These thoughts roused me. I dried up my tears, and by the time my husband with his party and all his horses and luggage were across, I had recovered my cheerfulness, and was ready for fresh adventures.
We followed the old squaw to her lodge, which was at no great distance in the woods. I had never before been in an Indian lodge, although I had occasionally peeped into one of the many always clustered round the house of the Interpreter at the Portage.
This one was very nicely arranged. Four sticks of wood placed to form a square in the centre, answered the purpose of a hearth, within which the fire was built, the smoke escaping through an opening in the top. The mats of which the lodge was constructed were very neat and new, and against the sides, depending from the poles or frame-work, hung various bags of Indian manufacture, containing their dried food and other household treasures. Sundry ladles, small kettles, and wooden bowls also hung from the cross-poles; and dangling from the centre, by an iron chain, was a large kettle in which some dark, suspicious-looking substance was seething over the scanty fire. On the floor of the lodge, between the fire and the outer wall, were spread mats, upon which my husband invited me to be seated and make myself comfortable.
The first demand of an Indian on meeting a white man is for bread, of which they are exceedingly fond, and I knew enough of the Pottowattamie language to comprehend the timid “pe-qua-zhe-gun choh-kay-go” (I have no bread) with which the squaw commenced our conversation after my husband had left the lodge.
I shook my head, and endeavored to convey to her that, so far from being able to give, I had had no breakfast myself. She understood me, and instantly produced a bowl, into which she ladled a quantity of Indian potatoes from the kettle over the fire, and set them before me. I was too hungry to be fastidious, and, owing partly, no doubt, to the sharpness of my appetite, I really found them delicious.
Two little girls, inmates of the lodge, sat gazing at me with evident admiration and astonishment, which were increased when I took my little Prayer book from my pocket and began to read. They had, undoubtedly, never seen a book before, and I was amused at the care with which they looked away from me, while they questioned their mother about my strange employment and listened to her replies.
While thus occupied, I was startled by a sudden sound of “hogh!” and the mat which hung over the entrance of the lodge was raised, and an Indian entered with that graceful bound which is peculiar to themselves. It was the master of the lodge, who had been out to shoot ducks, and was just returned. He was a tall, finely-formed man, with a cheerful, open countenance, and he listened to what his wife in a quiet tone related to him, while he divested himself of his accoutrements, in the most unembarrassed, well-bred manner imaginable.