Summary and Analysis
Deerslayer heads the ark toward the rock skillfully, but the rescue of Chingachgook, while successful, is perilous. Chingachgook's leap to the safety of the ark is closely followed by the outcry of twenty pursuing Mingos. Judith saves the mission by her directions to Deerslayer as he moves the boat again to the open lake. Chingachgook is welcomed by the three exiles, and his news that Tom Hutter and Hurry Harry, though prisoners, are still unharmed calms the two girls. The Mohican chief has also heard the laughter of Hist (Wah-ta!-Wah) and knows that she, too, though a prisoner, is safe.
As the ark moves away from range of any Mingo attack, the four defenders attempt to settle upon a plan for the escape of Tom, Hurry, and Hist. Judith is willing to sacrifice her dresses to the Indians as ransom; and if worst comes to worst, the chest can be opened. The sound of a paddle in the water interrupts the conversation, and Deerslayer is on the point of firing at the canoe when Hetty Hutter identifies herself. She is on her way, alone, to the Indian encampment. Judith realizes that her sister, unaware of the danger she is risking, believes she can persuade the Indians to release the two men she loves. Deerslayer tries to divert her in the ark, but she outwits him and reaches land.
Hetty, after landing, pushes the canoe away from the shore; Deerslayer recovers it, but he is still unable to persuade Hetty to return to the ark. As Deerslayer and Judith argue with Hetty, she tells them her plan: She intends to go directly and honestly to the Indians and tell the chief that God's commandment is to return good for evil. If the Indians do not release Hutter and Hurry Harry, God's punishment will be everlasting. This said, Hetty flees into the forest to avoid capture by Deerslayer, then at last falls asleep.
She is suddenly awakened after several hours by a bear and her cubs. She watches them for awhile, then goes to a brook where she washes. The bears follow, then stop, and Hetty is coaxing them forward when an Indian girl places her hand upon Hetty's shoulder. After a few frightening moments, the two begin to talk in a friendly manner. Hist introduces herself, and the two exchange information. Hetty is overjoyed to know that she is near the two prisoners, and Hist happily learns that Chingachgook is with Deerslayer. Won over by Hetty's simple faith, Hist also understands that the white girl may not be in such peril because of the Indians' respect for those who appear simple-minded or abnormal. But Hist warns Hetty not to mention Chingachgook's name as the two girls approach the camp of the Mingos.
Two main characters, Chingachgook and Hist, enter the story in these chapters; and Cooper immediately contrasts the Indians with Deerslayer and Hetty, respectively. Chingachgook and Deerslayer, although they have opposing traits because of their respective "gifts," resemble each other a great deal. The two warriors on the "first warpath" complement each other more than any other pair of characters in the romance. They are blood brothers with the same basic education, and their ideals are very similar, except for loyalty to the separate Indian and Christian codes. Chingachgook is especially pleased because Deerslayer has killed his first enemy in battle, but Natty modestly replies that "he fou't like a man of red gifts, and I fou't like a man with gifts of my own color."
The meeting of Hetty and Hist enables Cooper to contrast the girls also. Although they resemble each other in their simplicity and honesty, important differences are noticeable. Hist is obviously more intelligent, more poised, and more experienced than Hetty. Each girl, of course, defends the "gifts" of her race: Hist praises the Indian practice of taking scalps, and Hetty condemns this practice. Hetty, in contrast to Deerslayer, considers that scalping is a crime for all races. Romantic irony is used effectively by Cooper in the continuing discussion between the girls, although he resorts to coincidence as a device. Hist upbraids Hetty for the latter's failure, in view of her strong feelings about scalping, to have prevented Tom Hutter's raid on the Mingo camp. Hetty's father had tried to scalp Hist; in fact it was Hist's cry of agony which Deerslayer heard as he waited in the canoe for the two marauders.
Hetty's security from injury by the Indians is an important development in terms of theme and plot. Cooper is again illustrating his view that the Indian is indeed a noble savage, worthy of the knights of old. The Indians have their own code, one aspect being respect for those who are mentally retarded. Hetty's action, however, has increased the possibility of an Indian attack because she has reduced the number of defenders of the ark. This incident is likewise indicative of future reactions on Hetty's part. She behaves intuitively and innocently, trusts in Christian beliefs completely as a guide, and becomes confused if the arguments become complicated.
Two more examples of the pursuit and escape technique are in these chapters: Chingachgook's flight from the Mingos to the safety of the ark, and Hetty's successful avoidance of the ark as she headed toward the Indian camp in the canoe.
Cooper starts Chapter 9 very slowly. He contemplates the grandeur and vastness which the American continent holds, particularly musing about the rock, site of Chingachgook's reunion with Deerslayer, which still stands at his beloved Glimmerglass. These ideas, although they impede the action of the story, are indicative of Cooper's nationalism and romanticism. He wants Americans to remember and to respect their past — the past which, in Cooper's opinion is really not so far distant in the history of this young nation. Nevertheless, the American hinterland has had another unknown, silent and impressive past before its discovery by the white men.