At the top of the clearing, some of the Hurons sit and eat, and Heyward goes to Magua, telling him that perhaps they ought to hurry on to Fort William Henry, if Magua is to receive his “reward” (which exists only in Heyward’s promising) for the return of the young women. Magua, however, snorts at Heyward’s request, saying they will get to the fort eventually; in the meantime, he asks to speak with Cora alone. Heyward brings Cora over to Magua, and goes to sit with Alice, who is more or less in shock and exhausted from the day’s ordeals.
The last of Heyward’s attempts to bribe Magua. This is a motif in the novel: Heyward tries at numerous junctures to convince natives that he, Colonel. Munro, or General Webb will be able to repay the natives in order to free prisoners or gain the natives’ trust. But Magua does not seek financial gain; rather, he hopes to take Cora for his wife, as revenge against Munro and to improve his social standing within his own village.
Magua begins telling Cora the story of his own life: his fellow Hurons were given “fire water” by the French, and many turned to violence and dissipation; Magua, for his part, wandered into the Mohawk camps near Fort Edward, and was eventually taken in as a guide to Munro and his men. Munro had a strict rule against natives drinking alcohol, and when Munro scented liquor on Magua’s breath one day, Munro had Magua beaten for his misbehavior. Magua says that the “stings of this lash” hurt him more than other wounds obtained in battle. Cora, for her part, asks whether she is responsible for her father’s harshness, and wonders aloud if Magua will lead them to safety or do some “evil” to them in the woods.
The story of Magua’s life. Although Fenimore Cooper does little to flesh out this story later on in the text, it appears that Magua has taken Munro’s actions very much to heart. While Munro, for his part, probably did not recognize that he was so thoroughly wounding Magua, though such an assumption can be seen as being rooted in a European sense of superiority to the Native Americans. But Fenimore Cooper here attempts to provide at least some motivation for Magua’s cruelty toward members of the Munro family.
But Magua continues, saying that he wishes to take Cora for his wife, since his previous wife was “given to another chief” when Magua left the Hurons for the Mohawks. Cora expresses immediate disgust, asking how Magua could want to marry a woman who clearly does not love him. Magua says that he knew, when he received lashes on Munro’s command, that he would exact vengeance one day by taking off one of the Munro daughters in marriage. Magua also states that, if Cora will marry him, the rest of the party are free to go. At this, Cora curses Magua, saying that she would never marry him, and would rather die; she then runs to Alice and the rest of the band, who sit clustered together, worried at the warriors’ next move.
The manner of this revenge is marriage. It is implied that perhaps the greatest fear of any white colonial settler is the idea of intermarriage between white women and native men. On the other side, white men did in fact enter into sexual relationships with native women—this was perhaps quite common, well into the early years of the United States—but this commonplace did nothing to eradicate the fear of mixed families with native patriarchs. Here, Fenimore Cooper dramatizes Heyward’s and Munro’s anxiety that Cora might end up the wife of a native man.
Magua turns to the warriors and begins a rousing speech, extolling the warriors’ power, the strength of the Hurons and the Maquas more generally. The warriors become greatly agitated, and appear to rise, brandishing their tomahawks. In a large group they run at the members of the band, but Heyward jumps in front of Alice and Cora, attempting to save them from the Hurons’ violence. But the Hurons bind David, Alice, Cora, and Heyward each to their own trees, and the warriors prepare to sharpen bits of pine to stab and torture the band.
The first of many of Magua’s speeches to his native men. It is not clear whether the warriors of Magua’s tribe can read and write, but they are absolutely receptive to the oral traditions of rhetoric and persuasion that Magua employs in order to convince them of his plans of action. Here, Magua first flatters the warriors, making them seem courageous and powerful, in the face of minimal white opposition.
Magua curses Cora again, saying she believes she is too good for the “wigwam of Le Renard,” but Cora, who has not revealed the nature of Magua’s bargain to the band, says only that Magua is evil and a liar, but Alice and Heyward press her, asking the nature of Magua’s bargain. Cora finally announces to the rest of the band that Magua would let them all go, if Cora would agree to marry him. She asks Alice and Heyward whether she ought to accede to his request or instead choose death for them all. After briefly contemplating this moral quandary, both Alice and Heyward tell Cora that it would be better to die, pure, than to go off in marriage with Magua.
Cora, quite tellingly, is unwilling to risk her honor unless she is absolutely sure that it would help Alice’s and Heyward’s cause—in that case, she is happy to help her sister and her future brother-in-law. But Heyward and Alice won’t hear of this; as above, they are greatly afraid that Cora and the Munro family would “lose its honor” if Cora were to marry Magua, therefore Heyward and Alice are willing to die to prevent this outcome.
Magua, angered by Cora’s final refusal, throws his tomahawk at the band, nearly slicing Alice—the tomahawk instead is lodged in the tree to which she is bound. Heyward, angered at this sight, bursts from the tree to which he is tied, and runs toward another Huron who is brandishing his knife at the party. Heyward falls into a wrestling match with this other Huron, and just when Heyward believes that the Huron has pinned him and is about to kill him, Heyward hears a rifle-crack and sees the Huron fall off him, dead.
A rescue begins. Here, the strategic retreat effected by Hawkeye, Chingachgook, and Uncas has proved useful, as it has caused Magua and the other Hurons to believe that the warriors will not return to defend the band. In native custom, these sorts of strategic retreat are commonplace, but Hawkeye, Uncas, and Chingachgook nevertheless maintain the element of surprise and annihilate nearly all their Huron foes.