British Captain Taylor Shields' brother William and his wife Elizabeth, have traveled to make a new life but when Taylor fails to secure trading contracts, William holds the family inheritance over his head, pushing Taylor to take him out, and only Hawkeye witnesses the truth.
Captain Taylor enlists two ne'er do wells to help him get rid of his brother. Meanwhile, Elizabeth is rescued by Hawkeye as she attempts to find her husband in the French fort. They blow up the fort, but the French have taken her husband elsewhere.
Elizabeth picks berries in the woods, but is frightened by a bear, running back towards the fort, she runs into the arms of Hawkeye. She has nightmares about it, realizing she should take Hawkeye's advice and learn how to take care of herself. The first step: learn to shoot. She trades services with him. He teaches her to shoot. She teaches him how to read.
Young widow Sarah Pritchard is rescued from a lecherous French trapper by Hawkeye, but the trapper is killed. His Huron Mingo squaw wants revenge and has Hawkeye captured for torture and death. Hawkeye asks for a 24-hour furlough to set his life in order with Sarah and with Chingachgook, his Delaware friend. The Huron chief grants him his furlough, but when Hawkeye returns, things turn out differently than originally planned.
The French are laying siege to the fort. Rumor comes that the French have a 30 - pound cannon the length of 3 men. While peparations are made for surrender, Hawkeye, Elizabeth, and Chingachgook conceive a daring plan to capture and destroy the cannon.
A couple from Virginia with a child seek safety in the fort, only they aren't the baby's parents, but uncle. When the baby is stolen by Hurons, Elizabeth goes to the camp to bring the white child back, even if she has to raise it herself. What she doesn't realize is why the Hurons took the baby in the first place, to raise it in place of the baby they lost. Elizabeth has a hard decision to make.
An old friend of Hawkeye's shows up just after two Delaware Native Americans and are murdered and scalped, and a third gets away, but is seriously wounded. Harry had found Hawkeye at age thirteen and taught him the ways of the woods, but Harry has changed, and not for the better.
On the way to visit his aunt Elizabeth, young Andrew sees two Hurons meeting with a white man, but he doesn't see his face. Adjusting to life at the fort ia difficult for young Andrew, especially since the white man he saw wants him dead. Hawkeye teaches the young man how to fight to defend himself, a skill he'll need when the fort is attacked.