The Last of the Mohicans
"But plagues shall spread, and funeral fires increase, Till the great king, without a ransom
paid, To her own Chrysa send the black-eyed maid."--Pope
During the time Uncas was making this disposition of his forces, the woods were as still,
and, with the exception of those who had met in council, apparently as much untenanted
as when they came fresh from the hands of their Almighty Creator. The eye could range,
in every direction, through the long and shadowed vistas of the trees; but nowhere was
any object to be seen that did not properly belong to the peaceful and slumbering scenery.
Here and there a bird was heard fluttering among the branches of the beeches, and
occasionally a squirrel dropped a nut, drawing the startled looks of the party for a
moment to the place; but the instant the casual interruption ceased, the passing air was
heard murmuring above their heads, along that verdant and undulating surface of forest,
which spread itself unbroken, unless by stream or lake, over such a vast region of
country. Across the tract of wilderness which lay between the Delawares and the village
of their enemies, it seemed as if the foot of man had never trodden, so breathing and deep
was the silence in which it lay. But Hawkeye, whose duty led him foremost in the
adventure, knew the character of those with whom he was about to contend too well to
trust the treacherous quiet.
When he saw his little band collected, the scout threw "killdeer" into the hollow of his
arm, and making a silent signal that he would be followed, he led them many rods toward
the rear, into the bed of a little brook which they had crossed in advancing. Here he
halted, and after waiting for the whole of his grave and attentive warriors to close about
him, he spoke in Delaware, demanding:
"Do any of my young men know whither this run will lead us?"
A Delaware stretched forth a hand, with the two fingers separated, and indicating the
manner in which they were joined at the root, he answered:
"Before the sun could go his own length, the little water will be in the big." Then he
added, pointing in the direction of the place he mentioned, "the two make enough for the
"I thought as much," returned the scout, glancing his eye upward at the opening in the
tree-tops, "from the course it takes, and the bearings of the mountains. Men, we will keep
within the cover of its banks till we scent the Hurons."
His companions gave the usual brief exclamation of assent, but, perceiving that their
leader was about to lead the way in person, one or two made signs that all was not as it
should be. Hawkeye, who comprehended their meaning glances, turned and perceived
that his party had been followed thus far by the singing-master.