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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Last Of The Mohicans - Chapter 12
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The Last Of The Mohicans - Chapter 12 Post by :LarrySul Category :Long Stories Author :James Fenimore Cooper Date :June 2011 Read :2678

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The Last Of The Mohicans - Chapter 12

CHAPTER 12


"Clo.--I am gone, sire, And anon, sire, I'll be with you
again."--Twelfth Night

The Hurons stood aghast at this sudden visitation of death
on one of their band. But as they regarded the fatal
accuracy of an aim which had dared to immolate an enemy at
so much hazard to a friend, the name of "La Longue Carabine"
burst simultaneously from every lip, and was succeeded by a
wild and a sort of plaintive howl. The cry was answered by
a loud shout from a little thicket, where the incautious
party had piled their arms; and at the next moment, Hawkeye,
too eager to load the rifle he had regained, was seen
advancing upon them, brandishing the clubbed weapon, and
cutting the air with wide and powerful sweeps. Bold and
rapid as was the progress of the scout, it was exceeded by
that of a light and vigorous form which, bounding past him,
leaped, with incredible activity and daring, into the very
center of the Hurons, where it stood, whirling a tomahawk,
and flourishing a glittering knife, with fearful menaces, in
front of Cora. Quicker than the thoughts could follow those
unexpected and audacious movements, an image, armed in the
emblematic panoply of death, glided before their eyes, and
assumed a threatening attitude at the other's side. The
savage tormentors recoiled before these warlike intruders,
and uttered, as they appeared in such quick succession, the
often repeated and peculiar exclamations of surprise,
followed by the well-known and dreaded appellations of:

"Le Cerf Agile! Le Gros Serpent!"

But the wary and vigilant leader of the Hurons was not so
easily disconcerted. Casting his keen eyes around the
little plain, he comprehended the nature of the assault at a
glance, and encouraging his followers by his voice as well
as by his example, he unsheathed his long and dangerous
knife, and rushed with a loud whoop upon the expected
Chingachgook. It was the signal for a general combat.
Neither party had firearms, and the contest was to be
decided in the deadliest manner, hand to hand, with weapons
of offense, and none of defense.

Uncas answered the whoop, and leaping on an enemy, with a
single, well-directed blow of his tomahawk, cleft him to the
brain. Heyward tore the weapon of Magua from the sapling,
and rushed eagerly toward the fray. As the combatants were
now equal in number, each singled an opponent from the
adverse band. The rush and blows passed with the fury of a
whirlwind, and the swiftness of lightning. Hawkeye soon got
another enemy within reach of his arm, and with one sweep of
his formidable weapon he beat down the slight and
inartificial defenses of his antagonist, crushing him to the
earth with the blow. Heyward ventured to hurl the tomahawk
he had seized, too ardent to await the moment of closing.
It struck the Indian he had selected on the forehead, and
checked for an instant his onward rush. Encouraged by this
slight advantage, the impetuous young man continued his
onset, and sprang upon his enemy with naked hands. A single
instant was enough to assure him of the rashness of the
measure, for he immediately found himself fully engaged,
with all his activity and courage, in endeavoring to ward
the desperate thrusts made with the knife of the Huron.
Unable longer to foil an enemy so alert and vigilant, he
threw his arms about him, and succeeded in pinning the limbs
of the other to his side, with an iron grasp, but one that
was far too exhausting to himself to continue long. In this
extremity he heard a voice near him, shouting:

"Extarminate the varlets! no quarter to an accursed Mingo!"

At the next moment, the breech of Hawkeye's rifle fell on
the naked head of his adversary, whose muscles appeared to
wither under the shock, as he sank from the arms of Duncan,
flexible and motionless.

When Uncas had brained his first antagonist, he turned, like
a hungry lion, to seek another. The fifth and only Huron
disengaged at the first onset had paused a moment, and then
seeing that all around him were employed in the deadly
strife, he had sought, with hellish vengeance, to complete
the baffled work of revenge. Raising a shout of triumph, he
sprang toward the defenseless Cora, sending his keen axe as
the dreadful precursor of his approach. The tomahawk grazed
her shoulder, and cutting the withes which bound her to the
tree, left the maiden at liberty to fly. She eluded the
grasp of the savage, and reckless of her own safety, threw
herself on the bosom of Alice, striving with convulsed and
ill-directed fingers, to tear asunder the twigs which
confined the person of her sister. Any other than a monster
would have relented at such an act of generous devotion to
the best and purest affection; but the breast of the Huron
was a stranger to sympathy. Seizing Cora by the rich
tresses which fell in confusion about her form, he tore her
from her frantic hold, and bowed her down with brutal
violence to her knees. The savage drew the flowing curls
through his hand, and raising them on high with an
outstretched arm, he passed the knife around the exquisitely
molded head of his victim, with a taunting and exulting
laugh. But he purchased this moment of fierce gratification
with the loss of the fatal opportunity. It was just then
the sight caught the eye of Uncas. Bounding from his
footsteps he appeared for an instant darting through the air
and descending in a ball he fell on the chest of his enemy,
driving him many yards from the spot, headlong and
prostrate. The violence of the exertion cast the young
Mohican at his side. They arose together, fought, and bled,
each in his turn. But the conflict was soon decided; the
tomahawk of Heyward and the rifle of Hawkeye descended on
the skull of the Huron, at the same moment that the knife of
Uncas reached his heart.

The battle was now entirely terminated with the exception of
the protracted struggle between "Le Renard Subtil" and "Le
Gros Serpent." Well did these barbarous warriors prove that
they deserved those significant names which had been
bestowed for deeds in former wars. When they engaged, some
little time was lost in eluding the quick and vigorous
thrusts which had been aimed at their lives. Suddenly
darting on each other, they closed, and came to the earth,
twisted together like twining serpents, in pliant and subtle
folds. At the moment when the victors found themselves
unoccupied, the spot where these experienced and desperate
combatants lay could only be distinguished by a cloud of
dust and leaves, which moved from the center of the little
plain toward its boundary, as if raised by the passage of a
whirlwind. Urged by the different motives of filial
affection, friendship and gratitude, Heyward and his
companions rushed with one accord to the place, encircling
the little canopy of dust which hung above the warriors. In
vain did Uncas dart around the cloud, with a wish to strike
his knife into the heart of his father's foe; the
threatening rifle of Hawkeye was raised and suspended in
vain, while Duncan endeavored to seize the limbs of the
Huron with hands that appeared to have lost their power.
Covered as they were with dust and blood, the swift
evolutions of the combatants seemed to incorporate their
bodies into one. The death-like looking figure of the
Mohican, and the dark form of the Huron, gleamed before
their eyes in such quick and confused succession, that the
friends of the former knew not where to plant the succoring
blow. It is true there were short and fleeting moments,
when the fiery eyes of Magua were seen glittering, like the
fabled organs of the basilisk through the dusty wreath by
which he was enveloped, and he read by those short and
deadly glances the fate of the combat in the presence of his
enemies; ere, however, any hostile hand could descend on his
devoted head, its place was filled by the scowling visage of
Chingachgook. In this manner the scene of the combat was
removed from the center of the little plain to its verge.
The Mohican now found an opportunity to make a powerful
thrust with his knife; Magua suddenly relinquished his
grasp, and fell backward without motion, and seemingly
without life. His adversary leaped on his feet, making the
arches of the forest ring with the sounds of triumph.

"Well done for the Delawares! victory to the Mohicans!"
cried Hawkeye, once more elevating the butt of the long and
fatal rifle; "a finishing blow from a man without a cross
will never tell against his honor, nor rob him of his right
to the scalp."

But at the very moment when the dangerous weapon was in the
act of descending, the subtle Huron rolled swiftly from
beneath the danger, over the edge of the precipice, and
falling on his feet, was seen leaping, with a single bound,
into the center of a thicket of low bushes, which clung
along its sides. The Delawares, who had believed their
enemy dead, uttered their exclamation of surprise, and were
following with speed and clamor, like hounds in open view of
the deer, when a shrill and peculiar cry from the scout
instantly changed their purpose, and recalled them to the
summit of the hill.

"'Twas like himself!" cried the inveterate forester, whose
prejudices contributed so largely to veil his natural sense
of justice in all matters which concerned the Mingoes; "a
lying and deceitful varlet as he is. An honest Delaware
now, being fairly vanquished, would have lain still, and
been knocked on the head, but these knavish Maquas cling to
life like so many cats-o'-the-mountain. Let him go -- let
him go; 'tis but one man, and he without rifle or bow, many
a long mile from his French commerades; and like a rattler
that lost his fangs, he can do no further mischief, until
such time as he, and we too, may leave the prints of our
moccasins over a long reach of sandy plain. See, Uncas," he
added, in Delaware, "your father is flaying the scalps
already. It may be well to go round and feel the vagabonds
that are left, or we may have another of them loping through
the woods, and screeching like a jay that has been winged."

So saying the honest but implacable scout made the circuit
of the dead, into whose senseless bosoms he thrust his long
knife, with as much coolness as though they had been so many
brute carcasses. He had, however, been anticipated by the
elder Mohican, who had already torn the emblems of victory
from the unresisting heads of the slain.

But Uncas, denying his habits, we had almost said his
nature, flew with instinctive delicacy, accompanied by
Heyward, to the assistance of the females, and quickly
releasing Alice, placed her in the arms of Cora. We shall
not attempt to describe the gratitude to the Almighty
Disposer of Events which glowed in the bosoms of the
sisters, who were thus unexpectedly restored to life and to
each other. Their thanksgivings were deep and silent; the
offerings of their gentle spirits burning brightest and
purest on the secret altars of their hearts; and their
renovated and more earthly feelings exhibiting themselves in
long and fervent though speechless caresses. As Alice rose
from her knees, where she had sunk by the side of Cora, she
threw herself on the bosom of the latter, and sobbed aloud
the name of their aged father, while her soft, dove-like
eyes, sparkled with the rays of hope.

"We are saved! we are saved!" she murmured; "to return to
the arms of our dear, dear father, and his heart will not be
broken with grief. And you, too, Cora, my sister, my more
than sister, my mother; you, too, are spared. And Duncan,"
she added, looking round upon the youth with a smile of
ineffable innocence, "even our own brave and noble Duncan
has escaped without a hurt."

To these ardent and nearly innocent words Cora made no other
answer than by straining the youthful speaker to her heart,
as she bent over her in melting tenderness. The manhood of
Heyward felt no shame in dropping tears over this spectacle of
affectionate rapture; and Uncas stood, fresh and blood-stained
from the combat, a calm, and, apparently, an unmoved
looker-on, it is true, but with eyes that had already lost
their fierceness, and were beaming with a sympathy that
elevated him far above the intelligence, and advanced him
probably centuries before, the practises of his nation.

During this display of emotions so natural in their
situation, Hawkeye, whose vigilant distrust had satisfied
itself that the Hurons, who disfigured the heavenly scene,
no longer possessed the power to interrupt its harmony,
approached David, and liberated him from the bonds he had,
until that moment, endured with the most exemplary patience.

"There," exclaimed the scout, casting the last withe behind
him, "you are once more master of your own limbs, though you
seem not to use them with much greater judgment than that in
which they were first fashioned. If advice from one who is
not older than yourself, but who, having lived most of his
time in the wilderness, may be said to have experience
beyond his years, will give no offense, you are welcome to
my thoughts; and these are, to part with the little tooting
instrument in your jacket to the first fool you meet with,
and buy some we'pon with the money, if it be only the barrel
of a horseman's pistol. By industry and care, you might
thus come to some prefarment; for by this time, I should
think, your eyes would plainly tell you that a carrion crow
is a better bird than a mocking-thresher. The one will, at
least, remove foul sights from before the face of man, while
the other is only good to brew disturbances in the woods, by
cheating the ears of all that hear them."

"Arms and the clarion for the battle, but the song of
thanksgiving to the victory!" answered the liberated David.
"Friend," he added, thrusting forth his lean, delicate hand
toward Hawkeye, in kindness, while his eyes twinkled and
grew moist, "I thank thee that the hairs of my head still
grow where they were first rooted by Providence; for, though
those of other men may be more glossy and curling, I have
ever found mine own well suited to the brain they shelter.
That I did not join myself to the battle, was less owing to
disinclination, than to the bonds of the heathen. Valiant
and skillful hast thou proved thyself in the conflict, and I
hereby thank thee, before proceeding to discharge other and
more important duties, because thou hast proved thyself well
worthy of a Christian's praise."

"The thing is but a trifle, and what you may often see if
you tarry long among us," returned the scout, a good deal
softened toward the man of song, by this unequivocal
expression of gratitude. "I have got back my old companion,
'killdeer'," he added, striking his hand on the breech of
his rifle; "and that in itself is a victory. These Iroquois
are cunning, but they outwitted themselves when they placed
their firearms out of reach; and had Uncas or his father
been gifted with only their common Indian patience, we
should have come in upon the knaves with three bullets
instead of one, and that would have made a finish of the
whole pack; yon loping varlet, as well as his commerades.
But 'twas all fore-ordered, and for the best."

"Thou sayest well," returned David, "and hast caught the
true spirit of Christianity. He that is to be saved will be
saved, and he that is predestined to be damned will be
damned. This is the doctrine of truth, and most consoling
and refreshing it is to the true believer."

The scout, who by this time was seated, examining into the
state of his rifle with a species of parental assiduity, now
looked up at the other in a displeasure that he did not
affect to conceal, roughly interrupting further speech.

"Doctrine or no doctrine," said the sturdy woodsman, "'tis
the belief of knaves, and the curse of an honest man. I can
credit that yonder Huron was to fall by my hand, for with my
own eyes I have seen it; but nothing short of being a
witness will cause me to think he has met with any reward,
or that Chingachgook there will be condemned at the final
day."

"You have no warranty for such an audacious doctrine, nor
any covenant to support it," cried David who was deeply
tinctured with the subtle distinctions which, in his time,
and more especially in his province, had been drawn around
the beautiful simplicity of revelation, by endeavoring to
penetrate the awful mystery of the divine nature, supplying
faith by self-sufficiency, and by consequence, involving
those who reasoned from such human dogmas in absurdities and
doubt; "your temple is reared on the sands, and the first
tempest will wash away its foundation. I demand your
authorities for such an uncharitable assertion (like other
advocates of a system, David was not always accurate in his
use of terms). Name chapter and verse; in which of the holy
books do you find language to support you?"

"Book!" repeated Hawkeye, with singular and ill-concealed
disdain; "do you take me for a whimpering boy at the
apronstring of one of your old gals; and this good rifle on
my knee for the feather of a goose's wing, my ox's horn for
a bottle of ink, and my leathern pouch for a cross-barred
handkercher to carry my dinner? Book! what have such as I,
who am a warrior of the wilderness, though a man without a
cross, to do with books? I never read but in one, and the
words that are written there are too simple and too plain to
need much schooling; though I may boast that of forty long
and hard-working years."

"What call you the volume?" said David, misconceiving the
other's meaning.

"'Tis open before your eyes," returned the scout; "and he
who owns it is not a niggard of its use. I have heard it
said that there are men who read in books to convince
themselves there is a God. I know not but man may so deform
his works in the settlement, as to leave that which is so
clear in the wilderness a matter of doubt among traders and
priests. If any such there be, and he will follow me from
sun to sun, through the windings of the forest, he shall see
enough to teach him that he is a fool, and that the greatest
of his folly lies in striving to rise to the level of One he
can never equal, be it in goodness, or be it in power."

The instant David discovered that he battled with a
disputant who imbibed his faith from the lights of nature,
eschewing all subtleties of doctrine, he willingly abandoned
a controversy from which he believed neither profit nor
credit was to be derived. While the scout was speaking, he
had also seated himself, and producing the ready little
volume and the iron-rimmed spectacles, he prepared to
discharge a duty, which nothing but the unexpected assault
he had received in his orthodoxy could have so long
suspended. He was, in truth, a minstrel of the western
continent -- of a much later day, certainly, than those
gifted bards, who formerly sang the profane renown of baron
and prince, but after the spirit of his own age and country;
and he was now prepared to exercise the cunning of his
craft, in celebration of, or rather in thanksgiving for, the
recent victory. He waited patiently for Hawkeye to cease,
then lifting his eyes, together with his voice, he said,
aloud:

"I invite you, friends, to join in praise for this signal
deliverance from the hands of barbarians and infidels, to the
comfortable and solemn tones of the tune called 'Northampton'."

He next named the page and verse where the rhymes selected
were to be found, and applied the pitch-pipe to his lips,
with the decent gravity that he had been wont to use in the
temple. This time he was, however, without any
accompaniment, for the sisters were just then pouring out
those tender effusions of affection which have been already
alluded to. Nothing deterred by the smallness of his
audience, which, in truth, consisted only of the
discontented scout, he raised his voice, commencing and
ending the sacred song without accident or interruption of
any kind.

Hawkeye listened while he coolly adjusted his flint and
reloaded his rifle; but the sounds, wanting the extraneous
assistance of scene and sympathy, failed to awaken his
slumbering emotions. Never minstrel, or by whatever more
suitable name David should be known, drew upon his talents
in the presence of more insensible auditors; though
considering the singleness and sincerity of his motive, it
is probable that no bard of profane song ever uttered notes
that ascended so near to that throne where all homage and
praise is due. The scout shook his head, and muttering some
unintelligible words, among which "throat" and "Iroquois"
were alone audible, he walked away, to collect and to
examine into the state of the captured arsenal of the
Hurons. In this office he was now joined by Chingachgook,
who found his own, as well as the rifle of his son, among
the arms. Even Heyward and David were furnished with
weapons; nor was ammunition wanting to render them all
effectual.

When the foresters had made their selection, and distributed
their prizes, the scout announced that the hour had arrived
when it was necessary to move. By this time the song of
Gamut had ceased, and the sisters had learned to still the
exhibition of their emotions. Aided by Duncan and the
younger Mohican, the two latter descended the precipitous
sides of that hill which they had so lately ascended under
so very different auspices, and whose summit had so nearly
proved the scene of their massacre. At the foot they found
the Narragansetts browsing the herbage of the bushes, and
having mounted, they followed the movements of a guide, who,
in the most deadly straits, had so often proved himself
their friend. The journey was, however, short. Hawkeye,
leaving the blind path that the Hurons had followed, turned
short to his right, and entering the thicket, he crossed a
babbling brook, and halted in a narrow dell, under the shade
of a few water elms. Their distance from the base of the
fatal hill was but a few rods, and the steeds had been
serviceable only in crossing the shallow stream.

The scout and the Indians appeared to be familiar with the
sequestered place where they now were; for, leaning their
rifle against the trees, they commenced throwing aside the
dried leaves, and opening the blue clay, out of which a
clear and sparkling spring of bright, glancing water,
quickly bubbled. The white man then looked about him, as
though seeking for some object, which was not to be found as
readily as he expected.

"Them careless imps, the Mohawks, with their Tuscarora and
Onondaga brethren, have been here slaking their thirst," he
muttered, "and the vagabonds have thrown away the gourd!
This is the way with benefits, when they are bestowed on
such disremembering hounds! Here has the Lord laid his
hand, in the midst of the howling wilderness, for their
good, and raised a fountain of water from the bowels of the
'arth, that might laugh at the richest shop of apothecary's
ware in all the colonies; and see! the knaves have trodden
in the clay, and deformed the cleanliness of the place, as
though they were brute beasts, instead of human men."

Uncas silently extended toward him the desired gourd, which
the spleen of Hawkeye had hitherto prevented him from
observing on a branch of an elm. Filling it with water, he
retired a short distance, to a place where the ground was
more firm and dry; here he coolly seated himself, and after
taking a long, and, apparently, a grateful draught, he
commenced a very strict examination of the fragments of food
left by the Hurons, which had hung in a wallet on his arm.

"Thank you, lad!" he continued, returning the empty gourd to
Uncas; "now we will see how these rampaging Hurons lived,
when outlying in ambushments. Look at this! The varlets
know the better pieces of the deer; and one would think they
might carve and roast a saddle, equal to the best cook in
the land! But everything is raw, for the Iroquois are
thorough savages. Uncas, take my steel and kindle a fire; a
mouthful of a tender broil will give natur' a helping hand,
after so long a trail."

Heyward, perceiving that their guides now set about their
repast in sober earnest, assisted the ladies to alight, and
placed himself at their side, not unwilling to enjoy a few
moments of grateful rest, after the bloody scene he had just
gone through. While the culinary process was in hand,
curiosity induced him to inquire into the circumstances
which had led to their timely and unexpected rescue:

"How is it that we see you so soon, my generous friend," he
asked, "and without aid from the garrison of Edward?"

"Had we gone to the bend in the river, we might have been in
time to rake the leaves over your bodies, but too late to
have saved your scalps," coolly answered the scout. "No,
no; instead of throwing away strength and opportunity by
crossing to the fort, we lay by, under the bank of the
Hudson, waiting to watch the movements of the Hurons."

"You were, then, witnesses of all that passed?"

"Not of all; for Indian sight is too keen to be easily
cheated, and we kept close. A difficult matter it was, too,
to keep this Mohican boy snug in the ambushment. Ah! Uncas,
Uncas, your behavior was more like that of a curious woman
than of a warrior on his scent."

Uncas permitted his eyes to turn for an instant on the
sturdy countenance of the speaker, but he neither spoke nor
gave any indication of repentance. On the contrary, Heyward
thought the manner of the young Mohican was disdainful, if
not a little fierce, and that he suppressed passions that
were ready to explode, as much in compliment to the
listeners, as from the deference he usually paid to his
white associate.

"You saw our capture?" Heyward next demanded.

"We heard it," was the significant answer. "An Indian yell
is plain language to men who have passed their days in the
woods. But when you landed, we were driven to crawl like
sarpents, beneath the leaves; and then we lost sight of you
entirely, until we placed eyes on you again trussed to the
trees, and ready bound for an Indian massacre."

"Our rescue was the deed of Providence. It was nearly a
miracle that you did not mistake the path, for the Hurons
divided, and each band had its horses."

"Ay! there we were thrown off the scent, and might, indeed,
have lost the trail, had it not been for Uncas; we took the
path, however, that led into the wilderness; for we judged,
and judged rightly, that the savages would hold that course
with their prisoners. But when we had followed it for many
miles, without finding a single twig broken, as I had
advised, my mind misgave me; especially as all the footsteps
had the prints of moccasins."

"Our captors had the precaution to see us shod like
themselves," said Duncan, raising a foot, and exhibiting the
buckskin he wore.

"Aye, 'twas judgmatical and like themselves; though we were
too expart to be thrown from a trail by so common an
invention."

"To what, then, are we indebted for our safety?"

"To what, as a white man who has no taint of Indian blood, I
should be ashamed to own; to the judgment of the young
Mohican, in matters which I should know better than he, but
which I can now hardly believe to be true, though my own
eyes tell me it is so."

"'Tis extraordinary! will you not name the reason?"

"Uncas was bold enough to say, that the beasts ridden by the
gentle ones," continued Hawkeye, glancing his eyes, not
without curious interest, on the fillies of the ladies,
"planted the legs of one side on the ground at the same
time, which is contrary to the movements of all trotting
four-footed animals of my knowledge, except the bear. And
yet here are horses that always journey in this manner, as
my own eyes have seen, and as their trail has shown for
twenty long miles."

"'Tis the merit of the animal! They come from the shores of
Narrangansett Bay, in the small province of Providence
Plantations, and are celebrated for their hardihood, and the
ease of this peculiar movement; though other horses are not
unfrequently trained to the same."

"It may be--it may be," said Hawkeye, who had listened
with singular attention to this explanation; "though I am a
man who has the full blood of the whites, my judgment in
deer and beaver is greater than in beasts of burden. Major
Effingham has many noble chargers, but I have never seen one
travel after such a sidling gait."

"True; for he would value the animals for very different
properties. Still is this a breed highly esteemed and, as
you witness, much honored with the burdens it is often
destined to bear."

The Mohicans had suspended their operations about the
glimmering fire to listen; and, when Duncan had done, they
looked at each other significantly, the father uttering the
never-failing exclamation of surprise. The scout ruminated,
like a man digesting his newly-acquired knowledge, and once
more stole a glance at the horses.

"I dare to say there are even stranger sights to be seen in
the settlements!" he said, at length. "Natur' is sadly abused
by man, when he once gets the mastery. But, go sidling or
go straight, Uncas had seen the movement, and their trail
led us on to the broken bush. The outer branch, near the
prints of one of the horses, was bent upward, as a lady
breaks a flower from its stem, but all the rest were ragged
and broken down, as if the strong hand of a man had been
tearing them! So I concluded that the cunning varments had
seen the twig bent, and had torn the rest, to make us
believe a buck had been feeling the boughs with his
antlers."

"I do believe your sagacity did not deceive you; for some
such thing occurred!"

"That was easy to see," added the scout, in no degree
conscious of having exhibited any extraordinary sagacity;
"and a very different matter it was from a waddling horse!
It then struck me the Mingoes would push for this spring,
for the knaves well know the vartue of its waters!"

"Is it, then, so famous?" demanded Heyward, examining, with
a more curious eye, the secluded dell, with its bubbling
fountain, surrounded, as it was, by earth of a deep, dingy
brown.

"Few red-skins, who travel south and east of the great lakes
but have heard of its qualities. Will you taste for
yourself?"

Heyward took the gourd, and after swallowing a little of the
water, threw it aside with grimaces of discontent. The
scout laughed in his silent but heartfelt manner, and shook
his head with vast satisfaction.

"Ah! you want the flavor that one gets by habit; the time
was when I liked it as little as yourself; but I have come
to my taste, and I now crave it, as a deer does the licks*.
Your high-spiced wines are not better liked than a red-skin
relishes this water; especially when his natur' is ailing.
But Uncas has made his fire, and it is time we think of
eating, for our journey is long, and all before us."

* Many of the animals of the American forests resort
to those spots where salt springs are found. These are
called "licks" or "salt licks," in the language of the
country, from the circumstance that the quadruped is often
obliged to lick the earth, in order to obtain the saline
particles. These licks are great places of resort with the
hunters, who waylay their game near the paths that lead to
them.

Interrupting the dialogue by this abrupt transition, the
scout had instant recourse to the fragments of food which
had escaped the voracity of the Hurons. A very summary
process completed the simple cookery, when he and the
Mohicans commenced their humble meal, with the silence and
characteristic diligence of men who ate in order to enable
themselves to endure great and unremitting toil.

When this necessary, and, happily, grateful duty had been
performed, each of the foresters stooped and took a long and
parting draught at that solitary and silent spring*, around
which and its sister fountains, within fifty years, the
wealth, beauty and talents of a hemisphere were to assemble
in throngs, in pursuit of health and pleasure. Then Hawkeye
announced his determination to proceed. The sisters resumed
their saddles; Duncan and David grapsed their rifles, and
followed on footsteps; the scout leading the advance, and
the Mohicans bringing up the rear. The whole party moved
swiftly through the narrow path, toward the north, leaving
the healing waters to mingle unheeded with the adjacent
brooks and the bodies of the dead to fester on the
neighboring mount, without the rites of sepulture; a fate
but too common to the warriors of the woods to excite either
commiseration or comment.

* The scene of the foregoing incidents is on the spot
where the village of Ballston now stands; one of the two
principal watering places of America.

Content of CHAPTER 12 (James Fenimore Cooper's novel: The Last of the Mohicans)

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