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The Last of the Mohicans
A Narrative of 1757
by James Fenimore Cooper

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"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

"I will dismount."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Go! Whom call you Le Renard?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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