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The Last of the Mohicans
James Fenimore Cooper
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"Brief, I pray for you; for you see, 'tis a busy time with me."--Much Ado About Nothing
The tribe, or rather half tribe, of Delawares, which has been so often mentioned, and
whose present place of encampment was so nigh the temporary village of the Hurons,
could assemble about an equal number of warriors with the latter people. Like their
neighbors, they had followed Montcalm into the territories of the English crown, and
were making heavy and serious inroads on the hunting-grounds of the Mohawks; though
they had seen fit, with the mysterious reserve so common among the natives, to withhold
their assistance at the moment when it was most required. The French had accounted for
this unexpected defection on the part of their ally in various ways. It was the prevalent
opinion, however, that they had been influenced by veneration for the ancient treaty, that
had once made them dependent on the Six Nations for military protection, and now
rendered them reluctant to encounter their former masters. As for the tribe itself, it had
been content to announce to Montcalm, through his emissaries, with Indian brevity, that
their hatchets were dull, and time was necessary to sharpen them. The politic captain of
the Canadas had deemed it wiser to submit to entertain a passive friend, than by any acts
of ill-judged severity to convert him into an open enemy.
On that morning when Magua led his silent party from the settlement of the beavers into
the forests, in the manner described, the sun rose upon the Delaware encampment as if it
had suddenly burst upon a busy people, actively employed in all the customary
avocations of high noon. The women ran from lodge to lodge, some engaged in preparing
their morning's meal, a few earnestly bent on seeking the comforts necessary to their
habits, but more pausing to exchange hasty and whispered sentences with their friends.
The warriors were lounging in groups, musing more than they conversed and when a few
words were uttered, speaking like men who deeply weighed their opinions. The
instruments of the chase were to be seen in abundance among the lodges; but none
departed. Here and there a warrior was examining his arms, with an attention that is
rarely bestowed on the implements, when no other enemy than the beasts of the forest is
expected to be encountered. And occasionally, the eyes of a whole group were turned
simultaneously toward a large and silent lodge in the center of the village, as if it
contained the subject of their common thoughts.
During the existence of this scene, a man suddenly appeared at the furthest extremity of a
platform of rock which formed the level of the village. He was without arms, and his
paint tended rather to soften than increase the natural sternness of his austere
countenance. When in full view of the Delawares he stopped, and made a gesture of
amity, by throwing his arm upward toward heaven, and then letting it fall impressively on
his breast. The inhabitants of the village answered his salute by a low murmur of
welcome, and encouraged him to advance by similar indications of friendship. Fortified
by these assurances, the dark figure left the brow of the natural rocky terrace, where it
had stood a moment, drawn in a strong outline against the blushing morning sky, and
moved with dignity into the very center of the huts. As he approached, nothing was