"Land of Albania! let me bend mine eyes On thee; thou rugged
nurse of savage men!"--Childe Harold
The heavens were still studded with stars, when Hawkeye came
to arouse the sleepers. Casting aside their cloaks Munro
and Heyward were on their feet while the woodsman was still
making his low calls, at the entrance of the rude shelter
where they had passed the night. When they issued from
beneath its concealment, they found the scout awaiting their
appearance nigh by, and the only salutation between them was
the significant gesture for silence, made by their sagacious
"Think over your prayers," he whispered, as they approached
him; "for He to whom you make them, knows all tongues; that
of the heart, as well as those of the mouth. But speak not
a syllable; it is rare for a white voice to pitch itself
properly in the woods, as we have seen by the example of
that miserable devil, the singer. Come," he continued,
turning toward a curtain of the works; "let us get into the
ditch on this side, and be regardful to step on the stones
and fragments of wood as you go."
His companions complied, though to two of them the reasons
of this extraordinary precaution were yet a mystery. When
they were in the low cavity that surrounded the earthen fort
on three sides, they found that passage nearly choked by the
ruins. With care and patience, however, they succeeded in
clambering after the scout, until they reached the sandy
shore of the Horican.
"That's a trail that nothing but a nose can follow," said
the satisfied scout, looking back along their difficult way;
"grass is a treacherous carpet for a flying party to tread
on, but wood and stone take no print from a moccasin. Had
you worn your armed boots, there might, indeed, have been
something to fear; but with the deer-skin suitably prepared,
a man may trust himself, generally, on rocks with safety.
Shove in the canoe nigher to the land, Uncas; this sand will
take a stamp as easily as the butter of the Jarmans on the
Mohawk. Softly, lad, softly; it must not touch the beach,
or the knaves will know by what road we have left the
The young man observed the precaution; and the scout, laying
a board from the ruins to the canoe, made a sign for the two
officers to enter. When this was done, everything was
studiously restored to its former disorder; and then Hawkeye
succeeded in reaching his little birchen vessel, without
leaving behind him any of those marks which he appeared so
much to dread. Heyward was silent until the Indians had
cautiously paddled the canoe some distance from the fort,
and within the broad and dark shadows that fell from the
eastern mountain on the glassy surface of the lake; then he
"What need have we for this stolen and hurried departure?"
"If the blood of an Oneida could stain such a sheet of pure
water as this we float on," returned the scout, "your two
eyes would answer your own question. Have you forgotten the
skulking reptile Uncas slew?"
"By no means. But he was said to be alone, and dead men
give no cause for fear."
"Ay, he was alone in his deviltry! but an Indian whose tribe
counts so many warriors, need seldom fear his blood will run
without the death shriek coming speedily from some of his
"But our presence--the authority of Colonel Munro--would
prove sufficient protection against the anger of our allies,
especially in a case where the wretch so well merited his
fate. I trust in Heaven you have not deviated a single foot
from the direct line of our course with so slight a reason!"
"Do you think the bullet of that varlet's rifle would have
turned aside, though his sacred majesty the king had stood
in its path?" returned the stubborn scout. "Why did not the
grand Frencher, he who is captain-general of the Canadas,
bury the tomahawks of the Hurons, if a word from a white can
work so strongly on the natur' of an Indian?"
The reply of Heyward was interrupted by a groan from Munro;
but after he had paused a moment, in deference to the sorrow
of his aged friend he resumed the subject.
"The marquis of Montcalm can only settle that error with his
God," said the young man solemnly.
"Ay, ay, now there is reason in your words, for they are
bottomed on religion and honesty. There is a vast
difference between throwing a regiment of white coats atwixt
the tribes and the prisoners, and coaxing an angry savage to
forget he carries a knife and rifle, with words that must
begin with calling him your son. No, no," continued the
scout, looking back at the dim shore of William Henry, which
was now fast receding, and laughing in his own silent but
heartfelt manner; "I have put a trail of water atween us;
and unless the imps can make friends with the fishes, and
hear who has paddled across their basin this fine morning,
we shall throw the length of the Horican behind us before
they have made up their minds which path to take."
"With foes in front, and foes in our rear, our journey is
like to be one of danger."
"Danger!" repeated Hawkeye, calmly; "no, not absolutely of
danger; for, with vigilant ears and quick eyes, we can
manage to keep a few hours ahead of the knaves; or, if we
must try the rifle, there are three of us who understand its
gifts as well as any you can name on the borders. No, not
of danger; but that we shall have what you may call a brisk
push of it, is probable; and it may happen, a brush, a
scrimmage, or some such divarsion, but always where covers
are good, and ammunition abundant."
It is possible that Heyward's estimate of danger differed in
some degree from that of the scout, for, instead of
replying, he now sat in silence, while the canoe glided over
several miles of water. Just as the day dawned, they
entered the narrows of the lake*, and stole swiftly and
cautiously among their numberless little islands. It was by
this road that Montcalm had retired with his army, and the
adventurers knew not but he had left some of his Indians in
ambush, to protect the rear of his forces, and collect the
stragglers. They, therefore, approached the passage with
the customary silence of their guarded habits.
* The beauties of Lake George are well known to every
American tourist. In the height of the mountains which
surround it, and in artificial accessories, it is inferior
to the finest of the Swiss and Italian lakes, while in
outline and purity of water it is fully their equal; and in
the number and disposition of its isles and islets much
superior to them all together. There are said to be some
hundreds of islands in a sheet of water less than thirty
miles long. The narrows, which connect what may be called,
in truth, two lakes, are crowded with islands to such a
degree as to leave passages between them frequently of only
a few feet in width. The lake itself varies in breadth from
one to three miles.
Chingachgook laid aside his paddle; while Uncas and the
scout urged the light vessel through crooked and intricate
channels, where every foot that they advanced exposed them
to the danger of some sudden rising on their progress. The
eyes of the Sagamore moved warily from islet to islet, and
copse to copse, as the canoe proceeded; and, when a clearer
sheet of water permitted, his keen vision was bent along the
bald rocks and impending forests that frowned upon the
Heyward, who was a doubly interested spectator, as well from
the beauties of the place as from the apprehension natural
to his situation, was just believing that he had permitted
the latter to be excited without sufficient reason, when the
paddle ceased moving, in obedience to a signal from
"Hugh!" exclaimed Uncas, nearly at the moment that the light
tap his father had made on the side of the canoe notified
them of the vicinity of danger.
"What now?" asked the scout; "the lake is as smooth as if
the winds had never blown, and I can see along its sheet for
miles; there is not so much as the black head of a loon
dotting the water."
The Indian gravely raised his paddle, and pointed in the
direction in which his own steady look was riveted.
Duncan's eyes followed the motion. A few rods in their
front lay another of the wooded islets, but it appeared as
calm and peaceful as if its solitude had never been
disturbed by the foot of man.
"I see nothing," he said, "but land and water; and a lovely
scene it is."
"Hist!" interrupted the scout. "Ay, Sagamore, there is
always a reason for what you do. 'Tis but a shade, and yet
it is not natural. You see the mist, major, that is rising
above the island; you can't call it a fog, for it is more
like a streak of thin cloud--"
"It is vapor from the water."
"That a child could tell. But what is the edging of blacker
smoke that hangs along its lower side, and which you may
trace down into the thicket of hazel? 'Tis from a fire; but
one that, in my judgment, has been suffered to burn low."
"Let us, then, push for the place, and relieve our doubts,"
said the impatient Duncan; "the party must be small that can
lie on such a bit of land."
"If you judge of Indian cunning by the rules you find in
books, or by white sagacity, they will lead you astray, if
not to your death," returned Hawkeye, examining the signs of
the place with that acuteness which distinguished him. "If
I may be permitted to speak in this matter, it will be to
say, that we have but two things to choose between: the one
is, to return, and give up all thoughts of following the
"Never!" exclaimed Heyward, in a voice far too loud for
"Well, well," continued Hawkeye, making a hasty sign to
repress his impatience; "I am much of your mind myself;
though I thought it becoming my experience to tell the
whole. We must, then, make a push, and if the Indians or
Frenchers are in the narrows, run the gauntlet through these
toppling mountains. Is there reason in my words, Sagamore?"
The Indian made no other answer than by dropping his paddle
into the water, and urging forward the canoe. As he held
the office of directing its course, his resolution was
sufficiently indicated by the movement. The whole party now
plied their paddles vigorously, and in a very few moments
they had reached a point whence they might command an entire
view of the northern shore of the island, the side that had
hitherto been concealed.
"There they are, by all the truth of signs," whispered the
scout, "two canoes and a smoke. The knaves haven't yet got
their eyes out of the mist, or we should hear the accursed
whoop. Together, friends! we are leaving them, and are
already nearly out of whistle of a bullet."
The well-known crack of a rifle, whose ball came skipping
along the placid surface of the strait, and a shrill yell
from the island, interrupted his speech, and announced that
their passage was discovered. In another instant several
savages were seen rushing into canoes, which were soon
dancing over the water in pursuit. These fearful precursors
of a coming struggle produced no change in the countenances
and movements of his three guides, so far as Duncan could
discover, except that the strokes of their paddles were
longer and more in unison, and caused the little bark to
spring forward like a creature possessing life and volition.
"Hold them there, Sagamore," said Hawkeye, looking coolly
backward over this left shoulder, while he still plied his
paddle; "keep them just there. Them Hurons have never a
piece in their nation that will execute at this distance;
but 'killdeer' has a barrel on which a man may calculate."
The scout having ascertained that the Mohicans were
sufficient of themselves to maintain the requisite distance,
deliberately laid aside his paddle, and raised the fatal
rifle. Three several times he brought the piece to his
shoulder, and when his companions were expecting its report,
he as often lowered it to request the Indians would permit
their enemies to approach a little nigher. At length his
accurate and fastidious eye seemed satisfied, and, throwing
out his left arm on the barrel, he was slowly elevating the
muzzle, when an exclamation from Uncas, who sat in the bow,
once more caused him to suspend the shot.
"What, now, lad?" demanded Hawkeye; "you save a Huron from
the death-shriek by that word; have you reason for what you
Uncas pointed toward a rocky shore a little in their front,
whence another war canoe was darting directly across their
course. It was too obvious now that their situation was
imminently perilous to need the aid of language to confirm
it. The scout laid aside his rifle, and resumed the paddle,
while Chingachgook inclined the bows of the canoe a little
toward the western shore, in order to increase the distance
between them and this new enemy. In the meantime they were
reminded of the presence of those who pressed upon their
rear, by wild and exulting shouts. The stirring scene
awakened even Munro from his apathy.
"Let us make for the rocks on the main," he said, with the
mien of a tired soldier, "and give battle to the savages.
God forbid that I, or those attached to me and mine, should
ever trust again to the faith of any servant of the
"He who wishes to prosper in Indian warfare," returned the
scout, "must not be too proud to learn from the wit of a
native. Lay her more along the land, Sagamore; we are
doubling on the varlets, and perhaps they may try to strike
our trail on the long calculation."
Hawkeye was not mistaken; for when the Hurons found their
course was likely to throw them behind their chase they
rendered it less direct, until, by gradually bearing more
and more obliquely, the two canoes were, ere long, gliding
on parallel lines, within two hundred yards of each other.
It now became entirely a trial of speed. So rapid was the
progress of the light vessels, that the lake curled in their
front, in miniature waves, and their motion became
undulating by its own velocity. It was, perhaps, owing to
this circumstance, in addition to the necessity of keeping
every hand employed at the paddles, that the Hurons had not
immediate recourse to their firearms. The exertions of the
fugitives were too severe to continue long, and the pursuers
had the advantage of numbers. Duncan observed with
uneasiness, that the scout began to look anxiously about
him, as if searching for some further means of assisting
"Edge her a little more from the sun, Sagamore," said the
stubborn woodsman; "I see the knaves are sparing a man to
the rifle. A single broken bone might lose us our scalps.
Edge more from the sun and we will put the island between
The expedient was not without its use. A long, low island
lay at a little distance before them, and, as they closed
with it, the chasing canoe was compelled to take a side
opposite to that on which the pursued passed. The scout and
his companions did not neglect this advantage, but the
instant they were hid from observation by the bushes, they
redoubled efforts that before had seemed prodigious. The
two canoes came round the last low point, like two coursers
at the top of their speed, the fugitives taking the lead.
This change had brought them nigher to each other, however,
while it altered their relative positions.
"You showed knowledge in the shaping of a birchen bark,
Uncas, when you chose this from among the Huron canoes,"
said the scout, smiling, apparently more in satisfaction at
their superiority in the race than from that prospect of
final escape which now began to open a little upon them.
"The imps have put all their strength again at the paddles,
and we are to struggle for our scalps with bits of flattened
wood, instead of clouded barrels and true eyes. A long
stroke, and together, friends."
"They are preparing for a shot," said Heyward; "and as we
are in a line with them, it can scarcely fail."
"Get you, then, into the bottom of the canoe," returned the
scout; "you and the colonel; it will be so much taken from
the size of the mark."
Heyward smiled, as he answered:
"It would be but an ill example for the highest in rank to
dodge, while the warriors were under fire."
"Lord! Lord! That is now a white man's courage!" exclaimed
the scout; "and like to many of his notions, not to be
maintained by reason. Do you think the Sagamore, or Uncas,
or even I, who am a man without a cross, would deliberate
about finding a cover in the scrimmage, when an open body
would do no good? For what have the Frenchers reared up
their Quebec, if fighting is always to be done in the
"All that you say is very true, my friend," replied Heyward;
"still, our customs must prevent us from doing as you wish."
A volley from the Hurons interrupted the discourse, and as
the bullets whistled about them, Duncan saw the head of
Uncas turned, looking back at himself and Munro.
Notwithstanding the nearness of the enemy, and his own great
personal danger, the countenance of the young warrior
expressed no other emotion, as the former was compelled to
think, than amazement at finding men willing to encounter so
useless an exposure. Chingachgook was probably better
acquainted with the notions of white men, for he did not
even cast a glance aside from the riveted look his eye
maintained on the object by which he governed their course.
A ball soon struck the light and polished paddle from the
hands of the chief, and drove it through the air, far in the
advance. A shout arose from the Hurons, who seized the
opportunity to fire another volley. Uncas described an arc
in the water with his own blade, and as the canoe passed
swiftly on, Chingachgook recovered his paddle, and
flourishing it on high, he gave the war-whoop of the
Mohicans, and then lent his strength and skill again to the
The clamorous sounds of "Le Gros Serpent!" "La Longue
Carabine!" "Le Cerf Agile!" burst at once from the canoes
behind, and seemed to give new zeal to the pursuers. The
scout seized "killdeer" in his left hand, and elevating it
about his head, he shook it in triumph at his enemies. The
savages answered the insult with a yell, and immediately
another volley succeeded. The bullets pattered along the
lake, and one even pierced the bark of their little vessel.
No perceptible emotion could be discovered in the Mohicans
during this critical moment, their rigid features expressing
neither hope nor alarm; but the scout again turned his head,
and, laughing in his own silent manner, he said to Heyward:
"The knaves love to hear the sounds of their pieces; but the
eye is not to be found among the Mingoes that can calculate
a true range in a dancing canoe! You see the dumb devils
have taken off a man to charge, and by the smallest
measurement that can be allowed, we move three feet to their
Duncan, who was not altogether as easy under this nice
estimate of distances as his companions, was glad to find,
however, that owing to their superior dexterity, and the
diversion among their enemies, they were very sensibly
obtaining the advantage. The Hurons soon fired again, and a
bullet struck the blade of Hawkeye's paddle without injury.
"That will do," said the scout, examining the slight
indentation with a curious eye; "it would not have cut the
skin of an infant, much less of men, who, like us, have been
blown upon by the heavens in their anger. Now, major, if
you will try to use this piece of flattened wood, I'll let
'killdeer' take a part in the conversation."
Heyward seized the paddle, and applied himself to the work
with an eagerness that supplied the place of skill, while
Hawkeye was engaged in inspecting the priming of his rifle.
The latter then took a swift aim and fired. The Huron in
the bows of the leading canoe had risen with a similar
object, and he now fell backward, suffering his gun to
escape from his hands into the water. In an instant,
however, he recovered his feet, though his gestures were
wild and bewildered. At the same moment his companions
suspended their efforts, and the chasing canoes clustered
together, and became stationary. Chingachgook and Uncas
profited by the interval to regain their wind, though Duncan
continued to work with the most persevering industry. The
father and son now cast calm but inquiring glances at each
other, to learn if either had sustained any injury by the
fire; for both well knew that no cry or exclamation would,
in such a moment of necessity have been permitted to betray
the accident. A few large drops of blood were trickling
down the shoulder of the Sagamore, who, when he perceived
that the eyes of Uncas dwelt too long on the sight, raised
some water in the hollow of his hand, and washing off the
stain, was content to manifest, in this simple manner, the
slightness of the injury.
"Softly, softly, major," said the scout, who by this time
had reloaded his rifle; "we are a little too far already for
a rifle to put forth its beauties, and you see yonder imps
are holding a council. Let them come up within striking
distance--my eye may well be trusted in such a matter--
and I will trail the varlets the length of the Horican,
guaranteeing that not a shot of theirs shall, at the worst,
more than break the skin, while 'killdeer' shall touch the
life twice in three times."
"We forget our errand," returned the diligent Duncan. "For
God's sake let us profit by this advantage, and increase our
distance from the enemy."
"Give me my children," said Munro, hoarsely; "trifle no
longer with a father's agony, but restore me my babes."
Long and habitual deference to the mandates of his superiors
had taught the scout the virtue of obedience. Throwing a
last and lingering glance at the distant canoes, he laid
aside his rifle, and, relieving the wearied Duncan, resumed
the paddle, which he wielded with sinews that never tired.
His efforts were seconded by those of the Mohicans and a
very few minutes served to place such a sheet of water
between them and their enemies, that Heyward once more
The lake now began to expand, and their route lay along a
wide reach, that was lined, as before, by high and ragged
mountains. But the islands were few, and easily avoided.
The strokes of the paddles grew more measured and regular,
while they who plied them continued their labor, after the
close and deadly chase from which they had just relieved
themselves, with as much coolness as though their speed had
been tried in sport, rather than under such pressing, nay,
almost desperate, circumstances.
Instead of following the western shore, whither their errand
led them, the wary Mohican inclined his course more toward
those hills behind which Montcalm was known to have led his
army into the formidable fortress of Ticonderoga. As the
Hurons, to every appearance, had abandoned the pursuit,
there was no apparent reason for this excess of caution. It
was, however, maintained for hours, until they had reached a
bay, nigh the northern termination of the lake. Here the
canoe was driven upon the beach, and the whole party landed.
Hawkeye and Heyward ascended an adjacent bluff, where the
former, after considering the expanse of water beneath him,
pointed out to the latter a small black object, hovering
under a headland, at the distance of several miles.
"Do you see it?" demanded the scout. "Now, what would you
account that spot, were you left alone to white experience
to find your way through this wilderness?"
"But for its distance and its magnitude, I should suppose it
a bird. Can it be a living object?"
"'Tis a canoe of good birchen bark, and paddled by fierce
and crafty Mingoes. Though Providence has lent to those who
inhabit the woods eyes that would be needless to men in the
settlements, where there are inventions to assist the sight,
yet no human organs can see all the dangers which at this
moment circumvent us. These varlets pretend to be bent
chiefly on their sun-down meal, but the moment it is dark
they will be on our trail, as true as hounds on the scent.
We must throw them off, or our pursuit of Le Renard Subtil
may be given up. These lakes are useful at times,
especially when the game take the water," continued the
scout, gazing about him with a countenance of concern; "but
they give no cover, except it be to the fishes. God knows
what the country would be, if the settlements should ever
spread far from the two rivers. Both hunting and war would
lose their beauty."
"Let us not delay a moment, without some good and obvious
"I little like that smoke, which you may see worming up
along the rock above the canoe," interrupted the abstracted
scout. "My life on it, other eyes than ours see it, and
know its meaning. Well, words will not mend the matter, and
it is time that we were doing."
Hawkeye moved away from the lookout, and descended, musing
profoundly, to the shore. He communicated the result of his
observations to his companions, in Delaware, and a short and
earnest consultation succeeded. When it terminated, the
three instantly set about executing their new resolutions.
The canoe was lifted from the water, and borne on the
shoulders of the party, they proceeded into the wood, making
as broad and obvious a trail as possible. They soon reached
the water-course, which they crossed, and, continuing
onward, until they came to an extensive and naked rock. At
this point, where their footsteps might be expected to be no
longer visible, they retraced their route to the brook,
walking backward, with the utmost care. They now followed
the bed of the little stream to the lake, into which they
immediately launched their canoe again. A low point
concealed them from the headland, and the margin of the lake
was fringed for some distance with dense and overhanging
bushes. Under the cover of these natural advantages, they
toiled their way, with patient industry, until the scout
pronounced that he believed it would be safe once more to
The halt continued until evening rendered objects indistinct
and uncertain to the eye. Then they resumed their route,
and, favored by the darkness, pushed silently and vigorously
toward the western shore. Although the rugged outline of
mountain, to which they were steering, presented no
distinctive marks to the eyes of Duncan, the Mohican entered
the little haven he had selected with the confidence and
accuracy of an experienced pilot.
The boat was again lifted and borne into the woods, where it
was carefully concealed under a pile of brush. The
adventurers assumed their arms and packs, and the scout
announced to Munro and Heyward that he and the Indians were
at last in readiness to proceed.