Epigraph from Burns, "The Cotter's Saturday Night."
For a moment, Heyward and the women are concerned by Hawkeye's abrupt departure and grow a little suspicious. The awkward stranger is supremely unconcerned.
After a moment, Heyward and Uncas come into view at the end of the cavern.
For the first time, Heyward and the women have a chance to really check out their escorts. Alice gazes at the Indian's "free air and proud carriage, as she would have looked upon some precious relic of the Grecian chisel." In other words, she likes what she sees. So does Heyward. And so does Cora, who even goes so far as to ask: "who that looks at this creature, remembers the shade of his skin?"
Cora's direct reference to racism casts an awkward silence over the group.
Hawkeye tells the group to enter the cavern and extinguish all the lights, which may lead the Mingoes (who right now are Public Enemy #1) straight to them.
Hawkeye points out that they are comfortably provisioned in the cave. Honestly, with a beautiful waterfall right outside their door, their location could be turned into a five-star resort in about a century's time.
Heyward is anxious about their safety if an armed man were to barge into the cave. Chingachgook demonstrates that the cavern has another tunnel through which one might escape.
Hawkeye shows them around their hideout, explaining that they are situated on an island in the middle of a powerful and ever-changing river. (This site actually exists. You can check it out here. Scroll down to "Cooper's Cave.)
Hawkeye finishes preparing dinner and Uncas waits on the ladies. Hawkeye is amused by Uncas's willingness to follow the white man's custom in this respect.
The narrator points out that although Uncas serves both ladies quite well, he favors Cora. Clearly, we have a budding romance in the novel.
Uncas occasionally uses English, and although he is not fluent, he is easy to understand. Both ladies are charmed.
Meanwhile, Chingachgook sits motionless in the corner. The other members of the party study him in the circle of light and conclude that he is one fierce warrior. Occasionally Chingachgook will listen to some far-off sound for a moment and scare everyone into thinking the Indians are attacking, but other than that the night passes in a pleasant fashion.
Hawkeye strikes up a conversation with the stranger, whose name we finally learn: David Gamut. Hawkeye asks David what he does for a living and is astonished to learn that David cannot shoot a weapon, navigate through the wilderness, or go on long journeys without getting tired. Hawkeye then suggests that David sing a little before they all turn in.
The women join David in song, and before long, Hawkeye is crying. The singers are quite good.
Directly after the song, they hear a cry that "seemed neither human nor earthly." Everyone pauses and gets scared.
Eventually, the three guides speak together in the Delaware language and Uncas goes to investigate.
He returns shortly thereafter to report their hiding place secure. Hawkeye suggests that Heyward and the ladies go to bed for the night. Heyward escorts them to their makeshift bedroom, but Alice asks him not to leave them alone. (Could we have yet another budding romance in this cave?)
Heyward replies that he needs to see to her safety first.
Cora is anxious for her father, who is probably worried sick by now.
Heyward points out that her father is an old soldier who is well accustomed to the dangers of the woods.
Alice starts crying, saying she and Cora have been selfish in trying to visit him in the midst of such danger.
Heyward reassures the women by speaking of his time with their father.
The same scary cry rises from the wilderness, putting a stop to conversation.