To what other circumstance the well-intentioned missionary would next have alluded, in the course of this demonstration of a theory that had got to be a favorite with him, is more than can now be related, since the Indian himself drew near, and put an end to the conversation. Peter had made up his mind to cross the river at once; and came to say as much to his companions, both of whom he intended to leave behind him. Le Bourdon could not arrest this movement, short of an appeal to force; and force he did not like to use, doubting equally its justice and its prudence.
There is no other land like thee, No dearer shore;
Thou art the shelter of the free; The home, the port
of liberty Thou hast been, and shall ever be Till
time is o’er. Ere I forget to think upon
My land, shall mother curse the son She bore.
The independent, not to say controlling, manner of Peter, would seem to put all remonstrances and arguments at defiance, Le Bourdon soon had occasion to see that both the missionary and the corporal submitted to his wishes, and that there was no use in gainsaying anything he proposed. In all matters he did as he pleased; his two companions submitting to his will as completely as if one of them had seen in this supposed child of Israel, Joshua, the son of Nun, and the other even Aaron, the high-priest, himself.
Peter’s preparations were soon made. Everything belonging to the missionary and the corporal was removed from the canoe, which then contained only the extra clothing and the special property of the Indian himself. As soon as ready, the latter quietly and fearlessly paddled away, his canoe going easily and swiftly down before the wind. He had no sooner got clear of the rice, than the bee-hunter and Margery ran away to the eminence, to watch his movements, and to note his reception among the Pottawattamies. Leaving them there, we shall accompany the canoe, in its progress toward the northern shore.
At first, Peter paddled quietly on, as if he had no other object before him than the passage of the river. When quite clear of the rice, however, he ceased, and undid his bundle of clothes, which were carefully put away in the knapsack of a soldier. From this repository of his effects, the chief carefully drew forth a small bundle, on opening which, no less than seven fresh human scalps appeared. These he arranged in order on a wand-like pole, when, satisfied with the arrangement, he resumed the paddle. It was apparent, from the first, that the Pottawattamies on the north shore had seen the strange canoe when it entered the river, and they now collected in a group, at the ordinary landing beneath the chiente, to await its approach. Peter ceased his own exertion, as soon as he had got within a hundred yards of the beach, took the scalp-pole in his hand, arose, and permitted the canoe to drift down before the wind, certain it would take the desired direction, from the circumstance of his having placed it precisely to windward of the landing. Once or twice he slowly waved the pole in a way to draw attention to the scalps, which were suspended from its end, each obvious and distinct from its companions.