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The Last of the Mohicans
James Fenimore Cooper
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..."In such a night Did Thisbe fearfully o'ertrip the dew; And saw the lion's shadow ere
himself." Merchant of Venice
The suddenness of the flight of his guide, and the wild cries of the pursuers, caused
Heyward to remain fixed, for a few moments, in inactive surprise. Then recollecting the
importance of securing the fugitive, he dashed aside the surrounding bushes, and pressed
eagerly forward to lend his aid in the chase. Before he had, however, proceeded a
hundred yards, he met the three foresters already returning from their unsuccessful
"Why so soon disheartened!" he exclaimed; "the scoundrel must be concealed behind
some of these trees, and may yet be secured. We are not safe while he goes at large."
"Would you set a cloud to chase the wind?" returned the disappointed scout; "I heard the
imp brushing over the dry leaves, like a black snake, and blinking a glimpse of him, just
over ag'in yon big pine, I pulled as it might be on the scent; but 'twouldn't do! and yet for
a reasoning aim, if anybody but myself had touched the trigger, I should call it a quick
sight; and I may be accounted to have experience in these matters, and one who ought to
know. Look at this sumach; its leaves are red, though everybody knows the fruit is in the
yellow blossom in the month of July!"
"'Tis the blood of Le Subtil! he is hurt, and may yet fall!"
"No, no," returned the scout, in decided disapprobation of this opinion, "I rubbed the bark
off a limb, perhaps, but the creature leaped the longer for it. A rifle bullet acts on a
running animal, when it barks him, much the same as one of your spurs on a horse; that
is, it quickens motion, and puts life into the flesh, instead of taking it away. But when it
cuts the ragged hole, after a bound or two, there is, commonly, a stagnation of further
leaping, be it Indian or be it deer!"
"We are four able bodies, to one wounded man!"
"Is life grievous to you?" interrupted the scout. "Yonder red devil would draw you within
swing of the tomahawks of his comrades, before you were heated in the chase. It was an
unthoughtful act in a man who has so often slept with the war-whoop ringing in the air, to
let off his piece within sound of an ambushment! But then it was a natural temptation!
'twas very natural! Come, friends, let us move our station, and in such fashion, too, as
will throw the cunning of a Mingo on a wrong scent, or our scalps will be drying in the
wind in front of Montcalm's marquee, ag'in this hour to-morrow."
This appalling declaration, which the scout uttered with the cool assurance of a man who
fully comprehended, while he did not fear to face the danger, served to remind Heyward
of the importance of the charge with which he himself had been intrusted. Glancing his