“After a lifetime in the service!” I commented.
“Yess, after a lifetime; and McLaughlin had brain and heart, too. If England would listen to him, she would learn sometings. He plants, he plows, he bass gardens and mills and houses and herds. Yess, if they let McLaughlin alone, they would haf a civilization on the Columbia, and not a fur-trading post. Then they could oppose your civilization there. That iss what he preaches. Simpson preaches otherwise. Simpson loses Oregon to England, it may be.”
“You know much about affairs out in Oregon,” I ventured again. “Now, I did not happen to be present at the little meeting last night.”
“I heard it all,” he remarked carelessly, “until I went to sleep. I wass bored. I care not to hear of the splendor of England!”
“Then you think there is a chance of trouble between our country and England, out there?”
He smiled. “It iss not a chance, but a certainty,” he said. “Those settlers will not gif up. And England is planning to push them out!”
“We had not heard that!” I ventured.
“It wass only agreed last night. England will march this summer seven hundred men up the Peace River. In the fall they will be across the Rockies. So! They can take boats easily down the streams to Oregon. You ask if there will be troubles. I tell you, yess.”
“And which wins, my friend?” I feared he would hear my heart thumping at this news.
“If you stop where you are, England wins. If you keep on going over the mountains England shall lose.”
“What time can England make with her brigades, west-bound, my friend?” I asked him casually. He answered with gratifying scientific precision.
“From Edmonton to Fort Colville, west of the Rockies, it hass been done in six weeks and five days, by Sir George himself. From Fort Colville down it iss easy by boats. It takes the voyageur three months to cross, or four months. It would take troops twice that long, or more. For you in the States, you can go faster. And, ah! my friend, it iss worth the race, that Oregon. Believe me, it iss full of bugs—of new bugs; twelve new species I haf discovered and named. It iss sometings of honor, iss it not?”
“What you say interests me very much, sir,” I said. “I am only an American trader, knocking around to see the world a little bit. You seem to have been engaged in some scientific pursuit in that country.”
“Yess,” he said. “Mein own government and mein own university, they send me to this country to do what hass not been done. I am insectologer. Shall I show you my bugs of Oregon? You shall see them, yess? Come with me to my hotel. You shall see many bugs, such as science hass not yet known.”
I was willing enough to go with him; and true to his word he did show me such quantities of carefully prepared and classified insects as I had not dreamed our own country offered.