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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"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

"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

"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

"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

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

"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

"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.



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