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The Last of the Mohicans

Chapter 16
"EDG.--Before you fight the battle ope this letter."-- Lear
Major Heyward found Munro attended only by his daughters. Alice sat upon his knee,
parting the gray hairs on the forehead of the old man with her delicate fingers; and
whenever he affected to frown on her trifling, appeasing his assumed anger by pressing
her ruby lips fondly on his wrinkled brow. Cora was seated nigh them, a calm and
amused looker-on; regarding the wayward movements of her more youthful sister with
that species of maternal fondness which characterized her love for Alice. Not only the
dangers through which they had passed, but those which still impended above them,
appeared to be momentarily forgotten, in the soothing indulgence of such a family
meeting. It seemed as if they had profited by the short truce, to devote an instant to the
purest and best affection; the daughters forgetting their fears, and the veteran his cares, in
the security of the moment. Of this scene, Duncan, who, in his eagerness to report his
arrival, had entered unannounced, stood many moments an unobserved and a delighted
spectator. But the quick and dancing eyes of Alice soon caught a glimpse of his figure
reflected from a glass, and she sprang blushing from her father's knee, exclaiming aloud:
"Major Heyward!"
"What of the lad?" demanded her father; "I have sent him to crack a little with the
Frenchman. Ha, sir, you are young, and you're nimble! Away with you, ye baggage; as if
there were not troubles enough for a soldier, without having his camp filled with such
prattling hussies as yourself!"
Alice laughingly followed her sister, who instantly led the way from an apartment where
she perceived their presence was no longer desirable. Munro, instead of demanding the
result of the young man's mission, paced the room for a few moments, with his hands
behind his back, and his head inclined toward the floor, like a man lost in thought. At
length he raised his eyes, glistening with a father's fondness, and exclaimed:
"They are a pair of excellent girls, Heyward, and such as any one may boast of."
"You are not now to learn my opinion of your daughters, Colonel Munro."
"True, lad, true," interrupted the impatient old man; "you were about opening your mind
more fully on that matter the day you got in, but I did not think it becoming in an old
soldier to be talking of nuptial blessings and wedding jokes when the enemies of his king
were likely to be unbidden guests at the feast. But I was wrong, Duncan, boy, I was
wrong there; and I am now ready to hear what you have to say."
"Notwithstanding the pleasure your assurance gives me, dear sir, I have just now, a
message from Montcalm --"
 
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