Study Guide

Last of the Mohicans Chapter 2

By James Fenimore Cooper

Chapter 2

  • Short epigraph from The Merchant of Venice. Remember what we said about epigraphs? Yeah: they're everywhere.
  • The younger woman turns to the officer and asks if they should plan on being so frequently startled. She addresses him as Heyward.
  • The officer replies that the Indian is considered a hero among his own people and has volunteered to guide them to the lake. Magua is technically a Huron Indian, but he has been exiled from his own people and now leads the Mohawk Indians.
  • The lady expresses her dislike of the Indian, asking the officer whether he knows the Indian. Now she addresses him as Duncan. His name must be Duncan Heyward.
  • The officer calls the lady "Alice" and tells her the Indian is their friend, despite a brief incident involving her father. We also learn that six Indian nations are allied with the British.
  • Alice is increasingly anxious and begs Major Heyward to speak to the Indian so she may hear the man's voice. She believes she can determine character through voice.
  • Heyward tells her that the Indian would probably pretend not to understand English.
  • The Indian stops. They are at the beginning of a narrow secret path.
  • The young man warns them not to appear suspicious, or else they really might endanger themselves.
  • The blond, Alice, asks the brunette (whose name is Cora) for her opinion on the matter. Alice believes it may be safer to travel with the troops.
  • Heyward points out that the troops are traveling by a known path while if they follow the Indian's super-duper secret path, no one will be able to find them.
  • Cora subtly points out that Alice's only hesitation arises from the Indian's race and manners. Alice hesitates no longer but is the first to enter the path.
  • Their servants follow the path taken by the army, leaving the Indian guide, the two women, and the officer on their way through the forest.
  • After traveling for some time, they are inexplicably interrupted by approaching hoof beats.
  • First they see a colt gliding "like a fallow deer," and then the awkward man described in the last chapter. He looks even more awkward now.
  • Heyward (described here as having a "manly brow," yowza) smiles slightly. Alice is obviously amused, while Cora is better able to control her reaction.
  • Heyward demands an explanation.
  • The stranger tells them he heard about their journey to William Henry and hoped to join them.
  • Heyward alternates between anger and laughter at the stranger's oddities. The stranger tells them, by way of explaining his profession, that he has "small insight into the glorious art of petitioning and thanksgiving, as practiced in psalmody." So he's a holy dude, with a mighty impressive vocab.
  • Alice immediately takes him under her own protection, telling Cora that a friend might well prove useful. Along with the mare he rides and her colt, he is allowed to join their company.
  • Heyward hesitates but ultimately accedes.
  • Alice makes friends with the man, asking if they might sing a duet together. The stranger explains that four parts are necessary to make a perfect melody, and it appears they lack counter and bass. Alice explains it's likely Heyward knows only "profane" songs.
  • The stranger knows only sacred songs. He gives a little lecture on psalms, takes out a book, and sings a few lines, beating out the time with his hand.
  • The Indian mutters to Heyward, who cautions the stranger to desist. They want to travel quietly through the forest and remain safe from attack, animal or otherwise.
  • Alice is disappointed. She was enjoying herself.
  • Heyward points out that the safety of Alice and Cora is his first priority. He then smiles to himself when he realizes he had mistaken a berry shining in the woods for the eye of an Indian.
  • C'mon, guy.
  • Unfortunately, it soon appears Heyward was not mistaken. (C'mon guy again—seriously!) Once the group has passed, some of the bushes part to reveal an Indian. He looks pleased as he stalks his intended victims.