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The Last of the Mohicans

Chapter 21
"If you find a man there, he shall die a flea's death."-- Merry Wives of Windsor
The party had landed on the border of a region that is, even to this day, less known to the
inhabitants of the States than the deserts of Arabia, or the steppes of Tartary. It was the
sterile and rugged district which separates the tributaries of Champlain from those of the
Hudson, the Mohawk, and the St. Lawrence. Since the period of our tale the active spirit
of the country has surrounded it with a belt of rich and thriving settlements, though none
but the hunter or the savage is ever known even now to penetrate its wild recesses.
As Hawkeye and the Mohicans had, however, often traversed the mountains and valleys
of this vast wilderness, they did not hesitate to plunge into its depth, with the freedom of
men accustomed to its privations and difficulties. For many hours the travelers toiled on
their laborious way, guided by a star, or following the direction of some water-course,
until the scout called a halt, and holding a short consultation with the Indians, they
lighted their fire, and made the usual preparations to pass the remainder of the night
where they then were.
Imitating the example, and emulating the confidence of their more experienced
associates, Munro and Duncan slept without fear, if not without uneasiness. The dews
were suffered to exhale, and the sun had dispersed the mists, and was shedding a strong
and clear light in the forest, when the travelers resumed their journey.
After proceeding a few miles, the progress of Hawkeye, who led the advance, became
more deliberate and watchful. He often stopped to examine the trees; nor did he cross a
rivulet without attentively considering the quantity, the velocity, and the color of its
waters. Distrusting his own judgment, his appeals to the opinion of Chingachgook were
frequent and earnest. During one of these conferences Heyward observed that Uncas
stood a patient and silent, though, as he imagined, an interested listener. He was strongly
tempted to address the young chief, and demand his opinion of their progress; but the
calm and dignified demeanor of the native induced him to believe, that, like himself, the
other was wholly dependent on the sagacity and intelligence of the seniors of the party.
At last the scout spoke in English, and at once explained the embarrassment of their
situation.
"When I found that the home path of the Hurons run north," he said, "it did not need the
judgment of many long years to tell that they would follow the valleys, and keep atween
the waters of the Hudson and the Horican, until they might strike the springs of the
Canada streams, which would lead them into the heart of the country of the Frenchers.
Yet here are we, within a short range of the Scaroons, and not a sign of a trail have we
crossed! Human natur' is weak, and it is possible we may not have taken the proper
scent."
 
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