The strangers landed just beneath the hut, or at the precise spot where Whiskey Centre was in the habit of keeping his canoe, and whence Boden had removed it only an hour or two before. The savages had probably selected the place on account of its shores being clear of the wild rice, and because the high ground near it promised both a lookout and comfortable lodgings. Several of the party strolled upward, as if searching for an eligible spot to light their fire, and one of them soon discovered the cabin. The warrior announced his success by a whoop, and a dozen of the Indians were shortly collected in and about the chiente. All this proved the prudence of the course taken by the fugitives.
Blossom stood beneath the tree, and the bee-hunter told her, as each incident occurred, all that passed among the strangers, when the girl communicated the same to her brother and his wife, who were quite near at hand in one of the canoes. As there was no danger of being overheard, conversation in an ordinary tone passed between the parties, two of whom at least were now fond of holding this sort of communion.
“Do they seem to suspect the neighborhood of the occupants of the cabin?” asked Margery, when the bee-hunter had let her know the manner in which the savages had taken possession of her late dwelling.
“One cannot tell. Savages are always distrustful and cautious when on a war-path; and these seem to be scenting about like so many hounds which are nosing for a trail. They are now gathering sticks to light a fire, which is better than burning the chiente.”
“That they will not be likely to do until they have no further need of it. Tell me, Bourdon, do any go near the thicket of alders where we have hidden our goods?”
“Not as yet; though there is a sudden movement and many loud yells among them!”
“Heaven send that it may not be at having discovered anything we have forgotten. The sight of even a lost dipper or cup would set them blood-hounds on our path, as sure as we are white and they are savages!”
“As I live, they scent the whiskey! There is a rush toward, and a pow-wow in and about the shed—yes, of a certainty they smell the liquor! Some of it has escaped in rolling down the hill, and their noses are too keen to pass over a fragrance that to them equals that of roses. Well, let them scent as they may—even an Injin does not get drunk through his nose.”
“You are quite right, Bourdon: but is not this a most unhappy scent for us, since the smell of whiskey can hardly be there without their seeing it did not grow in the woods of itself, like an oak or a beech?”
“I understand you, Margery, and there is good sense in what you say. They will never think the liquor grew there. like a blackberry or a chestnut, though the place is called Whiskey Centre!”
“It is hard enough to know that a family has deserved such a name, without being reminded of it by those that call themselves friends,” answered the girl pointedly, after a pause of near a minute, though she spoke in sorrow rather than in anger.