"Bot.--Let me play the lion too."--Midsummer
Notwithstanding the high resolution of Hawkeye he fully
comprehended all the difficulties and danger he was about to
incur. In his return to the camp, his acute and practised
intellects were intently engaged in devising means to
counteract a watchfulness and suspicion on the part of his
enemies, that he knew were, in no degree, inferior to his
own. Nothing but the color of his skin had saved the lives
of Magua and the conjurer, who would have been the first
victims sacrificed to his own security, had not the scout
believed such an act, however congenial it might be to the
nature of an Indian, utterly unworthy of one who boasted a
descent from men that knew no cross of blood. Accordingly,
he trusted to the withes and ligaments with which he had
bound his captives, and pursued his way directly toward the
center of the lodges. As he approached the buildings, his
steps become more deliberate, and his vigilant eye suffered
no sign, whether friendly or hostile, to escape him. A
neglected hut was a little in advance of the others, and
appeared as if it had been deserted when half completed--
most probably on account of failing in some of the more
important requisites; such as wood or water. A faint light
glimmered through its cracks, however, and announced that,
notwithstanding its imperfect structure, it was not without
a tenant. Thither, then, the scout proceeded, like a
prudent general, who was about to feel the advanced
positions of his enemy, before he hazarded the main attack.
Throwing himself into a suitable posture for the beast he
represented, Hawkeye crawled to a little opening, where he
might command a view of the interior. It proved to be the
abiding place of David Gamut. Hither the faithful singing-
master had now brought himself, together with all his
sorrows, his apprehensions, and his meek dependence on the
protection of Providence. At the precise moment when his
ungainly person came under the observation of the scout, in
the manner just mentioned, the woodsman himself, though in
his assumed character, was the subject of the solitary
being's profounded reflections.
However implicit the faith of David was in the performance
of ancient miracles, he eschewed the belief of any direct
supernatural agency in the management of modern morality.
In other words, while he had implicit faith in the ability
of Balaam's ass to speak, he was somewhat skeptical on the
subject of a bear's singing; and yet he had been assured of
the latter, on the testimony of his own exquisite organs.
There was something in his air and manner that betrayed to
the scout the utter confusion of the state of his mind. He
was seated on a pile of brush, a few twigs from which
occasionally fed his low fire, with his head leaning on his
arm, in a posture of melancholy musing. The costume of the
votary of music had undergone no other alteration from that
so lately described, except that he had covered his bald
head with the triangular beaver, which had not proved
sufficiently alluring to excite the cupidity of any of his
The ingenious Hawkeye, who recalled the hasty manner in
which the other had abandoned his post at the bedside of the
sick woman, was not without his suspicions concerning the
subject of so much solemn deliberation. First making the
circuit of the hut, and ascertaining that it stood quite
alone, and that the character of its inmate was likely to
protect it from visitors, he ventured through its low door,
into the very presence of Gamut. The position of the latter
brought the fire between them; and when Hawkeye had seated
himself on end, near a minute elapsed, during which the two
remained regarding each other without speaking. The
suddenness and the nature of the surprise had nearly proved
too much for--we will not say the philosophy--but for
the pitch and resolution of David. He fumbled for his pitch-
pipe, and arose with a confused intention of attempting a
"Dark and mysterious monster!" he exclaimed, while with
trembling hands he disposed of his auxiliary eyes, and
sought his never-failing resource in trouble, the gifted
version of the psalms; "I know not your nature nor intents;
but if aught you meditate against the person and rights of
one of the humblest servants of the temple, listen to the
inspired language of the youth of Israel, and repent."
The bear shook his shaggy sides, and then a well-known voice
"Put up the tooting we'pon, and teach your throat modesty.
Five words of plain and comprehendible English are worth
just now an hour of squalling."
"What art thou?" demanded David, utterly disqualified to
pursue his original intention, and nearly gasping for breath.
"A man like yourself; and one whose blood is as little
tainted by the cross of a bear, or an Indian, as your own.
Have you so soon forgotten from whom you received the
foolish instrument you hold in your hand?"
"Can these things be?" returned David, breathing more
freely, as the truth began to dawn upon him. "I have found
many marvels during my sojourn with the heathen, but surely
nothing to excel this."
"Come, come," returned Hawkeye, uncasing his honest
countenance, the better to assure the wavering confidence of
his companion; "you may see a skin, which, if it be not as
white as one of the gentle ones, has no tinge of red to it
that the winds of the heaven and the sun have not bestowed.
Now let us to business."
"First tell me of the maiden, and of the youth who so
bravely sought her," interrupted David.
"Ay, they are happily freed from the tomahawks of these
varlets. But can you put me on the scent of Uncas?"
"The young man is in bondage, and much I fear his death is
decreed. I greatly mourn that one so well disposed should
die in his ignorance, and I have sought a goodly hymn--"
"Can you lead me to him?"
"The task will not be difficult," returned David,
hesitating; "though I greatly fear your presence would
rather increase than mitigate his unhappy fortunes."
"No more words, but lead on," returned Hawkeye, concealing
his face again, and setting the example in his own person,
by instantly quitting the lodge.
As they proceeded, the scout ascertained that his companion
found access to Uncas, under privilege of his imaginary
infirmity, aided by the favor he had acquired with one of
the guards, who, in consequence of speaking a little
English, had been selected by David as the subject of a
religious conversion. How far the Huron comprehended the
intentions of his new friend may well be doubted; but as
exclusive attention is as flattering to a savage as to a
more civilized individual, it had produced the effect we
have mentioned. It is unnecessary to repeat the shrewd
manner with which the scout extracted these particulars from
the simple David; neither shall we dwell in this place on
the nature of the instruction he delivered, when completely
master of all the necessary facts; as the whole will be
sufficiently explained to the reader in the course of the
The lodge in which Uncas was confined was in the very center
of the village, and in a situation, perhaps, more difficult
than any other to approach, or leave, without observation.
But it was not the policy of Hawkeye to affect the least
concealment. Presuming on his disguise, and his ability to
sustain the character he had assumed, he took the most plain
and direct route to the place. The hour, however, afforded
him some little of that protection which he appeared so much
to despise. The boys were already buried in sleep, and all
the women, and most of the warriors, had retired to their
lodges for the night. Four or five of the latter only
lingered about the door of the prison of Uncas, wary by
close observers of the manner of their captive.
At the sight of Gamut, accompanied by one in the well-known
masquerade of their most distinguished conjurer, they
readily made way for them both. Still they betrayed no
intention to depart. On the other hand, they were evidently
disposed to remain bound to the place by an additional
interest in the mysterious mummeries that they of course
expected from such a visit.
From the total inability of the scout to address the Hurons
in their own language, he was compelled to trust the
conversation entirely to David. Notwithstanding the
simplicity of the latter, he did ample justice to the
instructions he had received, more than fulfilling the
strongest hopes of his teacher.
"The Delawares are women!" he exclaimed, addressing himself
to the savage who had a slight understanding of the language
in which he spoke; "the Yengeese, my foolish countrymen,
have told them to take up the tomahawk, and strike their
fathers in the Canadas, and they have forgotten their sex.
Does my brother wish to hear 'Le Cerf Agile' ask for his
petticoats, and see him weep before the Hurons, at the stake?"
The exclamation "Hugh!" delivered in a strong tone of
assent, announced the gratification the savage would receive
in witnessing such an exhibition of weakness in an enemy so
long hated and so much feared.
"Then let him step aside, and the cunning man will blow upon
the dog. Tell it to my brothers."
The Huron explained the meaning of David to his fellows,
who, in their turn, listened to the project with that sort
of satisfaction that their untamed spirits might be expected
to find in such a refinement in cruelty. They drew back a
little from the entrance and motioned to the supposed
conjurer to enter. But the bear, instead of obeying,
maintained the seat it had taken, and growled:
"The cunning man is afraid that his breath will blow upon
his brothers, and take away their courage too," continued
David, improving the hint he received; "they must stand
The Hurons, who would have deemed such a misfortune the
heaviest calamity that could befall them, fell back in a
body, taking a position where they were out of earshot,
though at the same time they could command a view of the
entrance to the lodge. Then, as if satisfied of their
safety, the scout left his position, and slowly entered the
place. It was silent and gloomy, being tenanted solely by
the captive, and lighted by the dying embers of a fire,
which had been used for the purposed of cookery.
Uncas occupied a distant corner, in a reclining attitude,
being rigidly bound, both hands and feet, by strong and
painful withes. When the frightful object first presented
itself to the young Mohican, he did not deign to bestow a
single glance on the animal. The scout, who had left David
at the door, to ascertain they were not observed, thought it
prudent to preserve his disguise until assured of their
privacy. Instead of speaking, therefore, he exerted himself
to enact one of the antics of the animal he represented.
The young Mohican, who at first believed his enemies had
sent in a real beast to torment him, and try his nerves,
detected in those performances that to Heyward had appeared
so accurate, certain blemishes, that at once betrayed the
counterfeit. Had Hawkeye been aware of the low estimation
in which the skillful Uncas held his representations, he
would probably have prolonged the entertainment a little in
pique. But the scornful expression of the young man's eye
admitted of so many constructions, that the worthy scout was
spared the mortification of such a discovery. As soon,
therefore, as David gave the preconcerted signal, a low
hissing sound was heard in the lodge in place of the fierce
growlings of the bear.
Uncas had cast his body back against the wall of the hut and
closed his eyes, as if willing to exclude so contemptible
and disagreeable an object from his sight. But the moment
the noise of the serpent was heard, he arose, and cast his
looks on each side of him, bending his head low, and turning
it inquiringly in every direction, until his keen eye rested
on the shaggy monster, where it remained riveted, as though
fixed by the power of a charm. Again the same sounds were
repeated, evidently proceeding from the mouth of the beast.
Once more the eyes of the youth roamed over the interior of
the lodge, and returning to the former resting place, he
uttered, in a deep, suppressed voice:
"Cut his bands," said Hawkeye to David, who just then
The singer did as he was ordered, and Uncas found his limbs
released. At the same moment the dried skin of the animal
rattled, and presently the scout arose to his feet, in
proper person. The Mohican appeared to comprehend the
nature of the attempt his friend had made, intuitively,
neither tongue nor feature betraying another symptom of
surprise. When Hawkeye had cast his shaggy vestment, which
was done by simply loosing certain thongs of skin, he drew a
long, glittering knife, and put it in the hands of Uncas.
"The red Hurons are without," he said; "let us be ready."
At the same time he laid his finger significantly on another
similar weapon, both being the fruits of his prowess among
their enemies during the evening.
"We will go," said Uncas.
"To the Tortoises; they are the children of my grandfathers."
"Ay, lad," said the scout in English--a language he was
apt to use when a little abstracted in mind; "the same blood
runs in your veins, I believe; but time and distance has a
little changed its color. What shall we do with the Mingoes
at the door? They count six, and this singer is as good as
"The Hurons are boasters," said Uncas, scornfully; "their
'totem' is a moose, and they run like snails. The Delawares
are children of the tortoise, and they outstrip the deer."
"Ay, lad, there is truth in what you say; and I doubt not,
on a rush, you would pass the whole nation; and, in a
straight race of two miles, would be in, and get your breath
again, afore a knave of them all was within hearing of the
other village. But the gift of a white man lies more in his
arms than in his legs. As for myself, I can brain a Huron
as well as a better man; but when it comes to a race the
knaves would prove too much for me."
Uncas, who had already approached the door, in readiness to
lead the way, now recoiled, and placed himself, once more,
in the bottom of the lodge. But Hawkeye, who was too much
occupied with his own thoughts to note the movement,
continued speaking more to himself than to his companion.
"After all," he said, "it is unreasonable to keep one man
bondage to the gifts of another. So, Uncas, you had better
take the lead, while I will put on the skin again, and trust
to cunning for want of speed."
The young Mohican made no reply, but quietly folded his
arms, and leaned his body against one of the upright posts
that supported the wall of the hut.
"Well," said the scout looking up at him, "why do you tarry?
There will be time enough for me, as the knaves will give
chase to you at first."
"Uncas will stay," was the calm reply.
"To fight with his father's brother, and die with the friend
of the Delawares."
"Ay, lad," returned Hawkeye, squeezing the hand of Uncas
between his own iron fingers; "'twould have been more like a
Mingo than a Mohican had you left me. But I thought I would
make the offer, seeing that youth commonly loves life.
Well, what can't be done by main courage, in war, must be
done by circumvention. Put on the skin; I doubt not you can
play the bear nearly as well as myself."
Whatever might have been the private opinion of Uncas of
their respective abilities in this particular, his grave
countenance manifested no opinion of his superiority. He
silently and expeditiously encased himself in the covering
of the beast, and then awaited such other movements as his
more aged companion saw fit to dictate.
"Now, friend," said Hawkeye, addressing David, "an exchange
of garments will be a great convenience to you, inasmuch as
you are but little accustomed to the make-shifts of the
wilderness. Here, take my hunting shirt and cap, and give
me your blanket and hat. You must trust me with the book
and spectacles, as well as the tooter, too; if we ever meet
again, in better times, you shall have all back again, with
many thanks into the bargain."
David parted with the several articles named with a
readiness that would have done great credit to his
liberality, had he not certainly profited, in many
particulars, by the exchange. Hawkeye was not long in
assuming his borrowed garments; and when his restless eyes
were hid behind the glasses, and his head was surmounted by
the triangular beaver, as their statures were not
dissimilar, he might readily have passed for the singer, by
starlight. As soon as these dispositions were made, the
scout turned to David, and gave him his parting instructions.
"Are you much given to cowardice?" he bluntly asked, by way
of obtaining a suitable understanding of the whole case
before he ventured a prescription.
"My pursuits are peaceful, and my temper, I humbly trust, is
greatly given to mercy and love," returned David, a little
nettled at so direct an attack on his manhood; "but there
are none who can say that I have ever forgotten my faith in
the Lord, even in the greatest straits."
"Your chiefest danger will be at the moment when the savages
find out that they have been deceived. If you are not then
knocked on the head, your being a non-composser will protect
you; and you'll then have a good reason to expect to die in
your bed. If you stay, it must be to sit down here in the
shadow, and take the part of Uncas, until such times as the
cunning of the Indians discover the cheat, when, as I have
already said, your times of trial will come. So choose for
yourself--to make a rush or tarry here."
"Even so," said David, firmly; "I will abide in the place
the Delaware. Bravely and generously has he battled in my
behalf, and this, and more, will I dare in his service."
"You have spoken as a man, and like one who, under wiser
schooling, would have been brought to better things. Hold
your head down, and draw in your legs; their formation might
tell the truth too early. Keep silent as long as may be;
and it would be wise, when you do speak, to break out
suddenly in one of your shoutings, which will serve to
remind the Indians that you are not altogether as
responsible as men should be. If however, they take your
scalp, as I trust and believe they will not, depend on it,
Uncas and I will not forget the deed, but revenge it as
becomes true warriors and trusty friends."
"Hold!" said David, perceiving that with this assurance they
were about to leave him; "I am an unworthy and humble
follower of one who taught not the damnable principle of
revenge. Should I fall, therefore, seek no victims to my
manes, but rather forgive my destroyers; and if you remember
them at all, let it be in prayers for the enlightening of
their minds, and for their eternal welfare."
The scout hesitated, and appeared to muse.
"There is a principle in that," he said, "different from
law of the woods; and yet it is fair and noble to reflect
upon." Then heaving a heavy sigh, probably among the last
he ever drew in pining for a condition he had so long
abandoned, he added: "it is what I would wish to practise
myself, as one without a cross of blood, though it is not
always easy to deal with an Indian as you would with a
fellow Christian. God bless you, friend; I do believe your
scent is not greatly wrong, when the matter is duly
considered, and keeping eternity before the eyes, though
much depends on the natural gifts, and the force of temptation."
So saying, the scout returned and shook David cordially by
the hand; after which act of friendship he immediately left
the lodge, attended by the new representative of the beast.
The instant Hawkeye found himself under the observation of
the Hurons, he drew up his tall form in the rigid manner of
David, threw out his arm in the act of keeping time, and
commenced what he intended for an imitation of his psalmody.
Happily for the success of this delicate adventure, he had
to deal with ears but little practised in the concord of
sweet sounds, or the miserable effort would infallibly have
been detected. It was necessary to pass within a dangerous
proximity of the dark group of the savages, and the voice of
the scout grew louder as they drew nigher. When at the
nearest point the Huron who spoke the English thrust out an
arm, and stopped the supposed singing-master.
"The Delaware dog!" he said, leaning forward, and peering
through the dim light to catch the expression of the other's
features; "is he afraid? Will the Hurons hear his groans?"
A growl, so exceedingly fierce and natural, proceeded from
the beast, that the young Indian released his hold and
started aside, as if to assure himself that it was not a
veritable bear, and no counterfeit, that was rolling before
him. Hawkeye, who feared his voice would betray him to his
subtle enemies, gladly profited by the interruption, to
break out anew in such a burst of musical expression as
would, probably, in a more refined state of society have
been termed "a grand crash." Among his actual auditors,
however, it merely gave him an additional claim to that
respect which they never withhold from such as are believed
to be the subjects of mental alienation. The little knot on
Indians drew back in a body, and suffered, as they thought,
the conjurer and his inspired assistant to proceed.
It required no common exercise of fortitude in Uncas and the
scout to continue the dignified and deliberate pace they had
assumed in passing the lodge; especially as they immediately
perceived that curiosity had so far mastered fear, as to
induce the watchers to approach the hut, in order to witness
the effect of the incantations. The least injudicious or
impatient movement on the part of David might betray them,
and time was absolutely necessary to insure the safety of
the scout. The loud noise the latter conceived it politic
to continue, drew many curious gazers to the doors of the
different huts as thy passed; and once or twice a dark-
looking warrior stepped across their path, led to the act by
superstition and watchfulness. They were not, however,
interrupted, the darkness of the hour, and the boldness of
the attempt, proving their principal friends.
The adventurers had got clear of the village, and were now
swiftly approaching the shelter of the woods, when a loud
and long cry arose from the lodge where Uncas had been
confined. The Mohican started on his feet, and shook his
shaggy covering, as though the animal he counterfeited was
about to make some desperate effort.
"Hold!" said the scout, grasping his friend by the shoulder,
"let them yell again! 'Twas nothing but wonderment."
He had no occasion to delay, for at the next instant a burst
of cries filled the outer air, and ran along the whole
extent of the village. Uncas cast his skin, and stepped
forth in his own beautiful proportions. Hawkeye tapped him
lightly on the shoulder, and glided ahead.
"Now let the devils strike our scent!" said the scout,
tearing two rifles, with all their attendant accouterments,
from beneath a bush, and flourishing "killdeer" as he handed
Uncas his weapon; "two, at least, will find it to their deaths."
Then, throwing their pieces to a low trail, like sportsmen
in readiness for their game, they dashed forward, and were
soon buried in the somber darkness of the forest.
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Last of the Mohicans