In truth, the chiente was now converted into a place of some strength, when it is considered that artillery had never yet penetrated to those wilds. More than half the savages of the west fought with arrows and spears in that day, as most still do when the great prairies are reached. A rifleman so posted as to have his body in a great measure covered by the trunk of a burr-oak tree, would be reasonably secure against the missives of an Indian, and, using his own fatal instrument of death, under a sense of personal security, he would become a formidable opponent to dislodge. Nor was the smallness of the work any objection to its security. A single well-armed man might suffice to defend twenty-five feet of palisades, when he would have been insufficient to make good his position with twice the extent. Then le Bourdon had cut loops on three sides of the hut itself, in order to fire at the bears, and sometimes at the deer, which had often approached the building in its days of solitude and quiet, using the window on the fourth side for the same purpose. In a word, a sense of increased security was felt by the whole party when this work was completed, though one arrangement was still wanting to render it perfect. By separating the real garrison from the nominal garrison during the night, there always existed the danger of surprise; and the corporal, now that his fortifications were finished, soon devised a plan to obviate this last-named difficulty. His expedient was very simple, and had somewhat of barrack-life about it.
Corporal Flint raised a low platform along one side of the chiente, by placing there logs of pine that were squared on one of their sides. Above, at the height of a man’s head, a roof of bark was reared on poles, and prairie grass, aided by skins, formed very comfortable barrack-beds beneath. As the men were expected to lie with their heads to the wall of the hut, and their feet outward, there was ample space for twice their number. Thither, then, were all the homely provisions for the night transported; and when Margery closed the door of the chiente, after returning the bee-hunter’s cordial good night, it was with no further apprehension for the winding of the mysterious horn.
The first night that succeeded the new arrangement passed without any disturbance. Pigeonswing did not return, as usual, at sunset, and a little uneasiness was felt on his account; but, as he made his appearance quite early in the morning, this source of concern ceased. Nor did the Chippewa come in empty-handed; he had killed not only a buck, but he had knocked over a bear in his rambles, besides taking a mess of famously fine trout from a brawling stream at no great distance. The fish were eaten for breakfast, and immediately after that meal was ended, a party.