On the third day after the surprise attack, Hawkeye, the Mohicans, Munro, and Heyward approach the besieged ramparts, which still smoke with fire and smell of death. Cora and Alice remain missing, and the men desperately seek for signs of life. They find no apparent signals or codes. When they begin looking for a trail, Uncas discovers part of Cora’s green riding veil. Other clues lead the men to the former location of the horses, and they conclude that the girls, accompanied by Magua and Gamut, have gone into the wilderness. Heyward wants to pursue them immediately, but Hawkeye insists upon careful deliberation and planning. Munro, depressed by his daughters’ disappearance, is apathetic.
The group spends the night around a fire in the desolate ruins of the fort. They eat bear meat for dinner. Looking out at the lake, Heyward hears noises. Uncas explain that wolves are prowling nearby. Hawkeye is pondering the meaning of paradise when he hears another sound. Uncas goes to investigate, and the group hears a rifle shot. Chingachgook follows his son, and those left behind hear a splash of water and another rifle shot. Chingachgook and Uncas return calmly. When Heyward asks what happened, Uncas shows him the scalp of an Oneida. After discussing the plan for the next day, the group falls asleep.
Hawkeye convinces the others to head north across a lake. As they travel across the lake in a light canoe, they are spotted and soon tailed by Huron canoes. The group’s superior paddling tactics enable them to outpace their enemies, and Hawkeye manages to wound one pursuer with Killdeer, his long-range rifle. Upon reaching the northern shore, the men move eastward in an attempt to deceive the enemy. Carrying the canoe on their shoulders, they leave an obvious trail through the woods and end up at a large rock. Then they retrace their steps, stepping in their own footprints until they reach the brook and paddle to safety on the western shore. They hide the canoe and rest for the pursuit that will continue the next day.
Uncas finds a trail, and the men follow it, hoping it will lead them to the women. The trail peters out and the party nearly gives up hope, but Uncas manages to divert the course of a small stream, revealing a hidden footprint in the sand bed. According to Hawkeye, the footprint indicates that Magua abandoned the horses upon reaching Huron territory. The men reluctantly enter the enemy territory and travel past a beaver pond, whose dams Heyward mistakes for Indian wigwams. An Indian appears in the forest. Ready for battle, Hawkeye nearly kills the Indian but soon recognizes the stranger as Gamut, painted as an Indian with only a scalping tuft of hair on his head.
As Hawkeye laughs at Gamut’s Indian paint and shaved head, the psalmodist tells the men that Magua recently separated Alice and Cora. Magua has sent Alice to a Huron camp and Cora to a Delaware settlement; he has released Gamut only because the Indians thought he was insane after they heard his religious singing. Gamut and Heyward decide to secretly inform the women that they will soon be rescued. Chingachgook disguises Heyward as a clown, since Heyward’s knowledge of French can help him to pass as a juggler from Ticonderoga. Heyward and Gamut proceed to the camp of the Hurons, while Uncas and Hawkeye travel to find Cora in the Delaware camp. At the Huron camp, Gamut and Heyward see strange forms rising from the grass. When they approach the tents, they realize the strange forms are just children at play.
The village usually has no guards, but the whooping of the children draws the attention of the warriors. Heyward pretends to be a French doctor and attempts to pacify the Hurons, who believe the French forces abandoned them. A group of Hurons returns with a prisoner and several human scalps. The Huron elders force the prisoner to run a race against the tribe’s warriors in order to escape. Though the prisoner runs speedily, the Hurons outnumber him, and he wins only because Heyward trips one of his pursuers. Suddenly, Heyward recognizes the breathless prisoner as Uncas. Meanwhile, in the main lodge, the father of the man who captured Uncas condemns his son for cowardice and stabs him in the heart.