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 >




"Bot.--Abibl we all met? Qui.--Pat--pat; and here's
a marvelous convenient place for our rehearsal."--
Midsummer Night's Dream


The reader may better imagine, that we describe the surprise
of Heyward. His lurking Indians were suddenly converted
into four-footed beasts; his lake into a beaver pond; his
cataract into a dam, constructed by those industrious and
ingenious quadrupeds; and a suspected enemy into his tried
friend, David Gamut, the master of psalmody. The presence
of the latter created so many unexpected hopes relative to
the sisters that, without a moment's hesitation, the young
man broke out of his ambush, and sprang forward to join the
two principal actors in the scene.

The merriment of Hawkeye was not easily appeased. Without
ceremony, and with a rough hand, he twirled the supple Gamut
around on his heel, and more than once affirmed that the
Hurons had done themselves great credit in the fashion of
his costume. Then, seizing the hand of the other, he
squeezed it with a grip that brought tears into the eyes of
the placid David, and wished him joy of his new condition.

"You were about opening your throat-practisings among the
beavers, were ye?" he said. "The cunning devils know half
the trade already, for they beat the time with their tails,
as you heard just now; and in good time it was, too, or
'killdeer' might have sounded the first note among them. I
have known greater fools, who could read and write, than an
experienced old beaver; but as for squalling, the animals
are born dumb! What think you of such a song as this?"

David shut his sensitive ears, and even Heyward apprised as
he was of the nature of the cry, looked upward in quest of
the bird, as the cawing of a crow rang in the air about them.

"See!" continued the laughing scout, as he pointed toward
the remainder of the party, who, in obedience to the signal,
were already approaching; "this is music which has its
natural virtues; it brings two good rifles to my elbow, to
say nothing of the knives and tomahawks. But we see that
you are safe; now tell us what has become of the maidens."

"They are captives to the heathen," said David; "and, though
greatly troubled in spirit, enjoying comfort and safety in
the body."

"Both!" demanded the breathless Heyward.

"Even so. Though our wayfaring has been sore and our
sustenance scanty, we have had little other cause for
complaint, except the violence done our feelings, by being
thus led in captivity into a far land."

"Bless ye for these very words!" exclaimed the trembling
Munro; "I shall then receive my babes, spotless and angel-
like, as I lost them!"

"I know not that their delivery is at hand," returned the
doubting David; "the leader of these savages is possessed of
an evil spirit that no power short of Omnipotence can tame.
I have tried him sleeping and waking, but neither sounds nor
language seem to touch his soul."

"Where is the knave?" bluntly interrupted the scout.

"He hunts the moose to-day, with his young men; and
tomorrow, as I hear, they pass further into the forests, and
nigher to the borders of Canada. The elder maiden is
conveyed to a neighboring people, whose lodges are situate
beyond yonder black pinnacle of rock; while the younger is
detained among the women of the Hurons, whose dwellings are
but two short miles hence, on a table-land, where the fire
had done the office of the axe, and prepared the place for
their reception."

"Alice, my gentle Alice!" murmured Heyward; "she has lost
the consolation of her sister's presence!"

"Even so. But so far as praise and thanksgiving in psalmody
can temper the spirit in affliction, she has not suffered."

"Has she then a heart for music?"

"Of the graver and more solemn character; though it must be
acknowledged that, in spite of all my endeavors, the maiden
weeps oftener than she smiles. At such moments I forbear to
press the holy songs; but there are many sweet and
comfortable periods of satisfactory communication, when the
ears of the savages are astounded with the upliftings of our

"And why are you permitted to go at large, unwatched?"

David composed his features into what he intended should
express an air of modest humility, before he meekly replied:

"Little be the praise to such a worm as I. But, though the
power of psalmody was suspended in the terrible business of
that field of blood through which we have passed, it has
recovered its influence even over the souls of the heathen,
and I am suffered to go and come at will."

The scout laughed, and, tapping his own forehead
significantly, he perhaps explained the singular indulgence
more satisfactorily when he said:

"The Indians never harm a non-composser. But why, when the
path lay open before your eyes, did you not strike back on
your own trail (it is not so blind as that which a squirrel
would make), and bring in the tidings to Edward?"

The scout, remembering only his own sturdy and iron nature,
had probably exacted a task that David, under no circumstances,
could have performed. But, without entirely losing the
meekness of his air, the latter was content to answer:

"Though my soul would rejoice to visit the habitations of
Christendom once more, my feet would rather follow the
tender spirits intrusted to my keeping, even into the
idolatrous province of the Jesuits, than take one step
backward, while they pined in captivity and sorrow."

Though the figurative language of David was not very
intelligible, the sincere and steady expression of his eye,
and the glow of his honest countenance, were not easily
mistaken. Uncas pressed closer to his side, and regarded
the speaker with a look of commendation, while his father
expressed his satisfaction by the ordinary pithy exclamation
of approbation. The scout shook his head as he rejoined:

"The Lord never intended that the man should place all his
endeavors in his throat, to the neglect of other and better
gifts! But he has fallen into the hands of some silly
woman, when he should have been gathering his education
under a blue sky, among the beauties of the forest. Here,
friend; I did intend to kindle a fire with this tooting-
whistle of thine; but, as you value the thing, take it, and
blow your best on it."

Gamut received his pitch-pipe with as strong an expression
of pleasure as he believed compatible with the grave
functions he exercised. After essaying its virtues
repeatedly, in contrast with his own voice, and, satisfying
himself that none of its melody was lost, he made a very
serious demonstration toward achieving a few stanzas of one
of the longest effusions in the little volume so often

Heyward, however, hastily interrupted his pious purpose by
continuing questions concerning the past and present
condition of his fellow captives, and in a manner more
methodical than had been permitted by his feelings in the
opening of their interview. David, though he regarded his
treasure with longing eyes, was constrained to answer,
especially as the venerable father took a part in the
interrogatories, with an interest too imposing to be denied.
Nor did the scout fail to throw in a pertinent inquiry,
whenever a fitting occasion presented. In this manner,
though with frequent interruptions which were filled with
certain threatening sounds from the recovered instrument,
the pursuers were put in possession of such leading
circumstances as were likely to prove useful in
accomplishing their great and engrossing object--the
recovery of the sisters. The narrative of David was simple,
and the facts but few.

Magua had waited on the mountain until a safe moment to
retire presented itself, when he had descended, and taken
the route along the western side of the Horican in direction
of the Canadas. As the subtle Huron was familiar with the
paths, and well knew there was no immediate danger of
pursuit, their progress had been moderate, and far from
fatiguing. It appeared from the unembellished statement of
David, that his own presence had been rather endured than
desired; though even Magua had not been entirely exempt from
that veneration with which the Indians regard those whom the
Great Spirit had visited in their intellects. At night, the
utmost care had been taken of the captives, both to prevent
injury from the damps of the woods and to guard against an
escape. At the spring, the horses were turned loose, as has
been seen; and, notwithstanding the remoteness and length of
their trail, the artifices already named were resorted to,
in order to cut off every clue to their place of retreat.
On their arrival at the encampment of his people, Magua, in
obedience to a policy seldom departed from, separated his
prisoners. Cora had been sent to a tribe that temporarily
occupied an adjacent valley, though David was far too
ignorant of the customs and history of the natives, to be
able to declare anything satisfactory concerning their name
or character. He only knew that they had not engaged in the
late expedition against William Henry; that, like the Hurons
themselves they were allies of Montcalm; and that they
maintained an amicable, though a watchful intercourse with
the warlike and savage people whom chance had, for a time,
brought in such close and disagreeable contact with themselves.

The Mohicans and the scout listened to his interrupted and
imperfect narrative, with an interest that obviously
increased as he proceeded; and it was while attempting to
explain the pursuits of the community in which Cora was
detained, that the latter abruptly demanded:

"Did you see the fashion of their knives? wee they of
English or French formation?"

"My thoughts were bent on no such vanities, but rather
mingled in consolation with those of the maidens."

"The time may come when you will not consider the knife of a
savage such a despicable vanity," returned the scout, with a
strong expression of contempt for the other's dullness.
"Had they held their corn feast--or can you say anything
of the totems of the tribe?"

"Of corn, we had many and plentiful feasts; for the grain,
being in the milk is both sweet to the mouth and comfortable
to the stomach. Of totem, I know not the meaning; but if it
appertaineth in any wise to the art of Indian music, it need
not be inquired after at their hands. They never join their
voices in praise, and it would seem that they are among the
profanest of the idolatrous."

"Therein you belie the natur' of an Indian. Even the Mingo
adores but the true and loving God. 'Tis wicked fabrication
of the whites, and I say it to the shame of my color that
would make the warrior bow down before images of his own
creation. It is true, they endeavor to make truces to the
wicked one--as who would not with an enemy he cannot
conquer! but they look up for favor and assistance to the
Great and Good Spirit only."

"It may be so," said David; "but I have seen strange and
fantastic images drawn in their paint, of which their
admiration and care savored of spiritual pride; especially
one, and that, too, a foul and loathsome object."

"Was it a sarpent?" quickly demanded the scout.

"Much the same. It was in the likeness of an abject and
creeping tortoise."

"Hugh!" exclaimed both the attentive Mohicans in a breath;
while the scout shook his head with the air of one who had
made an important but by no means a pleasing discovery.
Then the father spoke, in the language of the Delawares, and
with a calmness and dignity that instantly arrested the
attention even of those to whom his words were
unintelligible. His gestures were impressive, and at times
energetic. Once he lifted his arm on high; and, as it
descended, the action threw aside the folds of his light
mantle, a finger resting on his breast, as if he would
enforce his meaning by the attitude. Duncan's eyes followed
the movement, and he perceived that the animal just
mentioned was beautifully, though faintly, worked in blue
tint, on the swarthy breast of the chief. All that he had
ever heard of the violent separation of the vast tribes of
the Delawares rushed across his mind, and he awaited the
proper moment to speak, with a suspense that was rendered
nearly intolerable by his interest in the stake. His wish,
however, was anticipated by the scout who turned from his
red friend, saying:

"We have found that which may be good or evil to us, as
heaven disposes. The Sagamore is of the high blood of the
Delawares, and is the great chief of their Tortoises! That
some of this stock are among the people of whom the singer
tells us, is plain by his words; and, had he but spent half
the breath in prudent questions that he has blown away in
making a trumpet of his throat, we might have known how many
warriors they numbered. It is, altogether, a dangerous path
we move in; for a friend whose face is turned from you often
bears a bloodier mind than the enemy who seeks your scalp."

"Explain," said Duncan.

"'Tis a long and melancholy tradition, and one I little like
to think of; for it is not to be denied that the evil has
been mainly done by men with white skins. But it has ended
in turning the tomahawk of brother against brother, and
brought the Mingo and the Delaware to travel in the same

"You, then, suspect it is a portion of that people among
whom Cora resides?"

The scout nodded his head in assent, though he seemed
anxious to waive the further discussion of a subject that
appeared painful. The impatient Duncan now made several
hasty and desperate propositions to attempt the release of
the sisters. Munro seemed to shake off his apathy, and
listened to the wild schemes of the young man with a
deference that his gray hairs and reverend years should have
denied. But the scout, after suffering the ardor of the
lover to expend itself a little, found means to convince him
of the folly of precipitation, in a manner that would
require their coolest judgment and utmost fortitude.

"It would be well," he added, "to let this man go in again,
as usual, and for him to tarry in the lodges, giving notice
to the gentle ones of our approach, until we call him out,
by signal, to consult. You know the cry of a crow, friend,
from the whistle of the whip-poor-will?"

"'Tis a pleasing bird," returned David, "and has a soft and
melancholy note! though the time is rather quick and ill-

"He speaks of the wish-ton-wish," said the scout; "well,
since you like his whistle, it shall be your signal.
Remember, then, when you hear the whip-poor-will's call
three times repeated, you are to come into the bushes where
the bird might be supposed--"

"Stop," interrupted Heyward; "I will accompany him."

"You!" exclaimed the astonished Hawkeye; "are you tired of
seeing the sun rise and set?"

"David is a living proof that the Hurons can be merciful."

"Ay, but David can use his throat, as no man in his senses
would pervart the gift."

"I too can play the madman, the fool, the hero; in short,
any or everything to rescue her I love. Name your
objections no longer: I am resolved."

Hawkeye regarded the young man a moment in speechless
amazement. But Duncan, who, in deference to the other's
skill and services, had hitherto submitted somewhat
implicitly to his dictation, now assumed the superior, with
a manner that was not easily resisted. He waved his hand,
in sign of his dislike to all remonstrance, and then, in
more tempered language, he continued:

"You have the means of disguise; change me; paint me, too,
if you will; in short, alter me to anything--a fool."

"It is not for one like me to say that he who is already
formed by so powerful a hand as Providence, stands in need
of a change," muttered the discontented scout. "When you
send your parties abroad in war, you find it prudent, at
least, to arrange the marks and places of encampment, in
order that they who fight on your side may know when and
where to expect a friend."

"Listen," interrupted Duncan; "you have heard from this
faithful follower of the captives, that the Indians are of
two tribes, if not of different nations. With one, whom you
think to be a branch of the Delawares, is she you call the
'dark-hair'; the other, and younger, of the ladies, is
undeniably with our declared enemies, the Hurons. It
becomes my youth and rank to attempt the latter adventure.
While you, therefore, are negotiating with your friends for
the release of one of the sisters, I will effect that of the
other, or die."

The awakened spirit of the young soldier gleamed in his
eyes, and his form became imposing under its influence.
Hawkeye, though too much accustomed to Indian artifices not
to foresee the danger of the experiment, knew not well how
to combat this sudden resolution.

Perhaps there was something in the proposal that suited his
own hardy nature, and that secret love of desperate
adventure, which had increased with his experience, until
hazard and danger had become, in some measure, necessary to
the enjoyment of his existence. Instead of continuing to
oppose the scheme of Duncan, his humor suddenly altered, and
he lent himself to its execution.

"Come," he said, with a good-humored smile; "the buck that
will take to the water must be headed, and not followed.
Chingachgook has as many different paints as the engineer
officer's wife, who takes down natur' on scraps of paper,
making the mountains look like cocks of rusty hay, and
placing the blue sky in reach of your hand. The Sagamore
can use them, too. Seat yourself on the log; and my life on
it, he can soon make a natural fool of you, and that well to
your liking."

Duncan complied; and the Mohican, who had been an attentive
listener to the discourse, readily undertook the office.
Long practised in all the subtle arts of his race, he drew,
with great dexterity and quickness, the fantastic shadow
that the natives were accustomed to consider as the evidence
of a friendly and jocular disposition. Every line that
could possibly be interpreted into a secret inclination for
war, was carefully avoided; while, on the other hand, he
studied those conceits that might be construed into amity.

In short, he entirely sacrificed every appearance of the
warrior to the masquerade of a buffoon. Such exhibitions
were not uncommon among the Indians, and as Duncan was
already sufficiently disguised in his dress, there certainly
did exist some reason for believing that, with his knowledge
of French, he might pass for a juggler from Ticonderoga,
straggling among the allied and friendly tribes.

When he was thought to be sufficiently painted, the scout
gave him much friendly advice; concerted signals, and
appointed the place where they should meet, in the event of
mutual success. The parting between Munro and his young
friend was more melancholy; still, the former submitted to
the separation with an indifference that his warm and honest
nature would never have permitted in a more healthful state
of mind. The scout led Heyward aside, and acquainted him
with his intention to leave the veteran in some safe
encampment, in charge of Chingachgook, while he and Uncas
pursued their inquires among the people they had reason to
believe were Delawares. Then, renewing his cautions and
advice, he concluded by saying, with a solemnity and warmth
of feeling, with which Duncan was deeply touched:

"And, now, God bless you! You have shown a spirit that I
like; for it is the gift of youth, more especially one of
warm blood and a stout heart. But believe the warning of a
man who has reason to know all he says to be true. You will
have occasion for your best manhood, and for a sharper wit
than what is to be gathered in books, afore you outdo the
cunning or get the better of the courage of a Mingo. God
bless you! if the Hurons master your scalp, rely on the
promise of one who has two stout warriors to back him. They
shall pay for their victory, with a life for every hair it
holds. I say, young gentleman, may Providence bless your
undertaking, which is altogether for good; and, remember,
that to outwit the knaves it is lawful to practise things
that may not be naturally the gift of a white-skin."

Duncan shook his worthy and reluctant associate warmly by
the hand, once more recommended his aged friend to his care,
and returning his good wishes, he motioned to David to
proceed. Hawkeye gazed after the high-spirited and
adventurous young man for several moments, in open
admiration; then, shaking his head doubtingly, he turned,
and led his own division of the party into the concealment
of the forest.

The route taken by Duncan and David lay directly across the
clearing of the beavers, and along the margin of their pond.

When the former found himself alone with one so simple, and
so little qualified to render any assistance in desperate
emergencies, he first began to be sensible of the
difficulties of the task he had undertaken. The fading
light increased the gloominess of the bleak and savage
wilderness that stretched so far on every side of him, and
there was even a fearful character in the stillness of those
little huts, that he knew were so abundantly peopled. It
struck him, as he gazed at the admirable structures and the
wonderful precautions of their sagacious inmates, that even
the brutes of these vast wilds were possessed of an instinct
nearly commensurate with his own reason; and he could not
reflect, without anxiety, on the unequal contest that he had
so rashly courted. Then came the glowing image of Alice;
her distress; her actual danger; and all the peril of his
situation was forgotten. Cheering David, he moved on with
the light and vigorous step of youth and enterprise.

After making nearly a semicircle around the pond, they
diverged from the water-course, and began to ascend to the
level of a slight elevation in that bottom land, over which
they journeyed. Within half an hour they gained the margin
of another opening that bore all the signs of having been
also made by the beavers, and which those sagacious animals
had probably been induced, by some accident, to abandon, for
the more eligible position they now occupied. A very
natural sensation caused Duncan to hesitate a moment,
unwilling to leave the cover of their bushy path, as a man
pauses to collect his energies before he essays any
hazardous experiment, in which he is secretly conscious they
will all be needed. He profited by the halt, to gather such
information as might be obtained from his short and hasty

On the opposite side of the clearing, and near the point
where the brook tumbled over some rocks, from a still higher
level, some fifty or sixty lodges, rudely fabricated of logs
brush, and earth intermingled, were to be discovered. They
were arranged without any order, and seemed to be
constructed with very little attention to neatness or
beauty. Indeed, so very inferior were they in the two
latter particulars to the village Duncan had just seen, that
he began to expect a second surprise, no less astonishing
that the former. This expectation was is no degree
diminished, when, by the doubtful twilight, he beheld twenty
or thirty forms rising alternately from the cover of the
tall, coarse grass, in front of the lodges, and then sinking
again from the sight, as it were to burrow in the earth. By
the sudden and hasty glimpses that he caught of these
figures, they seemed more like dark, glancing specters, or
some other unearthly beings, than creatures fashioned with
the ordinary and vulgar materials of flesh and blood. A
gaunt, naked form was seen, for a single instant, tossing
its arms wildly in the air, and then the spot it had filled
was vacant; the figure appearing suddenly in some other and
distant place, or being succeeded by another, possessing the
same mysterious character. David, observing that his
companion lingered, pursued the direction of his gaze, and
in some measure recalled the recollection of Heyward, by

"There is much fruitful soil uncultivated here," he said;
"and, I may add, without the sinful leaven of self-
commendation, that, since my short sojourn in these
heathenish abodes, much good seed has been scattered by the

"The tribes are fonder of the chase than of the arts of men
of labor," returned the unconscious Duncan, still gazing at
the objects of his wonder.

"It is rather joy than labor to the spirit, to lift up the
voice in praise; but sadly do these boys abuse their gifts.
Rarely have I found any of their age, on whom nature has so
freely bestowed the elements of psalmody; and surely,
surely, there are none who neglect them more. Three nights
have I now tarried here, and three several times have I
assembled the urchins to join in sacred song; and as often
have they responded to my efforts with whoopings and
howlings that have chilled my soul!"

"Of whom speak you?"

"Of those children of the devil, who waste the precious
moments in yonder idle antics. Ah! the wholesome restraint
of discipline is but little known among this self-abandoned
people. In a country of birches, a rod is never seen, and
it ought not to appear a marvel in my eyes, that the choicest
blessings of Providence are wasted in such cries as these."

David closed his ears against the juvenile pack, whose yell
just then rang shrilly through the forest; and Duncan,
suffering his lip to curl, as in mockery of his own
superstition, said firmly:

"We will proceed."

Without removing the safeguards form his ears, the master of
song complied, and together they pursued their way toward
what David was sometimes wont to call the "tents of the



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