The old hunter questions Oliver to make sure that the graves were laid in the manner that his friends wished and then asks Oliver to read the markings on the gravestones. Natty is pleased to find that his name has been included on the gravestone of Major Effingham, but he rebukes Oliver for misspelling the name of his friend, Chingachgook.
Natty shocks Elizabeth with his stories of the old Indian's ways and then reveals that he plans on leaving the area for the west. The young couple do their best to convince Natty to not leave, but the old hunter is resolute, and when Oliver buries his head for a moment in grief, the Leather-stocking slips away from the cemetery and enters the forest.
Through the departure of Natty, Cooper suggests that the old hunter serves a higher purpose. It is necessary to the country's survival that pathfinders like Natty Bumppo go "far towards the setting sun,--the foremost in that band of Pioneers, who are opening the way for the march of the nation across the continent."
Natty doesn't seek hardship in his travels to the west, but gains pleasure from them. "Hardship!" Natty exclaims, "'tis a pleasure, children, and the greatest that is left to me on this side of the grave."Natty follows his heart, but he is well aware that "the meanest of God's creaters be made for some use, and I'm form'd for the wilderness; if ye love me, let me go where my soul craves to be ag'in!"
The above image is from a version of The Pioneers published in 1893 by Peter Fenelon Collier in the first volume of the works of Cooper. It shows the Leater-stocking at the grave of Chingachgook as described in chapter 42.
American Studies at the University of Virginia