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

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"Brief, I pray for you; for you see, 'tis a busy time with me."
--Much Ado About Nothing


The tribe, or rather half tribe, of Delawares, which has
been so often mentioned, and whose present place of
encampment was so nigh the temporary village of the Hurons,
could assemble about an equal number of warriors with the
latter people. Like their neighbors, they had followed
Montcalm into the territories of the English crown, and were
making heavy and serious inroads on the hunting-grounds of
the Mohawks; though they had seen fit, with the mysterious
reserve so common among the natives, to withhold their
assistance at the moment when it was most required. The
French had accounted for this unexpected defection on the
part of their ally in various ways. It was the prevalent
opinion, however, that they had been influenced by
veneration for the ancient treaty, that had once made them
dependent on the Six Nations for military protection, and
now rendered them reluctant to encounter their former
masters. As for the tribe itself, it had been content to
announce to Montcalm, through his emissaries, with Indian
brevity, that their hatchets were dull, and time was
necessary to sharpen them. The politic captain of the
Canadas had deemed it wiser to submit to entertain a passive
friend, than by any acts of ill-judged severity to convert
him into an open enemy.

On that morning when Magua led his silent party from the
settlement of the beavers into the forests, in the manner
described, the sun rose upon the Delaware encampment as if
it had suddenly burst upon a busy people, actively employed
in all the customary avocations of high noon. The women ran
from lodge to lodge, some engaged in preparing their
morning's meal, a few earnestly bent on seeking the comforts
necessary to their habits, but more pausing to exchange
hasty and whispered sentences with their friends. The
warriors were lounging in groups, musing more than they
conversed and when a few words were uttered, speaking like
men who deeply weighed their opinions. The instruments of
the chase were to be seen in abundance among the lodges; but
none departed. Here and there a warrior was examining his
arms, with an attention that is rarely bestowed on the
implements, when no other enemy than the beasts of the
forest is expected to be encountered. And occasionally, the
eyes of a whole group were turned simultaneously toward a
large and silent lodge in the center of the village, as if
it contained the subject of their common thoughts.

During the existence of this scene, a man suddenly appeared
at the furthest extremity of a platform of rock which formed
the level of the village. He was without arms, and his
paint tended rather to soften than increase the natural
sternness of his austere countenance. When in full view of
the Delawares he stopped, and made a gesture of amity, by
throwing his arm upward toward heaven, and then letting it
fall impressively on his breast. The inhabitants of the
village answered his salute by a low murmur of welcome, and
encouraged him to advance by similar indications of
friendship. Fortified by these assurances, the dark figure
left the brow of the natural rocky terrace, where it had
stood a moment, drawn in a strong outline against the
blushing morning sky, and moved with dignity into the very
center of the huts. As he approached, nothing was audible
but the rattling of the light silver ornaments that loaded
his arms and neck, and the tinkling of the little bells that
fringed his deerskin moccasins. He made, as he advanced,
many courteous signs of greeting to the men he passed,
neglecting to notice the women, however, like one who deemed
their favor, in the present enterprise, of no importance.
When he had reached the group in which it was evident, by
the haughtiness of their common mien, that the principal
chiefs were collected, the stranger paused, and then the
Delawares saw that the active and erect form that stood
before them was that of the well-known Huron chief, Le
Renard Subtil.

His reception was grave, silent, and wary. The warriors in
front stepped aside, opening the way to their most approved
orator by the action; one who spoke all those languages that
were cultivated among the northern aborigines.

"The wise Huron is welcome," said the Delaware, in the
language of the Maquas; "he is come to eat his 'succotash'*,
with his brothers of the lakes."

* A dish composed of cracked corn and beans. It is
much used also by the whites. By corn is meant maise.

"He is come," repeated Magua, bending his head with the
dignity of an eastern prince.

The chief extended his arm and taking the other by the
wrist, they once more exchanged friendly salutations. Then
the Delaware invited his guest to enter his own lodge, and
share his morning meal. The invitation was accepted; and
the two warriors, attended by three or four of the old men,
walked calmly away, leaving the rest of the tribe devoured
by a desire to understand the reasons of so unusual a visit,
and yet not betraying the least impatience by sign or word.

During the short and frugal repast that followed, the
conversation was extremely circumspect, and related entirely
to the events of the hunt, in which Magua had so lately been
engaged. It would have been impossible for the most
finished breeding to wear more of the appearance of
considering the visit as a thing of course, than did his
hosts, notwithstanding every individual present was
perfectly aware that it must be connected with some secret
object and that probably of importance to themselves. When
the appetites of the whole were appeased, the squaws removed
the trenchers and gourds, and the two parties began to
prepare themselves for a subtle trial of their wits.

"Is the face of my great Canada father turned again toward
his Huron children?" demanded the orator of the Delawares.

"When was it ever otherwise?" returned Magua. "He calls my
people 'most beloved'."

The Delaware gravely bowed his acquiescence to what he knew
to be false, and continued:

"The tomahawks of your young men have been very red."

"It is so; but they are now bright and dull; for the
Yengeese are dead, and the Delawares are our neighbors."

The other acknowledged the pacific compliment by a gesture
of the hand, and remained silent. Then Magua, as if
recalled to such a recollection, by the allusion to the
massacre, demanded:

"Does my prisoner give trouble to my brothers?"

"She is welcome."

"The path between the Hurons and the Delawares is short and
it is open; let her be sent to my squaws, if she gives
trouble to my brother."

"She is welcome," returned the chief of the latter nation,
still more emphatically.

The baffled Magua continued silent several minutes,
apparently indifferent, however, to the repulse he had
received in this his opening effort to regain possession of

"Do my young men leave the Delawares room on the mountains
for their hunts?" he at length continued.

"The Lenape are rulers of their own hills," returned the
other a little haughtily.

"It is well. Justice is the master of a red-skin. Why
should they brighten their tomahawks and sharpen their
knives against each other? Are not the pale faces thicker
than the swallows in the season of flowers?"

"Good!" exclaimed two or three of his auditors at the same

Magua waited a little, to permit his words to soften the
feelings of the Delawares, before he added:

"Have there not been strange moccasins in the woods? Have
not my brothers scented the feet of white men?"

"Let my Canada father come," returned the other, evasively;
"his children are ready to see him."

"When the great chief comes, it is to smoke with the Indians
in their wigwams. The Hurons say, too, he is welcome. But
the Yengeese have long arms, and legs that never tire! My
young men dreamed they had seen the trail of the Yengeese
nigh the village of the Delawares!"

"They will not find the Lenape asleep."

"It is well. The warrior whose eye is open can see his
enemy," said Magua, once more shifting his ground, when he
found himself unable to penetrate the caution of his
companion. "I have brought gifts to my brother. His nation
would not go on the warpath, because they did not think it
well, but their friends have remembered where they lived."

When he had thus announced his liberal intention, the crafty
chief arose, and gravely spread his presents before the
dazzled eyes of his hosts. They consisted principally of
trinkets of little value, plundered from the slaughtered
females of William Henry. In the division of the baubles
the cunning Huron discovered no less art than in their
selection. While he bestowed those of greater value on the
two most distinguished warriors, one of whom was his host,
he seasoned his offerings to their inferiors with such well-
timed and apposite compliments, as left them no ground of
complaint. In short, the whole ceremony contained such a
happy blending of the profitable with the flattering, that
it was not difficult for the donor immediately to read the
effect of a generosity so aptly mingled with praise, in the
eyes of those he addressed.

This well-judged and politic stroke on the part of Magua was
not without instantaneous results. The Delawares lost their
gravity in a much more cordial expression; and the host, in
particular, after contemplating his own liberal share of the
spoil for some moments with peculiar gratification, repeated
with strong emphasis, the words:

"My brother is a wise chief. He is welcome."

"The Hurons love their friends the Delawares," returned
Magua. "Why should they not? they are colored by the same
sun, and their just men will hunt in the same grounds after
death. The red-skins should be friends, and look with open
eyes on the white men. Has not my brother scented spies in
the woods?"

The Delaware, whose name in English signified "Hard Heart,"
an appellation that the French had translated into "le Coeur-
dur," forgot that obduracy of purpose, which had probably
obtained him so significant a title. His countenance grew
very sensibly less stern and he now deigned to answer more

"There have been strange moccasins about my camp. They have
been tracked into my lodges."

"Did my brother beat out the dogs?" asked Magua, without
adverting in any manner to the former equivocation of the

"It would not do. The stranger is always welcome to the
children of the Lenape."

"The stranger, but not the spy."

"Would the Yengeese send their women as spies? Did not the
Huron chief say he took women in the battle?"

"He told no lie. The Yengeese have sent out their scouts.
They have been in my wigwams, but they found there no one to
say welcome. Then they fled to the Delawares--for, say
they, the Delawares are our friends; their minds are turned
from their Canada father!"

This insinuation was a home thrust, and one that in a more
advanced state of society would have entitled Magua to the
reputation of a skillful diplomatist. The recent defection
of the tribe had, as they well knew themselves, subjected
the Delawares to much reproach among their French allies;
and they were now made to feel that their future actions
were to be regarded with jealousy and distrust. There was
no deep insight into causes and effects necessary to foresee
that such a situation of things was likely to prove highly
prejudicial to their future movements. Their distant
villages, their hunting-grounds and hundreds of their women
and children, together with a material part of their
physical force, were actually within the limits of the
French territory. Accordingly, this alarming annunciation
was received, as Magua intended, with manifest
disapprobation, if not with alarm.

"Let my father look in my face," said Le Coeur-dur; "he will
see no change. It is true, my young men did not go out on
the war-path; they had dreams for not doing so. But they
love and venerate the great white chief."

"Will he think so when he hears that his greatest enemy is
fed in the camp of his children? When he is told a bloody
Yengee smokes at your fire? That the pale face who has
slain so many of his friends goes in and out among the
Delawares? Go! my great Canada father is not a fool!"

"Where is the Yengee that the Delawares fear?" returned the
other; "who has slain my young men? Who is the mortal enemy
of my Great Father?"

"La Longue Carabine!"

The Delaware warriors started at the well-known name,
betraying by their amazement, that they now learned, for the
first time, one so famous among the Indian allies of France
was within their power.

"What does my brother mean?" demanded Le Coeur-dur, in a
tone that, by its wonder, far exceeded the usual apathy of
his race.

"A Huron never lies!" returned Magua, coldly, leaning his
head against the side of the lodge, and drawing his slight
robe across his tawny breast. "Let the Delawares count
their prisoners; they will find one whose skin is neither
red nor pale."

A long and musing pause succeeded. The chief consulted
apart with his companions, and messengers despatched to
collect certain others of the most distinguished men of the

As warrior after warrior dropped in, they were each made
acquainted, in turn, with the important intelligence that
Magua had just communicated. The air of surprise, and the
usual low, deep, guttural exclamation, were common to them
all. The news spread from mouth to mouth, until the whole
encampment became powerfully agitated. The women suspended
their labors, to catch such syllables as unguardedly fell
from the lips of the consulting warriors. The boys deserted
their sports, and walking fearlessly among their fathers,
looked up in curious admiration, as they heard the brief
exclamations of wonder they so freely expressed the temerity
of their hated foe. In short, every occupation was
abandoned for the time, and all other pursuits seemed
discarded in order that the tribe might freely indulge,
after their own peculiar manner, in an open expression of

When the excitement had a little abated, the old men
disposed themselves seriously to consider that which it
became the honor and safety of their tribe to perform, under
circumstances of so much delicacy and embarrassment. During
all these movements, and in the midst of the general
commotion, Magua had not only maintained his seat, but the
very attitude he had originally taken, against the side of
the lodge, where he continued as immovable, and, apparently,
as unconcerned, as if he had no interest in the result. Not
a single indication of the future intentions of his hosts,
however, escaped his vigilant eyes. With his consummate
knowledge of the nature of the people with whom he had to
deal, he anticipated every measure on which they decided;
and it might almost be said, that, in many instances, he
knew their intentions, even before they became known to

The council of the Delawares was short. When it was ended,
a general bustle announced that it was to be immediately
succeeded by a solemn and formal assemblage of the nation.
As such meetings were rare, and only called on occasions of
the last importance, the subtle Huron, who still sat apart,
a wily and dark observer of the proceedings, now knew that
all his projects must be brought to their final issue. He,
therefore, left the lodge and walked silently forth to the
place, in front of the encampment, whither the warriors were
already beginning to collect.

It might have been half an hour before each individual,
including even the women and children, was in his place.
The delay had been created by the grave preparations that
were deemed necessary to so solemn and unusual a conference.
But when the sun was seen climbing above the tops of that
mountain, against whose bosom the Delawares had constructed
their encampment, most were seated; and as his bright rays
darted from behind the outline of trees that fringed the
eminence, they fell upon as grave, as attentive, and as
deeply interested a multitude, as was probably ever before
lighted by his morning beams. Its number somewhat exceeded
a thousand souls.

In a collection of so serious savages, there is never to be
found any impatient aspirant after premature distinction,
standing ready to move his auditors to some hasty, and,
perhaps, injudicious discussion, in order that his own
reputation may be the gainer. An act of so much
precipitancy and presumption would seal the downfall of
precocious intellect forever. It rested solely with the
oldest and most experienced of the men to lay the subject of
the conference before the people. Until such a one chose to
make some movement, no deeds in arms, no natural gifts, nor
any renown as an orator, would have justified the slightest
interruption. On the present occasion, the aged warrior
whose privilege it was to speak, was silent, seemingly
oppressed with the magnitude of his subject. The delay had
already continued long beyond the usual deliberative pause
that always preceded a conference; but no sign of impatience
or surprise escaped even the youngest boy. Occasionally an
eye was raised from the earth, where the looks of most were
riveted, and strayed toward a particular lodge, that was,
however, in no manner distinguished from those around it,
except in the peculiar care that had been taken to protect
it against the assaults of the weather.

At length one of those low murmurs, that are so apt to
disturb a multitude, was heard, and the whole nation arose
to their feet by a common impulse. At that instant the door
of the lodge in question opened, and three men, issuing from
it, slowly approached the place of consultation. They were
all aged, even beyond that period to which the oldest
present had reached; but one in the center, who leaned on
his companions for support, had numbered an amount of years
to which the human race is seldom permitted to attain. His
frame, which had once been tall and erect, like the cedar,
was now bending under the pressure of more than a century.
The elastic, light step of an Indian was gone, and in its
place he was compelled to toil his tardy way over the
ground, inch by inch. His dark, wrinkled countenance was in
singular and wild contrast with the long white locks which
floated on his shoulders, in such thickness, as to announce
that generations had probably passed away since they had
last been shorn.

The dress of this patriarch--for such, considering his
vast age, in conjunction with his affinity and influence
with his people, he might very properly be termed--was
rich and imposing, though strictly after the simple fashions
of the tribe. His robe was of the finest skins, which had
been deprived of their fur, in order to admit of a
hieroglyphical representation of various deeds in arms, done
in former ages. His bosom was loaded with medals, some in
massive silver, and one or two even in gold, the gifts of
various Christian potentates during the long period of his
life. He also wore armlets, and cinctures above the ankles,
of the latter precious metal. His head, on the whole of
which the hair had been permitted to grow, the pursuits of
war having so long been abandoned, was encircled by a sort
of plated diadem, which, in its turn, bore lesser and more
glittering ornaments, that sparkled amid the glossy hues of
three drooping ostrich feathers, dyed a deep black, in
touching contrast to the color of his snow-white locks. His
tomahawk was nearly hid in silver, and the handle of his
knife shone like a horn of solid gold.

So soon as the first hum of emotion and pleasure, which the
sudden appearance of this venerated individual created, had
a little subsided, the name of "Tamenund" was whispered from
mouth to mouth. Magua had often heard the fame of this wise
and just Delaware; a reputation that even proceeded so far
as to bestow on him the rare gift of holding secret
communion with the Great Spirit, and which has since
transmitted his name, with some slight alteration, to the
white usurpers of his ancient territory, as the imaginary
tutelar saint* of a vast empire. The Huron chief,
therefore, stepped eagerly out a little from the throng, to
a spot whence he might catch a nearer glimpse of the
features of the man, whose decision was likely to produce so
deep an influence on his own fortunes.

* The Americans sometimes called their tutelar saint
Tamenay, a corruption of the name of the renowned chief here
introduced. There are many traditions which speak of the
character and power of Tamenund.

The eyes of the old man were closed, as though the organs
were wearied with having so long witnessed the selfish
workings of the human passions. The color of his skin
differed from that of most around him, being richer and
darker, the latter having been produced by certain delicate
and mazy lines of complicated and yet beautiful figures,
which had been traced over most of his person by the
operation of tattooing. Notwithstanding the position of the
Huron, he passed the observant and silent Magua without
notice, and leaning on his two venerable supporters
proceeded to the high place of the multitude, where he
seated himself in the center of his nation, with the dignity
of a monarch and the air of a father.

Nothing could surpass the reverence and affection with which
this unexpected visit from one who belongs rather to another
world than to this, was received by his people. After a
suitable and decent pause, the principal chiefs arose, and,
approaching the patriarch, they placed his hands reverently
on their heads, seeming to entreat a blessing. The younger
men were content with touching his robe, or even drawing
nigh his person, in order to breathe in the atmosphere of
one so aged, so just, and so valiant. None but the most
distinguished among the youthful warriors even presumed to
far as to perform the latter ceremony, the great mass of the
multitude deeming it a sufficient happiness to look upon a
form so deeply venerated, and so well beloved. When these
acts of affection and respect were performed, the chiefs
drew back again to their several places, and silence reigned
in the whole encampment.

After a short delay, a few of the young men, to whom
instructions had been whispered by one of the aged
attendants of Tamenund, arose, left the crowd, and entered
the lodge which has already been noted as the object of so
much attention throughout that morning. In a few minutes
they reappeared, escorting the individuals who had caused
all these solemn preparations toward the seat of judgment.
The crowd opened in a lane; and when the party had re-
entered, it closed in again, forming a large and dense belt
of human bodies, arranged in an open circle.



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