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

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"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

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

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

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.



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