The wolves were quite as much astonished at this unexpected rencontre, as the Indians. They were not a set of hungry and formidable beasts, that famine might urge to any pass of desperation; but a pack hunting, like gentlemen, for their own amusement. Their headlong speed was checked less by the crowd of men, than by the sight of fire. In their impetuosity, it is probable that they would have gone clean through five hundred men, but no wild beast will willingly encounter fire. Three or four of the chiefs, aware of this dread, seized brands, and throwing themselves, without care, into the midst of the pack, the animals went howling off, scattering in all directions. Unfortunately for its own welfare, one went directly through the circle, plunged into the thicket beyond, and made its way quite up to the fallen tree, on which the bee-hunter and the corporal had taken their stations. This was altogether too much for the training, or for the philosophy of Hive. Perceiving a recognized enemy rushing toward him. that noble mastiff met him in a small cleared spot, open-mouthed, and for a few moments a fierce combat was the consequence. Dogs and wolves do not fight in silence, and loud were the growls and yells on this occasion. In vain did le Bourdon endeavor to drag his mastiff off; the animal was on the high-road to victory, when it is ever hard to arrest the steps of the combatant. Almost as a matter of course, some of the chiefs rushed toward the spot, when the presence of the two spectators first became known to them. At the next moment the wolf lay dead at the feet of Hive; and the parties stood gazing at each other, equally taken by surprise, and equally at a loss to know what to do next.
It was perhaps fortunate for the bee-hunter, that neither Crowsfeather, nor any other of the Pottawattamies, was present at this first rencontre, or he might have fallen on the spot, a victim to their disappointed hopes of drinking at a whiskey-spring. The chiefs present were strangers to le Bourdon, and they stared at him, in a way to show that his person was equally unknown to them. But it was necessary, now, to follow the Indians back to their circle, where the whole party soon collected again, the wolves having gone off on their several routes, to put up some other animal, and run him to death.
During the whole of that excited and tumultuous scene, which would probably now be termed a “stampede” in the Mexican-Americo-English of the day, Peter had not stirred. Familiar with such occurrences, he felt the importance of manifesting an unmoved calm, as a quality most likely to impress the minds of his companions with a profound sense of his dignity and self-command. While all around him was in a tumult, he stood in his tracks, motionless as a statue. Even the fortitude of the worthy missionary was shaken by the wild tempest that momentarily prevailed; and the good man forgot the Jews in his alarm at wolves, forgot the mighty past in his apprehensions for the uncomfortable and ill-boding present time. All this, however, was soon over, and order, and quiet, and a dignified calm once more reigned in the circle. Fagots were thrown on the fire; and the two captives, or spectators, stood as near it, the observed of all observers, as the heat rendered comfortable. It was just then that Crowsfeather and his companions first recognized the magician of the whiskey-spring.