Text - "The Last of the Mohicans" James Fenimore Cooper

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That which at first was only rumor,
soon became certainty, as orders passed from the quarters of the
commander-in-chief to the several corps he had selected for this
service, to prepare for their speedy departure. All doubts as to the
intention of Webb now vanished, and an hour or two of hurried footsteps
and anxious faces succeeded. The novice in the military art flew from
point to point, retarding his own preparations by the excess of his
violent and somewhat distempered zeal; while the more practiced veteran
made his arrangements with a deliberation that scorned every appearance
of haste; though his sober lineaments and anxious eye sufficiently
betrayed that he had no very strong professional relish for the, as yet,
untried and dreaded warfare of the wilderness. At length the sun set in
a flood of glory, behind the distant western hills, and as darkness drew
its veil around the secluded spot the sounds of preparation diminished;
the last light finally disappeared from the log cabin of some officer;
the trees cast their deeper shadows over the mounds and the rippling
stream, and a silence soon pervaded the camp, as deep as that which
reigned in the vast forest by which it was environed.

According to the orders of the preceding night, the heavy sleep of the
army was broken by the rolling of the warning drums, whose rattling
echoes were heard issuing, on the damp morning air, out of every vista
of the woods, just as day began to draw the shaggy outlines of some tall
pines of the vicinity, on the opening brightness of a soft and cloudless
eastern sky. In an instant the whole camp was in motion; the meanest
soldier arousing from his lair to witness the departure of his comrades,
and to share in the excitement and incidents of the hour. The simple
array of the chosen band was soon completed. While the regular and
trained hirelings of the king marched with haughtiness to the right of
the line, the less pretending colonists took their humbler position
on its left, with a docility that long practice had rendered easy.
The scouts departed; strong guards preceded and followed the lumbering
vehicles that bore the baggage; and before the gray light of the morning
was mellowed by the rays of the sun, the main body of the combatants
wheeled into column, and left the encampment with a show of high
military bearing, that served to drown the slumbering apprehensions of
many a novice, who was now about to make his first essay in arms. While
in view of their admiring comrades, the same proud front and ordered
array was observed, until the notes of their fifes growing fainter in
distance, the forest at length appeared to swallow up the living mass
which had slowly entered its bosom.

The deepest sounds of the retiring and invisible column had ceased to
be borne on the breeze to the listeners, and the latest straggler had
already disappeared in pursuit; but there still remained the signs
of another departure, before a log cabin of unusual size and
accommodations, in front of which those sentinels paced their rounds,
who were known to guard the person of the English general. At this spot
were gathered some half dozen horses, caparisoned in a manner which
showed that two, at least, were destined to bear the persons of females,
of a rank that it was not usual to meet so far in the wilds of the
country. A third wore trappings and arms of an officer of the staff;
while the rest, from the plainness of the housings, and the traveling
mails with which they were encumbered, were evidently fitted for the
reception of as many menials, who were, seemingly, already waiting
the pleasure of those they served. At a respectful distance from this
unusual show, were gathered divers groups of curious idlers; some
admiring the blood and bone of the high-mettled military charger,
and others gazing at the preparations, with the dull wonder of vulgar
curiosity. There was one man, however, who, by his countenance and
actions, formed a marked exception to those who composed the latter
class of spectators, being neither idle, nor seemingly very ignorant.

The person of this individual was to the last degree ungainly, without
being in any particular manner deformed. He had all the bones and joints
of other men, without any of their proportions. Erect, his stature
surpassed that of his fellows; though seated, he appeared reduced within
the ordinary limits of the race. The same contrariety in his members
seemed to exist throughout the whole man. His head was large; his
shoulders narrow; his arms long and dangling; while his hands were
small, if not delicate. His legs and thighs were thin, nearly to
emaciation, but of extraordinary length; and his knees would have
been considered tremendous, had they not been outdone by the broader
foundations on which this false superstructure of blended human orders
was so profanely reared. The ill-assorted and injudicious attire of the
individual only served to render his awkwardness more conspicuous. A
sky-blue coat, with short and broad skirts and low cape, exposed a long,
thin neck, and longer and thinner legs, to the worst animadversions
of the evil-disposed. His nether garment was a yellow nankeen, closely
fitted to the shape, and tied at his bunches of knees by large knots of
white ribbon, a good deal sullied by use. Clouded cotton stockings, and
shoes, on one of the latter of which was a plated spur, completed the
costume of the lower extremity of this figure, no curve or angle of
which was concealed, but, on the other hand, studiously exhibited,
through the vanity or simplicity of its owner.

From beneath the flap of an enormous pocket of a soiled vest of embossed
silk, heavily ornamented with tarnished silver lace, projected an
instrument, which, from being seen in such martial company, might have
been easily mistaken for some mischievous and unknown implement of war.
Small as it was, this uncommon engine had excited the curiosity of most
of the Europeans in the camp, though several of the provincials
were seen to handle it, not only without fear, but with the utmost
familiarity. A large, civil cocked hat, like those worn by clergymen
within the last thirty years, surmounted the whole, furnishing dignity
to a good-natured and somewhat vacant countenance, that apparently
needed such artificial aid, to support the gravity of some high and
extraordinary trust.

While the common herd stood aloof, in deference to the quarters of Webb,
the figure we have described stalked into the center of the domestics,
freely expressing his censures or commendations on the merits of the
horses, as by chance they displeased or satisfied his judgment.

"This beast, I rather conclude, friend, is not of home raising, but is
from foreign lands, or perhaps from the little island itself over the
blue water?" he said, in a voice as remarkable for the softness and
sweetness of its tones, as was his person for its rare proportions; "I
may speak of these things, and be no braggart; for I have been down at
both havens; that which is situate at the mouth of Thames, and is named
after the capital of Old England, and that which is called 'Haven', with
the addition of the word 'New'; and have seen the scows and brigantines
collecting their droves, like the gathering to the ark, being outward
bound to the Island of Jamaica, for the purpose of barter and traffic
in four-footed animals; but never before have I beheld a beast which
verified the true scripture war-horse like this: 'He paweth in the
valley, and rejoiceth in his strength; he goeth on to meet the armed
men. He saith among the trumpets, Ha, ha; and he smelleth the battle
afar off, the thunder of the captains, and the shouting' It would seem
that the stock of the horse of Israel had descended to our own time;
would it not, friend?"