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Alice, Cora, and Duncan make their way toward Fort William Henry, led by Magua. Alice asks Duncan about Magua. She does not like him, but Cora interjects that she should not distrust him simply because his skin is dark. Duncan explains to the women that Magua is a runner for the army. He too, has his reservations about Magua, whose origins and perhaps, loyalties, are uncertain. He is said to be a Canadian, yet he served with the Mohawks, who are allies of the English. Duncan also vaguely mentions an incident in which Magua had been dealt with harshly by the girls' father for some crime that he had committed.
Magua takes them through a narrow path into the thickets that will, presumably, take them on a secret route to the fort. As they travel down the path, they are caught up with by David, who introduces himself as a wandering psalmist. He too is going to Fort William Henry, and wishes to join them. As he appears to be harmless, the group agrees to allow him to join them. He then treats the group to his singing. At a word from Magua, however, Duncan insists that it would be more prudent that they be silent.
Major Heyward has an eerie feeling that they are being followed. In fact, he once thinks that he has seen an Indian, but he smiles to himself, believing his imagination to be overactive. However, a group of Indians is actually following them.
All the characters here are named in this chapter, with the exception of Magua, who is still referred to by the other characters and the narrator as "the Indian." Early on, the issue of racial prejudice is touched upon. Blond, blue-eyed Alice does not like the swarthy Magua, but black-haired Cora stands up for him, which speaks to her broadmindedness. Later, it will be revealed that the black-haired Cora is not completely white, as her mother is from the West Indies. This may explain her tolerance.
Cooper's style is marked by indirection. In addition to introducing characters long before naming them for the reader, he frequently reveals or alludes to important information about a character that does not become realized until a later chapter. The incident between Magua and Munro which Duncan casually refers to will become of prime importance, for it is the basis on which Magua will seek his revenge. Magua has a very unsettling background. It is later revealed that he was born a Huron. He later joined the English, only to be thrown out by them for his misbehavior. He is basically an opportunist and this aspect will become clearer as the chapters unfurl. For now, he still remains an obscure, nameless Indian. But these inferences add to the general feeling of disquiet and suspense.
The terrain which the characters travel through, which consists of "numberless trunks of trees that [rise] in dark lines," adds to the spooky ambience.