Summary and Analysis
Heyward and the girls are uneasy and Gamut is still struggling in spirit when a light flashes upon them and they see that the others have entered a cavern hidden by a blanket. Hawkeye is holding a blazing knot of pine which silhouettes Uncas, the first clear sight of whose carriage and almost Grecian features relieves the lingering doubts of those from Fort Edward. When the latter also enter the cavern, they learn that at the other entrance is a narrow, open chasm running at right angles and that just beyond it is another cave. They are essentially on an island of rock with the falls and turbulent water on both sides.
As they take their meal of venison, Uncas makes an innovation on his Indian customs by attending the females, betraying a bit more interest in Cora than in Alice. In spite of his continuous vigilance, Hawkeye draws out a keg and invites Gamut to "try a little spruce." After they discuss Gamut's name and profession, the psalmodist and the girls render a sacred number that is safely muffled by the noise of the falls. The memory of his boyhood in the settlements brings tears to the scout's eyes just as the song is interrupted by a sudden, unearthly cry. In the ensuing stillness, Uncas cautiously steps outside but can see nothing to identify the unknown sound.
Heyward takes the girls into the inner cave for sleep and inspects the far entrance to find directly beneath his feet an impenetrable barrier of roiling water. Though yet stoical, Cora seems for the first time to feel it rash to be trying to visit their father during this crisis. Heyward is reassuring the girls about Munro's feelings for them when the horrid cry fills the air again. Within a moment, the blanket-entrance is raised and the scout stands there, his face reflecting everyone's fearful sense of mystery and his own growing dismay.
This chapter shows Cooper in his most inventive, dramatic, and descriptive form. His sympathy and admiration for the good Indians ring through his own delineations and the appreciative words of Heyward, Alice, and Cora. By putting the poetic description of the island and falls into the mouth of Hawkeye, he reveals his deep respect for and clear knowledge of nature and at the same time deepens the characterization of the scout, whose sense of justice, relativity, and "place" is again highlighted when he admits that Gamut's "strange calling" is his "gift" and must not be denied. Completing and technically sustaining these developments are the plot elements of suspense and exploration of locale. Preparation for future thematic plot complications is smooth and unobtrusive in Uncas' brief attention to Cora.