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

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"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

"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

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

"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

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

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.



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