TWT logo

Together We Teach
Reading Room

Take time to read.
Reading is the
fountain of wisdom.

| Home | Reading Room The Last of the Mohicans

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

< BACK    NEXT >




"EDG.--Before you fight the battle open this letter."--Lear


Major Heyward found Munro attended only by his daughters.
Alice sat upon his knee, parting the gray hairs on the
forehead of the old man with her delicate fingers; and
whenever he affected to frown on her trifling, appeasing his
assumed anger by pressing her ruby lips fondly on his
wrinkled brow. Cora was seated nigh them, a calm and amused
looker-on; regarding the wayward movements of her more
youthful sister with that species of maternal fondness which
characterized her love for Alice. Not only the dangers
through which they had passed, but those which still
impended above them, appeared to be momentarily forgotten,
in the soothing indulgence of such a family meeting. It
seemed as if they had profited by the short truce, to devote
an instant to the purest and best affection; the daughters
forgetting their fears, and the veteran his cares, in the
security of the moment. Of this scene, Duncan, who, in his
eagerness to report his arrival, had entered unannounced,
stood many moments an unobserved and a delighted spectator.
But the quick and dancing eyes of Alice soon caught a
glimpse of his figure reflected from a glass, and she sprang
blushing from her father's knee, exclaiming aloud:

"Major Heyward!"

"What of the lad?" demanded her father; "I have sent him to
crack a little with the Frenchman. Ha, sir, you are young,
and you're nimble! Away with you, ye baggage; as if there
were not troubles enough for a soldier, without having his
camp filled with such prattling hussies as yourself!"

Alice laughingly followed her sister, who instantly led the
way from an apartment where she perceived their presence was
no longer desirable. Munro, instead of demanding the result
of the young man's mission, paced the room for a few
moments, with his hands behind his back, and his head
inclined toward the floor, like a man lost in thought. At
length he raised his eyes, glistening with a father's
fondness, and exclaimed:

"They are a pair of excellent girls, Heyward, and such as
any one may boast of."

"You are not now to learn my opinion of your daughters,
Colonel Munro."

"True, lad, true," interrupted the impatient old man; "you
were about opening your mind more fully on that matter the
day you got in, but I did not think it becoming in an old
soldier to be talking of nuptial blessings and wedding jokes
when the enemies of his king were likely to be unbidden
guests at the feast. But I was wrong, Duncan, boy, I was
wrong there; and I am now ready to hear what you have to

"Notwithstanding the pleasure your assurance gives me, dear
sir, I have just now, a message from Montcalm--"

"Let the Frenchman and all his host go to the devil, sir!"
exclaimed the hasty veteran. "He is not yet master of
William Henry, nor shall he ever be, provided Webb proves
himself the man he should. No, sir, thank Heaven we are not
yet in such a strait that it can be said Munro is too much
pressed to discharge the little domestic duties of his own
family. Your mother was the only child of my bosom friend,
Duncan; and I'll just give you a hearing, though all the
knights of St. Louis were in a body at the sally-port, with
the French saint at their head, crying to speak a word under
favor. A pretty degree of knighthood, sir, is that which
can be bought with sugar hogsheads! and then your twopenny
marquisates. The thistle is the order for dignity and
antiquity; the veritable 'nemo me impune lacessit' of
chivalry. Ye had ancestors in that degree, Duncan, and they
were an ornament to the nobles of Scotland."

Heyward, who perceived that his superior took a malicious
pleasure in exhibiting his contempt for the message of the
French general, was fain to humor a spleen that he knew
would be short-lived; he therefore, replied with as much
indifference as he could assume on such a subject:

"My request, as you know, sir, went so far as to presume to
the honor of being your son."

"Ay, boy, you found words to make yourself very plainly
comprehended. But, let me ask ye, sir, have you been as
intelligible to the girl?"

"On my honor, no," exclaimed Duncan, warmly; "there would
have been an abuse of a confided trust, had I taken
advantage of my situation for such a purpose."

"Your notions are those of a gentleman, Major Heyward, and
well enough in their place. But Cora Munro is a maiden too
discreet, and of a mind too elevated and improved, to need
the guardianship even of a father."


"Ay--Cora! we are talking of your pretensions to Miss
Munro, are we not, sir?"

"I--I--I was not conscious of having mentioned her
name," said Duncan, stammering.

"And to marry whom, then, did you wish my consent, Major
Heyward?" demanded the old soldier, erecting himself in the
dignity of offended feeling.

"You have another, and not less lovely child."

"Alice!" exclaimed the father, in an astonishment equal to that
with which Duncan had just repeated the name of her sister.

"Such was the direction of my wishes, sir."

The young man awaited in silence the result of the
extraordinary effect produced by a communication, which, as
it now appeared, was so unexpected. For several minutes
Munro paced the chamber with long and rapid strides, his
rigid features working convulsively, and every faculty
seemingly absorbed in the musings of his own mind. At
length, he paused directly in front of Heyward, and riveting
his eyes upon those of the other, he said, with a lip that
quivered violently:

"Duncan Heyward, I have loved you for the sake of him whose
blood is in your veins; I have loved you for your own good
qualities; and I have loved you, because I thought you would
contribute to the happiness of my child. But all this love
would turn to hatred, were I assured that what I so much
apprehend is true."

"God forbid that any act or thought of mine should lead to
such a change!" exclaimed the young man, whose eye never
quailed under the penetrating look it encountered. Without
adverting to the impossibility of the other's comprehending
those feelings which were hid in his own bosom, Munro
suffered himself to be appeased by the unaltered countenance
he met, and with a voice sensibly softened, he continued:

"You would be my son, Duncan, and you're ignorant of the
history of the man you wish to call your father. Sit ye
down, young man, and I will open to you the wounds of a
seared heart, in as few words as may be suitable."

By this time, the message of Montcalm was as much forgotten
by him who bore it as by the man for whose ears it was
intended. Each drew a chair, and while the veteran communed
a few moments with his own thoughts, apparently in sadness,
the youth suppressed his impatience in a look and attitude
of respectful attention. At length, the former spoke:

"You'll know, already, Major Heyward, that my family was
both ancient and honorable," commenced the Scotsman; "though
it might not altogether be endowed with that amount of
wealth that should correspond with its degree. I was,
maybe, such an one as yourself when I plighted my faith to
Alice Graham, the only child of a neighboring laird of some
estate. But the connection was disagreeable to her father,
on more accounts than my poverty. I did, therefore, what an
honest man should--restored the maiden her troth, and
departed the country in the service of my king. I had seen
many regions, and had shed much blood in different lands,
before duty called me to the islands of the West Indies.
There it was my lot to form a connection with one who in
time became my wife, and the mother of Cora. She was the
daughter of a gentleman of those isles, by a lady whose
misfortune it was, if you will," said the old man, proudly,
"to be descended, remotely, from that unfortunate class who
are so basely enslaved to administer to the wants of a
luxurious people. Ay, sir, that is a curse, entailed on
Scotland by her unnatural union with a foreign and trading
people. But could I find a man among them who would dare to
reflect on my child, he should feel the weight of a father's
anger! Ha! Major Heyward, you are yourself born at the
south, where these unfortunate beings are considered of a
race inferior to your own."

"'Tis most unfortunately true, sir," said Duncan, unable any
longer to prevent his eyes from sinking to the floor in

"And you cast it on my child as a reproach! You scorn to
mingle the blood of the Heywards with one so degraded--
lovely and virtuous though she be?" fiercely demanded the
jealous parent.

"Heaven protect me from a prejudice so unworthy of my
reason!" returned Duncan, at the same time conscious of such
a feeling, and that as deeply rooted as if it had been
ingrafted in his nature. "The sweetness, the beauty, the
witchery of your younger daughter, Colonel Munro, might
explain my motives without imputing to me this injustice."

"Ye are right, sir," returned the old man, again changing
his tones to those of gentleness, or rather softness; "the
girl is the image of what her mother was at her years, and
before she had become acquainted with grief. When death
deprived me of my wife I returned to Scotland, enriched by
the marriage; and, would you think it, Duncan! the suffering
angel had remained in the heartless state of celibacy twenty
long years, and that for the sake of a man who could forget
her! She did more, sir; she overlooked my want of faith,
and, all difficulties being now removed, she took me for her

"And became the mother of Alice?" exclaimed Duncan, with an
eagerness that might have proved dangerous at a moment when
the thoughts of Munro were less occupied that at present.

"She did, indeed," said the old man, "and dearly did she pay
for the blessing she bestowed. But she is a saint in
heaven, sir; and it ill becomes one whose foot rests on the
grave to mourn a lot so blessed. I had her but a single
year, though; a short term of happiness for one who had seen
her youth fade in hopeless pining."

There was something so commanding in the distress of the old
man, that Heyward did not dare to venture a syllable of
consolation. Munro sat utterly unconscious of the other's
presence, his features exposed and working with the anguish
of his regrets, while heavy tears fell from his eyes, and
rolled unheeded from his cheeks to the floor. At length he
moved, and as if suddenly recovering his recollection; when
he arose, and taking a single turn across the room, he
approached his companion with an air of military grandeur,
and demanded:

"Have you not, Major Heyward, some communication that I
should hear from the marquis de Montcalm?"

Duncan started in his turn, and immediately commenced in an
embarrassed voice, the half-forgotten message. It is
unnecessary to dwell upon the evasive though polite manner
with which the French general had eluded every attempt of
Heyward to worm from him the purport of the communication he
had proposed making, or on the decided, though still
polished message, by which he now gave his enemy to
understand, that, unless he chose to receive it in person,
he should not receive it at all. As Munro listened to the
detail of Duncan, the excited feelings of the father
gradually gave way before the obligations of his station,
and when the other was done, he saw before him nothing but
the veteran, swelling with the wounded feelings of a soldier.

"You have said enough, Major Heyward," exclaimed the angry
old man; "enough to make a volume of commentary on French
civility. Here has this gentleman invited me to a
conference, and when I send him a capable substitute, for
ye're all that, Duncan, though your years are but few, he
answers me with a riddle."

"He may have thought less favorably of the substitute, my
dear sir; and you will remember that the invitation, which
he now repeats, was to the commandant of the works, and not
to his second."

"Well, sir, is not a substitute clothed with all the power
and dignity of him who grants the commission? He wishes to
confer with Munro! Faith, sir, I have much inclination to
indulge the man, if it should only be to let him behold the
firm countenance we maintain in spite of his numbers and his
summons. There might be not bad policy in such a stroke,
young man."

Duncan, who believe it of the last importance that they
should speedily come to the contents of the letter borne by
the scout, gladly encouraged this idea.

"Without doubt, he could gather no confidence by witnessing
our indifference," he said.

"You never said truer word. I could wish, sir, that he
would visit the works in open day, and in the form of a
storming party; that is the least failing method of proving
the countenance of an enemy, and would be far preferable to
the battering system he has chosen. The beauty and
manliness of warfare has been much deformed, Major Heyward,
by the arts of your Monsieur Vauban. Our ancestors were far
above such scientific cowardice!"

"It may be very true, sir; but we are now obliged to repel art
by art. What is your pleasure in the matter of the interview?"

"I will meet the Frenchman, and that without fear or delay;
promptly, sir, as becomes a servant of my royal master. Go,
Major Heyward, and give them a flourish of the music; and
send out a messenger to let them know who is coming. We
will follow with a small guard, for such respect is due to
one who holds the honor of his king in keeping; and hark'ee,
Duncan," he added, in a half whisper, though they were
alone, "it may be prudent to have some aid at hand, in case
there should be treachery at the bottom of it all."

The young man availed himself of this order to quit the
apartment; and, as the day was fast coming to a close, he
hastened without delay, to make the necessary arrangements.
A very few minutes only were necessary to parade a few
files, and to dispatch an orderly with a flag to announce
the approach of the commandant of the fort. When Duncan had
done both these, he led the guard to the sally-port, near
which he found his superior ready, waiting his appearance.
As soon as the usual ceremonials of a military departure
were observed, the veteran and his more youthful companion
left the fortress, attended by the escort.

They had proceeded only a hundred yards from the works, when
the little array which attended the French general to the
conference was seen issuing from the hollow way which formed
the bed of a brook that ran between the batteries of the
besiegers and the fort. From the moment that Munro left his
own works to appear in front of his enemy's, his air had
been grand, and his step and countenance highly military.
The instant he caught a glimpse of the white plume that
waved in the hat of Montcalm, his eye lighted, and age no
longer appeared to possess any influence over his vast and
still muscular person.

"Speak to the boys to be watchful, sir," he said, in an
undertone, to Duncan; "and to look well to their flints and
steel, for one is never safe with a servant of these
Louis's; at the same time, we shall show them the front of
men in deep security. Ye'll understand me, Major Heyward!"

He was interrupted by the clamor of a drum from the
approaching Frenchmen, which was immediately answered, when
each party pushed an orderly in advance, bearing a white
flag, and the wary Scotsman halted with his guard close at
his back. As soon as this slight salutation had passed,
Montcalm moved toward them with a quick but graceful step,
baring his head to the veteran, and dropping his spotless
plume nearly to the earth in courtesy. If the air of Munro
was more commanding and manly, it wanted both the ease and
insinuating polish of that of the Frenchman. Neither spoke
for a few moments, each regarding the other with curious and
interested eyes. Then, as became his superior rank and the
nature of the interview, Montcalm broke the silence. After
uttering the usual words of greeting, he turned to Duncan,
and continued, with a smile of recognition, speaking always
in French:

"I am rejoiced, monsieur, that you have given us the
pleasure of your company on this occasion. There will be no
necessity to employ an ordinary interpreter; for, in your hands,
I feel the same security as if I spoke your language myself."

Duncan acknowledged the compliment, when Montcalm, turning
to his guard, which in imitation of that of their enemies,
pressed close upon him, continued:

"En arriere, mes enfants--il fait chaud--retirez-vous un peu."

Before Major Heyward would imitate this proof of confidence,
he glanced his eyes around the plain, and beheld with
uneasiness the numerous dusky groups of savages, who looked
out from the margin of the surrounding woods, curious
spectators of the interview.

"Monsieur de Montcalm will readily acknowledge the
difference in our situation," he said, with some
embarrassment, pointing at the same time toward those
dangerous foes, who were to be seen in almost every
direction. "were we to dismiss our guard, we should stand
here at the mercy of our enemies."

"Monsieur, you have the plighted faith of 'un gentilhomme
Franáais', for your safety," returned Montcalm, laying his
hand impressively on his heart; "it should suffice."

"It shall. Fall back," Duncan added to the officer who led
the escort; "fall back, sir, beyond hearing, and wait for orders."

Munro witnessed this movement with manifest uneasiness; nor
did he fail to demand an instant explanation.

"Is it not our interest, sir, to betray distrust?" retorted
Duncan. "Monsieur de Montcalm pledges his word for our
safety, and I have ordered the men to withdraw a little, in
order to prove how much we depend on his assurance."

"It may be all right, sir, but I have no overweening
reliance on the faith of these marquesses, or marquis, as
they call themselves. Their patents of nobility are too
common to be certain that they bear the seal of true honor."

"You forget, dear sir, that we confer with an officer,
distinguished alike in Europe and America for his deeds.
From a soldier of his reputation we can have nothing to

The old man made a gesture of resignation, though his rigid
features still betrayed his obstinate adherence to a
distrust, which he derived from a sort of hereditary
contempt of his enemy, rather than from any present signs
which might warrant so uncharitable a feeling. Montcalm
waited patiently until this little dialogue in demi-voice
was ended, when he drew nigher, and opened the subject of
their conference.

"I have solicited this interview from your superior,
monsieur," he said, "because I believe he will allow himself
to be persuaded that he has already done everything which is
necessary for the honor of his prince, and will now listen
to the admonitions of humanity. I will forever bear
testimony that his resistance has been gallant, and was
continued as long as there was hope."

When this opening was translated to Munro, he answered with
dignity, but with sufficient courtesy:

"However I may prize such testimony from Monsieur Montcalm,
it will be more valuable when it shall be better merited."

The French general smiled, as Duncan gave him the purport of
this reply, and observed:

"What is now so freely accorded to approved courage, may be
refused to useless obstinacy. Monsieur would wish to see my
camp, and witness for himself our numbers, and the
impossibility of his resisting them with success?"

"I know that the king of France is well served," returned
the unmoved Scotsman, as soon as Duncan ended his
translation; "but my own royal master has as many and as
faithful troops."

"Though not at hand, fortunately for us," said Montcalm,
without waiting, in his ardor, for the interpreter. "There
is a destiny in war, to which a brave man knows how to
submit with the same courage that he faces his foes."

"Had I been conscious that Monsieur Montcalm was master of
the English, I should have spared myself the trouble of so
awkward a translation," said the vexed Duncan, dryly;
remembering instantly his recent by-play with Munro.

"Your pardon, monsieur," rejoined the Frenchman, suffering a
slight color to appear on his dark cheek. "There is a vast
difference between understanding and speaking a foreign
tongue; you will, therefore, please to assist me still."
Then, after a short pause, he added: "These hills afford us
every opportunity of reconnoitering your works, messieurs,
and I am possibly as well acquainted with their weak
condition as you can be yourselves."

"Ask the French general if his glasses can reach to the
Hudson," said Munro, proudly; "and if he knows when and
where to expect the army of Webb."

"Let General Webb be his own interpreter," returned the
politic Montcalm, suddenly extending an open letter toward
Munro as he spoke; "you will there learn, monsieur, that his
movements are not likely to prove embarrassing to my army."

The veteran seized the offered paper, without waiting for
Duncan to translate the speech, and with an eagerness that
betrayed how important he deemed its contents. As his eye
passed hastily over the words, his countenance changed from
its look of military pride to one of deep chagrin; his lip
began to quiver; and suffering the paper to fall from his
hand, his head dropped upon his chest, like that of a man
whose hopes were withered at a single blow. Duncan caught
the letter from the ground, and without apology for the
liberty he took, he read at a glance its cruel purport.
Their common superior, so far from encouraging them to
resist, advised a speedy surrender, urging in the plainest
language, as a reason, the utter impossibility of his
sending a single man to their rescue.

"Here is no deception!" exclaimed Duncan, examining the
billet both inside and out; "this is the signature of Webb,
and must be the captured letter."

"The man has betrayed me!" Munro at length bitterly
exclaimed; "he has brought dishonor to the door of one where
disgrace was never before known to dwell, and shame has he
heaped heavily on my gray hairs."

"Say not so," cried Duncan; "we are yet masters of the fort,
and of our honor. Let us, then, sell our lives at such a rate
as shall make our enemies believe the purchase too dear."

"Boy, I thank thee," exclaimed the old man, rousing himself
from his stupor; "you have, for once, reminded Munro of his
duty. We will go back, and dig our graves behind those

"Messieurs," said Montcalm, advancing toward them a step, in
generous interest, "you little know Louis de St. Veran if
you believe him capable of profiting by this letter to
humble brave men, or to build up a dishonest reputation for
himself. Listen to my terms before you leave me."

"What says the Frenchman?" demanded the veteran, sternly;
"does he make a merit of having captured a scout, with a
note from headquarters? Sir, he had better raise this
siege, to go and sit down before Edward if he wishes to
frighten his enemy with words."

Duncan explained the other's meaning.

"Monsieur de Montcalm, we will hear you," the veteran added,
more calmly, as Duncan ended.

"To retain the fort is now impossible," said his liberal
enemy; "it is necessary to the interests of my master that
it should be destroyed; but as for yourselves and your brave
comrades, there is no privilege dear to a soldier that shall
be denied."

"Our colors?" demanded Heyward.

"Carry them to England, and show them to your king."

"Our arms?"

"Keep them; none can use them better."

"Our march; the surrender of the place?"

"Shall all be done in a way most honorable to yourselves."

Duncan now turned to explain these proposals to his
commander, who heard him with amazement, and a sensibility
that was deeply touched by so unusual and unexpected

"Go you, Duncan," he said; "go with this marquess, as,
indeed, marquess he should be; go to his marquee and arrange
it all. I have lived to see two things in my old age that
never did I expect to behold. An Englishman afraid to
support a friend, and a Frenchman too honest to profit by
his advantage."

So saying, the veteran again dropped his head to his chest,
and returned slowly toward the fort, exhibiting, by the
dejection of his air, to the anxious garrison, a harbinger
of evil tidings.

From the shock of this unexpected blow the haughty feelings
of Munro never recovered; but from that moment there
commenced a change in his determined character, which
accompanied him to a speedy grave. Duncan remained to
settle the terms of the capitulation. He was seen to re-
enter the works during the first watches of the night, and
immediately after a private conference with the commandant,
to leave them again. It was then openly announced that
hostilities must cease--Munro having signed a treaty by
which the place was to be yielded to the enemy, with the
morning; the garrison to retain their arms, the colors and
their baggage, and, consequently, according to military
opinion, their honor.



Top of Page

< BACK    NEXT >

| Home | Reading Room The Last of the Mohicans




Why not spread the word about Together We Teach?
Simply copy & paste our home page link below into your emails... 

Want the Together We Teach link to place on your website?
Copy & paste either home page link on your webpage...
Together We Teach 





Use these free website tools below for a more powerful experience at Together We Teach!

****Google™ search****

For a more specific search, try using quotation marks around phrases (ex. "You are what you read")


*** Google Translate™ translation service ***

 Translate text:


  Translate a web page:

****What's the Definition?****
(Simply insert the word you want to lookup)

 Search:   for   

S D Glass Enterprises

Privacy Policy

Warner Robins, GA, USA