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

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"Thus spoke the sage: the kings without delay Dissolve the
council, and their chief obey."--Pope's Iliad


A single moment served to convince the youth that he was
mistaken. A hand was laid, with a powerful pressure, on his
arm, and the low voice of Uncas muttered in his ear:

"The Hurons are dogs. The sight of a coward's blood can
never make a warrior tremble. The 'Gray Head' and the
Sagamore are safe, and the rifle of Hawkeye is not asleep.
Go--Uncas and the 'Open Hand' are now strangers. It is

Heyward would gladly have heard more, but a gentle push from
his friend urged him toward the door, and admonished him of
the danger that might attend the discovery of their
intercourse. Slowly and reluctantly yielding to the
necessity, he quitted the place, and mingled with the throng
that hovered nigh. The dying fires in the clearing cast a
dim and uncertain light on the dusky figures that were
silently stalking to and fro; and occasionally a brighter
gleam than common glanced into the lodge, and exhibited the
figure of Uncas still maintaining its upright attitude near
the dead body of the Huron.

A knot of warriors soon entered the place again, and
reissuing, they bore the senseless remains into the adjacent
woods. After this termination of the scene, Duncan wandered
among the lodges, unquestioned and unnoticed, endeavoring to
find some trace of her in whose behalf he incurred the risk
he ran. In the present temper of the tribe it would have
been easy to have fled and rejoined his companions, had such
a wish crossed his mind. But, in addition to the never-
ceasing anxiety on account of Alice, a fresher though
feebler interest in the fate of Uncas assisted to chain him
to the spot. He continued, therefore, to stray from hut to
hut, looking into each only to encounter additional
disappointment, until he had made the entire circuit of the
village. Abandoning a species of inquiry that proved so
fruitless, he retraced his steps to the council-lodge,
resolved to seek and question David, in order to put an end
to his doubts.

On reaching the building, which had proved alike the seat of
judgment and the place of execution, the young man found
that the excitement had already subsided. The warriors had
reassembled, and were now calmly smoking, while they
conversed gravely on the chief incidents of their recent
expedition to the head of the Horican. Though the return of
Duncan was likely to remind them of his character, and the
suspicious circumstances of his visit, it produced no
visible sensation. So far, the terrible scene that had just
occurred proved favorable to his views, and he required no
other prompter than his own feelings to convince him of the
expediency of profiting by so unexpected an advantage.

Without seeming to hesitate, he walked into the lodge, and
took his seat with a gravity that accorded admirably with
the deportment of his hosts. A hasty but searching glance
sufficed to tell him that, though Uncas still remained where
he had left him, David had not reappeared. No other
restraint was imposed on the former than the watchful looks
of a young Huron, who had placed himself at hand; though an
armed warrior leaned against the post that formed one side
of the narrow doorway. In every other respect, the captive
seemed at liberty; still he was excluded from all
participation in the discourse, and possessed much more of
the air of some finely molded statue than a man having life
and volition.

Heyward had too recently witnessed a frightful instance of
the prompt punishments of the people into whose hands he had
fallen to hazard an exposure by any officious boldness. He
would greatly have preferred silence and meditation to
speech, when a discovery of his real condition might prove
so instantly fatal. Unfortunately for this prudent
resolution, his entertainers appeared otherwise disposed.
He had not long occupied the seat wisely taken a little in
the shade, when another of the elder warriors, who spoke the
French language, addressed him:

"My Canada father does not forget his children," said the
chief; "I thank him. An evil spirit lives in the wife of
one of my young men. Can the cunning stranger frighten him

Heyward possessed some knowledge of the mummery practised
among the Indians, in the cases of such supposed
visitations. He saw, at a glance, that the circumstance
might possibly be improved to further his own ends. It
would, therefore, have been difficult, just then to have
uttered a proposal that would have given him more
satisfaction. Aware of the necessity of preserving the
dignity of his imaginary character, however, he repressed
his feelings, and answered with suitable mystery:

"Spirits differ; some yield to the power of wisdom, while
others are too strong."

"My brother is a great medicine," said the cunning savage;
"he will try?"

A gesture of assent was the answer. The Huron was content
with the assurance, and, resuming his pipe, he awaited the
proper moment to move. The impatient Heyward, inwardly
execrating the cold customs of the savages, which required
such sacrifices to appearance, was fain to assume an air of
indifference, equal to that maintained by the chief, who
was, in truth, a near relative of the afflicted woman. The
minutes lingered, and the delay had seemed an hour to the
adventurer in empiricism, when the Huron laid aside his pipe
and drew his robe across his breast, as if about to lead the
way to the lodge of the invalid. Just then, a warrior of
powerful frame, darkened the door, and stalking silently
among the attentive group, he seated himself on one end of
the low pile of brush which sustained Duncan. The latter
cast an impatient look at his neighbor, and felt his flesh
creep with uncontrollable horror when he found himself in
actual contact with Magua.

The sudden return of this artful and dreaded chief caused a
delay in the departure of the Huron. Several pipes, that
had been extinguished, were lighted again; while the
newcomer, without speaking a word, drew his tomahawk from
his girdle, and filling the bowl on its head began to inhale
the vapors of the weed through the hollow handle, with as
much indifference as if he had not been absent two weary
days on a long and toilsome hunt. Ten minutes, which
appeared so many ages to Duncan, might have passed in this
manner; and the warriors were fairly enveloped in a cloud of
white smoke before any of them spoke.

"Welcome!" one at length uttered; "has my friend found the

"The young men stagger under their burdens," returned Magua.
"Let 'Reed-that-bends' go on the hunting path; he will meet

A deep and awful silence succeeded the utterance of the
forbidden name. Each pipe dropped from the lips of its
owner as though all had inhaled an impurity at the same
instant. The smoke wreathed above their heads in little
eddies, and curling in a spiral form it ascended swiftly
through the opening in the roof of the lodge, leaving the
place beneath clear of its fumes, and each dark visage
distinctly visible. The looks of most of the warriors were
riveted on the earth; though a few of the younger and less
gifted of the party suffered their wild and glaring eyeballs
to roll in the direction of a white-headed savage, who sat
between two of the most venerated chiefs of the tribe.
There was nothing in the air or attire of this Indian that
would seem to entitle him to such a distinction. The former
was rather depressed, than remarkable for the bearing of the
natives; and the latter was such as was commonly worn by the
ordinary men of the nation. Like most around him for more
than a minute his look, too, was on the ground; but,
trusting his eyes at length to steal a glance aside, he
perceived that he was becoming an object of general
attention. Then he arose and lifted his voice in the
general silence.

"It was a lie," he said; "I had no son. He who was called
by that name is forgotten; his blood was pale, and it came
not from the veins of a Huron; the wicked Chippewas cheated
my squaw. The Great Spirit has said, that the family of
Wiss-entush should end; he is happy who knows that the evil
of his race dies with himself. I have done."

The speaker, who was the father of the recreant young
Indian, looked round and about him, as if seeking
commendation of his stoicism in the eyes of the auditors.
But the stern customs of his people had made too severe an
exaction of the feeble old man. The expression of his eye
contradicted his figurative and boastful language, while
every muscle in his wrinkled visage was working with
anguish. Standing a single minute to enjoy his bitter
triumph, he turned away, as if sickening at the gaze of men,
and, veiling his face in his blanket, he walked from the
lodge with the noiseless step of an Indian seeking, in the
privacy of his own abode, the sympathy of one like himself,
aged, forlorn and childless.

The Indians, who believe in the hereditary transmission of
virtues and defects in character, suffered him to depart in
silence. Then, with an elevation of breeding that many in a
more cultivated state of society might profitably emulate,
one of the chiefs drew the attention of the young men from
the weakness they had just witnessed, by saying, in a
cheerful voice, addressing himself in courtesy to Magua, as
the newest comer:

"The Delawares have been like bears after the honey pots,
prowling around my village. But who has ever found a Huron

The darkness of the impending cloud which precedes a burst
of thunder was not blacker than the brow of Magua as he

"The Delawares of the Lakes!"

"Not so. They who wear the petticoats of squaws, on their
own river. One of them has been passing the tribe."

"Did my young men take his scalp?"

"His legs were good, though his arm is better for the hoe
than the tomahawk," returned the other, pointing to the
immovable form of Uncas.

Instead of manifesting any womanish curiosity to feast his
eyes with the sight of a captive from a people he was known
to have so much reason to hate, Magua continued to smoke,
with the meditative air that he usually maintained, when
there was no immediate call on his cunning or his eloquence.
Although secretly amazed at the facts communicated by the
speech of the aged father, he permitted himself to ask no
questions, reserving his inquiries for a more suitable
moment. It was only after a sufficient interval that he
shook the ashes from his pipe, replaced the tomahawk,
tightened his girdle, and arose, casting for the first time
a glance in the direction of the prisoner, who stood a
little behind him. The wary, though seemingly abstracted
Uncas, caught a glimpse of the movement, and turning
suddenly to the light, their looks met. Near a minute these
two bold and untamed spirits stood regarding one another
steadily in the eye, neither quailing in the least before
the fierce gaze he encountered. The form of Uncas dilated,
and his nostrils opened like those of a tiger at bay; but so
rigid and unyielding was his posture, that he might easily
have been converted by the imagination into an exquisite and
faultless representation of the warlike deity of his tribe.
The lineaments of the quivering features of Magua proved
more ductile; his countenance gradually lost its character
of defiance in an expression of ferocious joy, and heaving a
breath from the very bottom of his chest, he pronounced
aloud the formidable name of:

"Le Cerf Agile!"

Each warrior sprang upon his feet at the utterance of the
well-known appellation, and there was a short period during
which the stoical constancy of the natives was completely
conquered by surprise. The hated and yet respected name was
repeated as by one voice, carrying the sound even beyond the
limits of the lodge. The women and children, who lingered
around the entrance, took up the words in an echo, which was
succeeded by another shrill and plaintive howl. The latter
was not yet ended, when the sensation among the men had
entirely abated. Each one in presence seated himself, as
though ashamed of his precipitation; but it was many minutes
before their meaning eyes ceased to roll toward their
captive, in curious examination of a warrior who had so
often proved his prowess on the best and proudest of their
nation. Uncas enjoyed his victory, but was content with
merely exhibiting his triumph by a quiet smile--an emblem
of scorn which belongs to all time and every nation.

Magua caught the expression, and raising his arm, he shook
it at the captive, the light silver ornaments attached to
his bracelet rattling with the trembling agitation of the
limb, as, in a tone of vengeance, he exclaimed, in English:

"Mohican, you die!"

"The healing waters will never bring the dead Hurons to
life," returned Uncas, in the music of the Delawares; "the
tumbling river washes their bones; their men are squaws:
their women owls. Go! call together the Huron dogs, that
they may look upon a warrior, My nostrils are offended; they
scent the blood of a coward."

The latter allusion struck deep, and the injury rankled.
Many of the Hurons understood the strange tongue in which
the captive spoke, among which number was Magua. This
cunning savage beheld, and instantly profited by his
advantage. Dropping the light robe of skin from his
shoulder, he stretched forth his arm, and commenced a burst
of his dangerous and artful eloquence. However much his
influence among his people had been impaired by his
occasional and besetting weakness, as well as by his
desertion of the tribe, his courage and his fame as an
orator were undeniable. He never spoke without auditors,
and rarely without making converts to his opinions. On the
present occasion, his native powers were stimulated by the
thirst of revenge.

He again recounted the events of the attack on the island at
Glenn's, the death of his associates and the escape of their
most formidable enemies. Then he described the nature and
position of the mount whither he had led such captives as
had fallen into their hands. Of his own bloody intentions
toward the maidens, and of his baffled malice he made no
mention, but passed rapidly on to the surprise of the party
by "La Longue Carabine," and its fatal termination. Here he
paused, and looked about him, in affected veneration for the
departed, but, in truth, to note the effect of his opening
narrative. As usual, every eye was riveted on his face.
Each dusky figure seemed a breathing statue, so motionless
was the posture, so intense the attention of the individual.

Then Magua dropped his voice which had hitherto been clear,
strong and elevated, and touched upon the merits of the
dead. No quality that was likely to command the sympathy of
an Indian escaped his notice. One had never been known to
follow the chase in vain; another had been indefatigable on
the trail of their enemies. This was brave, that generous.
In short, he so managed his allusions, that in a nation
which was composed of so few families, he contrived to
strike every chord that might find, in its turn, some breast
in which to vibrate.

"Are the bones of my young men," he concluded, "in the
burial-place of the Hurons? You know they are not. Their
spirits are gone toward the setting sun, and are already
crossing the great waters, to the happy hunting-grounds.
But they departed without food, without guns or knives,
without moccasins, naked and poor as they were born. Shall
this be? Are their souls to enter the land of the just like
hungry Iroquois or unmanly Delawares, or shall they meet
their friends with arms in their hands and robes on their
backs? What will our fathers think the tribes of the
Wyandots have become? They will look on their children with
a dark eye, and say, 'Go! a Chippewa has come hither with
the name of a Huron' Brothers, we must not forget the dead;
a red-skin never ceases to remember. We will load the back
of this Mohican until he staggers under our bounty, and
dispatch him after my young men. They call to us for aid,
though our ears are not open; they say, 'Forget us not' When
they see the spirit of this Mohican toiling after them with
his burden, they will know we are of that mind. Then will
they go on happy; and our children will say, 'So did our
fathers to their friends, so must we do to them' What is a
Yengee? we have slain many, but the earth is still pale. A
stain on the name of Huron can only be hid by blood that
comes from the veins of an Indian. Let this Delaware die."

The effect of such an harangue, delivered in the nervous
language and with the emphatic manner of a Huron orator,
could scarcely be mistaken. Magua had so artfully blended
the natural sympathies with the religious superstition of
his auditors, that their minds, already prepared by custom
to sacrifice a victim to the manes of their countrymen, lost
every vestige of humanity in a wish for revenge. One
warrior in particular, a man of wild and ferocious mien, had
been conspicuous for the attention he had given to the words
of the speaker. His countenance had changed with each
passing emotion, until it settled into a look of deadly
malice. As Magua ended he arose and, uttering the yell of a
demon, his polished little axe was seen glancing in the
torchlight as he whirled it above his head. The motion and
the cry were too sudden for words to interrupt his bloody
intention. It appeared as if a bright gleam shot from his
hand, which was crossed at the same moment by a dark and
powerful line. The former was the tomahawk in its passage;
the latter the arm that Magua darted forward to divert its
aim. The quick and ready motion of the chief was not
entirely too late. The keen weapon cut the war plume from
the scalping tuft of Uncas, and passed through the frail
wall of the lodge as though it were hurled from some
formidable engine.

Duncan had seen the threatening action, and sprang upon his
feet, with a heart which, while it leaped into his throat,
swelled with the most generous resolution in behalf of his
friend. A glance told him that the blow had failed, and
terror changed to admiration. Uncas stood still, looking
his enemy in the eye with features that seemed superior to
emotion. Marble could not be colder, calmer, or steadier
than the countenance he put upon this sudden and vindictive
attack. Then, as if pitying a want of skill which had
proved so fortunate to himself, he smiled, and muttered a
few words of contempt in his own tongue.

"No!" said Magua, after satisfying himself of the safety of
the captive; "the sun must shine on his shame; the squaws
must see his flesh tremble, or our revenge will be like the
play of boys. Go! take him where there is silence; let us see
if a Delaware can sleep at night, and in the morning die."

The young men whose duty it was to guard the prisoner
instantly passed their ligaments of bark across his arms,
and led him from the lodge, amid a profound and ominous
silence. It was only as the figure of Uncas stood in the
opening of the door that his firm step hesitated. There he
turned, and, in the sweeping and haughty glance that he
threw around the circle of his enemies, Duncan caught a look
which he was glad to construe into an expression that he was
not entirely deserted by hope.

Magua was content with his success, or too much occupied
with his secret purposes to push his inquiries any further.
Shaking his mantle, and folding it on his bosom, he also
quitted the place, without pursuing a subject which might
have proved so fatal to the individual at his elbow.
Notwithstanding his rising resentment, his natural firmness,
and his anxiety on behalf of Uncas, Heyward felt sensibly
relieved by the absence of so dangerous and so subtle a foe.
The excitement produced by the speech gradually subsided.
The warriors resumed their seats and clouds of smoke once
more filled the lodge. For near half an hour, not a
syllable was uttered, or scarcely a look cast aside; a grave
and meditative silence being the ordinary succession to
every scene of violence and commotion among these beings,
who were alike so impetuous and yet so self-restrained.

When the chief, who had solicited the aid of Duncan,
finished his pipe, he made a final and successful movement
toward departing. A motion of a finger was the intimation
he gave the supposed physician to follow; and passing
through the clouds of smoke, Duncad was glad, on more
accounts than one, to be able at last to breathe the pure
air of a cool and refreshing summer evening.

Instead of pursuing his way among those lodges where Heyward
had already made his unsuccessful search, his companion
turned aside, and proceeded directly toward the base of an
adjacent mountain, which overhung the temporary village. A
thicket of brush skirted its foot, and it became necessary
to proceed through a crooked and narrow path. The boys had
resumed their sports in the clearing, and were enacting a
mimic chase to the post among themselves. In order to
render their games as like the reality as possible, one of
the boldest of their number had conveyed a few brands into
some piles of tree-tops that had hitherto escaped the
burning. The blaze of one of these fires lighted the way of
the chief and Duncan, and gave a character of additional
wildness to the rude scenery. At a little distance from a
bald rock, and directly in its front, they entered a grassy
opening, which they prepared to cross. Just then fresh fuel
was added to the fire, and a powerful light penetrated even
to that distant spot. It fell upon the white surface of the
mountain, and was reflected downward upon a dark and
mysterious-looking being that arose, unexpectedly, in their
path. The Indian paused, as if doubtful whether to proceed,
and permitted his companion to approach his side. A large
black ball, which at first seemed stationary, now began to
move in a manner that to the latter was inexplicable. Again
the fire brightened and its glare fell more distinctly on
the object. Then even Duncan knew it, by its restless and
sidling attitudes, which kept the upper part of its form in
constant motion, while the animal itself appeared seated, to
be a bear. Though it growled loudly and fiercely, and there
were instants when its glistening eyeballs might be seen, it
gave no other indications of hostility. The Huron, at
least, seemed assured that the intentions of this singular
intruder were peaceable, for after giving it an attentive
examination, he quietly pursued his course.

Duncan, who knew that the animal was often domesticated
among the Indians, followed the example of his companion,
believing that some favorite of the tribe had found its way
into the thicket, in search of food. They passed it
unmolested. Though obliged to come nearly in contact with
the monster, the Huron, who had at first so warily
determined the character of his strange visitor, was now
content with proceeding without wasting a moment in further
examination; but Heyward was unable to prevent his eyes from
looking backward, in salutary watchfulness against attacks
in the rear. His uneasiness was in no degree diminished
when he perceived the beast rolling along their path, and
following their footsteps. He would have spoken, but the
Indian at that moment shoved aside a door of bark, and
entered a cavern in the bosom of the mountain.

Profiting by so easy a method of retreat, Duncan stepped
after him, and was gladly closing the slight cover to the
opening, when he felt it drawn from his hand by the beast,
whose shaggy form immediately darkened the passage. They
were now in a straight and long gallery, in a chasm of the
rocks, where retreat without encountering the animal was
impossible. Making the best of the circumstances, the young
man pressed forward, keeping as close as possible to his
conductor. The bear growled frequently at his heels, and
once or twice its enormous paws were laid on his person, as
if disposed to prevent his further passage into the den.

How long the nerves of Heyward would have sustained him in
this extraordinary situation, it might be difficult to
decide, for, happily, he soon found relief. A glimmer of
light had constantly been in their front, and they now
arrived at the place whence it proceeded.

A large cavity in the rock had been rudely fitted to answer
the purposes of many apartments. The subdivisions were
simple but ingenious, being composed of stone, sticks, and
bark, intermingled. Openings above admitted the light by
day, and at night fires and torches supplied the place of
the sun. Hither the Hurons had brought most of their
valuables, especially those which more particularly
pertained to the nation; and hither, as it now appeared, the
sick woman, who was believed to be the victim of
supernatural power, had been transported also, under an
impression that her tormentor would find more difficulty in
making his assaults through walls of stone than through the
leafy coverings of the lodges. The apartment into which
Duncan and his guide first entered, had been exclusively
devoted to her accommodation. The latter approached her
bedside, which was surrounded by females, in the center of
whom Heyward was surprised to find his missing friend David.

A single look was sufficient to apprise the pretended leech
that the invalid was far beyond his powers of healing. She
lay in a sort of paralysis, indifferent to the objects which
crowded before her sight, and happily unconscious of
suffering. Heyward was far from regretting that his
mummeries were to be performed on one who was much too ill
to take an interest in their failure or success. The slight
qualm of conscience which had been excited by the intended
deception was instantly appeased, and he began to collect
his thoughts, in order to enact his part with suitable
spirit, when he found he was about to be anticipated in his
skill by an attempt to prove the power of music.

Gamut, who had stood prepared to pour forth his spirit in
song when the visitors entered, after delaying a moment,
drew a strain from his pipe, and commenced a hymn that might
have worked a miracle, had faith in is efficacy been of much
avail. He was allowed to proceed to the close, the Indians
respecting his imaginary infirmity, and Duncan too glad of
the delay to hazard the slightest interruption. As the
dying cadence of his strains was falling on the ears of the
latter, he started aside at hearing them repeated behind
him, in a voice half human and half sepulchral. Looking
around, he beheld the shaggy monster seated on end in a
shadow of the cavern, where, while his restless body swung
in the uneasy manner of the animal, it repeated, in a sort
of low growl, sounds, if not words, which bore some slight
resemblance to the melody of the singer.

The effect of so strange an echo on David may better be
imagined than described. His eyes opened as if he doubted
their truth; and his voice became instantly mute in excess
of wonder. A deep-laid scheme, of communicating some
important intelligence to Heyward, was driven from his
recollection by an emotion which very nearly resembled fear,
but which he was fain to believe was admiration. Under its
influence, he exclaimed aloud: "She expects you, and is at
hand"; and precipitately left the cavern.



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