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

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"Salar.--Why, I am sure, if he forfeit, thou wilt not
take his flesh; what's that good for? Shy.--To bait fish
withal; if it will feed nothing else, it will feed my
revenge."--Merchant of Venice


The shades of evening had come to increase the dreariness of
the place, when the party entered the ruins of William
Henry. The scout and his companions immediately made their
preparations to pass the night there; but with an
earnestness and sobriety of demeanor that betrayed how much
the unusual horrors they had just witnessed worked on even
their practised feelings. A few fragments of rafters were
reared against a blackened wall; and when Uncas had covered
them slightly with brush, the temporary accommodations were
deemed sufficient. The young Indian point3ed toward his
rude hut when his labor was ended; and Heyward, who
understood the meaning of the silent gestures, gently urged
Munro to enter. Leaving the bereaved old man alone with his
sorrows, Duncan immediately returned into the open air, too
much excited himself to seek the repose he had recommended
to his veteran friend.

While Hawkeye and the Indians lighted their fire and took
their evening's repast, a frugal meal of dried bear's meat,
the young man paid a visit to that curtain of the
dilapidated fort which looked out on the sheet of the
Horican. The wind had fallen, and the waves were already
rolling on the sandy beach beneath him, in a more regular
and tempered succession. The clouds, as if tired of their
furious chase, were breaking asunder; the heavier volumes,
gathering in black masses about the horizon, while the
lighter scud still hurried above the water, or eddied among
the tops of the mountains, like broken flights of birds,
hovering around their roosts. Here and there, a red and
fiery star struggled through the drifting vapor, furnishing
a lurid gleam of brightness to the dull aspect of the
heavens. Within the bosom of the encircling hills, an
impenetrable darkness had already settled; and the plain lay
like a vast and deserted charnel-house, without omen or
whisper to disturb the slumbers of its numerous and hapless

Of this scene, so chillingly in accordance with the past,
Duncan stood for many minutes a rapt observer. His eyes
wandered from the bosom of the mound, where the foresters
were seated around their glimmering fire, to the fainter
light which still lingered in the skies, and then rested
long and anxiously on the embodied gloom, which lay like a
dreary void on that side of him where the dead reposed. He
soon fancied that inexplicable sounds arose from the place,
though so indistinct and stolen, as to render not only their
nature but even their existence uncertain. Ashamed of his
apprehensions, the young man turned toward the water, and
strove to divert his attention to the mimic stars that dimly
glimmered on its moving surface. Still, his too-conscious
ears performed their ungrateful duty, as if to warn him of
some lurking danger. At length, a swift trampling seemed,
quite audibly, to rush athwart the darkness. Unable any
longer to quiet his uneasiness, Duncan spoke in a low voice
to the scout, requesting him to ascend the mound to the
place where he stood. Hawkeye threw his rifle across an arm
and complied, but with an air so unmoved and calm, as to
prove how much he counted on the security of their position.

"Listen!" said Duncan, when the other placed himself
deliberately at his elbow; "there are suppressed noises on
the plain which may show Montcalm has not yet entirely
deserted his conquest."

"Then ears are better than eyes," said the undisturbed
scout, who, having just deposited a portion of a bear
between his grinders, spoke thick and slow, like one whose
mouth was doubly occupied. "I myself saw him caged in Ty,
with all his host; for your Frenchers, when they have done a
clever thing, like to get back, and have a dance, or a merry-
making, with the women over their success."

"I know not. An Indian seldom sleeps in war, and plunder
may keep a Huron here after his tribe has departed. It
would be well to extinguish the fire, and have a watch--
listen! you hear the noise I mean!"

"An Indian more rarely lurks about the graves. Though ready
to slay, and not over regardful of the means, he is commonly
content with the scalp, unless when blood is hot, and temper
up; but after spirit is once fairly gone, he forgets his enmity,
and is willing to let the dead find their natural rest.
Speaking of spirits, major, are you of opinion that the heaven
of a red-skin and of us whites will be of one and the same?"

"No doubt--no doubt. I thought I heard it again! or was it
the rustling of the leaves in the top of the beech?"

"For my own part," continued Hawkeye, turning his face for a
moment in the direction indicated by Heyward, but with a
vacant and careless manner, "I believe that paradise is
ordained for happiness; and that men will be indulged in it
according to their dispositions and gifts. I, therefore,
judge that a red-skin is not far from the truth when he
believes he is to find them glorious hunting grounds of
which his traditions tell; nor, for that matter, do I think
it would be any disparagement to a man without a cross to
pass his time--"

"You hear it again?" interrupted Duncan.

"Ay, ay; when food is scarce, and when food is plenty, a
wolf grows bold," said the unmoved scout. "There would be
picking, too, among the skins of the devils, if there was
light and time for the sport. But, concerning the life that
is to come, major; I have heard preachers say, in the
settlements, that heaven was a place of rest. Now, men's
minds differ as to their ideas of enjoyment. For myself,
and I say it with reverence to the ordering of Providence,
it would be no great indulgence to be kept shut up in those
mansions of which they preach, having a natural longing for
motion and the chase."

Duncan, who was now made to understand the nature of the
noise he had heard, answered, with more attention to the
subject which the humor of the scout had chosen for
discussion, by saying:

"It is difficult to account for the feelings that may attend
the last great change."

"It would be a change, indeed, for a man who has passed his
days in the open air," returned the single-minded scout;
"and who has so often broken his fast on the head waters of
the Hudson, to sleep within sound of the roaring Mohawk.
But it is a comfort to know we serve a merciful Master,
though we do it each after his fashion, and with great
tracts of wilderness atween us--what goes there?"

"Is it not the rushing of the wolves you have mentioned?"

Hawkeye slowly shook his head, and beckoned for Duncan to
follow him to a spot to which the glare from the fire did
not extend. When he had taken this precaution, the scout
placed himself in an attitude of intense attention and
listened long and keenly for a repetition of the low sound
that had so unexpectedly startled him. His vigilance,
however, seemed exercised in vain; for after a fruitless
pause, he whispered to Duncan:

"We must give a call to Uncas. The boy has Indian senses,
and he may hear what is hid from us; for, being a white-
skin, I will not deny my nature."

The young Mohican, who was conversing in a low voice with
his father, started as he heard the moaning of an owl, and,
springing on his feet, he looked toward the black mounds, as
if seeking the place whence the sounds proceeded. The scout
repeated the call, and in a few moments, Duncan saw the
figure of Uncas stealing cautiously along the rampart, to
the spot where they stood.

Hawkeye explained his wishes in a very few words, which were
spoken in the Delaware tongue. So soon as Uncas was in
possession of the reason why he was summoned, he threw
himself flat on the turf; where, to the eyes of Duncan, he
appeared to lie quiet and motionless. Surprised at the
immovable attitude of the young warrior, and curious to
observe the manner in which he employed his faculties to
obtain the desired information, Heyward advanced a few
steps, and bent over the dark object on which he had kept
his eye riveted. Then it was he discovered that the form of
Uncas vanished, and that he beheld only the dark outline of
an inequality in the embankment.

"What has become of the Mohican?" he demanded of the scout,
stepping back in amazement; "it was here that I saw him
fall, and could have sworn that here he yet remained."

"Hist! speak lower; for we know not what ears are open, and
the Mingoes are a quick-witted breed. As for Uncas, he is
out on the plain, and the Maquas, if any such are about us,
will find their equal."

"You think that Montcalm has not called off all his Indians?
Let us give the alarm to our companions, that we may stand
to our arms. Here are five of us, who are not unused to
meet an enemy."

"Not a word to either, as you value your life. Look at the
Sagamore, how like a grand Indian chief he sits by the fire.
If there are any skulkers out in the darkness, they will
never discover, by his countenance, that we suspect danger
at hand."

"But they may discover him, and it will prove his death.
His person can be too plainly seen by the light of that
fire, and he will become the first and most certain victim."

"It is undeniable that now you speak the truth," returned
the scout, betraying more anxiety than was usual; "yet what
can be done? A single suspicious look might bring on an
attack before we are ready to receive it. He knows, by the
call I gave to Uncas, that we have struck a scent; I will
tell him that we are on the trail of the Mingoes; his Indian
nature will teach him how to act."

The scout applied his fingers to his mouth, and raised a low
hissing sound, that caused Duncan at first to start aside,
believing that he heard a serpent. The head of Chingachgook
was resting on a hand, as he sat musing by himself but the
moment he had heard the warning of the animal whose name he
bore, he arose to an upright position, and his dark eyes
glanced swiftly and keenly on every side of him. With his
sudden and, perhaps, involuntary movement, every appearance
of surprise or alarm ended. His rifle lay untouched, and
apparently unnoticed, within reach of his hand. The
tomahawk that he had loosened in his belt for the sake of
ease, was even suffered to fall from its usual situation to
the ground, and his form seemed to sink, like that of a man
whose nerves and sinews were suffered to relax for the
purpose of rest. Cunningly resuming his former position,
though with a change of hands, as if the movement had been
made merely to relieve the limb, the native awaited the
result with a calmness and fortitude that none but an Indian
warrior would have known how to exercise.

But Heyward saw that while to a less instructed eye the
Mohican chief appeared to slumber, his nostrils were
expanded, his head was turned a little to one side, as if to
assist the organs of hearing, and that his quick and rapid
glances ran incessantly over every object within the power
of his vision.

"See the noble fellow!" whispered Hawkeye, pressing the arm
of Heyward; "he knows that a look or a motion might
disconsart our schemes, and put us at the mercy of them imps --"

He was interrupted by the flash and report of a rifle. The
air was filled with sparks of fire, around that spot where
the eyes of Heyward were still fastened, with admiration and
wonder. A second look told him that Chingachgook had
disappeared in the confusion. In the meantime, the scout
had thrown forward his rifle, like one prepared for service,
and awaited impatiently the moment when an enemy might rise
to view. But with the solitary and fruitless attempt made
on the life of Chingachgook, the attack appeared to have
terminated. Once or twice the listeners thought they could
distinguish the distant rustling of bushes, as bodies of
some unknown description rushed through them; nor was it
long before Hawkeye pointed out the "scampering of the
wolves," as they fled precipitately before the passage of
some intruder on their proper domains. After an impatient
and breathless pause, a plunge was heard in the water, and
it was immediately followed by the report of another rifle.

"There goes Uncas!" said the scout; "the boy bears a smart
piece! I know its crack, as well as a father knows the
language of his child, for I carried the gun myself until a
better offered."

"What can this mean?" demanded Duncan' "we are watched, and,
as it would seem, marked for destruction."

"Yonder scattered brand can witness that no good was
intended, and this Indian will testify that no harm has been
done," returned the scout, dropping his rifle across his arm
again, and following Chingachgook, who just then reappeared
within the circle of light, into the bosom of the work.
"How is it, Sagamore? Are the Mingoes upon us in earnest,
or is it only one of those reptiles who hang upon the skirts
of a war-party, to scalp the dead, go in, and make their boast
among the squaws of the valiant deeds done on the pale faces?"

Chingachgook very quietly resumed his seat; nor did he make
any reply, until after he had examined the firebrand which
had been struck by the bullet that had nearly proved fatal
to himself. After which he was content to reply, holding a
single finger up to view, with the English monosyllable:


"I thought as much," returned Hawkeye, seating himself; "and
as he had got the cover of the lake afore Uncas pulled upon
him, it is more than probable the knave will sing his lies
about some great ambushment, in which he was outlying on the
trail of two Mohicans and a white hunter--for the officers
can be considered as little better than idlers in such a
scrimmage. Well, let him--let him. There are always some
honest men in every nation, though heaven knows, too, that
they are scarce among the Maquas, to look down an upstart
when he brags ag'in the face of reason. The varlet sent his
lead within whistle of your ears, Sagamore."

Chingachgook turned a calm and incurious eye toward the
place where the ball had struck, and then resumed his former
attitude, with a composure that could not be disturbed by so
trifling an incident. Just then Uncas glided into the
circle, and seated himself at the fire, with the same
appearance of indifference as was maintained by his father.

Of these several moments Heyward was a deeply interested and
wondering observer. It appeared to him as though the
foresters had some secret means of intelligence, which had
escaped the vigilance of his own faculties. In place of
that eager and garrulous narration with which a white youth
would have endeavored to communicate, and perhaps
exaggerate, that which had passed out in the darkness of the
plain, the young warrior was seemingly content to let his
deeds speak for themselves. It was, in fact, neither the
moment nor the occasion for an Indian to boast of his
exploits; and it is probably that, had Heyward neglected to
inquire, not another syllable would, just then, have been
uttered on the subject.

"What has become of our enemy, Uncas?" demanded Duncan; "we
heard your rifle, and hoped you had not fired in vain."

The young chief removed a fold of his hunting skirt, and
quietly exposed the fatal tuft of hair, which he bore as the
symbol of victory. Chingachgook laid his hand on the scalp,
and considered it for a moment with deep attention. Then
dropping it, with disgust depicted in his strong features,
he ejaculated:


"Oneida!" repeated the scout, who was fast losing his
interest in the scene, in an apathy nearly assimilated to
that of his red associates, but who now advanced in uncommon
earnestness to regard the bloody badge. "By the Lord, if
the Oneidas are outlying upon the trail, we shall by flanked
by devils on every side of us! Now, to white eyes there is
no difference between this bit of skin and that of any other
Indian, and yet the Sagamore declares it came from the poll
of a Mingo; nay, he even names the tribe of the poor devil,
with as much ease as if the scalp was the leaf of a book,
and each hair a letter. What right have Christian whites to
boast of their learning, when a savage can read a language
that would prove too much for the wisest of them all! What
say you, lad, of what people was the knave?"

Uncas raised his eyes to the face of the scout, and
answered, in his soft voice:


"Oneida, again! when one Indian makes a declaration it is
commonly true; but when he is supported by his people, set
it down as gospel!"

"The poor fellow has mistaken us for French," said Heyward;
"or he would not have attempted the life of a friend."

"He mistake a Mohican in his paint for a Huron! You would
be as likely to mistake the white-coated grenadiers of
Montcalm for the scarlet jackets of the Royal Americans,"
returned the scout. "No, no, the sarpent knew his errand;
nor was there any great mistake in the matter, for there is
but little love atween a Delaware and a Mingo, let their
tribes go out to fight for whom they may, in a white
quarrel. For that matter, though the Oneidas do serve his
sacred majesty, who is my sovereign lord and master, I
should not have deliberated long about letting off 'killdeer'
at the imp myself, had luck thrown him in my way."

"That would have been an abuse of our treaties, and unworthy
of your character."

"When a man consort much with a people," continued Hawkeye,
"if they were honest and he no knave, love will grow up
atwixt them. It is true that white cunning has managed to
throw the tribes into great confusion, as respects friends
and enemies; so that the Hurons and the Oneidas, who speak
the same tongue, or what may be called the same, take each
other's scalps, and the Delawares are divided among
themselves; a few hanging about their great council-fire on
their own river, and fighting on the same side with the
Mingoes while the greater part are in the Canadas, out of
natural enmity to the Maquas--thus throwing everything
into disorder, and destroying all the harmony of warfare.
Yet a red natur' is not likely to alter with every shift of
policy; so that the love atwixt a Mohican and a Mingo is
much like the regard between a white man and a sarpent."

"I regret to hear it; for I had believed those natives who
dwelt within our boundaries had found us too just and
liberal, not to identify themselves fully with our quarrels."

"Why, I believe it is natur' to give a preference to one's
own quarrels before those of strangers. Now, for myself, I
do love justice; and, therefore, I will not say I hate a
Mingo, for that may be unsuitable to my color and my
religion, though I will just repeat, it may have been owing
to the night that 'killdeer' had no hand in the death of
this skulking Oneida."

Then, as if satisfied with the force of his own reasons,
whatever might be their effect on the opinions of the other
disputant, the honest but implacable woodsman turned from
the fire, content to let the controversy slumber. Heyward
withdrew to the rampart, too uneasy and too little
accustomed to the warfare of the woods to remain at ease
under the possibility of such insidious attacks. Not so,
however, with the scout and the Mohicans. Those acute and
long-practised senses, whose powers so often exceed the
limits of all ordinary credulity, after having detected the
danger, had enabled them to ascertain its magnitude and
duration. Not one of the three appeared in the least to
doubt their perfect security, as was indicated by the
preparations that were soon made to sit in council over
their future proceedings.

The confusion of nations, and even of tribes, to which
Hawkeye alluded, existed at that period in the fullest
force. The great tie of language, and, of course, of a
common origin, was severed in many places; and it was one of
its consequences, that the Delaware and the Mingo (as the
people of the Six Nations were called) were found fighting
in the same ranks, while the latter sought the scalp of the
Huron, though believed to be the root of his own stock. The
Delawares were even divided among themselves. Though love
for the soil which had belonged to his ancestors kept the
Sagamore of the Mohicans with a small band of followers who
were serving at Edward, under the banners of the English
king, by far the largest portion of his nation were known to
be in the field as allies of Montcalm. The reader probably
knows, if enough has not already been gleaned form this
narrative, that the Delaware, or Lenape, claimed to be the
progenitors of that numerous people, who once were masters
of most of the eastern and northern states of America, of
whom the community of the Mohicans was an ancient and highly
honored member.

It was, of course, with a perfect understanding of the
minute and intricate interests which had armed friend
against friend, and brought natural enemies to combat by
each other's side, that the scout and his companions now
disposed themselves to deliberate on the measures that were
to govern their future movements, amid so many jarring and
savage races of men. Duncan knew enough of Indian customs
to understand the reason that the fire was replenished, and
why the warriors, not excepting Hawkeye, took their seats
within the curl of its smoke with so much gravity and
decorum. Placing himself at an angle of the works, where he
might be a spectator of the scene without, he awaited the
result with as much patience as he could summon.

After a short and impressive pause, Chingachgook lighted a
pipe whose bowl was curiously carved in one of the soft
stones of the country, and whose stem was a tube of wood,
and commenced smoking. When he had inhaled enough of the
fragrance of the soothing weed, he passed the instrument
into the hands of the scout. In this manner the pipe had
made its rounds three several times, amid the most profound
silence, before either of the party opened his lips. Then
the Sagamore, as the oldest and highest in rank, in a few
calm and dignified words, proposed the subject for
deliberation. He was answered by the scout; and
Chingachgook rejoined, when the other objected to his
opinions. But the youthful Uncas continued a silent and
respectful listener, until Hawkeye, in complaisance,
demanded his opinion. Heyward gathered from the manners of
the different speakers, that the father and son espoused one
side of a disputed question, while the white man maintained
the other. The contest gradually grew warmer, until it was
quite evident the feelings of the speakers began to be
somewhat enlisted in the debate.

Notwithstanding the increasing warmth of the amicable
contest, the most decorous Christian assembly, not even
excepting those in which its reverend ministers are
collected, might have learned a wholesome lesson of
moderation from the forbearance and courtesy of the
disputants. The words of Uncas were received with the same
deep attention as those which fell from the maturer wisdom
of his father; and so far from manifesting any impatience,
neither spoke in reply, until a few moments of silent
meditation were, seemingly, bestowed in deliberating on what
had already been said.

The language of the Mohicans was accompanied by gestures so
direct and natural that Heyward had but little difficulty in
following the thread of their argument. On the other hand,
the scout was obscure; because from the lingering pride of
color, he rather affected the cold and artificial manner
which characterizes all classes of Anglo-Americans when
unexcited. By the frequency with which the Indians
described the marks of a forest trial, it was evident they
urged a pursuit by land, while the repeated sweep of
Hawkeye's arm toward the Horican denoted that he was for a
passage across its waters.

The latter was to every appearance fast losing ground, and
the point was about to be decided against him, when he arose
to his feet, and shaking off his apathy, he suddenly assumed
the manner of an Indian, and adopted all the arts of native
eloquence. Elevating an arm, he pointed out the track of
the sun, repeating the gesture for every day that was
necessary to accomplish their objects. Then he delineated a
long and painful path, amid rocks and water-courses. The
age and weakness of the slumbering and unconscious Munro
were indicated by signs too palpable to be mistaken. Duncan
perceived that even his own powers were spoken lightly of,
as the scout extended his palm, and mentioned him by the
appellation of the "Open Hand"--a name his liberality had
purchased of all the friendly tribes. Then came a
representation of the light and graceful movements of a
canoe, set in forcible contrast to the tottering steps of
one enfeebled and tired. He concluded by pointing to the
scalp of the Oneida, and apparently urging the necessity of
their departing speedily, and in a manner that should leave
no trail.

The Mohicans listened gravely, and with countenances that
reflected the sentiments of the speaker. Conviction
gradually wrought its influence, and toward the close of
Hawkeye's speech, his sentences were accompanied by the
customary exclamation of commendation. In short, Uncas and
his father became converts to his way of thinking,
abandoning their own previously expressed opinions with a
liberality and candor that, had they been the
representatives of some great and civilized people, would
have infallibly worked their political ruin, by destroying
forever their reputation for consistency.

The instant the matter in discussion was decided, the
debate, and everything connected with it, except the result
appeared to be forgotten. Hawkeye, without looking round to
read his triumph in applauding eyes, very composedly
stretched his tall frame before the dying embers, and closed
his own organs in sleep.

Left now in a measure to themselves, the Mohicans, whose
time had been so much devoted to the interests of others,
seized the moment to devote some attention to themselves.
Casting off at once the grave and austere demeanor of an
Indian chief, Chingachgook commenced speaking to his son in
the soft and playful tones of affection. Uncas gladly met
the familiar air of his father; and before the hard
breathing of the scout announced that he slept, a complete
change was effected in the manner of his two associates.

It is impossible to describe the music of their language,
while thus engaged in laughter and endearments, in such a
way as to render it intelligible to those whose ears have
never listened to its melody. The compass of their voices,
particularly that of the youth, was wonderful--extending
from the deepest bass to tones that were even feminine in
softness. The eyes of the father followed the plastic and
ingenious movements of the son with open delight, and he
never failed to smile in reply to the other's contagious but
low laughter. While under the influence of these gentle and
natural feelings, no trace of ferocity was to be seen in the
softened features of the Sagamore. His figured panoply of
death looked more like a disguise assumed in mockery than a
fierce annunciation of a desire to carry destruction in his

After an hour had passed in the indulgence of their better
feelings, Chingachgook abruptly announced his desire to
sleep, by wrapping his head in his blanket and stretching
his form on the naked earth. The merriment of Uncas
instantly ceased; and carefully raking the coals in such a manner
that they should impart their warmth to his father's feet,
the youth sought his own pillow among the ruins of the place.

Imbibing renewed confidence from the security of these
experienced foresters, Heyward soon imitated their example;
and long before the night had turned, they who lay in the
bosom of the ruined work, seemed to slumber as heavily as
the unconscious multitude whose bones were already beginning
to bleach on the surrounding plain.



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