« ElőzőTovább »
• A quiet smile lighted the haughty features of the young Mohican, betraying his knowledge of the English language, as well as of the other's meaning, but he suffered it to pass away without vindication or reply.
« I cannot permit you to accuse Uncas of want of judgment or of skill,” said Duncan; « he saved my life in the coolest and readiest manner, and he has made a friend who never will require to be reminded of the debt he owes." ..Uncas partly raised his body, and offered his hand to the grasp of Heyward. During this act of friendship, the two young men exchanged looks of intelligence, which caused Duncan to forget the character and condition of his wild associate. In the meanwhile, Hawk-eye, who looked on this burst of youthful feeling with a cool but kind regard, made the following calm reply :
"“ Life is an obligation which friends often owe to each other in the wilderness. I dare say I may have served Uncas some such turn myself before now; and I very well remember, that he has stood between me and death five different times: three times from the Mingoes, once in crossing Horican, and —"
o« That bullet was better aimed than common !” exclaimed Duncan, involuntarily shrinking from a shot which struck on the rock at his side with a smart rebound.
• Hawk-eye laid his hand on the shapeless metal, and shook his head, as he examined it, saying, “ Falling lead is never flattened ! had it come from the clouds this might have happened !" .
• But the rifle of Uncas was deliberately raised toward the heavens, directing the eyes of his companions to a point, where the mystery was immediately explained. A ragged oak grew on the right bank of the river, nearly opposite to their position, which seeking the freedom of the open space, had inclined so far forward, that its upper branches overhung that arm of the stream which flowed nearest to its own shore. Among the topmost leaves, which scantily concealed the gnarled and stinted limbs, a dark looking savage was nestled, partly concealed by the trunk of the tree, and partly exposed, as though looking down upon them, to ascertain the effect produced by his treacherous aim.
« « These devils will scale heaven to circumvent us to our ruin,” said Hawk-eye; “ keep him in play, boy, until I can bring kill-deer' to bear, when we will try his metal on each side of the tree at once."
« Uncas delayed his fire until the scout uttered the word. The rifles Aashed, the leaves and bark of the oak flew into the air, and were scattered by the wind, but the Indian answered their assault by a taunting laugh, sending down upon them another bullet in return, that struck the cap of Hawk-eye from his head: Once more the savage yells burst out of the woods, and the leaden hail whistled above the heads of the besieged, as if to confine them to a place where they might become easy victims to the enterprise of the warrior who had mounted the tree.
O“ This must be looked to !" said the scout, glancing about him with an anxious eye. « Uncas, call up your father ; we have need of all our weapons to bring the cunning varment from his roost."
The signal was instantly given; and before Hawk-eye had reloaded his rifle, they were joined by Chingachgook. When his son pointed out to the experienced warrior the situation of their dangerous enemy, the usual exclamatory “ hugh" burst from his lips ; after which, no further expression of surprise or alarm was suffered to escape from him. Hawk-eye and the Mohicans conversed earnestly together in Delaware for a few moments, when each quietly took his post, in order to execute the plan they had speedily devised.
« The warrior in the oak had maintained a quick, though ineffectual, fire, from the moment of his discovery. But his aim was interrupted by the vigilance of his enemies, whose rifles instantaneously bore on any part of his person that was left exposed. Still his bullets fell in the centre of the crouching party. The clothes of Heyward, which rendered him peculiarly conspicuous, were repeatedly cut, and once blood was drawn from a slight wound in his arm..
• At length, emboldened by the long and patient watchfulness of his enemies, the Huron attempted a better and more fatal aim. The quick eyes of the Mohicans caught the dark line of his lower limbs incautiously exposed through the thin foliage, a few inches from the trunk of the tree. Their rifles made a common report, when, sinking on his wounded limb, part of the body of the savage came into view. Swift as thought, Hawk-eye seized the advantage, and discharged his fatal weapon into the top of the oak. The leaves were unusually agitated; the dangerous rifle fell from its commanding elevation, and after a few moments of vain struggling, the form of the savage was seen swinging in the wind, while he grasped a ragged and naked branch of the tree with his hands clenched in desperation.
" " Give him, in pity, give him, the contents of another rifle !" cried Duncan, turning away his eyes in horror from the spectacle of a fellowcreature in such awful jeopardy.
• “ Not a karnel !" exclaimed the obdurate Hawk-eye; “ his death is certain, and we have no powder to spare, for Indian fights, sometimes, last for days ; 'tis their scalps, or ours ! — and God, who made us, has put into our natures the craving after life !"
• Against this stern and unyielding morality, supported, as it was, by such visible policy, there was no appeal. From that moment the yells in the forest once more ceased, the fire was suffered to decline, and all eyes, those of friends, as well as enemies, became fixed on the hopeless condition of the wretch, who was dangling between heaven and earth. The body yielded to the currents of air, and though no murmur or groan escaped the victim, there were instants when he grimly faced his foes, and the anguish of cold despair might be traced, through the intervening distance, in possession of his swarthy lineaments. Three several times the scout raised his piece in mercy, and as often prudence getting the better of his intention, it was again silently lowered. At length, one hand of the Huron lost its hold, and dropped exhausted to his side. A desperate and fruitless struggle to recover the branch succeeded, and then the savage was seen, for a fleeting instant, grasping wildly at the empty air. The lightning is not quicker than was the flame from the rifle of Hawk-eye; the limbs of the victim trembled and contracted, the head fell to the bosom, and the body parted the foaming waters, like lead, when the element closed above it, in its ceaseless velocity, and every vestige of the unhappy Huron was lost for ever.
No shout of triumph succeeded this important advantage, but the Mohicans gazed at each other in silent horror. A single yell burst from the woods, and all was again still. Hawk-eye, who alone appeared VOL. 11.
to reason on the occasion, shook his head, at his own momentary weakness, even uttering his self-disapprobation aloud.
6 6 'Twas the last charge in my horn, and the last bullet in my pouch, and 'twas the act of a boy!" he said ; " what mattered it whether he struck the rock living or dead! feeling would soon be over. Uncas, lad, go down to the canoe, and bring up the big horn; it is all the powder we have left, and we shall need it to the last grain, or I am ignorant of the Mingo nature.” '- Vol.i. pp. 156—165.
After this scene follows one of accumulated horror. One of their enemies has boldly swam to the island, and carried off their canoe. Thus left without ammunition, and without the last means of escape, the whole party prepare for death, until Cora persuades the reluctant scout and the two Indians to swim down the current, with the remote hope of reaching Webb’s head-quarters, and bringing a party to their rescue. The attempt is made, and the three warriors drop down the stream unobserved; but Heyward and the sisters, after a period of dreadful suspense, have heard their enemies land on the island, and quit it, without discovering them in their concealment, when an accident exposes them to the view of Magua, who had lingered behind the band. The captives are dragged forth, but their lives are spared, for the Indians determine to reserve prisoners of such distinction for Montcalm. They select Magua, with six of the band, for their escort; but the implacable ruffian has no sooner separated from the main body than he attempts to glut his revenge. In his refinement of malignity, and inflamed by the beauty of Cora, he offers her the alternative of purchasing the release of the rest of the party, by herself becoming his squaw, or of enduring with them torture and death. On the rejection of his offer, he excites the ferocity of his companions by reminding them of the friends whom they had lost in the late conflict; and wrought to fury by his harangues, they have just bound their captives, in preparation for the torture, when Hawk-eye and the two Mohicans, who had, unseen, been hanging on the track of the party, burst in to the rescue. Then we have a second death-struggle, and again a third, before the travellers, led by Hawk-eye, pass through the beleaguering French posts in a fog, and gain in safety the interior of the fort of WilliamHenry.
After their arrival, we have a few animated chapters devoted to the narrative of the siege of the fortress, the gallant defence of Munro, and his final and inevitable necessity to capitulate. Then follows the historical fact of the evacuation of the place, the onset of the treacherous Indians, and the infamous apathy of Montcalm during the massacre of great part of the garrison. In that terrific scene of butchery, the two daughters of Munro again fall into the hands of Magua, and again the savage anticipates the malignant satisfaction of making the child of the detested grey head' his squaw and his slave.
ith the re-api of whom hadrontcalm, afte
The last part of the tale, and not the shortest, may be said to commence with the re-appearance of Munro, Heyward, Hawk-eye, and the two Mohicans, all of whom had escaped the massacre, among the ruins of William-Henry, which Montcalm, after its surrender, had dismantled and quitted with his army. The mourning party have returned to the scene of slaughter to seek either for the remains of Cora and Alice, or for some trace of their existence. A fragment of Cora's veil is found in the neighbouring forest; and this slight clue is sufficient to throw the acute observation of the Mohicans upon the 'trail,' or track of the captors, and to enable them to fasten upon the direction which Magua and his party had taken with their fair victims towards the frontiers of Canada. We are then led with the wretched father, the anxious lover, and their three faithful attendants, into a new and long succession of adventures; and we plunge with them into the series of Indian stratagems, hair-breadth 'scapes, and mortal encounters, through which they finally discover Cora and Alice, separated in the villages of two different tribes. Here we are introduced thoroughly into the interior of Indian life and manners. “The Last of the Mohicans' is recognised as the hereditary chieftain of a tribe of the Delaware people, who had emigrated beyond the Canadian border; and the romance closes with a battle between them and the Huron brethren' of Magua, in which the latter people are vanquished and exterminated.
The denouement is altogether rendered needlessly tragical. In the conflict Cora is pierced to the heart by the knife of one of Magua's people. Uncas, the younger Mohican, revenges her fate in the blood of her murderer; and he himself, at the same moment, receives a mortal stab in the back from Magua, who falls immediately afterwards in his flight by a shot from the rifle of Hawk-eye. Munro dies broken-hearted at the cruel fate of his elder child; Heyward and Alice are united; and Hawk-eye, clinging to the last to his forest-life and his Indian friendship, remains the sole stay and solace of his red brother Chingachgock, the childless father of the Last of the Mohicans.'
Art. III. Historical Researches on the Wars and Sports of the Mongols
and Romans : in which Elephants and Wild Beasts were employed or slain ; and the remarkable local Agreement of History with the Remains of such Animals found in Europe and Siberia. With a Map and Ten Plates. By John Ranking. 4to. pp.516. 31. 3s. London.
Longman and Co. 1826. MR. RANKING, the author of the present work, is a gentleman engaged in commercial pursuits, who has been, as he carefully informs us, resident upwards of twenty years in Hindoostan and Russia, and having, as he thought, in that time had reason to doubt of the justness of the prevailing opinion concerning the remains of elephants and other large animals, inhabitants of the torrid zone, found in high northern latitudes, and in parts of Europe in which they no longer exist, has, in the work before us, given the result of his enquiries to the public. Mr. Ranking claims not to be regarded as a learned character, any farther than as a man who has devoted to general reading the hours that he could spare from business: he is no geologist, though he has undertaken to controvert the opinions of Cuvier and other eminent naturalists: he is unacquainted with the classical or Oriental languages; and, to conclude, this is his first literary attempt. Some allowance should, and we think will, be made for a person so situated, who at a considerable expense communicates knowledge which he deems of importance; and it is with feelings of pain that we express our conviction that all these well-meant efforts have been made to no purpose; for the theory of Cuvier will be no more affected by the quarto of Mr. Ranking, than the theory of Newton by the “ Studies” of St. Pierre. We could farther wish, even for his own sake, that he had been sufficiently versed in book-craft to have known that every thing of any importance in his work might have been comprised in an octavo volume of no great bulk.
The hypothesis of Mr. Ranking is briefly this: the Mongols, under Genghis Khan, Kublai, and Tamerlane, invaded and subdued the regions of Asia, of which the elephant is a native, and in their different expeditions in Siberia carried numbers of these animals with them for warlike purposes, or for state and pomp, which elephants died, and consequently left their bones in that country; and as the name of mammoth is applied to them in common with the walrus or morse by the Russians, a great deal of confusion has thence arisen. With respect to the remains found in Europe, Mr. Ranking regards them as merely the remains of beasts destroyed in the different amphitheatres established by the Romans throughout their empire, or of beasts which in ancient and modern times have been led about and exhibited for shows. These opinions are not, and are not claimed to be, quite new and original : that very learned and able naturalist, the Tzar, Peter the Great, conjectured that some elephants' bones had been left on Alexander's expedition when he crossed the Don. Voltaire thought that the tusks found in Siberia had been lost by traders; and Leibnitz and Linnæus are of opinion that the mammoth’s horns might be morsetusks, but they are differently composed. Marsigli supposed the fossil-remains found in Europe were of those animals slain in the Roman games. Father Martini was of opinion that the fossilbones found in Siberia were the remains of those animals employed by the Mongols in their wars with the Indians and Chinese ; and Camden says, “the bones of the abundance of elephants which Claudius brought with him to England, being casually found, have given rise to several groundless stories.” This, however, does not derogate from the merits of Mr. Ranking, any more than the