Magua escapes from Heyward and Hawkeye, but Hawkeye finds blood on a sumac leaf and realizes that his rifle shot has wounded the fleeing Indian. Heyward wants to chase Magua, but Hawkeye resists, upset that he has fired his rifle and perhaps incited the unseen enemy. Moreover, the others are anxious to reach a safe place as night approaches. Uncas suggests that they retreat to the Mohicans’ secret hideout in the forest. Once Heyward promises not to reveal this location to his English troops, they proceed there. The noise their horses make poses a danger in the forest. When Gamut’s colt makes too much noise, the Mohicans kill it and dispose of the body in the river. Gamut shows great remorse at this violence, and Hawkeye respects his sorrow. They hide the remaining horses and travel upstream toward a waterfall, pushing the young women in a canoe. When they reach the falls, Hawkeye reflects that the horses seemed nervous, as though they could smell wolves in the night. This suggests that Indians might be near, since wolves appear to feed on deer killed by Indians. Gamut sings a sad song in memory of his colt, and the two Mohicans and Hawkeye vanish, as though disappearing into a rock.
Those left behind soon see that the Mohicans have entered their secret hideout, a cavern in the falls concealed by a blanket. Hawkeye lights a pine bough, and the light reveals the hideout to be an island of rock amid the streaming falls. The group eats a meal of venison. Uncas serves the two Munro sisters, showing more interest in Cora than in Alice. Hawkeye continues to worry about Gamut’s mourning and produces a keg to cheer him. The group again inquires about Gamut’s curious profession. Gamut and the women sing a religious song that affects Hawkeye powerfully. He nostalgically recalls his childhood in populated settlements. Amid this sentiment and calm reflection, a strange cry pierces the night. Uncas slips outside to investigate, but he sees nothing that could have produced the haunting sound. Heyward, Cora, and Alice withdraw into an inner cave for protection during sleep. Suddenly, the strange sound recurs. For the first time, Cora laments the decision to join her father at his fort. Hawkeye comes back from investigating the noise, and the others can see mystification on his face.
The Last of the Mohicans was one of the first novels to portray both the romance and the adventure of frontier life. These novels, eventually called frontier romances, became very popular in the nineteenth century. The Last of the Mohicans can be classified as a sentimental novel because it explores the themes of doomed love and tragic death. It is also a novel of adventure, for it portrays the exploits of frontier life. The French and Indian War frames a plot in which warfare and romance struggle for narrative attention. Sometimes the two plotlines converge, as they do when Cora and Uncas’s romance begins to bud in the context of war and danger.
As early as the first chapter, Cooper foreshadows Cora’s sympathy with the Indians by writing of her interest in Magua and her raven-black hair. Now Cora begins to feel attracted to Uncas. The secret cavern, an island of safety amid the perils of the forest, symbolizes the secret interracial attraction the couple feels for one another. Like the cavern, their attraction provides a comforting haven for Cora and Uncas. The physical dangers of the forest symbolize the larger cultural forces that prohibit love between an Indian man and a white woman. Just as the cavern would become dangerous if the outside world were to discover it, any relationship between Cora and Uncas would shock the world at large if it were discovered.
The secret cavern also suggests the collaboration that is possible between whites and Indians. Chapter VI makes it clear that the Mohicans rule the forest. Only they can navigate it safely. Only they know of secret hiding places that will save the lives of both Indians and white men. The white Hawkeye is able to help them, despite the fact that their knowledge of the land outweighs his; Hawkeye holds the lit branch that leads the way to safety. This fire symbolizes the collaborative friendship between the Mohicans and the white man. Hawkeye’s fire has no value without the knowledge of the Mohicans. Hawkeye’s fire lights the way to the hideout. Although Cooper points to the possibilities of interracial friendship, he also suggests that society will not embrace all interracial relationships. The acceptable friendship of Hawkeye and Chingachgook contrasts with the objectionable relationship that seems natural to Cora and Uncas.
Hawkeye and Gamut clash humorously. Hawkeye respects Gamut’s grief over his dead colt. However, Hawkeye’s pragmatism prevents him from abiding Gamut’s religious singing. Rules of hunting make singing impractical. Hawkeye continually teases the psalmodist and encourages him to find a more practical weapon than his pitch pipe.
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