The Last of The Mohicans: Novel Summary: Chapter 24-29
Uncas manages to have a brief word with Heyward, telling him that Hawkeye, Munro and Chingachgook are safe. Heyward goes outside and searches briefly for Alice, but finds no trace of her. Then he slips back into the lodge, where an elder warrior tells him that the wife of his son is possessed by an evil spirit. The warrior wants Heyward to frighten it away. Heyward agrees to try, hoping to turn the situation to his own advantage. At that point Magua enters the lodge. He has been gone for two days on a hunt. He recognizes Uncas and the two gaze at each other. Magua issues a cry of ferocious joy, and tells the others that the prisoner is the renowned “Le Cerf Agile” (the bounding elk).This causes general excitement. Magua tells Uncas that he will die. Uncas remains defiant, and Magua, who is known as a great orator, gives an impressive speech, stimulating the Hurons’ desire for revenge. After Magua finishes, a warrior throws a tomahawk at Uncas, but Magua deflects it and it passes harmlessly above Uncas. Uncas is led away. Then the warrior who had appealed for Heyward’s help leads him to a cavern in the nearby mountain. Heyward is nervous because a bear has been following them. He enters the cavern, which has been divided into living quarters, and is taken to the bedside of the afflicted woman. The bear follows. In the cavern, Heyward finds David, who has been trying to heal her through the singing of hymns. When David sees Heyward, he leaves the cavern.
As Heyward begins to improvise some incantations that will give the appearance of healing rites, the bear growls. The Huron warrior decides to leave the cavern, leaving Heyward alone with the woman and the bear. Heyward expects the bear to attack him, but instead, the bear reveals itself to be Hawkeye in disguise. Hawkeye reveals that he borrowed his costume from an Indian medicine-man, whom he knocked on the head and tied up. Hawkeye reveals that Alice is being kept in the village, and tells Heyward where she may be found. Heyward removes the paint from his face, since he does not want to greet Alice in such a guise. He leaves the cavern and is soon united with Alice. Heyward tells her he has her father’s permission to ask for her hand in marriage. They are interrupted by the entrance of Magua, who immediately seals off any escape route for them. Magua makes it clear that they will die at the stake. The bear appears. Magua assumes that the bear is some disguised Indian, and tells it to go play with the women and children. But as he tries to pass, the bear puts him in a bear hug, and this allows Heyward to tie Magua up. They leave him gagged and helpless on his back. Heyward carries Alice, and he and Hawkeye return to the cavern where the sick woman lies. At Hawkeye’s suggestion, Heyward tells the Indians waiting outside that he must take the woman he is carrying—he pretends that it is the sick woman—to the woods in order to find some strengthening herbs. He says she is now free of the evil spirit, which is shut up in a rock. Then the three of them make their way beyond the village. Hawkeye tells Heyward to take Alice to the neighboring Delaware village, where the Indians will be friendly. Hawkeye returns to the Huron lodges to see what he can do to save Uncas.
Still disguised as a bear, Hawkeye finds the hut where David is living. At first, David thinks his visitor is a real bear, until Hawkeye reveals himself. Hawkeye asks David to take him to the lodge where Uncas is held, which is in the middle of the village. On Hawkeye’s instruction, David explains to the warriors on guard outside the lodge that the conjurer (Hawkeye in his disguise) has come to instill fear into Uncas, a fear that they will be able to observe when Uncas goes to his death. The warriors willingly stand aside and allow David and Hawkeye to enter. Uncas soon recognizes Hawkeye, and Hawkeye frees him from his bonds. Uncas puts on the bear skin, while Hawkeye takes from David his blanket, hat, book, spectacles and pitch-pipe. David is to lie down in the lodge impersonating Uncas, while Uncas and Hawkeye make their escape. David willingly agrees to this dangerous mission. Uncas and Hawkeye pass the guards without serious incident—helped by a fierce and natural-sounding growl from Uncas—and get clear of the village. Then they hear a series of shouts which announce that the Hurons have discovered that Incas is missing. They head for the forest, knowing they will be pursued.
When the Hurons discover that Uncas has gone and David lies in his place they are furious, but they spare his life. The whole tribe gathers around the chief’s lodge, waiting for instructions about how to respond. The medicine-man that Hawkeye robbed of his bearskin tells his story, as does the father of the sick woman. A group of warriors goes to the cavern where she lies. She is dead. Then Magua appears, having broken free of his bonds. He soon realizes what has happened, and explains that their enemies have deceived them. Magua then gives a speech that establishes him as the leader of their tribe. Spies are dispatched to the neighboring tribe of the Delawares, where the Hurons suspect the fugitives have fled. Before morning, Magua and twenty warriors set off into the forest. In deference to one of the warriors, who carries a depiction of a beaver on his clothes, Magua stops at an artificial lake that has been created by beavers, and speaks respectfully to the animals. After he finishes his address, the head of a large beaver pokes out from behind the door of a lodge that the warriors had believed to be uninhabited. The warriors take this to be a good sign. The beaver is in fact Chingachgook in disguise.
Magua arrives in the camp of the Delawares. His intention is to recover possession of Cora, and he engages in a wary dialogue with the Delaware chief. He presents the Delawares with gifts, mainly small trinkets he plundered from Fort William Henry. Friendship appears to have been established, but then the cunning Magua insinuates that the Delawares have won a reputation amongst the English for deserting their French allies. This alarms the Delaware chief, since the Delawares live within French territory. Magua tells the Delaware chief that the enemy of the French, Hawkeye, is known to come and go freely in the Delaware camp. He is even there now, but as a prisoner. The Delawares are alarmed by this and call a big tribal conference. Over a thousand Delawares attend. The patriarch of the Delawares, a hundred-year-old man named Tamenund who is venerated by all, presides over the meeting.
Cora, Alice, Heyward and Hawkeye are brought before Tamenund. Tamenund asks which one is “La Longue Carabine.” Heyward fears that Hawkeye will be quickly put to death, so he tries to claim that he himself is “La Longue Carabine.” But Hawkeye steps forward and insists that the name belongs to him. The Delawares do not know whom to believe, so they set up a shooting contest. Each man must shoot at an earthen vessel fifty yards away. Heyward goes first and his bullet lands very near the vessel. But Hawkeye shatters the vessel without even appearing to take aim. Some of the Delawares, as well as Heyward, declare that Hawkeye’s success was due to chance, so another contest is arranged. The marksmen must break the shell of a gourd hanging from a tree a hundred yards away. Heyward shoots and narrowly misses. Hawkeye hits the target, which establishes beyond doubt that he is “La Longue Carabine.” Magua makes another speech that reminds the Delawares of their former greatness, and he then addresses Tamenund, asking for the return of the prisoners. Tamenund grants his wish. But then Cora rushes to Tamenund and pleads with him, saying that they are not enemies of the Delaware, but simply desire to return to their own people in peace. She begs that Tamenund hear from Uncas, who is one of the Delawares. Tamenund asks that Uncas be brought to the assembly.
Although for the most part, the novel is an adventure written in realistic terms, Cooper sometimes departs from that formula and presents fantastic episodes. These are designed not only for comic relief but also to effect plot developments. The best example is the fake bear that appears in Chapters XXIV to XXVI. The bear is of course Hawkeye in disguise, but, amazingly, Heyward is completely fooled by it and thinks it is a real bear. David is also fooled. Even Uncas, the warrior most attuned to the life of the forest, takes a minute or so to recognize the truth.
Cooper gives a clue to his comic intent here in the epigraphs that he places at the beginning of Chapters XXV and XXVI. They are both taken from Shakespeare’s play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In that play, a character in the play-within-the-play, put on by a group of humble rustics, must play a lion. The effect is comic, although the rustics actually believe that the ladies in the audience will be frightened because they will think that the human in disguise is a real lion. Cooper takes this as his cue, and presents an obviously fake bear which is taken for the real thing. Nor does he stop at bears. In Chapter XXVII, there is an even more bizarre example—the beaver that is really Chingachgook. This beaver apparently fools even the Indians who spend their lives getting to know their natural environment intimately. Obviously, this incident cannot be taken at face value. Cooper seems to be enjoying himself, and the effect is to momentarily undermine the seriousness of the situation.
Chapter XXVI is interesting also because it shows the inner growth of David. Because he is grateful to Uncas for his support, David is willing to stay in the Huron village and face great danger by impersonating Uncas. This wins him more respect from Hawkeye, even though Hawkeye finds it hard to understand David’s wish that if he is killed, Hawkeye should not avenge his death but only pray for the eternal salvation of the murderers.