As they approached nearer and nearer to what was conceived to be the most critical point in the passage, the canoes got closer together; so close, indeed, that le Bourdon and Gershom might communicate in very guarded tones. The utmost care was taken to avoid making any noise, since a light and careless blow from a paddle, on the side of a canoe, would be almost certain, now, to betray them. Margery and Dorothy could no longer control their feelings, and each rose in her seat, raising her body so as to bring her head above the gunwale of the canoe, if a bark canoe can be said to have a gunwale at all. They even whispered to each other, endeavoring to glean encouragement by sympathy. At this instant occurred the crisis in their attempt to escape.
For an Indian isle she shapes her way
With constant mind both night and day:
She seems to hold her home in view
And sails as if the path she knew,
So calm and stately in her motion
Across the unfathomed, trackless ocean.
It has been said that Peter was in advance. When his canoe was nearly abreast of the usual landing at the hut, he saw two canoes coming out from among the rice, and distant from him not more than a hundred yards. At a greater distance, indeed, it would not have been easy to distinguish such an object on the water at all. Instead of attempting to avoid these two canoes, the chief instantly called to them, drawing the attention of those in them to himself, speaking so loud as to be easily overheard by those who followed.
“My young men are too late,” he said. “The pale-faces have been seen in the openings above by our warriors, and must soon be here. Let us land, and be ready to meet them at the wigwam.”
Peter’s voice was immediately recognized. The confident, quiet, natural manner in which he spoke served to mislead those in the canoes; and when he joined them, and entered the passage among the rice that led to the landing, preceding the others, the last followed him as regularly as the colt follows its dam. Le Bourdon heard the conversation, and understood the movement, though he could not see the canoes. Peter continued talking aloud, as he went up the passage, receiving answers to all he said from his new companions, his voice serving to let the fugitives know precisely where they were. All this was understood and improved by the last, who lost no time in turning the adventure to account.