Study Guide

Last of the Mohicans Chapter 20

By James Fenimore Cooper

Chapter 20

  • Epigraph from a Byron poem about savage men.
  • The stars are still out when Hawkeye wakes his companions.
  • He cautions everyone not to make a single noise and to step only on stones.
  • He leads them to the banks of Lake Horican. Once there, he tells them that anyone attempting to follow them will have a difficult time finding a trail to follow.
  • Uncas readies the canoe.
  • Heyward asks Hawkeye why they are taking so many precautions, saying that surely the authority of Colonel Munro will protect them.
  • Hawkeye scoffs at him.
  • Heyward then points out that they will have enemies in front of them and behind them—this is dangerous.
  • Hawkeye scoffs again.
  • The canoe continues down the lake (which Cooper informs us is known as Lake George, and it is very beautiful, even in times of crazy danger).
  • Uncas and his father detect danger in the same instant.
  • Heyward protests that he sees nothing but mist. Heyward needs to shut his trap.
  • Hawkeye tells him there is an edge of blacker smoke that clearly indicates smoke from a campfire.
  • Heyward protests that the piece of land indicated cannot hold very many Indians.
  • Hawkeye scoffs again, saying that Heyward needs to stop judging Indians with a white man's eye.
  • Hawkeye tells them they have two choices: return and give up following the Hurons or else make a push through the mountains.
  • Everyone decides in favor of forging onward.
  • Soon they spot two canoes and a campfire. A rifle goes off—pointed in their direction. Indians come out to the shores and start yelling. Heyward is rattled, but everyone else is kind of "meh."
  • They paddle the canoe faster.
  • Hawkeye notes that the Hurons have no weaponry that can reach them at this distance, but that his rifle has enough range to kill.
  • He puts aside his paddle and takes aim several times. He is about to shoot when Uncas interrupts him, pointing to another war canoe coming up to them.
  • Hawkeye takes up his paddle again.
  • Munro suggests they land and engage the Indians in battle. Hawkeye disagrees, telling Chingachgook to continue paddling alongside the shore.
  • The two canoes are soon "gliding on parallel lines, within two hundred yards of each other." The occupants of both canoes are paddling furiously, too busy to try shooting their weapons.
  • Soon, however, Hawkeye spots a man aiming a rifle.
  • He tells Heyward and Munro to duck down into the bottom of the canoe so as to minimize their target.
  • Heyward refuses, saying that those highest in rank cannot dodge bullets while others are under fire.
  • Hawkeye mocks him for being such a white man. Heyward agrees.
  • A few bullets come their way. Uncas turns around and looks at Munro and Heyward with amazement. Chingachgook is unfazed. A bullet strikes his paddle.
  • The Hurons in the other canoe continue firing, but Hawkeye points out that their aim is terrible and they have a poor understanding of range. In the meantime, their own canoe is gaining ground in the race because all their manpower is concentrated on rowing.
  • Hawkeye hands his paddle over to Heyward, lifts his rifle, and successfully shoots a Huron.
  • Chingachgook and Uncas check each other for injuries.
  • They have gained enough ground from their enemies that they easily escape.
  • They continue up the lake, following a route lined by mountains. The Hurons have evidently given up pursuit.
  • The experienced foresters in the party spot a canoe of Mingoes pursuing them. Hawkeye says they must throw the Mingoes off their trail.
  • After conferring with the Mohicans, Hawkeye creates a fake trail before resuming the journey.
  • They reach a safe haven, conceal the canoe, and ready themselves for the next step of Operation Rescue Mission.