Heyward manages to speak quickly with Uncas in the confusion following the execution of the young Huron—Uncas tells Heyward to continue in his disguise as a fool and medicine man, and reminds Heyward that Hawkeye and Chingachgook remain in the surrounding woods as protection, in case Heyward should need it. Heyward walks back into the lodge where the warriors, with whom he had been speaking previously, are reassembled. One warrior there asks Heyward if he can help to rid someone in his family of an evil spirit. Heyward, as “medicine man,” pretends that he can, hoping to be able to go from hut to hut in search of Alice.
This is, in some sense, a stock predicament experienced by characters when in disguise—that character is then tasked, by another character, with a job typically reserved for an actual doctor, or lawyer, or ship’s captain, rather than an imaginary one. Thus, in this novel, Heyward the “medicine man” must treat the very real medical ailment afflicting a suffering woman in the village. Although Heyward sympathizes with the woman’s plight, he is, of course, unable to offer her any substantive cure.
Before Heyward can depart, Magua enters the lodge, having been away conveying Cora to the other, related tribe nearby. The other warriors fall silent when Magua asks for “Reed-that-bends,” wondering where he is. After a span of several anxious minutes, in which Heyward and Uncas stand (unrecognized by Magua) in the shadows of the lodge, an older man, who is revealed to be “Reed-that-bends”’s father, states publically that he is ashamed of his son’s cowardice, and that he believes his son’s execution was justified. The old man, who has done his best to hide his tears in uttering this public declamation against his son, leaves the lodge, and the warriors then turn their attentions to Magua.
A harrowing scene. Here, the father must announce that his son is better off dead—indeed, that he has no son at all. Fenimore Cooper does a subtle job of rendering the father’s grief, mixed with his acknowledgment that the social customs of the Huron village must take precedence over his own suffering and anguish. In general, Fenimore Cooper reserves a special honor for the stoic, impassive, courageous nature he observes in many native tribes, and this is a prime example.
After the old man leaves, Magua turns and recognizes Uncas in the lodge—although he does not recognize Heyward, whose medicine-man clothes are a convincing disguise. Magua immediately demands that the captured Uncas must be killed the next morning, and Magua goes on to relate to the other warriors the events of the novel preceding the massacre at Fort William Henry, including Uncas’s rescue of the two sisters, with the help of Chingachgook and Hawkeye. When another warrior, seething with anger at the Hurons Uncas has killed, tries to throw a tomahawk at Uncas in the lodge, however, Magua intervenes, saying that Uncas will have to suffer through the night, and will be executed in the morning, according to Huron custom.
Again following the custom that major decisions are put off until the next morning, so that the tribe and its elders can have time to think over their options. In this instance, Uncas’s execution, which could have happen in the “trial by ordeal” ring that caused the death of “Reed-that-bends,” has instead been put off by a single day. Despite all this, Magua seems delighted and very much ready to execute Uncas as soon as he is permitted to do so.
Heyward is then led through the village, across the path of a domesticated bear, into a small cavern into which the Hurons place their sick—whom they consider to be infested with strange spirits. There, Heyward discovers that David visits these caverns in order to sing to the “spiritually sick”. The Hurons believe that David is either insane or another form of shaman, or healer, and they therefore allow him safe passage throughout the Huron village. Heyward, seeing the ill woman whom he is to try to heal, begins preparing his “chant,” as the Huron warrior looks on. The domesticated bear has also followed them into the cave, and sits nearby as Heyward begins his charms.
Just as David was speaking with the beavers earlier in the novel, and Magua will do so later on, here, in this section, characters believe that they are interacting either with a real bear, or with a medicine man using the bear costume as part of his spiritual healing. Of course, neither is true in this case; it is merely Hawkeye, taking advantage of his knowledge of tribal tradition in order to sneak into the Huron village and find Alice and Heyward.