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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Last Of The Mohicans - Chapter 32
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The Last Of The Mohicans - Chapter 32 Post by :Glenn_Leader Category :Long Stories Author :James Fenimore Cooper Date :June 2011 Read :2632

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The Last Of The Mohicans - 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 to 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 men 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, fell 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.

Content of CHAPTER 32 (James Fenimore Cooper's novel: The Last of the Mohicans)

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