“More than pale-face?” demanded Bear’s Meat, a chief who had attained his authority more by means of physical than of intellectual qualities.
“Sometimes. Pale-faces have gone to bees to ask what will happen. Let me ask our medicine-man this question. Parson Amen, have you any knowledge of the soothsayers of old using bees when they wished to know what was about to happen?”
Now, the missionary was not a learned man, any more than the bee-hunter; but many an unlearned man has heard of this, and he happened to be one of the number. Of Virgil, for instance, Parson Amen knew but little; though in the progress of a very loose, but industrious course of reading, he had learned that the soothsayers put great faith in bees. His answer was given in conformity with this fact, and in the most perfect good faith, for he had not the smallest suspicion of what Boden wished to establish.
“Certainly—most certainly,” answered the well-meaning missionary— “the fortune-tellers of old times often went to their bees when they wished to look into the future. It has been a subject much talked of among Christians, to account for the soothsaying, and witchcraft, and other supernatural dealings of those who lived in the times of the prophets; and most of them have held the opinion that evil spirits have been—nay, still are permitted to work their will on certain men in the flesh. But bees were in much favor with the soothsayers of old.”
This answer was given in English, and little of it was comprehended by Peter, and the others who had more or less knowledge of that language, beyond the part which asserted the agency of bees in witchcraft. Luckily, this was all le Bourdon desired, and he was well satisfied at seeing that the idea passed from one chief to another; those who did not know the English at all, being told by those who had some knowledge of the tongue, that “bees were thought to be ‘medicine’ among the pale-faces.”
Le Bourdon gained a great deal of ground by this fortunate corroboration of his own still more fortunate thought Matters were pretty nearly desperate with him, and with all his friends, should Peter really meditate evil; and as desperate diseases notoriously require remedies of the same character, he was ready to attempt anything that promised even the smallest chance of success.
“Yes, yes—” the bee-hunter pursued the discourse by saying—“bees know a great deal. I have sometimes thought that bees know more than bears, and my brother must be able to tell something of them?”
“Yes; my name is Bear’s Meat,” answered that chief, complacently. “Injin always give name that mean somet’ing. Kill so many bear one winter, got dat name.”
“A good name it is! To kill a bear is the most honorable thing a hunter can do, as we all know. If my brother wishes to hear it, I will ask my bees when he is to kill another.”