"Flue.--Kill the poys and the
luggage! 'Tis expressly
against the law of arms; 'tis as arrant a piece of knavery,
mark you now, as can be offered in the 'orld."--King Henry V
So long as their enemy and his victim continued in sight,
the multitude remained motionless as beings charmed to the
place by some power that was friendly to the Huron; but, the
instant he disappeared, it became tossed and agitated by
fierce and powerful passion. Uncas maintained his elevated
stand, keeping his eyes on the form of Cora, until the
colors of her dress were blended with the foliage of the
forest; when he descended, and, moving silently through the
throng, he disappeared in that lodge from which he had so
recently issued. A few of the graver and more attentive
warriors, who caught the gleams of anger that shot from the
eyes of the young chief in passing, followed him to the
place he had selected for his meditations. After which,
Tamenund and Alice were removed, and the women and children
were ordered to disperse. During the momentous hour that
succeeded, the encampment resembled a hive of troubled bees,
who only awaited the appearance and example of their leader
to take some distant and momentous flight.
A young warrior at length issued from the lodge of Uncas;
and, moving deliberately, with a sort of grave march, toward
a dwarf pine that grew in the crevices of the rocky terrace,
he tore the bark from its body, and then turned whence he
came without speaking. He was soon followed by another, who
stripped the sapling of its branches, leaving it a naked and
blazed* trunk. A third colored the post with stripes of a
dark red paint; all which indications of a hostile design in
the leaders of the nation were received by the men without
in a gloomy and ominous silence. Finally, the Mohican
himself reappeared, divested of all his attire, except his
girdle and leggings, and with one-half of his fine features
hid under a cloud of threatening black.
* A tree which has been partially or
of its bark is said, in the language of the country, to be
"blazed." The term is strictly English, for a horse is said
to be blazed when it has a white mark.
Uncas moved with a slow and dignified tread toward the post,
which he immediately commenced encircling with a measured
step, not unlike an ancient dance, raising his voice, at the
same time, in the wild and irregular chant of his war song.
The notes were in the extremes of human sounds; being
sometimes melancholy and exquisitely plaintive, even
rivaling the melody of birds--and then, by sudden and
startling transitions, causing the auditors to tremble by
their depth and energy. The words were few and often
repeated, proceeding gradually from a sort of invocation, or
hymn, to the Deity, to an intimation of the warrior's
object, and terminating as they commenced with an
acknowledgment of his own dependence on the Great Spirit.
If it were possible to translate the comprehensive and
melodious language in which he spoke, the ode might read
something like the following: "Manitou! Manitou! Manitou!
Thou art great, thou art good, thou art wise: Manitou!
Manitou! Thou art just. "In the heavens, in the clouds,
oh, I see Many spots--many dark, many red: In the heavens,
oh, I see Many clouds. "In the woods, in the air, oh, I
hear The whoop, the long yell, and the cry: In the woods,
oh, I hear The loud whoop! "Manitou! Manitou! Manitou! I
am weak--thou art strong; I am slow; Manitou! Manitou!
Give me aid."
At the end of what might be called each verse he made a
pause, by raising a note louder and longer than common, that
was peculiarly suited to the sentiment just expressed. The
first close was solemn, and intended to convey the idea of
veneration; the second descriptive, bordering on the
alarming; and the third was the well-known and terrific war-
whoop, which burst from the lips of the young warrior, like
a combination of all the frightful sounds of battle. The
last was like the first, humble and imploring. Three times
did he repeat this song, and as often did he encircle the
post in his dance.
At the close of the first turn, a grave and highly esteemed
chief of the Lenape followed his example, singing words of
his own, however, to music of a similar character. Warrior
after warrior enlisted in the dance, until all of any renown
and authority were numbered in its mazes. The spectacle now
became wildly terrific; the fierce-looking and menacing
visages of the chiefs receiving additional power from the
appalling strains in which they mingled their guttural
tones. Just then Uncas struck his tomahawk deep into the
post, and raised his voice in a shout, which might be termed
his own battle cry. The act announced that he had assumed
the chief authority in the intended expedition.
It was a signal that awakened all the slumbering passions of
the nation. A hundred youths, who had hitherto been
restrained by the diffidence of their years, rushed in a
frantic body on the fancied emblem of their enemy, and
severed it asunder, splinter by splinter, until nothing
remained of the trunk but its roots in the earth. During
this moment of tumult, the most ruthless deeds of war were
performed on the fragments of the tree, with as much
apparent ferocity as if they were the living victims of
their cruelty. Some were scalped; some received the keen
and trembling axe; and others suffered by thrusts from the
fatal knife. In short, the manifestations of zeal and
fierce delight were so great and unequivocal, that the
expedition was declared to be a war of the nation.
The instant Uncas had struck the blow, he moved out of the
circle, and cast his eyes up to the sun, which was just
gaining the point, when the truce with Magua was to end.
The fact was soon announced by a significant gesture,
accompanied by a corresponding cry; and the whole of the
excited multitude abandoned their mimic warfare, with shrill
yells of pleasure, to prepare for the more hazardous
experiment of the reality.
The whole face of the encampment was instantly changed. The
warriors, who were already armed and painted, became as
still as if they were incapable of any uncommon burst of
emotion. On the other hand, the women broke out of the
lodges, with the songs of joy and those of lamentation so
strangely mixed that it might have been difficult to have
said which passion preponderated. None, however, was idle.
Some bore their choicest articles, others their young, and
some their aged and infirm, into the forest, which spread
itself like a verdant carpet of bright green against the
side of the mountain. Thither Tamenund also retired, with
calm composure, after a short and touching interview with
Uncas; from whom the sage separated with the reluctance that
a parent would quit a long lost and just recovered child.
In the meantime, Duncan saw Alice to a place of safety, and
then sought the scout, with a countenance that denoted how
eagerly he also panted for the approaching contest.
But Hawkeye was too much accustomed to the war song and the
enlistments of the natives, to betray any interest in the
passing scene. He merely cast an occasional look at the
number and quality of the warriors, who, from time to time,
signified their readiness to accompany Uncas to the field.
In this particular he was soon satisfied; for, as has been
already seen, the power of the young chief quickly embraced
every fighting man in the nation. After this material point
was so satisfactorily decided, he despatched an Indian boy
in quest of "killdeer" and the rifle of Uncas, to the place
where they had deposited their weapons on approaching the
camp of the Delawares; a measure of double policy, inasmuch
as it protected the arms from their own fate, if detained as
prisoners, and gave them the advantage of appearing among
the strangers rather as sufferers than as men provided with
means of defense and subsistence. In selecting another to
perform the office of reclaiming his highly prized rifle,
the scout had lost sight of none of his habitual caution.
He knew that Magua had not come unattended, and he also knew
that Huron spies watched the movements of their new enemies,
along the whole boundary of the woods. It would, therefore,
have been fatal to himself to have attempted the experiment;
a warrior would have fared no better; but the danger of a
boy would not be likely to commence until after his object
was discovered. When Heyward joined him, the scout was
coolly awaiting the result of this experiment.
The boy , who had been well instructed, and was sufficiently
crafty, proceeded, with a bosom that was swelling with the
pride of such a confidence, and all the hopes of young
ambition, carelessly across the clearing to the wood, which
he entered at a point at some little distance from the place
where the guns were secreted. The instant, however, he was
concealed by the foliage of the bushes, his dusky form was
to be seen gliding, like that of a serpent, toward the
desired treasure. He was successful; and in another moment
he appeared flying across the narrow opening that skirted
the base of the terrace on which the village stood, with the
velocity of an arrow, and bearing a prize in each hand. He
had actually gained the crags, and was leaping up their
sides with incredible activity, when a shot from the woods
showed how accurate had been the judgment of the scout. The
boy answered it with a feeble but contemptuous shout; and
immediately a second bullet was sent after him from another
part of the cover. At the next instant he appeared on the
level above, elevating his guns in triumph, while he moved
with the air of a conqueror toward the renowned hunter who
had honored him by so glorious a commission.
Notwithstanding the lively interest Hawkeye had taken in the
fate of his messenger, he received "killdeer" with a
satisfaction that, momentarily, drove all other
recollections from his mind. After examining the piece with
an intelligent eye, and opening and shutting the pan some
ten or fifteen times, and trying sundry other equally
important experiments on the lock, he turned to the boy and
demanded with great manifestations of kindness, if he was
hurt. The urchin looked proudly up in his face, but made no
"Ah! I see, lad, the knaves have barked your arm!" added the
scout, taking up the limb of the patient sufferer, across
which a deep flesh wound had been made by one of the
bullets; "but a little bruised alder will act like a charm.
In the meantime I will wrap it in a badge of wampum! You
have commenced the business of a warrior early, my brave
boy, and are likely to bear a plenty of honorable scars to
your grave. I know many young men that have taken scalps
who cannot show such a mark as this. Go! " having bound up
the arm; "you will be a chief!"
The lad departed, prouder of his flowing blood than the
vainest courtier could be of his blushing ribbon; and
stalked among the fellows of his age, an object of general
admiration and envy.
But, in a moment of so many serious and important duties,
this single act of juvenile fortitude did not attract the
general notice and commendation it would have received under
milder auspices. It had, however, served to apprise the
Delawares of the position and the intentions of their
enemies. Accordingly a party of adventurers, better suited
to the task than the weak though spirited boy, was ordered
to dislodge the skulkers. The duty was soon performed; for
most of the Hurons retired of themselves when they found
they had been discovered. The Delawares followed to a
sufficient distance from their own encampment, and then
halted for orders, apprehensive of being led into an ambush.
As both parties secreted themselves, the woods were again as
still and quiet as a mild summer morning and deep solitude
could render them.
The calm but still impatient Uncas now collected his chiefs,
and divided his power. He presented Hawkeye as a warrior,
often tried, and always found deserving of confidence. When
he found his friend met with a favorable reception, he
bestowed on him the command of twenty men, like himself,
active, skillful and resolute. He gave the Delawares to
understand the rank of Heyward among the troops of the
Yengeese, and then tendered to him a trust of equal
authority. But Duncan declined the charge, professing his
readiness to serve as a volunteer by the side of the scout.
After this disposition, the young Mohican appointed various
native chiefs to fill the different situations of
responsibility, and, the time pressing, he gave forth the
word to march. He was cheerfully, but silently obeyed by
more than two hundred men.
Their entrance into the forest was perfectly unmolested; nor
did they encounter any living objects that could either give
the alarm, or furnish the intelligence they needed, until
they came upon the lairs of their own scouts. Here a halt
was ordered, and the chiefs were assembled to hold a
At this meeting divers plans of operation were suggested,
though none of a character to meet the wishes of their
ardent leader. Had Uncas followed the promptings of his own
inclinations, he would have led his followers to the charge
without a moment's delay, and put the conflict to the hazard
of an instant issue; but such a course would have been in
opposition to all the received practises and opinions of his
countrymen. He was, therefore, fain to adopt a caution that
in the present temper of his mind he execrated, and to
listen to advice at which his fiery spirit chafed, under the
vivid recollection of Cora's danger and Magua's insolence.
After an unsatisfactory conference of many minutes, a
solitary individual was seen advancing from the side of the
enemy, with such apparent haste, as to induce the belief he
might be a messenger charged with pacific overtures. When
within a hundred yards, however, of the cover behind which
the Delaware council had assembled, the stranger hesitated,
appeared uncertain what course to take, and finally halted.
All eyes were turned now on Uncas, as if seeking directions
how to proceed.
"Hawkeye," said the young chief, in a low voice, "he must
never speak to the Hurons again."
"His time has come," said the laconic scout, thrusting the
long barrel of his rifle through the leaves, and taking his
deliberate and fatal aim. But, instead of pulling the
trigger, he lowered the muzzle again, and indulged himself
in a fit of his peculiar mirth. "I took the imp for a
Mingo, as I'm a miserable sinner!" he said; "but when my eye
ranged along his ribs for a place to get the bullet in--
would you think it, Uncas--I saw the musicianer's blower;
and so, after all, it is the man they call Gamut, whose
death can profit no one, and whose life, if this tongue can
do anything but sing, may be made serviceable to our own
ends. If sounds have not lost their virtue, I'll soon have
a discourse with the honest fellow, and that in a voice
he'll find more agreeable than the speech of 'killdeer'."
So saying, Hawkeye laid aside his rifle; and, crawling
through the bushes until within hearing of David, he
attempted to repeat the musical effort, which had conducted
himself, with so much safety and eclat, through the Huron
encampment. The exquisite organs of Gamut could not readily
be deceived (and, to say the truth, it would have been
difficult for any other than Hawkeye to produce a similar
noise), and, consequently, having once before heard the
sounds, he now knew whence they proceeded. The poor fellow
appeared relieved from a state of great embarrassment; for,
pursuing the direction of the voice--a task that to him
was not much less arduous that it would have been to have
gone up in the face of a battery--he soon discovered the
"I wonder what the Hurons will think of that!" said the
scout, laughing, as he took his companion by the arm, and
urged him toward the rear. "If the knaves lie within
earshot, they will say there are two non-compossers instead
of one! But here we are safe," he added, pointing to Uncas
and his associates. "Now give us the history of the Mingo
inventions in natural English, and without any ups and downs
David gazed about him, at the fierce and wild-looking
chiefs, in mute wonder; but assured by the presence of faces
that he knew, he soon rallied his faculties so far as to
make an intelligent reply.
"The heathen are abroad in goodly numbers," said David;
"and, I fear, with evil intent. There has been much howling
and ungodly revelry, together with such sounds as it is
profanity to utter, in their habitations within the past
hour, so much so, in truth, that I have fled to the
Delawares in search of peace."
"Your ears might not have profited much by the exchange, had
you been quicker of foot," returned the scout a little
dryly. "But let that be as it may; where are the Hurons?"
"They lie hid in the forest, between this spot and their
village in such force, that prudence would teach you
instantly to return."
Uncas cast a glance along the range of trees which concealed
his own band and mentioned the name of:
"Is among them. He brought in the maiden that had sojourned
with the Delawares; and, leaving her in the cave, has put
himself, like a raging wolf, at the head of his savages. I
know not what has troubled his spirit so greatly!"
"He has left her, you say, in the cave!" interrupted
Heyward; "'tis well that we know its situation! May not
something be done for her instant relief?"
Uncas looked earnestly at the scout, before he asked:
"What says Hawkeye?"
"Give me twenty rifles, and I will turn to the right, along
the stream; and, passing by the huts of the beaver, will
join the Sagamore and the colonel. You shall then hear the
whoop from that quarter; with this wind one may easily send
it a mile. Then, Uncas, do you drive in the front; when
they come within range of our pieces, we will give them a
blow that, I pledge the good name of an old frontiersman,
shall make their line bend like an ashen bow. After which,
we will carry the village, and take the woman from the cave;
when the affair may be finished with the tribe, according to
a white man's battle, by a blow and a victory; or, in the
Indian fashion, with dodge and cover. There may be no great
learning, major, in this plan, but with courage and patience
it can all be done."
"I like it very much," cried Duncan, who saw that the
release of Cora was the primary object in the mind of the
scout; "I like it much. Let it be instantly attempted."
After a short conference, the plan was matured, and rendered
more intelligible to the several parties; the different
signals were appointed, and the chiefs separated, each to
his allotted station.
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Last of the Mohicans