Study Guide

Last of the Mohicans Chapter 17

By James Fenimore Cooper

Chapter 17

  • Epigraph from Gray on weaving. Yup. Weaving.
  • It is the night of August 9, 1757. The victors are pleased; the conquered are dejected.
  • A man emerges from the French encampment wrapped in a massive cloak that disguises his features.
  • He is interrupted briefly by sentinels, but continues heading towards William Henry.
  • Finally, one sentinel requests a password. The mysterious man delivers the correct word, and tells the sentinel it is necessary to be vigilant. He allows the man to see his face. The man is shocked.
  • Our mystery man reaches what appears to be a meeting point. As he waits, he scans the English defenses. He is about to leave when he hears footsteps approaching.
  • It is an Indian.
  • Montcalm opens his cloak.
  • Magua complains that Montcalm is being too nice to the English. The Hurons were expecting scalps.
  • Montcalm tells Magua that they are friends with the English now.
  • Magua asks for Montcalm's hand, and then places it on the scars on his back. He tells the Frenchman that the English inflicted the wound.
  • Without waiting for a response, Magua leaves.
  • Montcalm lingers for a while trying to understand Magua's weird temper.
  • We're going to flag an important quote here for you: "As he mused he became keenly sensible of the deep responsibility they assume who disregard the means to attain the end, and of all the danger of setting in motion an engine which it exceeds human power to control." Basically, although he worked to ally the Native Americans with the French, he's not entirely sure he can control Indian action.
  • Finally he decides to ignore these disturbing thoughts and goes back to his camp.
  • Soon French drums sound out in the morning air and the sun comes up.
  • The French success is officially announced and the fort is handed over.
  • Inside the fort, pandemonium reigns as the warning signal sounds and everyone hurriedly prepares to depart. Women and children are running everywhere.
  • Munro walks among his troops. Heyward runs to him and asks how he can help.
  • Munro replies that his daughters need to be looked after.
  • Heyward runs to find Alice and Cora. They are surrounded by other women. Cora still looks strong, but Alice has clearly been crying.
  • Heyward tells them he needs to find them a protector.
  • Just then, the voice of David Gamut is heard above the commotion.
  • He talks with the man, and secures a promise of seeing to the girls' safety.
  • He bids the girls farewell, telling them he will rejoin them later.
  • The signal for departure is given.
  • Cora and Alice are walking, because there's really no other way to get around.
  • About three thousand English walk across the plain. Along the woods, Indians have congregated.
  • The head of the retreat, led by Heyward, is already slowly disappearing into a mountain pathway when Cora's attention is drawn to a scuffle that reveals the presence of hundreds of Indians. Jeepers. This ain't good.
  • She spots Magua among his countrymen. The women and children gather close to each other for protection.
  • The Indians fall back for a moment, but a "wild and untutored" Huron Indian is struck by a woman's pretty shawl. He steps forward to take it. The woman, terrified, wraps the shawl even tighter around her and her baby.
  • The Indian grabs the child and dangles him upside down. He wants the shawl.
  • The woman tears off everything she can offer, crying for her baby.
  • The Indian throws the baby against a rock and tosses the corpse at its mother's feet. Whaaat. The woman raises her head to God.
  • The Huron throws his tomahawk into her brain, killing her. Whaaat.
  • At that moment Magua releases a giant war-cry. Two thousand Indians emerge from the forest to kill. The troops try to resist, but to no avail. Whaaaaaaaaat.
  • This book just got nuts.
  • The two sisters stand stricken to the spot as murder commences around them.
  • Munro strides towards the French army, and Alice calls out for him. He is trying to claim an escort from Montcalm.
  • Alice collapses.
  • David suggests that they flee, then opens his mouth to sing, believing that a song might be able to halt the bloodshed.
  • It actually works. The Indians who hoped to kill David and the sisters stop in astonishment before the song.
  • Magua finds them and reminds Cora of his marriage proposal.
  • Cora tells him to get lost.
  • He grabs the unconscious Alice and heads into the woods.
  • An outraged Cora follows him, and a loyal David follows Cora.
  • Magua finds the Naragansett horses they had all used earlier and slings Alice across one of them. Cora mounts another and holds out her arms for Alice. Magua places the blond on the same horse as her sister.
  • David mounts another horse.
  • The four of them ascend a hill. When they reach a mountaintop, Magua allows them to dismount and survey the carnage below.
  • Jubilant Indian war-cries are heard clearly.