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

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"They fought, like brave men, long and well, They piled that
ground with Moslem slain, They conquered--but Bozzaris
fell, Bleeding at every vein. His few surviving comrades
saw His smile when rang their loud hurrah, And the red field
was won; Then saw in death his eyelids close Calmly, as to a
night's repose, Like flowers at set of sun."--Halleck


The sun found the Lenape, on the succeeding day, a nation of
mourners. The sounds of the battle were over, and they had
fed fat their ancient grudge, and had avenged their recent
quarrel with the Mengwe, by the destruction of a whole
community. The black and murky atmosphere that floated
around the spot where the Hurons had encamped, sufficiently
announced of itself, the fate of that wandering tribe; while
hundreds of ravens, that struggled above the summits of the
mountains, or swept, in noisy flocks, across the wide ranges
of the woods, furnished a frightful direction to the scene
of the combat. In short, any eye at all practised in the
signs of a frontier warfare might easily have traced all
those unerring evidences of the ruthless results which
attend an Indian vengeance.

Still, the sun rose on the Lenape a nation of mourners. No
shouts of success, no songs of triumph, were heard, in
rejoicings for their victory. The latest straggler had
returned from his fell employment, only to strip himself of
the terrific emblems of his bloody calling, and to join in
the lamentations of his countrymen, as a stricken people.
Pride and exultation were supplanted by humility, and the
fiercest of human passions was already succeeded by the most
profound and unequivocal demonstrations of grief.

The lodges were deserted; but a broad belt of earnest faces
encircled a spot in their vicinity, whither everything
possessing life had repaired, and where all were now
collected, in deep and awful silence. Though beings of
every rank and age, of both sexes, and of all pursuits, had
united to form this breathing wall of bodies, they were
influenced by a single emotion. Each eye was riveted on the
center of that ring, which contained the objects of so much
and of so common an interest.

Six Delaware girls, with their long, dark, flowing tresses
falling loosely across their bosoms, stood apart, and only
gave proof of their existence as they occasionally strewed
sweet-scented herbs and forest flowers on a litter of
fragrant plants that, under a pall of Indian robes,
supported all that now remained of the ardent, high-souled,
and generous Cora. Her form was concealed in many wrappers
of the same simple manufacture, and her face was shut
forever from the gaze of men. At her feet was seated the
desolate Munro. His aged head was bowed nearly to the
earth, in compelled submission to the stroke of Providence;
but a hidden anguish struggled about his furrowed brow, that
was only partially concealed by the careless locks of gray
that had fallen, neglected, on his temples. Gamut stood at
his side, his meek head bared to the rays of the sun, while
his eyes, wandering and concerned, seemed to be equally
divided between that little volume, which contained so many
quaint but holy maxims, and the being in whose behalf his
soul yearned to administer consolation. Heyward was also
nigh, supporting himself against a tree, and endeavoring to
keep down those sudden risings of sorrow that it required
his utmost manhood to subdue.

But sad and melancholy as this group may easily be imagined,
it was far less touching than another, that occupied the
opposite space of the same area. Seated, as in life, with
his form and limbs arranged in grave and decent composure,
Uncas appeared, arrayed in the most gorgeous ornaments that
the wealth of the tribe could furnish. Rich plumes nodded
above his head; wampum, gorgets, bracelets, and medals,
adorned his person in profusion; though his dull eye and
vacant lineaments too strongly contradicted the idle tale of
pride they would convey.

Directly in front of the corpse Chingachgook was placed,
without arms, paint or adornment of any sort, except the
bright blue blazonry of his race, that was indelibly
impressed on his naked bosom. During the long period that
the tribe had thus been collected, the Mohican warrior had
kept a steady, anxious look on the cold and senseless
countenance of his son. So riveted and intense had been
that gaze, and so changeless his attitude, that a stranger
might not have told the living from the dead, but for the
occasional gleamings of a troubled spirit, that shot athwart
the dark visage of one, and the deathlike calm that had
forever settled on the lineaments of the other. The scout
was hard by, leaning in a pensive posture on his own fatal
and avenging weapon; while Tamenund, supported by the elders
of his nation, occupied a high place at hand, whence he might
look down on the mute and sorrowful assemblage of his people.

Just within the inner edge of the circle stood a soldier, in
the military attire of a strange nation; and without it was
his warhorse, in the center of a collection of mounted
domestics, seemingly in readiness to undertake some distant
journey. The vestments of the stranger announced him to be
one who held a responsible situation near the person of the
captain of the Canadas; and who, as it would now seem,
finding his errand of peace frustrated by the fierce
impetuosity of his allies, was content to become a silent
and sad spectator of the fruits of a contest that he had
arrived too late to anticipate.

The day was drawing to the close of its first quarter, and
yet had the multitude maintained its breathing stillness
since its dawn.

No sound louder than a stifled sob had been heard among
them, nor had even a limb been moved throughout that long
and painful period, except to perform the simple and
touching offerings that were made, from time to time, in
commemoration of the dead. The patience and forbearance of
Indian fortitude could alone support such an appearance of
abstraction, as seemed now to have turned each dark and
motionless figure into stone.

At length, the sage of the Delawares stretched forth an arm,
and leaning on the shoulders of his attendants, he arose
with an air as feeble as if another age had already
intervened between the man who had met his nation the
preceding day, and him who now tottered on his elevated

"Men of the Lenape!" he said, in low, hollow tones, that
sounded like a voice charged with some prophetic mission:
"the face of the Manitou is behind a cloud! His eye is
turned from you; His ears are shut; His tongue gives no
answer. You see him not; yet His judgments are before you.
Let your hearts be open and your spirits tell no lie. Men
of the Lenape! the face of the Manitou is behind a cloud."

As this simple and yet terrible annunciation stole on the
ears of the multitude, a stillness as deep and awful
succeeded as if the venerated spirit they worshiped had
uttered the words without the aid of human organs; and even
the inanimate Uncas appeared a being of life, compared with
the humbled and submissive throng by whom he was surrounded.
As the immediate effect, however, gradually passed away, a
low murmur of voices commenced a sort of chant in honor of
the dead. The sounds were those of females, and were
thrillingly soft and wailing. The words were connected by
no regular continuation, but as one ceased another took up
the eulogy, or lamentation, whichever it might be called,
and gave vent to her emotions in such language as was
suggested by her feelings and the occasion. At intervals
the speaker was interrupted by general and loud bursts of
sorrow, during which the girls around the bier of Cora
plucked the plants and flowers blindly from her body, as if
bewildered with grief. But, in the milder moments of their
plaint, these emblems of purity and sweetness were cast back
to their places, with every sign of tenderness and regret.
Though rendered less connected by many and general
interruptions and outbreakings, a translation of their
language would have contained a regular descant, which, in
substance, might have proved to possess a train of
consecutive ideas.

A girl, selected for the task by her rank and
qualifications, commenced by modest allusions to the
qualities of the deceased warrior, embellishing her
expressions with those oriental images that the Indians have
probably brought with them from the extremes of the other
continent, and which form of themselves a link to connect
the ancient histories of the two worlds. She called him the
"panther of his tribe"; and described him as one whose
moccasin left no trail on the dews; whose bound was like the
leap of a young fawn; whose eye was brighter than a star in
the dark night; and whose voice, in battle, was loud as the
thunder of the Manitou. She reminded him of the mother who
bore him, and dwelt forcibly on the happiness she must feel
in possessing such a son. She bade him tell her, when they
met in the world of spirits, that the Delaware girls had shed tears
above the grave of her child, and had called her blessed.

Then, they who succeeded, changing their tones to a milder
and still more tender strain, alluded, with the delicacy and
sensitiveness of women, to the stranger maiden, who had left
the upper earth at a time so near his own departure, as to
render the will of the Great Spirit too manifest to be
disregarded. They admonished him to be kind to her, and to
have consideration for her ignorance of those arts which
were so necessary to the comfort of a warrior like himself.
They dwelled upon her matchless beauty, and on her noble
resolution, without the taint of envy, and as angels may be
thought to delight in a superior excellence; adding, that
these endowments should prove more than equivalent for any
little imperfection in her education.

After which, others again, in due succession, spoke to the
maiden herself, in the low, soft language of tenderness and
love. They exhorted her to be of cheerful mind, and to fear
nothing for her future welfare. A hunter would be her
companion, who knew how to provide for her smallest wants;
and a warrior was at her side who was able to protect he
against every danger. They promised that her path should be
pleasant, and her burden light. They cautioned her against
unavailing regrets for the friends of her youth, and the
scenes where her father had dwelt; assuring her that the
"blessed hunting grounds of the Lenape," contained vales as
pleasant, streams as pure; and flowers as sweet, as the
"heaven of the pale faces." They advised her to be
attentive to the wants of her companion, and never to forget
the distinction which the Manitou had so wisely established
between them. Then, in a wild burst of their chant they
sang with united voices the temper of the Mohican's mind.
They pronounced him noble, manly and generous; all that
became a warrior, and all that a maid might love. Clothing
their ideas in the most remote and subtle images, they
betrayed, that, in the short period of their intercourse,
they had discovered, with the intuitive perception of their
sex, the truant disposition of his inclinations. The
Delaware girls had found no favor in his eyes! He was of a
race that had once been lords on the shores of the salt
lake, and his wishes had led him back to a people who dwelt
about the graves of his fathers. Why should not such a
predilection be encouraged! That she was of a blood purer
and richer than the rest of her nation, any eye might have
seen; that she was equal to the dangers and daring of a life
in the woods, her conduct had proved; and now, they added,
the "wise one of the earth" had transplanted her to a place
where she would find congenial spirits, and might be forever

Then, with another transition in voice and subject,
allusions were made to the virgin who wept in the adjacent
lodge. They compared her to flakes of snow; as pure, as
white, as brilliant, and as liable to melt in the fierce
heats of summer, or congeal in the frosts of winter. They
doubted not that she was lovely in the eyes of the young
chief, whose skin and whose sorrow seemed so like her own;
but though far from expressing such a preference, it was
evident they deemed her less excellent than the maid they
mourned. Still they denied her no need her rare charms
might properly claim. Her ringlets were compared to the
exuberant tendrils of the vine, her eye to the blue vault of
heavens, and the most spotless cloud, with its glowing flush
of the sun, was admitted to be less attractive than her bloom.

During these and similar songs nothing was audible but the
murmurs of the music; relieved, as it was, or rather
rendered terrible, by those occasional bursts of grief which
might be called its choruses. The Delawares themselves
listened like charmed men; and it was very apparent, by the
variations of their speaking countenances, how deep and true
was their sympathy. Even David was not reluctant to lend
his ears to the tones of voices so sweet; and long ere the chant
was ended, his gaze announced that his soul was enthralled.

The scout, to whom alone, of all the white men, the words
were intelligible, suffered himself to be a little aroused
from his meditative posture, and bent his face aside, to
catch their meaning, as the girls proceeded. But when they
spoke of the future prospects of Cora and Uncas, he shook
his head, like one who knew the error of their simple creed,
and resuming his reclining attitude, he maintained it until
the ceremony, if that might be called a ceremony, in which
feeling was so deeply imbued, was finished. Happily for the
self-command of both Heyward and Munro, they knew not the
meaning of the wild sounds they heard.

Chingachgook was a solitary exception to the interest
manifested by the native part of the audience. His look
never changed throughout the whole of the scene, nor did a
muscle move in his rigid countenance, even at the wildest or
the most pathetic parts of the lamentation. The cold and
senseless remains of his son was all to him, and every other
sense but that of sight seemed frozen, in order that his eyes
might take their final gaze at those lineaments he had so long
loved, and which were now about to be closed forever
from his view.

In this stage of the obsequies, a warrior much renowned for
deed in arms, and more especially for services in the recent
combat, a man of stern and grave demeanor, advanced slowly
from the crowd, and placed himself nigh the person of the dead.

"Why hast thou left us, pride of the Wapanachki?" he said,
addressing himself to the dull ears of Uncas, as if the
empty clay retained the faculties of the animated man; "thy
time has been like that of the sun when in the trees; they
glory brighter than his light at noonday. Thou art gone,
youthful warrior, but a hundred Wyandots are clearing the
briers from thy path to the world of the spirits. Who that
saw thee in battle would believe that thou couldst die? Who
before thee has ever shown Uttawa the way into the fight?
Thy feet were like the wings of eagles; thine arm heavier
than falling branches from the pine; and thy voice like the
Manitou when He speaks in the clouds. The tongue of Uttawa
is weak," he added, looking about him with a melancholy
gaze, "and his heart exceeding heavy. Pride of the
Wapanachki, why hast thou left us?"

He was succeeded by others, in due order, until most of the
high and gifted men of the nation had sung or spoken their
tribute of praise over the manes of the deceased chief.
When each had ended, another deep and breathing silence
reigned in all the place.

Then a low, deep sound was heard, like the suppressed
accompaniment of distant music, rising just high enough on
the air to be audible, and yet so indistinctly, as to leave
its character, and the place whence it proceeded, alike
matters of conjecture. It was, however, succeeded by
another and another strain, each in a higher key, until they
grew on the ear, first in long drawn and often repeated
interjections, and finally in words. The lips of
Chingachgook had so far parted, as to announce that it was
the monody of the father. Though not an eye was turned
toward him nor the smallest sign of impatience exhibited, it
was apparent, by the manner in which the multitude elevated
their heads to listen, that they drank in the sounds with an
intenseness of attention, that none but Tamenund himself had
ever before commanded. But they listened in vain. The
strains rose just so loud as to become intelligible, and
then grew fainter and more trembling, until they finally
sank on the ear, as if borne away by a passing breath of
wind. The lips of the Sagamore closed, and he remained
silent in his seat, looking with his riveted eye and
motionless form, like some creature that had been turned
from the Almighty hand with the form but without the spirit
of a man. The Delawares who knew by these symptoms that the
mind of their friend was not prepared for so mighty an
effort of fortitude, relaxed in their attention; and, with
an innate delicacy, seemed to bestow all their thoughts on
the obsequies of the stranger maiden.

A signal was given, by one of the elder chiefs, to the women
who crowded that part of the circle near which the body of
Cora lay. Obedient to the sign, the girls raised the bier
to the elevation of their heads, and advanced with slow and
regulated steps, chanting, as they proceeded, another
wailing song in praise of the deceased. Gamut, who had been
a close observer of rites he deemed so heathenish, now bent
his head over the shoulder of the unconscious father,

"They move with the remains of thy child; shall we not
follow, and see them interred with Christian burial?"

Munro started, as if the last trumpet had sounded in his
ear, and bestowing one anxious and hurried glance around
him, he arose and followed in the simple train, with the
mien of a soldier, but bearing the full burden of a parent's
suffering. His friends pressed around him with a sorrow
that was too strong to be termed sympathy--even the young
Frenchman joining in the procession, with the air of a man
who was sensibly touched at the early and melancholy fate of
one so lovely. But when the last and humblest female of the
tribe had joined in the wild and yet ordered array, the men
of the Lenape contracted their circle, and formed again
around the person of Uncas, as silent, as grave, and as
motionless as before.

The place which had been chosen for the grave of Cora was a
little knoll, where a cluster of young and healthful pines
had taken root, forming of themselves a melancholy and
appropriate shade over the spot. On reaching it the girls
deposited their burden, and continued for many minutes
waiting, with characteristic patience, and native timidity,
for some evidence that they whose feelings were most
concerned were content with the arrangement. At length the
scout, who alone understood their habits, said, in their own

"My daughters have done well; the white men thank them."

Satisfied with this testimony in their favor, the girls
proceeded to deposit the body in a shell, ingeniously, and
not inelegantly, fabricated of the bark of the birch; after
which they lowered it into its dark and final abode. The
ceremony of covering the remains, and concealing the marks
of the fresh earth, by leaves and other natural and
customary objects, was conducted with the same simple and
silent forms. But when the labors of the kind beings who
had performed these sad and friendly offices were so far
completed, they hesitated, in a way to show that they knew
not how much further they might proceed. It was in this
stage of the rites that the scout again addressed them:

"My young women have done enough," he said: "the spirit of
the pale face has no need of food or raiment, their gifts
being according to the heaven of their color. I see," he
added, glancing an eye at David, who was preparing his book
in a manner that indicated an intention to lead the way in
sacred song, "that one who better knows the Christian
fashions is about to speak."

The females stood modestly aside, and, from having been the
principal actors in the scene, they now became the meek and
attentive observers of that which followed. During the time
David occupied in pouring out the pious feelings of his
spirit in this manner, not a sign of surprise, nor a look of
impatience, escaped them. They listened like those who knew
the meaning of the strange words, and appeared as if they
felt the mingled emotions of sorrow, hope, and resignation,
they were intended to convey.

Excited by the scene he had just witnessed, and perhaps
influenced by his own secret emotions, the master of song
exceeded his usual efforts. His full rich voice was not
found to suffer by a comparison with the soft tones of the
girls; and his more modulated strains possessed, at least
for the ears of those to whom they were peculiarly
addressed, the additional power of intelligence. He ended
the anthem, as he had commenced it, in the midst of a grave
and solemn stillness.

When, however, the closing cadence had fallen on the ears of
his auditors, the secret, timorous glances of the eyes, and
the general and yet subdued movement of the assemblage,
betrayed that something was expected from the father of the
deceased. Munro seemed sensible that the time was come for
him to exert what is, perhaps, the greatest effort of which
human nature is capable. He bared his gray locks, and
looked around the timid and quiet throng by which he was
encircled, with a firm and collected countenance. Then,
motioning with his hand for the scout to listen, he said:

"Say to these kind and gentle females, that a heart-broken
and failing man returns them his thanks. Tell them, that
the Being we all worship, under different names, will be
mindful of their charity; and that the time shall not be
distant when we may assemble around His throne without
distinction of sex, or rank, or color."

The scout listened to the tremulous voice in which the
veteran delivered these words, and shook his head slowly
when they were ended, as one who doubted their efficacy.

"To tell them this," he said, "would be to tell them that
the snows come not in the winter, or that the sun shines
fiercest when the trees are stripped of their leaves."

Then turning to the women, he made such a communication of
the other's gratitude as he deemed most suited to the
capacities of his listeners. The head of Munro had already
sunk upon his chest, and he was again fast relapsing into
melancholy, when the young Frenchman before named ventured
to touch him lightly on the elbow. As soon as he had gained
the attention of the mourning old man, he pointed toward a
group of young Indians, who approached with a light but
closely covered litter, and then pointed upward toward the sun.

"I understand you, sir," returned Munro, with a voice of
forced firmness; "I understand you. It is the will of
Heaven, and I submit. Cora, my child! if the prayers of a
heart-broken father could avail thee now, how blessed
shouldst thou be! Come, gentlemen," he added, looking about
him with an air of lofty composure, though the anguish that
quivered in his faded countenance was far too powerful to be
concealed, "our duty here is ended; let us depart."

Heyward gladly obeyed a summons that took them from a spot
where, each instant, he felt his self-control was about to
desert him. While his companions were mounting, however, he
found time to press the hand of the scout, and to repeat the
terms of an engagement they had made to meet again within
the posts of the British army. Then, gladly throwing
himself into the saddle, he spurred his charger to the side
of the litter, whence law and stifled sobs alone announced
the presence of Alice. In this manner, the head of Munro
again drooping on his bosom, with Heyward and David
following in sorrowing silence, and attended by the aid of
Montcalm with his guard, all the white men, with the
exception of Hawkeye, passed from before the eyes of the
Delawares, and were buried in the vast forests of that region.

But the tie which, through their common calamity, had united
the feelings of these simple dwellers in the woods with the
strangers who had thus transiently visited them, was not so
easily broken. Years passed away before the traditionary
tale of the white maiden, and of the young warrior of the
Mohicans ceased to beguile the long nights and tedious
marches, or to animate their youthful and brave with a
desire for vengeance. Neither were the secondary actors in
these momentous incidents forgotten. Through the medium of
the scout, who served for years afterward as a link between
them and civilized life, they learned, in answer to their
inquiries, that the "Gray Head" was speedily gathered to his
fathers--borne down, as was erroneously believed, by his
military misfortunes; and that the "Open Hand" had conveyed
his surviving daughter far into the settlements of the pale
faces, where her tears had at last ceased to flow, and had
been succeeded by the bright smiles which were better suited
to her joyous nature.

But these were events of a time later than that which
concerns our tale. Deserted by all of his color, Hawkeye
returned to the spot where his sympathies led him, with a
force that no ideal bond of union could destroy. He was
just in time to catch a parting look of the features of
Uncas, whom the Delawares were already inclosing in his last
vestment of skins. They paused to permit the longing and
lingering gaze of the sturdy woodsman, and when it was
ended, the body was enveloped, never to be unclosed again.
Then came a procession like the other, and the whole nation
was collected about the temporary grave of the chief--
temporary, because it was proper that, at some future day,
his bones should rest among those of this own people.

The movement, like the feeling, had been simultaneous and
general. The same grave expression of grief, the same rigid
silence, and the same deference to the principal mourner,
were observed around the place of interment as have been
already described. The body was deposited in an attitude of
repose, facing the rising sun, with the implements of war
and of the chase at hand, in readiness for the final
journey. An opening was left in the shell, by which it was
protected from the soil, for the spirit to communicate with
its earthly tenement, when necessary; and the whole was
concealed from the instinct, and protected from the ravages
of the beasts of prey, with an ingenuity peculiar to the
natives. The manual rites then ceased and all present
reverted to the more spiritual part of the ceremonies.

Chingachgook became once more the object of the common
attention. He had not yet spoken, and something consolatory
and instructive was expected from so renowned a chief on an
occasion of such interest. Conscious of the wishes of the
people, the stern and self-restrained warrior raised his
face, which had latterly been buried in his robe, and looked
about him with a steady eye. His firmly compressed and
expressive lips then severed, and for the first time during
the long ceremonies his voice was distinctly audible. "Why
do my brothers mourn?" he said, regarding the dark race of
dejected warriors by whom he was environed; "why do my
daughters weep? that a young man has gone to the happy
hunting-grounds; that a chief has filled his time with
honor? He was good; he was dutiful; he was brave. Who can
deny it? The Manitou had need of such a warrior, and He has
called him away. As for me, the son and the father of
Uncas, I am a blazed pine, in a clearing of the pale faces.
My race has gone from the shores of the salt lake and the
hills of the Delawares. But who can say that the serpent of
his tribe has forgotten his wisdom? I am alone--"

"No, no," cried Hawkeye, who had been gazing with a yearning
look at the rigid features of his friend, with something
like his own self-command, but whose philosophy could endure
no longer; "no, Sagamore, not alone. The gifts of our
colors may be different, but God has so placed us as to
journey in the same path. I have no kin, and I may also
say, like you, no people. He was your son, and a red-skin
by nature; and it may be that your blood was nearer--but,
if ever I forget the lad who has so often fou't at my side
in war, and slept at my side in peace, may He who made us
all, whatever may be our color or our gifts, forget me! The
boy has left us for a time; but, Sagamore, you are not alone."

Chingachgook grasped the hand that, in the warmth of
feeling, the scout had stretched across the fresh earth, and
in an attitude of friendship these two sturdy and intrepid
woodsmen bowed their heads together, while scalding tears
fell to their feet, watering the grave of Uncas like drops
of falling rain.

In the midst of the awful stillness with which such a burst
of feeling, coming as it did, from the two most renowned
warriors of that region, was received, Tamenund lifted his
voice to disperse the multitude.

"It is enough," he said. "Go, children of the Lenape, the
anger of the Manitou is not done. Why should Tamenund stay?
The pale faces are masters of the earth, and the time of the
red men has not yet come again. My day has been too long.
In the morning I saw the sons of Unamis happy and strong;
and yet, before the night has come, have I lived to see the
last warrior of the wise race of the Mohicans."



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