover of these natural advantages, they
toiled their way, with patient industry, until the scout pronounced
that he believed it would be safe once more to land.

The halt continued until evening rendered objects indistinct and
uncertain to the eye.  Then they resumed their route, and, favored by
the darkness, pushed silently and vigorously toward the western shore.
Although the rugged outline of mountain, to which they were steering,
presented no distinctive marks to the eyes of Duncan, the Mohican
entered the little haven he had selected with the confidence and
accuracy of an experienced pilot.

The boat was again lifted and borne into the woods, where it was
carefully concealed under a pile of brush.  The adventurers assumed
their arms and packs, and the scout announced to Munro and Heyward
that he and the Indians were at last in readiness to proceed.



CHAPTER 21

"If you find a man there, he shall die a flea's death."-- Merry Wives
of Windsor

The party had landed on the border of a region that is, even to this
day, less known to the inhabitants of the States than the deserts of
Arabia, or the steppes of Tartary.  It was the sterile and rugged
district which separates the tributaries of Champlain from those of
the Hudson, the Mohawk, and the St.  Lawrence.  Since the period of
our tale the active spirit of the country has surrounded it with a
belt of rich and thriving settlements, though none but the hunter or
the savage is ever known even now to penetrate its wild recesses.

As Hawkeye and the Mohicans had, however, often traversed the
mountains and valleys of this vast wilderness, they did not hesitate
to plunge into its depth, with the freedom of men accustomed to its
privations and difficulties.  For many hours the travelers toiled on
their laborious way, guided by a star, or following the direction of
some water-course, until the scout called a halt, and holding a short
consultation with the Indians, they lighted their fire, and made the
usual preparations to pass the remainder of the night where they then
were.

Imitating the example, and emulating the confidence of their more
experienced associates, Munro and Duncan slept without fear, if now
without uneasiness.  The dews were suffered to exhale, and the sun had
dispersed the mists, and was shedding a strong and clear light in the
forest, when the travelers resumed their journey.

After proceeding a few miles, the progress of Hawkeye, who led the
advance, became more deliberate and watchful.  He often stopped to
examine the trees; nor did he cross a rivulet without attentively
considering the quantity, the velocity, and the color of its waters.
Distrusting his own judgment, his appeals to the opinion of
Chingachgook were frequent and earnest.  During one of these
conferences Heyward observed that Uncas stood a patient and silent,
though, as he imagined, an interested listener.  He was strongly
tempted to address the young chief, and demand his opinion of their
progress; but the calm and dignified demeanor of the native induced
him to believe, that, like himself, the other was wholly dependent on
the sagacity and intelligence of the seniors of the party.  At last
the scout spoke in English, and at once explained the embarrassment of
their situation.

"When I found that the home path of the Hurons run north," he said,
"it did not need the judgment of many long years to tell that they
would follow the valleys, and keep atween the waters of the Hudson and
the Horican, until they might strike the springs of the Canada
streams, which would lead them into the heart of the country of the
Frenchers.  Yet here are we, within a short range of the Scaroons, and
not a sign of a trail have we crossed!  Human natur' is weak, and it
is possible we may not have taken the proper scent."

"Heaven protect us from such an error!" exclaimed Duncan. "Let us
retrace our steps, and examine as we go, with keener eyes.  Has Uncas
no counsel to offer in such a strait?"

The young Mohican cast a glance at his father, but, maintaining his
quiet and reserved mien, he continued silent.  Chingachgook had caught
the look, and motioning with his hand, he bade him speak.  The moment
this permission was accorded, the countenance of Uncas changed from
its grave composure to a gleam of intelligence and joy. Bounding
forward like a deer, he sprang up the side of a little acclivity, a
few rods in advance, and stood, exultingly, over a spot of fresh
earth, that looked as though it had been recently upturned by the
passage of some heavy animal.  The eyes of the whole party followed
the unexpected movement, and read their success in the air of triumph
that the youth assumed.

"'Tis the trail!" exclaimed the scout, advancing to the spot; "the lad
is quick of sight and keen of wit for his years."

"'Tis extraordinary that he should have withheld his knowledge so
long," muttered Duncan, at his elbow.

"It would have been more wonderful had he spoken without a bidding.
No, no; your young white, who gathers his learning from books and can
measure what he knows by the page, may conceit that his knowledge,
like his legs, outruns that of his fathers', but, where experience is
the master, the scholar is made to know the value of years, and
respects them accordingly."

"See!" said Uncas, pointing north and south, at the evident marks of
the broad trail on either side of him, "the dark- hair has gone toward
the forest."

"Hound never ran on a more beautiful scent," responded the scout,
dashing forward, at once, on the indicated route; "we are favored,
greatly favored, and can follow with high noses.  Ay, here are both
your waddling beasts: this Huron travels like a white general.  The
fellow is stricken with a judgment, and is mad!  Look sharp for
wheels, Sagamore," he continued, looking back, and laughing in his
newly awakened satisfaction; "we shall soon have the fool journeying
in a coach, and that with three of the best pair of eyes on the
borders in his rear."

The spirits of the scout, and the astonishing success of the chase, in
which a circuitous distance of more than forty miles had been passed,
did not fail to impart a portion of hope to the whole party.  Their
advance was rapid; and made with as much confidence as a traveler
would proceed along a wide highway.  If a rock, or a rivulet, or a bit
of earth harder than common, severed the links of the clew they
followed, the true eye of the scout recovered them at a distance, and
seldom rendered the delay of a single moment necessary.  Their
progress was much facilitated by the certainty that Magua had found it
necessary to journey through the valleys; a circumstance which
rendered the general direction of the route sure.  Nor had the Huron
entirely neglected the arts uniformly practised by the natives when
retiring in front of an enemy.  False trails and sudden turnings were
frequent, wherever a brook or the formation of the ground rendered
them feasible; but his pursuers were rarely deceived, and never failed
to detect their error, before they had lost either time or distance on
the deceptive track.

By the middle of the afternoon they had passed the Scaroons, and were
following the route of the declining sun.  After descending an
eminence to a low bottom, through which a swift stream glided, they
suddenly came to a place where the party of Le Renard had made a halt.
Extinguished brands were lying around a spring, the offals of a deer
were scattered about the place, and the trees bore evident marks of
having been browsed by the horses.  At a little distance, Heyward
discovered, and contemplated with tender emotion, the small bower
under which he was fain to believe that Cora and Alice had reposed.
But while the earth was trodden, and the footsteps of both men and
beasts were so plainly visible around the place, the trail appeared to
have suddenly ended.

It was easy to follow the tracks of the Narragansetts, but they seemed
only to have wandered without guides, or any other object than the
pursuit of food.  At length Uncas, who, with his father, had
endeavored to trace the route of the horses, came upon a sign of their
presence that was quite recent.  Before following the clew, he
communicated his success to his companions; and while the latter were
consulting on the circumstance, the youth reappeared, leading the two
fillies, with their saddles broken, and the housings soiled, as though
they had been permitted to run at will for several days.

"What should this prove?" said Duncan, turning pale, and glancing his
eyes around him, as if he feared the brush and leaves were about to
give up some horrid secret.

"That our march is come to a quick end, and that we are in an enemy's
country," returned the scout.  "Had the knave been pressed, and the
gentle ones wanted horses to keep up with the party, he might have
taken their scalps; but without an enemy at his heels, and with such
rugged beasts as these, he would not hurt a hair of their heads.  I
know your thoughts, and shame be it to our color that you have reason
for them; but he who thinks that even a Mingo would ill-treat a woman,
unless it be to tomahawk her, knows nothing of Indian natur', or the
laws of the woods.  No, no; I have heard that the French Indians had
come into these hills to hunt the moose, and we are getting within
scent of their camp.  Why should they not?  The morning and evening
guns of Ty may be heard any day among these mountains; for the
Frenchers are running a new line atween the provinces of the king and
the Canadas.  It is true that the horses are here, but the Hurons are
gone; let us, then, hunt for the path by which they parted."

Hawkeye and the Mohicans now applied themselves to their task in good
earnest.  A circle of a few hundred feet in circumference was drawn,
and each of the party took a segment for his portion.  The
examination, however, resulted in no discovery.  The impressions of
footsteps were numerous, but they all appeared like those of men who
had wandered about the spot, without any design to quit it. Again the
scout and his companions made the circuit of the halting place, each
slowly following the other, until they assembled in the center once
more, no wiser than when they started.

"Such cunning is not without its deviltry," exclaimed Hawkeye, when he
met the disappointed looks of his assistants.

"We must get down to it, Sagamore, beginning at the spring, and going
over the ground by inches.  The Huron shall never brag in his tribe
that he has a foot which leaves no print."

Setting the example himself, the scout engaged in the scrutiny with
renewed zeal.  Not a leaf was left unturned. The sticks were removed,
and the stones lifted; for Indian cunning was known frequently to
adopt these objects as covers, laboring with the utmost patience and
industry, to conceal each footstep as they proceeded.  Still no
discovery was made.  At length Uncas, whose activity had enabled him
to achieve his portion of the task the soonest, raked the earth across
the turbid little rill which ran from the spring, and diverted its
course into another channel.  So soon as its narrow bed below the dam
was dry, he stooped over it with keen and curious eyes.  A cry of
exultation immediately announced the success of the young warrior.
The whole party crowded to the spot where Uncas pointed out the
impression of a moccasin in the moist alluvion.

"This lad will be an honor to his people," said Hawkeye, regarding the
trail with as much admiration as a naturalist would expend on the tusk
of a mammoth or the rib of a mastodon; "ay, and a thorn in the sides
of the Hurons.  Yet that is not the footstep of an Indian! the weight
is too much on the heel, and the toes are squared, as though one of
the French dancers had been in, pigeon-winging his tribe! Run back,
Uncas, and bring me the size of the singer's foot. You will find a
beautiful print of it just opposite yon rock, agin the hillside."

While the youth was engaged in this commission, the scout and
Chingachgook were attentively considering the impressions.  The
measurements agreed, and the former unhesitatingly pronounced that the
footstep was that of David, who had once more been made to exchange
his shoes for moccasins.

"I can now read the whole of it, as plainly as if I had seen the arts
of Le Subtil," he added; "the singer being a man whose gifts lay
chiefly in his throat and feet, was made to go first, and the others
have trod in his steps, imitating their formation."

"But," cried Duncan, "I see no signs of--"

"The gentle ones," interrupted the scout; "the varlet has found a way
to carry them, until he supposed he had thrown any followers off the
scent.  My life on it, we see their pretty little feet again, before
many rods go by."

The whole party now proceeded, following the course of the rill,
keeping anxious eyes on the regular impressions.  The water soon
flowed into its bed again, but watching the ground on either side, the
foresters pursued their way content with knowing that the trail lay
beneath.  More than half a mile was passed, before the rill rippled
close around the base of an extensive and dry rock.  Here they paused
to make sure that the Hurons had not quitted the water.

It was fortunate they did so.  For the quick and active Uncas soon
found the impression of a foot on a bunch of moss, where it would seem
an Indian had inadvertently trodden.  Pursuing the direction given by
this discovery, he entered the neighboring thicket, and struck the
trail, as fresh and obvious as it had been before they reached the
spring.  Another shout announced the good fortune of the youth to his
companions, and at once terminated the search.

"Ay, it has been planned with Indian judgment," said the scout, when
the party was assembled around the place, "and would have blinded
white eyes."

"Shall we proceed?" demanded Heyward.

"Softly, softly, we know our path; but it is good to examine the
formation of things.  This is my schooling, major; and if one neglects
the book, there is little chance of learning from the open land of
Providence.  All is plain but one thing, which is the manner that the
knave contrived to get the gentle ones along the blind trail.  Even a
Huron would be too proud to let their tender feet touch the water."

"Will this assist in explaining the difficulty?" said Heyward,
pointing toward the fragments of a sort of handbarrow, that had been
rudely constructed of boughs, and bound together with withes, and
which now seemed carelessly cast aside as useless.

"'Tis explained!" cried the delighted Hawkeye.  "If them varlets have
passed a minute, they have spent hours in striving to fabricate a
lying end to their trail!  Well, I've known them to waste a day in the
same manner to as little purpose.  Here we have three pair of
moccasins, and two of little feet.  It is amazing that any mortal
beings can journey on limbs so small!  Pass me the thong of buckskin,
Uncas, and let me take the length of this foot. By the Lord, it is no
longer than a child's and yet the maidens are tall and comely.  That
Providence is partial in its gifts, for its own wise reasons, the best
and most contented of us must allow."

"The tender limbs of my daughters are unequal to these hardships,"
said Munro, looking at the light footsteps of his children, with a
parent's love; "we shall find their fainting forms in this desert."

"Of that there is little cause of fear," returned the scout, slowly
shaking his head; "this is a firm and straight, though a light step,
and not over long.  See, the heel has hardly touched the ground; and
there the dark-hair has made a little jump, from root to root.  No,
no; my knowledge for it, neither of them was nigh fainting, hereaway.
Now, the singer was beginning to be footsore and leg-weary, as is
plain by his trail.  There, you see, he slipped; here he has traveled
wide and tottered; and there again it looks as though he journeyed on
snowshoes.  Ay, ay, a man who uses his throat altogether, can hardly
give his legs a proper training."

From such undeniable testimony did the practised woodsman arrive at
the truth, with nearly as much certainty and precision as if he had
been a witness of all those events which his ingenuity so easily
elucidated.  Cheered by these assurances, and satisfied by a reasoning
that was so obvious, while it was so simple, the party resumed its
course, after making a short halt, to take a hurried repast.

When the meal was ended, the scout cast a glance upward at the setting
sun, and pushed forward with a rapidity which compelled Heyward and
the still vigorous Munro to exert all their muscles to equal.  Their
route now lay along the bottom which has already been mentioned.  As
the Hurons had made no further efforts to conceal their footsteps, the
progress of the pursuers was no longer delayed by uncertainty.  Before
an hour had elapsed, however, the speed of Hawkeye sensibly abated,
and his head, instead of maintaining its former direct and forward
look, began to turn suspiciously from side to side, as if he were
conscious of approaching danger.  He soon stopped again, and waited
for the whole party to come up.

"I scent the Hurons," he said, speaking to the Mohicans; "yonder is
open sky, through the treetops, and we are getting too nigh their
encampment.  Sagamore, you will take the hillside, to the right; Uncas
will bend along the brook to the left, while I will try the trail.  If
anything should happen, the call will be three croaks of a crow.  I
saw one of the birds fanning himself in the air, just beyond the dead
oak--another sign that we are approaching an encampment."

The Indians departed their several ways without reply, while Hawkeye
cautiously proceeded with the two gentlemen. Heyward soon pressed to
the side of their guide, eager to catch an early glimpse of those
enemies he had pursued with so much toil and anxiety.  His companion
told him to steal to the edge of the wood, which, as usual, was
fringed with a thicket, and wait his coming, for he wished to examine
certain suspicious signs a little on one side.  Duncan obeyed, and
soon found himself in a situation to command a view which he found as
extraordinary as it was novel.

The trees of many acres had been felled, and the glow of a mild
summer's evening had fallen on the clearing, in beautiful contrast to
the gray light of the forest.  A short distance from the place where
Duncan stood, the stream had seemingly expanded into a little lake,
covering most of the low land, from mountain to mountain.  The water
fell out of this wide basin, in a cataract so regular and gentle, that
it appeared rather to be the work of human hands than fashioned by
nature.  A hundred earthen dwellings stood on the margin of the lake,
and even in its waters, as though the latter had overflowed its usual
banks.  Their rounded roofs, admirably molded for defense against the
weather, denoted more of industry and foresight than the natives were
wont to bestow on their regular habitations, much less on those they
occupied for the temporary purposes of hunting and war.  In short, the
whole village or town, whichever it might be termed, possessed more of
method and neatness of execution, than the white men had been
accustomed to believe belonged, ordinarily, to the Indian habits.  It
appeared, however, to be deserted.  At least, so thought Duncan for
many minutes; but, at length, he fancied he discovered several human
forms advancing toward him on all fours, and apparently dragging in
the train some heavy, and as he was quick to apprehend, some
formidable engine.  Just then a few dark-looking heads gleamed out of
the dwellings, and the place seemed suddenly alive with beings, which,
however, glided from cover to cover so swiftly, as to allow no
opportunity of examining their humors or pursuits.  Alarmed at these
suspicious and inexplicable movements, he was about to attempt the
signal of the crows, when the rustling of leaves at hand drew his eyes
in another direction.

The young man started, and recoiled a few paces instinctively, when he
found himself within a hundred yards of a stranger Indian.  Recovering
his recollection on the instant, instead of sounding an alarm, which
might prove fatal to himself, he remained stationary, an attentive
observer of the other's motions.

An instant of calm observation served to assure Duncan that he was
undiscovered.  The native, like himself, seemed occupied in
considering the low dwellings of the village, and the stolen movements
of its inhabitants.  It was impossible to discover the expression of
his features through the grotesque mask of paint under which they were
concealed, though Duncan fancied it was rather melancholy than savage.
His head was shaved, as usual, with the exception of the crown, from
whose tuft three or four faded feathers from a hawk's wing were
loosely dangling.  A ragged calico mantle half encircled his body,
while his nether garment was composed of an ordinary shirt, the
sleeves of which were made to perform the office that is usually
executed by a much more commodious arrangement.  His legs were,
however, covered with a pair of good deer-skin moccasins.  Altogether,
the appearance of the individual was forlorn and miserable.

Duncan was still curiously observing the person of his neighbor when
the scout stole silently and cautiously to his side.

"You see we have reached their settlement or encampment," whispered
the young man; "and here is one of the savages himself, in a very
embarrassing position for our further movements."

Hawkeye started, and dropped his rifle, when, directed by the finger
of his companion, the stranger came under his view.  Then lowering the
dangerous muzzle he stretched forward his long neck, as if to assist a
scrutiny that was already intensely keen.

"The imp is not a Huron," he said, "nor of any of the Canada tribes;
and yet you see, by his clothes, the knave has been plundering a
white.  Ay, Montcalm has raked the woods for his inroad, and a
whooping, murdering set of varlets has he gathered together.  Can you
see where he has put his rifle or his bow?"

"He appears to have no arms; nor does he seem to be viciously
inclined.  Unless he communicate the alarm to his fellows, who, as you
see, are dodging about the water, we have but little to fear from
him."

The scout turned to Heyward, and regarded him a moment with
unconcealed amazement.  Then opening wide his mouth, he indulged in
unrestrained and heartfelt laughter, though in that silent and
peculiar manner which danger had so long taught him to practise.

Repeating the words, "Fellows who are dodging about the water!" he
added, "so much for schooling and passing a boyhood in the
settlements!  The knave has long legs, though, and shall not be
trusted.  Do you keep him under your rifle while I creep in behind,
through the bush, and take him alive.  Fire on no account."

Heyward had already permitted his companion to bury part of his person
in the thicket, when, stretching forth his arm, he arrested him, in
order to ask:

"If I see you in danger, may I not risk a shot?"

Hawkeye regarded him a moment, like one who knew not how to take the
question; then, nodding his head, he answered, still laughing, though
inaudibly:

"Fire a whole platoon, major."

In the next moment he was concealed by the leaves.  Duncan waited
several minutes in feverish impatience, before he caught another
glimpse of the scout.  Then he reappeared, creeping along the earth,
from which his dress was hardly distinguishable, directly in the rear
of his intended captive.  Having reached within a few yards of the
latter, he arose to his feet, silently and slowly.  At that instant,
several loud blows were struck on the water, and Duncan turned his
eyes just in time to perceive that a hundred dark forms were plunging,
in a body, into the troubled little sheet.  Grasping his rifle his
looks were again bent on the Indian near him.  Instead of taking the
alarm, the unconscious savage stretched forward his neck, as if he
also watched the movements about the gloomy lake, with a sort of silly
curiosity.  In the meantime, the uplifted hand of Hawkeye was above
him.  But, without any apparent reason, it was withdrawn, and its
owner indulged in another long, though still silent, fit of merriment.
When the peculiar and hearty laughter of Hawkeye was ended, instead of
grasping his victim by the throat, he tapped him lightly on the
shoulder, and exclaimed aloud:

"How now, friend! have you a mind to teach the beavers to sing?"

"Even so," was the ready answer.  "It would seem that the Being that
gave them power to improve His gifts so well, would not deny them
voices to proclaim His praise."



CHAPTER 22

"Bot.--Abibl we all met? Qui.--Pat--pat; and here's a marvelous
convenient place for our rehearsal."-- Midsummer Night's Dream

The reader may better imagine, that we describe the surprise of
Heyward.  His lurking Indians were suddenly converted into four-footed
beasts; his lake into a beaver pond; his cataract into a dam,
constructed by those industrious and ingenious quadrupeds; and a
suspected enemy into his tried friend, David Gamut, the master of
psalmody.  The presence of the latter created so many unexpected hopes
relative to the sisters that, without a moment's hesitation, the young
man broke out of his ambush, and sprang forward to join the two
principal actors in the scene.

The merriment of Hawkeye was not easily appeased.  Without ceremony,
and with a rough hand, he twirled the supple Gamut around on his heel,
and more than once affirmed that the Hurons had done themselves great
credit in the fashion of his costume.  Then, seizing the hand of the
other, he squeezed it with a grip that brought tears into the eyes of
the placid David, and wished him joy of his new condition.

"You were about opening your throat-practisings among the beavers,
were ye?" he said.  "The cunning devils know half the trade already,
for they beat the time with their tails, as you heard just now; and in
good time it was, too, or 'killdeer' might have sounded the first note
among them.  I have known greater fools, who could read and write,
than an experienced old beaver; but as for squalling, the animals are
born dumb!  What think you of such a song as this?"

David shut his sensitive ears, and even Heyward apprised as he was of
the nature of the cry, looked upward in quest of the bird, as the
cawing of a crow rang in the air about them.

"See!" continued the laughing scout, as he pointed toward the
remainder of the party, who, in obedience to the signal, were already
approaching; "this is music which has its natural virtues; it brings
two good rifles to my elbow, to say nothing of the knives and
tomahawks.  But we see that you are safe; now tell us what has become
of the maidens."

"They are captives to the heathen," said David; "and, though greatly
troubled in spirit, enjoying comfort and safety in the body."

"Both!" demanded the breathless Heyward.

"Even so.  Though our wayfaring has been sore and our sustenance
scanty, we have had little other cause for complaint, except the
violence done our feelings, by being thus led in captivity into a far
land."

"Bless ye for these very words!" exclaimed the trembling Munro; "I
shall then receive my babes, spotless and angel- like, as I lost
them!"

"I know not that their delivery is at hand," returned the doubting
David; "the leader of these savages is possessed of an evil spirit
that no power short of Omnipotence can tame. I have tried him sleeping
and waking, but neither sounds nor language seem to touch his soul."

"Where is the knave?" bluntly interrupted the scout.

"He hunts the moose to-day, with his young men; and tomorrow, as I
hear, they pass further into the forests, and nigher to the borders of
Canada.  The elder maiden is conveyed to a neighboring people, whose
lodges are situate beyond yonder black pinnacle of rock; while the
younger is detained among the women of the Hurons, whose dwellings are
but two short miles hence, on a table-land, where the fire had done
the office of the axe, and prepared the place for their reception."

"Alice, my gentle Alice!" murmured Heyward; "she has lost the
consolation of her sister's presence!"

"Even so.  But so far as praise and thanksgiving in psalmody can
temper the spirit in affliction, she has not suffered."

"Has she then a heart for music?"

"Of the graver and more solemn character; though it must be
acknowledged that, in spite of all my endeavors, the maiden weeps
oftener than she smiles.  At such moments I forbear to press the holy
songs; but there are many sweet and comfortable periods of
satisfactory communication, when the ears of the savages are astounded
with the upliftings of our voices."

"And why are you permitted to go at large, unwatched?"

David composed his features into what he intended should express an
air of modest humility, before he meekly replied:

"Little be the praise to such a worm as I.  But, though the power of
psalmody was suspended in the terrible business of that field of blood
through which we have passed, it has recovered its influence even over
the souls of the heathen, and I am suffered to go and come at will."

The scout laughed, and, tapping his own forehead significantly, he
perhaps explained the singular indulgence more satisfactorily when he
said:

"The Indians never harm a non-composser.  But why, when the path lay
open before your eyes, did you not strike back on your own trail (it
is not so blind as that which a squirrel would make), and bring in the
tidings to Edward?"

The scout, remembering only his own sturdy and iron nature, had
probably exacted a task that David, under no circumstances, could have
performed.  But, without entirely losing the meekness of his air, the
latter was content to answer:

"Though my soul would rejoice to visit the habitations of Christendom
once more, my feet would rather follow the tender spirits intrusted to
my keeping, even into the idolatrous province of the Jesuits, than
take one step backward, while they pined in captivity and sorrow."

Though the figurative language of David was not very intelligible, the
sincere and steady expression of his eye, and the glow of his honest
countenance, were not easily mistaken.  Uncas pressed closer to his
side, and regarded the speaker with a look of commendation, while his
father expressed his satisfaction by the ordinary pithy exclamation of
approbation.  The scout shook his head as he rejoined:

"The Lord never intended that the man should place all his endeavors
in his throat, to the neglect of other and better gifts!  But he has
fallen into the hands of some silly woman, when he should have been
gathering his education under a blue sky, among the beauties of the
forest.  Here, friend; I did intend to kindle a fire with this
tooting- whistle of thine; but, as you value the thing, take it, and
blow your best on it."

Gamut received his pitch-pipe with as strong an expression of pleasure
as he believed compatible with the grave functions he exercised.
After essaying its virtues repeatedly, in contrast with his own voice,
and, satisfying himself that none of its melody was lost, he made a
very serious demonstration toward achieving a few stanzas of one of
the longest effusions in the little volume so often mentioned.

Heyward, however, hastily interrupted his pious purpose by continuing
questions concerning the past and present condition of his fellow
captives, and in a manner more methodical than had been permitted by
his feelings in the opening of their interview.  David, though he
regarded his treasure with longing eyes, was constrained to answer,
especially as the venerable father took a part in the interrogatories,
with an interest too imposing to be denied. Nor did the scout fail to
throw in a pertinent inquiry, whenever a fitting occasion presented.
In this manner, though with frequent interruptions which were filled
with certain threatening sounds from the recovered instrument, the
pursuers were put in possession of such leading circumstances as were
likely to prove useful in accomplishing their great and engrossing
object--the recovery of the sisters.  The narrative of David was
simple, and the facts but few.

Magua had waited on the mountain until a safe moment to retire
presented itself, when he had descended, and taken the route along the
western side of the Horican in direction of the Canadas.  As the
subtle Huron was familiar with the paths, and well knew there was no
immediate danger of pursuit, their progress had been moderate, and far
from fatiguing.  It appeared from the unembellished statement of
David, that his own presence had been rather endured than desired;
though even Magua had not been entirely exempt from that veneration
with which the Indians regard those whom the Great Spirit had visited
in their intellects.  At night, the utmost care had been taken of the
captives, both to prevent injury from the damps of the woods and to
guard against an escape.  At the spring, the horses were turned loose,
as has been seen; and, notwithstanding the remoteness and length of
their trail, the artifices already named were resorted to, in order to
cut off every clue to their place of retreat. On their arrival at the
encampment of his people, Magua, in obedience to a policy seldom
departed from, separated his prisoners.  Cora had been sent to a tribe
that temporarily occupied an adjacent valley, though David was far too
ignorant of the customs and history of the natives, to be able to
declare anything satisfactory concerning their name or character.  He
only knew that they had not engaged in the late expedition against
William Henry; that, like the Hurons themselves they were allies of
Montcalm; and that they maintained an amicable, though a watchful
intercourse with the warlike and savage people whom chance had, for a
time, brought in such close and disagreeable contact with themselves.

The Mohicans and the scout listened to his interrupted and imperfect
narrative, with an interest that obviously increased as he proceeded;
and it was while attempting to explain the pursuits of the community
in which Cora was detained, that the latter abruptly demanded:

"Did you see the fashion of their knives? wee they of English or
French formation?"

"My thoughts were bent on no such vanities, but rather mingled in
consolation with those of the maidens."

"The time may come when you will not consider the knife of a savage
such a despicable vanity," returned the scout, with a strong
expression of contempt for the other's dullness. "Had they held their
corn feast--or can you say anything of the totems of the tribe?"

"Of corn, we had many and plentiful feasts; for the grain, being in
the milk is both sweet to the mouth and comfortable to the stomach.
Of totem, I know not the meaning; but if it appertaineth in any wise
to the art of Indian music, it need not be inquired after at their
hands.  They never join their voices in praise, and it would seem that
they are among the profanest of the idolatrous."

"Therein you belie the natur' of an Indian.  Even the Mingo adores but
the true and loving God.  'Tis wicked fabrication of the whites, and I
say it to the shame of my color that would make the warrior bow down
before images of his own creation.  It is true, they endeavor to make
truces to the wicked one--as who would not with an enemy he cannot
conquer! but they look up for favor and assistance to the Great and
Good Spirit only."

"It may be so," said David; "but I have seen strange and fantastic
images drawn in their paint, of which their admiration and care
savored of spiritual pride; especially one, and that, too, a foul and
loathsome object."

"Was it a sarpent?" quickly demanded the scout.

"Much the same.  It was in the likeness of an abject and creeping
tortoise."

"Hugh!" exclaimed both the attentive Mohicans in a breath; while the
scout shook his head with the air of one who had made an important but
by no means a pleasing discovery. Then the father spoke, in the
language of the Delawares, and with a calmness and dignity that
instantly arrested the attention even of those to whom his words were
unintelligible.  His gestures were impressive, and at times energetic.
Once he lifted his arm on high; and, as it descended, the action threw
aside the folds of his light mantle, a finger resting on his breast,
as if he would enforce his meaning by the attitude.  Duncan's eyes
followed the movement, and he perceived that the animal just mentioned
was beautifully, though faintly, worked in blue tint, on the swarthy
breast of the chief.  All that he had ever heard of the violent
separation of the vast tribes of the Delawares rushed across his mind,
and he awaited the proper moment to speak, with a suspense that was
rendered nearly intolerable by his interest in the stake.  His wish,
however, was anticipated by the scout who turned from his red friend,
saying:

"We have found that which may be good or evil to us, as heaven
disposes.  The Sagamore is of the high blood of the Delawares, and is
the great chief of their Tortoises!  That some of this stock are among
the people of whom the singer tells us, is plain by his words; and,
had he but spent half the breath in prudent questions that he has
blown away in making a trumpet of his throat, we might have known how
many warriors they numbered.  It is, altogether, a dangerous path we
move in; for a friend whose face is turned from you often bears a
bloodier mind than the enemy who seeks your scalp."

"Explain," said Duncan.

"'Tis a long and melancholy tradition, and one I little like to think
of; for it is not to be denied that the evil has been mainly done by
men with white skins.  But it has ended in turning the tomahawk of
brother against brother, and brought the Mingo and the Delaware to
travel in the same path."

"You, then, suspect it is a portion of that people among whom Cora
resides?"

The scout nodded his head in assent, though he seemed anxious to waive
the further discussion of a subject that appeared painful.  The
impatient Duncan now made several hasty and desperate propositions to
attempt the release of the sisters.  Munro seemed to shake off his
apathy, and listened to the wild schemes of the young man with a
deference that his gray hairs and reverend years should have denied.
But the scout, after suffering the ardor of the lover to expend itself
a little, found means to convince him of the folly of precipitation,
in a manner that would require their coolest judgment and utmost
fortitude.

"It would be well," he added, "to let this man go in again, as usual,
and for him to tarry in the lodges, giving notice to the gentle ones
of our approach, until we call him out, by signal, to consult.  You
know the cry of a crow, friend, from the whistle of the
whip-poor-will?"

"'Tis a pleasing bird," returned David, "and has a soft and melancholy
note! though the time is rather quick and ill- measured."

"He speaks of the wish-ton-wish," said the scout; "well, since you
like his whistle, it shall be your signal. Remember, then, when you
hear the whip-poor-will's call three times repeated, you are to come
into the bushes where the bird might be supposed--"

"Stop," interrupted Heyward; "I will accompany him."

"You!" exclaimed the astonished Hawkeye; "are you tired of seeing the
sun rise and set?"

"David is a living proof that the Hurons can be merciful."

"Ay, but David can use his throat, as no man in his senses would
pervart the gift."

"I too can play the madman, the fool, the hero; in short, any or
everything to rescue her I love.  Name your objections no longer: I am
resolved."

Hawkeye regarded the young man a moment in speechless amazement.  But
Duncan, who, in deference to the other's skill and services, had
hitherto submitted somewhat implicitly to his dictation, now assumed
the superior, with a manner that was not easily resisted.  He waved
his hand, in sign of his dislike to all remonstrance, and then, in
more tempered language, he continued:

"You have the means of disguise; change me; paint me, too, if you
will; in short, alter me to anything--a fool."

"It is not for one like me to say that he who is already formed by so
powerful a hand as Providence, stands in need of a change," muttered
the discontented scout.  "When you send your parties abroad in war,
you find it prudent, at least, to arrange the marks and places of
encampment, in order that they who fight on your side may know when
and where to expect a friend."

"Listen," interrupted Duncan; "you have heard from this faithful
follower of the captives, that the Indians are of two tribes, if not
of different nations.  With one, whom you think to be a branch of the
Delawares, is she you call the 'dark-hair'; the other, and younger, of
the ladies, is undeniably with our declared enemies, the Hurons.  It
becomes my youth and rank to attempt the latter adventure. While you,
therefore, are negotiating with your friends for the release of one of
the sisters, I will effect that of the other, or die."

The awakened spirit of the young soldier gleamed in his eyes, and his
form became imposing under its influence. Hawkeye, though too much
accustomed to Indian artifices not to foresee the danger of the
experiment, knew not well how to combat this sudden resolution.

Perhaps there was something in the proposal that suited his own hardy
nature, and that secret love of desperate adventure, which had
increased with his experience, until hazard and danger had become, in
some measure, necessary to the enjoyment of his existence.  Instead of
continuing to oppose the scheme of Duncan, his humor suddenly altered,
and he lent himself to its execution.

"Come," he said, with a good-humored smile; "the buck that will take
to the water must be headed, and not followed. Chingachgook has as
many different paints as the engineer officer's wife, who takes down
natur' on scraps of paper, making the mountains look like cocks of
rusty hay, and placing the blue sky in reach of your hand.  The
Sagamore can use them, too.  Seat yourself on the log; and my life on
it, he can soon make a natural fool of you, and that well to your
liking."

Duncan complied; and the Mohican, who had been an attentive listener
to the discourse, readily undertook the office. Long practised in all
the subtle arts of his race, he drew, with great dexterity and
quickness, the fantastic shadow that the natives were accustomed to
consider as the evidence of a friendly and jocular disposition.  Every
line that could possibly be interpreted into a secret inclination for
war, was carefully avoided; while, on the other hand, he studied those
conceits that might be construed into amity.

In short, he entirely sacrificed every appearance of the warrior to
the masquerade of a buffoon.  Such exhibitions were not uncommon among
the Indians, and as Duncan was already sufficiently disguised in his
dress, there certainly did exist some reason for believing that, with
his knowledge of French, he might pass for a juggler from Ticonderoga,
straggling among the allied and friendly tribes.

When he was thought to be sufficiently painted, the scout gave him
much friendly advice; concerted signals, and appointed the place where
they should meet, in the event of mutual success.  The parting between
Munro and his young friend was more melancholy; still, the former
submitted to the separation with an indifference that his warm and
honest nature would never have permitted in a more healthful state of
mind.  The scout led Heyward aside, and acquainted him with his
intention to leave the veteran in some safe encampment, in charge of
Chingachgook, while he and Uncas pursued their inquires among the
people they had reason to believe were Delawares.  Then, renewing his
cautions and advice, he concluded by saying, with a solemnity and
warmth of feeling, with which Duncan was deeply touched:

"And, now, God bless you!  You have shown a spirit that I like; for it
is the gift of youth, more especially one of warm blood and a stout
heart.  But believe the warning of a man who has reason to know all he
says to be true.  You will have occasion for your best manhood, and
for a sharper wit than what is to be gathered in books, afore you
outdo the cunning or get the better of the courage of a Mingo.  God
bless you! if the Hurons master your scalp, rely on the promise of one
who has two stout warriors to back him.  They shall pay for their
victory, with a life for every hair it holds.  I say, young gentleman,
may Providence bless your undertaking, which is altogether for good;
and, remember, that to outwit the knaves it is lawful to practise
things that may not be naturally the gift of a white-skin."

Duncan shook his worthy and reluctant associate warmly by the hand,
once more recommended his aged friend to his care, and returning his
good wishes, he motioned to David to proceed.  Hawkeye gazed after the
high-spirited and adventurous young man for several moments, in open
admiration; then, shaking his head doubtingly, he turned, and led his
own division of the party into the concealment of the forest.

The route taken by Duncan and David lay directly across the clearing
of the beavers, and along the margin of their pond.

When the former found himself alone with one so simple, and so little
qualified to render any assistance in desperate emergencies, he first
began to be sensible of the difficulties of the task he had
undertaken.  The fading light increased the gloominess of the bleak
and savage wilderness that stretched so far on every side of him, and
there was even a fearful character in the stillness of those little
huts, that he knew were so abundantly peopled.  It struck him, as he
gazed at the admirable structures and the wonderful precautions of
their sagacious inmates, that even the brutes of these vast wilds were
possessed of an instinct nearly commensurate with his own reason; and
he could not reflect, without anxiety, on the unequal contest that he
had so rashly courted.  Then came the glowing image of Alice; her
distress; her actual danger; and all the peril of his situation was
forgotten.  Cheering David, he moved on with the light and vigorous
step of youth and enterprise.

After making nearly a semicircle around the pond, they diverged from
the water-course, and began to ascend to the level of a slight
elevation in that bottom land, over which they journeyed.  Within half
an hour they gained the margin of another opening that bore all the
signs of having been also made by the beavers, and which those
sagacious animals had probably been induced, by some accident, to
abandon, for the more eligible position they now occupied.  A very
natural sensation caused Duncan to hesitate a moment, unwilling to
leave the cover of their bushy path, as a man pauses to collect his
energies before he essays any hazardous experiment, in which he is
secretly conscious they will all be needed.  He profited by the halt,
to gather such information as might be obtained from his short and
hasty glances.

On the opposite side of the clearing, and near the point where the
brook tumbled over some rocks, from a still higher level, some fifty
or sixty lodges, rudely fabricated of logs brush, and earth
intermingled, were to be discovered.  They were arranged without any
order, and seemed to be constructed with very little attention to
neatness or beauty.  Indeed, so very inferior were they in the two
latter particulars to the village Duncan had just seen, that he began
to expect a second surprise, no less astonishing that the former.
This expectation was is no degree diminished, when, by the doubtful
twilight, he beheld twenty or thirty forms rising alternately from the
cover of the tall, coarse grass, in front of the lodges, and then
sinking again from the sight, as it were to burrow in the earth.  By
the sudden and hasty glimpses that he caught of these figures, they
seemed more like dark, glancing specters, or some other unearthly
beings, than creatures fashioned with the ordinary and vulgar
materials of flesh and blood.  A gaunt, naked form was seen, for a
single instant, tossing its arms wildly in the air, and then the spot
it had filled was vacant; the figure appearing suddenly in some other
and distant place, or being succeeded by another, possessing the same
mysterious character.  David, observing that his companion lingered,
pursued the direction of his gaze, and in some measure recalled the
recollection of Heyward, by speaking.

"There is much fruitful soil uncultivated here," he said; "and, I may
add, without the sinful leaven of self- commendation, that, since my
short sojourn in these heathenish abodes, much good seed has been
scattered by the wayside."

"The tribes are fonder of the chase than of the arts of men of labor,"
returned the unconscious Duncan, still gazing at the objects of his
wonder.

"It is rather joy than labor to the spirit, to lift up the voice in
praise; but sadly do these boys abuse their gifts. Rarely have I found
any of their age, on whom nature has so freely bestowed the elements
of psalmody; and surely, surely, there are none who neglect them more.
Three nights have I now tarried here, and three several times have I
assembled the urchins to join in sacred song; and as often have they
responded to my efforts with whoopings and howlings that have chilled
my soul!"

"Of whom speak you?"

"Of those children of the devil, who waste the precious moments in
yonder idle antics.  Ah! the wholesome restraint of discipline is but
little known among this self-abandoned people.  In a country of
birches, a rod is never seen, and it ought not to appear a marvel in
my eyes, that the choicest blessings of Providence are wasted in such
cries as these."

David closed his ears against the juvenile pack, whose yell just then
rang shrilly through the forest; and Duncan, suffering his lip to
curl, as in mockery of his own superstition, said firmly:

"We will proceed."

Without removing the safeguards form his ears, the master of song
complied, and together they pursued their way toward what David was
sometimes wont to call the "tents of the Philistines."



CHAPTER 23

"But though the beast of game The privilege of chase may claim; Though
space and law the stag we lend Ere hound we slip, or bow we bend;
Whoever recked, where, how, or when The prowling fox was trapped or
slain?"--Lady of the Lake

It is unusual to find an encampment of the natives, like those of the
more instructed whites, guarded by the presence of armed men.  Well
informed of the approach of every danger, while it is yet at a
distance, the Indian generally rests secure under his knowledge of the
signs of the forest, and the long and difficult paths that separate
him from those he has most reason to dread.  But the enemy who, by any
lucky concurrence of accidents, has found means to elude the vigilance
of the scouts, will seldom meet with sentinels nearer home to sound
the alarm.  In addition to this general usage, the tribes friendly to
the French knew too well the weight of the blow that had just been
struck, to apprehend any immediate danger from the hostile nations
that were tributary to the crown of Britain.

When Duncan and David, therefore, found themselves in the center of
the children, who played the antics already mentioned, it was without
the least previous intimation of their approach.  But so soon as they
were observed the whole of the juvenile pack raised, by common
consent, a shrill and warning whoop; and then sank, as it were, by
magic, from before the sight of their visitors.  The naked, tawny
bodies of the crouching urchins blended so nicely at that hour, with
the withered herbage, that at first it seemed as if the earth had, in
truth, swallowed up their forms; though when surprise permitted Duncan
to bend his look more curiously about the spot, he found it everywhere
met by dark, quick, and rolling eyeballs.

Gathering no encouragement from this startling presage of the nature
of the scrutiny he was likely to undergo from the more mature
judgments of the men, there was an instant when the young soldier
would have retreated.  It was, however, too late to appear to
hesitate.  The cry of the children had drawn a dozen warriors to the
door of the nearest lodge, where they stood clustered in a dark and
savage group, gravely awaiting the nearer approach of those who had
unexpectedly come among them.

David, in some measure familiarized to the scene, led the way with a
steadiness that no slight obstacle was likely to disconcert, into this
very building.  It was the principal edifice of the village, though
roughly constructed of the bark and branches of trees; being the lodge
in which the tribe held its councils and public meetings during their
temporary residence on the borders of the English province. Duncan
found it difficult to assume the necessary appearance of unconcern, as
he brushed the dark and powerful frames of the savages who thronged
its threshold; but, conscious that his existence depended on his
presence of mind, he trusted to the discretion of his companion, whose
footsteps he closely followed, endeavoring, as he proceeded, to rally
his thoughts for the occasion.  His blood curdled when he found
himself in absolute contact with such fierce and implacable enemies;
but he so far mastered his feelings as to pursue his way into the
center of the lodge, with an exterior that did not betray the
weakness.  Imitating the example of the deliberate Gamut, he drew a
bundle of fragrant brush from beneath a pile that filled the corner of
the hut, and seated himself in silence.

So soon as their visitor had passed, the observant warriors fell back
from the entrance, and arranging themselves about him, they seemed
patiently to await the moment when it might comport with the dignity
of the stranger to speak.  By far the greater number stood leaning, in
lazy, lounging attitudes, against the upright posts that supported the
crazy building, while three or four of the oldest and most
distinguished of the chiefs placed themselves on the earth a little
more in advance.

A flaring torch was burning in the place, and set its red glare from
face to face and figure to figure, as it waved in the currents of air.
Duncan profited by its light to read the probable character of his
reception, in the countenances of his hosts.  But his ingenuity
availed him little, against the cold artifices of the people he had
encountered.  The chiefs in front scarce cast a glance at his person,
keeping their eyes on the ground, with an air that might have been
intended for respect, but which it was quite easy to construe into
distrust.  The men in the shadow were less reserved.  Duncan soon
detected their searching, but stolen, looks which, in truth, scanned
his person and attire inch by inch; leaving no emotion of the
countenance, no gesture, no line of the paint, nor even the fashion of
a garment, unheeded, and without comment.

At length one whose hair was beginning to be sprinkled with gray, but
whose sinewy limbs and firm tread announced that he was still equal to
the duties of manhood, advanced out of the gloom of a corner, whither
he had probably posted himself to make his observations unseen, and
spoke.  He used the language of the Wyandots, or Hurons; his words
were, consequently, unintelligible to Heyward, though they seemed, by
the gestures that accompanied them, to be uttered more in courtesy
than anger.  The latter shook his head, and made a gesture indicative
of his inability to reply.

"Do none of my brothers speak the French or the English?" he said, in
the former language, looking about him from countenance to
countenance, in hopes of finding a nod of assent.

Though more than one had turned, as if to catch the meaning of his
words, they remained unanswered.

"I should be grieved to think," continued Duncan, speaking slowly, and
using the simplest French of which he was the master, "to believe that
none of this wise and brave nation understand the language that
the'Grand Monarque' uses when he talks to his children.  His heart
would be heavy did he believe his red warriors paid him so little
respect!"

A long and grave pause succeeded, during which no movement of a limb,
nor any expression of an eye, betrayed the expression produced by his
remark.  Duncan, who knew that silence was a virtue among his hosts,
gladly had recourse to the custom, in order to arrange his ideas.  At
length the same warrior who had before addressed him replied, by dryly
demanding, in the language of the Canadas:

"When our Great Father speaks to his people, is it with the tongue of
a Huron?"

"He knows no difference in his children, whether the color of the skin
be red, or black, or white," returned Duncan, evasively; "though
chiefly is he satisfied with the brave Hurons."

"In what manner will he speak," demanded the wary chief, "when the
runners count to him the scalps which five nights ago grew on the
heads of the Yengeese?"

"They were his enemies," said Duncan, shuddering involuntarily; "and
doubtless, he will say, it is good; my Hurons are very gallant."

"Our Canada father does not think it.  Instead of looking forward to
reward his Indians, his eyes are turned backward. He sees the dead
Yengeese, but no Huron.  What can this mean?"

"A great chief, like him, has more thoughts than tongues. He looks to
see that no enemies are on his trail."

"The canoe of a dead warrior will not float on the Horican," returned
the savage, gloomily.  "His ears are open to the Delawares, who are
not our friends, and they fill them with lies."

"It cannot be.  See; he has bid me, who am a man that knows the art of
healing, to go to his children, the red Hurons of the great lakes, and
ask if any are sick!"

Another silence succeeded this annunciation of the character Duncan
had assumed.  Every eye was simultaneously bent on his person, as if
to inquire into the truth or falsehood of the declaration, with an
intelligence and keenness that caused the subject of their scrutiny to
tremble for the result.  He was, however, relieved again by the former
speaker.

"Do the cunning men of the Canadas paint their skins?" the Huron
coldly continued; "we have heard them boast that their faces were
pale."

"When an Indian chief comes among his white fathers," returned Duncan,
with great steadiness, "he lays aside his buffalo robe, to carry the
shirt that is offered him.  My brothers have given me paint and I wear
it."

A low murmur of applause announced that the compliment of the tribe
was favorably received.  The elderly chief made a gesture of
commendation, which was answered by most of his companions, who each
threw forth a hand and uttered a brief exclamation of pleasure.
Duncan began to breathe more freely, believing that the weight of his
examination was past; and, as he had already prepared a simple and
probable tale to support his pretended occupation, his hopes of
ultimate success grew brighter.

After a silence of a few moments, as if adjusting his thoughts, in
order to make a suitable answer to the declaration their guests had
just given, another warrior arose, and placed himself in an attitude
to speak.  While his lips were yet in the act of parting, a low but
fearful sound arose from the forest, and was immediately succeeded by
a high, shrill yell, that was drawn out, until it equaled the longest
and most plaintive howl of the wolf.  The sudden and terrible
interruption caused Duncan to start from his seat, unconscious of
everything but the effect produced by so frightful a cry.  At the same
moment, the warriors glided in a body from the lodge, and the outer
air was filled with loud shouts, that nearly drowned those awful
sounds, which were still ringing beneath the arches of the woods.
Unable to command himself any longer, the youth broke from the place,
and presently stood in the center of a disorderly throng, that
included nearly everything having life, within the limits of the
encampment.  Men, women, and children; the aged, the inform, the
active, and the strong, were alike abroad, some exclaiming aloud,
others clapping their hands with a joy that seemed frantic, and all
expressing their savage pleasure in some unexpected event.  Though
astounded, at first, by the uproar, Heyward was soon enabled to find
its solution by the scene that followed.

There yet lingered sufficient light in the heavens to exhibit those
bright openings among the tree-tops, where different paths left the
clearing to enter the depths of the wilderness.  Beneath one of them,
a line of warriors issued from the woods, and advanced slowly toward
the dwellings. One in front bore a short pole, on which, as it
afterwards appeared, were suspended several human scalps.  The
startling sounds that Duncan had heard were what the whites have not
inappropriately called the "death-hallo"; and each repetition of the
cry was intended to announce to the tribe the fate of an enemy.  Thus
far the knowledge of Heyward assisted him in the explanation; and as
he now knew that the interruption was caused by the unlooked-for
return of a successful war-party, every disagreeable sensation was
quieted in inward congratulation, for the opportune relief and
insignificance it conferred on himself.

When at the distance of a few hundred feet from the lodges the newly
arrived warriors halted.  Their plaintive and terrific cry, which was
intended to represent equally the wailings of the dead and the triumph
to the victors, had entirely ceased.  One of their number now called
aloud, in words that were far from appalling, though not more
intelligible to those for whose ears they were intended, than their
expressive yells.  It would be difficult to convey a suitable idea of
the savage ecstasy with which the news thus imparted was received.
The whole encampment, in a moment, became a scene of the most violent
bustle and commotion.  The warriors drew their knives, and flourishing
them, they arranged themselves in two lines, forming a lane that
extended from the war-party to the lodges.  The squaws seized clubs,
axes, or whatever weapon of offense first offered itself to their
hands, and rushed eagerly to act their part in the cruel game that was
at hand.  Even the children would not be excluded; but boys, little
able to wield the instruments, tore the tomahawks from the belts of
their fathers, and stole into the ranks, apt imitators of the savage
traits exhibited by their parents.

Large piles of brush lay scattered about the clearing, and a wary and
aged squaw was occupied in firing as many as might serve to light the
coming exhibition.  As the flame arose, its power exceeded that of the
parting day, and assisted to render objects at the same time more
distinct and more hideous.  The whole scene formed a striking picture,
whose frame was composed of the dark and tall border of pines. The
warriors just arrived were the most distant figures.  A little in
advance stood two men, who were apparently selected from the rest, as
the principal actors in what was to follow.  The light was not strong
enough to render their features distinct, though it was quite evident
that they were governed by very different emotions.  While one stood
erect and firm, prepared to meet his fate like a hero, the other bowed
his head, as if palsied by terror or stricken with shame.  The
high-spirited Duncan felt a powerful impulse of admiration and pity
toward the former, though no opportunity could offer to exhibit his
generous emotions. He watched his slightest movement, however, with
eager eyes; and, as he traced the fine outline of his admirably
proportioned and active frame, he endeavored to persuade himself,
that, if the powers of man, seconded by such noble resolution, could
bear one harmless through so severe a trial, the youthful captive
before him might hope for success in the hazardous race he was about
to run. Insensibly the young man drew nigher to the swarthy lines of
the Hurons, and scarcely breathed, so intense became his interest in
the spectacle.  Just then the signal yell was given, and the momentary
quiet which had preceded it was broken by a burst of cries, that far
exceeded any before heard.  The more abject of the two victims
continued motionless; but the other bounded from the place at the cry,
with the activity and swiftness of a deer.  Instead of rushing through
the hostile lines, as had been expected, he just entered the dangerous
defile, and before time was given for a single blow, turned short, and
leaping the heads of a row of children, he gained at once the exterior
and safer side of the formidable array.  The artifice was answered by
a hundred voices raised in imprecations; and the whole of the excited
multitude broke from their order, and spread themselves about the
place in wild confusion.

A dozen blazing piles now shed their lurid brightness on the place,
which resembled some unhallowed and supernatural arena, in which
malicious demons had assembled to act their bloody and lawless rites.
The forms in the background looked like unearthly beings, gliding
before the eye, and cleaving the air with frantic and unmeaning
gestures; while the savage passions of such as passed the flames were
rendered fearfully distinct by the gleams that shot athwart their
inflamed visages.

It will easily be understood that, amid such a concourse of vindictive
enemies, no breathing time was allowed the fugitive.  There was a
single moment when it seemed as if he would have reached the forest,
but the whole body of his captors threw themselves before him, and
drove him back into the center of his relentless persecutors.  Turning
like a headed deer, he shot, with the swiftness of an arrow, through a
pillar of forked flame, and passing the whole multitude harmless, he
appeared on the opposite side of the clearing.  Here, too, he was met
and turned by a few of the older and more subtle of the Hurons.  Once
more he tried the throng, as if seeking safety in its blindness, and
then several moments succeeded, during which Duncan believed the
active and courageous young stranger was lost.

Nothing could be distinguished but a dark mass of human forms tossed
and involved in inexplicable confusion.  Arms, gleaming knives, and
formidable clubs, appeared above them, but the blows were evidently
given at random.  The awful effect was heightened by the piercing
shrieks of the women and the fierce yells of the warriors.  Now and
then Duncan caught a glimpse of a light form cleaving the air in some
desperate bound, and he rather hoped than believed that the captive
yet retained the command of his astonishing powers of activity.
Suddenly the multitude rolled backward, and approached the spot where
he himself stood.  The heavy body in the rear pressed upon the women
and children in front, and bore them to the earth.  The stranger
reappeared in the confusion.  Human power could not, however, much
longer endure so severe a trial.  Of this the captive seemed
conscious.  Profiting by the momentary opening, he darted from among
the warriors, and made a desperate, and what seemed to Duncan a final
effort to gain the wood.  As if aware that no danger was to be
apprehended from the young soldier, the fugitive nearly brushed his
person in his flight.  A tall and powerful Huron, who had husbanded
his forces, pressed close upon his heels, and with an uplifted arm
menaced a fatal blow.  Duncan thrust forth a foot, and the shock
precipitated the eager savage headlong, many feet in advance of his
intended victim.  Thought itself is not quicker than was the motion
with which the latter profited by the advantage; he turned, gleamed
like a meteor again before the eyes of Duncan, and, at the next
moment, when the latter recovered his recollection, and gazed around
in quest of the captive, he saw him quietly leaning against a small
painted post, which stood before the door of the principal lodge.

Apprehensive that the part he had taken in the escape might prove
fatal to himself, Duncan left the place without delay. He followed the
crowd, which drew nigh the lodges, gloomy and sullen, like any other
multitude that had been disappointed in an execution.  Curiosity, or
perhaps a better feeling, induced him to approach the stranger.  He
found him, standing with one arm cast about the protecting post, and
breathing thick and hard, after his exertions, but disdaining to
permit a single sign of suffering to escape. His person was now
protected by immemorial and sacred usage, until the tribe in council
had deliberated and determined on his fate.  It was not difficult,
however, to foretell the result, if any presage could be drawn from
the feelings of those who crowded the place.

There was no term of abuse known to the Huron vocabulary that the
disappointed women did not lavishly expend on the successful stranger.
They flouted at his efforts, and told him, with bitter scoffs, that
his feet were better than his hands; and that he merited wings, while
he knew not the use of an arrow or a knife.  To all this the captive
made no reply; but was content to preserve an attitude in which
dignity was singularly blended with disdain.  Exasperated as much by
his composure as by his good-fortune, their words became
unintelligible, and were succeeded by shrill, piercing yells.  Just
then the crafty squaw, who had taken the necessary precaution to fire
the piles, made her way through the throng, and cleared a place for
herself in front of the captive.  The squalid and withered person of
this hag might well have obtained for her the character of possessing
more than human cunning.  Throwing back her light vestment, she
stretched forth her long, skinny arm, in derision, and using the
language of the Lenape, as more intelligible to the subject of her
gibes, she commenced aloud:

"Look you, Delaware," she said, snapping her fingers in his face;
"your nation is a race of women, and the hoe is better fitted to your
hands than the gun.  Your squaws are the mothers of deer; but if a
bear, or a wildcat, or a serpent were born among you, ye would flee.
The Huron girls shall make you petticoats, and we will find you a
husband."

A burst of savage laughter succeeded this attack, during which the
soft and musical merriment of the younger females strangely chimed
with the cracked voice of their older and more malignant companion.
But the stranger was superior to all their efforts.  His head was
immovable; nor did he betray the slightest consciousness that any were
present, except when his haughty eye rolled toward the dusky forms of
the warriors, who stalked in the background silent and sullen
observers of the scene.

Infuriated at the self-command of the captive, the woman placed her
arms akimbo; and, throwing herself into a posture of defiance, she
broke out anew, in a torrent of words that no art of ours could commit
successfully to paper.  Her breath was, however, expended in vain;
for, although distinguished in her nation as a proficient in the art
of abuse, she was permitted to work herself into such a fury as
actually to foam at the mouth, without causing a muscle to vibrate in
the motionless figure of the stranger.  The effect of his indifference
began to extend itself to the other spectators; and a youngster, who
was just quitting the condition of a boy to enter the state of
manhood, attempted to assist the termagant, by flourishing his
tomahawk before their victim, and adding his empty boasts to the
taunts of the women.  Then, indeed, the captive turned his face toward
the light, and looked down on the stripling with an expression that
was superior to contempt.  At the next moment he resumed his quiet and
reclining attitude against the post.  But the change of posture had
permitted Duncan to exchange glances with the firm and piercing eyes
of Uncas.

Breathless with amazement, and heavily oppressed with the critical
situation of his friend, Heyward recoiled before the look, trembling
lest its meaning might, in some unknown manner, hasten the prisoner's
fate.  There was not, however, any instant cause for such an
apprehension.  Just then a warrior forced his way into the exasperated
crowd. Motioning the women and children aside with a stern gesture, he
took Uncas by the arm, and led him toward the door of the
council-lodge.  Thither all the chiefs, and most of the distinguished
warriors, followed; among whom the anxious Heyward found means to
enter without attracting any dangerous attention to himself.

A few minutes were consumed in disposing of those present in a manner
suitable to their rank and influence in the tribe. An order very
similar to that adopted in the preceding interview was observed; the
aged and superior chiefs occupying the area of the spacious apartment,
within the powerful light of a glaring torch, while their juniors and
inferiors were arranged in the background, presenting a dark outline
of swarthy and marked visages.  In the very center of the lodge,
immediately under an opening that admitted the twinkling light of one
or two stars, stood Uncas, calm, elevated, and collected.  His high
and haughty carriage was not lost on his captors, who often bent their
looks on his person, with eyes which, while they lost none of their
inflexibility of purpose, plainly betrayed their admiration of the
stranger's daring.

The case was different with the individual whom Duncan had observed to
stand forth with his friend, previously to the desperate trial of
speed; and who, instead of joining in the chase, had remained,
throughout its turbulent uproar, like a cringing statue, expressive of
shame and disgrace.  Though not a hand had been extended to greet him,
nor yet an eye had condescended to watch his movements, he had also
entered the lodge, as though impelled by a fate to whose decrees he
submitted, seemingly, without a struggle.  Heyward profited by the
first opportunity to gaze in his face, secretly apprehensive he might
find the features of another acquaintance; but they proved to be those
of a stranger, and, what was still more inexplicable, of one who bore
all the distinctive marks of a Huron warrior.  Instead of mingling
with his tribe, however, he sat apart, a solitary being in a
multitude, his form shrinking into a crouching and abject attitude, as
if anxious to fill as little space as possible.  When each individual
had taken his proper station, and silence reigned in the place, the
gray-haired chief already introduced to the reader, spoke aloud, in
the language of the Lenni Lenape.

"Delaware," he said, "though one of a nation of women, you have proved
yourself a man.  I would give you food; but he who eats with a Huron
should become his friend.  Rest in peace till the morning sun, when
our last words shall be spoken."

"Seven nights, and as many summer days, have I fasted on the trail of
the Hurons," Uncas coldly replied; "the children of the Lenape know
how to travel the path of the just without lingering to eat."

"Two of my young men are in pursuit of your companion," resumed the
other, without appearing to regard the boast of his captive; "when
they get back, then will our wise man say to you 'live' or 'die'."

"Has a Huron no ears?" scornfully exclaimed Uncas; "twice, since he
has been your prisoner, has the Delaware heard a gun that he knows.
Your young men will never come back!"

A short and sullen pause succeeded this bold assertion. Duncan, who
understood the Mohican to allude to the fatal rifle of the scout, bent
forward in earnest observation of the effect it might produce on the
conquerors; but the chief was content with simply retorting:

"If the Lenape are so skillful, why is one of their bravest warriors
here?"

"He followed in the steps of a flying coward, and fell into a snare.
The cunning beaver may be caught."

As Uncas thus replied, he pointed with his finger toward the solitary
Huron, but without deigning to bestow any other notice on so unworthy
an object.  The words of the answer and the air of the speaker
produced a strong sensation among his auditors.  Every eye rolled
sullenly toward the individual indicated by the simple gesture, and a
low, threatening murmur passed through the crowd.  The ominous sounds
reached the outer door, and the women and children pressing into the
throng, no gap had been left, between shoulder and shoulder, that was
not now filled with the dark lineaments of some eager and curious
human countenance.

In the meantime, the more aged chiefs, in the center, communed with
each other in short and broken sentences.  Not a word was uttered that
did not convey the meaning of the speaker, in the simplest and most
energetic form.  Again, a long and deeply solemn pause took place.  It
was known, by all present, to be the brave precursor of a weighty and
important judgment.  They who composed the outer circle of faces were
on tiptoe to gaze; and even the culprit for an instant forgot his
shame in a deeper emotion, and exposed his abject features, in order
to cast an anxious and troubled glance at the dark assemblage of
chiefs.  The silence was finally broken by the aged warrior so often
named.  He arose from the earth, and moving past the immovable form of
Uncas, placed himself in a dignified attitude before the offender.  At
that moment, the withered squaw already mentioned moved into the
circle, in a slow, sidling sort of a dance, holding the torch, and
muttering the indistinct words of what might have been a species of
incantation.  Though her presence was altogether an intrusion, it was
unheeded.

Approaching Uncas, she held the blazing brand in such a manner as to
cast its red glare on his person, and to expose the slightest emotion
of his countenance.  The Mohican maintained his firm and haughty
attitude; and his eyes, so far from deigning to meet her inquisitive
look, dwelt steadily on the distance, as though it penetrated the
obstacles which impeded the view and looked into futurity. Satisfied
with her examination, she left him, with a slight expression of
pleasure, and proceeded to practise the same trying experiment on her
delinquent countryman.

The young Huron was in his war paint, and very little of a finely
molded form was concealed by his attire.  The light rendered every
limb and joint discernible, and Duncan turned away in horror when he
saw they were writhing in irrepressible agony.  The woman was
commencing a low and plaintive howl at the sad and shameful spectacle,
when the chief put forth his hand and gently pushed her aside.

"Reed-that-bends," he said, addressing the young culprit by name, and
in his proper language, "though the Great Spirit has made you pleasant
to the eyes, it would have been better that you had not been born.
Your tongue is loud in the village, but in battle it is still.  None
of my young men strike the tomahawk deeper into the war- post--none of
them so lightly on the Yengeese.  The enemy know the shape of your
back, but they have never seen the color of your eyes.  Three times
have they called on you to come, and as often did you forget to
answer.  Your name will never be mentioned again in your tribe--it is
already forgotten."

As the chief slowly uttered these words, pausing impressively between
each sentence, the culprit raised his face, in deference to the
other's rank and years.  Shame, horror, and pride struggled in its
lineaments.  His eye, which was contracted with inward anguish,
gleamed on the persons of those whose breath was his fame; and the
latter emotion for an instant predominated.  He arose to his feet, and
baring his bosom, looked steadily on the keen, glittering knife, that
was already upheld by his inexorable judge.  As the weapon passed
slowly into his heart he even smiled, as if in joy at having found
death less dreadful than he had anticipated, and fell heavily on his
face, at the feet of the rigid and unyielding form of Uncas.

The squaw gave a loud and plaintive yell, dashed the torch to the
earth, and buried everything in darkness.  The whole shuddering group
of spectators glided from the lodge like troubled sprites; and Duncan
thought that he and the yet throbbing body of the victim of an Indian
judgment had now become its only tenants.



CHAPTER 24

"Thus spoke the sage: the kings without delay Dissolve the council,
and their chief obey."--Pope's Iliad

A single moment served to convince the youth that he was mistaken.  A
hand was laid, with a powerful pressure, on his arm, and the low voice
of Uncas muttered in his ear:

"The Hurons are dogs.  The sight of a coward's blood can never make a
warrior tremble.  The 'Gray Head' and the Sagamore are safe, and the
rifle of Hawkeye is not asleep. Go--Uncas and the 'Open Hand' are now
strangers.  It is enough."

Heyward would gladly have heard more, but a gentle push from his
friend urged him toward the door, and admonished him of the danger
that might attend the discovery of their intercourse.  Slowly and
reluctantly yielding to the necessity, he quitted the place, and
mingled with the throng that hovered nigh.  The dying fires in the
clearing cast a dim and uncertain light on the dusky figures that were
silently stalking to and fro; and occasionally a brighter gleam than
common glanced into the lodge, and exhibited the figure of Uncas still
maintaining its upright attitude near the dead body of the Huron.

A knot of warriors soon entered the place again, and reissuing, they
bore the senseless remains into the adjacent woods.  After this
termination of the scene, Duncan wandered among the lodges,
unquestioned and unnoticed, endeavoring to find some trace of her in
whose behalf he incurred the risk he ran.  In the present temper of
the tribe it would have been easy to have fled and rejoined his
companions, had such a wish crossed his mind.  But, in addition to the
never- ceasing anxiety on account of Alice, a fresher though feebler
interest in the fate of Uncas assisted to chain him to the spot.  He
continued, therefore, to stray from hut to hut, looking into each only
to encounter additional disappointment, until he had made the entire
circuit of the village.  Abandoning a species of inquiry that proved
so fruitless, he retraced his steps to the council-lodge, resolved to
seek and question David, in order to put an end to his doubts.

On reaching the building, which had proved alike the seat of judgment
and the place of execution, the young man found that the excitement
had already subsided.  The warriors had reassembled, and were now
calmly smoking, while they conversed gravely on the chief incidents of
their recent expedition to the head of the Horican.  Though the return
of Duncan was likely to remind them of his character, and the
suspicious circumstances of his visit, it produced no visible
sensation.  So far, the terrible scene that had just occurred proved
favorable to his views, and he required no other prompter than his own
feelings to convince him of the expediency of profiting by so
unexpected an advantage.

Without seeming to hesitate, he walked into the lodge, and took his
seat with a gravity that accorded admirably with the deportment of his
hosts.  A hasty but searching glance sufficed to tell him that, though
Uncas still remained where he had left him, David had not reappeared.
No other restraint was imposed on the former than the watchful looks
of a young Huron, who had placed himself at hand; though an armed
warrior leaned against the post that formed one side of the narrow
doorway.  In every other respect, the captive seemed at liberty; still
he was excluded from all participation in the discourse, and possessed
much more of the air of some finely molded statue than a man having
life and volition.

Heyward had too recently witnessed a frightful instance of the prompt
punishments of the people into whose hands he had fallen to hazard an
exposure by any officious boldness.  He would greatly have preferred
silence and meditation to speech, when a discovery of his real
condition might prove so instantly fatal.  Unfortunately for this
prudent resolution, his entertainers appeared otherwise disposed. He
had not long occupied the seat wisely taken a little in the shade,
when another of the elder warriors, who spoke the French language,
addressed him:

"My Canada father does not forget his children," said the chief; "I
thank him.  An evil spirit lives in the wife of one of my young men.
Can the cunning stranger frighten him away?"

Heyward possessed some knowledge of the mummery practised among the
Indians, in the cases of such supposed visitations.  He saw, at a
glance, that the circumstance might possibly be improved to further
his own ends.  It would, therefore, have been difficult, just then to
have uttered a proposal that would have given him more satisfaction.
Aware of the necessity of preserving the dignity of his imaginary
character, however, he repressed his feelings, and answered with
suitable mystery:

"Spirits differ; some yield to the power of wisdom, while others are
too strong."

"My brother is a great medicine," said the cunning savage; "he will
try?"

A gesture of assent was the answer.  The Huron was content with the
assurance, and, resuming his pipe, he awaited the proper moment to
move.  The impatient Heyward, inwardly execrating the cold customs of
the savages, which required such sacrifices to appearance, was fain to
assume an air of indifference, equal to that maintained by the chief,
who was, in truth, a near relative of the afflicted woman.  The
minutes lingered, and the delay had seemed an hour to the adventurer
in empiricism, when the Huron laid aside his pipe and drew his robe
across his breast, as if about to lead the way to the lodge of the
invalid.  Just then, a warrior of powerful frame, darkened the door,
and stalking silently among the attentive group, he seated himself on
one end of the low pile of brush which sustained Duncan.  The latter
cast an impatient look at his neighbor, and felt his flesh creep with
uncontrollable horror when he found himself in actual contact with
Magua.

The sudden return of this artful and dreaded chief caused a delay in
the departure of the Huron.  Several pipes, that had been
extinguished, were lighted again; while the newcomer, without speaking
a word, drew his tomahawk from his girdle, and filling the bowl on its
head began to inhale the vapors of the weed through the hollow handle,
with as much indifference as if he had not been absent two weary days
on a long and toilsome hunt.  Ten minutes, which appeared so many ages
to Duncan, might have passed in this manner; and the warriors were
fairly enveloped in a cloud of white smoke before any of them spoke.

"Welcome!" one at length uttered; "has my friend found the moose?"

"The young men stagger under their burdens," returned Magua. "Let
'Reed-that-bends' go on the hunting path; he will meet them."

A deep and awful silence succeeded the utterance of the forbidden
name.  Each pipe dropped from the lips of its owner as though all had
inhaled an impurity at the same instant.  The smoke wreathed above
their heads in little eddies, and curling in a spiral form it ascended
swiftly through the opening in the roof of the lodge, leaving the
place beneath clear of its fumes, and each dark visage distinctly
visible.  The looks of most of the warriors were riveted on the earth;
though a few of the younger and less gifted of the party suffered
their wild and glaring eyeballs to roll in the direction of a
white-headed savage, who sat between two of the most venerated chiefs
of the tribe. There was nothing in the air or attire of this Indian
that would seem to entitle him to such a distinction.  The former was
rather depressed, than remarkable for the bearing of the natives; and
the latter was such as was commonly worn by the ordinary men of the
nation.  Like most around him for more than a minute his look, too,
was on the ground; but, trusting his eyes at length to steal a glance
aside, he perceived that he was becoming an object of general
attention.  Then he arose and lifted his voice in the general silence.

"It was a lie," he said; "I had no son.  He who was called by that
name is forgotten; his blood was pale, and it came not from the veins
of a Huron; the wicked Chippewas cheated my squaw.  The Great Spirit
has said, that the family of Wiss-entush should end; he is happy who
knows that the evil of his race dies with himself.  I have done."

The speaker, who was the father of the recreant young Indian, looked
round and about him, as if seeking commendation of his stoicism in the
eyes of the auditors. But the stern customs of his people had made too
severe an exaction of the feeble old man.  The expression of his eye
contradicted his figurative and boastful language, while every muscle
in his wrinkled visage was working with anguish.  Standing a single
minute to enjoy his bitter triumph, he turned away, as if sickening at
the gaze of men, and, veiling his face in his blanket, he walked from
the lodge with the noiseless step of an Indian seeking, in the privacy
of his own abode, the sympathy of one like himself, aged, forlorn and
childless.

The Indians, who believe in the hereditary transmission of virtues and
defects in character, suffered him to depart in silence.  Then, with
an elevation of breeding that many in a more cultivated state of
society might profitably emulate, one of the chiefs drew the attention
of the young men from the weakness they had just witnessed, by saying,
in a cheerful voice, addressing himself in courtesy to Magua, as the
newest comer:

"The Delawares have been like bears after the honey pots, prowling
around my village.  But who has ever found a Huron asleep?"

The darkness of the impending cloud which precedes a burst of thunder
was not blacker than the brow of Magua as he exclaimed:

"The Delawares of the Lakes!"

"Not so.  They who wear the petticoats of squaws, on their own river.
One of them has been passing the tribe."

"Did my young men take his scalp?"

"His legs were good, though his arm is better for the hoe than the
tomahawk," returned the other, pointing to the immovable form of
Uncas.

Instead of manifesting any womanish curiosity to feast his eyes with
the sight of a captive from a people he was known to have so much
reason to hate, Magua continued to smoke, with the meditative air that
he usually maintained, when there was no immediate call on his cunning
or his eloquence. Although secretly amazed at the facts communicated
by the speech of the aged father, he permitted himself to ask no
questions, reserving his inquiries for a more suitable moment.  It was
only after a sufficient interval that he shook the ashes from his
pipe, replaced the tomahawk, tightened his girdle, and arose, casting
for the first time a glance in the direction of the prisoner, who
stood a little behind him.  The wary, though seemingly abstracted
Uncas, caught a glimpse of the movement, and turning suddenly to the
light, their looks met.  Near a minute these two bold and untamed
spirits stood regarding one another steadily in the eye, neither
quailing in the least before the fierce gaze he encountered.  The form
of Uncas dilated, and his nostrils opened like those of a tiger at
bay; but so rigid and unyielding was his posture, that he might easily
have been converted by the imagination into an exquisite and faultless
representation of the warlike deity of his tribe. The lineaments of
the quivering features of Magua proved more ductile; his countenance
gradually lost its character of defiance in an expression of ferocious
joy, and heaving a breath from the very bottom of his chest, he
pronounced aloud the formidable name of:

"Le Cerf Agile!"

Each warrior sprang upon his feet at the utterance of the well-known
appellation, and there was a short period during which the stoical
constancy of the natives was completely conquered by surprise.  The
hated and yet respected name was repeated as by one voice, carrying
the sound even beyond the limits of the lodge.  The women and
children, who lingered around the entrance, took up the words in an
echo, which was succeeded by another shrill and plaintive howl.  The
latter was not yet ended, when the sensation among the men had
entirely abated.  Each one in presence seated himself, as though
ashamed of his precipitation; but it was many minutes before their
meaning eyes ceased to roll toward their captive, in curious
examination of a warrior who had so often proved his prowess on the
best and proudest of their nation.  Uncas enjoyed his victory, but was
content with merely exhibiting his triumph by a quiet smile--an emblem
of scorn which belongs to all time and every nation.

Magua caught the expression, and raising his arm, he shook it at the
captive, the light silver ornaments attached to his bracelet rattling
with the trembling agitation of the limb, as, in a tone of vengeance,
he exclaimed, in English:

"Mohican, you die!"

"The healing waters will never bring the dead Hurons to life,"
returned Uncas, in the music of the Delawares; "the tumbling river
washes their bones; their men are squaws: their women owls.  Go! call
together the Huron dogs, that they may look upon a warrior, My
nostrils are offended; they scent the blood of a coward."

The latter allusion struck deep, and the injury rankled. Many of the
Hurons understood the strange tongue in which the captive spoke, among
which number was Magua.  This cunning savage beheld, and instantly
profited by his advantage.  Dropping the light robe of skin from his
shoulder, he stretched forth his arm, and commenced a burst of his
dangerous and artful eloquence.  However much his influence among his
people had been impaired by his occasional and besetting weakness, as
well as by his desertion of the tribe, his courage and his fame as an
orator were undeniable.  He never spoke without auditors, and rarely
without making converts to his opinions.  On the present occasion, his
native powers were stimulated by the thirst of revenge.

He again recounted the events of the attack on the island at Glenn's,
the death of his associates and the escape of their most formidable
enemies.  Then he described the nature and position of the mount
whither he had led such captives as had fallen into their hands.  Of
his own bloody intentions toward the maidens, and of his baffled
malice he made no mention, but passed rapidly on to the surprise of
the party by "La Longue Carabine," and its fatal termination.  Here he
paused, and looked about him, in affected veneration for the departed,
but, in truth, to note the effect of his opening narrative.  As usual,
every eye was riveted on his face. Each dusky figure seemed a
breathing statue, so motionless was the posture, so intense the
attention of the individual.

Then Magua dropped his voice which had hitherto been clear, strong and
elevated, and touched upon the merits of the dead.  No quality that
was likely to command the sympathy of an Indian escaped his notice.
One had never been known to follow the chase in vain; another had been
indefatigable on the trail of their enemies.  This was brave, that
generous. In short, he so managed his allusions, that in a nation
which was composed of so few families, he contrived to strike every
chord that might find, in its turn, some breast in which to vibrate.

"Are the bones of my young men," he concluded, "in the burial-place of
the Hurons?  You know they are not.  Their spirits are gone toward the
setting sun, and are already crossing the great waters, to the happy
hunting-grounds. But they departed without food, without guns or
knives, without moccasins, naked and poor as they were born.  Shall
this be?  Are their souls to enter the land of the just like hungry
Iroquois or unmanly Delawares, or shall they meet their friends with
arms in their hands and robes on their backs?  What will our fathers
think the tribes of the Wyandots have become?  They will look on their
children with a dark eye, and say, 'Go! a Chippewa has come hither
with the name of a Huron' Brothers, we must not forget the dead; a
red-skin never ceases to remember.  We will load the back of this
Mohican until he staggers under our bounty, and dispatch him after my
young men.  They call to us for aid, though our ears are not open;
they say, 'Forget us not' When they see the spirit of this Mohican
toiling after them with his burden, they will know we are of that
mind.  Then will they go on happy; and our children will say, 'So did
our fathers to their friends, so must we do to them' What is a Yengee?
we have slain many, but the earth is still pale.  A stain on the name
of Huron can only be hid by blood that comes from the veins of an
Indian.  Let this Delaware die."

The effect of such an harangue, delivered in the nervous language and
with the emphatic manner of a Huron orator, could scarcely be
mistaken.  Magua had so artfully blended the natural sympathies with
the religious superstition of his auditors, that their minds, already
prepared by custom to sacrifice a victim to the manes of their
countrymen, lost every vestige of humanity in a wish for revenge.  One
warrior in particular, a man of wild and ferocious mien, had been
conspicuous for the attention he had given to the words of the
speaker.  His countenance had changed with each passing emotion, until
it settled into a look of deadly malice.  As Magua ended he arose and,
uttering the yell of a demon, his polished little axe was seen
glancing in the torchlight as he whirled it above his head.  The
motion and the cry were too sudden for words to interrupt his bloody
intention.  It appeared as if a bright gleam shot from his hand, which
was crossed at the same moment by a dark and powerful line.  The
former was the tomahawk in its passage; the latter the arm that Magua
darted forward to divert its aim.  The quick and ready motion of the
chief was not entirely too late.  The keen weapon cut the war plume
from the scalping tuft of Uncas, and passed through the frail wall of
the lodge as though it were hurled from some formidable engine.

Duncan had seen the threatening action, and sprang upon his feet, with
a heart which, while it leaped into his throat, swelled with the most
generous resolution in behalf of his friend.  A glance told him that
the blow had failed, and terror changed to admiration.  Uncas stood
still, looking his enemy in the eye with features that seemed superior
to emotion.  Marble could not be colder, calmer, or steadier than the
countenance he put upon this sudden and vindictive attack.  Then, as
if pitying a want of skill which had proved so fortunate to himself,
he smiled, and muttered a few words of contempt in his own tongue.

"No!" said Magua, after satisfying himself of the safety of the
captive; "the sun must shine on his shame; the squaws must see his
flesh tremble, or our revenge will be like the play of boys.  Go! take
him where there is silence; let us see if a Delaware can sleep at
night, and in the morning die."

The young men whose duty it was to guard the prisoner instantly passed
their ligaments of bark across his arms, and led him from the lodge,
amid a profound and ominous silence.  It was only as the figure of
Uncas stood in the opening of the door that his firm step hesitated.
There he turned, and, in the sweeping and haughty glance that he threw
around the circle of his enemies, Duncan caught a look which he was
glad to construe into an expression that he was not entirely deserted
by hope.

Magua was content with his success, or too much occupied with his
secret purposes to push his inquiries any further. Shaking his mantle,
and folding it on his bosom, he also quitted the place, without
pursuing a subject which might have proved so fatal to the individual
at his elbow. Notwithstanding his rising resentment, his natural
firmness, and his anxiety on behalf of Uncas, Heyward felt sensibly
relieved by the absence of so dangerous and so subtle a foe. The
excitement produced by the speech gradually subsided. The warriors
resumed their seats and clouds of smoke once more filled the lodge.
For near half an hour, not a syllable was uttered, or scarcely a look
cast aside; a grave and meditative silence being the ordinary
succession to every scene of violence and commotion among these
beings, who were alike so impetuous and yet so self-restrained.

When the chief, who had solicited the aid of Duncan, finished his
pipe, he made a final and successful movement toward departing.  A
motion of a finger was the intimation he gave the supposed physician
to follow; and passing through the clouds of smoke, Duncad was glad,
on more accounts than one, to be able at last to breathe the pure air
of a cool and refreshing summer evening.

Instead of pursuing his way among those lodges where Heyward had
already made his unsuccessful search, his companion turned aside, and
proceeded directly toward the base of an adjacent mountain, which
overhung the temporary village.  A thicket of brush skirted its foot,
and it became necessary to proceed through a crooked and narrow path.
The boys had resumed their sports in the clearing, and were enacting a
mimic chase to the post among themselves.  In order to render their
games as like the reality as possible, one of the boldest of their
number had conveyed a few brands into some piles of tree-tops that had
hitherto escaped the burning.  The blaze of one of these fires lighted
the way of the chief and Duncan, and gave a character of additional
wildness to the rude scenery.  At a little distance from a bald rock,
and directly in its front, they entered a grassy opening, which they
prepared to cross.  Just then fresh fuel was added to the fire, and a
powerful light penetrated even to that distant spot.  It fell upon the
white surface of the mountain, and was reflected downward upon a dark
and mysterious-looking being that arose, unexpectedly, in their path.
The Indian paused, as if doubtful whether to proceed, and permitted
his companion to approach his side.  A large black ball, which at
first seemed stationary, now began to move in a manner that to the
latter was inexplicable.  Again the fire brightened and its glare fell
more distinctly on the object.  Then even Duncan knew it, by its
restless and sidling attitudes, which kept the upper part of its form
in constant motion, while the animal itself appeared seated, to be a
bear.  Though it growled loudly and fiercely, and there were instants
when its glistening eyeballs might be seen, it gave no other
indications of hostility.  The Huron, at least, seemed assured that
the intentions of this singular intruder were peaceable, for after
giving it an attentive examination, he quietly pursued his course.

Duncan, who knew that the animal was often domesticated among the
Indians, followed the example of his companion, believing that some
favorite of the tribe had found its way into the thicket, in search of
food.  They passed it unmolested.  Though obliged to come nearly in
contact with the monster, the Huron, who had at first so warily
determined the character of his strange visitor, was now content with
proceeding without wasting a moment in further examination; but
Heyward was unable to prevent his eyes from looking backward, in
salutary watchfulness against attacks in the rear.  His uneasiness was
in no degree diminished when he perceived the beast rolling along
their path, and following their footsteps.  He would have spoken, but
the Indian at that moment shoved aside a door of bark, and entered a
cavern in the bosom of the mountain.

Profiting by so easy a method of retreat, Duncan stepped after him,
and was gladly closing the slight cover to the opening, when he felt
it drawn from his hand by the beast, whose shaggy form immediately
darkened the passage.  They were now in a straight and long gallery,
in a chasm of the rocks, where retreat without encountering the animal
was impossible.  Making the best of the circumstances, the young man
pressed forward, keeping as close as possible to his conductor.  The
bear growled frequently at his heels, and once or twice its enormous
paws were laid on his person, as if disposed to prevent his further
passage into the den.

How long the nerves of Heyward would have sustained him in this
extraordinary situation, it might be difficult to decide, for,
happily, he soon found relief.  A glimmer of light had constantly been
in their front, and they now arrived at the place whence it proceeded.

A large cavity in the rock had been rudely fitted to answer the
purposes of many apartments.  The subdivisions were simple but
ingenious, being composed of stone, sticks, and bark, intermingled.
Openings above admitted the light by day, and at night fires and
torches supplied the place of the sun.  Hither the Hurons had brought
most of their valuables, especially those which more particularly
pertained to the nation; and hither, as it now appeared, the sick
woman, who was believed to be the victim of supernatural power, had
been transported also, under an impression that her tormentor would
find more difficulty in making his assaults through walls of stone
than through the leafy coverings of the lodges.  The apartment into
which Duncan and his guide first entered, had been exclusively devoted
to her accommodation.  The latter approached her bedside, which was
surrounded by females, in the center of whom Heyward was surprised to
find his missing friend David.

A single look was sufficient to apprise the pretended leech that the
invalid was far beyond his powers of healing.  She lay in a sort of
paralysis, indifferent to the objects which crowded before her sight,
and happily unconscious of suffering.  Heyward was far from regretting
that his mummeries were to be performed on one who was much too ill to
take an interest in their failure or success.  The slight qualm of
conscience which had been excited by the intended deception was
instantly appeased, and he began to collect his thoughts, in order to
enact his part with suitable spirit, when he found he was about to be
anticipated in his skill by an attempt to prove the power of music.

Gamut, who had stood prepared to pour forth his spirit in song when
the visitors entered, after delaying a moment, drew a strain from his
pipe, and commenced a hymn that might have worked a miracle, had faith
in is efficacy been of much avail.  He was allowed to proceed to the
close, the Indians respecting his imaginary infirmity, and Duncan too
glad of the delay to hazard the slightest interruption.  As the dying
cadence of his strains was falling on the ears of the latter, he
started aside at hearing them repeated behind him, in a voice half
human and half sepulchral.  Looking around, he beheld the shaggy
monster seated on end in a shadow of the cavern, where, while his
restless body swung in the uneasy manner of the animal, it repeated,
in a sort of low growl, sounds, if not words, which bore some slight
resemblance to the melody of the singer.

The effect of so strange an echo on David may better be imagined than
described.  His eyes opened as if he doubted their truth; and his
voice became instantly mute in excess of wonder.  A deep-laid scheme,
of communicating some important intelligence to Heyward, was driven
from his recollection by an emotion which very nearly resembled fear,
but which he was fain to believe was admiration.  Under its influence,
he exclaimed aloud: "She expects you, and is at hand"; and
precipitately left the cavern.



CHAPTER 25

"Snug.--Have you the lion's part written?  Pray you, if it be, give it
to me, for I am slow of study. Quince.--You may do it extempore, for
it is nothing but roaring."--Midsummer Night's Dream

There was a strange blending of the ridiculous with that which was
solemn in this scene.  The beast sill continued its rolling, and
apparently untiring movements, though its ludicrous attempt to imitate
the melody of David ceased the instant the latter abandoned the field.
The words of Gamut were, as has been seen, in his native tongue; and
to Duncan they seem pregnant with some hidden meaning, though nothing
present assisted him in discovering the object of their allusion.  A
speedy end was, however, put to every conjecture on the subject, by
the manner of the chief, who advanced to the bedside of the invalid,
and beckoned away the whole group of female attendants that had
clustered there to witness the skill of the stranger.  He was
implicitly, though reluctantly, obeyed; and when the low echo which
rang along the hollow, natural gallery, from the distant closing door,
had ceased, pointing toward his insensible daughter, he said:

"Now let my brother show his power."

Thus unequivocally called on to exercise the functions of his assumed
character, Heyward was apprehensive that the smallest delay might
prove dangerous.  Endeavoring, then, to collect his ideas, he prepared
to perform that species of incantation, and those uncouth rites, under
which the Indian conjurers are accustomed to conceal their ignorance
and impotency.  It is more than probable that, in the disordered state
of his thoughts, he would soon have fallen into some suspicious, if
not fatal, error had not his incipient attempts been interrupted by a
fierce growl from the quadruped.  Three several times did he renew his
efforts to proceed, and as often was he met by the same unaccountable
opposition, each interruption seeming more savage and threatening than
the preceding.

"The cunning ones are jealous," said the Huron; "I go Brother, the
woman is the wife of one of my bravest young men; deal justly by her.
Peace!" he added, beckoning to the discontented beast to be quiet; "I
go."

The chief was as good as his word, and Duncan now found himself alone
in that wild and desolate abode with the helpless invalid and the
fierce and dangerous brute.  The latter listened to the movements of
the Indian with that air of sagacity that a bear is known to possess,
until another echo announced that he had also left the cavern, when it
turned and came waddling up to Duncan before whom it seated itself in
its natural attitude, erect like a man.  The youth looked anxiously
about him for some weapon, with which he might make a resistance
against the attack he now seriously expected.

It seemed, however, as if the humor of the animal had suddenly
changed.  Instead of continuing its discontented growls, or
manifesting any further signs of anger, the whole of its shaggy body
shook violently, as if agitated by some strange internal convulsion.
The huge and unwieldy talons pawed stupidly about the grinning muzzle,
and while Heyward kept his eyes riveted on its movements with jealous
watchfulness, the grim head fell on one side and in its place appeared
the honest sturdy countenance of the scout, who was indulging from the
bottom of his soul in his own peculiar expression of merriment.

"Hist!" said the wary woodsman, interrupting Heyward's exclamation of
surprise; "the varlets are about the place, and any sounds that are
not natural to witchcraft would bring them back upon us in a body."

"Tell me the meaning of this masquerade; and why you have attempted so
desperate an adventure?"

"Ah, reason and calculation are often outdone by accident," returned
the scout.  "But, as a story should always commence at the beginning,
I will tell you the whole in order.  After we parted I placed the
commandant and the Sagamore in an old beaver lodge, where they are
safer from the Hurons than they would be in the garrison of Edward for
your high north-west Indians, not having as yet got the traders among
them, continued to venerate the beaver.  After which Uncas and I
pushed for the other encampment as was agreed.  Have you seen the
lad?"

"To my great grief!  He is captive, and condemned to die at the rising
of the sun."

"I had misgivings that such would be his fate," resumed the scout, in
a less confident and joyous tone.  But soon regaining his naturally
firm voice, he continued: "His bad fortune is the true reason of my
being here, for it would never do to abandon such a boy to the Hurons.
A rare time the knaves would have of it, could they tie 'The Bounding
Elk' and 'The Long Carabine', as they call me, to the same stake!
Though why they have given me such a name I never knew, there being as
little likeness between the gifts of 'killdeer' and the performance of
one of your real Canada carabynes, as there is between the natur' of a
pipe-stone and a flint."

"Keep to your tale," said the impatient Heyward; "we know not at what
moment the Hurons may return."

"No fear of them.  A conjurer must have his time, like a straggling
priest in the settlements.  We are as safe from interruption as a
missionary would be at the beginning of a two hours' discourse.  Well,
Uncas and I fell in with a return party of the varlets; the lad was
much too forward for a scout; nay, for that matter, being of hot
blood, he was not so much to blame; and, after all, one of the Hurons
proved a coward, and in fleeing led him into an ambushment."

"And dearly has he paid for the weakness."

The scout significantly passed his hand across his own throat, and
nodded, as if he said, "I comprehend your meaning."  After which he
continued, in a more audible though scarcely more intelligible
language:

"After the loss of the boy I turned upon the Hurons, as you may judge.
There have been scrimmages atween one or two of their outlyers and
myself; but that is neither here nor there.  So, after I had shot the
imps, I got in pretty nigh to the lodges without further commotion.
Then what should luck do in my favor but lead me to the very spot
where one of the most famous conjurers of the tribe was dressing
himself, as I well knew, for some great battle with Satan-- though why
should I call that luck, which it now seems was an especial ordering
of Providence.  So a judgmatical rap over the head stiffened the lying
impostor for a time, and leaving him a bit of walnut for his supper,
to prevent an uproar, and stringing him up atween two saplings, I made
free with his finery, and took the part of the bear on myself, in
order that the operations might proceed."

"And admirably did you enact the character; the animal itself might
have been shamed by the representation."

"Lord, major," returned the flattered woodsman, "I should be but a
poor scholar for one who has studied so long in the wilderness, did I
not know how to set forth the movements of natur' of such a beast.
Had it been now a catamount, or even a full-size panther, I would have
embellished a performance for you worth regarding.  But it is no such
marvelous feat to exhibit the feats of so dull a beast; though, for
that matter, too, a bear may be overacted.  Yes, yes; it is not every
imitator that knows natur' may be outdone easier than she is equaled.
But all our work is yet before us.  Where is the gentle one?"

"Heaven knows.  I have examined every lodge in the village, without
discovering the slightest trace of her presence in the tribe."

"You heard what the singer said, as he left us: 'She is at hand, and
expects you'?"

"I have been compelled to believe he alluded to this unhappy woman."

"The simpleton was frightened, and blundered through his message; but
he had a deeper meaning.  Here are walls enough to separate the hole
settlement.  A bear ought to climb; therefore will I take a look above
them.  There may be honey- pots hid in these rocks, and I am a beast,
you know, that has a hankering for the sweets."

The scout looked behind him, laughing at his own conceit, while he
clambered up the partition, imitating, as he went, the clumsy motions
of the beast he represented; but the instant the summit was gained he
made a gesture for silence, and slid down with the utmost
precipitation.

"She is here," he whispered, "and by that door you will find her.  I
would have spoken a word of comfort to the afflicted soul; but the
sight of such a monster might upset her reason.  Though for that
matter, major, you are none of the most inviting yourself in your
paint."

Duncan, who had already swung eagerly forward, drew instantly back on
hearing these discouraging words.

"Am I, then, so very revolting?" he demanded, with an air of chagrin.

"You might not startle a wolf, or turn the Royal Americans from a
discharge; but I have seen the time when you had a better favored
look; your streaked countenances are not ill- judged of by the squaws,
but young women of white blood give the preference to their own color.
See," he added, pointing to a place where the water trickled from a
rock, forming a little crystal spring, before it found an issue
through the adjacent crevices; "you may easily get rid of the
Sagamore's daub, and when you come back I will try my hand at a new
embellishment.  It's as common for a conjurer to alter his paint as
for a buck in the settlements to change his finery."

The deliberate woodsman had little occasion to hunt for arguments to
enforce his advice.  He was yet speaking when Duncan availed himself
of the water.  In a moment every frightful or offensive mark was
obliterated, and the youth appeared again in the lineaments with which
he had been gifted by nature.  Thus prepared for an interview with his
mistress, he took a hasty leave of his companion, and disappeared
through the indicated passage.  The scout witnessed his departure with
complacency, nodding his head after him, and muttering his good
wishes; after which he very coolly set about an examination of the
state of the larder, among the Hurons, the cavern, among other
purposes, being used as a receptacle for the fruits of their hunts.

Duncan had no other guide than a distant glimmering light, which
served, however, the office of a polar star to the lover.  By its aid
he was enabled to enter the haven of his hopes, which was merely
another apartment of the cavern, that had been solely appropriated to
the safekeeping of so important a prisoner as a daughter of the
commandant of William Henry.  It was profusely strewed with the
plunder of that unlucky fortress.  In the midst of this confusion he
found her he sought, pale, anxious and terrified, but lovely.  David
had prepared her for such a visit.

"Duncan!" she exclaimed, in a voice that seemed to tremble at the
sounds created by itself.

"Alice!" he answered, leaping carelessly among trunks, boxes, arms,
and furniture, until he stood at her side.

"I knew that you would never desert me," she said, looking up with a
momentary glow on her otherwise dejected countenance.  "But you are
alone!  Grateful as it is to be thus remembered, I could wish to think
you are not entirely alone."

Duncan, observing that she trembled in a manner which betrayed her
inability to stand, gently induced her to be seated, while he
recounted those leading incidents which it has been our task to
accord.  Alice listened with breathless interest; and though the young
man touched lightly on the sorrows of the stricken father; taking
care, however, not to wound the self-love of his auditor, the tears
ran as freely down the cheeks of the daughter as though she had never
wept before.  The soothing tenderness of Duncan, however, soon quieted
the first burst of her emotions, and she then heard him to the close
with undivided attention, if not with composure.

"And now, Alice," he added, "you will see how much is still expected
of you.  By the assistance of our experienced and invaluable friend,
the scout, we may find our way from this savage people, but you will
have to exert your utmost fortitude.  Remember that you fly to the
arms of your venerable parent, and how much his happiness, as well as
your own, depends on those exertions."

"Can I do otherwise for a father who has done so much for me?"

"And for me, too," continued the youth, gently pressing the hand he
held in both his own.

The look of innocence and surprise which he received in return
convinced Duncan of the necessity of being more explicit.

"This is neither the place nor the occasion to detain you with selfish
wishes," he added; "but what heart loaded like mine would not wish to
cast its burden?  They say misery is the closest of all ties; our
common suffering in your behalf left but little to be explained
between your father and myself."

"And, dearest Cora, Duncan; surely Cora was not forgotten?"

"Not forgotten! no; regretted, as woman was seldom mourned before.
Your venerable father knew no difference between his children; but
I--Alice, you will not be offended when I say, that to me her worth
was in a degree obscured--"

"Then you knew not the merit of my sister," said Alice, withdrawing
her hand; "of you she ever speaks as of one who is her dearest
friend."

"I would gladly believe her such," returned Duncan, hastily; "I could
wish her to be even more; but with you, Alice, I have the permission
of your father to aspire to a still nearer and dearer tie."

Alice trembled violently, and there was an instant during which she
bent her face aside, yielding to the emotions common to her sex; but
they quickly passed away, leaving her mistress of her deportment, if
not of her affections.

"Heyward," she said, looking him full in the face with a touching
expression of innocence and dependency, "give me the sacred presence
and the holy sanction of that parent before you urge me further."

"Though more I should not, less I could not say," the youth was about
to answer, when he was interrupted by a light tap on his shoulder.
Starting to his feet, he turned, and, confronting the intruder, his
looks fell on the dark form and malignant visage of Magua.  The deep
guttural laugh of the savage sounded, at such a moment, to Duncan,
like the hellish taunt of a demon.  Had he pursued the sudden and
fierce impulse of the instant, he would have cast himself on the
Huron, and committed their fortunes to the issue of a deadly struggle.
But, without arms of any description, ignorant of what succor his
subtle enemy could command, and charged with the safety of one who was
just then dearer than ever to his heart, he no sooner entertained than
he abandoned the desperate intention.

"What is your purpose?" said Alice, meekly folding her arms on her
bosom, and struggling to conceal an agony of apprehension in behalf of
Heyward, in the usual cold and distant manner with which she received
the visits of her captor.

The exulting Indian had resumed his austere countenance, though he
drew warily back before the menacing glance of the young man's fiery
eye.  He regarded both his captives for a moment with a steady look,
and then, stepping aside, he dropped a log of wood across a door
different from that by which Duncan had entered.  The latter now
comprehended the manner of his surprise, and, believing himself
irretrievably lost, he drew Alice to his bosom, and stood prepared to
meet a fate which he hardly regretted, since it was to be suffered in
such company.  But Magua meditated no immediate violence.  His first
measures were very evidently taken to secure his new captive; nor did
he even bestow a second glance at the motionless forms in the center
of the cavern, until he had completely cut off every hope of retreat
through the private outlet he had himself used.  He was watched in all
his movements by Heyward, who, however, remained firm, still folding
the fragile form of Alice to his heart, at once too proud and too
hopeless to ask favor of an enemy so often foiled.  When Magua had
effected his object he approached his prisoners, and said in English:

"The pale faces trap the cunning beavers; but the red-skins know how
to take the Yengeese."

"Huron, do your worst!" exclaimed the excited Heyward, forgetful that
a double stake was involved in his life; "you and your vengeance are
alike despised."

"Will the white man speak these words at the stake?" asked Magua;
manifesting, at the same time, how little faith he had in the other's
resolution by the sneer that accompanied his words.

"Here; singly to your face, or in the presence of your nation."

"Le Renard Subtil is a great chief!" returned the Indian; "he will go
and bring his young men, to see how bravely a pale face can laugh at
tortures."

He turned away while speaking, and was about to leave the place
through the avenue by which Duncan had approached, when a growl caught
his ear, and caused him to hesitate. The figure of the bear appeared
in the door, where it sat, rolling from side to side in its customary
restlessness. Magua, like the father of the sick woman, eyed it keenly
for a moment, as if to ascertain its character.  He was far above the
more vulgar superstitions of his tribe, and so soon as he recognized
the well-known attire of the conjurer, he prepared to pass it in cool
contempt.  But a louder and more threatening growl caused him again to
pause.  Then he seemed as if suddenly resolved to trifle no longer,
and moved resolutely forward.

The mimic animal, which had advanced a little, retired slowly in his
front, until it arrived again at the pass, when, rearing on his hinder
legs, it beat the air with its paws, in the manner practised by its
brutal prototype.

"Fool!" exclaimed the chief, in Huron, "go play with the children and
squaws; leave men to their wisdom."

He once more endeavored to pass the supposed empiric, scorning even
the parade of threatening to use the knife, or tomahawk, that was
pendent from his belt.  Suddenly the beast extended its arms, or
rather legs, and inclosed him in a grasp that might have vied with the
far-famed power of the "bear's hug" itself.  Heyward had watched the
whole procedure, on the part of Hawkeye, with breathless interest. At
first he relinquished his hold of Alice; then he caught up a thong of
buckskin, which had been used around some bundle, and when he beheld
his enemy with his two arms pinned to his side by the iron muscles of
the scout, he rushed upon him, and effectually secured them there.
Arms, legs, and feet were encircled in twenty folds of the thong, in
less time than we have taken to record the circumstance. When the
formidable Huron was completely pinioned, the scout released his hold,
and Duncan laid his enemy on his back, utterly helpless.

Throughout the whole of this sudden and extraordinary operation,
Magua, though he had struggled violently, until assured he was in the
hands of one whose nerves were far better strung than his own, had not
uttered the slightest exclamation.  But when Hawkeye, by way of making
a summary explanation of his conduct, removed the shaggy jaws of the
beast, and exposed his own rugged and earnest countenance to the gaze
of the Huron, the philosophy of the latter was so far mastered as to
permit him to utter the never failing:

"Hugh!"

"Ay, you've found your tongue," said his undisturbed conqueror; "now,
in order that you shall not use it to our ruin, I must make free to
stop your mouth."

As there was no time to be lost, the scout immediately set about
effecting so necessary a precaution; and when he had gagged the
Indian, his enemy might safely have been considered as "hors de
combat."

"By what place did the imp enter?" asked the industrious scout, when
his work was ended.  "Not a soul has passed my way since you left me."

Duncan pointed out the door by which Magua had come, and which now
presented too many obstacles to a quick retreat.

"Bring on the gentle one, then," continued his friend; "we must make a
push for the woods by the other outlet."

"'Tis impossible!" said Duncan; "fear has overcome her, and she is
helpless.  Alice! my sweet, my own Alice, arouse yourself; now is the
moment to fly.  'Tis in vain! she hears, but is unable to follow.  Go,
noble and worthy friend; save yourself, and leave me to my fate."

"Every trail has its end, and every calamity brings its lesson!"
returned the scout.  "There, wrap her in them Indian cloths.  Conceal
all of her little form.  Nay, that foot has no fellow in the
wilderness; it will betray her. All, every part.  Now take her in your
arms, and follow. Leave the rest to me."

Duncan, as may be gathered from the words of his companion, was
eagerly obeying; and, as the other finished speaking, he took the
light person of Alice in his arms, and followed in the footsteps of
the scout.  They found the sick woman as they had left her, still
alone, and passed swiftly on, by the natural gallery, to the place of
entrance.  As they approached the little door of bark, a murmur of
voices without announced that the friends and relatives of the invalid
were gathered about the place, patiently awaiting a summons to
re-enter.

"If I open my lips to speak," Hawkeye whispered, "my English, which is
the genuine tongue of a white-skin, will tell the varlets that an
enemy is among them.  You must give 'em your jargon, major; and say
that we have shut the evil spirit in the cave, and are taking the
woman to the woods in order to find strengthening roots.  Practise all
your cunning, for it is a lawful undertaking."

The door opened a little, as if one without was listening to the
proceedings within, and compelled the scout to cease his directions.
A fierce growl repelled the eavesdropper, and then the scout boldly
threw open the covering of bark, and left the place, enacting the
character of a bear as he proceeded.  Duncan kept close at his heels,
and soon found himself in the center of a cluster of twenty anxious
relatives and friends.

The crowd fell back a little, and permitted the father, and one who
appeared to be the husband of the woman, to approach.

"Has my brother driven away the evil spirit?" demanded the former.
"What has he in his arms?"

"Thy child," returned Duncan, gravely; "the disease has gone out of
her; it is shut up in the rocks.  I take the woman to a distance,
where I will strengthen her against any further attacks.  She will be
in the wigwam of the young man when the sun comes again."

When the father had translated the meaning of the stranger's words
into the Huron language, a suppressed murmur announced the
satisfaction with which this intelligence was received. The chief
himself waved his hand for Duncan to proceed, saying aloud, in a firm
voice, and with a lofty manner:

"Go; I am a man, and I will enter the rock and fight the wicked one."

Heyward had gladly obeyed, and was already past the little group, when
these startling words arrested him.

"Is my brother mad?" he exclaimed; "is he cruel?  He will meet the
disease, and it will enter him; or he will drive out the disease, and
it will chase his daughter into the woods.  No; let my children wait
without, and if the spirit appears beat him down with clubs.  He is
cunning, and will bury himself in the mountain, when he sees how many
are ready to fight him."

This singular warning had the desired effect.  Instead of entering the
cavern, the father and husband drew their tomahawks, and posted
themselves in readiness to deal their vengeance on the imaginary
tormentor of their sick relative, while the women and children broke
branches from the bushes, or seized fragments of the rock, with a
similar intention. At this favorable moment the counterfeit conjurers
disappeared.

Hawkeye, at the same time that he had presumed so far on the nature of
the Indian superstitions, was not ignorant that they were rather
tolerated than relied on by the wisest of the chiefs.  He well knew
the value of time in the present emergency.  Whatever might be the
extent of the self- delusion of his enemies, and however it had tended
to assist his schemes, the slightest cause of suspicion, acting on the
subtle nature of an Indian, would be likely to prove fatal. Taking the
path, therefore, that was most likely to avoid observation, he rather
skirted than entered the village. The warriors were still to be seen
in the distance, by the fading light of the fires, stalking from lodge
to lodge. But the children had abandoned their sports for their beds
of skins, and the quiet of night was already beginning to prevail over
the turbulence and excitement of so busy and important an evening.

Alice revived under the renovating influence of the open air, and, as
her physical rather than her mental powers had been the subject of
weakness, she stood in no need of any explanation of that which had
occurred.

"Now let me make an effort to walk," she said, when they had entered
the forest, blushing, though unseen, that she had not been sooner able
to quit the arms of Duncan; "I am indeed restored."

"Nay, Alice, you are yet too weak."

The maiden struggled gently to release herself, and Heyward was
compelled to part with his precious burden.  The representative of the
bear had certainly been an entire stranger to the delicious emotions
of the lover while his arms encircled his mistress; and he was,
perhaps, a stranger also to the nature of that feeling of ingenuous
shame that oppressed the trembling Alice.  But when he found himself
at a suitable distance from the lodges he made a halt, and spoke on a
subject of which he was thoroughly the master.

"This path will lead you to the brook," he said; "follow its northern
bank until you come to a fall; mount the hill on your right, and you
will see the fires of the other people. There you must go and demand
protection; if they are true Delawares you will be safe.  A distant
flight with that gentle one, just now, is impossible.  The Hurons
would follow up our trail, and master our scalps before we had got a
dozen miles.  Go, and Providence be with you."

"And you!" demanded Heyward, in surprise; "surely we part not here?"

"The Hurons hold the pride of the Delawares; the last of the high
blood of the Mohicans is in their power," returned the scout; "I go to
see what can be done in his favor.  Had they mastered your scalp,
major, a knave should have fallen for every hair it held, as I
promised; but if the young Sagamore is to be led to the stake, the
Indians shall see also how a man without a cross can die."

Not in the least offended with the decided preference that the sturdy
woodsman gave to one who might, in some degree, be called the child of
his adoption, Duncan still continued to urge such reasons against so
desperate an effort as presented themselves.  He was aided by Alice,
who mingled her entreaties with those of Heyward that he would abandon
a resolution that promised so much danger, with so little hope of
success.  Their eloquence and ingenuity were expended in vain.  The
scout heard them attentively, but impatiently, and finally closed the
discussion, by answering, in a tone that instantly silenced Alice,
while it told Heyward how fruitless any further remonstrances would
be.

"I have heard," he said, "that there is a feeling in youth which binds
man to woman closer than the father is tied to the son.  It may be so.
I have seldom been where women of my color dwell; but such may be the
gifts of nature in the settlements.  You have risked life, and all
that is dear to you, to bring off this gentle one, and I suppose that
some such disposition is at the bottom of it all.  As for me, I taught
the lad the real character of a rifle; and well has he paid me for it.
I have fou't at his side in many a bloody scrimmage; and so long as I
could hear the crack of his piece in one ear, and that of the Sagamore
in the other, I knew no enemy was on my back.  Winters and summer,
nights and days, have we roved the wilderness in company, eating of
the same dish, one sleeping while the other watched; and afore it
shall be said that Uncas was taken to the torment, and I at
hand--There is but a single Ruler of us all, whatever may the color of
the skin; and Him I call to witness, that before the Mohican boy shall
perish for the want of a friend, good faith shall depart the 'arth,
and 'killdeer' become as harmless as the tooting we'pon of the
singer!"

Duncan released his hold on the arm of the scout, who turned, and
steadily retraced his steps toward the lodges. After pausing a moment
to gaze at his retiring form, the successful and yet sorrowful Heyward
and Alice took their way together toward the distant village of the
Delawares.



CHAPTER 26

"Bot.--Let me play the lion too."--Midsummer Night's Dream

Notwithstanding the high resolution of Hawkeye he fully comprehended
all the difficulties and danger he was about to incur.  In his return
to the camp, his acute and practised intellects were intently engaged
in devising means to counteract a watchfulness and suspicion on the
part of his enemies, that he knew were, in no degree, inferior to his
own.  Nothing but the color of his skin had saved the lives of Magua
and the conjurer, who would have been the first victims sacrificed to
his own security, had not the scout believed such an act, however
congenial it might be to the nature of an Indian, utterly unworthy of
one who boasted a descent from men that knew no cross of blood.
Accordingly, he trusted to the withes and ligaments with which he had
bound his captives, and pursued his way directly toward the center of
the lodges.  As he approached the buildings, his steps become more
deliberate, and his vigilant eye suffered no sign, whether friendly or
hostile, to escape him.  A neglected hut was a little in advance of
the others, and appeared as if it had been deserted when half
completed-- most probably on account of failing in some of the more
important requisites; such as wood or water.  A faint light glimmered
through its cracks, however, and announced that, notwithstanding its
imperfect structure, it was not without a tenant.  Thither, then, the
scout proceeded, like a prudent general, who was about to feel the
advanced positions of his enemy, before he hazarded the main attack.

Throwing himself into a suitable posture for the beast he represented,
Hawkeye crawled to a little opening, where he might command a view of
the interior.  It proved to be the abiding place of David Gamut.
Hither the faithful singing- master had now brought himself, together
with all his sorrows, his apprehensions, and his meek dependence on
the protection of Providence.  At the precise moment when his ungainly
person came under the observation of the scout, in the manner just
mentioned, the woodsman himself, though in his assumed character, was
the subject of the solitary being's profounded reflections.

However implicit the faith of David was in the performance of ancient
miracles, he eschewed the belief of any direct supernatural agency in
the management of modern morality. In other words, while he had
implicit faith in the ability of Balaam's ass to speak, he was
somewhat skeptical on the subject of a bear's singing; and yet he had
been assured of the latter, on the testimony of his own exquisite
organs. There was something in his air and manner that betrayed to the
scout the utter confusion of the state of his mind.  He was seated on
a pile of brush, a few twigs from which occasionally fed his low fire,
with his head leaning on his arm, in a posture of melancholy musing.
The costume of the votary of music had undergone no other alteration
from that so lately described, except that he had covered his bald
head with the triangular beaver, which had not proved sufficiently
alluring to excite the cupidity of any of his captors.

The ingenious Hawkeye, who recalled the hasty manner in which the
other had abandoned his post at the bedside of the sick woman, was not
without his suspicions concerning the subject of so much solemn
deliberation.  First making the circuit of the hut, and ascertaining
that it stood quite alone, and that the character of its inmate was
likely to protect it from visitors, he ventured through its low door,
into the very presence of Gamut.  The position of the latter brought
the fire between them; and when Hawkeye had seated himself on end,
near a minute elapsed, during which the two remained regarding each
other without speaking.  The suddenness and the nature of the surprise
had nearly proved too much for--we will not say the philosophy--but
for the pitch and resolution of David.  He fumbled for his pitch-
pipe, and arose with a confused intention of attempting a musical
exorcism.

"Dark and mysterious monster!" he exclaimed, while with trembling
hands he disposed of his auxiliary eyes, and sought his never-failing
resource in trouble, the gifted version of the psalms; "I know not
your nature nor intents; but if aught you meditate against the person
and rights of one of the humblest servants of the temple, listen to
the inspired language of the youth of Israel, and repent."

The bear shook his shaggy sides, and then a well-known voice replied:

"Put up the tooting we'pon, and teach your throat modesty. Five words
of plain and comprehendible English are worth just now an hour of
squalling."

"What art thou?" demanded David, utterly disqualified to pursue his
original intention, and nearly gasping for breath.

"A man like yourself; and one whose blood is as little tainted by the
cross of a bear, or an Indian, as your own. Have you so soon forgotten
from whom you received the foolish instrument you hold in your hand?"

"Can these things be?" returned David, breathing more freely, as the
truth began to dawn upon him.  "I have found many marvels during my
sojourn with the heathen, but surely nothing to excel this."

"Come, come," returned Hawkeye, uncasing his honest countenance, the
better to assure the wavering confidence of his companion; "you may
see a skin, which, if it be not as white as one of the gentle ones,
has no tinge of red to it that the winds of the heaven and the sun
have not bestowed. Now let us to business."

"First tell me of the maiden, and of the youth who so bravely sought
her," interrupted David.

"Ay, they are happily freed from the tomahawks of these varlets.  But
can you put me on the scent of Uncas?"

"The young man is in bondage, and much I fear his death is decreed.  I
greatly mourn that one so well disposed should die in his ignorance,
and I have sought a goodly hymn--"

"Can you lead me to him?"

"The task will not be difficult," returned David, hesitating; "though
I greatly fear your presence would rather increase than mitigate his
unhappy fortunes."

"No more words, but lead on," returned Hawkeye, concealing his face
again, and setting the example in his own person, by instantly
quitting the lodge.

As they proceeded, the scout ascertained that his companion found
access to Uncas, under privilege of his imaginary infirmity, aided by
the favor he had acquired with one of the guards, who, in consequence
of speaking a little English, had been selected by David as the
subject of a religious conversion.  How far the Huron comprehended the
intentions of his new friend may well be doubted; but as exclusive
attention is as flattering to a savage as to a more civilized
individual, it had produced the effect we have mentioned.  It is
unnecessary to repeat the shrewd manner with which the scout extracted
these particulars from the simple David; neither shall we dwell in
this place on the nature of the instruction he delivered, when
completely master of all the necessary facts; as the whole will be
sufficiently explained to the reader in the course of the narrative.

The lodge in which Uncas was confined was in the very center of the
village, and in a situation, perhaps, more difficult than any other to
approach, or leave, without observation. But it was not the policy of
Hawkeye to affect the least concealment.  Presuming on his disguise,
and his ability to sustain the character he had assumed, he took the
most plain and direct route to the place.  The hour, however, afforded
him some little of that protection which he appeared so much to
despise.  The boys were already buried in sleep, and all the women,
and most of the warriors, had retired to their lodges for the night.
Four or five of the latter only lingered about the door of the prison
of Uncas, wary by close observers of the manner of their captive.

At the sight of Gamut, accompanied by one in the well-known masquerade
of their most distinguished conjurer, they readily made way for them
both.  Still they betrayed no intention to depart.  On the other hand,
they were evidently disposed to remain bound to the place by an
additional interest in the mysterious mummeries that they of course
expected from such a visit.

From the total inability of the scout to address the Hurons in their
own language, he was compelled to trust the conversation entirely to
David.  Notwithstanding the simplicity of the latter, he did ample
justice to the instructions he had received, more than fulfilling the
strongest hopes of his teacher.

"The Delawares are women!" he exclaimed, addressing himself to the
savage who had a slight understanding of the language in which he
spoke; "the Yengeese, my foolish countrymen, have told them to take up
the tomahawk, and strike their fathers in the Canadas, and they have
forgotten their sex. Does my brother wish to hear 'Le Cerf Agile' ask
for his petticoats, and see him weep before the Hurons, at the stake?"

The exclamation "Hugh!" delivered in a strong tone of assent,
announced the gratification the savage would receive in witnessing
such an exhibition of weakness in an enemy so long hated and so much
feared.

"Then let him step aside, and the cunning man will blow upon the dog.
Tell it to my brothers."

The Huron explained the meaning of David to his fellows, who, in their
turn, listened to the project with that sort of satisfaction that
their untamed spirits might be expected to find in such a refinement
in cruelty.  They drew back a little from the entrance and motioned to
the supposed conjurer to enter.  But the bear, instead of obeying,
maintained the seat it had taken, and growled:

"The cunning man is afraid that his breath will blow upon his
brothers, and take away their courage too," continued David, improving
the hint he received; "they must stand further off."

The Hurons, who would have deemed such a misfortune the heaviest
calamity that could befall them, fell back in a body, taking a
position where they were out of earshot, though at the same time they
could command a view of the entrance to the lodge.  Then, as if
satisfied of their safety, the scout left his position, and slowly
entered the place.  It was silent and gloomy, being tenanted solely by
the captive, and lighted by the dying embers of a fire, which had been
used for the purposed of cookery.

Uncas occupied a distant corner, in a reclining attitude, being
rigidly bound, both hands and feet, by strong and painful withes.
When the frightful object first presented itself to the young Mohican,
he did not deign to bestow a single glance on the animal.  The scout,
who had left David at the door, to ascertain they were not observed,
thought it prudent to preserve his disguise until assured of their
privacy.  Instead of speaking, therefore, he exerted himself to enact
one of the antics of the animal he represented. The young Mohican, who
at first believed his enemies had sent in a real beast to torment him,
and try his nerves, detected in those performances that to Heyward had
appeared so accurate, certain blemishes, that at once betrayed the
counterfeit.  Had Hawkeye been aware of the low estimation in which
the skillful Uncas held his representations, he would probably have
prolonged the entertainment a little in pique.  But the scornful
expression of the young man's eye admitted of so many constructions,
that the worthy scout was spared the mortification of such a
discovery.  As soon, therefore, as David gave the preconcerted signal,
a low hissing sound was heard in the lodge in place of the fierce
growlings of the bear.

Uncas had cast his body back against the wall of the hut and closed
his eyes, as if willing to exclude so contemptible and disagreeable an
object from his sight.  But the moment the noise of the serpent was
heard, he arose, and cast his looks on each side of him, bending his
head low, and turning it inquiringly in every direction, until his
keen eye rested on the shaggy monster, where it remained riveted, as
though fixed by the power of a charm.  Again the same sounds were
repeated, evidently proceeding from the mouth of the beast. Once more
the eyes of the youth roamed over the interior of the lodge, and
returning to the former resting place, he uttered, in a deep,
suppressed voice:

"Hawkeye!"

"Cut his bands," said Hawkeye to David, who just then approached them.

The singer did as he was ordered, and Uncas found his limbs released.
At the same moment the dried skin of the animal rattled, and presently
the scout arose to his feet, in proper person.  The Mohican appeared
to comprehend the nature of the attempt his friend had made,
intuitively, neither tongue nor feature betraying another symptom of
surprise.  When Hawkeye had cast his shaggy vestment, which was done
by simply loosing certain thongs of skin, he drew a long, glittering
knife, and put it in the hands of Uncas.

"The red Hurons are without," he said; "let us be ready." At the same
time he laid his finger significantly on another similar weapon, both
being the fruits of his prowess among their enemies during the
evening.

"We will go," said Uncas.

"Whither?"

"To the Tortoises; they are the children of my grandfathers."

"Ay, lad," said the scout in English--a language he was apt to use
when a little abstracted in mind; "the same blood runs in your veins,
I believe; but time and distance has a little changed its color.  What
shall we do with the Mingoes at the door?  They count six, and this
singer is as good as nothing."

"The Hurons are boasters," said Uncas, scornfully; "their 'totem' is a
moose, and they run like snails.  The Delawares are children of the
tortoise, and they outstrip the deer."

"Ay, lad, there is truth in what you say; and I doubt not, on a rush,
you would pass the whole nation; and, in a straight race of two miles,
would be in, and get your breath again, afore a knave of them all was
within hearing of the other village.  But the gift of a white man lies
more in his arms than in his legs.  As for myself, I can brain a Huron
as well as a better man; but when it comes to a race the knaves would
prove too much for me."

Uncas, who had already approached the door, in readiness to lead the
way, now recoiled, and placed himself, once more, in the bottom of the
lodge.  But Hawkeye, who was too much occupied with his own thoughts
to note the movement, continued speaking more to himself than to his
companion.

"After all," he said, "it is unreasonable to keep one man in bondage
to the gifts of another.  So, Uncas, you had better take the lead,
while I will put on the skin again, and trust to cunning for want of
speed."

The young Mohican made no reply, but quietly folded his arms, and
leaned his body against one of the upright posts that supported the
wall of the hut.

"Well," said the scout looking up at him, "why do you tarry? There
will be time enough for me, as the knaves will give chase to you at
first."

"Uncas will stay," was the calm reply.

"For what?"

"To fight with his father's brother, and die with the friend of the
Delawares."

"Ay, lad," returned Hawkeye, squeezing the hand of Uncas between his
own iron fingers; "'twould have been more like a Mingo than a Mohican
had you left me.  But I thought I would make the offer, seeing that
youth commonly loves life. Well, what can't be done by main courage,
in war, must be done by circumvention.  Put on the skin; I doubt not
you can play the bear nearly as well as myself."

Whatever might have been the private opinion of Uncas of their
respective abilities in this particular, his grave countenance
manifested no opinion of his superiority.  He silently and
expeditiously encased himself in the covering of the beast, and then
awaited such other movements as his more aged companion saw fit to
dictate.

"Now, friend," said Hawkeye, addressing David, "an exchange of
garments will be a great convenience to you, inasmuch as you are but
little accustomed to the make-shifts of the wilderness.  Here, take my
hunting shirt and cap, and give me your blanket and hat.  You must
trust me with the book and spectacles, as well as the tooter, too; if
we ever meet again, in better times, you shall have all back again,
with many thanks into the bargain."

David parted with the several articles named with a readiness that
would have done great credit to his liberality, had he not certainly
profited, in many particulars, by the exchange.  Hawkeye was not long
in assuming his borrowed garments; and when his restless eyes were hid
behind the glasses, and his head was surmounted by the triangular
beaver, as their statures were not dissimilar, he might readily have
passed for the singer, by starlight.  As soon as these dispositions
were made, the scout turned to David, and gave him his parting
instructions.

"Are you much given to cowardice?" he bluntly asked, by way of
obtaining a suitable understanding of the whole case before he
ventured a prescription.

"My pursuits are peaceful, and my temper, I humbly trust, is greatly
given to mercy and love," returned David, a little nettled at so
direct an attack on his manhood; "but there are none who can say that
I have ever forgotten my faith in the Lord, even in the greatest
straits."

"Your chiefest danger will be at the moment when the savages find out
that they have been deceived.  If you are not then knocked on the
head, your being a non-composser will protect you; and you'll then
have a good reason to expect to die in your bed.  If you stay, it must
be to sit down here in the shadow, and take the part of Uncas, until
such times as the cunning of the Indians discover the cheat, when, as
I have already said, your times of trial will come.  So choose for
yourself--to make a rush or tarry here."

"Even so," said David, firmly; "I will abide in the place of the
Delaware.  Bravely and generously has he battled in my behalf, and
this, and more, will I dare in his service."

"You have spoken as a man, and like one who, under wiser schooling,
would have been brought to better things.  Hold your head down, and
draw in your legs; their formation might tell the truth too early.
Keep silent as long as may be; and it would be wise, when you do
speak, to break out suddenly in one of your shoutings, which will
serve to remind the Indians that you are not altogether as responsible
as men should be.  If however, they take your scalp, as I trust and
believe they will not, depend on it, Uncas and I will not forget the
deed, but revenge it as becomes true warriors and trusty friends."

"Hold!" said David, perceiving that with this assurance they were
about to leave him; "I am an unworthy and humble follower of one who
taught not the damnable principle of revenge.  Should I fall,
therefore, seek no victims to my manes, but rather forgive my
destroyers; and if you remember them at all, let it be in prayers for
the enlightening of their minds, and for their eternal welfare."

The scout hesitated, and appeared to muse.

"There is a principle in that," he said, "different from the law of
the woods; and yet it is fair and noble to reflect upon."  Then
heaving a heavy sigh, probably among the last he ever drew in pining
for a condition he had so long abandoned, he added: "it is what I
would wish to practise myself, as one without a cross of blood, though
it is not always easy to deal with an Indian as you would with a
fellow Christian.  God bless you, friend; I do believe your scent is
not greatly wrong, when the matter is duly considered, and keeping
eternity before the eyes, though much depends on the natural gifts,
and the force of temptation."

So saying, the scout returned and shook David cordially by the hand;
after which act of friendship he immediately left the lodge, attended
by the new representative of the beast.

The instant Hawkeye found himself under the observation of the Hurons,
he drew up his tall form in the rigid manner of David, threw out his
arm in the act of keeping time, and commenced what he intended for an
imitation of his psalmody. Happily for the success of this delicate
adventure, he had to deal with ears but little practised in the
concord of sweet sounds, or the miserable effort would infallibly have
been detected.  It was necessary to pass within a dangerous proximity
of the dark group of the savages, and the voice of the scout grew
louder as they drew nigher.  When at the nearest point the Huron who
spoke the English thrust out an arm, and stopped the supposed
singing-master.

"The Delaware dog!" he said, leaning forward, and peering through the
dim light to catch the expression of the other's features; "is he
afraid?  Will the Hurons hear his groans?"

A growl, so exceedingly fierce and natural, proceeded from the beast,
that the young Indian released his hold and started aside, as if to
assure himself that it was not a veritable bear, and no counterfeit,
that was rolling before him.  Hawkeye, who feared his voice would
betray him to his subtle enemies, gladly profited by the interruption,
to break out anew in such a burst of musical expression as would,
probably, in a more refined state of society have been termed "a grand
crash."  Among his actual auditors, however, it merely gave him an
additional claim to that respect which they never withhold from such
as are believed to be the subjects of mental alienation.  The little
knot on Indians drew back in a body, and suffered, as they thought,
the conjurer and his inspired assistant to proceed.

It required no common exercise of fortitude in Uncas and the scout to
continue the dignified and deliberate pace they had assumed in passing
the lodge; especially as they immediately perceived that curiosity had
so far mastered fear, as to induce the watchers to approach the hut,
in order to witness the effect of the incantations.  The least
injudicious or impatient movement on the part of David might betray
them, and time was absolutely necessary to insure the safety of the
scout.  The loud noise the latter conceived it politic to continue,
drew many curious gazers to the doors of the different huts as thy
passed; and once or twice a dark- looking warrior stepped across their
path, led to the act by superstition and watchfulness.  They were not,
however, interrupted, the darkness of the hour, and the boldness of
the attempt, proving their principal friends.

The adventurers had got clear of the village, and were now swiftly
approaching the shelter of the woods, when a loud and long cry arose
from the lodge where Uncas had been confined.  The Mohican started on
his feet, and shook his shaggy covering, as though the animal he
counterfeited was about to make some desperate effort.

"Hold!" said the scout, grasping his friend by the shoulder, "let them
yell again!  'Twas nothing but wonderment."

He had no occasion to delay, for at the next instant a burst of cries
filled the outer air, and ran along the whole extent of the village.
Uncas cast his skin, and stepped forth in his own beautiful
proportions.  Hawkeye tapped him lightly on the shoulder, and glided
ahead.

"Now let the devils strike our scent!" said the scout, tearing two
rifles, with all their attendant accouterments, from beneath a bush,
and flourishing "killdeer" as he handed Uncas his weapon; "two, at
least, will find it to their deaths."

Then, throwing their pieces to a low trail, like sportsmen in
readiness for their game, they dashed forward, and were soon buried in
the somber darkness of the forest.



CHAPTER 27

"Ant.  I shall remember: When C�sar says Do this, it is
performed."--Julius Caesar

The impatience of the savages who lingered about the prison of Uncas,
as has been seen, had overcome their dread of the conjurer's breath.
They stole cautiously, and with beating hearts, to a crevice, through
which the faint light of the fire was glimmering.  For several minutes
they mistook the form of David for that of the prisoner; but the very
accident which Hawkeye had foreseen occurred.  Tired of keeping the
extremities of his long person so near together, the singer gradually
suffered the lower limbs to extend themselves, until one of his
misshapen feet actually came in contact with and shoved aside the
embers of the fire.  At first the Hurons believed the Delaware had
been thus deformed by witchcraft.  But when David, unconscious of
being observed, turned his head, and exposed his simple, mild
countenance, in place of the haughty lineaments of their prisoner, it
would have exceeded the credulity of even a native to have doubted any
longer.  They rushed together into the lodge, and, laying their hands,
with but little ceremony, on their captive, immediately detected the
imposition.  They arose the cry first heard by the fugitives.  It was
succeeded by the most frantic and angry demonstrations of vengeance.
David, however, firm in his determination to cover the retreat of his
friends, was compelled to believe that his own final hour had
come. Deprived of his book and his pipe, he was fain to trust to a
memory that rarely failed him on such subjects; and breaking forth in
a loud and impassioned strain, he endeavored to smooth his passage
into the other world by singing the opening verse of a funeral anthem.
The Indians were seasonably reminded of his infirmity, and, rushing
into the open air, they aroused the village in the manner described.

A native warrior fights as he sleeps, without the protection of
anything defensive.  The sounds of the alarm were, therefore, hardly
uttered before two hundred men were afoot, and ready for the battle or
the chase, as either might be required.  The escape was soon known;
and the whole tribe crowded, in a body, around the council-lodge,
impatiently awaiting the instruction of their chiefs.  In such a
sudden demand on their wisdom, the presence of the cunning Magua could
scarcely fail of being needed.  His name was mentioned, and all looked
round in wonder that he did not appear.  Messengers were then
despatched to his lodge requiring his presence.

In the meantime, some of the swiftest and most discreet of the young
men were ordered to make the circuit of the clearing, under cover of
the woods, in order to ascertain that their suspected neighbors, the
Delawares, designed no mischief.  Women and children ran to and fro;
and, in short, the whole encampment exhibited another scene of wild
and savage confusion.  Gradually, however, these symptoms of disorder
diminished; and in a few minutes the oldest and most distinguished
chiefs were assembled in the lodge, in grave consultation.

The clamor of many voices soon announced that a party approached, who
might be expected to communicate some intelligence that would explain
the mystery of the novel surprise.  The crowd without gave way, and
several warriors entered the place, bringing with them the hapless
conjurer, who had been left so long by the scout in duress.

Notwithstanding this man was held in very unequal estimation among the
Hurons, some believing implicitly in his power, and others deeming him
an impostor, he was now listened to by all with the deepest attention.
When his brief story was ended, the father of the sick woman stepped
forth, and, in a few pithy expression, related, in his turn, what he
knew. These two narratives gave a proper direction to the subsequent
inquiries, which were now made with the characteristic cunning of
savages.

Instead of rushing in a confused and disorderly throng to the cavern,
ten of the wisest and firmest among the chiefs were selected to
prosecute the investigation.  As no time was to be lost, the instant
the choice was made the individuals appointed rose in a body and left
the place without speaking.  On reaching the entrance, the younger men
in advance made way for their seniors; and the whole proceeded along
the low, dark gallery, with the firmness of warriors ready to devote
themselves to the public good, though, at the same time, secretly
doubting the nature of the power with which they were about to
contend.

The outer apartment of the cavern was silent and gloomy. The woman lay
in her usual place and posture, though there were those present who
affirmed they had seen her borne to the woods by the supposed
"medicine of the white men."  Such a direct and palpable contradiction
of the tale related by the father caused all eyes to be turned on him.
Chafed by the silent imputation, and inwardly troubled by so
unaccountable a circumstance, the chief advanced to the side of the
bed, and, stooping, cast an incredulous look at the features, as if
distrusting their reality.  His daughter was dead.

The unerring feeling of nature for a moment prevailed and the old
warrior hid his eyes in sorrow.  Then, recovering his self-possession,
he faced his companions, and, pointing toward the corpse, he said, in
the language of his people:

"The wife of my young man has left us!  The Great Spirit is angry with
his children."

The mournful intelligence was received in solemn silence. After a
short pause, one of the elder Indians was about to speak, when a
dark-looking object was seen rolling out of an adjoining apartment,
into the very center of the room where they stood.  Ignorant of the
nature of the beings they had to deal with, the whole party drew back
a little, and, rising on end, exhibited the distorted but still fierce
and sullen features of Magua.  The discovery was succeeded by a
general exclamation of amazement.

As soon, however, as the true situation of the chief was understood,
several knives appeared, and his limbs and tongue were quickly
released.  The Huron arose, and shook himself like a lion quitting his
lair.  Not a word escaped him, though his hand played convulsively
with the handle of his knife, while his lowering eyes scanned the
whole party, as if they sought an object suited to the first burst of
his vengeance.

It was happy for Uncas and the scout, and even David, that they were
all beyond the reach of his arm at such a moment; for, assuredly, no
refinement in cruelty would then have deferred their deaths, in
opposition to the promptings of the fierce temper that nearly choked
him.  Meeting everywhere faces that he knew as friends, the savage
grated his teeth together like rasps of iron, and swallowed his
passion for want of a victim on whom to vent it.  This exhibition of
anger was noted by all present; and from an apprehension of
exasperating a temper that was already chafed nearly to madness,
several minutes were suffered to pass before another word was uttered.
When, however, suitable time had elapsed, the oldest of the party
spoke.

"My friend has found an enemy," he said.  "Is he nigh that the Hurons
might take revenge?"

"Let the Delaware die!" exclaimed Magua, in a voice of thunder.

Another longer and expressive silence was observed, and was broken, as
before, with due precaution, by the same individual.

"The Mohican is swift of foot, and leaps far," he said; "but my young
men are on his trail."

"Is he gone?" demanded Magua, in tones so deep and guttural, that they
seemed to proceed from his inmost chest.

"An evil spirit has been among us, and the Delaware has blinded our
eyes."

"An evil spirit!" repeated the other, mockingly; "'tis the spirit that
has taken the lives of so many Hurons; the spirit that slew my young
men at 'the tumbling river'; that took their scalps at the 'healing
spring'; and who has, now, bound the arms of Le Renard Subtil!"

"Of whom does my friend speak?"

"Of the dog who carries the heart and cunning of a Huron under a pale
skin--La Longue Carabine."

The pronunciation of so terrible a name produced the usual effect
among his auditors.  But when time was given for reflection, and the
warriors remembered that their formidable and daring enemy had even
been in the bosom of their encampment, working injury, fearful rage
took the place of wonder, and all those fierce passions with which the
bosom of Magua had just been struggling were suddenly transferred to
his companions.  Some among them gnashed their teeth in anger, others
vented their feelings in yells, and some, again, beat the air as
frantically as if the object of their resentment were suffering under
their blows. But this sudden outbreaking of temper as quickly subsided
in the still and sullen restraint they most affected in their moments
of inaction.

Magua, who had in his turn found leisure for reflection, now changed
his manner, and assumed the air of one who knew how to think and act
with a dignity worthy of so grave a subject.

"Let us go to my people," he said; "they wait for us."

His companions consented in silence, and the whole of the savage party
left the cavern and returned to the council- lodge.  When they were
seated, all eyes turned on Magua, who understood, from such an
indication, that, by common consent, they had devolved the duty of
relating what had passed on him.  He arose, and told his tale without
duplicity or reservation.  The whole deception practised by both
Duncan and Hawkeye was, of course, laid naked, and no room was found,
even for the most superstitious of the tribe, any longer to affix a
doubt on the character of the occurrences.  It was but too apparent
that they had been insultingly, shamefully, disgracefully deceived.
When he had ended, and resumed his seat, the collected tribe--for his
auditors, in substance, included all the fighting men of the
party--sat regarding each other like men astonished equally at the
audacity and the success of their enemies. The next consideration,
however, was the means and opportunities for revenge.

Additional pursuers were sent on the trail of the fugitives; and then
the chiefs applied themselves, in earnest, to the business of
consultation.  Many different expedients were proposed by the elder
warriors, in succession, to all of which Magua was a silent and
respectful listener.  That subtle savage had recovered his artifice
and self-command, and now proceeded toward his object with his
customary caution and skill.  It was only when each one disposed to
speak had uttered his sentiments, that he prepared to advance his own
opinions.  They were given with additional weight from the
circumstance that some of the runners had already returned, and
reported that their enemies had been traced so far as to leave no
doubt of their having sought safety in the neighboring camp of their
suspected allies, the Delawares.  With the advantage of possessing
this important intelligence, the chief warily laid his plans before
his fellows, and, as might have been anticipated from his eloquence
and cunning, they were adopted without a dissenting voice.  They were,
briefly, as follows, both in opinions and in motives.

It has been already stated that, in obedience to a policy rarely
departed from, the sisters were separated so soon as they reached the
Huron village.  Magua had early discovered that in retaining the
person of Alice, he possessed the most effectual check on Cora.  When
they parted, therefore, he kept the former within reach of his hand,
consigning the one he most valued to the keeping of their allies.  The
arrangement was understood to be merely temporary, and was made as
much with a view to flatter his neighbors as in obedience to the
invariable rule of Indian policy.

While goaded incessantly by these revengeful impulses that in a savage
seldom slumber, the chief was still attentive to his more permanent
personal interests.  The follies and disloyalty committed in his youth
were to be expiated by a long and painful penance, ere he could be
restored to the full enjoyment of the confidence of his ancient
people; and without confidence there could be no authority in an
Indian tribe.  In this delicate and arduous situation, the crafty
native had neglected no means of increasing his influence; and one of
the happiest of his expedients had been the success with which he had
cultivated the favor of their powerful and dangerous neighbors.  The
result of his experiment had answered all the expectations of his
policy; for the Hurons were in no degree exempt from that governing
principle of nature, which induces man to value his gifts precisely in
the degree that they are appreciated by others.

But, while he was making this ostensible sacrifice to general
considerations, Magua never lost sight of his individual motives.  The
latter had been frustrated by the unlooked-for events which had placed
all his prisoners beyond his control; and he now found himself reduced
to the necessity of suing for favors to those whom it had so lately
been his policy to oblige.

Several of the chiefs had proposed deep and treacherous schemes to
surprise the Delawares and, by gaining possession of their camp, to
recover their prisoners by the same blow; for all agreed that their
honor, their interests, and the peace and happiness of their dead
countrymen, imperiously required them speedily to immolate some
victims to their revenge.  But plans so dangerous to attempt, and of
such doubtful issue, Magua found little difficulty in defeating. He
exposed their risk and fallacy with his usual skill; and it was only
after he had removed every impediment, in the shape of opposing
advice, that he ventured to propose his own projects.

He commenced by flattering the self-love of his auditors; a
never-failing method of commanding attention.  When he had enumerated
the many different occasions on which the Hurons had exhibited their
courage and prowess, in the punishment of insults, he digressed in a
high encomium on the virtue of wisdom.  He painted the quality as
forming the great point of difference between the beaver and other
brutes; between the brutes and men; and, finally, between the Hurons,
in particular, and the rest of the human race.  After he had
sufficiently extolled the property of discretion, he undertook to
exhibit in what manner its use was applicable to the present situation
of their tribe.  On the one hand, he said, was their great pale
father, the governor of the Canadas, who had looked upon his children
with a hard eye since their tomahawks had been so red; on the other, a
people as numerous as themselves, who spoke a different language,
possessed different interests, and loved them not, and who would be
glad of any pretense to bring them in disgrace with the great white
chief.  Then he spoke of their necessities; of the gifts they had a
right to expect for their past services; of their distance from their
proper hunting-grounds and native villages; and of the necessity of
consulting prudence more, and inclination less, in so critical
circumstances.  When he perceived that, while the old men applauded
his moderation, many of the fiercest and most distinguished of the
warriors listened to these politic plans with lowering looks, he
cunningly led them back to the subject which they most loved.  He
spoke openly of the fruits of their wisdom, which he boldly pronounced
would be a complete and final triumph over their enemies.  He even
darkly hinted that their success might be extended, with proper
caution, in such a manner as to include the destruction of all whom
they had reason to hate.  In short, he so blended the warlike with the
artful, the obvious with the obscure, as to flatter the propensities
of both parties, and to leave to each subject of hope, while neither
could say it clearly comprehended his intentions.

The orator, or the politician, who can produce such a state of things,
is commonly popular with his contemporaries, however he may be treated
by posterity.  All perceived that more was meant than was uttered, and
each one believed that the hidden meaning was precisely such as his
own faculties enabled him to understand, or his own wishes led him to
anticipate.

In this happy state of things, it is not surprising that the
management of Magua prevailed.  The tribe consented to act with
deliberation, and with one voice they committed the direction of the
whole affair to the government of the chief who had suggested such
wise and intelligible expedients.

Magua had now attained one great object of all his cunning and
enterprise.  The ground he had lost in the favor of his people was
completely regained, and he found himself even placed at the head of
affairs.  He was, in truth, their ruler; and, so long as he could
maintain his popularity, no monarch could be more despotic, especially
while the tribe continued in a hostile country.  Throwing off,
therefore, the appearance of consultation, he assumed the grave air of
authority necessary to support the dignity of his office.

Runners were despatched for intelligence in different directions;
spies were ordered to approach and feel the encampment of the
Delawares; the warriors were dismissed to their lodges, with an
intimation that their services would soon be needed; and the women and
children were ordered to retire, with a warning that it was their
province to be silent.  When these several arrangements were made,
Magua passed through the village, stopping here and there to pay a
visit where he thought his presence might be flattering to the
individual.  He confirmed his friends in their confidence, fixed the
wavering, and gratified all.  Then he sought his own lodge.  The wife
the Huron chief had abandoned, when he was chased from among his
people, was dead.  Children he had none; and he now occupied a hut,
without companion of any sort.  It was, in fact, the dilapidated and
solitary structure in which David had been discovered, and whom he had
tolerated in his presence, on those few occasions when they met, with
the contemptuous indifference of a haughty superiority.

Hither, then, Magua retired, when his labors of policy were ended.
While others slept, however, he neither knew or sought repose.  Had
there been one sufficiently curious to have watched the movements of
the newly elected chief, he would have seen him seated in a corner of
his lodge, musing on the subject of his future plans, from the hour of
his retirement to the time he had appointed for the warriors to
assemble again.  Occasionally the air breathed through the crevices of
the hut, and the low flame that fluttered about the embers of the fire
threw their wavering light on the person of the sullen recluse.  At
such moments it would not have been difficult to have fancied the
dusky savage the Prince of Darkness brooding on his own fancied
wrongs, and plotting evil.

Long before the day dawned, however, warrior after warrior entered the
solitary hut of Magua, until they had collected to the number of
twenty.  Each bore his rifle, and all the other accouterments of war,
though the paint was uniformly peaceful.  The entrance of these
fierce-looking beings was unnoticed: some seating themselves in the
shadows of the place, and others standing like motionless statues,
until the whole of the designated band was collected.

Then Magua arose and gave the signal to proceed, marching himself in
advance.  They followed their leader singly, and in that well-known
order which has obtained the distinguishing appellation of "Indian
file."  Unlike other men engaged in the spirit-stirring business of
war, they stole from their camp unostentatiously and unobserved
resembling a band of gliding specters, more than warriors seeking the
bubble reputation by deeds of desperate daring.

Instead of taking the path which led directly toward the camp of the
Delawares, Magua led his party for some distance down the windings of
the stream, and along the little artificial lake of the beavers.  The
day began to dawn as they entered the clearing which had been formed
by those sagacious and industrious animals.  Though Magua, who had
resumed his ancient garb, bore the outline of a fox on the dressed
skin which formed his robe, there was one chief of his party who
carried the beaver as his peculiar symbol, or "totem."  There would
have been a species of profanity in the omission, had this man passed
so powerful a community of his fancied kindred, without bestowing some
evidence of his regard.  Accordingly, he paused, and spoke in words as
kind and friendly as if he were addressing more intelligent beings.
He called the animals his cousins, and reminded them that his
protecting influence was the reason they remained unharmed, while many
avaricious traders were prompting the Indians to take their lives.  He
promised a continuance of his favors, and admonished them to be
grateful.  After which, he spoke of the expedition in which he was
himself engaged, and intimated, though with sufficient delicacy and
circumlocution, the expediency of bestowing on their relative a
portion of that wisdom for which they were so renowned.*

* These harangues of the beasts were frequent among the Indians.  They
  often address their victims in this way, reproaching them for
  cowardice or commending their resolution, as they may happen to
  exhibit fortitude or the reverse, in suffering.

During the utterance of this extraordinary address, the companions of
the speaker were as grave and as attentive to his language as though
they were all equally impressed with its propriety.  Once or twice
black objects were seen rising to the surface of the water, and the
Huron expressed pleasure, conceiving that his words were not bestowed
in vain.  Just as he ended his address, the head of a large beaver was
thrust from the door of a lodge, whose earthen walls had been much
injured, and which the party had believed, from its situation, to be
uninhabited.  Such an extraordinary sign of confidence was received by
the orator as a highly favorable omen; and though the animal retreated
a little precipitately, he was lavish of his thanks and commendations.

When Magua thought sufficient time had been lost in gratifying the
family affection of the warrior, he again made the signal to proceed.
As the Indians moved away in a body, and with a step that would have
been inaudible to the ears of any common man, the same
venerable-looking beaver once more ventured his head from its cover.
Had any of the Hurons turned to look behind them, they would have seen
the animal watching their movements with an interest and sagacity that
might easily have been mistaken for reason. Indeed, so very distinct
and intelligible were the devices of the quadruped, that even the most
experienced observer would have been at a loss to account for its
actions, until the moment when the party entered the forest, when the
whole would have been explained, by seeing the entire animal issue
from the lodge, uncasing, by the act, the grave features of
Chingachgook from his mask of fur.



CHAPTER 28

"Brief, I pray for you; for you see, 'tis a busy time with me."--Much
Ado About Nothing

The tribe, or rather half tribe, of Delawares, which has been so often
mentioned, and whose present place of encampment was so nigh the
temporary village of the Hurons, could assemble about an equal number
of warriors with the latter people.  Like their neighbors, they had
followed Montcalm into the territories of the English crown, and were
making heavy and serious inroads on the hunting-grounds of the
Mohawks; though they had seen fit, with the mysterious reserve so
common among the natives, to withhold their assistance at the moment
when it was most required.  The French had accounted for this
unexpected defection on the part of their ally in various ways.  It
was the prevalent opinion, however, that they had been influenced by
veneration for the ancient treaty, that had once made them dependent
on the Six Nations for military protection, and now rendered them
reluctant to encounter their former masters.  As for the tribe itself,
it had been content to announce to Montcalm, through his emissaries,
with Indian brevity, that their hatchets were dull, and time was
necessary to sharpen them.  The politic captain of the Canadas had
deemed it wiser to submit to entertain a passive friend, than by any
acts of ill-judged severity to convert him into an open enemy.

On that morning when Magua led his silent party from the settlement of
the beavers into the forests, in the manner described, the sun rose
upon the Delaware encampment as if it had suddenly burst upon a busy
people, actively employed in all the customary avocations of high
noon.  The women ran from lodge to lodge, some engaged in preparing
their morning's meal, a few earnestly bent on seeking the comforts
necessary to their habits, but more pausing to exchange hasty and
whispered sentences with their friends.  The warriors were lounging in
groups, musing more than they conversed and when a few words were
uttered, speaking like men who deeply weighed their opinions.  The
instruments of the chase were to be seen in abundance among the
lodges; but none departed.  Here and there a warrior was examining his
arms, with an attention that is rarely bestowed on the implements,
when no other enemy than the beasts of the forest is expected to be
encountered.  And occasionally, the eyes of a whole group were turned
simultaneously toward a large and silent lodge in the center of the
village, as if it contained the subject of their common thoughts.

During the existence of this scene, a man suddenly appeared at the
furthest extremity of a platform of rock which formed the level of the
village.  He was without arms, and his paint tended rather to soften
than increase the natural sternness of his austere countenance.  When
in full view of the Delawares he stopped, and made a gesture of amity,
by throwing his arm upward toward heaven, and then letting it fall
impressively on his breast.  The inhabitants of the village answered
his salute by a low murmur of welcome, and encouraged him to advance
by similar indications of friendship.  Fortified by these assurances,
the dark figure left the brow of the natural rocky terrace, where it
had stood a moment, drawn in a strong outline against the blushing
morning sky, and moved with dignity into the very center of the huts.
As he approached, nothing was audible but the rattling of the light
silver ornaments that loaded his arms and neck, and the tinkling of
the little bells that fringed his deerskin moccasins.  He made, as he
advanced, many courteous signs of greeting to the men he passed,
neglecting to notice the women, however, like one who deemed their
favor, in the present enterprise, of no importance. When he had
reached the group in which it was evident, by the haughtiness of their
common mien, that the principal chiefs were collected, the stranger
paused, and then the Delawares saw that the active and erect form that
stood before them was that of the well-known Huron chief, Le Renard
Subtil.

His reception was grave, silent, and wary.  The warriors in front
stepped aside, opening the way to their most approved orator by the
action; one who spoke all those languages that were cultivated among
the northern aborigines.

"The wise Huron is welcome," said the Delaware, in the language of the
Maquas; "he is come to eat his 'succotash'*, with his brothers of the
lakes."

* A dish composed of cracked corn and beans.  It is much used also by
  the whites.  By corn is meant maise.

"He is come," repeated Magua, bending his head with the dignity of an
eastern prince.

The chief extended his arm and taking the other by the wrist, they
once more exchanged friendly salutations.  Then the Delaware invited
his guest to enter his own lodge, and share his morning meal.  The
invitation was accepted; and the two warriors, attended by three or
four of the old men, walked calmly away, leaving the rest of the tribe
devoured by a desire to understand the reasons of so unusual a visit,
and yet not betraying the least impatience by sign or word.

During the short and frugal repast that followed, the conversation was
extremely circumspect, and related entirely to the events of the hunt,
in which Magua had so lately been engaged.  It would have been
impossible for the most finished breeding to wear more of the
appearance of considering the visit as a thing of course, than did his
hosts, notwithstanding every individual present was perfectly aware
that it must be connected with some secret object and that probably of
importance to themselves.  When the appetites of the whole were
appeased, the squaws removed the trenchers and gourds, and the two
parties began to prepare themselves for a subtle trial of their wits.

"Is the face of my great Canada father turned again toward his Huron
children?" demanded the orator of the Delawares.

"When was it ever otherwise?" returned Magua.  "He calls my people
'most beloved'."

The Delaware gravely bowed his acquiescence to what he knew to be
false, and continued:

"The tomahawks of your young men have been very red."

"It is so; but they are now bright and dull; for the Yengeese are
dead, and the Delawares are our neighbors."

The other acknowledged the pacific compliment by a gesture of the
hand, and remained silent.  Then Magua, as if recalled to such a
recollection, by the allusion to the massacre, demanded:

"Does my prisoner give trouble to my brothers?"

"She is welcome."

"The path between the Hurons and the Delawares is short and it is
open; let her be sent to my squaws, if she gives trouble to my
brother."

"She is welcome," returned the chief of the latter nation, still more
emphatically.

The baffled Magua continued silent several minutes, apparently
indifferent, however, to the repulse he had received in this his
opening effort to regain possession of Cora.

"Do my young men leave the Delawares room on the mountains for their
hunts?"  he at length continued.

"The Lenape are rulers of their own hills," returned the other a
little haughtily.

"It is well.  Justice is the master of a red-skin.  Why should they
brighten their tomahawks and sharpen their knives against each other?
Are not the pale faces thicker than the swallows in the season of
flowers?"

"Good!" exclaimed two or three of his auditors at the same time.

Magua waited a little, to permit his words to soften the feelings of
the Delawares, before he added:

"Have there not been strange moccasins in the woods?  Have not my
brothers scented the feet of white men?"

"Let my Canada father come," returned the other, evasively; "his
children are ready to see him."

"When the great chief comes, it is to smoke with the Indians in their
wigwams.  The Hurons say, too, he is welcome.  But the Yengeese have
long arms, and legs that never tire!  My young men dreamed they had
seen the trail of the Yengeese nigh the village of the Delawares!"

"They will not find the Lenape asleep."

"It is well.  The warrior whose eye is open can see his enemy," said
Magua, once more shifting his ground, when he found himself unable to
penetrate the caution of his companion.  "I have brought gifts to my
brother.  His nation would not go on the warpath, because they did not
think it well, but their friends have remembered where they lived."

When he had thus announced his liberal intention, the crafty chief
arose, and gravely spread his presents before the dazzled eyes of his
hosts.  They consisted principally of trinkets of little value,
plundered from the slaughtered females of William Henry.  In the
division of the baubles the cunning Huron discovered no less art than
in their selection.  While he bestowed those of greater value on the
two most distinguished warriors, one of whom was his host, he seasoned
his offerings to their inferiors with such well- timed and apposite
compliments, as left them no ground of complaint.  In short, the whole
ceremony contained such a happy blending of the profitable with the
flattering, that it was not difficult for the donor immediately to
read the effect of a generosity so aptly mingled with praise, in the
eyes of those he addressed.

This well-judged and politic stroke on the part of Magua was not
without instantaneous results.  The Delawares lost their gravity in a
much more cordial expression; and the host, in particular, after
contemplating his own liberal share of the spoil for some moments with
peculiar gratification, repeated with strong emphasis, the words:

"My brother is a wise chief.  He is welcome."

"The Hurons love their friends the Delawares," returned Magua.  "Why
should they not? they are colored by the same sun, and their just men
will hunt in the same grounds after death.  The red-skins should be
friends, and look with open eyes on the white men.  Has not my brother
scented spies in the woods?"

The Delaware, whose name in English signified "Hard Heart," an
appellation that the French had translated into "le Coeur- dur,"
forgot that obduracy of purpose, which had probably obtained him so
significant a title.  His countenance grew very sensibly less stern
and he now deigned to answer more directly.

"There have been strange moccasins about my camp.  They have been
tracked into my lodges."

"Did my brother beat out the dogs?" asked Magua, without adverting in
any manner to the former equivocation of the chief.

"It would not do.  The stranger is always welcome to the children of
the Lenape."

"The stranger, but not the spy."

"Would the Yengeese send their women as spies?  Did not the Huron
chief say he took women in the battle?"

"He told no lie.  The Yengeese have sent out their scouts. They have
been in my wigwams, but they found there no one to say welcome.  Then
they fled to the Delawares--for, say they, the Delawares are our
friends; their minds are turned from their Canada father!"

This insinuation was a home thrust, and one that in a more advanced
state of society would have entitled Magua to the reputation of a
skillful diplomatist.  The recent defection of the tribe had, as they
well knew themselves, subjected the Delawares to much reproach among
their French allies; and they were now made to feel that their future
actions were to be regarded with jealousy and distrust.  There was no
deep insight into causes and effects necessary to foresee that such a
situation of things was likely to prove highly prejudicial to their
future movements.  Their distant villages, their hunting-grounds and
hundreds of their women and children, together with a material part of
their physical force, were actually within the limits of the French
territory.  Accordingly, this alarming annunciation was received, as
Magua intended, with manifest disapprobation, if not with alarm.

"Let my father look in my face," said Le Coeur-dur; "he will see no
change.  It is true, my young men did not go out on the war-path; they
had dreams for not doing so.  But they love and venerate the great
white chief."

"Will he think so when he hears that his greatest enemy is fed in the
camp of his children?  When he is told a bloody Yengee smokes at your
fire?  That the pale face who has slain so many of his friends goes in
and out among the Delawares?  Go! my great Canada father is not a
fool!"

"Where is the Yengee that the Delawares fear?" returned the other;
"who has slain my young men?  Who is the mortal enemy of my Great
Father?"

"La Longue Carabine!"

The Delaware warriors started at the well-known name, betraying by
their amazement, that they now learned, for the first time, one so
famous among the Indian allies of France was within their power.

"What does my brother mean?" demanded Le Coeur-dur, in a tone that, by
its wonder, far exceeded the usual apathy of his race.

"A Huron never lies!" returned Magua, coldly, leaning his head against
the side of the lodge, and drawing his slight robe across his tawny
breast.  "Let the Delawares count their prisoners; they will find one
whose skin is neither red nor pale."

A long and musing pause succeeded.  The chief consulted apart with his
companions, and messengers despatched to collect certain others of the
most distinguished men of the tribe.

As warrior after warrior dropped in, they were each made acquainted,
in turn, with the important intelligence that Magua had just
communicated.  The air of surprise, and the usual low, deep, guttural
exclamation, were common to them all.  The news spread from mouth to
mouth, until the whole encampment became powerfully agitated.  The
women suspended their labors, to catch such syllables as unguardedly
fell from the lips of the consulting warriors.  The boys deserted
their sports, and walking fearlessly among their fathers, looked up in
curious admiration, as they heard the brief exclamations of wonder
they so freely expressed the temerity of their hated foe.  In short,
every occupation was abandoned for the time, and all other pursuits
seemed discarded in order that the tribe might freely indulge, after
their own peculiar manner, in an open expression of feeling.

When the excitement had a little abated, the old men disposed
themselves seriously to consider that which it became the honor and
safety of their tribe to perform, under circumstances of so much
delicacy and embarrassment.  During all these movements, and in the
midst of the general commotion, Magua had not only maintained his
seat, but the very attitude he had originally taken, against the side
of the lodge, where he continued as immovable, and, apparently, as
unconcerned, as if he had no interest in the result.  Not a single
indication of the future intentions of his hosts, however, escaped his
vigilant eyes.  With his consummate knowledge of the nature of the
people with whom he had to deal, he anticipated every measure on which
they decided; and it might almost be said, that, in many instances, he
knew their intentions, even before they became known to themselves.

The council of the Delawares was short.  When it was ended, a general
bustle announced that it was to be immediately succeeded by a solemn
and formal assemblage of the nation. As such meetings were rare, and
only called on occasions of the last importance, the subtle Huron, who
still sat apart, a wily and dark observer of the proceedings, now knew
that all his projects must be brought to their final issue.  He,
therefore, left the lodge and walked silently forth to the place, in
front of the encampment, whither the warriors were already beginning
to collect.

It might have been half an hour before each individual, including even
the women and children, was in his place. The delay had been created
by the grave preparations that were deemed necessary to so solemn and
unusual a conference. But when the sun was seen climbing above the
tops of that mountain, against whose bosom the Delawares had
constructed their encampment, most were seated; and as his bright rays
darted from behind the outline of trees that fringed the eminence,
they fell upon as grave, as attentive, and as deeply interested a
multitude, as was probably ever before lighted by his morning beams.
Its number somewhat exceeded a thousand souls.

In a collection of so serious savages, there is never to be found any
impatient aspirant after premature distinction, standing ready to move
his auditors to some hasty, and, perhaps, injudicious discussion, in
order that his own reputation may be the gainer.  An act of so much
precipitancy and presumption would seal the downfall of precocious
intellect forever.  It rested solely with the oldest and most
experienced of the men to lay the subject of the conference before the
people.  Until such a one chose to make some movement, no deeds in
arms, no natural gifts, nor any renown as an orator, would have
justified the slightest interruption.  On the present occasion, the
aged warrior whose privilege it was to speak, was silent, seemingly
oppressed with the magnitude of his subject.  The delay had already
continued long beyond the usual deliberative pause that always
preceded a conference; but no sign of impatience or surprise escaped
even the youngest boy.  Occasionally an eye was raised from the earth,
where the looks of most were riveted, and strayed toward a particular
lodge, that was, however, in no manner distinguished from those around
it, except in the peculiar care that had been taken to protect it
against the assaults of the weather.

At length one of those low murmurs, that are so apt to disturb a
multitude, was heard, and the whole nation arose to their feet by a
common impulse.  At that instant the door of the lodge in question
opened, and three men, issuing from it, slowly approached the place of
consultation.  They were all aged, even beyond that period to which
the oldest present had reached; but one in the center, who leaned on
his companions for support, had numbered an amount of years to which
the human race is seldom permitted to attain.  His frame, which had
once been tall and erect, like the cedar, was now bending under the
pressure of more than a century. The elastic, light step of an Indian
was gone, and in its place he was compelled to toil his tardy way over
the ground, inch by inch.  His dark, wrinkled countenance was in
singular and wild contrast with the long white locks which floated on
his shoulders, in such thickness, as to announce that generations had
probably passed away since they had last been shorn.

The dress of this patriarch--for such, considering his vast age, in
conjunction with his affinity and influence with his people, he might
very properly be termed--was rich and imposing, though strictly after
the simple fashions of the tribe.  His robe was of the finest skins,
which had been deprived of their fur, in order to admit of a
hieroglyphical representation of various deeds in arms, done in former
ages.  His bosom was loaded with medals, some in massive silver, and
one or two even in gold, the gifts of various Christian potentates
during the long period of his life.  He also wore armlets, and
cinctures above the ankles, of the latter precious metal.  His head,
on the whole of which the hair had been permitted to grow, the
pursuits of war having so long been abandoned, was encircled by a sort
of plated diadem, which, in its turn, bore lesser and more glittering
ornaments, that sparkled amid the glossy hues of three drooping
ostrich feathers, dyed a deep black, in touching contrast to the color
of his snow-white locks.  His tomahawk was nearly hid in silver, and
the handle of his knife shone like a horn of solid gold.

So soon as the first hum of emotion and pleasure, which the sudden
appearance of this venerated individual created, had a little
subsided, the name of "Tamenund" was whispered from mouth to mouth.
Magua had often heard the fame of this wise and just Delaware; a
reputation that even proceeded so far as to bestow on him the rare
gift of holding secret communion with the Great Spirit, and which has
since transmitted his name, with some slight alteration, to the white
usurpers of his ancient territory, as the imaginary tutelar saint* of
a vast empire.  The Huron chief, therefore, stepped eagerly out a
little from the throng, to a spot whence he might catch a nearer
glimpse of the features of the man, whose decision was likely to
produce so deep an influence on his own fortunes.

* The Americans sometimes called their tutelar saint Tamenay, a
  corruption of the name of the renowned chief here introduced.  There
  are many traditions which speak of the character and power of
  Tamenund.

The eyes of the old man were closed, as though the organs were wearied
with having so long witnessed the selfish workings of the human
passions.  The color of his skin differed from that of most around
him, being richer and darker, the latter having been produced by
certain delicate and mazy lines of complicated and yet beautiful
figures, which had bee