Study Guide

Last of the Mohicans Chapter 23

By James Fenimore Cooper

Chapter 23

  • Epigraph from Walter Scott's The Lady of the Lake on how to capture or kill a fox.
  • The two men have come into the center of children's play time. The kids call out and a dozen warriors emerge.
  • The two head into the "principal edifice of the village." Basically the White House of this Indian village.
  • Heyward is nervous. The chief of the group comes forward to question him.
  • Heyward pretends to be a French doctor sent from the French army to tend to the tribe. They accept the story.
  • A warrior has stood up and is about to speak when a terrible noise comes from the forest.
  • Everyone in the tribe runs outside, overjoyed.
  • Turns out they have heard the "death-hallo," signifying enemy deaths. A line of warriors emerges carrying human scalps on a pole. Yeesh.
  • Two captives have been selected for what is apparently group execution. Double yeesh.
  • One of the victims is extremely agile and manages to run and reach a safe spot. This is a post where apparently the Hurons will not touch him.
  • This doesn't stop everyone from mocking him, however, so some Indians wander over and start heckling him. One woman in particular is very into it; she yells at the victim for being a worthless Delaware.
  • A kid runs up to the captive with a tomahawk. The man looks down on the kid with contempt. In that moment Heyward recognizes Uncas.
  • It takes a few moments for the Indians to arrange themselves according to rank.
  • Heyward glances over at the other original captive, a silent Huron warrior who has not been participating in any of the tribal rites.
  • The chief compliments Uncas, then tells him two of his men are pursuing Hawkeye.
  • Uncas scornfully tells him the two men are probably dead, given Hawkeye's skillz with the rifle.
  • Uncas points over to the Huron warrior, saying "He followed in the steps of a flying coward, and fell into a snare. The cunning beaver may be caught!"
  • Them's fighting words.
  • The whole tribe gathers closely to watch what's going on. The young man writhes in agony. The woman who mocked Uncas earlier also mocks this young warrior.
  • The chief chastises the warrior, calling him "reed-that-bends," and saying that his name will never again be mentioned and that he is a cowardly warrior.
  • The culprit raises his eyes to the chief, then bares his chest.
  • The chief sinks a knife into the young man's heart. The corpse falls at Uncas's feet.
  • The spectators leave the building "like troubled sprites" illuminated by torchlight.
  • Heyward is left with the eerie feeling that only he and the corpse are the only people left in the lodge.