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Free MonkeyNotes-The Deerslayer by James Fenimore Cooper-Free Booknotes
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Chapters I - III


The Dutch settlers had been on the shores of America for only a few generations when the action of this story begins. There is not much settlement in the area around the Hudson, and in all seasons the woods look undisturbed by mankind. It is June, and the peace is broken by the call of a man, a very large and loud frontiersman named Hurry Harry, calling to his friend Deerslayer. They stop in their travels to eat.

Hurry's name comes from his restless nature. Of noble physique, Hurry is handsome and rough and a fine specimen of the backwoods. Deerslayer is somewhat younger, and though tall he is slight. He is very agile, and his face is uncommonly open, with an unmistakable air of integrity. He is not handsome, but his dress is picturesque. Hurry is more careless in dress--but this hardly matters on such a fine frame.

They talk of the Indian tribes thereabouts, and the deer-- Deerslayer has a sharp eye and has killed a doe, which he is not proud of. Hurry wants to know if Deerslayer has tested his manhood against abler foes--such as humans. Deerslayer is proud to say that he has never shed human blood, and Hurry finds such naiveté very unbecoming--there are plenty of Indians and Frenchmen worth shooting if one has the chance.

Deerslayer has traveled to meet an Indian friend at the foot of a lake. The areas is claimed by two native tribes, but the area of this lake has been a treaty ground between tribes, a place shared in times of peace. Hurry points out that there are three claims the two tribes, and Thomas Hutter's claim. There are no written treaties concerning this area, and Tom Hutter will fight to his death to defend what he considers his territory by rights of occupancy.

Tom was a sailor, once, and might be a woodsman now in order to enjoy his plunder in peace. Deerslayer points out that there is no peace in plunder. Hurry continues Tom has two daughters, and his wife died two years ago--he buried her in the lake. She was somewhat of flint, too, and both husband and wife together seemed to have a secret past life. The daughter Judith is graceful and comely--Hurry has his eye on her. Deerslayer says he has heard of her, and doesn't think he would like such a creature.

Hurry is annoyed. Judith has had suitors galore--any real man would honor her. Though she has the reputation of being light- minded and "over-given to admirers" Hurry believes she also knows that she may not have him. Hurry says that he swears to stay away from her, but always comes back. Deerslayer thinks that a poor man's daughter has no business flirting with gallants. Hurry admits there is one captain. . .but it is Judith's fault. Deerslayer says Hurry should think no more about such a woman.

Hurry explains that the other daughter is simple-minded. Hetty may be noble enough for such a man as Deerslayer. Deerslayer admits that the Indians find simple-minded creatures gifted, and they honor them. Hurry notes that both Tom and Judith have great feeling for Hetty. He also hopes that he does not find Judith has been married in the six months since he's seen her. If she were, he would kill her husband.

Deerslayer is against such behavior. They argue--Hurry picks of Deerslayer and shakes him, but Deerslayer is unperturbed. He says he wants to hear no more of Hurry's "secrets." Hurry laughs, and Deerslayer expounds his theory of man's feeling towards women in the woods they need protection. The two decide to end their meal and continue to the lake.

As they travel, Hurry has a hard time identifying the area where he was instructed to stop and look for the hidden canoe, which will carry them out on the lake. He and Deerslayer discuss methods of marking trails--the best and worst. Deerslayer mentions the best trail-readers his friends the Delawares, Chingachgook, and Uncus. Hurry thinks Deerslayer does not see the true natures of the scoundrel Indians, but Deerslayer has partly grown up with the Mohicans and he sees their natures as noble--despite the fact they may be boastful. This is their nature.

Deerslayer locates the tree in which the canoe is hidden, and they unpack it. Hurry carries it to the lake. Deerslayer finds the lake breathtakingly beautiful "'Tis an edication of itself, to look upon!" Judith must be a fine woman, if she has been raised here. Not just here, but at the forts in winter, Hurry says. Still, says Deerslayer, this landscape is a school to set her right again.

The Hutters have two abodes, a fort in the middle of the lake, "Muskrat Castle," built on sunken pilings and serving as protection from attack, and a floating boathouse, "The Ark," which they can travel about the lake on. As they paddle out to the castle, they discuss the merits of the place, and it's vague status as colony or native land. They get to the castle, and indeed it is heavily fortified and Hurry remarks that Tom Hutter keeps quite an arsenal, after having been attacked three times. Though Deerslayer is not practiced in arts of war, he can see that it is a fine fortification. Hurry Harry knows all about it, and helped build it.

They land on the broad dock in front, and go inside. No one is home. Deerslayer is struck by the usual mix of frontier furniture, both fine pieces and rough ones. A clock keeps the wrong time. Deerslayer goes into a bedroom--women sleep here, and he goes into a reverie of his past, his own mother and sister long ago, and feels sad.

Outside, Hurry notices that Tom is now trapping, for skins to sell. Deerslayer believes one should only take the life of another creature when it is absolutely necessary. Harry counts Indians, Frenchman, and wild game as the same thing worth killing.

Deerslayer looks out at the lake and hopes it has no white-man's name. Hurry says how he gave a British mapmaker the wrong directions, so he'd keep the lake free from settlers. The frontiersmen call the lake "Glimmerglass." The outlet keeps its Indian name, the Susquehanna. With the heart of a poet, Deerslayer leans on his rifle and looks out across the lake with innate love, and a soothed spirit.

Hurry Harry is anxious to get a glimpse of Judith, and so the two men take to the canoe in order to find the Ark and the Hutter family. They look and talk. Hurry explains his theory of race, how the whites are superior and the others don't really have souls. Deerslayer thinks the races all have souls, and are equal, except that they each have special "gifts." A red man can scalp, but a white man is not true to his nature or his gifts when he scalps. He also allows that there are wicked and good Indians, as there are with whites. Hurry says that the laws of the colony allow him to scalp Indians, for bounty. Deerslayer says that God's law is sometimes above man's law--and maybe he and Hurry had just better allow themselves to disagree.

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