Chapter 18 Summary
The massacre is over. The stench of death is in the August air. Five men appear together walking out of the forest into the field, disbelieving the horrors they are witnessing as they search the grounds now covered with dead bodies. They comment that in all their experience in fighting, they have never seen such carnage.
These men are looking for two women, Cora and Alice. The men are Munro, Heyward, Hawkeye, Uncas, and Chingachgook. There is no explanation as to where Hawkeye and his two Indian friends have been. Neither is there any description of how Munro and Heyward survived the massacre.
Uncas is the first to find a sign of the two young women. A piece of Cora's green veil lies in the dust. The men become gleeful at the sight of this material fragment. If the women's bodies are not in the field, perhaps they escaped through the woods.
This thought both pleases them and makes them worry. Two women in the woods would have not much chance of surviving. They follow a trail to the forest and find signs of horses' hooves. They also find another piece of Cora's veil. In addition, the Indians are able to detect the particular footprint of Magua.
A little farther up the trail, they find the pitchpipe that belongs to David Gamut. Again they have mixed emotions. They are glad that Munro's daughter and their friends are alive but realize that Magua must have kidnapped Cora. They also are saddened by the fact that they have seen no sign of Alice.
Readers are aware that Alice had fainted and had to be carried to the horses that Magua had left in the forest, so her footprints would not have marked the trail. However, these men are not aware of this and fear that the lack of footprints might mean that Alice is dead.
The men are all anxious to follow the trail of horse prints, but Hawkeye warns them that traveling into the night could be deadly. They all need sleep and nourishment. They also need daylight to help them keep on Magua's tail.
Hawkeye assumes that Magua would head for Canada, as he and his Indian band have been working for the French armies stationed there. Hawkeye suggests that they go back to the now-deserted Fort William Henry, eat a hardy meal, and wait for the sun to rise. He also makes the point that they are not certain about Alice's whereabouts. She possibly could be with Cora and Magua, but she also might have been captured by another band of Indians.
Before they head for Canada, they must look for signs of Alice. If they find that she has gone in a different direction, they might have to split into two groups to follow the two differing trails.