The Last of the Mohicans HTML version

Chapter 17
"Weave we the woof. The thread is spun. The web is wove. The work is done."--Gray
The hostile armies, which lay in the wilds of the Horican, passed the night of the ninth of
August, 1757, much in the manner they would, had they encountered on the fairest field
of Europe. While the conquered were still, sullen, and dejected, the victors triumphed.
But there are limits alike to grief and joy; and long before the watches of the morning
came the stillness of those boundless woods was only broken by a gay call from some
exulting young Frenchman of the advanced pickets, or a menacing challenge from the
fort, which sternly forbade the approach of any hostile footsteps before the stipulated
moment. Even these occasional threatening sounds ceased to be heard in that dull hour
which precedes the day, at which period a listener might have sought in vain any
evidence of the presence of those armed powers that then slumbered on the shores of the
"holy lake."
It was during these moments of deep silence that the canvas which concealed the entrance
to a spacious marquee in the French encampment was shoved aside, and a man issued
from beneath the drapery into the open air. He was enveloped in a cloak that might have
been intended as a protection from the chilling damps of the woods, but which served
equally well as a mantle to conceal his person. He was permitted to pass the grenadier,
who watched over the slumbers of the French commander, without interruption, the man
making the usual salute which betokens military deference, as the other passed swiftly
through the little city of tents, in the direction of William Henry. Whenever this unknown
individual encountered one of the numberless sentinels who crossed his path, his answer
was prompt, and, as it appeared, satisfactory; for he was uniformly allowed to proceed
without further interrogation.
With the exception of such repeated but brief interruptions, he had moved silently from
the center of the camp to its most advanced outposts, when he drew nigh the soldier who
held his watch nearest to the works of the enemy. As he approached he was received with
the usual challenge:
"Qui vive?"
"France," was the reply.
"Le mot d'ordre?"
"La victorie," said the other, drawing so nigh as to be heard in a loud whisper.
"C'est bien," returned the sentinel, throwing his musket from the charge to his shoulder;
"vous promenez bien matin, monsieur!"