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

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"Ant. I shall remember: When Cësar says Do this, it is
performed."--Julius Caesar


The impatience of the savages who lingered about the prison
of Uncas, as has been seen, had overcome their dread of the
conjurer's breath. They stole cautiously, and with beating
hearts, to a crevice, through which the faint light of the
fire was glimmering. For several minutes they mistook the
form of David for that of the prisoner; but the very
accident which Hawkeye had foreseen occurred. Tired of
keeping the extremities of his long person so near together,
the singer gradually suffered the lower limbs to extend
themselves, until one of his misshapen feet actually came in
contact with and shoved aside the embers of the fire. At
first the Hurons believed the Delaware had been thus
deformed by witchcraft. But when David, unconscious of
being observed, turned his head, and exposed his simple,
mild countenance, in place of the haughty lineaments of
their prisoner, it would have exceeded the credulity of even
a native to have doubted any longer. They rushed together
into the lodge, and, laying their hands, with but little
ceremony, on their captive, immediately detected the
imposition. They arose the cry first heard by the
fugitives. It was succeeded by the most frantic and angry
demonstrations of vengeance. David, however, firm in his
determination to cover the retreat of his friends, was
compelled to believe that his own final hour had come.
Deprived of his book and his pipe, he was fain to trust to a
memory that rarely failed him on such subjects; and breaking
forth in a loud and impassioned strain, he endeavored to
smooth his passage into the other world by singing the
opening verse of a funeral anthem. The Indians were
seasonably reminded of his infirmity, and, rushing into the
open air, they aroused the village in the manner described.

A native warrior fights as he sleeps, without the protection
of anything defensive. The sounds of the alarm were,
therefore, hardly uttered before two hundred men were afoot,
and ready for the battle or the chase, as either might be
required. The escape was soon known; and the whole tribe
crowded, in a body, around the council-lodge, impatiently
awaiting the instruction of their chiefs. In such a sudden
demand on their wisdom, the presence of the cunning Magua
could scarcely fail of being needed. His name was
mentioned, and all looked round in wonder that he did not
appear. Messengers were then despatched to his lodge
requiring his presence.

In the meantime, some of the swiftest and most discreet of
the young men were ordered to make the circuit of the
clearing, under cover of the woods, in order to ascertain
that their suspected neighbors, the Delawares, designed no
mischief. Women and children ran to and fro; and, in short,
the whole encampment exhibited another scene of wild and
savage confusion. Gradually, however, these symptoms of
disorder diminished; and in a few minutes the oldest and
most distinguished chiefs were assembled in the lodge, in
grave consultation.

The clamor of many voices soon announced that a party
approached, who might be expected to communicate some
intelligence that would explain the mystery of the novel
surprise. The crowd without gave way, and several warriors
entered the place, bringing with them the hapless conjurer,
who had been left so long by the scout in duress.

Notwithstanding this man was held in very unequal estimation
among the Hurons, some believing implicitly in his power,
and others deeming him an impostor, he was now listened to
by all with the deepest attention. When his brief story was
ended, the father of the sick woman stepped forth, and, in a
few pithy expression, related, in his turn, what he knew.
These two narratives gave a proper direction to the
subsequent inquiries, which were now made with the
characteristic cunning of savages.

Instead of rushing in a confused and disorderly throng to
the cavern, ten of the wisest and firmest among the chiefs
were selected to prosecute the investigation. As no time
was to be lost, the instant the choice was made the
individuals appointed rose in a body and left the place
without speaking. On reaching the entrance, the younger men
in advance made way for their seniors; and the whole
proceeded along the low, dark gallery, with the firmness of
warriors ready to devote themselves to the public good,
though, at the same time, secretly doubting the nature of
the power with which they were about to contend.

The outer apartment of the cavern was silent and gloomy.
The woman lay in her usual place and posture, though there
were those present who affirmed they had seen her borne to
the woods by the supposed "medicine of the white men." Such
a direct and palpable contradiction of the tale related by
the father caused all eyes to be turned on him. Chafed by
the silent imputation, and inwardly troubled by so
unaccountable a circumstance, the chief advanced to the side
of the bed, and, stooping, cast an incredulous look at the
features, as if distrusting their reality. His daughter was dead.

The unerring feeling of nature for a moment prevailed and
the old warrior hid his eyes in sorrow. Then, recovering
his self-possession, he faced his companions, and, pointing
toward the corpse, he said, in the language of his people:

"The wife of my young man has left us! The Great Spirit is
angry with his children."

The mournful intelligence was received in solemn silence.
After a short pause, one of the elder Indians was about to
speak, when a dark-looking object was seen rolling out of an
adjoining apartment, into the very center of the room where
they stood. Ignorant of the nature of the beings they had
to deal with, the whole party drew back a little, and,
rising on end, exhibited the distorted but still fierce and
sullen features of Magua. The discovery was succeeded by a
general exclamation of amazement.

As soon, however, as the true situation of the chief was
understood, several knives appeared, and his limbs and
tongue were quickly released. The Huron arose, and shook
himself like a lion quitting his lair. Not a word escaped
him, though his hand played convulsively with the handle of
his knife, while his lowering eyes scanned the whole party,
as if they sought an object suited to the first burst of his

It was happy for Uncas and the scout, and even David, that
they were all beyond the reach of his arm at such a moment;
for, assuredly, no refinement in cruelty would then have
deferred their deaths, in opposition to the promptings of
the fierce temper that nearly choked him. Meeting
everywhere faces that he knew as friends, the savage grated
his teeth together like rasps of iron, and swallowed his
passion for want of a victim on whom to vent it. This
exhibition of anger was noted by all present; and from an
apprehension of exasperating a temper that was already
chafed nearly to madness, several minutes were suffered to
pass before another word was uttered. When, however,
suitable time had elapsed, the oldest of the party spoke.

"My friend has found an enemy," he said. "Is he nigh that
the Hurons might take revenge?"

"Let the Delaware die!" exclaimed Magua, in a voice of thunder.

Another longer and expressive silence was observed, and was
broken, as before, with due precaution, by the same individual.

"The Mohican is swift of foot, and leaps far," he said; "but
my young men are on his trail."

"Is he gone?" demanded Magua, in tones so deep and guttural,
that they seemed to proceed from his inmost chest.

"An evil spirit has been among us, and the Delaware has
blinded our eyes."

"An evil spirit!" repeated the other, mockingly; "'tis the
spirit that has taken the lives of so many Hurons; the
spirit that slew my young men at 'the tumbling river'; that
took their scalps at the 'healing spring'; and who has, now,
bound the arms of Le Renard Subtil!"

"Of whom does my friend speak?"

"Of the dog who carries the heart and cunning of a Huron
under a pale skin--La Longue Carabine."

The pronunciation of so terrible a name produced the usual
effect among his auditors. But when time was given for
reflection, and the warriors remembered that their
formidable and daring enemy had even been in the bosom of
their encampment, working injury, fearful rage took the
place of wonder, and all those fierce passions with which
the bosom of Magua had just been struggling were suddenly
transferred to his companions. Some among them gnashed
their teeth in anger, others vented their feelings in yells,
and some, again, beat the air as frantically as if the
object of their resentment were suffering under their blows.
But this sudden outbreaking of temper as quickly subsided in
the still and sullen restraint they most affected in their
moments of inaction.

Magua, who had in his turn found leisure for reflection, now
changed his manner, and assumed the air of one who knew how
to think and act with a dignity worthy of so grave a subject.

"Let us go to my people," he said; "they wait for us."

His companions consented in silence, and the whole of the
savage party left the cavern and returned to the council-
lodge. When they were seated, all eyes turned on Magua, who
understood, from such an indication, that, by common
consent, they had devolved the duty of relating what had
passed on him. He arose, and told his tale without
duplicity or reservation. The whole deception practised by
both Duncan and Hawkeye was, of course, laid naked, and no
room was found, even for the most superstitious of the
tribe, any longer to affix a doubt on the character of the
occurrences. It was but too apparent that they had been
insultingly, shamefully, disgracefully deceived. When he
had ended, and resumed his seat, the collected tribe--for
his auditors, in substance, included all the fighting men of
the party--sat regarding each other like men astonished
equally at the audacity and the success of their enemies.
The next consideration, however, was the means and
opportunities for revenge.

Additional pursuers were sent on the trail of the fugitives;
and then the chiefs applied themselves, in earnest, to the
business of consultation. Many different expedients were
proposed by the elder warriors, in succession, to all of
which Magua was a silent and respectful listener. That
subtle savage had recovered his artifice and self-command,
and now proceeded toward his object with his customary
caution and skill. It was only when each one disposed to
speak had uttered his sentiments, that he prepared to
advance his own opinions. They were given with additional
weight from the circumstance that some of the runners had
already returned, and reported that their enemies had been
traced so far as to leave no doubt of their having sought
safety in the neighboring camp of their suspected allies,
the Delawares. With the advantage of possessing this
important intelligence, the chief warily laid his plans
before his fellows, and, as might have been anticipated from
his eloquence and cunning, they were adopted without a
dissenting voice. They were, briefly, as follows, both in
opinions and in motives.

It has been already stated that, in obedience to a policy
rarely departed from, the sisters were separated so soon as
they reached the Huron village. Magua had early discovered
that in retaining the person of Alice, he possessed the most
effectual check on Cora. When they parted, therefore, he
kept the former within reach of his hand, consigning the one
he most valued to the keeping of their allies. The
arrangement was understood to be merely temporary, and was
made as much with a view to flatter his neighbors as in
obedience to the invariable rule of Indian policy.

While goaded incessantly by these revengeful impulses that
in a savage seldom slumber, the chief was still attentive to
his more permanent personal interests. The follies and
disloyalty committed in his youth were to be expiated by a
long and painful penance, ere he could be restored to the
full enjoyment of the confidence of his ancient people; and
without confidence there could be no authority in an Indian
tribe. In this delicate and arduous situation, the crafty
native had neglected no means of increasing his influence;
and one of the happiest of his expedients had been the
success with which he had cultivated the favor of their
powerful and dangerous neighbors. The result of his
experiment had answered all the expectations of his policy;
for the Hurons were in no degree exempt from that governing
principle of nature, which induces man to value his gifts
precisely in the degree that they are appreciated by others.

But, while he was making this ostensible sacrifice to
general considerations, Magua never lost sight of his
individual motives. The latter had been frustrated by the
unlooked-for events which had placed all his prisoners
beyond his control; and he now found himself reduced to the
necessity of suing for favors to those whom it had so lately
been his policy to oblige.

Several of the chiefs had proposed deep and treacherous
schemes to surprise the Delawares and, by gaining possession
of their camp, to recover their prisoners by the same blow;
for all agreed that their honor, their interests, and the
peace and happiness of their dead countrymen, imperiously
required them speedily to immolate some victims to their
revenge. But plans so dangerous to attempt, and of such
doubtful issue, Magua found little difficulty in defeating.
He exposed their risk and fallacy with his usual skill; and
it was only after he had removed every impediment, in the
shape of opposing advice, that he ventured to propose his
own projects.

He commenced by flattering the self-love of his auditors; a
never-failing method of commanding attention. When he had
enumerated the many different occasions on which the Hurons
had exhibited their courage and prowess, in the punishment
of insults, he digressed in a high encomium on the virtue of
wisdom. He painted the quality as forming the great point
of difference between the beaver and other brutes; between
the brutes and men; and, finally, between the Hurons, in
particular, and the rest of the human race. After he had
sufficiently extolled the property of discretion, he
undertook to exhibit in what manner its use was applicable
to the present situation of their tribe. On the one hand,
he said, was their great pale father, the governor of the
Canadas, who had looked upon his children with a hard eye
since their tomahawks had been so red; on the other, a
people as numerous as themselves, who spoke a different
language, possessed different interests, and loved them not,
and who would be glad of any pretense to bring them in
disgrace with the great white chief. Then he spoke of their
necessities; of the gifts they had a right to expect for
their past services; of their distance from their proper
hunting-grounds and native villages; and of the necessity of
consulting prudence more, and inclination less, in so
critical circumstances. When he perceived that, while the
old men applauded his moderation, many of the fiercest and
most distinguished of the warriors listened to these politic
plans with lowering looks, he cunningly led them back to the
subject which they most loved. He spoke openly of the
fruits of their wisdom, which he boldly pronounced would be
a complete and final triumph over their enemies. He even
darkly hinted that their success might be extended, with
proper caution, in such a manner as to include the
destruction of all whom they had reason to hate. In short,
he so blended the warlike with the artful, the obvious with
the obscure, as to flatter the propensities of both parties,
and to leave to each subject of hope, while neither could
say it clearly comprehended his intentions.

The orator, or the politician, who can produce such a state
of things, is commonly popular with his contemporaries,
however he may be treated by posterity. All perceived that
more was meant than was uttered, and each one believed that
the hidden meaning was precisely such as his own faculties
enabled him to understand, or his own wishes led him to

In this happy state of things, it is not surprising that the
management of Magua prevailed. The tribe consented to act
with deliberation, and with one voice they committed the
direction of the whole affair to the government of the chief
who had suggested such wise and intelligible expedients.

Magua had now attained one great object of all his cunning
and enterprise. The ground he had lost in the favor of his
people was completely regained, and he found himself even
placed at the head of affairs. He was, in truth, their
ruler; and, so long as he could maintain his popularity, no
monarch could be more despotic, especially while the tribe
continued in a hostile country. Throwing off, therefore,
the appearance of consultation, he assumed the grave air of
authority necessary to support the dignity of his office.

Runners were despatched for intelligence in different
directions; spies were ordered to approach and feel the
encampment of the Delawares; the warriors were dismissed to
their lodges, with an intimation that their services would
soon be needed; and the women and children were ordered to
retire, with a warning that it was their province to be
silent. When these several arrangements were made, Magua
passed through the village, stopping here and there to pay a
visit where he thought his presence might be flattering to
the individual. He confirmed his friends in their
confidence, fixed the wavering, and gratified all. Then he
sought his own lodge. The wife the Huron chief had
abandoned, when he was chased from among his people, was
dead. Children he had none; and he now occupied a hut,
without companion of any sort. It was, in fact, the
dilapidated and solitary structure in which David had been
discovered, and whom he had tolerated in his presence, on
those few occasions when they met, with the contemptuous
indifference of a haughty superiority.

Hither, then, Magua retired, when his labors of policy were
ended. While others slept, however, he neither knew or
sought repose. Had there been one sufficiently curious to
have watched the movements of the newly elected chief, he
would have seen him seated in a corner of his lodge, musing
on the subject of his future plans, from the hour of his
retirement to the time he had appointed for the warriors to
assemble again. Occasionally the air breathed through the
crevices of the hut, and the low flame that fluttered about
the embers of the fire threw their wavering light on the
person of the sullen recluse. At such moments it would not
have been difficult to have fancied the dusky savage the
Prince of Darkness brooding on his own fancied wrongs, and
plotting evil.

Long before the day dawned, however, warrior after warrior
entered the solitary hut of Magua, until they had collected
to the number of twenty. Each bore his rifle, and all the
other accouterments of war, though the paint was uniformly
peaceful. The entrance of these fierce-looking beings was
unnoticed: some seating themselves in the shadows of the
place, and others standing like motionless statues, until
the whole of the designated band was collected.

Then Magua arose and gave the signal to proceed, marching
himself in advance. They followed their leader singly, and
in that well-known order which has obtained the
distinguishing appellation of "Indian file." Unlike other
men engaged in the spirit-stirring business of war, they
stole from their camp unostentatiously and unobserved
resembling a band of gliding specters, more than warriors
seeking the bubble reputation by deeds of desperate daring.

Instead of taking the path which led directly toward the
camp of the Delawares, Magua led his party for some distance
down the windings of the stream, and along the little
artificial lake of the beavers. The day began to dawn as
they entered the clearing which had been formed by those
sagacious and industrious animals. Though Magua, who had
resumed his ancient garb, bore the outline of a fox on the
dressed skin which formed his robe, there was one chief of
his party who carried the beaver as his peculiar symbol, or
"totem." There would have been a species of profanity in
the omission, had this man passed so powerful a community of
his fancied kindred, without bestowing some evidence of his
regard. Accordingly, he paused, and spoke in words as kind
and friendly as if he were addressing more intelligent
beings. He called the animals his cousins, and reminded
them that his protecting influence was the reason they
remained unharmed, while many avaricious traders were
prompting the Indians to take their lives. He promised a
continuance of his favors, and admonished them to be
grateful. After which, he spoke of the expedition in which
he was himself engaged, and intimated, though with
sufficient delicacy and circumlocution, the expediency of
bestowing on their relative a portion of that wisdom for
which they were so renowned.*

* These harangues of the beasts were frequent among
the Indians. They often address their victims in this way,
reproaching them for cowardice or commending their
resolution, as they may happen to exhibit fortitude or the
reverse, in suffering.

During the utterance of this extraordinary address, the
companions of the speaker were as grave and as attentive to
his language as though they were all equally impressed with
its propriety. Once or twice black objects were seen rising
to the surface of the water, and the Huron expressed
pleasure, conceiving that his words were not bestowed in
vain. Just as he ended his address, the head of a large
beaver was thrust from the door of a lodge, whose earthen
walls had been much injured, and which the party had
believed, from its situation, to be uninhabited. Such an
extraordinary sign of confidence was received by the orator
as a highly favorable omen; and though the animal retreated
a little precipitately, he was lavish of his thanks and

When Magua thought sufficient time had been lost in
gratifying the family affection of the warrior, he again
made the signal to proceed. As the Indians moved away in a
body, and with a step that would have been inaudible to the
ears of any common man, the same venerable-looking beaver
once more ventured his head from its cover. Had any of the
Hurons turned to look behind them, they would have seen the
animal watching their movements with an interest and
sagacity that might easily have been mistaken for reason.
Indeed, so very distinct and intelligible were the devices
of the quadruped, that even the most experienced observer
would have been at a loss to account for its actions, until
the moment when the party entered the forest, when the whole
would have been explained, by seeing the entire animal issue
from the lodge, uncasing, by the act, the grave features of
Chingachgook from his mask of fur.



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