Natty Bumppo, the resourceful, independent old woodsman, now eighty-two years old. While trapping on the plains soon after the Louisiana Purchase, he camps one evening with a clan of tough, suspicious squatters, the Bush family. Later, accused of killing Asa Bush and having helped two young men to rescue their sweethearts from the Bushes, he is forced to avoid the squatters. Meanwhile, he and his companions are captured three times by hostile Sioux Indians. Natty serves as an interpreter, pacifies their captors, and helps the captives to escape. Finally, when the Sioux have been defeated and he has acquitted himself before the Bush clan, he decides to live with a tribe of friendly Pawnees until his death. Old and weak, he dies at sundown after rising to his feet and uttering a single word, “Here.”
Ishmael Bush, the huge, ferocious head of the squatters. Though he has no respect for the law, he has a rude sense of justice and honor. Enraged by Indian attacks, the murder of his son Asa, and the abduction of his niece and a female hostage, he makes a temporary alliance with the Sioux in order to capture the fugitives. When his allies betray him, he calmly helps destroy them. In a rude court of justice, he sets the two pairs of lovers free, along with an itinerant naturalist. He also frees Natty Bumppo after the old hunter reveals Abiram White, Bush’s brother-in-law, as the murderer. In the end, Bush and his family move on into the unknown West.
Esther Bush, Ishmael’s aging, ill-tempered, almost mannish wife. The only literate member of the family, she reads the Bible but has the instincts of a wolf. Protective toward her young and savage toward trespassers, she is a formidable Indian fighter.
Ellen Wade, called Nelly, Esther Bush’s pretty, vivacious niece. A homeless girl of eighteen, she feels gratitude toward the Bushes for their care, even if she feels little affection for them. More genteel than others of the Bush clan, she attracts Paul Hover, a young bee hunter from Kentucky, meets him secretly, and deserts the Bushes to share his adventures. Three times captured by Indians, and retaken by Ishmael, she finally receives Ishmael Bush’s...
(The entire section is 943 words.)