Poems & Short Stories: 4,435
Forum Members: 67,986
Forum Posts: 1,216,101
And over 2 million unique readers monthly!
"Snug.--Have you the lion's part written? Pray you, if
it be, give it to me, for I am slow of study.
Quince.--You may do it extempore, for it is nothing
but roaring."--Midsummer Night's Dream
There was a strange blending of the ridiculous with that
which was solemn in this scene. The beast sill continued
its rolling, and apparently untiring movements, though its
ludicrous attempt to imitate the melody of David ceased the
instant the latter abandoned the field. The words of Gamut
were, as has been seen, in his native tongue; and to Duncan
they seem pregnant with some hidden meaning, though nothing
present assisted him in discovering the object of their
allusion. A speedy end was, however, put to every
conjecture on the subject, by the manner of the chief, who
advanced to the bedside of the invalid, and beckoned away
the whole group of female attendants that had clustered
there to witness the skill of the stranger. He was
implicitly, though reluctantly, obeyed; and when the low
echo which rang along the hollow, natural gallery, from the
distant closing door, had ceased, pointing toward his
insensible daughter, he said:
"Now let my brother show his power."
Thus unequivocally called on to exercise the functions of
his assumed character, Heyward was apprehensive that the
smallest delay might prove dangerous. Endeavoring, then, to
collect his ideas, he prepared to perform that species of
incantation, and those uncouth rites, under which the Indian
conjurers are accustomed to conceal their ignorance and
impotency. It is more than probable that, in the disordered
state of his thoughts, he would soon have fallen into some
suspicious, if not fatal, error had not his incipient
attempts been interrupted by a fierce growl from the
quadruped. Three several times did he renew his efforts to
proceed, and as often was he met by the same unaccountable
opposition, each interruption seeming more savage and
threatening than the preceding.
"The cunning ones are jealous," said the Huron; "I go
Brother, the woman is the wife of one of my bravest young
men; deal justly by her. Peace!" he added, beckoning to the
discontented beast to be quiet; "I go."
The chief was as good as his word, and Duncan now found
himself alone in that wild and desolate abode with the
helpless invalid and the fierce and dangerous brute. The
latter listened to the movements of the Indian with that air
of sagacity that a bear is known to possess, until another
echo announced that he had also left the cavern, when it
turned and came waddling up to Duncan before whom it seated
itself in its natural attitude, erect like a man. The youth
looked anxiously about him for some weapon, with which he
might make a resistance against the attack he now seriously
It seemed, however, as if the humor of the animal had
suddenly changed. Instead of continuing its discontented
growls, or manifesting any further signs of anger, the whole
of its shaggy body shook violently, as if agitated by some
strange internal convulsion. The huge and unwieldy talons
pawed stupidly about the grinning muzzle, and while Heyward
kept his eyes riveted on its movements with jealous
watchfulness, the grim head fell on one side and in its
place appeared the honest sturdy countenance of the scout,
who was indulging from the bottom of his soul in his own
peculiar expression of merriment.
"Hist!" said the wary woodsman, interrupting Heyward's
exclamation of surprise; "the varlets are about the place,
and any sounds that are not natural to witchcraft would
bring them back upon us in a body."
"Tell me the meaning of this masquerade; and why you have
attempted so desperate an adventure?"
"Ah, reason and calculation are often outdone by accident,"
returned the scout. "But, as a story should always commence
at the beginning, I will tell you the whole in order. After
we parted I placed the commandant and the Sagamore in an old
beaver lodge, where they are safer from the Hurons than they
would be in the garrison of Edward for your high north-west
Indians, not having as yet got the traders among them,
continued to venerate the beaver. After which Uncas and I
pushed for the other encampment as was agreed. Have you
seen the lad?"
"To my great grief! He is captive, and condemned to die at
the rising of the sun."
"I had misgivings that such would be his fate," resumed the
scout, in a less confident and joyous tone. But soon
regaining his naturally firm voice, he continued: "His bad
fortune is the true reason of my being here, for it would
never do to abandon such a boy to the Hurons. A rare time
the knaves would have of it, could they tie 'The Bounding
Elk' and 'The Long Carabine', as they call me, to the same
stake! Though why they have given me such a name I never
knew, there being as little likeness between the gifts of
'killdeer' and the performance of one of your real Canada
carabynes, as there is between the natur' of a pipe-stone
and a flint."
"Keep to your tale," said the impatient Heyward; "we know
not at what moment the Hurons may return."
"No fear of them. A conjurer must have his time, like a
straggling priest in the settlements. We are as safe from
interruption as a missionary would be at the beginning of a
two hours' discourse. Well, Uncas and I fell in with a
return party of the varlets; the lad was much too forward
for a scout; nay, for that matter, being of hot blood, he
was not so much to blame; and, after all, one of the Hurons
proved a coward, and in fleeing led him into an ambushment."
"And dearly has he paid for the weakness."
The scout significantly passed his hand across his own
throat, and nodded, as if he said, "I comprehend your
meaning." After which he continued, in a more audible
though scarcely more intelligible language:
"After the loss of the boy I turned upon the Hurons, as you
may judge. There have been scrimmages atween one or two of
their outlyers and myself; but that is neither here nor
there. So, after I had shot the imps, I got in pretty nigh
to the lodges without further commotion. Then what should
luck do in my favor but lead me to the very spot where one
of the most famous conjurers of the tribe was dressing
himself, as I well knew, for some great battle with Satan--
though why should I call that luck, which it now seems was
an especial ordering of Providence. So a judgmatical rap
over the head stiffened the lying impostor for a time, and
leaving him a bit of walnut for his supper, to prevent an
uproar, and stringing him up atween two saplings, I made
free with his finery, and took the part of the bear on
myself, in order that the operations might proceed."
"And admirably did you enact the character; the animal
itself might have been shamed by the representation."
"Lord, major," returned the flattered woodsman, "I should be
but a poor scholar for one who has studied so long in the
wilderness, did I not know how to set forth the movements of
natur' of such a beast. Had it been now a catamount, or
even a full-size panther, I would have embellished a
performance for you worth regarding. But it is no such
marvelous feat to exhibit the feats of so dull a beast;
though, for that matter, too, a bear may be overacted. Yes,
yes; it is not every imitator that knows natur' may be
outdone easier than she is equaled. But all our work is yet
before us. Where is the gentle one?"
"Heaven knows. I have examined every lodge in the village,
without discovering the slightest trace of her presence in
"You heard what the singer said, as he left us: 'She is at
hand, and expects you'?"
"I have been compelled to believe he alluded to this unhappy
"The simpleton was frightened, and blundered through his
message; but he had a deeper meaning. Here are walls enough
to separate the hole settlement. A bear ought to climb;
therefore will I take a look above them. There may be honey-
pots hid in these rocks, and I am a beast, you know, that
has a hankering for the sweets."
The scout looked behind him, laughing at his own conceit,
while he clambered up the partition, imitating, as he went,
the clumsy motions of the beast he represented; but the
instant the summit was gained he made a gesture for silence,
and slid down with the utmost precipitation.
"She is here," he whispered, "and by that door you will find
her. I would have spoken a word of comfort to the afflicted
soul; but the sight of such a monster might upset her
reason. Though for that matter, major, you are none of the
most inviting yourself in your paint."
Duncan, who had already swung eagerly forward, drew
instantly back on hearing these discouraging words.
"Am I, then, so very revolting?" he demanded, with an air of
"You might not startle a wolf, or turn the Royal Americans
from a discharge; but I have seen the time when you had a
better favored look; your streaked countenances are not ill-
judged of by the squaws, but young women of white blood give
the preference to their own color. See," he added, pointing
to a place where the water trickled from a rock, forming a
little crystal spring, before it found an issue through the
adjacent crevices; "you may easily get rid of the Sagamore's
daub, and when you come back I will try my hand at a new
embellishment. It's as common for a conjurer to alter his
paint as for a buck in the settlements to change his
The deliberate woodsman had little occasion to hunt for
arguments to enforce his advice. He was yet speaking when
Duncan availed himself of the water. In a moment every
frightful or offensive mark was obliterated, and the youth
appeared again in the lineaments with which he had been
gifted by nature. Thus prepared for an interview with his
mistress, he took a hasty leave of his companion, and
disappeared through the indicated passage. The scout
witnessed his departure with complacency, nodding his head
after him, and muttering his good wishes; after which he
very coolly set about an examination of the state of the
larder, among the Hurons, the cavern, among other purposes,
being used as a receptacle for the fruits of their hunts.
Duncan had no other guide than a distant glimmering light,
which served, however, the office of a polar star to the
lover. By its aid he was enabled to enter the haven of his
hopes, which was merely another apartment of the cavern,
that had been solely appropriated to the safekeeping of so
important a prisoner as a daughter of the commandant of
William Henry. It was profusely strewed with the plunder of
that unlucky fortress. In the midst of this confusion he
found her he sought, pale, anxious and terrified, but
lovely. David had prepared her for such a visit.
"Duncan!" she exclaimed, in a voice that seemed to tremble
at the sounds created by itself.
"Alice!" he answered, leaping carelessly among trunks,
boxes, arms, and furniture, until he stood at her side.
"I knew that you would never desert me," she said, looking
up with a momentary glow on her otherwise dejected
countenance. "But you are alone! Grateful as it is to be
thus remembered, I could wish to think you are not entirely
Duncan, observing that she trembled in a manner which
betrayed her inability to stand, gently induced her to be
seated, while he recounted those leading incidents which it
has been our task to accord. Alice listened with breathless
interest; and though the young man touched lightly on the
sorrows of the stricken father; taking care, however, not to
wound the self-love of his auditor, the tears ran as freely
down the cheeks of the daughter as though she had never wept
before. The soothing tenderness of Duncan, however, soon
quieted the first burst of her emotions, and she then heard
him to the close with undivided attention, if not with
"And now, Alice," he added, "you will see how much is still
expected of you. By the assistance of our experienced and
invaluable friend, the scout, we may find our way from this
savage people, but you will have to exert your utmost
fortitude. Remember that you fly to the arms of your
venerable parent, and how much his happiness, as well as
your own, depends on those exertions."
"Can I do otherwise for a father who has done so much for
"And for me, too," continued the youth, gently pressing the
hand he held in both his own.
The look of innocence and surprise which he received in
return convinced Duncan of the necessity of being more
"This is neither the place nor the occasion to detain you
with selfish wishes," he added; "but what heart loaded like
mine would not wish to cast its burden? They say misery is
the closest of all ties; our common suffering in your behalf
left but little to be explained between your father and
"And, dearest Cora, Duncan; surely Cora was not forgotten?"
"Not forgotten! no; regretted, as woman was seldom mourned
before. Your venerable father knew no difference between
his children; but I--Alice, you will not be offended when
I say, that to me her worth was in a degree obscured--"
"Then you knew not the merit of my sister," said Alice,
withdrawing her hand; "of you she ever speaks as of one who
is her dearest friend."
"I would gladly believe her such," returned Duncan, hastily;
"I could wish her to be even more; but with you, Alice, I
have the permission of your father to aspire to a still
nearer and dearer tie."
Alice trembled violently, and there was an instant during
which she bent her face aside, yielding to the emotions
common to her sex; but they quickly passed away, leaving her
mistress of her deportment, if not of her affections.
"Heyward," she said, looking him full in the face with a
touching expression of innocence and dependency, "give me
the sacred presence and the holy sanction of that parent
before you urge me further."
"Though more I should not, less I could not say," the youth
was about to answer, when he was interrupted by a light tap
on his shoulder. Starting to his feet, he turned, and,
confronting the intruder, his looks fell on the dark form
and malignant visage of Magua. The deep guttural laugh of
the savage sounded, at such a moment, to Duncan, like the
hellish taunt of a demon. Had he pursued the sudden and
fierce impulse of the instant, he would have cast himself on
the Huron, and committed their fortunes to the issue of a
deadly struggle. But, without arms of any description,
ignorant of what succor his subtle enemy could command, and
charged with the safety of one who was just then dearer than
ever to his heart, he no sooner entertained than he
abandoned the desperate intention.
"What is your purpose?" said Alice, meekly folding her arms
on her bosom, and struggling to conceal an agony of
apprehension in behalf of Heyward, in the usual cold and
distant manner with which she received the visits of her
The exulting Indian had resumed his austere countenance,
though he drew warily back before the menacing glance of the
young man's fiery eye. He regarded both his captives for a
moment with a steady look, and then, stepping aside, he
dropped a log of wood across a door different from that by
which Duncan had entered. The latter now comprehended the
manner of his surprise, and, believing himself irretrievably
lost, he drew Alice to his bosom, and stood prepared to meet
a fate which he hardly regretted, since it was to be
suffered in such company. But Magua meditated no immediate
violence. His first measures were very evidently taken to
secure his new captive; nor did he even bestow a second
glance at the motionless forms in the center of the cavern,
until he had completely cut off every hope of retreat
through the private outlet he had himself used. He was
watched in all his movements by Heyward, who, however,
remained firm, still folding the fragile form of Alice to
his heart, at once too proud and too hopeless to ask favor
of an enemy so often foiled. When Magua had effected his
object he approached his prisoners, and said in English:
"The pale faces trap the cunning beavers; but the red-skins
know how to take the Yengeese."
"Huron, do your worst!" exclaimed the excited Heyward,
forgetful that a double stake was involved in his life; "you
and your vengeance are alike despised."
"Will the white man speak these words at the stake?" asked
Magua; manifesting, at the same time, how little faith he
had in the other's resolution by the sneer that accompanied
"Here; singly to your face, or in the presence of your
"Le Renard Subtil is a great chief!" returned the Indian;
"he will go and bring his young men, to see how bravely a
pale face can laugh at tortures."
He turned away while speaking, and was about to leave the
place through the avenue by which Duncan had approached,
when a growl caught his ear, and caused him to hesitate.
The figure of the bear appeared in the door, where it sat,
rolling from side to side in its customary restlessness.
Magua, like the father of the sick woman, eyed it keenly for
a moment, as if to ascertain its character. He was far
above the more vulgar superstitions of his tribe, and so
soon as he recognized the well-known attire of the conjurer,
he prepared to pass it in cool contempt. But a louder and
more threatening growl caused him again to pause. Then he
seemed as if suddenly resolved to trifle no longer, and
moved resolutely forward.
The mimic animal, which had advanced a little, retired
slowly in his front, until it arrived again at the pass,
when, rearing on his hinder legs, it beat the air with its
paws, in the manner practised by its brutal prototype.
"Fool!" exclaimed the chief, in Huron, "go play with the
children and squaws; leave men to their wisdom."
He once more endeavored to pass the supposed empiric,
scorning even the parade of threatening to use the knife, or
tomahawk, that was pendent from his belt. Suddenly the
beast extended its arms, or rather legs, and inclosed him in
a grasp that might have vied with the far-famed power of the
"bear's hug" itself. Heyward had watched the whole
procedure, on the part of Hawkeye, with breathless interest.
At first he relinquished his hold of Alice; then he caught
up a thong of buckskin, which had been used around some
bundle, and when he beheld his enemy with his two arms
pinned to his side by the iron muscles of the scout, he
rushed upon him, and effectually secured them there. Arms,
legs, and feet were encircled in twenty folds of the thong,
in less time than we have taken to record the circumstance.
When the formidable Huron was completely pinioned, the scout
released his hold, and Duncan laid his enemy on his back,
Throughout the whole of this sudden and extraordinary
operation, Magua, though he had struggled violently, until
assured he was in the hands of one whose nerves were far
better strung than his own, had not uttered the slightest
exclamation. But when Hawkeye, by way of making a summary
explanation of his conduct, removed the shaggy jaws of the
beast, and exposed his own rugged and earnest countenance to
the gaze of the Huron, the philosophy of the latter was so
far mastered as to permit him to utter the never failing:
"Ay, you've found your tongue," said his undisturbed
conqueror; "now, in order that you shall not use it to our
ruin, I must make free to stop your mouth."
As there was no time to be lost, the scout immediately set
about effecting so necessary a precaution; and when he had
gagged the Indian, his enemy might safely have been
considered as "hors de combat."
"By what place did the imp enter?" asked the industrious
scout, when his work was ended. "Not a soul has passed my
way since you left me."
Duncan pointed out the door by which Magua had come, and
which now presented too many obstacles to a quick retreat.
"Bring on the gentle one, then," continued his friend; "we
must make a push for the woods by the other outlet."
"'Tis impossible!" said Duncan; "fear has overcome her, and
she is helpless. Alice! my sweet, my own Alice, arouse
yourself; now is the moment to fly. 'Tis in vain! she
hears, but is unable to follow. Go, noble and worthy
friend; save yourself, and leave me to my fate."
"Every trail has its end, and every calamity brings its
lesson!" returned the scout. "There, wrap her in them
Indian cloths. Conceal all of her little form. Nay, that
foot has no fellow in the wilderness; it will betray her.
All, every part. Now take her in your arms, and follow.
Leave the rest to me."
Duncan, as may be gathered from the words of his companion,
was eagerly obeying; and, as the other finished speaking, he
took the light person of Alice in his arms, and followed in
the footsteps of the scout. They found the sick woman as
they had left her, still alone, and passed swiftly on, by
the natural gallery, to the place of entrance. As they
approached the little door of bark, a murmur of voices
without announced that the friends and relatives of the
invalid were gathered about the place, patiently awaiting a
summons to re-enter.
"If I open my lips to speak," Hawkeye whispered, "my
English, which is the genuine tongue of a white-skin, will
tell the varlets that an enemy is among them. You must give
'em your jargon, major; and say that we have shut the evil
spirit in the cave, and are taking the woman to the woods in
order to find strengthening roots. Practise all your
cunning, for it is a lawful undertaking."
The door opened a little, as if one without was listening to
the proceedings within, and compelled the scout to cease his
directions. A fierce growl repelled the eavesdropper, and
then the scout boldly threw open the covering of bark, and
left the place, enacting the character of a bear as he
proceeded. Duncan kept close at his heels, and soon found
himself in the center of a cluster of twenty anxious
relatives and friends.
The crowd fell back a little, and permitted the father, and
one who appeared to be the husband of the woman, to
"Has my brother driven away the evil spirit?" demanded the
former. "What has he in his arms?"
"Thy child," returned Duncan, gravely; "the disease has gone
out of her; it is shut up in the rocks. I take the woman to
a distance, where I will strengthen her against any further
attacks. She will be in the wigwam of the young man when
the sun comes again."
When the father had translated the meaning of the stranger's
words into the Huron language, a suppressed murmur announced
the satisfaction with which this intelligence was received.
The chief himself waved his hand for Duncan to proceed,
saying aloud, in a firm voice, and with a lofty manner:
"Go; I am a man, and I will enter the rock and fight the
Heyward had gladly obeyed, and was already past the little
group, when these startling words arrested him.
"Is my brother mad?" he exclaimed; "is he cruel? He will
meet the disease, and it will enter him; or he will drive
out the disease, and it will chase his daughter into the
woods. No; let my children wait without, and if the spirit
appears beat him down with clubs. He is cunning, and will
bury himself in the mountain, when he sees how many are
ready to fight him."
This singular warning had the desired effect. Instead of
entering the cavern, the father and husband drew their
tomahawks, and posted themselves in readiness to deal their
vengeance on the imaginary tormentor of their sick relative,
while the women and children broke branches from the bushes,
or seized fragments of the rock, with a similar intention.
At this favorable moment the counterfeit conjurers
Hawkeye, at the same time that he had presumed so far on the
nature of the Indian superstitions, was not ignorant that
they were rather tolerated than relied on by the wisest of
the chiefs. He well knew the value of time in the present
emergency. Whatever might be the extent of the self-
delusion of his enemies, and however it had tended to assist
his schemes, the slightest cause of suspicion, acting on the
subtle nature of an Indian, would be likely to prove fatal.
Taking the path, therefore, that was most likely to avoid
observation, he rather skirted than entered the village.
The warriors were still to be seen in the distance, by the
fading light of the fires, stalking from lodge to lodge.
But the children had abandoned their sports for their beds
of skins, and the quiet of night was already beginning to
prevail over the turbulence and excitement of so busy and
important an evening.
Alice revived under the renovating influence of the open
air, and, as her physical rather than her mental powers had
been the subject of weakness, she stood in no need of any
explanation of that which had occurred.
"Now let me make an effort to walk," she said, when they had
entered the forest, blushing, though unseen, that she had
not been sooner able to quit the arms of Duncan; "I am
"Nay, Alice, you are yet too weak."
The maiden struggled gently to release herself, and Heyward
was compelled to part with his precious burden. The
representative of the bear had certainly been an entire
stranger to the delicious emotions of the lover while his
arms encircled his mistress; and he was, perhaps, a stranger
also to the nature of that feeling of ingenuous shame that
oppressed the trembling Alice. But when he found himself at
a suitable distance from the lodges he made a halt, and
spoke on a subject of which he was thoroughly the master.
"This path will lead you to the brook," he said; "follow its
northern bank until you come to a fall; mount the hill on
your right, and you will see the fires of the other people.
There you must go and demand protection; if they are true
Delawares you will be safe. A distant flight with that
gentle one, just now, is impossible. The Hurons would
follow up our trail, and master our scalps before we had got
a dozen miles. Go, and Providence be with you."
"And you!" demanded Heyward, in surprise; "surely we part
"The Hurons hold the pride of the Delawares; the last of the
high blood of the Mohicans is in their power," returned the
scout; "I go to see what can be done in his favor. Had they
mastered your scalp, major, a knave should have fallen for
every hair it held, as I promised; but if the young Sagamore
is to be led to the stake, the Indians shall see also how a
man without a cross can die."
Not in the least offended with the decided preference that
the sturdy woodsman gave to one who might, in some degree,
be called the child of his adoption, Duncan still continued
to urge such reasons against so desperate an effort as
presented themselves. He was aided by Alice, who mingled
her entreaties with those of Heyward that he would abandon a
resolution that promised so much danger, with so little hope
of success. Their eloquence and ingenuity were expended in
vain. The scout heard them attentively, but impatiently,
and finally closed the discussion, by answering, in a tone
that instantly silenced Alice, while it told Heyward how
fruitless any further remonstrances would be.
"I have heard," he said, "that there is a feeling in youth
which binds man to woman closer than the father is tied to
the son. It may be so. I have seldom been where women of
my color dwell; but such may be the gifts of nature in the
settlements. You have risked life, and all that is dear to
you, to bring off this gentle one, and I suppose that some
such disposition is at the bottom of it all. As for me, I
taught the lad the real character of a rifle; and well has
he paid me for it. I have fou't at his side in many a
bloody scrimmage; and so long as I could hear the crack of
his piece in one ear, and that of the Sagamore in the other,
I knew no enemy was on my back. Winters and summer, nights
and days, have we roved the wilderness in company, eating of
the same dish, one sleeping while the other watched; and
afore it shall be said that Uncas was taken to the torment,
and I at hand--There is but a single Ruler of us all,
whatever may the color of the skin; and Him I call to
witness, that before the Mohican boy shall perish for the
want of a friend, good faith shall depart the 'arth, and
'killdeer' become as harmless as the tooting we'pon of the
Duncan released his hold on the arm of the scout, who
turned, and steadily retraced his steps toward the lodges.
After pausing a moment to gaze at his retiring form, the
successful and yet sorrowful Heyward and Alice took their
way together toward the distant village of the Delawares.
|Art of Worldly Wisdom Daily|
In the 1600s, Balthasar Gracian, a jesuit priest wrote 300 aphorisms on living life called "The Art of Worldly Wisdom." Join our newsletter below and read them all, one at a time.
Shakespeare wrote over 150 sonnets! Join our Sonnet-A-Day Newsletter and read them all, one at a time.