On reaching the gate of the palisade, it was found closed, and barred within; nor did any one appear, until Dorothy was summoned, by repeated calls, in the well-known voice of her husband. When the two females came out of the chiente, great was their wonder and alarm! No horn had been blown by either of them, and there the instrument itself hung, on its peg, as quiet and mute as if a blast had never been blown into it The bee-hunter, on learning this extraordinary fact, looked around him anxiously, in order to ascertain who might be absent. Every man was present, and each person stood by his arms, no one betraying the slightest consciousness of knowing whence the unaccountable summons had proceeded!
“This has been done by you, corporal, in order to bring us together, under arms, by way of practice,” le Bourdon at length exclaimed.
“False alarms is useful, if not overdone; especially among raw troops,” answered Flint, coolly; “but I have given none to-night. I will own I did intend to have you all out in a day or two by way of practice, but I have thought it useless to attempt too much at once. When the garrison is finished, it will be time enough to drill the men to the alarm-posts.”
“What is your opinion, Peter?” continued le Bourdon. “You understand the wilderness, and its ways. To what is this extr’or’nary call owing? Why have we been brought here, at this hour?”
“Somebody blow horn, most likely,” answered Peter, in his unmoved, philosophical manner. “’Spose don’t know; den can’t tell. Warrior often hear ’larm on war-path.”
“This is an onaccountable thing! If I ever heard a horn, I heard one to-night; yet this is the only horn we have, and no one has touched it! It was not the conch I heard; there is no mistaking the difference in sound between a shell and a horn; and there is the conch, hanging at Gershom’s neck, just where it has been the whole night.”
“No one has touched the conch—I will answer for that,” returned Gershom, laying a hand on the shell, as if to make certain all was right.
“This is most extr’or’nary! I heard the horn, if ears of mine ever heard such an instrument!”
Each of the white men added as much, for every one of them had distinctly heard the blast. Still neither could suggest any probable clue to the mystery. The Indians said nothing; but it was so much in conformity with their habits for red men to maintain silence, whenever any unusual events awakened feelings in others, that no one thought their deportment out of rule. As for Peter, a statue of stone could scarcely have been colder in aspect than was this chief, who seemed to be altogether raised above every exhibition of human feeling. Even the corporal gaped, though much excited, for he had been suddenly aroused from a deep sleep; but Peter was as much superior to physical, as to moral impressions, on this occasion. He made no suggestion, manifested no concern, exhibited no curiosity; and when the men withdrew, again, to their proper habitation, he walked back with them, in the same silence and calm, as those with which he had advanced. Gershom, however, entered within the palisade, and passed the remainder of the night with his family.