Summary and Analysis
In another part of the forest by the river a few miles to the west, Hawkeye and Chingachgook appear to be waiting for someone as they talk with low voices. It is now afternoon. The Indian and the scout are attired according to their forest habits: Chingachgook with his semi-nude, war-painted body and scalping tuft of hair, his tomahawk, scalping knife, and short rifle; Hawkeye with his hunting shirt, skin cap, buckskin leggings, knife, pouch and horn, and long rifle. They discuss their respective forefathers, and Chingachgook relates the slow demise of his tribe of Mohicans so that only he and his son Uncas now remain. At the mention of his name, Uncas, a youthful warrior dressed much like Hawkeye, appears and says that he has been on the trail of the Maquas, another name for the Mengwe or Iroquois, their natural enemies. The antlers of a deer are seen in the distance, and Hawkeye is about to shoot the animal for food when the warrior warns him that a shot will warn the enemy. Just as Uncas kills it with an arrow, they hear the sounds of feet which Chingachgook recognizes as the horses of white men.
This chapter introduces the other three main actors in the story. Through the talk of the scout and the senior Indian, the rightness of racial "gifts" is established. Their discussion of differences between currents and tides, between the large salt ocean and the smaller fresh lakes, reflects the novel's central motif of relativity as Hawkeye concludes that "'everything depends on what scale you look at things." Hawkeye's precipitant movement to shoot the deer at first makes his awareness of the forest dangers questionable, but the need for action is natural to this kind of man after idleness, and the incident shows his pride in handling his rifle. Such an incident makes this ideal frontiersman also human. By the end of this chapter, all the principal characters are introduced, with each one's general qualities established. They are about to be brought together to participate in the first long chase sequence.