Summary and Analysis
Tom Hutter, close to death, confesses to the two sisters that he is not their real father. This confession pleases Judith who has always resented Tom Hutter's conduct, but Hetty is saddened by the tragic end of the man who protected her for so many years. Tom Hutter tells Judith and Hetty that they will find proof in the chest of what he says. Hurry Harry, moved by the death of his accomplice in crime, is deeply disturbed by the consequences of their misbehavior. He is also aware of his own close brush with death because of his impetuosity.
After Tom Hutter's death, preparations are made for his burial in the lake close to the grave of the girls' mother. The simple, impressive ceremony is held at sunset. Later, Hurry Harry asks Judith to marry him, but she refuses because she can never love him. Judith, however, now considers Hurry Harry as a friend rather than an enemy. Angered but determined, he makes plans to land and head for the garrison to bring help to the besieged ark. The only request by Judith is that the rescue party should not be under the command of an officer named Warley whom she evidently loved in the past.
Judith takes Hetty to the canoe where they paddle a short distance from the others in order to talk privately. Judith insists that their present circumstances are perilous, that they must open the chest to see what they can discover about the past life of Tom Hutter, and that they must salvage what they can for themselves. Although Judith remains bitter about Tom Hutter and refuses to call or consider him a father, Hetty defends the memory of the man who took care of them and loved them. Hetty, confident of her eventual conversion of the Mingos, prefers to remain at the lake, and wants to enjoy the solitude and beauty of Glimmerglass. Hetty is not as eager as Judith for an attempt to struggle toward a new (and possibly less moral) life in the settlements and towns. Hetty wishes Judith could have married Harry; and Judith comes closest to admitting her love for Deerslayer.
Deerslayer suddenly appears in a canoe, and he mysteriously explains that the Mingos have granted him a "furlough" until tomorrow noon. For the present, he is reluctant to give further details of his mission. He returns with the two sisters to the ark.
Cooper, the Christian philosopher and the stern moralist, combines these views with his romantic ideals in the death and burial scene of Tom Hutter. Hetty, symbolically, expresses the concept of divine retribution with her judgment: "Father went for scalps himself, and now where is his own?" The atmosphere is of course gloomy, and the gathering sunset is a very fitting backdrop for the events on Glimmerglass.
The religious overtones are present in practical applications: the Bible readings, the recognition of death's inevitability, the solemn funeral rites, and the psychological alterations in all the participants. Hurry Harry, portrayed previously as the villain of the novel, is visibly affected by the course of recent events. He is so changed that Judith, although she denies him her hand, states that, if he had behaved formerly as he does now, matters might have been different for the two of them.
Judith and Hetty are once more contrasted very dramatically after Tom Hutter reveals that he is not their father. Judith does not want him buried too close to their mother, but Hetty defends her dead guardian. Hetty is the true Christian, motivated by charity and forgiveness, who disregards past sins because of the common bond of death; Judith's arrogance and pride must lead to a fall, according to Cooper's morality. Judith, embittered and unrepentant, represents a dogmatic attitude which insists upon punishment for the sinner. How, then, should Deerslayer forgive Judith for her past sins? She has already pleaded with him to ignore what Hurry told him about her liaisons at the fort.
Judith and Hetty, in this time of suffering and crisis, come close to an argument because their ideas show them to be very different personalities. Hetty, secure in her intuitions, is nevertheless impractical about plans for the future. She even criticizes Deerslayer as unworthy of Judith because of his plain features; Hetty, in love with Hurry Harry, wants her sister to marry him. Hetty, very often correct in her views, errs when the arguments become complex and when she cannot apply the lessons from her Bible to the immediate situation. Despite her haughtiness, Judith takes command of the situation, and she stands out in this melodramatic episode as a strong, capable woman. The death and burial of Tom Hutter is one of the emotional high points of The Deerslayer because all the characters have been affected by the tragedy, and the action must consequently take a new direction.
This change in direction is indicated also by the arrival of Deerslayer who, instead of relieving the anxiety of the group on the ark by his return, provides a new mystery: why have the Mingos allowed their captive his liberty for a short time? The Indians and Deerslayer illustrate their loyalty to the code of honor by this action: the former show their trust in Deerslayer's promise to submit anew to captivity; the latter is resigned to the acceptance of the furlough as a temporary reprieve from a painful death.