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JAMES FENIMORE COOPER'S TALE ... The Huron Village


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Alice, Cora, and the singing master, David Gamut, had all been captives of Magua. Holding Alice and David at his Huron village, Magua places Cora at a nearby Delaware village for safe keeping. In a failed rescue attempt, Uncas finds himself a fellow captive. Hawkeye, Chingachgook, and Major Heyward cunningly enter the Huron village and rescue Uncas and Alice, leaving the volunteer David behind as part of their scheme. Heyward and Alice flee to the Delaware village, to be joined by Uncas and Hawkeye later. The enraged Magua, when he discovers the treachery, leads a group of Huron warriors to the Delawares to take back what is his. Appearing in the village, Magua is invited to eat, then talk with the Delaware orator. Magua subtly baits the Delaware chiefs...

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When the appetites of the whole were appeased, the squaws removed the trenchers and gourds, and the two parties began to prepare themselves for a subtle trial of their wits.

"Is the face of my great Canada father turned again toward his Huron children?" demanded the orator of the Delawares.

"When was it ever otherwise?" returned Magua. "He calls my people 'most beloved'."

The Delaware gravely bowed his acquiescence to what he knew to be false, and continued: "The tomahawks of your young men have been very red!"

"It is so; but they are now bright and dull; for the Yengeese are dead, and the Delawares are our neighbors."

The other acknowledged the pacific compliment by a gesture of the hand, and remained silent. Then Magua, as if recalled to such a recollection by the allusion to the massacre, demanded:

"Does my prisoner give trouble to my brothers?"

"She is welcome."

"The path between the Hurons and the Delawares is short, and it is open; let her be sent to my squaws, if she gives trouble to my brother."

"She is welcome," returned the chief of the latter nation, still more emphatically.

The baffled Magua continued silent several minutes, apparently indifferent, however, to the repulse he had received in this his opening effort to regain possession of Cora.

"Do my young men leave the Delawares room on the mountains for their hunts?" he at length continued.

"The Lenape are rulers of their own hills," returned the other, a little haughtily.

"It is well. Justice is the master of a redskin! Why should they brighten their tomahawks, and sharpen their knives against each other? Are not the palefaces thicker than the swallows in the season of flowers"?

"Good!" exclaimed two or three of his auditors at the same time.

Magua waited a little, to permit his words to soften the feelings of the Delawares, before he added: "Have there not been strange moccasins in the woods? Have not my brothers scented the feet of the white men?"

{Magua then turns to the art of politics and gift-giving; offering trinkets taken from the dead at Fort William Henry, giving the best to those whose favor he seeks. Flattery, praise, and gifts proved effective, the Delaware now become more cordial, agreeable. Magua is pleased and confident of his subtle victory.}

"My brother is a wise chief. He is welcome."

"The Hurons love their friends the Delawares," returned Magua. "Why should they not? They are colored by the same sun, and their just men will hunt in the same grounds after death. The redskins should be friends, and look with open eyes on the white men. Has not my brother scented spies in the woods?"

"There have been strange moccasins about my camp. They have been tracked into my lodges."

"Did my brother beat out the dogs?" asked Magua, without adverting in any manner to the former equivocation of the chief.

"It would not do. The stranger is always welcome to the children of the Lenape."

"The stranger, but not the spy."

"Would the Yengeese send their women as spies? Did not the Huron chief say he took women in the battle?"

"He told no lie. The Yengeese have sent out their scouts. They have been in my wigwams, but they found there no one to say welcome. Then they fled to the Delawares - for, say they, the Delawares are our friends; their minds are turned from their Canada father!"

{Le Renard Subtil's barb at the Delaware for defecting from the French cause strikes a defensive chord. The insinuation that the Delaware were not to be trusted, coupled with the fact that many Delaware villages were within French territory was cause for alarm. Magua further antagonizes by warning the Delaware that the Canada father will be angry when he learns of the presence of Le Longue Carabine at the village. The mention of this name excites and confuses the Delaware, who are unaware of Hawkeye's presence.}

"What does my brother mean?"

"A Huron never lies!" returned Magua coldly, leaning his head against the side of the lodge, and drawing his slight robe across his tawny breast. "Let the Delawares count their prisoners; they will find one whose skin is neither red nor pale."

A long and musing pause succeeded. The chief consulted apart with his companions, and messengers were despatched to collect certain others of the most distinguished men of the tribe.

{A council was held regarding the troubling news. Word spread throughout the village that Le Longue Carabine was among them. A solemn assemblage of the nation was called. Magua maintained a prideful arrogance while the villagers bustled about in preparation for the assemblage with an air of great gravity. Finally, all were seated, waiting for the emergence of chiefs from a particular wigwam.}

At length, one of those low murmurs that are so apt to disturb a multitude was heard, and the whole nation arose to their feet by a common impulse. At that instant the door of the lodge in question opened, and three men issuing from it, slowly approached the place of consultation. They were all aged, even beyond that period to which the oldest present had reached; but one in the center, who leaned on his companions for support, had numbered an amount of years to which the human race is seldom permitted to attain. His frame, which had once been tall and erect, like the cedar, was now bending under the pressure of more than a century. The elastic, light step of an Indian was gone, and in its place he was compelled to toil his tardy way over the ground, inch by inch. His dark, wrinkled countenance was in singular and wild contrast with the long white locks which floated oh his shoulders in such thickness as to announce that generations had probably passed away since they had last been shorn....

{The aged, venerated sachem was Tamenund, whose reputation as a wise and just chief was known far. The assembly had a solemn, reverent atmosphere, as if the fate of the world was to be pronounced by the lips of Tamenund. Even Magua pressed the crowd to glimpse the revered sachem. He was seated alongside the two other aged chiefs. After a short delay, the captives were brought forth, and then encircled as the throngs of spectators closed in close around them. }

Cora stood foremost among the prisoners, entwining her arms in those of Alice, in the tenderness of sisterly love. Notwithstanding the fearful and menacing array of savages on every side of her, no apprehension on her own account could prevent the noble-minded maiden from keeping her eyes fastened on the pale and anxious features of the trembling Alice. Close at their side stood Heyward, with an interest in both, that, at such a moment of intense uncertainty, scarcely knew a preponderance in favor of her whom he most loved. Hawk-eye had placed himself a little in the rear... Uncas was not there....

"Which of my prisoners is La Longue Carabine?"

Neither Duncan nor the scout answered. The former, however, glanced his eyes around the dark and silent assembly, and recoiled a pace, when they fell on the malignant visage of Magua....

{Duncan realizes that Magua is seeking revenge against Hawk-eye. He determines to cover for the scout by causing confusion, pretending that he is Hawk-eye. Hawk-eye then steps forward to proclaim himself. The chiefs and the assembled people look about in confusion. }

"My brother has said that a snake crept into my camp," said the chief to Magua. "Which is he?"

The Huron pointed to the scout.

"Will a wise Delaware believe the barking of a wolf?" exclaimed Duncan, still more confirmed in the evil intentions of his ancient enemy. "A dog never lies, but when was a wolf known to speak the truth?"

The eyes of Magua flashed fire; but, suddenly recollecting the necessity of maintaining his presence of mind, he turned away in silent disdain..... The wary Delaware turned to him again, and expressed the determination of the chiefs, though in the most considerate language.

"My brother has been called a liar," he said, "and his friends are angry. They will show that he has spoken the truth..."

{Duncan and Hawk-eye are both given guns to compete in a test of markmanship. The legendary skills of La Longue Carabine would thus reveal the real scout's identity. Duncan did well, but in the end, Hawk-eye did better. When the commotion had subsided, one of the aged sachem turned to Duncan.}

"Why did you wish to stop my ears?" he said, addressing Duncan. "Are the Delawares fools, that they could not know the young panther from the cat?"

{The sachem then bid Magua to speak. He stepped forward and delivered a speech, in French, of the differences between the peoples. The Yengeese were "dogs to their women" and greedy men who wanted everything. He followed with praise for the Delawares, and reminded them of the wrongs done them by the whites. For the first time, Tamenund speaks. He questions Magua on justice, then pronounces his verdict with reluctantcy, in a language not audible to the captives. His words fool the aged sachem.}

"Justice is the law of the great Manitto. My children, give the stranger food. Then, Huron, take thine own and depart."

On the delivery of this solemn judgment, the patriarch seated himself, and closed his eyes again, as if better pleased with the images of his own ripened experience than with the visible objects of the world..... four or five of the younger warriors stepping behind Heyward and the scout, passed thongs so dexterously and rapidly around their arms, as to hold them both in instant bondage....

{Cora rushes to Tamenund, falls before him, and pleads with the sachem. She asks why he allows himself to be fooled by the evil Magua "who poisons thy ears with falsehoods to feed his thirst for blood." Tamenund rises and addresses Cora, questioning her and relating the greatness of the Lenape. He speaks of when he was a child, and the sadness he has witnessed by the greed of the whites. Cora apologizes for the wrongs of the Yengeese and begs him not to let the Huron have victory without first hearing one of the sachem's own people speak. She refers to Uncas. Tamenund orders he be brought forth. Uncas is asked in what language does he speak. He answers that he speaks in Delaware, like his father. The crowd reacts to the unexpected reply with hostility, thinking Uncas a traitor in the pay of the English. One of the Delaware accuses him of such.}

"And ye," returned Uncas, looking sternly around him, "are dogs that whine when the Frenchmen casts ye the offals of his deer!"

Twenty knives gleamed in the air, and as many warriors sprang to their feet, at this biting and perhaps merited retort; but a motion from one of the chiefs suppressed the outbreaking of their tempers, and restored the appearance of quiet. The task might probably have been made more difficult had not a movement made by Tamenund indicated that he was again about to speak....

{The people were angered by what they believed was the treachery of another Delaware. An angry exchange between Uncas, the chiefs, and the people followed. Then one of the two chiefs announced the fate of the traitor.... death at the stake. As Uncas was being led to the fire, he remained proud, serene, and noble. While his companions looked on with horror, a warrior tore off his hunting shirt. A silence fell over the village as all eyes looked at the condemned man with shock and disbelief. It was the tatoo of the turtle on Uncas' chest that had captivated the eyes of all around him. Uncas then proudly approached the chiefs, enjoying his victory over Magua.}

"Men of the Lenni Lenape!" he said, "my race upholds the earth! Your feeble tribe stands on my shell! What fire that a Delaware can light would burn the child of my fathers," he added, pointing proudly to the simple blazonry on his skin; "the blood that came from such a stock would smother your flames! My race is the grandfather of nations!"

"Who art thou?" demanded Tamenund, rising at the startling tones he heard more than at any meaning conveyed by the language of the prisoner.

"Uncas, the son of Chingachgook," answered the captive modestly , turning from the nation, and bending his head in reverence to the other's character and years; "A son of the great Unamis."

"The hour of Tamenund is nigh!" exclaimed the sage. "The day is come, at last, to the night! I thank the Manitto, that one is here to fill my place at the council fire. Uncas, the child of Uncas, is found! Let the eyes of a dying eagle gaze on the rising sun." ....

{Tamenund then gives a speech relating who the Mohicans are, the history of the Delaware, the Yengeese, and the prophecy of the return to the council fire of the prince of the Mohicans. Uncas responds by stating that there are only two chiefs yet living that have the blood of the turtles, himself and Chingachgook.}

"It is true - it is true," returned the sage - a flash of recollection destroying all his pleasing fancies, and restoring him at once to a consciousness of the true history of his nation. "Our wise men have often said that two warriors of the unchanged race were in the hills of the Yengeese; why have their seats at the council fires of the Delawares been so long empty?" ....

{Uncas offers a brief explanation of his people, relating how he and his father remained in their own hunting lands, though others left. Uncas then went to Hawk-eye, brought him before Tamenund, and declared him a friend. Tamenund was confused and took issue with Uncas' alliance with one whose long rifle had killed so many Delaware. Uncas replied that the one who had told him such things was a liar. Hawk-eye spoke, acknowledging himself to be a killer of the Mingos, but declared himself innocent of ever harming a Delaware. He praised the gifts of the Delaware nation which pleased the crowd who then seemed to be aware of their error.}

"Where is the Huron?" demanded Tamenund. "Has he stopped my ears?"

Magua, whose feelings during that scene in which Uncas had triumphed may be much better imagined than described, answered to the call by stepping boldly in front of the patriarch.

"The just Tamenund," he said, "will not keep what a Huron has lent."

"Tell me, son of my brother," returned the sage, avoiding the dark countenance of Le Subtil, and turning gladly to the more ingenuous features of Uncas, "has the stranger a conqueror's right over you?"

"He has none. The panther may get into snares set by the women; but he is strong, and knows how to leap through them."

"La Longue Carabine?"

"Laughs at the Mingoes. Go, Huron, ask your squaws the color of a bear."

"The stranger and the white maiden that came into my camp together?"

"Should journey on an open path."

"And the woman that Huron left with my warriors?"

Uncas made no reply.

"And the woman that the Mingo has brought into my camp," repeated Tamenund, gravely.

"She is mine,,," cried Magua, shaking his head in triumph at Uncas. "Mohican, you know that she is mine."

"My son is silent," said Tamenund, endeavoring to read the expression of the face that the youth turned from him in sorrow.

"It is so," was the low answer.

A short and impressive pause succeeded, during which it was very apparent with what reluctance the multitude admitted the justice of the Mingo's claim. At length the sage, on whom alone the decision depended, said, in a firm voice:

"Huron, depart."

"As he came, just Tamenund," demanded the wily Magua: "or with hands filled with the faith of the Delawares? The wigwam of Le Renard Subtil is empty. Make him strong with his own."

The aged man mused with himself for a time; and then bending his head toward one of his venerable companions, he asked:

"Are my ears open?"

"It is true."

"Is this Mingo a chief?"

"The first in his nation."

{Tamenund then tells Cora she is to go with Magua as his rightful possession. She declares she will never consent to be his wife. Duncan pleads with Magua to release Cora and accept a high ransom in her place. Magua rejects his offer with disgust. Duncan pleads with Tamenund, who tells Duncan that his decision is already spoken. "Men speak not twice." Then Hawk-eye interjects, offering to trade himself for Cora's freedom. Magua refuses, and angrily demands the Delaware open a path for him and his captive. Hawk-eye continues, offering his "Killdeer" and attempting to persuade Magua of the advantage of such a trade.}

"Le Renard Subtil is a great chief; he has but one mind, come," he added, laying his hand too familiarly on the shoulder of his captive to urge her onward. "A Huron is no tattler; we will go."

{Heyward makes threats to follow Magua, Uncas warns that he will be on his trail.}

"I hear a crow!" exclaimed Magua, with a taunting laugh. "Go," he added, shaking his hand at the crowd, which had slowly opened to admit his passage. "Where are the petticoats of the Delawares! Let them send their arrows and their guns to the Wyandots; they shall have venison to eat, and corn to hoe. Dogs, rabbits, thieves - I spit on you."

His parting gibes were listened to in a dead, boding silence, and, with these biting words in his mouth, the triumphant Magua passed unmolested into the forest, followed by his passive captive and protected by the inviolable laws of Indian hospitality.

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So we have the Huron/Delaware Village scene. Uncas plays a more prominent role in Cooper's village scene than he does in Mann's version, though the overall feel is very similar. Here we have both Cora and Uncas delivering their own speeches, rather than Hawkeye. In the end, the triumphant Magua storms away with his captive after spewing forth a bitter insult to the villagers. What a subtle fox!

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