The first impulse of le Bourdon had been to turn and fly up stream. But, ascertaining that these dangerous enemies were so fully occupied by Peter as not to see the canoes behind, he merely inclined a little toward the other side of the channel, and slackened his rate of movement, in order not to come too near. The instant he was satisfied that all three of the canoes in advance had entered the passage mentioned, and were moving toward the landing, he let out, and glided down stream like an arrow. It required but half a minute to cross the opening of the passage, but Peter’s conversation kept his followers looking ahead, which greatly lessened the risk. Le Bourdon’s heart was in his mouth several times, while thus running the gauntlet, as it might be; but fortune favored them; or, as Margery more piously understood the circumstances, a Divine Providence led them in safety past the danger.
At the mouth of the river both le Bourdon and Gershom thought it highly probable that they should fall in with more lookouts, and each prepared his arms for a fight. But no canoe was there, and the fugitives were soon in the lake. Michigan is a large body of water, and a bark canoe is but a frail craft to put to sea in, when there is any wind or commotion. On the present occasion, there was a good deal of both; so much as greatly to terrify the females. Of all the craft known, however, one of these egg-shells is really the safest, if properly managed, among breakers or amid the combing of seas. We have ourselves ridden in them safely through a surf that would have swamped the best man-of-war cutter that ever floated; and done it, too, without taking on board as much water as would serve to wash one’s hands. The light vessel floats on so little of the element, indeed, that the foam of a large sea has scarce a chance of getting above it, or aboard it; the great point in the handling being to prevent the canoe from falling broadside to. By keeping it end on to the sea, in our opinion, a smart gale might be weathered in one of these craft, provided the endurance of a man could bear up against the unceasing watchfulness and incessant labor of sweeping with the paddle, in order to prevent broaching to.
Le Bourdon, it has been said, was very skilful in the management of his craft; and Gershom, now perforce a sober and useful man, was not much behind him in this particular. The former had foreseen this very difficulty, and made all his arrangements to counteract it. No sooner, therefore, did he find the canoes in rough water than he brought them together, side by side, and lashed them there. This greatly lessened the danger of capsizing, though it increased the labor of managing the craft when disposed to turn broadside to. It only remained to get sail on the catamaran, for some such thing was it now, in order to keep ahead of the sea as much as possible. Light cotton lugs were soon spread, one in each canoe, and away they went, as sailors term it, wing and wing.