Hawkeye, Uncas, and Chingachgook direct Heyward, David, Alice, and Cora into the caverns near the waterfalls, showing them that, once inside, the caverns extend in numerous dark passages, closed off with heavy blankets. There is another exit on the opposite side of the rock, too, in case Hawkeye and his companions should become trapped during a Mingo attack. Hawkeye and the Mohicans are clearly pleased with the security of their stronghold, and Heyward and Alice comment on the “nobility” of the features and behaviors of the Mohicans. Cora, for her part, listens to them speak of the natives’ ties to “nature,” and wonders aloud whether the color of Uncas’ and Chingachgook’s skin matters at all. Alice and Heyward fall silent at this rebuke.
One of two important caves used over the course of the novel. The other is in the Huron village, in the second half of the book; Alice is kept prisoner there by Magua, and Hawkeye and Heyward find her inside and rescue her. Cora, in this section, again asks if skin color and family background matter at all in the determination of a person’s worth: it is noteworthy that Fenimore Cooper seems sympathetic to Cora’s position, and upholds the inherent nobility both of white and native heroes—of, for example, both Heyward and Uncas.
The group eats, and all appear satisfied that they have alluded any enemies for the night. Hawkeye talks to David and asks about his employment; on hearing that David is a singer, Hawkeye wonders aloud whether David can do anything “useful,” and David claims that he has no physical trade, nor has he ever used a “deadly weapon,” and he is proud of his pacifism. Hawkeye remarks again on the strangeness of David’s occupation, and David sings a long, slow song as the group finishes eating and prepares for bed.
Another running joke in the novel: David’s lack of “manly vocation.” David’s singing will become useful for the band, however, once Alice and Cora have been captured, since the Hurons do not consider David to be a warrior or a combatant, and therefore allow him free passage into and out of the village. David will then provide information about the village to Hawkeye and Heyward.
Hawkeye, Uncas, and Chingachgook go off to another part of the cave to sleep, and Heyward, after inspecting the caverns again, tells Cora and Alice that they are safe till morning. Alice regrets aloud that she and her sister wanted so dearly to see their father, Munro, at Fort William Henry, wondering if they are not causing the man to worry. But Heyward repeats the promise he made to Munro, to convey Alice and Cora safely, and says that they will figure out a plan the next day to retrace their steps to Fort Edward, and perhaps begin the journey to the other fort again. But just as they finish their conversation, Hawkeye enters their part of the cave, with a look of distress on his face—he has heard a strange cry outside, and worries that there might be Mingos or French in the woods nearby.
It almost seems as though Hawkeye, Uncas, and Chingachgook, who know the woods well, are permanently on watch when the band beds down for the night to sleep—this occurs later on in the text as well. Although Fenimore Cooper believes that Heyward and Munro themselves are noble warriors, he seems to reserve a special place for the heroic efforts of Hawkeye and the Mohicans, whose personal strength, courage, and ability to go long stretches without sleep are qualities necessary for anyone who wishes to survive in the forests of upstate New York.