“Land’s sake! I’ve forgotten all about them barrels! They’ll fall into the hands of the savages, and an awful time they’ll make with them! Let me pass, Dolly; I must look after the barrels this instant.”
While the wife gently detained her eager husband, the bee-hunter quietly asked to what barrels he alluded.
“The whiskey casks,” was the answer. “There’s two on ’em in the shed behind the hut, and whiskey enough to set a whole tribe in commotion. I wonder I should have overlooked the whiskey!”
“It is a sign of great improvement, friend Waring, and will lead to no bad consequences,” returned le Bourdon, coolly. “I foresaw the danger, and rolled the casks down the hill, where they were dashed to pieces in the brook, and the liquor has long since been carried into the lake in the shape of grog.”
Waring seemed astounded; but was so completely mystified as not to suspect the truth. That his liquor should be hopelessly lost was bad enough; but even that was better than to have it drunk by savages without receiving any re-turns. After groaning and lamenting over the loss for a few minutes, he joined the rest of the party in making some further dispositions, which le Bourdon deemed prudent, if not necessary.
It had occurred to the bee-hunter to divide his own cargo between the two canoes, which was the task that the whole party was now engaged in. The object was to lighten his own canoe in the event of flight, and, by placing his effects in two parcels, give a chance to those in the boat which might escape, of having wherewithal to comfort and console themselves. As soon as this new arrangement was completed, le Bourdon ran up to a tree that offered the desired facilities, and springing into its branches, was soon high enough to get a view of the bar and the mouth of the river. By the parting light of day, he distinctly saw four canoes coming up the stream; which was one more than those reported to him by Margery as having passed.
And long shall timorous fancy see
The painted chief and pointed spear;
And reason’s self shall bow the knee
To shadows and delusions here.
A bright moon reflected on the earth for about an hour the light of the sun, as the latter luminary disappeared. By its aid the bee-hunter, who still continued in the tree, was enabled to watch the movements of the canoes of the Indians, though the persons they contained soon got to be so indistinct as to render it impossible to do more than count their numbers. The last he made out to be five each in three of the canoes, and six in the other, making twenty-one individuals in all. This was too great an odds to think of resisting, in the event of the strangers turning out to be hostile; and the knowledge of this disparity in force admonished all the fugitives of the necessity of being wary and prudent.