The next morning, Hawkeye wakes up Munro and Heyward, and the five of them move, on rocks and twigs (so as not to leave tracks in the mud), toward the river lying near Fort William Henry. There, Hawkeye has the five men of the band slide into a Mohican canoe, which Uncas and Chingachgook then paddle up the river and into the “open” waters of Lake George. Hawkeye believes that this “watery trail” will be much harder to follow, if the Hurons are tracking the band.
Another instance of travel-by-water, although in this case the band paddles on the open waters of Lake George, where they cannot be shielded by the high river banks apparent in the forests through which they have recently travelled. The strength of Hawkeye, Uncas, and Chingachgook is particularly remarkable, since the three have slept very little and fought a great deal in recent days.
Uncas, Chingachgook, and Hawkeye begin paddling the canoe, with Heyward and Munro sitting towards its rear. As the band gets out farther into the center of Lake George, a group of Hurons appear, in several canoes, and begin firing on the band. Uncas and Chingachgook dodge the enemies’ bullets, and Hawkeye attempts to draw his rifle on the group, but Uncas and Chingachgook paddle so quickly, and with such “dexterity,” that the band’s canoe is soon out of reach of the Hurons’ guns. Although Hawkeye wants to wait for the Hurons to approach again, so he can attempt to kill one or two, Munro begs that the band keep going, in search of Alice and Cora. Hawkeye grudgingly agrees to do so.
Hawkeye, here, shows that although he is keenly interested in protecting Cora and Alice from Magua, he is also concerned with killing as many Hurons as possible. Hawkeye, like Uncas and Chingachgook, believes that the Mingos are the mortal enemies of the Delaware, and he therefore hates to waste any opportunity he has to kill several, to lessen their numbers, to weaken their village. But Heyward reminds Hawkeye that his primary duty, in this case, is to Alice and Cora.
Hawkeye, Uncas, and Chingachgook take up paddling again, and continue for hours until they reach an alcove, where they beach the canoe and walk for a time in the woods. Hawkeye, desiring to create a diversion for the Hurons following him, then has the band walk back in their own footprints toward the alcove where the canoe is hidden—they continue paddling up along the shore of the lake, and get out at a different location, preparing once again to search for Magua, Cora, and Alice in the woods, and hoping any following Hurons will be tricked by their earlier, apparent journey into the wilderness, some miles to the south.
Hawkeye, Uncas, and Chingachgook, though not as manipulative as Magua, are no less skillful in using the shadows and hiding-places of the woods to their advantage. Here, they hope to hide all trace of their northward travel, and so they stow their canoe and make it seem as though their up-lake journey, toward the Huron village, did not happen at all. They will not return to this spot, or to this canoe, for the remainder of the novel.