Chapter 5 Summary
Hawkeye is disappointed that Magua has slipped away. When Major Heyward approaches Hawkeye and his Indian friends, he is surprised to find they have given up and are not chasing the unfaithful Indian scout. Hawkeye explains that it would be all but impossible to find Magua in the woods. It would also be a very dangerous undertaking because the forest is full of hostile Indians. The best thing for them to do, Hawkeye says, is find a safe place to spend the night. They must cover their trail, leaving no scents or signs of their journey. They must also be as quiet as they can be. They should not give away their position to anyone who is lingering in the woods, waiting to ambush them.
It begins to dawn on Major Heyward how dangerous their situation is. He realizes that Magua has led him into a trap. He must now rely on Hawkeye, whom he has just met. His charge—protecting the daughters of his commander—is heavy with responsibility. They are all very vulnerable in the woods, especially as the darkness gathers around them. Fully understanding his situation, Heyward begs Hawkeye to save them. He even offers Hawkeye money to take them safely to the fort.
Hawkeye refuses the money. He cannot abandon them, he says; that would be immoral. However, he makes the major promise to follow his directions exactly. By this he means that they must be completely silent. Hawkeye also insists that no one ever tell anyone else about the place to which he is about to take them.
They start out, but Hawkeye realizes the colt must be killed. The young horse is untrained and, therefore, is making too much noise. The killing is observed as a horrendous act for all, though they understand the necessity for it. The animal’s throat is cut and then the young horse is drowned. They all understand the peril of their own situation.
The party then enters the river. The women, Major Heyward, David Gamut, and Hawkeye enter a canoe that was hidden on the riverbank. Once they are seated, Hawkeye steers the boat into the river while Chingachgook and Uncas take the horses and move down the river partially submerged in the water. The river wipes out all scents and footprints of the travelers.
After a harrowing canoe trip through rapids—which the young women, Alice and Cora Munro, think they will never survive—the small boat finally arrives at a quiet spot in the river. Hawkeye deposits the party. He then disappears but quickly returns with Chingachgook and Uncas as well as a deer they have killed for their dinner.