Chapter 1 The story begins on Christmas eve, 1793. Judge Temple and his daughter, Bess, are riding in a sleigh driven by their slave, Aggy. The Judge shoots his musket at a deer running by but hits Natty's companion, with whom Natty has been waiting in ambush for the deer. Natty goes home, and his companion, already smitten with the young Bess, goes in the sleigh to the Judge's house for medical treatment.
Chapter 2 We learn how the Judge's wealth originated with a certain British army Major Effingham and was passed to his son, Edward Effingham. Edward put it in trust with the Judge during the Revolutionary war, and afterwards, they fell out of touch.
Chapter 3 The town of Templeton and the Judge's house, as well as its design and construction by Richard Jones and Hiram Doolittle, are described.
Chapter 4 The Judge's sleigh meets with one containing Richard Jones, Monsieur Le Quoi, Major Hartmann, and Reverend Grant. The young unnamed hunter saves the sleigh and its occupants from going over a precipice.
Chapter 5 The party arrives at the Judge's house and is greeted by Ben Pump, Remarkable Pettibone, and the dog, "Old Brave".
Chapter 6 Dr. Todd arrives, and despite his skill, the shot is extracted from the young hunter's shoulder. Indian John arrives.
Chapter 7 Indian John dresses the wound, and the young hunter reveals his name to be Oliver Edwards before he returns to the hut of the Leather-stocking.
Chapter 8 Backgrounds on Monsieur Le Quoi, Major Hartmann, and Reverend Grant are given.
Chapter 9 The Judge's household discusses the events of the day over dinner.
Chapter 10 The Judge's household proceeds through the town to the Christmas eve church service.
Chapter 11 The church, the service, and the sermon are described.
Chapter 12 Elizabeth invites the Grants for Christmas. Mr. Grant, Oliver, Indian John and Natty talk theology, and the party, sans Natty, retire back to Mr. Grant's home, where the Grants are led to assume that Oliver is part Indian.
Chapter 13 In the "Bold Dragoon" the lawyer, Squire Lippet, shows himself to be obnoxious, and Natty recounts tales of his and Indian John's fighting exploits.
Chapter 14 The Judge and his party enter the inn, followed by Indian John. Natty talks of the decline in hunting since the area has been settled, and John drinks too much fire-water.
Chapter 15 Back at the mansion, Elizabeth retires, and Ben does a poor job of wooing Miss Pettibone.
Chapter 16 Richard and Elizabeth go for an early Christmas morning walk, and Elizabeth reveals that Richard is to be appointed Sheriff. The pair encounters Natty, Indian John, and Oliver, and Elizabeth asks Natty to compete in that morning's turkey shoot for her.
Chapter 17 Natty wins the turkey for Elizabeth, and the Judge arrives on the scene.
Chapter 18 Judge Temple offers Oliver a job as his assistant, and Oliver assents.
Chapter 19 A winter storm comes, and in the morning Oliver shows up for his new position. Time passes and the spring arrives.
Chapter 20 A party from the Judge's house makes an excursion to watch Billy Kirby make maple sugar.
Chapter 21 On their return to the village by a wooded road, the Judge tells the story of when he first came to Lake Otsego and spent the night in the Leather-stocking's hut. Later, a falling tree nearly kills Louisa, who is saved by Oliver.
Chapter 22 This chapter starts with the famous eagle scene. The pigeon migration is greeted by the town with a slaughter. Natty shows his disdain, and some of it rubs off on the Judge.
Chapter 23 Sheriff Jones leads a night time fishing expedition. The Judge realizes that the nets used catch more fish than are needed.
Chapter 24 On the same night, Elizabeth joins Natty, Indian John, and Oliver in Natty's canoe. Natty spears a fish and saves the drowning Benjamin.
Chapter 25 The Judge receives some bad news in a letter, and Oliver is interrogated by Elizabeth concerning his ancestry.
Chapter 26 The Judge and the Sheriff make a secret expedition, Elizabeth and Louisa decide to go for a walk, and Oliver joins Natty and Indian John as they fish in the lake.
Chapter 27 Natty's dogs chase a wandering buck into the lake, and it is killed, out of season, by Natty. Upon returning to the hut, Natty notices that the dogs' leashes had been cut by a knife.
Chapter 28 Elizabeth, Louisa, and Old Brave are attacked by a painter (panther) and her cub. Louisa faints, Old Brave is killed, and Natty comes to the rescue. Hiram Doolittle, acting as a magistrate, accosts Natty for the killing of the buck, and Natty realizes that Doolittle had been trying to sneak into his hut.
Chapter 29 Sheriff Jones reveals to the Judge that he suspects Natty of illegally mining for silver. The Judge is shown the cave where the mine is allegedly contained, and on his way home he meets his daughter and Elizabeth, who tell him of their rescue.
Chapter 30 Hiram Doolittle obtains from the Judge a warrant for Natty's arrest and hires Billy Kirby to help him apprehend Natty. At the door to his cabin, Natty scares off Doolittle and Jotham before he gives Billy Kirby the deer skin.
Chapter 31 Oliver finds out about the impending arrest and confronts Elizabeth and the Judge, which results in Oliver's being fired from the Judge's service.
Chapter 32 The Sheriff returns home and hears of the state of events from Benjamin. The Sheriff leads a party to arrest Natty, and when they arrive at his cabin, they find that Natty had burned it down rather than allow it to be searched.
Chapter 33 Natty is tried, found guilty, and sentenced to stand in the stocks and serve a jail term.
Chapter 34 Benjamin voluntarily joins Natty in the stocks and is later put in jail with Natty after he pummeled Squire Doolittle.
Chapter 35 Elizabeth goes to the jail to bail out Natty with her father's money but ends up assisting the jail break engineered by Oliver.
Chapter 36 The next day, Elizabeth goes to the summit of the mountain to meet Natty and give him some gunpowder. There she meets Indian John, who is weary of life, and notices that the mountain is on fire.
Chapter 37 Joined by Oliver, the trio futilely tries to find a way to escape. Oliver and Elizabeth share their feelings in the face of their doom, and then Natty appears (of course).
Chapter 38 Natty leads Oliver and Elizabeth (and carries Indian John) through the fire to the safety of his cave. They are joined by the Reverend Grant, who watches Indian John die. It starts to rain, and Elizabeth goes home.
Chapter 39 The cave is comically besieged by a make-shift army from the town until the arrival of Oliver and Major Hartmann, who call off the proceedings.
Chapter 40 What Natty has been hiding is revealed, Oliver reveals his true lineage, and he and the Judge are reconciled.
Chapter 41 Oliver and Elizabeth meet with Natty at the grave of Indian John. Natty Bumppo lights out for the territories.
American Studies at the University of Virginia