Hawkeye believes the group has heard cries of warning, and the party hurries out of the cave. As Heyward describes the loveliness of the natural landscape, another shrieking cry pierces the calm. Heyward then realizes that the cry is the sound of a horse screaming in fear, perhaps because wolves have approached it. The howl of a nearby wolf proves Heyward right. The group hears the wolves recede into the forest as if scared off, which makes Hawkeye think that Indian enemies are nearby. Obeying Hawkeye’s confident instructions, the group hides in the deep moon shadows, and all but Hawkeye and the Mohicans soon fall asleep.
Just before dawn, the Iroquois attack with rifles and wound Gamut. Chingachgook returns fire. Heyward takes Cora, Alice, and Gamut to the protection of the outer cave. Hawkeye fights valiantly throughout the day. He believes their only hope is to defend the rock until Munro sends reinforcements. Dawn approaches, and a long, quiet watch begins. Hawkeye and Heyward hide in the thickets to monitor the enemy. Hawkeye detects four Indians swimming dangerously close to the rock. Hawkeye calls to Uncas for assistance, and another battle begins. When an Indian wounds Heyward slightly, firing down from an oak tree, Hawkeye retaliates with his rifle, which he calls Killdeer. However, the shot only wounds the Indian.
Hawkeye’s first impulse is to show no mercy, but he uses his last bullet and gunpowder to kill the Indian and end his suffering. Uncas looks for more ammunition but discovers it has been stolen by the Iroquois. Outnumbered and outgunned, the group feels defeated until Cora suggests a plan. She proposes that the men escape down the river. The Indians will not kill the women, and the men can rescue them later. Chingachgook slips into the river and swims away, followed immediately by Hawkeye, who must leave behind his rifle. Though Uncas does not wish to leave Cora, she urges him to go to her father as her personal messenger, at which point he too slips into the river. Heyward refuses to go, saying that his presence may preserve the safety of the girls.
Heyward, Cora, Alice, and the wounded Gamut huddle together in the deepest part of the cave, awaiting their capture. Outside, Indian voices shout, “La Longue Carabine!” (The Long Rifle), a name Heyward recognizes. He realizes that Hawkeye is the famous hunter and scout called La Longue Carabine, celebrated throughout the English army. The Indians enter the cavern, but they do not see the group hidden behind a blanket. The Indians express outrage at the discovery of their dead allies and frustration that they do not see comparable numbers of dead enemies. The English party begins to think they will escape, when suddenly Magua discovers them. Heyward tries to shoot Magua, but he misses. As a result of this failed assassination, the whites become prisoners, dragged outside by the Hurons.
Though the Hurons at first threaten to kill Heyward, they detain him for questioning. Heyward relies upon Magua for interpretation and finally convinces his captors that Hawkeye and his Mohican allies have escaped. This exasperating knowledge nearly causes the angry Hurons to murder Alice. Before violence occurs, however, the Huron chief calls a tribal council and decides to move the entire party to the south bank of the river. While Magua takes charge of the white prisoners, Heyward tells Magua that he believes Magua sought to deceive the Huron nation for private gain. Though he does not deny Heyward’s allegations, Magua does not admit to them either. Meanwhile, Cora attempts to leave behind a trail of signals, but the Indians discover her attempts and threaten her. Magua silently guides the prisoners to a steep hill, perfect for both defense and attack.
Heyward tries again to convert Magua to their side by asking him to spare the women for the sake of their father, but Magua shows signs of intensifying malice. He quickly demands a private caucus with Cora and reveals that he seeks revenge on Colonel Munro and rejoices in the kidnapping of Munro’s daughters. The traitorous Indian explains that he was once a chief, but his tribe drove him out when he learned to drink firewater. He alleges that Colonel Munro once had him whipped for coming into camp drunk and now wishes to marry Cora in order to revenge himself on Munro. Magua promises he will release Alice if Cora agrees to the marriage. Cora refuses, and Magua exhorts the other Hurons to torture the prisoners. The Hurons ties their captives to stakes. When Magua cuts off some of Alice’s curls with his hatchet, Heyward breaks his bonds and attacks an Indian. The Hurons are about to kill Heyward when suddenly the crack of a rifle pierces the air, and Heyward’s assailant falls to the ground dead.
Cooper is not interested in producing simple oppositions between Indians and whites, or in drawing stereotypes. Although he classifies people by race, he also classifies them by those who respect the land and those who believe they can dominate the land. Hawkeye is a hybrid white figure who has an Indian’s sympathy for nature and a white man’s desire to introduce his own culture. Heyward does not have great knowledge of the forest, but he does have good instincts for it. Although he does not realize that the wolf’s retreating cries signify the presence of Indians, he does correctly guess that wolves have caused the screams of the horses. Heyward has a knowledge of horses, but his white man’s knowledge is ultimately irrelevant to the survival of the group. Only a figure sensitive to the rhythms of the forest, like Uncas, can keep the group safe.
Cora also defies stereotypes with her cunning and resolve. She is not the stereotypical sentimental figure of a doomed white beloved that often appeared in nineteenth-century novels. Rather, among all the group members, including the men, only Cora refuses to admit defeat. Clever and strategic, she concocts a plan that involves putting herself at risk. She likely realizes that turning herself over to the Indians, according to the rhetoric of the day, means risking rape and death, but she insists on the plan despite its dangers. However, Cooper shows the limits of women’s freedoms. Although Cora constructs the plan, which gives her control, the outlines of the plan force her to relinquish control. By turning herself over to the Iroquois, Cora leaves the control of her original protectors only to put herself under the control of a new set of men.
In his exchanges with both Heyward and Cora, Magua reveals that revenge for an offense, not arbitrary malice, motivates him. Whereas in the opening chapters Cooper presents a positive picture of interracial romance, here he depicts the kind of stereotypically evil interracial romance feared by nineteenth-century American men. While Uncas desires a loving bond with Cora, Magua wants to punish Cora, and through her punish Cora’s father. Magua also seems to understand the racism of the whites; his behavior may be seen as stemming in part from his anger at that racism. He understands that for a man like Munro, the thought of his daughter having sex with an Indian man would be an unthinkable horror. Both Hawkeye and Magua understand both Indians and whites, but while Hawkeye turns his knowledge to mutual advantage, Magua turns his to angry revenge and a provocation of more racial hatred.