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Because the pistols are old and have not been primed or cleaned for a long time

Because the pistols are old and have not been primed or cleaned for a long time

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Because the pistols are old and have not been primed or cleaned for a long time, Deerslayer  suggests that he and Chingachgook practice firing them. Deerslayer proves his superior  marksmanship, but his pistol explodes accidentally — exactly what he had feared because of  Hutter's long neglect of the loaded weapons. No one is hurt, but Judith is very frightened by the  incident. They continue their search of the chest where they find a sextant, another proof that the  uneducated Tom Hutter was not the original owner of many of the items, and finally some carved  ivory chess pieces. These figures, for the first time, evoke a surprised response from the usually  stoical Chingachgook, and Judith joins the Indian in admiration of the delicately wrought pieces.  Deerslayer, however, is singularly unimpressed, and becomes very serious and concerned. He finally 
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