Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version
CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES
Cooper introduces the general terrain where Forts Edward and William Henry are situated. There is tension in the air as both the English and the French have come out in open combat with each other. Montcalm, the French commander, has already marched too close to Fort William Henry with a large army. An Indian runner, Magua, arrives at Fort Edward bearing an urgent message from Munro, the commander of Fort William Henry, with a request for additional reinforcements. General Webb, the commander of Fort Edward has 5,000 men at his disposal, but only dispatches 1,500 to William Henry.
The next morning, after the men depart, a tall, gangly-limbed, and somewhat ridiculous looking young man is inspecting the horses when he runs into Magua, the Indian runner. The two exchange a silent look. At this moment, a young officer is preparing to escort two young women on a journey through the woods. As they ride out, the Indian runner glides past them on foot and begins leading the way.
Cooper opens his story by describing the setting and providing some background to the French and Indian War, which was waged by England and France for "possession of a country that neither was destined to
retain." As the novel opens, the French are marching into English territory in what is now upper New York State.
Cooper introduces several main characters here, though he does not yet reveal their names. The first is David Gamut, the awkward and somewhat comic-looking young man who inspects and offers his comments on the horses. The second is Magua, the Indian runner, who seems to regard David -- and indeed, the entire goings on of the fort -- with silent disdain. He has a "sullen fierceness" about him.
The young military officer is Major Duncan Hayward, and his charges are Alice and Cora Munro, daughters of the commander of Fort William Henry. The younger woman, Alice, is almost a child, with a "dazzling complexion, fair golden hair and bright blue eyes." The elder, Cora, has rich "shinning black tresses" and a somewhat darker complexion. Both are beautiful.