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

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"If you deny me, fie upon your law! There is no force in
the decrees of Venice: I stand for judgment: answer, shall I
have it?"--Merchant of Venice


The silence continued unbroken by human sounds for many
anxious minutes. Then the waving multitude opened and shut
again, and Uncas stood in the living circle. All those
eyes, which had been curiously studying the lineaments of
the sage, as the source of their own intelligence, turned on
the instant, and were now bent in secret admiration on the
erect, agile, and faultless person of the captive. But
neither the presence in which he found himself, nor the
exclusive attention that he attracted, in any manner
disturbed the self-possession of the young Mohican. He cast
a deliberate and observing look on every side of him,
meeting the settled expression of hostility that lowered in
the visages of the chiefs with the same calmness as the
curious gaze of the attentive children. But when, last in
this haughty scrutiny, the person of Tamenund came under his
glance, his eye became fixed, as though all other objects
were already forgotten. Then, advancing with a slow and
noiseless step up the area, he placed himself immediately
before the footstool of the sage. Here he stood unnoted,
though keenly observant himself, until one of the chiefs
apprised the latter of his presence.

"With what tongue does the prisoner speak to the Manitou?"
demanded the patriarch, without unclosing his eyes.

"Like his fathers," Uncas replied; "with the tongue of a

At this sudden and unexpected annunciation, a low, fierce
yell ran through the multitude, that might not inaptly be
compared to the growl of the lion, as his choler is first
awakened--a fearful omen of the weight of his future
anger. The effect was equally strong on the sage, though
differently exhibited. He passed a hand before his eyes, as
if to exclude the least evidence of so shameful a spectacle,
while he repeated, in his low, guttural tones, the words he
had just heard.

"A Delaware! I have lived to see the tribes of the Lenape
driven from their council-fires, and scattered, like broken
herds of deer, among the hills of the Iroquois! I have seen
the hatchets of a strong people sweep woods from the
valleys, that the winds of heaven have spared! The beasts
that run on the mountains, and the birds that fly above the
trees, have I seen living in the wigwams of men; but never
before have I found a Delaware so base as to creep, like a
poisonous serpent, into the camps of his nation."

"The singing-birds have opened their bills," returned Uncas,
in the softest notes of his own musical voice; "and Tamenund
has heard their song."

The sage started, and bent his head aside, as if to catch
the fleeting sounds of some passing melody.

"Does Tamenund dream!" he exclaimed. "What voice is at his
ear! Have the winters gone backward! Will summer come
again to the children of the Lenape!"

A solemn and respectful silence succeeded this incoherent
burst from the lips of the Delaware prophet. His people
readily constructed his unintelligible language into one of
those mysterious conferences he was believed to hold so
frequently with a superior intelligence and they awaited the
issue of the revelation in awe. After a patient pause,
however, one of the aged men, perceiving that the sage had
lost the recollection of the subject before them, ventured
to remind him again of the presence of the prisoner.

"The false Delaware trembles lest he should hear the words
of Tamenund," he said. "'Tis a hound that howls, when the
Yengeese show him a trail."

"And ye," returned Uncas, looking sternly around him, "are
dogs that whine, when the Frenchman casts ye the offals of
his deer!"

Twenty knives gleamed in the air, and as many warriors
sprang to their feet, at this biting, and perhaps merited
retort; but a motion from one of the chiefs suppressed the
outbreaking of their tempers, and restored the appearance of
quiet. The task might probably have been more difficult,
had not a movement made by Tamenund indicated that he was
again about to speak.

"Delaware!" resumed the sage, "little art thou worthy of thy
name. My people have not seen a bright sun in many winters;
and the warrior who deserts his tribe when hid in clouds is
doubly a traitor. The law of the Manitou is just. It is
so; while the rivers run and the mountains stand, while the
blossoms come and go on the trees, it must be so. He is
thine, my children; deal justly by him."

Not a limb was moved, nor was a breath drawn louder and
longer than common, until the closing syllable of this final
decree had passed the lips of Tamenund. Then a cry of
vengeance burst at once, as it might be, from the united
lips of the nation; a frightful augury of their ruthless
intentions. In the midst of these prolonged and savage
yells, a chief proclaimed, in a high voice, that the captive
was condemned to endure the dreadful trial of torture by
fire. The circle broke its order, and screams of delight
mingled with the bustle and tumult of preparation. Heyward
struggled madly with his captors; the anxious eye of Hawkeye
began to look around him, with an expression of peculiar
earnestness; and Cora again threw herself at the feet of the
patriarch, once more a suppliant for mercy.

Throughout the whole of these trying moments, Uncas had
alone preserved his serenity. He looked on the preparations
with a steady eye, and when the tormentors came to seize
him, he met them with a firm and upright attitude. One
among them, if possible more fierce and savage than his
fellows, seized the hunting-shirt of the young warrior, and
at a single effort tore it from his body. Then, with a yell
of frantic pleasure, he leaped toward his unresisting victim
and prepared to lead him to the stake. But, at that moment,
when he appeared most a stranger to the feelings of
humanity, the purpose of the savage was arrested as suddenly
as if a supernatural agency had interposed in the behalf of
Uncas. The eyeballs of the Delaware seemed to start from
their sockets; his mouth opened and his whole form became
frozen in an attitude of amazement. Raising his hand with a
slow and regulated motion, he pointed with a finger to the
bosom of the captive. His companions crowded about him in
wonder and every eye was like his own, fastened intently on
the figure of a small tortoise, beautifully tattooed on the
breast of the prisoner, in a bright blue tint.

For a single instant Uncas enjoyed his triumph, smiling
calmly on the scene. Then motioning the crowd away with a
high and haughty sweep of his arm, he advanced in front of
the nation with the air of a king, and spoke in a voice
louder than the murmur of admiration that ran through the

"Men of the Lenni Lenape!" he said, "my race upholds the
earth! Your feeble tribe stands on my shell! What fire
that a Delaware can light would burn the child of my
fathers," he added, pointing proudly to the simple blazonry
on his skin; "the blood that came from such a stock would
smother your flames! My race is the grandfather of

"Who art thou?" demanded Tamenund, rising at the startling
tones he heard, more than at any meaning conveyed by the
language of the prisoner.

"Uncas, the son of Chingachgook," answered the captive
modestly, turning from the nation, and bending his head in
reverence to the other's character and years; "a son of the
great Unamis."*

* Turtle.

"The hour of Tamenund is nigh!" exclaimed the sage; "the day
is come, at last, to the night! I thank the Manitou, that
one is here to fill my place at the council-fire. Uncas,
the child of Uncas, is found! Let the eyes of a dying eagle
gaze on the rising sun."

The youth stepped lightly, but proudly on the platform,
where he became visible to the whole agitated and wondering
multitude. Tamenund held him long at the length of his arm
and read every turn in the fine lineaments of his
countenance, with the untiring gaze of one who recalled days
of happiness.

"Is Tamenund a boy?" at length the bewildered prophet
exclaimed. "Have I dreamed of so many snows--that my
people were scattered like floating sands--of Yengeese,
more plenty than the leaves on the trees! The arrow of
Tamenund would not frighten the fawn; his arm if withered
like the branch of a dead oak; the snail would be swifter in
the race; yet is Uncas before him as they went to battle
against the pale faces! Uncas, the panther of his tribe,
the eldest son of the Lenape, the wisest Sagamore of the
Mohicans! Tell me, ye Delawares has Tamenund been a sleeper
for a hundred winters?"

The calm and deep silence which succeeded these words
sufficiently announced the awful reverence with which his
people received the communication of the patriarch. None
dared to answer, though all listened in breathless
expectation of what might follow. Uncas, however, looking
in his face with the fondness and veneration of a favored
child, presumed on his own high and acknowledged rank,
to reply.

"Four warriors of his race have lived and died," he said,
"since the friend of Tamenund led his people in battle. The
blood of the turtle has been in many chiefs, but all have
gone back into the earth from whence they came, except
Chingachgook and his son."

"It is true--it is true," returned the sage, a flash of
recollection destroying all his pleasing fancies, and
restoring him at once to a consciousness of the true history
of his nation. "Our wise men have often said that two
warriors of the unchanged race were in the hills of the
Yengeese; why have their seats at the council-fires of the
Delawares been so long empty?"

At these words the young man raised his head, which he had
still kept bowed a little, in reverence; and lifting his
voice so as to be heard by the multitude, as if to explain
at once and forever the policy of his family, he said aloud:

"Once we slept where we could hear the salt lake speak in
its anger. Then we were rulers and Sagamores over the land.
But when a pale face was seen on every brook, we followed
the deer back to the river of our nation. The Delawares
were gone. Few warriors of them all stayed to drink of the
stream they loved. Then said my fathers, 'Here will we
hunt. The waters of the river go into the salt lake. If we
go toward the setting sun, we shall find streams that run
into the great lakes of sweet water; there would a Mohican
die, like fishes of the sea, in the clear springs. When the
Manitou is ready and shall say "Come," we will follow the
river to the sea, and take our own again' Such, Delawares,
is the belief of the children of the Turtle. Our eyes are
on the rising and not toward the setting sun. We know
whence he comes, but we know not whither he goes. It is

The men of the Lenape listened to his words with all the
respect that superstition could lend, finding a secret charm
even in the figurative language with which the young
Sagamore imparted his ideas. Uncas himself watched the
effect of his brief explanation with intelligent eyes, and
gradually dropped the air of authority he had assumed, as he
perceived that his auditors were content. Then, permitting
his looks to wander over the silent throng that crowded
around the elevated seat of Tamenund, he first perceived
Hawkeye in his bonds. Stepping eagerly from his stand, he
made way for himself to the side of his friend; and cutting
his thongs with a quick and angry stroke of his own knife,
he motioned to the crowd to divide. The Indians silently
obeyed, and once more they stood ranged in their circle, as
before his appearance among them. Uncas took the scout by
the hand, and led him to the feet of the patriarch.

"Father," he said, "look at this pale face; a just man, and
the friend of the Delawares."

"Is he a son of Minquon?"

"Not so; a warrior known to the Yengeese, and feared by the

"What name has he gained by his deeds?"

"We call him Hawkeye," Uncas replied, using the Delaware
phrase; "for his sight never fails. The Mingoes know him
better by the death he gives their warriors; with them he is
'The Long Rifle'."

"La Longue Carabine!" exclaimed Tamenund, opening his eyes,
and regarding the scout sternly. "My son has not done well
to call him friend."

"I call him so who proves himself such," returned the young
chief, with great calmness, but with a steady mien. "If
Uncas is welcome among the Delawares, then is Hawkeye with
his friends."

"The pale face has slain my young men; his name is great for
the blows he has struck the Lenape."

"If a Mingo has whispered that much in the ear of the
Delaware, he has only shown that he is a singing-bird," said
the scout, who now believed that it was time to vindicate
himself from such offensive charges, and who spoke as the
man he addressed, modifying his Indian figures, however,
with his own peculiar notions. "That I have slain the
Maquas I am not the man to deny, even at their own council-
fires; but that, knowingly, my hand has never harmed a
Delaware, is opposed to the reason of my gifts, which is
friendly to them, and all that belongs to their nation."

A low exclamation of applause passed among the warriors who
exchanged looks with each other like men that first began to
perceive their error.

"Where is the Huron?" demanded Tamenund. "Has he stopped
my ears?"

Magua, whose feelings during that scene in which Uncas had
triumphed may be much better imagined than described,
answered to the call by stepping boldly in front of the patriarch.

"The just Tamenund," he said, "will not keep what a Huron
has lent."

"Tell me, son of my brother," returned the sage, avoiding
the dark countenance of Le Subtil, and turning gladly to the
more ingenuous features of Uncas, "has the stranger a
conqueror's right over you?"

"He has none. The panther may get into snares set by the women;
but he is strong, and knows how to leap through them."

"La Longue Carabine?"

"Laughs at the Mingoes. Go, Huron, ask your squaws the
color of a bear."

"The stranger and white maiden that come into my camp

"Should journey on an open path."

"And the woman that Huron left with my warriors?"

Uncas made no reply.

"And the woman that the Mingo has brought into my camp?"
repeated Tamenund, gravely.

"She is mine," cried Magua, shaking his hand in triumph at
Uncas. "Mohican, you know that she is mine."

"My son is silent," said Tamenund, endeavoring to read the
expression of the face that the youth turned from him in sorrow.

"It is so," was the low answer.

A short and impressive pause succeeded, during which it was
very apparent with what reluctance the multitude admitted
the justice of the Mingo's claim. At length the sage, on
whom alone the decision depended, said, in a firm voice:

"Huron, depart."

"As he came, just Tamenund," demanded the wily Magua, "or
with hands filled with the faith of the Delawares? The
wigwam of Le Renard Subtil is empty. Make him strong with
his own."

The aged man mused with himself for a time; and then,
bending his head toward one of his venerable companions, he

"Are my ears open?"

"It is true."

"Is this Mingo a chief?"

"The first in his nation."

"Girl, what wouldst thou? A great warrior takes thee to wife.
Go! thy race will not end."

"Better, a thousand times, it should," exclaimed the horror-
struck Cora, "than meet with such a degradation!"

"Huron, her mind is in the tents of her fathers. An
unwilling maiden makes an unhappy wigwam."

"She speaks with the tongue of her people," returned Magua,
regarding his victim with a look of bitter irony.

"She is of a race of traders, and will bargain for a bright
look. Let Tamenund speak the words."

"Take you the wampum, and our love."

"Nothing hence but what Magua brought hither."

"Then depart with thine own. The Great Manitou forbids that
a Delaware should be unjust."

Magua advanced, and seized his captive strongly by the arm;
the Delawares fell back, in silence; and Cora, as if
conscious that remonstrance would be useless, prepared to
submit to her fate without resistance.

"Hold, hold!" cried Duncan, springing forward; "Huron, have
mercy! her ransom shall make thee richer than any of thy
people were ever yet known to be."

"Magua is a red-skin; he wants not the beads of the pale faces."

"Gold, silver, powder, lead--all that a warrior needs shall be
in thy wigwam; all that becomes the greatest chief."

"Le Subtil is very strong," cried Magua, violently shaking
the hand which grasped the unresisting arm of Cora; "he has
his revenge!"

"Mighty ruler of Providence!" exclaimed Heyward, clasping
his hands together in agony, "can this be suffered! To you,
just Tamenund, I appeal for mercy."

"The words of the Delaware are said," returned the sage,
closing his eyes, and dropping back into his seat, alike
wearied with his mental and his bodily exertion. "Men speak
not twice."

"That a chief should not misspend his time in unsaying what
has once been spoken is wise and reasonable," said Hawkeye,
motioning to Duncan to be silent; "but it is also prudent in
every warrior to consider well before he strikes his
tomahawk into the head of his prisoner. Huron, I love you
not; nor can I say that any Mingo has ever received much
favor at my hands. It is fair to conclude that, if this war
does not soon end, many more of your warriors will meet me
in the woods. Put it to your judgment, then, whether you
would prefer taking such a prisoner as that into your
encampment, or one like myself, who am a man that it would
greatly rejoice your nation to see with naked hands."

"Will 'The Long Rifle' give his life for the woman?"
demanded Magua, hesitatingly; for he had already made a
motion toward quitting the place with his victim.

"No, no; I have not said so much as that," returned Hawkeye,
drawing back with suitable discretion, when he noted the
eagerness with which Magua listened to his proposal. "It
would be an unequal exchange, to give a warrior, in the
prime of his age and usefulness, for the best woman on the
frontiers. I might consent to go into winter quarters, now
--at least six weeks afore the leaves will turn--on
condition you will release the maiden."

Magua shook his head, and made an impatient sign for the
crowd to open.

"Well, then," added the scout, with the musing air of a man
who had not half made up his mind; "I will throw 'killdeer'
into the bargain. Take the word of an experienced hunter,
the piece has not its equal atween the provinces."

Magua still disdained to reply, continuing his efforts to
disperse the crowd.

"Perhaps," added the scout, losing his dissembled coolness
exactly in proportion as the other manifested an
indifference to the exchange, "if I should condition to
teach your young men the real virtue of the we'pon, it would
smoothe the little differences in our judgments."

Le Renard fiercely ordered the Delawares, who still lingered
in an impenetrable belt around him, in hopes he would listen
to the amicable proposal, to open his path, threatening, by
the glance of his eye, another appeal to the infallible
justice of their "prophet."

"What is ordered must sooner or later arrive," continued
Hawkeye, turning with a sad and humbled look to Uncas. "The
varlet knows his advantage and will keep it! God bless you,
boy; you have found friends among your natural kin, and I
hope they will prove as true as some you have met who had no
Indian cross. As for me, sooner or later, I must die; it
is, therefore, fortunate there are but few to make my death-
howl. After all, it is likely the imps would have managed
to master my scalp, so a day or two will make no great
difference in the everlasting reckoning of time. God bless
you," added the rugged woodsman, bending his head aside, and
then instantly changing its direction again, with a wistful
look toward the youth; "I loved both you and your father,
Uncas, though our skins are not altogether of a color, and
our gifts are somewhat difficult. Tell the Sagamore I never
lost sight of him in my greatest trouble; and, as for you,
think of me sometimes when on a lucky trail, and depend on
it, boy, whether there be one heaven or two, there is a path
in the other world by which honest men may come together
again. You'll find the rifle in the place we hid it; take
it, and keep it for my sake; and, harkee, lad, as your
natural gifts don't deny you the use of vengeance, use it a
little freely on the Mingoes; it may unburden griefs at my
loss, and ease your mind. Huron, I accept your offer;
release the woman. I am your prisoner!"

A suppressed, but still distinct murmur of approbation ran
through the crowd at this generous proposition; even the
fiercest among the Delaware warriors manifesting pleasure at
the manliness of the intended sacrifice. Magua paused, and
for an anxious moment, it might be said, he doubted; then,
casting his eyes on Cora, with an expression in which
ferocity and admiration were strangely mingled, his purpose
became fixed forever.

He intimated his contempt of the offer with a backward
motion of his head, and said, in a steady and settled voice:

"Le Renard Subtil is a great chief; he has but one mind.
Come," he added, laying his hand too familiarly on the
shoulder of his captive to urge her onward; "a Huron is no
tattler; we will go."

The maiden drew back in lofty womanly reserve, and her dark
eye kindled, while the rich blood shot, like the passing
brightness of the sun, into her very temples, at the indignity.

"I am your prisoner, and, at a fitting time shall be ready
to follow, even to my death. But violence is unnecessary,"
she coldly said; and immediately turning to Hawkeye, added:
"Generous hunter! from my soul I thank you. Your offer is
vain, neither could it be accepted; but still you may serve
me, even more than in your own noble intention. Look at
that drooping humbled child! Abandon her not until you
leave her in the habitations of civilized men. I will not
say," wringing the hard hand of the scout, "that her father
will reward you--for such as you are above the rewards of
men--but he will thank you and bless you. And, believe
me, the blessing of a just and aged man has virtue in the
sight of Heaven. Would to God I could hear one word from
his lips at this awful moment!" Her voice became choked,
and, for an instant, she was silent; then, advancing a step
nigher to Duncan, who was supporting her unconscious sister,
she continued, in more subdued tones, but in which feeling
and the habits of her sex maintained a fearful struggle: "I
need not tell you to cherish the treasure you will possess.
You love her, Heyward; that would conceal a thousand faults,
though she had them. She is kind, gentle, sweet, good, as
mortal may be. There is not a blemish in mind or person at
which the proudest of you all would sicken. She is fair--
oh! how surpassingly fair!" laying her own beautiful, but
less brilliant, hand in melancholy affection on the
alabaster forehead of Alice, and parting the golden hair
which clustered about her brows; "and yet her soul is pure
and spotless as her skin! I could say much--more,
perhaps, than cooler reason would approve; but I will spare
you and myself--" Her voice became inaudible, and her face
was bent over the form of her sister. After a long and
burning kiss, she arose, and with features of the hue of
death, but without even a tear in her feverish eye, she
turned away, and added, to the savage, with all her former
elevation of manner: "Now, sir, if it be your pleasure, I
will follow."

"Ay, go," cried Duncan, placing Alice in the arms of an
Indian girl; "go, Magua, go. these Delawares have their
laws, which forbid them to detain you; but I--I have no
such obligation. Go, malignant monster--why do you delay?"

It would be difficult to describe the expression with which
Magua listened to this threat to follow. There was at first
a fierce and manifest display of joy, and then it was
instantly subdued in a look of cunning coldness.

"The words are open," he was content with answering, "'The
Open Hand' can come."

"Hold," cried Hawkeye, seizing Duncan by the arm, and
detaining him by violence; "you know not the craft of the
imp. He would lead you to an ambushment, and your death--

"Huron," interrupted Uncas, who submissive to the stern
customs of his people, had been an attentive and grave
listener to all that passed; "Huron, the justice of the
Delawares comes from the Manitou. Look at the sun. He is
now in the upper branches of the hemlock. Your path is
short and open. When he is seen above the trees, there will
be men on your trail."

"I hear a crow!" exclaimed Magua, with a taunting laugh.
"Go!" he added, shaking his hand at the crowd, which had
slowly opened to admit his passage. "Where are the
petticoats of the Delawares! Let them send their arrows and
their guns to the Wyandots; they shall have venison to eat,
and corn to hoe. Dogs, rabbits, thieves--I spit on you!"

His parting gibes were listened to in a dead, boding
silence, and, with these biting words in his mouth, the
triumphant Magua passed unmolested into the forest, followed
by his passive captive, and protected by the inviolable laws
of Indian hospitality.



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