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

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"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

"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

"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."


"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

"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

"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

"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

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

"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

"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.



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