The Last of the Mohicans HTML version

Chapter 14
"Guard.--Qui est la? Puc.--Paisans, pauvres gens de France."--King Henry VI
During the rapid movement from the blockhouse, and until the party was deeply buried in
the forest, each individual was too much interested in the escape to hazard a word even in
whispers. The scout resumed his post in advance, though his steps, after he had thrown a
safe distance between himself and his enemies, were more deliberate than in their
previous march, in consequence of his utter ignorance of the localities of the surrounding
woods. More than once he halted to consult with his confederates, the Mohicans, pointing
upward at the moon, and examining the barks of the trees with care. In these brief pauses,
Heyward and the sisters listened, with senses rendered doubly acute by the danger, to
detect any symptoms which might announce the proximity of their foes. At such
moments, it seemed as if a vast range of country lay buried in eternal sleep; not the least
sound arising from the forest, unless it was the distant and scarcely audible rippling of a
water-course. Birds, beasts, and man, appeared to slumber alike, if, indeed, any of the
latter were to be found in that wide tract of wilderness. But the sounds of the rivulet,
feeble and murmuring as they were, relieved the guides at once from no trifling
embarrassment, and toward it they immediately held their way.
When the banks of the little stream were gained, Hawkeye made another halt; and taking
the moccasins from his feet, he invited Heyward and Gamut to follow his example. He
then entered the water, and for near an hour they traveled in the bed of the brook, leaving
no trail. The moon had already sunk into an immense pile of black clouds, which lay
impending above the western horizon, when they issued from the low and devious water-
course to rise again to the light and level of the sandy but wooded plain. Here the scout
seemed to be once more at home, for he held on this way with the certainty and diligence
of a man who moved in the security of his own knowledge. The path soon became more
uneven, and the travelers could plainly perceive that the mountains drew nigher to them
on each hand, and that they were, in truth, about entering one of their gorges. Suddenly,
Hawkeye made a pause, and, waiting until he was joined by the whole party, he spoke,
though in tones so low and cautious, that they added to the solemnity of his words, in the
quiet and darkness of the place.
"It is easy to know the pathways, and to find the licks and water-courses of the
wilderness," he said; "but who that saw this spot could venture to say, that a mighty army
was at rest among yonder silent trees and barren mountains?"
"We are, then, at no great distance from William Henry?" said Heyward, advancing
nigher to the scout.
"It is yet a long and weary path, and when and where to strike it is now our greatest
difficulty. See," he said, pointing through the trees toward a spot where a little basin of
water reflected the stars from its placid bosom, "here is the 'bloody pond'; and I am on