James Fenimore Cooper
Part 2 out of 9
air and manner that rendered Ben confident his delinquencies, at the
most, would scarcely reach bloodshed. Pilfer he might; but murder
was a crime which he did not appear at all likely to commit.
After supping in company, our two adventurers secured everything;
and, retiring to the chiente, they went to sleep. No material
disturbance occurred, but the night passed in tranquillity; the bee-
hunter merely experiencing some slight interruption to his slumbers,
from the unusual circumstance of having a companion. One as long
accustomed to be alone as himself would naturally submit to some
such sensation, our habits getting so completely the mastery as
often to supplant even nature.
The following morning the bee-hunter commenced his preparations for
a change of residence. Had he not been discovered, it is probable
that the news received from the Chippewa would not have induced him
to abandon his present position, so early in the season; but he
thought the risk of remaining was too great under all the
circumstances. The Pottawattamie, in particular, was a subject of
great distrust to him, and he believed it highly possible some of
that old chief's tribe might be after his scalp ere many suns had
risen. Gershom acquiesced in these opinions, and, as soon as his
brain was less under the influence of liquor than was common with
him, he appeared to be quite happy in having it in his power to form
a species of alliance, offensive and defensive, with a man of his
own color and origin. Great harmony now prevailed between the two,
Gershom improving vastly in all the better qualities, the instant
his intellect and feelings got to be a little released from the
thraldom of the jug. His own immediate store of whiskey was quite
exhausted, and le Bourdon kept the place in which his own small
stock of brandy was secured a profound secret. These glimmerings of
returning intellect, and of reviving principles, are by no means
unusual with the sot, thus proving that "so long as there is life,
there is hope," for the moral, as well as for the physical being.
What was a little remarkable, Gershom grew less vulgar, even in his
dialect, as he grew more sober, showing that in all respects he was
becoming a greatly improved person.
The men were several hours in loading the canoe, not only all the
stores and ammunition, but all the honey being transferred to it.
The bee-hunter had managed to conceal his jug of brandy, reduced by
this time to little more than a quart, within an empty powder-keg,
into which he had crammed a beaver-skin or two, that he had taken,
as it might be incidentally, in the course of his rambles. At length
everything was removed and stowed in its proper place, on board the
capacious canoe, and Gershom expected an announcement on the part of
Ben of his readiness to embark. But there still remained one duty to
perform. The beehunter had killed a buck only the day before the
opening of our narrative, and shouldering a quarter, he had left the
remainder of the animal suspended from the branches of a tree, near
the place where it had been shot and cleaned. As venison might be
needed before they could reach the mouth of the river, Ben deemed it
advisable that he and Gershom should go and bring in the remainder
of the carcass. The men started on this undertaking accordingly,
leaving the canoe about two in the afternoon.
The distance between the spot where the deer had been killed, and
the chiente, was about three miles; which was the reason why the
bee-hunter had not brought home the entire animal the day he killed
it; the American woodsman often carrying his game great distances in
preference to leaving it any length of time in the forest. In the
latter case there is always danger from beasts of prey, which are
drawn from afar by the scent of blood. Le Bourdon thought it
possible they might now encounter wolves; though he had left the
carcass of the deer so suspended as to place it beyond the reach of
most of the animals of the wilderness. Each of the men, however,
carried a rifle: and Hive was allowed to accompany them, by an act
of grace on the part of his master.
For the first half-hour, nothing occurred out of the usual course of
events. The bee-hunter had been conversing freely with his
companion, who, he rejoiced to find, manifested far more common
sense, not to say good sense, than he had previously shown; and from
whom he was deriving information touching the number of vessels, and
the other movements on the lakes, that he fancied might be of use to
himself when he started for Detroit. While thus engaged, and when
distant only a hundred rods from the place where he had left the
venison, le Bourdon was suddenly struck with the movements of the
dog. Instead of doubling on his own tracks, and scenting right and
left, as was the animal's wont, he was now advancing cautiously,
with his head low, seemingly feeling his way with his nose, as if
there was a strong taint in the wind.
"Sartain as my name is Gershom," exclaimed Waring, just after he and
Ben had come to a halt, in order to look around them--"yonder is an
Injin! The crittur' is seated at the foot of the large oak--
hereaway, more to the right of the dog, and Hive has struck his
scent. The fellow is asleep, with his rifle across his lap, and
can't have much dread of wolves or bears!"
"I see him," answered le Bourdon, "and am as much surprised as
grieved to find him there. It is a little remarkable that I should
have so many visitors, just at this time, on my hunting-ground, when
I never had any at all before yesterday. It gives a body an
uncomfortable feeling, Waring, to live so much in a crowd! Well,
well--I'm about to move, and it will matter little twenty-four hours
"The chap's a Winnebago by his paint," added Gershom--"but let's go
up and give him a call."
The bee-hunter assented to this proposal, remarking, as they moved
forward, that he did not think the stranger of the tribe just named;
though he admitted that the use of paint was so general and loose
among these warriors, as to render it difficult to decide.
"The crittur' sleeps soundly!" exclaimed Gershom, stopping within
ten yards of the Indian, to take another look at him.
"He'll never awake," put in the bee-hunter, solemnly--"the man is
dead. See; there is blood on the side of his head, and a rifle-
bullet has left its hole there."
Even while speaking, the bee-hunter advanced, and raising a sort of
shawl, that once had been used as an ornament, and which had last
been thrown carelessly over the head of its late owner, he exposed
the well-known features of Elks-foot, the Pottawattamie, who had
left them little more than twenty-four hours before! The warrior had
been shot by a rifle-bullet directly through the temple, and had
been scalped. The powder had been taken from his horn, and the
bullets from his pouch; but, beyond this, he had not been plundered.
The body was carefully placed against a tree, in a sitting attitude,
the rifle was laid across its legs, and there it had been left, in
the centre of the openings, to become food for beasts of prey, and
to have its bones bleached by the snows and the rains!
The bee-hunter shuddered, as he gazed at this fearful memorial of
the violence against which even a wilderness could afford no
sufficient protection. That Pigeonswing had slain his late fellow-
guest, le Bourdon had no doubt, and he sickened at the thought.
Although he had himself dreaded a good deal from the hostility of
the Pottawattamie, he could have wished this deed undone. That there
was a jealous distrust of each other between the two Indians had
been sufficiently apparent; but the bee-hunter could not have
imagined that it would so soon lead to results as terrible as these!
After examining the body, and noting the state of things around it,
the men proceeded, deeply impressed with the necessity, not only of
their speedy removal, but of their standing by each other in that
remote region, now that violence had so clearly broken out among the
tribes. The bee-hunter had taken a strong liking to the Chippewa,
and he regretted so much the more to think that he had done this
deed. It was true, that such a state of things might exist as to
justify an Indian warrior, agreeably to his own notions, in taking
the life of any one of a hostile tribe; but le Bourdon wished it had
been otherwise. A man of gentle and peaceable disposition himself,
though of a profoundly enthusiastic temperament in his own peculiar
way, he had ever avoided those scenes of disorder and bloodshed,
which are of so frequent occurrence in the forest and on the
prairies; and this was actually the first instance in which he had
ever beheld a human body that had fallen by human hands. Gershom had
seen more of the peculiar life of the frontiers than his companion,
in consequence of having lived so closely in contact with the "fire-
water"; but even HE was greatly shocked with the suddenness and
nature of the Pottawattamie's end.
No attempt was made to bury the remains of Elksfoot, inasmuch as our
adventurers had no tools fit for such a purpose, and any merely
superficial interment would have been a sort of invitation to the
wolves to dig the body up again.
"Let him lean ag'in' the tree," said Waring, as they moved on toward
the spot where the carcass of the deer was left, "and I'll engage
nothin' touches him. There's that about the face of man, Bourdon,
that skears the beasts; and if a body can only muster courage to
stare them full in the eye, one single human can drive before him a
whull pack of wolves."
"I've heard as much," returned the bee-hunter, "but should not like
to be the 'human' to try the experiment That the face of man may
have terrors for a beast, I think likely; but hunger would prove
more than a match for such fear. Yonder is our venison, Waring; safe
where I left it."
The carcass of the deer was divided, and each man shouldering his
burden, the two returned to the river, taking care to avoid the path
that led by the body of the dead Indian. As both labored with much
earnestness, everything was soon ready, and the canoe speedily left
the shore. The Kalamazoo is not in general a swift and turbulent
stream, though it has a sufficient current to carry away its waters
without any appearance of sluggishness. Of course, this character is
not uniform, reaches occurring in which the placid water is barely
seen to move; and others, again, are found, in which something like
rapids, and even falls, appear. But on the whole, and more
especially in the part of the stream where it was, the canoe had
little to disturb it, as it glided easily down, impelled by a light
stroke of the paddle.
The bee-hunter did not abandon his station without regret. He had
chosen a most agreeable site for his chiente, consulting air, shade,
water, verdure, and groves, as well as the chances of obtaining
honey. In his regular pursuit he had been unusually fortunate; and
the little pile of kegs in the centre of his canoe was certainly a
grateful sight to his eyes. The honey gathered this season,
moreover, had proved to be of an unusually delicious flavor,
affording the promise of high prices and ready sales. Still, the
bee-hunter left the place with profound regret. He loved his
calling; he loved solitude to a morbid degree, perhaps; and he loved
the gentle excitement that naturally attended his "bee-lining," his
discoveries, and his gains. Of all the pursuits that are more or
less dependent on the chances of the hunt and the field, that of the
bee-hunter is of the most quiet and placid enjoyment. He has the
stirring motives of uncertainty and doubt, without the disturbing
qualities of bustle and fatigue; and, while his exercise is
sufficient for health, and for the pleasures of the open air, it is
seldom of a nature to weary or unnerve. Then the study of the little
animal that is to be watched, and, if the reader will, plundered, is
not without a charm for those who delight in looking into the
wonderful arcana of nature. So great was the interest that le
Bourdon sometimes felt in his little companions, that, on three
several occasions that very summer, he had spared hives after having
found them, because he had ascertained that they were composed of
young bees, and had not yet got sufficiently colonized to render a
new swarming more than a passing accident. With all this kindness of
feeling toward his victims, Boden had nothing of the transcendental
folly that usually accompanies the sentimentalism of the
exaggerated, but his feelings and impulses were simple and direct,
though so often gentle and humane. He knew that the bee, like all
the other inferior animals of creation, was placed at the
disposition of man, and did not scruple to profit by the power thus
beneficently bestowed, though he exercised it gently, and with a
proper discrimination between its use and its abuse.
Neither of the men toiled much, as the canoe floated down the
stream. Very slight impulses served to give their buoyant craft a
reasonably swift motion, and the current itself was a material
assistant. These circumstances gave an opportunity for conversation,
as the canoe glided onward.
"A'ter all," suddenly exclaimed Waring, who had been examining the
pile of kegs for some time in silence--"a'ter all, Bourdon, your
trade is an oncommon one! A most extr'ornary and oncommon callin'!"
"More so, think you, Gershom, than swallowing whiskey, morning,
noon, and night?" answered the bee-hunter, with a quiet smile.
"Aye, but that's not a reg'lar callin'; only a likin'! Now a man may
have a likin' to a hundred things in which he don't deal. I set
nothin' down as a business, which a man don't live by."
"Perhaps you're right, Waring. More die by whiskey than live by
Whiskey Centre seemed struck with this remark, which was introduced
so aptly, and was uttered so quietly. He gazed earnestly at his
companion for near a minute, ere he attempted to resume the
"Blossom has often said as much as this," he then slowly rejoined;
"and even Dolly has prophesized the same."
The bee-hunter observed that an impression had been made, and he
thought it wisest to let the reproof already administered produce
its effect, without endeavoring to add to its power. Waring sat with
his chin on his breast, in deep thought, while his companion, for
the first time since they had met, examined the features and aspect
of the man. At first sight, Whiskey Centre certainly offered little
that was inviting; but a closer study of his countenance showed that
he had the remains of a singularly handsome man. Vulgar as were his
forms of speech, coarse and forbidding as his face had become,
through the indulgence which was his bane, there were still traces
of this truth. His complexion had once been fair almost to
effeminacy, his cheeks ruddy with health, and his blue eye bright
and full of hope. His hair was light; and all these peculiarities
strongly denoted his Saxon origin. It was not so much Anglo-Saxon as
Americo-Saxon, that was to be seen in the physical outlines and hues
of this nearly self-destroyed being. The heaviness of feature, the
ponderousness of limb and movement, had all long disappeared from
his race, most probably under the influence of climate, and his nose
was prominent and graceful in outline, while his mouth and chin
might have passed for having been under the chisel of some
distinguished sculptor. It was, in truth, painful to examine that
face, steeped as it was in liquor, and fast losing the impress left
by nature. As yet, the body retained most of its power, the enemy
having insidiously entered the citadel, rather than having actually
subdued it. The bee-hunter sighed as he gazed at his moody
companion, and wondered whether Blossom had aught of this marvellous
comeliness of countenance, without its revolting accompaniments.
All that afternoon, and the whole of the night that succeeded, did
the canoe float downward with the current. Occasionally, some slight
obstacle to its progress would present itself; but, on the whole,
its advance was steady and certain. As the river necessarily
followed the formation of the land, it was tortuous and irregular in
its course, though its general direction was toward the northwest,
or west a little northerly. The river-bottoms being much more
heavily "timbered"--to use a woodsman term--than the higher grounds,
there was little of the park-like "openings" on its immediate banks,
though distant glimpses were had of many a glade and of many a
As the canoe moved toward its point of destination, the conversation
did not lag between the bee-hunter and his companion. Each gave the
other a sort of history of his life; for, now that the jug was
exhausted, Gershom could talk not only rationally, but with
clearness and force. Vulgar he was, and, as such, uninviting and
often repulsive; still his early education partook of that
peculiarity of New England which, if it do not make her children
absolutely all they are apt to believe themselves to be, seldom
leaves them in the darkness of a besotted ignorance. As usually
happens with this particular race, Gershom had acquired a good deal
for a man of his class in life; and this information, added to
native shrewdness, enabled him to maintain his place in the dialogue
with a certain degree of credit. He had a very lively perception--
fancied or real--of all the advantages of being born in the land of
the Puritans, deeming everything that came of the great "Blarney
Stone" superior to everything else of the same nature elsewhere;
and, while much disposed to sneer and rail at all other parts of the
country, just as much indisposed to "take," as disposed to "give."
Ben Boden soon detected this weakness in his companion's character,
a weakness so very general as scarce to need being pointed out to
any observant man, and which is almost inseparable from half-way
intelligence and provincial self-admiration; and Ben was rather
inclined to play on it, whenever Gershom laid himself a little more
open than common on the subject. On the whole, however, the
communications were amicable; and the dangers of the wilderness
rendering the parties allies, they went their way with an increasing
confidence in each other's support. Gershom, now that he was
thoroughly sober, could impart much to Ben that was useful; while
Ben knew a great deal that even his companion, coming as he did from
the chosen people, was not sorry to learn. As has been, already
intimated, each communicated to the other, in the course of this
long journey on the river, an outline of his past life.
The history of Gershom Waring was one of every-day occurrence. He
was born of a family in humble circumstances in Massachusetts, a
community in which, however, none are so very humble as to be
beneath the paternal watchfulness of the State. The common schools
had done their duty by him; while, according to his account of the
matter, his only sister had fallen into the hands of a female
relative, who was enabled to impart an instruction slightly superior
to that which is to be had from the servants of the public. After a
time, the death of this relative, and the marriage of Gershom,
brought the brother and sister together again, the last still quite
young. From this period the migratory life of the family commenced.
Previously to the establishment of manufactories within her limits,
New England systematically gave forth her increase to the States
west and south of her own territories. A portion of this increase
still migrates, and will probably long continue so to do; but the
tide of young women, which once flowed so steadily from that region,
would now seem to have turned, and is setting back in a flood of
"factory girls." But the Warings lived at too early a day to feel
the influence of such a pass of civilization, and went west, almost
as a matter of course. With the commencement of his migratory life,
Gershom began to "dissipate," as it has got to be matter of
convention to term "drinking." Fortunately, Mrs. Waring had no
children, thus lessening in a measure the privations to which those
unlucky females were obliged to submit. When Gershom left his
birthplace he had a sum of money exceeding a thousand dollars in
amount, the united means of himself and sister; but, by the time he
had reached Detroit, it was reduced to less than a hundred. Several
years, however, had been consumed by the way, the habits growing
worse and the money vanishing, as the family went further and
further toward the skirts of society. At length Gershom attached
himself to a sutler, who was going up to Michilimackinac, with a
party of troops; and finally he left that place to proceed, in a
canoe of his own, to the head of Lake Michigan, where was a post on
the present site of Chicago, which was then known as Fort Dearborn.
In quitting Mackinac for Chicago, Waring had no very settled plan.
His habits had completely put him out of favor at the former place;
and a certain restlessness urged him to penetrate still farther into
the wilderness. In all his migrations and wanderings the two devoted
females followed his fortunes; the one because she was his wife, the
other because she was his sister. When the canoe reached the mouth
of the Kalamazoo, a gale of wind drove it into the river; and
finding a deserted cabin, ready built, to receive him, Gershom
landed, and had been busy with the rifle for the last fortnight, the
time he had been on shore. Hearing from some voyageurs who had gone
down the lake that a bee-hunter was up the river, he had followed
the stream in its windings until he fell in with le Bourdon.
Such is an outline of the account which Whiskey Centre gave of
himself. It is true, he said very little of his propensity to drink,
but this his companion was enabled to conjecture from the context of
his narrative, as well as from what he had seen. It was very evident
to the bee-hunter, that the plans of both parties for the summer
were about to be seriously deranged by the impending hostilities,
and that some decided movement might be rendered necessary, even for
the protection of their lives. This much he communicated to Gershom,
who heard his opinions with interest, and a concern in behalf of his
wife and sister that at least did some credit to his heart. For the
first time in many months, indeed, Gershom was now PERFECTLY sober,
a circumstance that was solely owing to his having had no access to
liquor for eight-and-forty hours. With the return of a clear head,
came juster notions of the dangers and difficulties in which he had
involved the two self-devoted women who had accompanied him so far,
and who really seemed ready to follow him in making the circuit of
"It's troublesome times," exclaimed Whiskey Centre, when his
companion had just ended one of his strong and lucid statements of
the embarrassments that might environ them, ere they could get back
to the settled portions of the country--"it's troublesome times,
truly! I see all you would say, Bourdon, and wonder I ever got my
foot so deep into it, without thinkin' of all, beforehand! The best
on us will make mistakes, hows'ever, and I suppose I've been called
on to make mine, as well as another."
"My trade speaks for itself," returned the bee-hunter, "and any man
can see why one who looks for bees must come where they're to be
found; but I will own, Gershom, that your speculation lies a little
beyond my understanding. Now, you tell me you have two full barrels
"Had, Bourdon--HAD--one of them is pretty nearly half used, I am
"Well, HAD, until you began to be your own customer. But here you
are, squatted at the mouth of the Kalamazoo, with a barrel and a
half of liquor, and nobody but yourself to drink it! Where the
profits are to come from, exceeds Pennsylvany calculations; perhaps
a Yankee can tell."
"You forget the Injins. I met a man at Mackinaw, who only took out
in his canoe ONE barrel, and he brought in skins enough to set up a
grocery, at Detroit. But I was on the trail of the soldiers, and
meant to make a business on't, at Fort Dearborn. What between the
soldiers and the redskins, a man might sell gallons a day, and at
"It's a sorry business at the best, Whiskey; and now you're fairly
sober, if you'll take my advice you'll remain so. Why not make up
your mind, like a man, and vow you'll never touch another drop."
"Maybe I will, when these two barrels is emptied--I've often thought
of doin' some sich matter; and, ag'in and ag'in, has Dolly and
Blossom advised me to fall into the plan; but it's hard to give up
old habits, all at once. If I could only taper off on a pint a day,
for a year or so, I think I might come round in time. I know as well
as you do, Bourdon, that sobriety is a good thing, and dissipation a
bad thing; but it's hard to give up all at once."
Lest the instructed reader should wonder at a man's using the term
"dissipation" in a wilderness, it may be well to explain that, in
common American parlance, "dissipation" has got to mean
"drunkenness." Perhaps half of the whole country, if told that a
man, or a woman, might be exceedingly dissipated and never swallow
anything stronger than water, would stoutly deny the justice of
applying the word to such a person. This perversion of the meaning
of a very common term has probably arisen from the circumstance that
there is very little dissipation in the country that is not
connected with hard drinking. A dissipated woman is a person almost
unknown in America; or when the word is applied, it means a very
different degree of misspending of time, from that which is
understood by the use of the same reproach in older and more
sophisticated states of society. The majority rules in this country,
and with the majority excess usually takes this particular aspect;
refinement having very little connection with the dissipation of the
The excuses of his companion, however, caused le Bourdon to muse,
more than might otherwise have been the case, on Whiskey Centre's
condition. Apart from all considerations connected with the man's
own welfare, and the happiness of his family, there were those which
were inseparable from the common safety, in the present state of the
country. Boden was a man of much decision and firmness of character,
and he was clear-headed as to causes and consequences. The practice
of living alone had induced in him the habits of reflection; and the
self-reliance produced by his solitary life, a life of which he was
fond almost to a passion, caused him to decide warily, but to act
promptly. As they descended the river together, therefore, he went
over the whole of Gershom Waring's case and prospects, with great
impartiality and care, and settled in his own mind what ought to be
done, as well as the mode of doing it. He kept his own counsel,
however, discussing all sorts of subjects that were of interest to
men in their situation, as they floated down the stream, avoiding
any recurrence to this theme, which was possibly of more importance
to them both, just then, than any other that could be presented.
He was a wight of high renown,
And thou art but of low degree;
'Tis pride that pulls the country down--
Then take thine auld cloak about thee.
The canoe did not reach the mouth of the river until near evening of
the third day of its navigation. It was not so much the distance,
though that was considerable, as it was the obstacles that lay in
the way, which brought the travellers to the end of their journey at
so late a period. As they drew nearer and nearer to the place where
Gershom had left his wife and sister, le Bourdon detected in his
companion signs of an interest in the welfare of the two last, as
well as a certain feverish uneasiness lest all might not be well
with them, that said something in favor of his heart, whatever might
be urged against his prudence and care in leaving them alone in so
exposed a situation.
"I'm afeard a body don't think as much as he ought to do, when
liquor is in him," said Whiskey Centre, just as the canoe doubled
the last point, and the hut came into view; "else I never could have
left two women by them-selves in so lonesome a place. God be
praised! there is the chiente at any rate; and there's a smoke
comin' out of it, if my eyes don't deceive me! Look, Bourdon, for I
can scarcely see at all."
"There is the house; and, as you say, there is certainly a smoke
rising from it"
"There's comfort in that!" exclaimed the truant husband and brother,
with a sigh that seemed to relieve a very loaded breast. "Yes,
there's comfort in that! If there's a fire, there must be them that
lighted it; and a fire at this season, too, says that there's
somethin' to eat, I should be sorry, Bourdon, to think I'd left the
women folks without food; though, to own the truth, I don't remember
whether I did or not"
"The man who drinks, Gershom, has commonly but a very poor memory."
"That's true--yes, I'll own that; and I wish it warn't as true as it
is; but reason and strong drink do NOT travel far in company--"
Gershom suddenly ceased speaking; dropping his paddle like one beset
by a powerless weakness. The bee-hunter saw that he was overcome by
some unexpected occurrence, and that the man's feelings were keenly
connected with the cause, whatever that might be. Looking eagerly
around in quest of the explanation, le Bourdon saw a female standing
on a point of land that commanded a view of the river and its banks
for a considerable distance, unequivocally watching the approach of
"There she is," said Gershom, in a subdued tone--"that's Dolly; and
there she has been, I'll engage, half the time of my absence,
waitin' to get the first glimpse of my miserable body, as it came
back to her. Sich is woman, Bourdon; and God forgive me, if I have
ever forgotten their natur', when I was bound to remember it. But we
all have our weak moments, at times, and I trust mine will not be
accounted ag'in' me more than them of other men."
"This is a beautiful sight, Gershom, and it almost makes me your
friend! The man for whom a woman can feel so much concern--that a
woman--nay, women; for you tell me your sister is one of the family-
-but the man whom DECENT women can follow to a place like this, must
have some good p'ints about him. That woman is a-weepin'; and it
must be for joy at your return."
"'Twould be jist like Dolly to do so--she's done it before, and
would be likely to do so ag'in," answered Gershom, nearly choked by
the effort he made to speak without betraying his own emotion. "Put
the canoe into the p'int, and let me land there. I must go up and
say a kind word to poor Dolly; while you can paddle on, and let
Blossom know I'm near at hand."
The bee-hunter complied in silence, casting curious glances upward
at the woman while doing so, in order to ascertain what sort of a
female Whiskey Centre could possibly have for a wife. To his
surprise, Dorothy Waring was not only decently, but she was neatly
clad, appearing as if she had studiously attended to her personal
appearance, in the hope of welcoming her wayward and unfortunate
husband back to his forest home. This much le Bourdon saw by a hasty
glance as his companion landed, for a feeling of delicacy prevented
him from taking a longer look at the woman. As Gershom ascended the
bank to meet his wife, le Bourdon paddled on, and landed just below
the grove in which was the chiente. It might have been his long
exclusion from all of the other sex, and most especially from that
portion of it which retains its better looks, but the being which
now met the bee-hunter appeared to him to belong to another world,
rather than to that in which he habitually dwelt. As this was
Margery Waring, who was almost uniformly called Blossom by her
acquaintances, and who is destined to act an important part in this
legend of the "openings," it may be well to give a brief description
of her age, attire, and personal appearance, at the moment when she
was first seen by le Bourdon.
In complexion, color of the hair, and outline of face, Margery
Waring bore a strong family resemblance to her brother. In spite of
exposure, and the reflection of the sun's rays from the water of the
lake, however, HER skin was of a clear, transparent white, such as
one might look for in a drawing-room, but hardly expect to find in a
wilderness; while the tint of her lips, cheeks, and, in a diminished
degree, of her chin and ears, were such as one who wielded a pencil
might long endeavor to catch without succeeding. Her features had
the chiselled outline which was so remarkable in her brother; while
in HER countenance, in addition to the softened expression of her
sex and years, there was nothing to denote any physical or moral
infirmity, to form a drawback to its witchery and regularity. Her
eyes were blue, and her hair as near golden as human tresses well
could be. Exercise, a life of change, and of dwelling much in the
open air, had given to this unusually charming girl not only health,
but its appearance. Still, she was in no respect coarse, or had
anything in the least about her that indicated her being accustomed
to toil, with some slight exception in her hands, perhaps, which
were those of a girl who did not spare herself, when there was an
opportunity to be of use. In this particular, the vagrant life of
her brother had possibly been of some advantage to her, as it had
prevented her being much employed in the ordinary toil of her
condition in life. Still, Margery Waring had that happy admixture of
delicacy and physical energy, which is, perhaps, oftener to be met
in the American girl of her class, than in the girl of almost any
other nation; and far oftener than in the young American of her sex,
who is placed above the necessity of labor.
As a stranger approached her, the countenance of this fair creature
expressed both surprise and satisfaction; surprise that any one
should have been met by Gershom, in such a wilderness, and
satisfaction that the stranger proved to be a white man, and
seemingly one who did not drink.
"You are Blossom," said the bee-hunter, taking the hand of the half-
reluctant girl, in a way so respectful and friendly that she could
not refuse it, even while she doubted the propriety of thus
receiving an utter stranger--"the Blossom of whom Gershom Waring
speaks so often, and so affectionately?"
"You are, then, my brother's friend," answered Margery, smiling so
sweetly, that le Bourdon gazed on her with delight. "We are SO glad
that he has come back! Five terrible nights have sister and I been
here alone, and we have believed every bush was a red man!"
"That danger is over, now, Blossom; but there is still an enemy near
you that must be overcome."
"An enemy! There is no one here, but Dolly and myself. No one has
been near us, since Gershom went after the bee-hunter, whom we heard
was out in the openings. Are you that bee-bunter?"
"I am, beautiful Blossom; and I tell you there is an enemy here, in
your cabin, that must be looked to."
"We fear no enemies but the red men, and we have seen none of them
since we reached this river. What is the name of the enemy you so
dread, and where is he to be found?"
"His name is Whiskey, and he is kept somewhere in this hut, in
casks. Show me the place, that I may destroy him, before his friend
comes to his assistance."
A gleam of bright intelligence flashed into the face of the
beautiful young creature. First she reddened almost to scarlet; then
her face became pale as death. Compressing her lips intensely, she
stood irresolute--now gazing at the pleasing and seemingly well-
disposed stranger before her, now looking earnestly toward the still
distant forms of her brother and sister, which were slowly advancing
in the direction of the cabin.
"Dare you?" Margery at length asked, pointing toward her brother.
"I dare: he is now quite sober, and may be reasoned with. For the
sake of us all, let us profit by this advantage."
"He keeps the liquor in two casks that you will find under the shed,
behind the hut."
This said, the girl covered her face with both her hands, and sunk
on a stool, as if afraid to be a witness of that which was to
follow. As for le Bourdon, he did not delay a moment, but passed out
of the cabin by a second door, that opened in its rear. There were
the two barrels, and by their side an axe. His first impulse was to
dash in the heads of the casks where they stood; but a moment's
reflection told him that the odor, so near the cabin, would be
unpleasant to every one, and might have a tendency to exasperate the
owner of the liquor. He cast about him, therefore, for the means of
removing the casks, in order to stave them, at a distance from the
Fortunately, the cabin of Whiskey Centre stood on the brow of a
sharp descent, at the bottom of which ran a brawling brook. At
another moment, le Bourdon would have thought of saving the barrels;
but time pressed, and he could not delay. Seizing the barrel next to
him, he rolled it without difficulty to the brow of the declivity,
and set it off with a powerful shove of his foot. It was the half-
empty cask, and away it went, the liquor it contained washing about
as it rolled over and over, until hitting a rock about half-way down
the declivity, the hoops gave way, when the staves went over the
little precipice, and the water of the stream was tumbling through
all that remained of the cask, at the next instant. A slight
exclamation of delight behind him caused the bee-hunter to look
round, and he saw Margery watching his movement with an absorbed
interest. Her smile was one of joy, not unmingled with terror; and
she rather whispered than said aloud--"The other--the other--THAT is
full--be quick; there is no time to lose." The bee-hunter seized the
second cask and rolled it toward the brow of the rocks. It was not
quite as easily handled as the other barrel, but his strength
sufficed, and it was soon bounding down the declivity after its
companion. The second cask hit the same rock as the first, whence it
leaped off the precipice, and, aided by its greater momentum, it was
literally dashed in pieces at its base.
Not only was this barrel broken into fragments, but its hoops and
staves were carried down the torrent, driving before them those of
the sister cask, until the whole were swept into the lake, which was
some distance from the cabin.
"That job is well done!" exclaimed le Bourdon, when the last
fragment of the wreck was taken out of sight. "No man will ever turn
himself into a beast by means of that liquor."
"God be praised!" murmured Margery. "He is SO different, stranger,
when he has been drinking, from what he is when he has not! You have
been sent by Providence to do us this good."
"I can easily believe that, for it is so with us all. But you must
not call me stranger, sweet Margery; for, now that you and I have
this secret between us, I am a stranger no longer."
The girl smiled and blushed; then she seemed anxious to ask a
question. In the mean time they left the shed, and took seats, in
waiting for the arrival of Gershom and his wife. It was not long ere
the last entered; the countenance of the wife beaming with a
satisfaction she made no effort to conceal. Dolly was not as
beautiful as her sister-in-law; still, she was a comely woman,
though one who had been stricken by sorrow. She was still young, and
might have been in the pride of her good looks, had it not been for
the manner in which she had grieved over the fall of Gershom. The
joy that gladdens a woman's heart, however, was now illuminating her
countenance, and she welcomed le Bourdon most cordially, as if aware
that he had been of service to her husband. For months she had not
seen Gershom quite himself, until that evening.
"I have told Dolly all our adventur's, Bourdon," cried Gershom, as
soon as the brief greetings were over, "and she tells me all's
right, hereabouts. Three canoe-loads of Injins passed along shore,
goin' up the lake, she tells me, this very a'ternoon; but they
didn't see the smoke, the fire bein' out, and must have thought the
hut empty; if indeed, they knew anythin' of it, at all."
"The last is the most likely," remarked Margery; "for I watched them
narrowly from the beeches on the shore, and there was no pointing,
or looking up, as would have happened had there been any one among
them who could show the others a cabin. Houses an't so plenty, in
this part of the country, that travellers pass without turning round
to look at them. An Injin has curiosity as well as a white man,
though he manages so often to conceal it."
"Didn't you say, Blossom, that one of the canoes was much behind the
others, and that a warrior in that canoe DID look up toward this
grove, as if searching for the cabin?" asked Dorothy.
"Either it was so, or my fears made it SEEM so. The two canoes that
passed first were well filled with Injins, each having eight in it;
while the one that came last held but four warriors. They were a
mile apart, and the last canoe seemed to be trying to overtake the
others. I did think that nothing but their haste prevented the men
in the last canoe from landing; but my fears may have made that seem
so that was not so."
As the cheek of the charming girl flushed with excitement, and her
race became animated, Margery appeared marvellously handsome; more
so, the bee-hunter fancied, than any other female he had ever before
seen. But her words impressed him quite as much as her looks; for he
at once saw the importance of such an event, to persons in their
situation. The wind was rising on the lake, and it was ahead for the
canoes; should the savages feel the necessity of making a harbor,
they might return to the mouth of the Kalamazoo; a step that would
endanger all their lives, in the event of these Indians proving to
belong to those, whom there was now reason to believe were in
British pay. In times of peace, the intercourse between the whites
and the red men was usually amicable, and seldom led to violence,
unless through the effects of liquor; but, a price being placed on
scalps, a very different state of things might be anticipated, as a
consequence of the hostilities. This was then a matter to be looked
to; and, as evening was approaching, no time was to be lost.
The shores of Michigan are generally low, nor are harbors either
numerous, or very easy of access. It would be difficult, indeed, to
find in any other part of the world, so great an extent of coast
that possesses so little protection for the navigator, as that of
this very lake. There are a good many rivers, it is true, but
usually they have bars, and are not easy of entrance. This is the
reason why that very convenient glove, the Constitution, which can
be made to fit any hand, has been discovered to have an extra finger
in it, which points out a mode by which the federal government can
create ports wherever nature has forgotten to perform this
beneficent office. It is a little extraordinary that the fingers of
so many of the great "expounders" turn out to be "thumbs," however,
exhibiting clumsiness, rather than that adroit lightness which
usually characterizes the dexterity of men who are in the habit of
rummaging other people's pockets, for their own especial purposes.
It must be somewhat up-hill work to persuade any disinterested and
clear-headed man, that a political power to "regulate commerce" goes
the length of making harbors; the one being in a great measure a
moral, while the other is exclusively a physical agency; any more
than it goes the length of making ware-houses, and cranes, and
carts, and all the other physical implements for carrying on trade.
Now, what renders all this "thumbing" of the Constitution so much
the more absurd, is the fact, that the very generous compact
interested does furnish a means, by which the poverty of ports on
the great lakes may be remedied, without making any more unnecessary
rents in the great national glove. Congress clearly possesses the
power to create and maintain a navy, which includes the power to
create all sorts of necessary physical appliances; and, among
others, places of refuge for that navy, should they be actually
needed. As a vessel of war requires a harbor, and usually a better
harbor than a merchant-vessel, it strikes us the "expounders" would
do well to give this thought a moment's attention. Behind it will be
found the most unanswerable argument in favor of the light-houses,
But, to return to the narrative: the Kalamazoo could be entered by
canoes, though it offered no very available shelter for a vessel of
any size. There was no other shelter for the savages for several
miles to the southward; and, should the wind increase, of which
there were strong indications, it was not only possible, but highly
probable, that the canoes would return. According to the account of
the females, they had passed only two hours before, and the breeze
had been gradually gathering strength ever since. It was not
unlikely, indeed, that the attention paid to the river by the
warrior in the last canoe may have had reference to this very state
of the weather; and his haste to overtake his companions been
connected with a desire to induce them to seek a shelter. All this
presented itself to the beehunter's mind, at once; and it was
discussed between the members of the party, freely, and not without
some grave apprehensions.
There was one elevated point--elevated comparatively, if not in a
very positive sense--whence the eye could command a considerable
distance along the lake shore. Thither Margery now hastened to look
after the canoes. Boden accompanied her; and together they
proceeded, side by side, with a new-born but lively and increasing
confidence, that was all the greater, in consequence of their
possessing a common secret.
"Brother must be much better than he was," the girl observed, as
they hurried on, "for he has not once been into the shed to look at
the barrels! Before he went into the openings, he never entered the
house without drinking; and sometimes he would raise the cup to his
mouth as often as three times in the first half-hour. Now, he does
not seem even to think of it!"
"It may be well that he can find nothing to put into his cup, should
he fall into his old ways. One is never sure of a man of such
habits, until he is placed entirely out of harm's way."
"Gershom is such a different being when he has not been drinking!"
rejoined the sister, in a touching manner. "We love him, and strive
to do all we can to keep him up, but it IS hard."
"I am surprised that YOU should have come into this wilderness with
any one of bad habits."
"Why not? He is my brother, and I have no parents--he is all to me:
and what would become of Dorothy if I were to quit her, too! She has
lost most of her friends, since Gershom fell into these ways, and it
would quite break her heart, did I desert her."
"All this speaks well for you, pretty Margery, but it is not the
less surprising--ah, there is my canoe, in plain sight of all who
enter the river; THAT must be concealed, Injins or no Injins."
"It is only a step further to the place where we can get a lookout.
Just there, beneath the burr-oak. Hours and hours have I sat on that
spot, with my sewing, while Gershom was gone into the openings."
"And Dolly--where was she while you were here?"
"Poor Dolly!--I do think she passed quite half her time up at the
beech-tree, where you first saw her, looking if brother was not
coming home. It is a cruel thing to a wife to have a truant
"Which I hope may never be your case, pretty Margery, and which I
think never CAN."
Margery did not answer: but the speech must have been heard, uttered
as it was in a much lower tone of voice than the young man had
hitherto used; for the charming maiden looked down and blushed.
Fortunately, the two now soon arrived at the tree, and their
conversation naturally reverted to the subject which had brought
them there. Three canoes were in sight, close in with the land, but
so distant as to render it for some time doubtful which way they
were moving. At first, the bee-hunter said that they were still
going slowly to the southward; but he habitually carried his little
glass, and, on levelling that, it was quite apparent that the
savages were paddling before the wind, and making for the mouth of
the river. This was a very grave fact; and, as Blossom flew to
communicate it to her brother and his wife, le Bourdon moved toward
his own canoe, and looked about for a place of concealment.
Several considerations had to be borne in mind, in disposing of the
canoes; for that of Gershom was to be secreted, as well as that of
the bee-hunter. A tall aquatic plant, that is termed wild rice, and
which we suppose to be the ordinary rice-plant, unimproved by
tillage, grows spontaneously about the mouths and on the flats of
most of the rivers of the part of Michigan of which we are writing;
as, indeed, it is to be found in nearly all the shallow waters of
those regions. There was a good deal of this rice at hand; and the
bee-hunter, paddling his own canoe and towing the other, entered
this vegetable thicket, choosing a channel that had been formed by
some accident of nature, and which wound through the herbage in a
way soon to conceal all that came within its limits. These channels
were not only numerous, but exceedingly winding; and the bee-hunter
had no sooner brought his canoes to the firm ground and fastened
them there, than he ascended a tree, and studied the windings of
these narrow passages, until he had got a general idea of their
direction and characters. This precaution taken, he hurried back to
"Well, Gershom, have you settled on the course to be taken?" were
the first words uttered by the bee-hunter when he rejoined the
family of Whiskey Centre.
"We haven't," answered the husband. "Sister begs us to quit the
chiente, for the Indians must soon be here; but wife seems to think
that she MUST be safe, now I'm at home ag'in."
"Then wife is wrong, and sister is right. If you will take my
advice, you will hide all your effects in the woods, and quit the
cabin as soon as possible. The Injins cannot fail to see this
habitation, and will be certain to destroy all they find in it, and
that they do not carry off. Besides, the discovery of the least
article belonging to a white man will set them on our trail; for
scalps will soon bear a price at Montreal. In half an hour, all that
is here can be removed into the thicket that is luckily so near; and
by putting out the fire with care, and using proper caution, we may
give the place such a deserted look, that the savages will suspect
"If they enter the river, Bourdon, they will not camp out with a
wigwam so near by, and should they come here, what is to prevent
their seein' the footprints we shall leave behind us?"
"The night, and that only. Before morning their own footsteps will
be so plenty as to deceive them. Luckily we all wear moccasins,
which is a great advantage just now. But every moment is precious,
and we should be stirring. Let the women take the beds and bedding,
while you and I shoulder this chest. Up it goes, and away with it!"
Gershom had got to be so much under his companion's influence, that
he complied, though his mind suggested various objections to the
course taken, to which his tongue gave utterance as they busied
themselves in this task. The effects of Whiskey Centre had been
gradually diminishing in quantity, as well as in value, for the last
three years, and were now of no great amount, in any sense. Still
there were two chests, one large, and one small. The last contained
all that a generous regard for the growing wants of the family had
left to Margery; while the first held the joint wardrobes of the
husband and wife, with a few other articles that were considered as
valuable. Among other things were half a dozen of very thin silver
tea-spoons, which had fallen to Gershom on a division of family
plate. The other six were carefully wrapped up in paper and put in
the till of Margery's chest, being her portion of this species of
property. The Americans, generally, have very little plate; though
here and there marked exceptions do exist; nor do the humbler
classes lay out much of their earnings in jewelry, while they
commonly dress far beyond their means in all other ways. In this
respect, the European female of the same class in life frequently
possesses as much in massive golden personal ornaments as would make
an humble little fortune, while her attire is as homely as cumbrous
petticoats, coarse cloth, and a vile taste can render it. On the
other hand, the American matron that has not a set--one half-dozen--
of silver tea-spoons must be poor indeed, and can hardly be said to
belong to the order of housekeepers at all. By means of a careful
mother, both Gershom and his sister had the half-dozen mentioned;
and they were kept more as sacred memorials of past and better days
than as articles of any use. The household goods of Waring would
have been limited by his means of transportation, if not by his
poverty. Two common low-post maple bedsteads were soon uncorded and
carried off, as were the beds and bedding. There was scarcely any
crockery, pewter and tin being its substitutes; and as for chairs
there was only one, and that had rockers: a practice of New England
that has gradually diffused itself over the whole country, looking
down ridicule, the drilling of boarding-schools, the comments of
elderly ladies of the old school, the sneers of nurses, and, in a
word, all that venerable ideas of decorum could suggest, until this
appliance of domestic ease has not only fairly planted itself in
nearly every American dwelling, but in a good many of Europe also!
It required about twenty minutes for the party to clear the cabin of
every article that might induce an Indian to suspect the presence of
white men. The furniture was carried to a sufficient distance to be
safe from everything but a search; and care was had to avoid as much
as possible making a trail, to lead the savages to the place
selected for the temporary storeroom. This was merely a close
thicket, into which there was a narrow but practicable entrance on
the side the least likely to be visited. When all was accomplished
the four went to the lookout to ascertain how far the canoes had
come. It was soon ascertained that they were within a mile, driving
down before a strong breeze and following sea, and impelled by as
many paddles as there were living beings in them. Ten minutes would
certainly bring them up with the bar, and five more fairly within
the river. The question now arose, where the party was to be
concealed during the stay of the savages. Dolly, as was perhaps
natural for the housewife, wished to remain by her worldly goods,
and pretty Margery had a strong feminine leaning to do the same. But
neither of the men approved of the plan. It was risking too much in
one spot; and a suggestion that the bee-hunter was not long in
It will be remembered that le Bourdon had carried the canoes within
the field of wild rice, and bestowed them there with a good deal of
attention to security. Now these canoes offered, in many respects,
better places of temporary refuge, under all the circumstances, than
any other that could readily be found on shore. They were dry; and
by spreading skins, of which Boden had so many, comfortable beds
might be made for the females, which would be easily protected from
the night air and dews by throwing a rug over the gunwales. Then,
each canoe contained many articles that would probably be wanted;
that of the bee-hunter in particular furnishing food in abundance,
as well as diverse other things that would be exceedingly useful to
persons in their situation. The great advantage of the canoes,
however, in the mind of le Bourdon, was the facilities they offered
for flight. He hardly hoped that Indian sagacity would be so far
blinded as to prevent the discovery of the many footsteps they must
have left in their hurried movements, and he anticipated that with
the return of day something would occur to render it necessary for
them to seek safety by a stealthy removal from the spot. This might
be done, he both hoped and believed, under cover of the rice, should
sufficient care be taken to avoid exposure. In placing the canoes,
he had used the precaution to leave them where they could not be
seen from the cabin or its vicinity, or, indeed, from any spot in
the vicinity of the ground that the savages would be likely to visit
during their stay. All these reasons le Bourdon now rapidly laid
before his companions, and to the canoes the whole party retired as
fast as they could walk.
There was great judgment displayed on the part of the bee-hunter in
selecting the wild rice as a place of shelter. At that season it was
sufficiently grown to afford a complete screen to everything within
it that did not exceed the height of a man, or which was not seen
from some adjacent elevation. Most of the land near the mouth of the
river was low, and the few spots which formed exceptions had been
borne in mind when the canoes were taken into the field. But just as
Gershom was on the point of putting a foot into his own canoe, with
a view to arrange it for the reception of his wife, he drew back,
and exclaimed after the manner of one to whom a most important idea
"Land's sake! I've forgotten all about them barrels! They'll fall
into the hands of the savages, and an awful time they'll make with
them! Let me pass, Dolly; I must look after the barrels this
While the wife gently detained her eager husband, the bee-hunter
quietly asked to what barrels he alluded.
"The whiskey casks," was the answer. "There's two on 'em in the shed
behind the hut, and whiskey enough to set a whole tribe in
commotion. I wonder I should have overlooked the whiskey!"
"It is a sign of great improvement, friend Waring, and will lead to
no bad consequences," returned le Bourdon, coolly. "I foresaw the
danger, and rolled the casks down the hill, where they were dashed
to pieces in the brook, and the liquor has long since been carried
into the lake in the shape of grog."
Waring seemed astounded; but was so completely mystified as not to
suspect the truth. That his liquor should be hopelessly lost was bad
enough; but even that was better than to have it drunk by savages
without receiving any re-turns. After groaning and lamenting over
the loss for a few minutes, he joined the rest of the party in
making some further dispositions, which le Bourdon deemed prudent,
if not necessary.
It had occurred to the bee-hunter to divide his own cargo between
the two canoes, which was the task that the whole party was now
engaged in. The object was to lighten his own canoe in the event of
flight, and, by placing his effects in two parcels, give a chance to
those in the boat which might escape, of having wherewithal to
comfort and console themselves. As soon as this new arrangement was
completed, le Bourdon ran up to a tree that offered the desired
facilities, and springing into its branches, was soon high enough to
get a view of the bar and the mouth of the river. By the parting
light of day, he distinctly saw FOUR canoes coming up the stream;
which was one more than those reported to him by Margery as having
And long shall timorous fancy see
The painted chief and pointed spear;
And reason's self shall bow the knee
To shadows and delusions here.
A bright moon reflected on the earth for about an hour the light of
the sun, as the latter luminary disappeared. By its aid the bee-
hunter, who still continued in the tree, was enabled to watch the
movements of the canoes of the Indians, though the persons they
contained soon got to be so indistinct as to render it impossible to
do more than count their numbers. The last he made out to be five
each in three of the canoes, and six in the other, making twenty-one
individuals in all. This was too great an odds to think of
resisting, in the event of the strangers turning out to be hostile;
and the knowledge of this disparity in force admonished all the
fugitives of the necessity of being wary and prudent.
The strangers landed just beneath the hut, or at the precise spot
where Whiskey Centre was in the habit of keeping his canoe, and
whence Boden had removed it only an hour or two before. The savages
had probably selected the place on account of its shores being clear
of the wild rice, and because the high ground near it promised both
a lookout and comfortable lodgings. Several of the party strolled
upward, as if searching for an eligible spot to light their fire,
and one of them soon discovered the cabin. The warrior announced his
success by a whoop, and a dozen of the Indians were shortly
collected in and about the chiente. All this proved the prudence of
the course taken by the fugitives.
Blossom stood beneath the tree, and the bee-hunter told her, as each
incident occurred, all that passed among the strangers, when the
girl communicated the same to her brother and his wife, who were
quite near at hand in one of the canoes. As there was no danger of
being overheard, conversation in an ordinary tone passed between the
parties, two of whom at least were now fond of holding this sort of
"Do they seem to suspect the neighborhood of the occupants of the
cabin?" asked Margery, when the bee-hunter had let her know the
manner in which the savages had taken possession of her late
"One cannot tell. Savages are always distrustful and cautious when
on a war-path; and these seem to be scenting about like so many
hounds which are nosing for a trail. They are now gathering sticks
to light a fire, which is better than burning the chiente."
"THAT they will not be likely to do until they have no further need
of it. Tell me, Bourdon, do any go near the thicket of alders where
we have hidden our goods?"
"Not as yet; though there is a sudden movement and many loud yells
"Heaven send that it may not be at having discovered anything we
have forgotten. The sight of even a lost dipper or cup would set
them blood-hounds on our path, as sure as we are white and they are
"As I live, they scent the whiskey! There is a rush toward, and a
pow-wow in and about the shed--yes, of a certainty they smell the
liquor! Some of it has escaped in rolling down the hill, and their
noses are too keen to pass over a fragrance that to them equals that
of roses. Well, let them SCENT as they may--even an Injin does not
get drunk through his NOSE."
"You are quite right, Bourdon: but is not this a most unhappy scent
for us, since the smell of whiskey can hardly be there without their
seeing it did not grow in the woods of itself, like an oak or a
"I understand you, Margery, and there is good sense in what you say.
They will never think the liquor grew there. like a blackberry or a
chestnut, though the place IS called Whiskey Centre!"
"It is hard enough to know that a family has deserved such a name,
without being reminded of it by those that call themselves friends,"
answered the girl pointedly, after a pause of near a minute, though
she spoke in sorrow rather than in anger.
In an instant the bee-hunter was at pretty Margery's side, making
his peace by zealous apologies and winning protestations of respect
and concern. The mortified girl was soon appeased; and, after
consulting together for a minute, they went to the canoe to
communicate to the husband and wife what they had seen.
"The whiskey after all is likely to prove our worst enemy," said the
bee-hunter as he approached. "It would seem that in moving the
barrels some of the liquor has escaped, and the nose of an Injin is
too quick for the odor it leaves, not to scent it."
"Much good may it do them," growled Gershom--"they've lost me that
whiskey, and let them long for it without gettin' any, as a
punishment for the same. My fortun' would have been made could I
only have got them two barrels as far as Fort Dearborn before the
"The BARRELS might have been got there, certainly," answered le
Bourdon, so much provoked at the man's regrets for the destroyer
which had already come so near to bringing want and ruin on himself
and family, as momentarily to forget his recent scene with pretty
Margery; "but whether anything would have been IN them is another
question. One of those I rolled to the brow of the hill was half
empty as it was."
"Gershom is so troubled with the ague, if he don't take stimulant in
this new country," put in the wife, in the apologetic manner in
which woman struggles to conceal the failings of him she loves. "As
for the whiskey, I don't grudge THAT in the least; for it's a poor
way of getting rich to be selling it to soldiers, who want all the
reason liquor has left 'em, and more too. Still, Gershom needs
bitters; and ought not to have every drop he has taken thrown into
By this time le Bourdon was again sensible of his mistake, and he
beat a retreat in the best manner he could, secretly resolving not
to place himself any more between two fires, in consequence of
further blunders on this delicate subject. He now found that it was
a very different thing to joke Whiskey Centre himself on the subject
of his great failing, from making even the most distant allusion to
it in the presence of those who felt for a husband's and a brother's
weakness, with a liveliness of feeling that brutal indulgence had
long since destroyed in the object of their solicitude. He
accordingly pointed out the risk there was that the Indians should
make the obvious inference, that human beings must have recently
been in the hut, to leave the fresh scent of the liquor in question
behind them. This truth was so apparent that all felt its force,
though to no one else did the danger seem so great as to the bee-
hunter. He had greater familiarity with the Indian character than
any of his companions, and dreaded the sagacity of the savages in a
just proportion to his greater knowledge. He did not fail,
therefore, to admonish his new friends of the necessity for
"I will return to the tree and take another look at the movements of
the savages," le Bourdon concluded by saying. "By this time their
fire must be lighted; and by the aid of my glass a better insight
may be had into their plans and feelings."
The bee-hunter now went back to his tree, whither he was slowly
followed by Margery; the girl yielding to a feverish desire to
accompany him, at the very time she was half restrained by maiden
bashfulness; though anxiety and the wish to learn the worst as
speedily as possible, prevailed.
"They have kindled a blazing fire, and the whole of the inside of
the house is as bright as if illuminated," said le Bourdon, who was
now carefully bestowed among the branches of his small tree. "There
are lots of the red devils moving about the chiente, inside and out;
and they seem to have fish as well as venison to cook. Aye, there
goes more dry brush on the fire to brighten up the picture, and
daylight is almost eclipsed. As I live, they have a prisoner among
"A prisoner!" exclaimed Margery, in the gentle tones of female pity.
"Not a white person, surely?"
"No--he is a red-skin like all of them--but--wait a minute till I
can get the glass a little more steady. Yes--it is so--I was right
"What is so, Bourdon--and in what are you right?"
"You may remember, Blossom, that your brother and I spoke of the two
Injins who visited me in the Openings. One was a Pottawattamie and
the other a Chippewa. The first we found dead and scalped, after he
had left us; and the last is now in yonder hut, bound and a
prisoner. He has taken to the lake on his way to Fort Dearborn, and
has, with all his craft and resolution, fallen into enemies' hands.
Well will it be for him if his captors do not learn what befell the
warrior who was slain near my cabin, and left seated against a
"Do you think these savages mean to revenge the death of their
brother on this unfortunate wretch?"
"I know that he is in the pay of our general at Detroit, while the
Pottawattamies are in the pay of the English. This of itself would
make them enemies, and has no doubt been the cause of his being
taken; but I do not well see how Injins on the lake here can know
anything of what happened some fifty miles or so up in the
"Perhaps the savages in the canoes belong to the same party as the
warrior you call Elksfoot, and that they have had the means of
learning his death, and by whose hand he fell."
The bee-hunter was surprised at the quickness of the girl's wit, the
suggestion being as discreet as it was ingenious. The manner in
which intelligence flies through the wilderness had often surprised
him, and certainly it was possible that the party now before him
might have heard of the fate of the chief whose body he had found in
the Openings, short as was the time for the news to have gone so
far. The circumstance that the canoes had come from the northward
was against the inference, however, and after musing a minute on the
facts, le Bourdon mentioned this objection to his companion.
"Are we certain these are the same canoes as those which I saw pass
this afternoon?" asked Margery, who comprehended the difficulty in
an instant. "Of those I saw, two passed first, and one followed;
while here are FOUR that have landed."
"What you say may be true enough. We are not to suppose that the
canoes you saw pass are all that are on the lake. But let the
savages be whom they may, prudence tells us to keep clear of them if
we can; and this more so than ever, now I can see that Pigeonswing,
who I know to be an American Injin, is treated by them as an enemy."
"How are the savages employed now, Bourdon? Do they prepare to eat,
or do they torture their prisoner?"
"No fear of their attempting the last to-night. There is an
uneasiness about them, as if they still smelt the liquor; but some
are busy cooking at the fire. I would give all my honey, pretty
Margery, to be able to save Pigeonswing! He is a good fellow for a
savage, and is heart and hand with us in this new war, that he tells
me has begun between us and the English!"
"You surely would not risk your own life to save a savage, who kills
and scalps at random, as this man has done!"
"In that he has but followed the habits of his color and race. I
dare say WE do things that are quite as bad, according to Injin ways
of thinking. I DO believe, Margery, was that man to see ME in the
hands of the Pottawattamies, as I now see HIM, he would undertake
something for my relief."
"But what can you, a single man, do when there are twenty against
you?" asked Margery, a little reproachfully as to manner, speaking
like one who had more interest in the safety of the young bee-hunter
than she chose very openly to express.
"No one can say what he can do till he tries. I do not like the way
they are treating that Chippewa, for it looks as if they meant to do
him harm. He is neither fed, nor suffered to be with his masters;
but there the poor fellow is, bound hand and foot near the cabin
door, and lashed to a tree. They do not even give him the relief of
suffering him to sit down."
The gentle heart of Margery was touched by this account of the
manner in which the captive was treated, and she inquired into other
particulars concerning his situation, with a more marked interest
than she had previously manifested in his state. The bee-hunter
answered her questions as they were put; and the result was to place
the girl in possession of a minute detail of the true manner in
which Pigeonswing was treated.
Although there was probably no intention on the part of the captors
of the Chippewa to torture him before his time, tortured he must
have been by the manner in which his limbs and body were confined.
Not only were his arms fastened behind his back at the elbows, but
the hands were also tightly bound together in front. The legs had
ligatures in two places, just above the knees and just below the
ankles. Around the body was another fastening; which secured the
captive to a beech that stood about thirty feet from the door of the
cabin, and so nearly in a line with the fire within and the lookout
of le Bourdon, as to enable the last distinctly to note these
particulars, aided as he was by his glass. Relying on the manner in
which they secured their prisoner, the savages took little heed of
him; but each appeared bent on attending to his own comfort, by
means of a good supper, and by securing a dry lair in which to pass
the night. All this le Bourdon saw and noted too, ere he dropped
lightly on his feet by the side of Margery, at the root of the tree.
Without losing time that was precious, the bee-hunter went at once
to the canoes and communicated his intention to Waring. The moon had
now set, and the night was favorable to the purpose of le Bourdon.
At the first glance it might seem wisest to wait until sleep had
fallen upon the savages, ere any attempt were made to approach the
hut; but Boden reasoned differently. A general silence would succeed
as soon as the savages disposed of themselves to sleep, which would
be much more likely to allow his footsteps to be overheard, than
when tongues and bodies and teeth were all in active movement. A man
who eats after a long march, or a severe paddling, usually
concentrates his attention on his food, as le Bourdon knew by long
experience; and it is a much better moment to steal upon the hungry
and weary, to do so when they feed, than to do so when they sleep,
provided anything like a watch be kept. That the Pottawattamie would
neglect this latter caution le Bourdon did not believe; and his mind
was made up, not only to attempt the rescue of his Chippewa friend,
but to attempt it at once.
After explaining his plan in a few words, and requesting Waring's
assistance, le Bourdon took a solemn leave of the party, and
proceeded at once toward the hut. In order to understand the
movements of the bee-hunter, it may be well now briefly to explain
the position of the chiente, and the nature of the ground on which
the adventurer was required to act. The hut stood on a low and
somewhat abrupt swell, being surrounded on all sides by land so low
as to be in many places wet and swampy. There were a good many trees
on the knoll, and several thickets of alders and other bushes on the
lower ground; but on the whole, the swamps were nearly devoid of
what is termed "timber." Two sides of the knoll were abrupt; that on
which the casks had been rolled into the lake, and that opposite,
which was next to the tree where Boden had so long been watching the
proceedings of the savages. The distance between the hut and this
tree was somewhat less than a mile. The intervening ground was low,
and most of it was marshy; though it was possible to cross the marsh
by following a particular course. Fortunately this course, which was
visible to the eye by daylight, and had been taken by the fugitives
on quitting the hut, might be dimly traced at night, by one who
understood the ground, by means of certain trees and bushes, that
formed so many finger-posts for the traveller. Unless this
particular route were taken, however, a circuit of three or four
miles must be made, in order to pass from the chiente to the spot
where the family had taken refuge. As le Bourdon had crossed this
firm ground by daylight and had observed it well from his tree, he
thought himself enough of a guide to find his way through it in the
dark, aided by the marks just mentioned.
The bee-hunter had got as far as the edge of the marsh on his way
toward the hut, when, pausing an instant to examine the priming of
his rifle, he fancied that he heard a light footstep behind him.
Turning, quick as thought, he perceived that pretty Margery had
followed him thus far. Although time pressed, he could not part from
the girl without showing that he appreciated the interest she
manifested in his behalf. Taking her hand, therefore, he spoke with
a simplicity and truth, that imparted to his manner a natural grace
that one bred in courts might have envied. What was more, with a
delicacy that few in course would deem necessary under the
circumstances, he did not in his language so much impute to concern
on his own account this movement of Margery's, as to that she felt
for her brother and sister; though in his inmost heart a throbbing
hope prevailed that he had his share in it.
"Do not be troubled on account of Gershom and his wife, pretty
Margery," said the bee-hunter, "which, as I perceive, is the main
reason why you have come here; and as for myself, be certain that I
shall not forget who I have left behind, and how much her safety
depends on my prudence."
Margery was pleased, though a good deal confused. It was new to her
to hear allusions of this sort, but nature supplied the feeling to
"Is it not risking too much, Bourdon?" she said. "Are you sure of
being able to find the crossing in the marsh, in a night so very
dark? I do not know but looking so long at the bright light in the
cabin may blind me, but it DOES seem as if I never saw a darker
"The darkness increases, for the star-light is gone; but I can see
where I go, and so long as I can do that there is not much fear of
losing my way. I do not like to expose you to danger, but--"
"Never mind me, Bourdon--set me to do anything in which you think I
can be of use!" exclaimed the girl, eagerly.
"Well then, Margery, you may do this: come with me to the large tree
in the centre of the marsh, and I will set you on a duty that may
possibly save my life. I will tell you my meaning when there."
Margery followed with a light, impatient step; and, as neither
stopped to speak or to look around, the two soon stood beneath the
tree in question. It was a large elm that completely overshadowed a
considerable extent of firm ground. Here a full and tolerably near
view could be had of the hut, which was still illuminated by the
blazing fire within. For a minute both stood silently gazing at the
strange scene; then le Bourdon explained to his companion the manner
in which she might assist him.
Once at the elm, it was not so difficult to find the way across the
marsh, as it was to reach that spot, coming FROM the chiente. As
there were several elms scattered about in the centre of the marsh,
the bee-hunter was fearful that he might not reach the right tree;
in which case he would be compelled to retrace his steps, and that
at the imminent hazard of being captured. He carried habitually a
small dark lantern, and had thought of so disposing of it in the
lower branches of this very elm, as to form a focus of it, but
hesitated about doing that which might prove a guide to his enemies
as well as to himself. If Margery would take charge of this lantern,
he could hope to reap its advantages without incurring the hazard of
having a light suspended in the tree for any length of time. Margery
understood the lessons she received, and promised to obey all the
injunctions by which they were accompanied.
"Now, God bless you, Margery," added the bee-hunter. "Providence has
brought me and your brother's family together in troublesome times;
should I get back safe from this adventure, I shall look upon it as
a duty to do all I can to help Gershom place his wife and sister
beyond the reach of harm."
"God bless you, Bourdon!" half whispered the agitated girl. "I know
it is worth some risk to save a human life, even though it be that
of an Injin, and I will not try to persuade you from this
undertaking; but do not attempt more than is necessary, and rely on
my using the lantern just as you have told me to use it."
Those young persons had not yet known each other a single day, yet
both felt that confidence which years alone, in the crowds of the
world, can ordinarily create in the human mind. The cause of the
sympathy which draws heart to heart, which generates friendships,
and love, and passionate attachments, is not obvious to all who
choose to talk of it. There is yet a profound mystery in our
organization, which has hitherto escaped the researches of both
classes of philosophers, and which it probably was the design of the
Creator should not be made known to us until we draw nearer to that
great end which, sooner or later, is to be accomplished in behalf of
our race, when "knowledge will abound," and we shall better
understand our being and its objects, than is permitted to us in
this our day of ignorance. But while we cannot trace the causes of a
thousand things, we know and feel their effects. Among the other
mysteries of our nature is this of sudden and strong sympathies,
which, as between men for men, and women for women, awaken
confidence and friendship; and as between those of different sexes,
excite passionate attachments that more or less color their future
lives. The great delineator of our common nature, in no one of the
many admirable pictures he has drawn of men, manifests a more
profound knowledge of his subject, than in that in which he portrays
the sudden and nearly ungovernable inclination which Romeo and
Juliet are made to display for each other; an inclination that sets
reason, habit, prejudice, and family enmities at defiance. That such
an attachment is to be commended, we do not say; that all can feel
it, we do not believe; that connections formed under its influence
can always be desirable, we are far from thinking: but that it may
exist we believe is just as certain as any of the incomprehensible
laws of our wayward and yet admirable nature. We have no Veronese
tale to relate here, however, but simply a homely legend, in which
human feeling may occasionally be made to bear an humble resemblance
to that world-renowned picture which had its scenes in the beautiful
capital of Venetian Lombardy.
When le Bourdon left his companion, now so intensely interested in
his success, to pick his way in the darkness across the remainder of
the marsh, Margery retired behind the tree, where the first thing
she did was to examine her lantern, and to see that its light was
ready to perform the very important office which might so speedily
be required of it. Satisfied on this point, she turned her eyes
anxiously in the direction of the hut. By this time every trace of
the bee-hunter was lost, the hillock in his front forming too dark a
background to admit of his being seen. But the fire still blazed in
the chiente, the savages not having yet finished their cooking,
though several had satisfied their appetites, and had already sought
places where they might stretch themselves for the night. Margery
was glad to see that these last individuals bestowed themselves
within the influence of the fire, warm as was the night. This was
done most probably to escape from the annoyance of the mosquitos,
more or less of which are usually found in the low lands of the new
countries, and near the margins of rivers.
Margery could distinctly see the Chippewa, erect and bound to his
tree. On him she principally kept her looks riveted, for near his
person did she expect first again to find the bee-hunter. Indeed,
there was no chance of seeing one who was placed beneath the light
of the fire, since the brow of the acclivity formed a complete
cover, throwing all below it into deep shade. This circumstance was
of the greatest importance to the adventurer, however, enabling him
to steal quite near to his friend, favored by a darkness that was
getting to be intense. Quitting Margery, we will now rejoin le
Bourdon, who by this time was approaching his goal.
The bee-hunter had some difficulty in finding his way across the
marsh; but floundering through the impediments, and on the whole
preserving the main direction, he got out on the firm ground quite
as soon as he had expected to do. It was necessary for him to use
extreme caution. The Indians according to their custom had dogs, two
of which had been in sight, lying about half-way between the
prisoner and the door of the hut. Boden had seen a savage feeding
these dogs; and it appeared to him at the time as if the Indian had
been telling them to be watchful of the Chippewa. He well knew the
services that the red men expected of these animals, which are kept
rather as sentinels than for any great use they put them to in the
hunts. An Indian dog is quick enough to give the alarm, and he will
keep on a trail for a long run and with considerable accuracy, but
it is seldom that he closes and has his share in the death, unless
in the case of very timid and powerless creatures.
Nevertheless, the presence of these dogs exacted extra caution in
the movements of the bee-hunter. He had ascended the hill a little
out of the stream of light which still issued from the open door of
the hut, and was soon high enough to get a good look at the state of
things on the bit of level land around the cabin. Fully one-half of
the savages were yet up and in motion; though the processes of
cooking and eating were by this time nearly ended. These men had
senses almost as acute as those of their dogs, and it was very
necessary to be on his guard against them also. By moving with the
utmost caution, le Bourdon reached the edge of the line of light,
where he was within ten yards of the captive. Here he placed his
rifle against a small tree, and drew his knife, in readiness to cut
the prisoner's thongs. Three several times, while the bee-hunter was
making these preparations, did the two dogs raise their heads and
scent the air; once, the oldest of the two gave a deep and most
ominous growl. Singular as it may seem, this last indication of
giving the alarm was of great service to le Bourdon and the
Chippewa. The latter heard the growl, and saw two of the movements
of the animals' heads, from all which he inferred that there was
some creature, or some danger behind him. This naturally enough
induced him to bestow a keen attention in that direction, and being
unable to turn body, limbs, or head, the sense of hearing was his
only means of watchfulness. It was while in this state of profound
listening that Pigeonswing fancied he heard his own name, in such a
whisper as one raises when he wishes to call from a short distance
with the least possible expenditure of voice. Presently the words
"Pigeonswing," and "Chippewa," were succeeded by those of "bee-
hunter," "Bourdon." This was enough: the quick-witted warrior made a
low ejaculation, such as might be mistaken for a half-suppressed
murmur that proceeded from pain, but which one keenly on the watch,
and who was striving to communicate with him, would be apt to
understand as a sign of attention. The whispering then ceased
altogether, and the prisoner waited the result with the stoic
patience of an American Indian. A minute later the Chippewa felt the
thongs giving way, and his arms were released at the elbows. An arm
was next passed round his body, and the fastenings at the wrist were
cut. At this instant a voice whispered in his ear--" Be of good
heart, Chippewa--your friend, Bourdon, is here. Can you stand?"
"No stand," answered the Indian in a low whisper--"too much tie."
At the next moment the feet of the Chippewa were released, as were
also his knees. Of all the fastenings none now remained but that
which bound the captive to the tree. In not cutting this, the bee-
hunter manifested his coolness and judgment; for were the stout rope
of bark severed, the Indian would have fallen like a log, from total
inability to stand. His thongs had impeded the circulation of the
blood, and the usual temporary paralysis had been the consequence.
Pigeonswing understood the reason of his friend's forbearance, and
managed to rub his hands and wrists together, while the bee-hunter
himself applied friction to his feet, by passing his own arms around
the bottom of the tree. The reader may imagine the intense anxiety
of Margery the while; for she witnessed the arrival of le Bourdon at
the tree, and could not account for the long delay which succeeded.
All this time, the dogs were far from being quiet or satisfied.
Their masters, accustomed to being surrounded at night by wolves and
foxes, or other beasts, took little heed, however, of the discontent
of these creatures, which were in the habit of growling in their
lairs. The bee-hunter, as he kept rubbing at his friend's legs, felt
now but little apprehension of the dogs, though a new source of
alarm presented itself by the time the Chippewa was barely able to
sustain his weight on his feet, and long before he could use them
with anything like his former agility. The manner in which the
savages came together in the hut, and the gestures made by their
chief, announced pretty plainly that a watch was about to be set for
the night. As it was probable that the sentinel would take his
station near the prisoner, the bee-hunter was at a loss to decide
whether it were better to commence the flight before or after the
rest of the savages were in their lairs. Placing his mouth as close
to the ear of Pigeonswing as could be done without bringing his head
into the light, the following dialogue passed between le Bourdon and
"Do you see, Chippewa," the bee-hunter commenced, "the chief is
telling one of the young men to come and keep guard near you?"
"See him, well 'nough. Make too many sign, no to see."
"What think you--shall we wait till the warriors are asleep, or try
to be off before the sentinel comes?"
"Bess wait, if one t'ing. You got rifle--got tomahawk--got knife,
"I have them all, though my rifle is a short distance behind me, and
a little down the hill."
"Dat bad--nebber let go rifle on war-path. Well, YOU tomahawk him--
_I_ scalp him--dat'll do."
"I shall kill no man, Chippewa, unless there is great occasion for
it. If there is no other mode of getting you off, I shall choose to
cut this last thong, and leave you to take care of yourself."
"Give him tomahawk, den--give him knife, too."
"Not for such a purpose. I do not like to shed blood without a good
reason for it."
"No call war good reason, eh? Bess reason in world Pottawattamie dig
up hatchet ag'in' Great Fadder at Wash'ton--dat no good reason why
take his scalp, eh?"
In whispering these last words the Chippewa used so much energy,
that the dogs again raised their heads from between their forepaws
and growled. Almost at that instant the chief and his few remaining
wakeful companions laid themselves down to sleep, and the young
warrior designated as the sentinel left the hut and came slowly
toward the prisoner. The circumstances admitted of no delay; le
Bourdon pressed the keen edge of his knife across the withe that
bound the Indian to the tree; first giving him notice, in order that
he might be prepared to sustain his own weight. This done, the bee-
hunter dropped on the ground, crawling away out of the light; though
the brow of the hill almost immediately formed a screen to conceal
his person from all near the hut. In another instant he had regained
his rifle, and was descending swiftly toward the crossing at the
We call them savage--oh, be just!
Their outraged feelings scan;
A voice comes forth, 'tis from the dust--
The savage was a man!
As soon as le Bourdon reached the commencement of that which might
be called his path across the marsh, he stopped and looked backward.
He was now sufficiently removed from the low acclivity to see
objects on its summit, and had no difficulty in discerning all that
the waning fire illuminated. There stood the Chippewa erect against
the tree as if still bound with thongs, while the sentinel was
slowly approaching him. The dogs were on their feet, and gave two or
three sharp barks, which had the effect to cause five or six of the
savages to lift their heads in their lairs. One arose even and threw
an armful of dried branches on the fire, producing a bright blaze,
that brought everything around the hut, and which the light could
touch, into full view.
The bee-hunter was astonished at the immovable calmness with which
Pigeonswing still stood to his tree, awaiting the approach of the
sentinel. In a few moments the latter was at his side. At first the
Pottawattamie did not perceive that the prisoner was unbound. He
threw him into shadow by his own person, and it required a close
look to note the circumstance. Boden was too far from the spot to
see all the minor movements of the parties, but there was soon a
struggle that could not be mistaken. As the Pottawattamie was
examining the prisoner, an exclamation that escaped him betrayed the
sudden consciousness that the Chippewa was unbound. The sound was no
sooner uttered than Pigeonswing made a grasp at the sentinel's
knife, which however he did not obtain, when the two closed and
fell, rolling down the declivity into the darkness. When the
Pottawattamie seized the Chippewa, he uttered a yell, which
instantly brought every man of his party to his feet. As the savages
now united in the whoops, and the dogs began to bark wildly, an
infernal clamor was made.
At first, le Bourdon did not know how to act. He greatly feared the
dogs, and could not but think of Margery, and the probable
consequences, should those sagacious animals follow him across the
marsh. But he did not like the idea of abandoning Pigeonswing, when
a single blow of his arm, or a kick of his foot, might be the cause
of his escape. While deliberating in painful uncertainty, the sounds
of the struggle ceased, and he saw the sentinel rising again into
the light, limping like one who had suffered by a fall. Presently he
heard a footstep near him, and, calling in a low voice, he was
immediately joined by Pigeonswing. Before the bee-hunter was aware
of his intention, the Chippewa seized his rifle, and levelling at
the sentinel, who still stood on the brow of the hill, drawn in all
his savage outlines distinctly in the light of the flames, he fired.
The cry, the leap into the air, and the fall, announced the unerring
character of the aim. In coming to the earth, the wounded man fell
over the brow of the sharp acclivity, and was heard rolling toward
Le Bourdon felt the importance of now improving the precious
moments, and was in the act of urging his companion to follow, when
the latter passed an arm around his body, whipped his knife from the
girdle and sheath, and dropping the rifle into his friend's arms,
bounded away in the darkness, taking the direction of his fallen
enemy. There was no mistaking all this; Chippewa, led by his own
peculiar sense of honor, risking everything to obtain the usual
trophy of victory. By this time, a dozen of the savages stood on the
brow of the hill, seemingly at a loss to understand what had become
of the combatants. Perceiving this, the bee-hunter profited by the
delay and reloaded his rifle. As everything passed almost as swiftly
as the electric spark is known to travel, it was but a moment after
the Pottawattamie fell ere his conqueror was through with his bloody
task. Just as le Bourdon threw his rifle up into the hollow of his
arm, he was rejoined by his red friend, who bore the reeking scalp
of the sentinel at his belt; though fortunately the bee-hunter did
not see it on account of the obscurity, else might he not have been
so willing to continue to act with so ruthless an ally.
Further stay was out of the question; for the Indians were now
collected in a body on the brow of the hill, where the chief was
rapidly issuing his orders. In a minute the band dispersed, every
man bounding into the darkness, as if aware of the danger of
remaining within the influence of the bright light thrown from the
fire. Then came such a clamor from the dogs, as left no doubt in the
mind of the bee-hunter that they had scented and found the remains
of the fallen man. A fierce yell came from the same spot, the proof
that some of the savages had already discovered the body; and le
Bourdon told his companion to follow, taking his way across the
marsh as fast as he could overcome the difficulties of the path.
It has already been intimated that it was not easy, if indeed it
were possible, to cross that piece of low wet land in a direct line.
There was tolerably firm ground on it, but it lay in an irregular
form, its presence being generally to be noted by the growth of
trees. Le Bourdon had been very careful in taking his landmarks,
foreseeing the probability of a hasty retreat, and he had no
difficulty for some time in keeping in the right direction. But the
dogs soon left the dead body, and came bounding across the marsh,
disregarding its difficulties; though their plunges and yells soon
made it apparent that even they did not escape altogether with dry
feet. As for the savages, they poured down the declivity in a
stream, taking the dogs as their guides; and safe ones they might
well be accounted, so far as the SCENT was concerned, though they
did not happen to be particularly well acquainted with all the
difficulties of the path.
At length le Bourdon paused, causing his companion to stop also. In
the hurry and confusion of the flight, the former had lost his
landmarks, finding himself amidst a copse of small trees, or large
bushes, but not in the particular copse he sought. Every effort to
get out of this thicket, except by the way he had entered it, proved
abortive, and the dogs were barking at no great distance in his
rear. It is true that these animals no longer approached: for they
were floundering in the mud and water; but their throats answered
every purpose to lead the pursuers on, and the low calls that passed
from mouth to mouth, let the pursued understand that the
Pottawattamies were at their heels, if not absolutely on their
The crisis demanded both discretion and decision; qualities in which
the bee-hunter, with his forest training, was not likely to be
deficient. He looked out for the path by which he had reached the
unfortunate thicket, and having found it, commenced a retreat by the
way he had come. Nerve was needed to move almost in a line toward
the dogs and their masters; but the nerve was forthcoming, and the
two advanced like veterans expecting the fire of some concealed but
well-armed battery. Presently, le Bourdon stopped, and examined the
ground on which he stood.
"HERE we must turn, Chippewa," he said, in a guarded voice. "This is
the spot where I must have missed my way."
"Good place to turn 'bout," answered the Indian--"dog too near."
"We must shoot the dogs if they press us too hard," returned the
bee-hunter, leading off rapidly, now secure in the right direction.
"They seem to be in trouble, just at this time; but animals like
them will soon find their way across this marsh."
"Bess shoot Pottawattamie," coolly returned Pigeonswing.
"Pottawattamie got capital scalp--dog's ears no good for nutting any
"Yonder, I believe, is the tree I am in search of!" exclaimed le
Bourdon. "If we can reach that tree, I think all will go well with
The tree was reached, and the bee-hunter proceeded to make sure of
his course from that point. Removing from his pouch a small piece of
moistened powder that he had prepared ere he liberated the Chippewa,
he stuck it on a low branch of the tree he was under, and on the
side next the spot where he had stationed Margery. When this was
done, he made his companion stand aside, and lighting some spunk
with his flint and steel, he fired his powder. Of course, this
little preparation burned like the fireworks of a boy, making
sufficient light, however, to be seen in a dark night for a mile or
more. No sooner was the wetted powder hissing and throwing off its
sparks, than the bee-hunter gazed intently into the now seemingly
tangible obscurity of the marsh. A bright light appeared and
vanished. It was enough; the bee-hunter threw down his own signal
and extinguished it with his foot; and, as he wished, the lantern of
Margery appeared no more. Assured now of the accuracy of his
position, as well as of the course he was to pursue, le Bourdon bade
his companion follow, and pressed anew across the marsh. A tree was
soon visible, and toward that particular object the fugitives
steadily pressed, until it was reached. At the next instant Margery
was joined; and the bee-hunter could not refrain from kissing her,
in the excess of his pleasure.
"There is a dreadful howling of dogs," said Margery, feeling no
offence at the liberty taken, in a moment like that, "and it seems
to me that a whole tribe is following at their heels. For Heaven's
sake, Bourdon, let us hasten to the canoes; brother and sister must
think us lost!"
The circumstances pressed, and the bee-hunter took Margery's arm,
passing it through one of his own, with a decided and protecting
manner, that caused the girl's heart to beat with emotions not in
the least connected with fear, leaving an impression of pleasure
even at that perilous moment. As the distance was not great, the
three were soon on the beach and near to the canoes. Here they met
Dorothy, alone, and pacing to and fro like a person distressed. She
had doubtless heard the clamor, and was aware that the savages were
out looking for their party. As Margery met her sister, she saw that
something more than common had gone wrong, and in the eagerness of
her apprehensions she did not scruple about putting her questions.
"What has become of brother? Where is Gershom?" demanded the
sensitive girl, at once.
The answer was given in a low voice, and in that sort of manner with
which woman struggles to the last to conceal the delinquencies of
him she loves.
"Gershom is not himself, just now," half whispered the wife--"he has
fallen into one of his old ways, ag'in."
"Old ways?" slowly repeated the sister, dropping her own voice to
tones similar to those in which the unpleasant news had just been
communicated. "How is that possible, now that all the whiskey is
"It seems that Bourdon had a jug of brandy among his stores, and
Gershom found it out. I blame no one; for Bourdon, who never abuses
the gifts of Providence, had a right to his comforts at least; but
it IS a pity that there was anything of the sort in the canoes!"
The bee-hunter was greatly concerned at this unwelcome intelligence,
feeling all its importance far more vividly than either of his
companions. They regretted as women; but he foresaw the danger, as a
man accustomed to exertion in trying scenes. If Whiskey Centre had
really fallen into his old ways, so as to render himself an
incumbrance, instead of being an assistant at such a moment, the
fact was to be deplored, but it could only be remedied by time.
Luckily they had the Indian with them, and he could manage one of
the canoes, while he himself took charge of the other. As no time
was to be lost--the barking of the dogs and the cries of the savages
too plainly letting it be known that the enemy was getting through
the marsh by some means or other--he hurried the party down to the
canoes, entering that of Whiskey Centre at once.
Le Bourdon found Gershom asleep, but with the heavy slumbers of the
drunkard. Dolly had removed the jug and concealed it, as soon as the
state of her husband enabled her to do so without incurring his
violence. Else might the unfortunate man have destroyed himself, by
indulging in a liquor so much more palatable than that he was
accustomed to use, after so long and compelled an abstinence. The
jug was now produced, however, and le Bourdon emptied it in the
river, to the great joy of the two females, though not without a
sharp remonstrance from the Chippewa. The bee-hunter was steady, and
the last drop of the liquor of Gascony was soon mingling with the
waters of the Kalamazoo. This done, the bee-hunter desired the women
to embark, and called to the Chippewa to do the same. By quitting
the spot in the canoes, it was evident the pursuers would be balked,
temporarily at least, since they must recross the marsh in order to
get into their own boats, without which further pursuit would be
It might have been by means of a secret sympathy, or it was possibly
the result of accident, but certain it is, that the Chippewa was
placed in that of le Bourdon. As for Whiskey Centre, he lay like a
log in the bottom of his own light bark, cared for only by his
affectionate wife, who had made a pillow for his head; but,
fortunately, if no assistance just then, not any material hindrance
to the movements of his friends. By the time le Bourdon and the
Chippewa had got their stations, and the canoes were free of the
bottom, it was evident by the sounds, that not only the dogs, but
divers of their masters, had floundered through the swamp, and were
already on the firm ground east of it. As the dogs ran by scent,
little doubt remained of their soon leading the savages to the place
of embarkation. Aware of this, the bee-hunter directed the Chippewa
to follow, and urged his own canoe away from the shore, following
one of three of the natural channels that united just at that point.
The clamor now sensibly increased, and the approach of the pursuers
was much faster than it had previously been, in consequence of there
no longer being wet land beneath their feet. At the distance of
fifty yards from the shore, however, the channel, or open avenue
among the rice-plants that the canoes had taken, made a short turn
to the northward; for all the events we have just been recording
occurred on the northern, or leeward side of the river. Once around
this bend in the channel, the canoes would have been effectually
concealed from those on the beach, had it even been broad daylight,
and, of course, were so much more hidden from view under the
obscurity of a very dark night. Perceiving this, and fearful that
the dip of the paddles might be heard, le Bourdon ceased to urge his
canoe through the water, telling the Chippewa to imitate his
example, and let the boats drift. In consequence of this precaution
the fugitives were still quite near the shore when, first, the dogs,
then a party of their masters, came rushing down to the very spot
whence the canoes had departed scarcely two minutes before. As no
precautions were taken to conceal the advance of the pursuers, the
pursued, or the individuals among them who alone understood the
common language of the great Ojebway nation well, had an opportunity
of hearing and understanding all that was said. Le Bourdon had
brought the two canoes together; and the Chippewa, at his request,
now translated such parts of the discourse of their enemies as he
deemed worthy of communicating to the females.
"Say, now, nobody dere!" commenced the Indian, coolly. "T'ink he no
great way off--mean to look for him--t'ink dog uneasy--won'er why
dog so uneasy."
"Them dogs are very likely to scent us here in the canoes, we are so
near them," whispered le Bourdon.
"S'pose he do, can't catch us," coolly answered the Chippewa--
"beside, shoot him, don't take care--bad for dog to chase warrior
"There is one speaking now, who seems to have authority."
"Yes--he chief--know he voice--hear him too often--he mean to put
Pigeonswing to torture. Well, let him catch Pigeonswing fust--swift
bird do that, eh?"
"But what says he?--it may be of importance to learn what the chief
says, just now."
"Who care what he say--can't do nuttin'--if get good chance, take
HIS scalp, too."
"Aye, that I dare say--but he is speaking earnestly and in a low
voice; listen, and let us know what he says. I do not well
understand at this distance."
The Chippewa complied, and maintained an attentive silence until the
chief ceased to speak. Then he rendered what had been said into such
English as he could command, accompanying the translation by the
explanations that naturally suggested themselves to one like
"Chief talk to young men," said the Chippewa--"all chief talk to
young men--tell him dat Pigeonswing must get off in canoe--don't see
canoe, nudder--but, muss be canoe, else he swim. T'ink more than one
Injin here--don't know, dough--maybe, maybe not--can't tell, till
see trail, morrow morning--"
"Well, well; but what does he tell his young men to DO?" demanded
the bee-hunter, impatiently.
"Don't be squaw, Bourdon--tell all by'em bye. Tell young men s'pose
he get canoe, den he may get OUR canoe, and carry 'em off--s'pose he
swim; dat Chippewa devil swim down stream and get OUR canoe dat
fashion--bess go back, some of you, and see arter OUR canoe--dat
what he tell young men most."
"That is a lucky thought!" exclaimed le Bourdon--"let us paddle
down, at once, and seize all their canoes before they can get there.
The distance by water, owing to this bend in the river, is not half
as great as that by land, and the marsh will double the distance to
"Dat good counsel," said Pigeonswing--"you go--I follow."
This was no sooner said, than the canoes again got in motion. The
darkness might now have been a sufficient protection had there been
no rice, but the plant would have concealed the movement, even at
noon-day. The fire in the hut served as a beacon, and enabled le
Bourdon to find the canoes. When he reached the landing, he could
still hear the dogs barking on the marsh, and the voices of those
with them, calling in loud tones to two of the savages who had
remained at the chiente, as a sort of camp-guard.
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