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Chapter 32

CHAPTER 32

"But plagues shall spread, and funeral fires increase, Till

the great king, without a ransom paid, To her own Chrysa

send the black-eyed maid."--Pope

During the time Uncas was making this disposition of his

forces, the woods were as still, and, with the exception of

those who had met in council, apparently as much untenanted

as when they came fresh from the hands of their Almighty

Creator. The eye could range, in every direction, through

the long and shadowed vistas of the trees; but nowhere was

any object to be seen that did not properly belong to the

peaceful and slumbering scenery.

Here and there a bird was heard fluttering among the

branches of the beeches, and occasionally a squirrel dropped

a nut, drawing the startled looks of the party for a moment

to the place; but the instant the casual interruption

ceased, the passing air was heard murmuring above their

heads, along that verdant and undulating surface of forest,

which spread itself unbroken, unless by stream or lake, over

such a vast region of country. Across the tract of

wilderness which lay between the Delawares and the village

of their enemies, it seemed as if the foot of man had never

trodden, so breathing and deep was the silence in which it

lay. But Hawkeye, whose duty led him foremost in the

adventure, knew the character of those with whom he was

about to contend too well to trust the treacherous quiet.

When he saw his little band collected, the scout threw

"killdeer" into the hollow of his arm, and making a silent

signal that he would be followed, he led them many rods

toward the rear, into the bed of a little brook which they

had crossed in advancing. Here he halted, and after waiting

for the whole of his grave and attentive warriors to close

about him, he spoke in Delaware, demanding:

"Do any of my young men know whither this run will lead us?"

A Delaware stretched forth a hand, with the two fingers

separated, and indicating the manner in which they were

joined at the root, he answered:

"Before the sun could go his own length, the little water

will be in the big." Then he added, pointing in the

direction of the place he mentioned, "the two make enough

for the beavers."

"I thought as much," returned the scout, glancing his eye

upward at the opening in the tree-tops, "from the course it

takes, and the bearings of the mountains. Men, we will keep

within the cover of its banks till we scent the Hurons."

His companions gave the usual brief exclamation of assent,

but, perceiving that their leader was about to lead the way

in person, one or two made signs that all was not as it

should be. Hawkeye, who comprehended their meaning glances,

turned and perceived that his party had been followed thus

far by the singing-master.

"Do you know, friend," asked the scout, gravely, and perhaps

with a little of the pride of conscious deserving in his

manner, "that this is a band of rangers chosen for the most

desperate service, and put under the command of one who,

though another might say it with a better face, will not be

apt to leave them idle. It may not be five, it cannot be

thirty minutes, before we tread on the body of a Huron,

living or dead."

"Though not admonished of your intentions in words,"

returned David, whose face was a little flushed, and whose

ordinarily quiet and unmeaning eyes glimmered with an

expression of unusual fire, "your men have reminded me of

the children of Jacob going out to battle against the

Shechemites, for wickedly aspiring to wedlock with a woman

of a race that was favored of the Lord. Now, I have

journeyed far, and sojourned much in good and evil with the

maiden ye seek; and, though not a man of war, with my loins

girded and my sword sharpened, yet would I gladly strike a

blow in her behalf."

The scout hesitated, as if weighing the chances of such a

strange enlistment in his mind before he answered:

"You know not the use of any we'pon. You carry no rifle;

and believe me, what the Mingoes take they will freely give

again."

"Though not a vaunting and bloodily disposed Goliath,"

returned David, drawing a sling from beneath his parti-

colored and uncouth attire, "I have not forgotten the

example of the Jewish boy. With this ancient instrument of

war have I practised much in my youth, and peradventure the

skill has not entirely departed from me."

"Ay!" said Hawkeye, considering the deer-skin thong and

apron, with a cold and discouraging eye; "the thing might do

its work among arrows, or even knives; but these Mengwe have

been furnished by the Frenchers with a good grooved barrel a

man. However, it seems to be your gift to go unharmed amid

fire; and as you have hitherto been favored--major, you

have left your rifle at a cock; a single shot before the

time would be just twenty scalps lost to no purpose--

singer, you can follow; we may find use for you in the

shoutings."

"I thank you, friend," returned David, supplying himself,

like his royal namesake, from among the pebbles of the

brook; "though not given to the desire to kill, had you sent

me away my spirit would have been troubled."

"Remember," added the scout, tapping his own head

significantly on that spot where Gamut was yet sore, "we

come to fight, and not to musickate. Until the general

whoop is given, nothing speaks but the rifle."

David nodded, as much to signify his acquiescence with the

terms; and then Hawkeye, casting another observant glance

over this followers made the signal to proceed.

Their route lay, for the distance of a mile, along the bed

of the water-course. Though protected from any great danger

of observation by the precipitous banks, and the thick

shrubbery which skirted the stream, no precaution known to

an Indian attack was neglected. A warrior rather crawled

than walked on each flank so as to catch occasional glimpses

into the forest; and every few minutes the band came to a

halt, and listened for hostile sounds, with an acuteness of

organs that would be scarcely conceivable to a man in a less

natural state. Their march was, however, unmolested, and

they reached the point where the lesser stream was lost in

the greater, without the smallest evidence that their

progress had been noted. Here the scout again halted, to

consult the signs of the forest.

"We are likely to have a good day for a fight," he said, in

English, addressing Heyward, and glancing his eyes upward at

the clouds, which began to move in broad sheets across the

firmament; "a bright sun and a glittering barrel are no

friends to true sight. Everything is favorable; they have

the wind, which will bring down their noises and their

smoke, too, no little matter in itself; whereas, with us it

will be first a shot, and then a clear view. But here is an

end to our cover; the beavers have had the range of this

stream for hundreds of years, and what atween their food and

their dams, there is, as you see, many a girdled stub, but

few living trees."

Hawkeye had, in truth, in these few words, given no bad

description of the prospect that now lay in their front.

The brook was irregular in its width, sometimes shooting

through narrow fissures in the rocks, and at others

spreading over acres of bottom land, forming little areas

that might be termed ponds. Everywhere along its bands were

the moldering relics of dead trees, in all the stages of

decay, from those that groaned on their tottering trunks to

such as had recently been robbed of those rugged coats that

so mysteriously contain their principle of life. A few

long, low, and moss-covered piles were scattered among them,

like the memorials of a former and long-departed generation.

All these minute particulars were noted by the scout, with a

gravity and interest that they probably had never before

attracted. He knew that the Huron encampment lay a short

half mile up the brook; and, with the characteristic anxiety

of one who dreaded a hidden danger, he was greatly troubled

at not finding the smallest trace of the presence of his

enemy. Once or twice he felt induced to give the order for

a rush, and to attempt the village by surprise; but his

experience quickly admonished him of the danger of so

useless an experiment. Then he listened intently, and with

painful uncertainty, for the sounds of hostility in the

quarter where Uncas was left; but nothing was audible except

the sighing of the wind, that began to sweep over the bosom

of the forest in gusts which threatened a tempest. At

length, yielding rather to his unusual impatience than

taking counsel from his knowledge, he determined to bring

matters to an issue, by unmasking his force, and proceeding

cautiously, but steadily, up the stream.

The scout had stood, while making his observations,

sheltered by a brake, and his companions still lay in the

bed of the ravine, through which the smaller stream

debouched; but on hearing his low, though intelligible,

signal the whole party stole up the bank, like so many dark

specters, and silently arranged themselves around him.

Pointing in the direction he wished to proceed, Hawkeye

advanced, the band breaking off in single files, and

following so accurately in his footsteps, as to leave it, if

we except Heyward and David, the trail of but a single man.

The party was, however, scarcely uncovered before a volley

from a dozen rifles was heard in their rear; and a Delaware

leaping high in to the air, like a wounded deer, fell at his

whole length, dead.

"Ah, I feared some deviltry like this!" exclaimed the scout,

in English, adding, with the quickness of thought, in his

adopted tongue: "To cover, men, and charge!"

The band dispersed at the word, and before Heyward had well

recovered from his surprise, he found himself standing alone

with David. Luckily the Hurons had already fallen back, and

he was safe from their fire. But this state of things was

evidently to be of short continuance; for the scout set the

example of pressing on their retreat, by discharging his

rifle, and darting from tree to tree as his enemy slowly

yielded ground.

It would seem that the assault had been made by a very small

party of the Hurons, which, however, continued to increase

in numbers, as it retired on its friends, until the return

fire was very nearly, if not quite, equal to that maintained

by the advancing Delawares. Heyward threw himself among the

combatants, and imitating the necessary caution of his

companions, he made quick discharges with his own rifle.

The contest now grew warm and stationary. Few were injured,

as both parties kept their bodies as much protected as

possible by the trees; never, indeed, exposing any part of

their persons except in the act of taking aim. But the

chances were gradually growing unfavorable to Hawkeye and

his band. The quick-sighted scout perceived his danger

without knowing how to remedy it. He saw it was more

dangerous to retreat than to maintain his ground: while he

found his enemy throwing out men on his flank; which

rendered the task of keeping themselves covered so very

difficult to the Delawares, as nearly to silence their fire.

At this embarrassing moment, when they began to think the

whole of the hostile tribe was gradually encircling them,

they heard the yell of combatants and the rattling of arms

echoing under the arches of the wood at the place where

Uncas was posted, a bottom which, in a manner, lay beneath

the ground on which Hawkeye and his party were contending.

The effects of this attack were instantaneous, and to the

scout and his friends greatly relieving. It would seem

that, while his own surprise had been anticipated, and had

consequently failed, the enemy, in their turn, having been

deceived in its object and in his numbers, had left too

small a force to resist the impetuous onset of the young

Mohican. This fact was doubly apparent, by the rapid manner

in which the battle in the forest rolled upward toward the

village, and by an instant falling off in the number of

their assailants, who rushed to assist in maintaining the

front, and, as it now proved to be, the principal point of

defense.

Animating his followers by his voice, and his own example,

Hawkeye then gave the word to bear down upon their foes.

The charge, in that rude species of warfare, consisted

merely in pushing from cover to cover, nigher to the enemy;

and in this maneuver he was instantly and successfully

obeyed. The Hurons were compelled to withdraw, and the

scene of the contest rapidly changed from the more open

ground, on which it had commenced, to a spot where the

assailed found a thicket to rest upon. Here the struggle

was protracted, arduous and seemingly of doubtful issue; the

Delawares, though none of them fell, beginning to bleed

freely, in consequence of the disadvantage at which they

were held.

In this crisis, Hawkeye found means to get behind the same

tree as that which served for a cover to Heyward; most of

his own combatants being within call, a little on his right,

where they maintained rapid, though fruitless, discharges on

their sheltered enemies.

"You are a young man, major," said the scout, dropping the

butt of "killdeer" to the earth, and leaning on the barrel,

a little fatigued with his previous industry; "and it may be

your gift to lead armies, at some future day, ag'in these

imps, the Mingoes. You may here see the philosophy of an

Indian fight. It consists mainly in ready hand, a quick eye

and a good cover. Now, if you had a company of the Royal

Americans here, in what manner would you set them to work in

this business?"

"The bayonet would make a road."

"Ay, there is white reason in what you say; but a man must

ask himself, in this wilderness, how many lives he can

spare. No--horse*," continued the scout, shaking his

head, like one who mused; "horse, I am ashamed to say must

sooner or later decide these scrimmages. The brutes are

better than men, and to horse must we come at last. Put a

shodden hoof on the moccasin of a red-skin, and, if his

rifle be once emptied, he will never stop to load it again."

* The American forest admits of the passage of horses,

there being little underbrush, and few tangled brakes. The

plan of Hawkeye is the one which has always proved the most

successful in the battles between the whites and the

Indians. Wayne, in his celebrated campaign on the Miami,

received the fire of his enemies in line; and then causing

his dragoons to wheel round his flanks, the Indians were

driven from their covers before they had time to load. One

of the most conspicuous of the chiefs who fought in the

battle of Miami assured the writer, that the red men could

not fight the warriors with "long knives and leather

stockings"; meaning the dragoons with their sabers and

boots.

"This is a subject that might better be discussed at another

time," returned Heyward; "shall we charge?"

"I see no contradiction to the gifts of any man in passing

his breathing spells in useful reflections," the scout

replied. "As to rush, I little relish such a measure; for a

scalp or two must be thrown away in the attempt. And yet,"

he added, bending his head aside, to catch the sounds of the

distant combat, "if we are to be of use to Uncas, these

knaves in our front must be got rid of."

Then, turning with a prompt and decided air, he called aloud

to his Indians, in their own language. His words were

answered by a shout; and, at a given signal, each warrior

made a swift movement around his particular tree. The sight

of so many dark bodies, glancing before their eyes at the

same instant, drew a hasty and consequently an ineffectual

fire from the Hurons. Without stopping to breathe, the

Delawares leaped in long bounds toward the wood, like so

many panthers springing upon their prey. Hawkeye was in

front, brandishing his terrible rifle and animating his

followers by his example. A few of the older and more

cunning Hurons, who had not been deceived by the artifice

which had been practiced to draw their fire, now made a

close and deadly discharge of their pieces and justified the

apprehensions of the scout by felling three of his foremost

warriors. But the shock was insufficient to repel the

impetus of the charge. The Delawares broke into the cover

with the ferocity of their natures and swept away every

trace of resistance by the fury of the onset.

The combat endured only for an instant, hand to hand, and

then the assailed yielded ground rapidly, until they reached

the opposite margin of the thicket, where they clung to the

cover, with the sort of obstinacy that is so often witnessed

in hunted brutes. At this critical moment, when the success

of the struggle was again becoming doubtful, the crack of a

rifle was heard behind the Hurons, and a bullet came

whizzing from among some beaver lodges, which were situated

in the clearing, in their rear, and was followed by the

fierce and appalling yell of the war-whoop.

"There speaks the Sagamore!" shouted Hawkeye, answering the

cry with his own stentorian voice; "we have them now in face

and back!"

The effect on the Hurons was instantaneous. Discouraged by

an assault from a quarter that left them no opportunity for

cover, the warriors uttered a common yell of disappointment,

and breaking off in a body, they spread themselves across

the opening, heedless of every consideration but flight.

Many fell, in making the experiment, under the bullets and

the blows of the pursuing Delawares.

We shall not pause to detail the meeting between the scout

and Chingachgook, or the more touching interview that Duncan

held with Munro. A few brief and hurried words served to

explain the state of things to both parties; and then

Hawkeye, pointing out the Sagamore to his band, resigned the

chief authority into the hands of the Mohican chief.

Chingachgook assumed the station to which his birth and

experience gave him so distinguished a claim, with the grave

dignity that always gives force to the mandates of a native

warrior. Following the footsteps of the scout, he led the

party back through the thicket, his men scalping the fallen

Hurons and secreting the bodies of their own dead as they

proceeded, until they gained a point where the former was

content to make a halt.

The warriors, who had breathed themselves freely in the

preceding struggle, were now posted on a bit of level

ground, sprinkled with trees in sufficient numbers to

conceal them. The land fell away rather precipitately in

front, and beneath their eyes stretched, for several miles,

a narrow, dark, and wooded vale. It was through this dense

and dark forest that Uncas was still contending with the

main body of the Hurons.

The Mohican and his friends advanced to the brow of the

hill, and listened, with practised ears, to the sounds of

the combat. A few birds hovered over the leafy bosom of the

valley, frightened from their secluded nests; and here and

there a light vapory cloud, which seemed already blending

with the atmosphere, arose above the trees, and indicated

some spot where the struggle had been fierce and stationary.

"The fight is coming up the ascent," said Duncan, pointing

in the direction of a new explosion of firearms; "we are too

much in the center of their line to be effective."

"They will incline into the hollow, where the cover is

thicker," said the scout, "and that will leave us well on

their flank. Go, Sagamore; you will hardly be in time to

give the whoop, and lead on the young men. I will fight

this scrimmage with warriors of my own color. You know me,

Mohican; not a Huron of them all shall cross the swell, into

your rear, without the notice of 'killdeer'."

The Indian chief paused another moment to consider the signs

of the contest, which was now rolling rapidly up the ascent,

a certain evidence that the Delawares triumphed; nor did he

actually quit the place until admonished of the proximity of

his friends, as well as enemies, by the bullets of the

former, which began to patter among the dried leaves on the

ground, like the bits of falling hail which precede the

bursting of the tempest. Hawkeye and his three companions

withdrew a few paces to a shelter, and awaited the issue

with calmness that nothing but great practise could impart

in such a scene.

It was not long before the reports of the rifles began to

lose the echoes of the woods, and to sound like weapons

discharged in the open air. Then a warrior appeared, here

and there, driven to the skirts of the forest, and rallying

as he entered the clearing, as at the place where the final

stand was to be made. These were soon joined by others,

until a long line of swarthy figures was to be seen clinging

to the cover with the obstinacy of desperation. Heyward

began to grow impatient, and turned his eyes anxiously in

the direction of Chingachgook. The chief was seated on a

rock, with nothing visible but his calm visage, considering

the spectacle with an eye as deliberate as if he were posted

there merely to view the struggle.

"The time has come for the Delaware to strike'! said Duncan.

"Not so, not so," returned the scout; "when he scents his

friends, he will let them know that he is here. See, see;

the knaves are getting in that clump of pines, like bees

settling after their flight. By the Lord, a squaw might put

a bullet into the center of such a knot of dark skins!"

At that instant the whoop was given, and a dozen Hurons fell

by a discharge from Chingachgook and his band. The shout

that followed was answered by a single war-cry from the

forest, and a yell passed through the air that sounded as if

a thousand throats were united in a common effort. The

Hurons staggered, deserting the center of their line, and

Uncas issued from the forest through the opening they left,

at the head of a hundred warriors.

Waving his hands right and left, the young chief pointed out

the enemy to his followers, who separated in pursuit. The

war now divided, both wings of the broken Hurons seeking

protection in the woods again, hotly pressed by the

victorious warriors of the Lenape. A minute might have

passed, but the sounds were already receding in different

directions, and gradually losing their distinctness beneath

the echoing arches of the woods. One little knot of Hurons,

however, had disdained to seek a cover, and were retiring,

like lions at bay, slowly and sullenly up the acclivity

which Chingachgook and his band had just deserted, to mingle

more closely in the fray. Magua was conspicuous in this

party, both by his fierce and savage mien, and by the air of

haughty authority he yet maintained.

In his eagerness to expedite the pursuit, Uncas had left

himself nearly alone; but the moment his eye caught the

figure of Le Subtil, every other consideration was

forgotten. Raising his cry of battle, which recalled some

six or seven warriors, and reckless of the disparity of

their numbers, he rushed upon his enemy. Le Renard, who

watched the movement, paused to receive him with secret joy.

But at the moment when he thought the rashness of his

impetuous young assailant had left him at his mercy, another

shout was given, and La Longue Carabine was seen rushing to

the rescue, attended by all his white associates. The Huron

instantly turned, and commenced a rapid retreat up the

ascent.

There was no time for greetings or congratulations; for

Uncas, though unconscious of the presence of his friends,

continued the pursuit with the velocity of the wind. In

vain Hawkeye called to him to respect the covers; the young

Mohican braved the dangerous fire of his enemies, and soon

compelled them to a flight as swift as his own headlong

speed. It was fortunate that the race was of short

continuance, and that the white men were much favored by

their position, or the Delaware would soon have outstripped

all his companions, and fallen a victim to his own temerity.

But, ere such a calamity could happen, the pursuers and

pursued entered the Wyandot village, within striking

distance of each other.

Excited by the presence of their dwellings, and tired of the

chase, the Hurons now made a stand, and fought around their

council-lodge with the fury of despair. The onset and the

issue were like the passage and destruction of a whirlwind.

The tomahawk of Uncas, the blows of Hawkeye, and even the

still nervous arm of Munro were all busy for that passing

moment, and the ground was quickly strewed with their

enemies. Still Magua, though daring and much exposed,

escaped from every effort against his life, with that sort

of fabled protection that was made to overlook the fortunes

of favored heroes in the legends of ancient poetry. Raising

a yell that spoke volumes of anger and disappointment, the

subtle chief, when he saw his comrades fallen, darted away

from the place, attended by his two only surviving friends,

leaving the Delawares engaged in stripping the dead of the

bloody trophies of their victory.

But Uncas, who had vainly sought him in the melee, bounded

forward in pursuit; Hawkeye, Heyward and David still

pressing on his footsteps. The utmost that the scout could

effect, was to keep the muzzle of his rifle a little in

advance of his friend, to whom, however, it answered every

purpose of a charmed shield. Once Magua appeared disposed

to make another and a final effort to revenge his losses;

but, abandoning his intention as soon as demonstrated, he

leaped into a thicket of bushes, through which he was

followed by his enemies, and suddenly entered the mouth of

the cave already known to the reader. Hawkeye, who had only

forborne to fire in tenderness to Uncas, raised a shout of

success, and proclaimed aloud that now they were certain of

their game. The pursuers dashed into the long and narrow

entrance, in time to catch a glimpse of the retreating forms

of the Hurons. Their passage through the natural galleries

and subterraneous apartments of the cavern was preceded by

the shrieks and cries of hundreds of women and children.

The place, seen by its dim and uncertain light, appeared

like the shades of the infernal regions, across which

unhappy ghosts and savage demons were flitting in

multitudes.

Still Uncas kept his eye on Magua, as if life to him

possessed but a single object. Heyward and the scout still

pressed on his rear, actuated, though possibly in a less

degree, by a common feeling. But their way was becoming

intricate, in those dark and gloomy passages, and the

glimpses of the retiring warriors less distinct and

frequent; and for a moment the trace was believed to be

lost, when a white robe was seen fluttering in the further

extremity of a passage that seemed to lead up the mountain.

"'Tis Cora!" exclaimed Heyward, in a voice in which horror

and delight were wildly mingled.

"Cora! Cora!" echoed Uncas, bounding forward like a deer.

"'Tis the maiden!" shouted the scout. "Courage, lady; we

come! we come!"

The chase was renewed with a diligence rendered tenfold

encouraging by this glimpse of the captive. But the way was

rugged, broken, and in spots nearly impassable. Uncas

abandoned his rifle, and leaped forward with headlong

precipitation. Heyward rashly imitated his example, though

both were, a moment afterward, admonished of his madness by

hearing the bellowing of a piece, that the Hurons found time

to discharge down the passage in the rocks, the bullet from

which even gave the young Mohican a slight wound.

"We must close!" said the scout, passing his friends by a

desperate leap; "the knaves will pick us all off at this

distance; and see, they hold the maiden so as the shield

themselves!"

Though his words were unheeded, or rather unheard, his

example was followed by his companions, who, by incredible

exertions, got near enough to the fugitives to perceive that

Cora was borne along between the two warriors while Magua

prescribed the direction and manner of their flight. At

this moment the forms of all four were strongly drawn

against an opening in the sky, and they disappeared. Nearly

frantic with disappointment, Uncas and Heyward increased

efforts that already seemed superhuman, and they issued from

the cavern on the side of the mountain, in time to note the

route of the pursued. The course lay up the ascent, and

still continued hazardous and laborious.

Encumbered by his rifle, and, perhaps, not sustained by so

deep an interest in the captive as his companions, the scout

suffered the latter to precede him a little, Uncas, in his

turn, taking the lead of Heyward. In this manner, rocks,

precipices and difficulties were surmounted in an incredibly

short space, that at another time, and under other

circumstances, would have been deemed almost insuperable.

But the impetuous young man were rewarded by finding that,

encumbered with Cora, the Hurons were losing ground in the

race.

"Stay, dog of the Wyandots!" exclaimed Uncas, shaking his

bright tomahawk at Magua; "a Delaware girl calls stay!"

"I will go no further!" cried Cora, stopping unexpectedly on

a ledge of rock, that overhung a deep precipice, at no great

distance from the summit of the mountain. "Kill me if thou

wilt, detestable Huron; I will go no further."

The supporters of the maiden raised their ready tomahawks

with the impious joy that fiends are thought to take in

mischief, but Magua stayed the uplifted arms. The Huron

chief, after casting the weapons he had wrested from his

companions over the rock, drew his knife, and turned to his

captive, with a look in which conflicting passions fiercely

contended.

"Woman," he said, "chose; the wigwam or the knife of Le

Subtil!"

Cora regarded him not, but dropping on her knees, she raised

her eyes and stretched her arms toward heaven, saying in a

meek and yet confiding voice:

"I am thine; do with me as thou seest best!"

"Woman," repeated Magua, hoarsely, and endeavoring in vain

to catch a glance from her serene and beaming eye, "choose!"

But Cora neither heard nor heeded his demand. The form of

the Huron trembled in every fibre, and he raised his arm on

high, but dropped it again with a bewildered air, like one

who doubted. Once more he struggled with himself and lifted

the keen weapon again; but just then a piercing cry was

heard above them, and Uncas appeared, leaping frantically,

from a fearful height, upon the ledge. Magua recoiled a

step; and one of his assistants, profiting by the chance,

sheathed his own knife in the bosom of Cora.

The Huron sprang like a tiger on his offending and already

retreating country man, but the falling form of Uncas

separated the unnatural combatants. Diverted from his

object by this interruption, and maddened by the murder he

had just witnessed, Magua buried his weapon in the back of

the prostrate Delaware, uttering an unearthly shout as he

committed the dastardly deed. But Uncas arose from the

blow, as the wounded panther turns upon his foe, and struck

the murderer of Cora to his feet, by an effort in which the

last of his failing strength was expended. Then, with a

stern and steady look, he turned to Le Subtil, and indicated

by the expression of his eye all that he would do had not

the power deserted him. The latter seized the nerveless arm

of the unresisting Delaware, and passed his knife into his

bosom three several times, before his victim, still keeping

his gaze riveted on his enemy, with a look of

inextinguishable scorn, feel dead at his feet.

"Mercy! mercy! Huron," cried Heyward, from above, in tones

nearly choked by horror; "give mercy, and thou shalt receive

from it!"

Whirling the bloody knife up at the imploring youth, the

victorious Magua uttered a cry so fierce, so wild, and yet

so joyous, that it conveyed the sounds of savage triumph to

the ears of those who fought in the valley, a thousand feet

below. He was answered by a burst from the lips of the

scout, whose tall person was just then seen moving swiftly

toward him, along those dangerous crags, with steps as bold

and reckless as if he possessed the power to move in air.

But when the hunter reached the scene of the ruthless

massacre, the ledge was tenanted only by the dead.

His keen eye took a single look at the victims, and then

shot its glances over the difficulties of the ascent in his

front. A form stood at the brow of the mountain, on the

very edge of the giddy height, with uplifted arms, in an

awful attitude of menace. Without stopping to consider his

person, the rifle of Hawkeye was raised; but a rock, which

fell on the head of one of the fugitives below, exposed the

indignant and glowing countenance of the honest Gamut. Then

Magua issued from a crevice, and, stepping with calm

indifference over the body of the last of his associates, he

leaped a wide fissure, and ascended the rocks at a point

where the arm of David could not reach him. A single bound

would carry him to the brow of the precipice, and assure his

safety. Before taking the leap, however, the Huron paused,

and shaking his hand at the scout, he shouted:

"The pale faces are dogs! the Delawares women! Magua leaves

them on the rocks, for the crows!"

Laughing hoarsely, he made a desperate leap, and fell short

of his mark, though his hands grasped a shrub on the verge

of the height. The form of Hawkeye had crouched like a

beast about to take its spring, and his frame trembled so

violently with eagerness that the muzzle of the half-raised

rifle played like a leaf fluttering in the wind. Without

exhausting himself with fruitless efforts, the cunning Magua

suffered his body to drop to the length of his arms, and

found a fragment for his feet to rest on. Then, summoning

all his powers, he renewed the attempt, and so far succeeded

as to draw his knees on the edge of the mountain. It was

now, when the body of his enemy was most collected together,

that the agitated weapon of the scout was drawn to his

shoulder. The surrounding rocks themselves were not

steadier than the piece became, for the single instant that

it poured out its contents. The arms of the Huron relaxed,

and his body fell back a little, while his knees still kept

their position. Turning a relentless look on his enemy, he

shook a hand in grim defiance. But his hold loosened, and

his dark person was seen cutting the air with its head

downward, for a fleeting instant, until it glided past the

fringe of shrubbery which clung to the mountain, in its

rapid flight to destruction.

James Fenimore Cooper