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

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"I fear we shall outsleep the coming morn As much as we this
night have overwatched!"--Midsummer Night's Dream


The instant the shock of this sudden misfortune had abated,
Duncan began to make his observations on the appearance and
proceedings of their captors. Contrary to the usages of the
natives in the wantonness of their success they had
respected, not only the persons of the trembling sisters,
but his own. The rich ornaments of his military attire had
indeed been repeatedly handled by different individuals of
the tribes with eyes expressing a savage longing to possess
the baubles; but before the customary violence could be
resorted to, a mandate in the authoritative voice of the
large warrior, already mentioned, stayed the uplifted hand,
and convinced Heyward that they were to be reserved for some
object of particular moment.

While, however, these manifestations of weakness were
exhibited by the young and vain of the party, the more
experienced warriors continued their search throughout both
caverns, with an activity that denoted they were far from
being satisfied with those fruits of their conquest which
had already been brought to light. Unable to discover any
new victim, these diligent workers of vengeance soon
approached their male prisoners, pronouncing the name "La
Longue Carabine," with a fierceness that could not be easily
mistaken. Duncan affected not to comprehend the meaning of
their repeated and violent interrogatories, while his
companion was spared the effort of a similar deception by
his ignorance of French. Wearied at length by their
importunities, and apprehensive of irritating his captors by
too stubborn a silence, the former looked about him in quest
of Magua, who might interpret his answers to questions which
were at each moment becoming more earnest and threatening.

The conduct of this savage had formed a solitary exception
to that of all his fellows. While the others were busily
occupied in seeking to gratify their childish passion for
finery, by plundering even the miserable effects of the
scout, or had been searching with such bloodthirsty
vengeance in their looks for their absent owner, Le Renard
had stood at a little distance from the prisoners, with a
demeanor so quiet and satisfied, as to betray that he had
already effected the grand purpose of his treachery. When
the eyes of Heyward first met those of his recent guide, he
turned them away in horror at the sinister though calm look
he encountered. Conquering his disgust, however, he was
able, with an averted face, to address his successful enemy.

"Le Renard Subtil is too much of a warrior," said the
reluctant Heyward, "to refuse telling an unarmed man what
his conquerors say."

"They ask for the hunter who knows the paths through the
woods," returned Magua, in his broken English, laying his
hand, at the same time, with a ferocious smile, on the
bundle of leaves with which a wound on his own shoulder was
bandaged. "'La Longue Carabine'! his rifle is good, and his
eye never shut; but, like the short gun of the white chief,
it is nothing against the life of Le Subtil."

"Le Renard is too brave to remember the hurts received in
war, or the hands that gave them."

"Was it war, when the tired Indian rested at the sugartree
to taste his corn! who filled the bushes with creeping
enemies! who drew the knife, whose tongue was peace, while
his heart was colored with blood! Did Magua say that the
hatchet was out of the ground, and that his hand had dug it

As Duncan dared not retort upon his accuser by reminding him
of his own premeditated treachery, and disdained to
deprecate his resentment by any words of apology, he
remained silent. Magua seemed also content to rest the
controversy as well as all further communication there, for
he resumed the leaning attitude against the rock from which,
in momentary energy, he had arisen. But the cry of "La
Longue Carabine" was renewed the instant the impatient
savages perceived that the short dialogue was ended.

"You hear," said Magua, with stubborn indifference: "the red
Hurons call for the life of 'The Long Rifle', or they will
have the blood of him that keep him hid!"

"He is gone--escaped; he is far beyond their reach."

Renard smiled with cold contempt, as he answered:

"When the white man dies, he thinks he is at peace; but the
red men know how to torture even the ghosts of their
enemies. Where is his body? Let the Hurons see his scalp."

"He is not dead, but escaped."

Magua shook his head incredulously.

"Is he a bird, to spread his wings; or is he a fish, to swim
without air! The white chief read in his books, and he
believes the Hurons are fools!"

"Though no fish, 'The Long Rifle' can swim. He floated down
the stream when the powder was all burned, and when the eyes
of the Hurons were behind a cloud."

"And why did the white chief stay?" demanded the still
incredulous Indian. "Is he a stone that goes to the bottom,
or does the scalp burn his head?"

"That I am not stone, your dead comrade, who fell into the
falls, might answer, were the life still in him," said the
provoked young man, using, in his anger, that boastful
language which was most likely to excite the admiration of
an Indian. "The white man thinks none but cowards desert
their women."

Magua muttered a few words, inaudibly, between his teeth,
before he continued, aloud:

"Can the Delawares swim, too, as well as crawl in the
bushes? Where is 'Le Gros Serpent'?"

Duncan, who perceived by the use of these Canadian
appellations, that his late companions were much better
known to his enemies than to himself, answered, reluctantly:
"He also is gone down with the water."

"'Le Cerf Agile' is not here?"

"I know not whom you call 'The Nimble Deer'," said Duncan
gladly profiting by any excuse to create delay.

"Uncas," returned Magua, pronouncing the Delaware name with
even greater difficulty than he spoke his English words.
"'Bounding Elk' is what the white man says, when he calls to
the young Mohican."

"Here is some confusion in names between us, Le Renard,"
said Duncan, hoping to provoke a discussion. "Daim is the
French for deer, and cerf for stag; elan is the true term,
when one would speak of an elk."

"Yes," muttered the Indian, in his native tongue; "the pale
faces are prattling women! they have two words for each
thing, while a red-skin will make the sound of his voice
speak to him." Then, changing his language, he continued,
adhering to the imperfect nomenclature of his provincial
instructors. "The deer is swift, but weak; the elk is
swift, but strong; and the son of 'Le Serpent' is 'Le Cerf
Agile' Has he leaped the river to the woods?"

"If you mean the younger Delaware, he, too, has gone down
with the water."

As there was nothing improbable to an Indian in the manner
of the escape, Magua admitted the truth of what he had
heard, with a readiness that afforded additional evidence
how little he would prize such worthless captives. With his
companions, however, the feeling was manifestly different.

The Hurons had awaited the result of this short dialogue
with characteristic patience, and with a silence that
increased until there was a general stillness in the band.
When Heyward ceased to speak, they turned their eyes, as one
man, on Magua, demanding, in this expressive manner, an
explanation of what had been said. Their interpreter
pointed to the river, and made them acquainted with the
result, as much by the action as by the few words he
uttered. When the fact was generally understood, the
savages raised a frightful yell, which declared the extent
of their disappointment. Some ran furiously to the water's
edge, beating the air with frantic gestures, while others
spat upon the element, to resent the supposed treason it had
committed against their acknowledged rights as conquerors.
A few, and they not the least powerful and terrific of the
band, threw lowering looks, in which the fiercest passion
was only tempered by habitual self-command, at those
captives who still remained in their power, while one or two
even gave vent to their malignant feelings by the most
menacing gestures, against which neither the sex nor the
beauty of the sisters was any protection. The young soldier
made a desperate but fruitless effort to spring to the side
of Alice, when he saw the dark hand of a savage twisted in
the rich tresses which were flowing in volumes over her
shoulders, while a knife was passed around the head from
which they fell, as if to denote the horrid manner in which
it was about to be robbed of its beautiful ornament. But
his hands were bound; and at the first movement he made, he
felt the grasp of the powerful Indian who directed the band,
pressing his shoulder like a vise. Immediately conscious
how unavailing any struggle against such an overwhelming
force must prove, he submitted to his fate, encouraging his
gentle companions by a few low and tender assurances, that
the natives seldom failed to threaten more than they

But while Duncan resorted to these words of consolation to
quiet the apprehensions of the sisters, he was not so weak
as to deceive himself. He well knew that the authority of
an Indian chief was so little conventional, that it was
oftener maintained by physical superiority than by any moral
supremacy he might possess. The danger was, therefore,
magnified exactly in proportion to the number of the savage
spirits by which they were surrounded. The most positive
mandate from him who seemed the acknowledged leader, was
liable to be violated at each moment by any rash hand that
might choose to sacrifice a victim to the manes of some dead
friend or relative. While, therefore, he sustained an
outward appearance of calmness and fortitude, his heart
leaped into his throat, whenever any of their fierce captors
drew nearer than common to the helpless sisters, or fastened
one of their sullen, wandering looks on those fragile forms
which were so little able to resist the slightest assault.

His apprehensions were, however, greatly relieved, when he
saw that the leader had summoned his warriors to himself in
counsel. Their deliberations were short, and it would seem,
by the silence of most of the party, the decision unanimous.
By the frequency with which the few speakers pointed in the
direction of the encampment of Webb, it was apparent they
dreaded the approach of danger from that quarter. This
consideration probably hastened their determination, and
quickened the subsequent movements.

During his short conference, Heyward, finding a respite from
his gravest fears, had leisure to admire the cautious manner
in which the Hurons had made their approaches, even after
hostilities had ceased.

It has already been stated that the upper half of the island
was a naked rock, and destitute of any other defenses than a
few scattered logs of driftwood. They had selected this
point to make their descent, having borne the canoe through
the wood around the cataract for that purpose. Placing
their arms in the little vessel a dozen men clinging to its
sides had trusted themselves to the direction of the canoe,
which was controlled by two of the most skillful warriors,
in attitudes that enabled them to command a view of the
dangerous passage. Favored by this arrangement, they
touched the head of the island at that point which had
proved so fatal to their first adventurers, but with the
advantages of superior numbers, and the possession of
firearms. That such had been the manner of their descent
was rendered quite apparent to Duncan; for they now bore the
light bark from the upper end of the rock, and placed it in
the water, near the mouth of the outer cavern. As soon as
this change was made, the leader made signs to the prisoners
to descend and enter.

As resistance was impossible, and remonstrance useless,
Heyward set the example of submission, by leading the way
into the canoe, where he was soon seated with the sisters
and the still wondering David. Notwithstanding the Hurons
were necessarily ignorant of the little channels among the
eddies and rapids of the stream, they knew the common signs
of such a navigation too well to commit any material
blunder. When the pilot chosen for the task of guiding the
canoe had taken his station, the whole band plunged again
into the river, the vessel glided down the current, and in a
few moments the captives found themselves on the south bank
of the stream, nearly opposite to the point where they had
struck it the preceding evening.

Here was held another short but earnest consultation, during
which the horses, to whose panic their owners ascribed their
heaviest misfortune, were led from the cover of the woods,
and brought to the sheltered spot. The band now divided.
The great chief, so often mentioned, mounting the charger of
Heyward, led the way directly across the river, followed by
most of his people, and disappeared in the woods, leaving
the prisoners in charge of six savages, at whose head was Le
Renard Subtil. Duncan witnessed all their movements with
renewed uneasiness.

He had been fond of believing, from the uncommon forbearance
of the savages, that he was reserved as a prisoner to be
delivered to Montcalm. As the thoughts of those who are in
misery seldom slumber, and the invention is never more
lively than when it is stimulated by hope, however feeble
and remote, he had even imagined that the parental feelings
of Munro were to be made instrumental in seducing him from
his duty to the king. For though the French commander bore
a high character for courage and enterprise, he was also
thought to be expert in those political practises which do
not always respect the nicer obligations of morality, and
which so generally disgraced the European diplomacy of that

All those busy and ingenious speculations were now
annihilated by the conduct of his captors. That portion of
the band who had followed the huge warrior took the route
toward the foot of the Horican, and no other expectation was
left for himself and companions, than that they were to be
retained as hopeless captives by their savage conquerors.
Anxious to know the worst, and willing, in such an
emergency, to try the potency of gold he overcame his
reluctance to speak to Magua. Addressing himself to his
former guide, who had now assumed the authority and manner
of one who was to direct the future movements of the party,
he said, in tones as friendly and confiding as he could

"I would speak to Magua, what is fit only for so great a
chief to hear."

The Indian turned his eyes on the young soldier scornfully,
as he answered:

"Speak; trees have no ears."

"But the red Hurons are not deaf; and counsel that is fit
for the great men of a nation would make the young warriors
drunk. If Magua will not listen, the officer of the king
knows how to be silent."

The savage spoke carelessly to his comrades, who were
busied, after their awkward manner, in preparing the horses
for the reception of the sisters, and moved a little to one
side, whither by a cautious gesture he induced Heyward to

"Now, speak," he said; "if the words are such as Magua
should hear."

"Le Renard Subtil has proved himself worthy of the honorable
name given to him by his Canada fathers," commenced Heyward;
"I see his wisdom, and all that he has done for us, and
shall remember it when the hour to reward him arrives. Yes!
Renard has proved that he is not only a great chief in
council, but one who knows how to deceive his enemies!"

"What has Renard done?" coldly demanded the Indian.

"What! has he not seen that the woods were filled with
outlying parties of the enemies, and that the serpent could
not steal through them without being seen? Then, did he not
lose his path to blind the eyes of the Hurons? Did he not
pretend to go back to his tribe, who had treated him ill,
and driven him from their wigwams like a dog? And when he
saw what he wished to do, did we not aid him, by making a
false face, that the Hurons might think the white man
believed that his friend was his enemy? Is not all this
true? And when Le Subtil had shut the eyes and stopped the
ears of his nation by his wisdom, did they not forget that
they had once done him wrong, and forced him to flee to the
Mohawks? And did they not leave him on the south side of the
river, with their prisoners, while they have gone foolishly
on the north? Does not Renard mean to turn like a fox on his
footsteps, and to carry to the rich and gray-headed
Scotchman his daughters? Yes, Magua, I see it all, and I
have already been thinking how so much wisdom and honesty
should be repaid. First, the chief of William Henry will
give as a great chief should for such a service. The medal*
of Magua will no longer be on tin, but of beaten gold; his
horn will run over with powder; dollars will be as plenty in
his pouch as pebbles on the shore of Horican; and the deer
will lick his hand, for they will know it to be vain to fly
from the rifle he will carry! As for myself, I know not how
to exceed the gratitude of the Scotchman, but I--yes, I

* It has long been a practice with the whites to
conciliate the important men of the Indians by presenting
medals, which are worn in the place of their own rude
ornaments. Those given by the English generally bear the
impression of the reigning king, and those given by the
Americans that of the president.

"What will the young chief, who comes from toward the sun,
give?" demanded the Huron, observing that Heyward hesitated
in his desire to end the enumeration of benefits with that
which might form the climax of an Indian's wishes.

"He will make the fire-water from the islands in the salt
lake flow before the wigwam of Magua, until the heart of the
Indian shall be lighter than the feathers of the humming-
bird, and his breath sweeter than the wild honeysuckle."

Le Renard had listened gravely as Heyward slowly proceeded
in this subtle speech. When the young man mentioned the
artifice he supposed the Indian to have practised on his own
nation, the countenance of the listener was veiled in an
expression of cautious gravity. At the allusion to the
injury which Duncan affected to believe had driven the Huron
from his native tribe, a gleam of such ungovernable ferocity
flashed from the other's eyes, as induced the adventurous
speaker to believe he had struck the proper chord. And by
the time he reached the part where he so artfully blended
the thirst of vengeance with the desire of gain, he had, at
least, obtained a command of the deepest attention of the
savage. The question put by Le Renard had been calm, and
with all the dignity of an Indian; but it was quite
apparent, by the thoughtful expression of the listener's
countenance, that the answer was most cunningly devised.
The Huron mused a few moments, and then laying his hand on
the rude bandages of his wounded shoulder, he said, with
some energy:

"Do friends make such marks?"

"Would 'La Longue Carbine' cut one so slight on an enemy?"

"Do the Delawares crawl upon those they love like snakes,
twisting themselves to strike?"

"Would 'Le Gros Serpent' have been heard by the ears of one
he wished to be deaf?"

"Does the white chief burn his powder in the faces of his

"Does he ever miss his aim, when seriously bent to kill?"
returned Duncan, smiling with well acted sincerity.

Another long and deliberate pause succeeded these
sententious questions and ready replies. Duncan saw that
the Indian hesitated. In order to complete his victory, he
was in the act of recommencing the enumeration of the
rewards, when Magua made an expressive gesture and said:

"Enough; Le Renard is a wise chief, and what he does will be
seen. Go, and keep the mouth shut. When Magua speaks, it
will be the time to answer."

Heyward, perceiving that the eyes of his companion were
warily fastened on the rest of the band, fell back
immediately, in order to avoid the appearance of any
suspicious confederacy with their leader. Magua approached
the horses, and affected to be well pleased with the
diligence and ingenuity of his comrades. He then signed to
Heyward to assist the sisters into the saddles, for he
seldom deigned to use the English tongue, unless urged by
some motive of more than usual moment.

There was no longer any plausible pretext for delay; and
Duncan was obliged, however reluctantly, to comply. As he
performed this office, he whispered his reviving hopes in
the ears of the trembling females, who, through dread of
encountering the savage countenances of their captors,
seldom raised their eyes from the ground. The mare of David
had been taken with the followers of the large chief; in
consequence, its owner, as well as Duncan, was compelled to
journey on foot. The latter did not, however, so much
regret this circumstance, as it might enable him to retard
the speed of the party; for he still turned his longing
looks in the direction of Fort Edward, in the vain
expectation of catching some sound from that quarter of the
forest, which might denote the approach of succor. When all
were prepared, Magua made the signal to proceed, advancing
in front to lead the party in person. Next followed David,
who was gradually coming to a true sense of his condition,
as the effects of the wound became less and less apparent.
The sisters rode in his rear, with Heyward at their side,
while the Indians flanked the party, and brought up the
close of the march, with a caution that seemed never to tire.

In this manner they proceeded in uninterrupted silence,
except when Heyward addressed some solitary word of comfort
to the females, or David gave vent to the moanings of his
spirit, in piteous exclamations, which he intended should
express the humility of resignation. Their direction lay
toward the south, and in a course nearly opposite to the
road to William Henry. Notwithstanding this apparent
adherence in Magua to the original determination of his
conquerors, Heyward could not believe his tempting bait was
so soon forgotten; and he knew the windings of an Indian's
path too well to suppose that its apparent course led
directly to its object, when artifice was at all necessary.
Mile after mile was, however, passed through the boundless
woods, in this painful manner, without any prospect of a
termination to their journey. Heyward watched the sun, as
he darted his meridian rays through the branches of the
trees, and pined for the moment when the policy of Magua
should change their route to one more favorable to his
hopes. Sometimes he fancied the wary savage, despairing of
passing the army of Montcalm in safety, was holding his way
toward a well-known border settlement, where a distinguished
officer of the crown, and a favored friend of the Six
Nations, held his large possessions, as well as his usual
residence. To be delivered into the hands of Sir William
Johnson was far preferable to being led into the wilds of
Canada; but in order to effect even the former, it would be
necessary to traverse the forest for many weary leagues,
each step of which was carrying him further from the scene
of the war, and, consequently, from the post, not only of
honor, but of duty.

Cora alone remembered the parting injunctions of the scout,
and whenever an opportunity offered, she stretched forth her
arm to bend aside the twigs that met her hands. But the
vigilance of the Indians rendered this act of precaution
both difficult and dangerous. She was often defeated in her
purpose, by encountering their watchful eyes, when it became
necessary to feign an alarm she did not feel, and occupy the
limb by some gesture of feminine apprehension. Once, and
once only, was she completely successful; when she broke
down the bough of a large sumach, and by a sudden thought,
let her glove fall at the same instant. This sign, intended
for those that might follow, was observed by one of her
conductors, who restored the glove, broke the remaining
branches of the bush in such a manner that it appeared to
proceed from the struggling of some beast in its branches,
and then laid his hand on his tomahawk, with a look so
significant, that it put an effectual end to these stolen
memorials of their passage.

As there were horses, to leave the prints of their
footsteps, in both bands of the Indians, this interruption
cut off any probable hopes of assistance being conveyed
through the means of their trail.

Heyward would have ventured a remonstrance had there been
anything encouraging in the gloomy reserve of Magua. But
the savage, during all this time, seldom turned to look at
his followers, and never spoke. With the sun for his only
guide, or aided by such blind marks as are only known to the
sagacity of a native, he held his way along the barrens of
pine, through occasional little fertile vales, across brooks
and rivulets, and over undulating hills, with the accuracy
of instinct, and nearly with the directness of a bird. He
never seemed to hesitate. Whether the path was hardly
distinguishable, whether it disappeared, or whether it lay
beaten and plain before him, made no sensible difference in
his speed or certainty. It seemed as if fatigue could not
affect him. Whenever the eyes of the wearied travelers rose
from the decayed leaves over which they trod, his dark form
was to be seen glancing among the stems of the trees in
front, his head immovably fastened in a forward position,
with the light plume on his crest fluttering in a current of
air, made solely by the swiftness of his own motion.

But all this diligence and speed were not without an object.
After crossing a low vale, through which a gushing brook
meandered, he suddenly ascended a hill, so steep and
difficult of ascent, that the sisters were compelled to
alight in order to follow. When the summit was gained, they
found themselves on a level spot, but thinly covered with
trees, under one of which Magua had thrown his dark form, as
if willing and ready to seek that rest which was so much
needed by the whole party.



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