It was midnight, when the bee-hunter felt a hand laid on his own arm. It was the corporal, making this movement, in order to awake him. In an instant the young man was on his feet, with his rifle in his hand.
“Did you not hear it, Bourdon?” demanded the corporal, in a tone so low as scarce to exceed a whisper.
“Hear what! I’ve been sleeping, sound as a bee in winter.”
“The horn!—The horn has been blown twice, and, I think, we shall soon hear it again.”
“The horn was hanging at the door of the chiente, and the conch, too. It will be easy to see if they are in their places.”
It was only necessary to walk around the walls of the hut, to its opposite side, in order to ascertain this fact. Le Bourdon did so, accompanied by the corporal, and just as each laid a hand on the instruments, which were suspended in their proper places, a heavy rush was made against the gate, as if to try its fastenings. These pushes were repeated several times, with a violence that menaced the bars. Of course, the two men stepped to the spot, a distance of only a few paces, the gateway of the palisades and the door of the chiente being contiguous to each other, and immediately ascertained that it was the mastiff, endeavoring to force his way in. The bee-hunter admitted the dog, which had been trained to suppress his bark, though this animal was too brave and large to throw away his breath when he had better rely on his force. Powerful animals, of this race, are seldom noisy, it being the province of the cur, both among dogs and men, to be blustering and spitting out their venom, at all hours and seasons. Hive, however, in addition to his natural disposition, had been taught, from the time he was a pup, not to betray his presence unnecessarily by a bark; and it was seldom that his deep throat opened beneath the arches of the oaks. When it did, it told like the roaring of the lion in the desert.
Hive was no sooner admitted to the “garrison,” than he manifested just as strong a desire to get out, as a moment before he had manifested to get in. This, le Bourdon well knew, indicated the presence of some thing, or creature, that did not properly belong to the vicinity. After consulting with the corporal, Pigeonswing was called; and leaving him as a sentinel at the gate, the two others made a sortie. The corporal was as brave as a lion, and loved all such movements, though he fully anticipated encountering savages, while his companion expected an interview with bears.
As this movement was made at the invitation of the dog, it was judiciously determined to let him act as pioneer, on the advance. Previously to quitting the defences, however, the two adventurers looked closely to their arms. Each examined the priming, saw that his horn and pouch were accessible, and loosened his knife in its sheath. The corporal, moreover, fixed his “baggonet,” as he called the formidable, glittering instrument that usually embellished the end of his musket—a musket being the weapon he chose to carry, while the bee-hunter himself was armed with a long western rifle.