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instance, as a “female" and making her to be such as Cooper himself describes the heroine of Mercedes of Castile to be when
“Her very nature is made up of religion and female decorum.” Scott himself could also draw such inane figures, yet in Jeanie Deans he makes an average Scotch woman heroic, and in Meg Merrilies and Madge Wildfire he paints. the extreme of daring self-will. There is scarcely a novel of Scott's where some woman has not shown qualities which approach the heroic; while Cooper scarcely produced one where a woman rises even to the level of an interesting commonplaceness. She may be threatened, , endangered, tormented, besieged in forts, captured by Indians, but the same monotony prevails. So far as the real interests of Cooper's story goes it might usually be destitute of a single “female,” that sex appearing chiefly as a bundle of dry goods to be transported, or as a fainting appendage to the skirmish.
His long introductions he shared with the other novelists of the day, or at least with Scott, for both Miss Austen and Miss Edgeworth are more modern in this respect and strike more promptly into the tale. His loose-jointed plots are also shared with Scott, but he knows as surely as Scott how to hold the reader's attention when once grasped. Like Scott's, too, is his fearlessness in giving details, instead of the vague generalizations which were then in fashion, and to which his academical critics would have confined him. He is indeed already vindicated in some respects by the advance of the art he practised ; where he led the way, the best literary practice has followed. The Edinburgh Review exhausted its heavy artillery upon him for his accurate descriptions of costume and localities, and declared that they were “an epilepsy of the fancy” and that a vague general account would have been far better. • Why describe the dress and appearance of an Indian chief, down to his tobacco-stopper and button-holes?” We now see that it is this very habit which has made Cooper's Indian a permanent figure in literature, while the Indians of his predecessor, Charles Brockden Brown, were merely dusky spectres. “Poetry or romance,” continued the Edinburgh Review, “ does not descend into the particulars," this being the same fallacy satirized by Ruskin, whose imaginary painter produced a quadruped which was a generalization between a pony and a pig. Balzac, who risked
the details of buttons and tobacco pipes as fearlessly as Cooper, said of The Pathfinder, “ Never did the art of writing tread closer upon the art of the pencil. This is the school of study for literary landscape painters." He says elsewhere: “If Cooper had succeeded in the painting of character to the same extent that he did in the painting of the phenomena of nature, he would have uttered the last word of our art.” Upon such praise as this the reputation of James Fenimore Cooper may well rest.
THOMAS WENTWORTH HIGGINSON
HAWKEYE AND HIS FRIENDS
Before these fields were shorn and tilled,
Full to the brim our rivers flowed ;
The fresh and boundless wood;
LEAVING the unsuspecting Heyward and his confiding companions to penetrate still deeper into a forest that contained such treacherous inmates, we must use an author's privilege, and shift the scene a few miles to the westward of the place where we have last seen them.
On that day, two men were lingering on the banks of a small but rapid stream, within an hour's journey of the encampment of Webb, like those who awaited the appearance of an absent person, or the approach of some expected event. The vast canopy of woods spread itself to the margin of the river, overhanging the water and shadowing its dark current with a deeper hue. The rays of the sun were beginning to grow less fierce, and the intense heat of the day was lessened, as the cooler vapors of the springs and fountains rose above their leafy beds, and rested in the atmosphere. Still, that breathing silence, which marks the drowsy sultriness of an American landscape in July, pervaded the secluded spot, interrupted only by the low voices of the men, the occasional and lazy tap of a woodpecker, the discordant cry of some gaudy jay, or a swelling on the air from the dull roar of a distant waterfall.
These feeble and broken sounds were, however, too familiar to the foresters to draw their attention from the more interesting matter of their dialogue. While one of these loiterers showed the red skin and wild accoutrements of a native of the woods, the other exhibited, through the mask of his rude and nearly savage equipments, the brighter, though sunburnt and long-faded complexion of one who might claim descent from a European parentage. The former was seated on the end of a mossy log, in a posture that permitted him to heighten the effect of his earnest
language by the calm but expressive gestures of an Indian engaged in debate. His body, which was nearly naked, presented a terrific emblem of death, drawn in intermingled colors of white and black. His closely shaved head, on which no other hair than the well-known and chivalrous scalping-tuft' was preserved, was without ornament of any kind, with the exception of a solitary eagle's plume that crossed his crown and depended over the left shoulder. A tomahawk and scalping-knife, of English manufacture, were in the girdle; while a short military rifle, of that sort with which the policy of the whites armed their savage allies, lay carelessly across his bare and sinewy knee. The expanded chest, fullformed limbs, and grave countenance of this warrior would denote that he had reached the vigor of his days, though no symptoms of decay appeared to have yet weakened his manhood.
The frame of the white man, judging by such parts as were not concealed by his clothes, was like that of one who had known hardships and exertion from his earliest youth. His person, though muscular, was rather attenuated than full ; but every nerve and muscle appeared strung and indurated by unremitted exposure and toil. He wore a hunting-shirt of forest green, fringed with faded yellow, and a summer cap of skins which had been shorn of their fur. He also bore a knife in a girdle of wampum, like that which confined the scanty garments of the Indian, but no tomahawk. His moccasins were ornamented after the gay fashion of the natives, while the only part of his under-dress which appeared below the hunting-frock was a pair of buckskin leggins that laced at the sides, and which were gartered above the knees with the sinews of a deer. A pouch and horn completed his per
1 The North American warrior caused the hair to be plucked from his whole body; a small tuft, only, was left on the crown of his head in order that his enemy might avail himself of it, in wrenching off the scalp in the event of his fall. The scalp was the only admissible trophy of victory. Thus, it was deemed more important to obtain the scalp than to kill the man. Some tribes lay great stress on the honor of striking a dead body. These practices have nearly disappeared among the Indians of the Atlantic States.
2 The hunting-shirt is a picturesque smock frock, being shorter, and ornamented with fringes and tassels. The colors are intended to imitate the hues of the wood with a view to concealment. Many corps of American riflemen have been thus attired; and the dress is one of the most striking of modern times. The huntingshirt is frequently white.
sonal accoutrements, though a rifle of great length, which the theory of the more ingenious whites had taught them was the most dangerous of all fire-arms, leaned against a neighboring sapling. The eye of the hunter, or scout, whichever he might be, was small, quick, keen, and restless, roving while he spoke, on every side of him, as if in quest of game, or distrusting the sudden approach of some lurking enemy. Notwithstanding these symptoms of habitual suspicion, his countenance was not only without guile, but at the moment at which he is introduced, it was charged with an expression of sturdy honesty.
“Even your traditions make the case in my favor, Chingachgook," he said, speaking in the tongue which was known to all the natives who formerly inhabited the country between the Hudson and the Potomac, and of which we shall give a free translation for the benefit of the reader; endeavoring, at the same time, to preserve some of the peculiarities, both of the individual and of the language. “Your fathers came from the setting sun, crossed the big river, fought the people of the country, and took the land; and mine came from the red sky of the morning, over the salt lake, and did their work much after the fashion that had been set them by yours; then let God judge the matter between us, and friends spare their words !”
“ My fathers fought with the naked redmen !” returned the Indian, sternly, in the same language. “Is there no difference, Hawkeye, between the stone-headed arrow of the warrior, and the leaden bullet with which you kill?”
“There is reason in an Indian, though nature has made him with a red skin!” said the white man, shaking his head like one on whom such an appeal to his justice was not thrown away. moment he appeared to be conscious of having the worst of the argument; then, rallying again, he answered the objection of his antagonist in the best manner his limited information would allow : “I am no scholar, and I care not who knows it; but judging from
1 The rifle of the army is short; that of the hunter is always long.
2 The Mississippi. The scout alludes to a tradition which is very popular among the tribes of the Atlantic States. Evidence of their Asiatic origin is deduced from the circumstances, though great uncertainty hangs over the whole history of the Indians.