The band soon begins a long walk between Lake Champlain and the “head waters of the Hudson,” a distance rarely traversed by white settlers—English or French—and not very well known even by natives. Uncas, Chingachgook, and Hawkeye hunt for traces of Magua and the two young women, but finding very little, they begin to despair that perhaps Magua has left no trail at all, or that they will never be able to find Munro’s daughters. Soon, however, Uncas finds a small print he believes to belong to Cora, and Hawkeye and Chingachgook celebrate Uncas’s perceptiveness, which Hawkeye believes is a “credit to his people.”
Even in a region known for its forbidding terrain, the sub-region between Lake Champlain and the Hudson is an especially unexplored country. Hawkeye, Uncas, and Chingachgook feel they are capable of traversing this region, but it is remarkable that Cora and Alice, along with Magua and followed by David, were able to walk through this land for nearly forty miles without significant rest of sustenance. Fenimore Cooper and the narrator seem equally impressed by Cora’s and Alice’s perseverance.
As they continue on this almost imperceptible trail, which begins to show signs of the horses Magua is using, Uncas stops by a creek and finds the faintest imprint of a moccasin, about the size of David’s feet—Uncas, Chingachgook, and Hawkeye conclude that David has been forced into native shoes and has been made to walk, and that Magua and the two young women are following in his tracks, so as not to leave a trail of their own. At this point, the band, still continuing on this faint trail, has been walking in the woods for nearly forty miles.
Another instance of Magua’s cunning. Here, he makes it seem that Alice and Cora are not each walking together; Magua knows that Uncas’s skill in tracking animals and human prints is so well-developed, he would be able to spot even the smallest trace of Cora or Alice’s footprint, or a hoof-print of a horse they happened to be riding.
Suddenly, Uncas, Chingachgook, and Hawkeye realize that David, perhaps, became tired in his walking—Magua’s and the two young women’s footprint are now visible, too, and it appears that Magua’s group has made no further effort to “conceal their trail,” meaning that Hawkeye and the rescue band can follow the remainder of their path through the woods with relative ease. At last, they come upon a clearing of low earthen mounds, the likes of which Heyward has never seen. Hawkeye dispatches Uncas and Chingachgook into the surrounding wilderness to seek out Magua or other Hurons, in case they might be planning another attack. Heyward stands stock-still, staring at the earthen mounds, and notices animals among them and a man he doesn't recognize, who is standing nearby.
David, throughout the novel, seems always to turn up when characters least expect him. Here, he has found himself among a community of beavers, whom he is (comically) attempting to convert to Christianity, through the power of his hymns. Hawkeye recognizes him immediately, and Heyward, always more cautious, takes a few moments to understand that it is their old friend standing among these wild animals. Interestingly, Magua will later spend a small amount of time communicating with this same group of beavers.
Hawkeye begins to laugh and approach this man, and though Heyward is confused as to why Hawkeye is not afraid of him, soon Heyward realizes that the strange man is David, that the four-legged beings are beavers by a small lake, and that their earthen “houses” are the dens beavers build by bodies of water. Heyward begins to laugh as well, and Hawkeye greets David heartily, preparing to learn news of what has become of the rest of Magua’s group.
The beavers’ dams are apparently somewhat similar to the Huron settlements; the Hurons themselves consider that their mythical-animal ancestor is, of all animals, the beaver, thus perhaps explaining the connection between the appearance of the two communities.