The Last of the Mohicans HTML version

Chapter 20
"Land of Albania! let me bend mine eyes On thee; thou rugged nurse of savage men!"--
Childe Harold
The heavens were still studded with stars, when Hawkeye came to arouse the sleepers.
Casting aside their cloaks Munro and Heyward were on their feet while the woodsman
was still making his low calls, at the entrance of the rude shelter where they had passed
the night. When they issued from beneath its concealment, they found the scout awaiting
their appearance nigh by, and the only salutation between them was the significant
gesture for silence, made by their sagacious leader.
"Think over your prayers," he whispered, as they approached him; "for He to whom you
make them, knows all tongues; that of the heart, as well as those of the mouth. But speak
not a syllable; it is rare for a white voice to pitch itself properly in the woods, as we have
seen by the example of that miserable devil, the singer. Come," he continued, turning
toward a curtain of the works; "let us get into the ditch on this side, and be regardful to
step on the stones and fragments of wood as you go."
His companions complied, though to two of them the reasons of this extraordinary
precaution were yet a mystery. When they were in the low cavity that surrounded the
earthen fort on three sides, they found that passage nearly choked by the ruins. With care
and patience, however, they succeeded in clambering after the scout, until they reached
the sandy shore of the Horican.
"That's a trail that nothing but a nose can follow," said the satisfied scout, looking back
along their difficult way; "grass is a treacherous carpet for a flying party to tread on, but
wood and stone take no print from a moccasin. Had you worn your armed boots, there
might, indeed, have been something to fear; but with the deer-skin suitably prepared, a
man may trust himself, generally, on rocks with safety. Shove in the canoe nigher to the
land, Uncas; this sand will take a stamp as easily as the butter of the Jarmans on the
Mohawk. Softly, lad, softly; it must not touch the beach, or the knaves will know by what
road we have left the place."
The young man observed the precaution; and the scout, laying a board from the ruins to
the canoe, made a sign for the two officers to enter. When this was done, everything was
studiously restored to its former disorder; and then Hawkeye succeeded in reaching his
little birchen vessel, without leaving behind him any of those marks which he appeared
so much to dread. Heyward was silent until the Indians had cautiously paddled the canoe
some distance from the fort, and within the broad and dark shadows that fell from the
eastern mountain on the glassy surface of the lake; then he demanded:
"What need have we for this stolen and hurried departure?"