The Last of the Mohicans HTML version

Chapter 27
"Ant. I shall remember: When C'sar says Do this, it is performed."--Julius Caesar
The impatience of the savages who lingered about the prison of Uncas, as has been seen,
had overcome their dread of the conjurer's breath. They stole cautiously, and with beating
hearts, to a crevice, through which the faint light of the fire was glimmering. For several
minutes they mistook the form of David for that of the prisoner; but the very accident
which Hawkeye had foreseen occurred. Tired of keeping the extremities of his long
person so near together, the singer gradually suffered the lower limbs to extend
themselves, until one of his misshapen feet actually came in contact with and shoved
aside the embers of the fire. At first the Hurons believed the Delaware had been thus
deformed by witchcraft. But when David, unconscious of being observed, turned his
head, and exposed his simple, mild countenance, in place of the haughty lineaments of
their prisoner, it would have exceeded the credulity of even a native to have doubted any
longer. They rushed together into the lodge, and, laying their hands, with but little
ceremony, on their captive, immediately detected the imposition. Then arose the cry first
heard by the fugitives. It was succeeded by the most frantic and angry demonstrations of
vengeance. David, however, firm in his determination to cover the retreat of his friends,
was compelled to believe that his own final hour had come. Deprived of his book and his
pipe, he was fain to trust to a memory that rarely failed him on such subjects; and
breaking forth in a loud and impassioned strain, he endeavored to smooth his passage into
the other world by singing the opening verse of a funeral anthem. The Indians were
seasonably reminded of his infirmity, and, rushing into the open air, they aroused the
village in the manner described.
A native warrior fights as he sleeps, without the protection of anything defensive. The
sounds of the alarm were, therefore, hardly uttered before two hundred men were afoot,
and ready for the battle or the chase, as either might be required. The escape was soon
known; and the whole tribe crowded, in a body, around the council-lodge, impatiently
awaiting the instruction of their chiefs. In such a sudden demand on their wisdom, the
presence of the cunning Magua could scarcely fail of being needed. His name was
mentioned, and all looked round in wonder that he did not appear. Messengers were then
despatched to his lodge requiring his presence.
In the meantime, some of the swiftest and most discreet of the young men were ordered
to make the circuit of the clearing, under cover of the woods, in order to ascertain that
their suspected neighbors, the Delawares, designed no mischief. Women and children ran
to and fro; and, in short, the whole encampment exhibited another scene of wild and
savage confusion. Gradually, however, these symptoms of disorder diminished; and in a
few minutes the oldest and most distinguished chiefs were assembled in the lodge, in
grave consultation.
The clamor of many voices soon announced that a party approached, who might be
expected to communicate some intelligence that would explain the mystery of the novel