Chingachgook and Uncas eat around a campfire within the ruined fort, and Munro retires to his quarters to spend the night alone, and to worry about the fate of his daughters. Heyward and Hawkeye mount the fort’s rampart to look over the plains again, where the massacre was conducted. Heyward believes he hears a rustling outside the fort, and asks Hawkeye whether it is wolves or natives poised for another attack. Hawkeye decides to call over Uncas, who has a very powerful sense of hearing, to determine who is stalking around the fort.
Uncas, at this point in the novel, takes on more of a leadership role among the band. Uncas knows the customs of the Delawares and of the Hurons; he is greatly skilled, as evidenced here, in using trail markers, scents, and sounds to stalk his enemy; and his courage in battle is unyielding. Both Chingachgook and Hawkeye are notably proud of the warrior Uncas has become.
Uncas lies close to the ground and, as Heyward watches with Hawkeye, proceeds to sense that a native is in fact walking nearby, perhaps hoping to pick off any remaining Englishmen he sees by the light of Chingachgook’s campfire. Suddenly, a shot rings out in the fort, and Chingachgook is nearly hit; Uncas goes off into the night, and returns quickly with the scalp of an Oneida, a native typically allied with the Mohicans against the Mingos.
Very little is known about the Oneida in the novel, other than the fact that they are normally Delaware allies. The confusion, here, points to a series of difficulties in pinning down exactly which native groups are allied at any particular time. Colonial warfare and other shifting alliances make tracking enemy and friendly native especially difficult in wartime.
When Heyward expresses confusion as to why an Oneida would attack a Mohican, Hawkeye answers that, perhaps, the Oneida believed that the French had taken over the fort, and was looking for revenge. Hawkeye says it is also possible that, since native alliances can be quickly broken and can become overlapping between the French and the English, this particular native in fact desired to kill Englishmen, as repayment for some unknown and previous violence done against his people.
One of the primary modes of native justice is retribution, or the idea that, if one commits a crime, one then has this crime acted upon him (or her). This norm of justice, often called “an eye for an eye,” will be demonstrated later on, when a Huron warrior’s cowardice in battle causes him to be killed by his own people, in his own village.
Heyward withdraws a few paces and watches as Uncas, Chingachgook, and Hawkeye dine around their fire and converse in the Delaware language (also the language of the Mohicans). Although Heyward cannot determine what they are talking about, he assumes it is a discussion on why the Oneida attacked the fort, and on the means by which the band can find Alice and Cora and defeat Magua. Heyward is entranced by the music of the Delaware language and by the civility with which the Mohicans and Hawkeye speak to one another. When Chingachgook announces that it is time for them all to sleep, the natives and Hawkeye do so around the fire, and Heyward decides he will also turn in for the night to prepare for the next day’s journey.
Just as Heyward took in the beautiful surroundings of the upstate New York woods earlier in the novel, here he pauses to marvel for a moment at the native culture and civilization on display before him. Heyward, like Hawkeye, seems to recognize the rich tapestry of life, family, and community that exists in Native American societies. But Heyward, unlike Hawkeye, is less inclined to believe that native societies will survive the continued onslaught of the French and the English in their colonial wars.