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SHORT PLOT/CHAPTER SUMMARY (Synopsis)
Hurry and Deerslayer head toward a lake where Hurry wants to visit a man with a beautiful daughter, and Deerslayer wants to meet up with his friend Chingachgook. The French and Indian wars have just been declared, and they must be careful--which Hurry never is. They find the man, Tom Hutter, and his daughters, Judith and Hetty, in their houseboat at the lake's mouth. Deerslayer, always a man of simple principles, comments on all the people and action, constantly. There is also a band of unfriendly Iroquois, a hunting expedition, on the shore of the lake. Hurry and Hutter decide to go after scalps-- Deerslayer won't join them and doesn't approve of the mission-- and get themselves captured.
Chingachgook arrives, meets up with Deerslayer, and finds out that this band of Iroquois also holds captive his beloved, the Indian maiden Hist (or Wah). His object is to rescue her. Simple-minded Hetty tries to free her father and Hurry with her reasoning from her Bible, and when it doesn't work, Judith and Deerslayer open Tom Hutter's secret chest and find items to trade for the two white men. It works. Afterwards, Chingachgook and Deerslayer manage to kidnap Hist at night, but Deerslayer is taken captive in the ensuing chase. Hurry and Hutter, once freed, decide to try scalping again, and this time Tom Hutter is scalped and dies of his wounds.
The two sisters are orphaned, but also Judith and the others want to work to free Deerslayer, who has already killed one of the Iroquois and angered the remaining tribe. The Iroquois (or Mingos, or Hurons) let Deerslayer out on furlough--he gives them his word that he will carry their message to the others and return for his punishment. The Iroquois want the others to surrender, and the women to go with them. No one agrees. Hurry, already having had his marriage offer refused by Judith, leaves the lake and promises to get the British forces from the nearby garrison to come and save his friends.
After Judith gives Deerslayer her father's gun, Killdeer, and Chingachgook and Deerslayer try it out--Deerslayer shoots an eagle, and is sorry for his wasteful idiocy--Deerslayer goes back to the Iroquois to relay the message of refusal and submit to torture and death. But the Iroquois offer him a reprieve if he will marry the widow of the man he killed, and raise the children, he can keep his life. But Deerslayer, always true to his idea of "white gifts," says he could never marry a native woman. The woman's brother is insulted, and throws a tomahawk at Deerslayer, who throws it back and kills the man. The Indians clamor for Deerslayer's death.
But Deerslayer friends, including the ever-resourceful Judith, come one by one to interrupt the proceedings and stall for time-- they have already seen the troops approaching. Just at the moment when Chingachgook bounds into the circle of Indians where his friend is half tied and the fire is burning close (he hands Deerslayer the trusty Killdeer), the troops arrive, and there is a terrible bloodbath. Hetty is shot and wounded and dies the next day. The few Indians who survive are prisoners.
The cruel and heartless military Captain, who has always had a desire to possess Judith, leads the cleanup and then takes off for the garrison. Judith asks Deerslayer if he will consider marrying her (she has been falling in love with him since the early chapters of the novel) but he refuses--partly because he has heard of her bad behavior with the garrison officers. Judith is grieved, and has no choice but to follow the soldiers into the settlements, a defeated woman. Chingachgook and Hist, with Deerslayer, return to the Delaware tribe with great rejoicing. But Deerslayer is sad.
Fifteen years later, Deerslayer and Chingachgook return to the lake with Chingachgook's son and survey the ruins of the sight of the massacre and Tom Hutter's life. On the way out, they stop at the garrison and find out that the former captain of the garrison now lives on his ancestral estate in England with a beautiful woman who is not his wife. Deerslayer does not want to ask if the woman is Judith.