The Last of the Mohicans HTML version

Chapter 19
"Salar.--Why, I am sure, if he forfeit, thou wilt not take his flesh; what's that good for?
Shy.--To bait fish withal; if it will feed nothing else, it will feed my revenge."--Merchant
of Venice
The shades of evening had come to increase the dreariness of the place, when the party
entered the ruins of William Henry. The scout and his companions immediately made
their preparations to pass the night there; but with an earnestness and sobriety of
demeanor that betrayed how much the unusual horrors they had just witnessed worked on
even their practised feelings. A few fragments of rafters were reared against a blackened
wall; and when Uncas had covered them slightly with brush, the temporary
accommodations were deemed sufficient. The young Indian pointed toward his rude hut
when his labor was ended; and Heyward, who understood the meaning of the silent
gestures, gently urged Munro to enter. Leaving the bereaved old man alone with his
sorrows, Duncan immediately returned into the open air, too much excited himself to
seek the repose he had recommended to his veteran friend.
While Hawkeye and the Indians lighted their fire and took their evening's repast, a frugal
meal of dried bear's meat, the young man paid a visit to that curtain of the dilapidated fort
which looked out on the sheet of the Horican. The wind had fallen, and the waves were
already rolling on the sandy beach beneath him, in a more regular and tempered
succession. The clouds, as if tired of their furious chase, were breaking asunder; the
heavier volumes, gathering in black masses about the horizon, while the lighter scud still
hurried above the water, or eddied among the tops of the mountains, like broken flights of
birds, hovering around their roosts. Here and there, a red and fiery star struggled through
the drifting vapor, furnishing a lurid gleam of brightness to the dull aspect of the heavens.
Within the bosom of the encircling hills, an impenetrable darkness had already settled;
and the plain lay like a vast and deserted charnel-house, without omen or whisper to
disturb the slumbers of its numerous and hapless tenants.
Of this scene, so chillingly in accordance with the past, Duncan stood for many minutes a
rapt observer. His eyes wandered from the bosom of the mound, where the foresters were
seated around their glimmering fire, to the fainter light which still lingered in the skies,
and then rested long and anxiously on the embodied gloom, which lay like a dreary void
on that side of him where the dead reposed. He soon fancied that inexplicable sounds
arose from the place, though so indistinct and stolen, as to render not only their nature but
even their existence uncertain. Ashamed of his apprehensions, the young man turned
toward the water, and strove to divert his attention to the mimic stars that dimly
glimmered on its moving surface. Still, his too-conscious ears performed their ungrateful
duty, as if to warn him of some lurking danger. At length, a swift trampling seemed, quite
audibly, to rush athwart the darkness. Unable any longer to quiet his uneasiness, Duncan
spoke in a low voice to the scout, requesting him to ascend the mound to the place where
he stood. Hawkeye threw his rifle across an arm and complied, but with an air so
unmoved and calm, as to prove how much he counted on the security of their position.