“Dat plain ’nough—wish Christian talk half as plain. You see, Bourdon, dat Elksfoot on scout, when we meet in openin’, up river. I know’d his ar’nd, and so took scalp. Dem Pottawattamie his friend— when dey come to meet ole chief, no find him; but find Pigeonwing; got me when tired and ’sleep; got Elkfoot scalp wid me—sorry for dat—know scalp by scalp-lock, which had gray hair, and some mark. So put me in canoe, and meant to take Chippewa to Chicago to torture him—but too much wind. So, when meet friend in t’odder canoe, come back here to wait little while.”
This was the simple explanation of the manner in which Pigeonswing had fallen into the hands of his enemies. It would seem that Elksfoot had come in a canoe from the mouth of the St. Joseph’s to a point about half-way between that river and the mouth of the Kalamazoo, and there landed. What the object of the party was, does not exactly appear, though it is far from being certain that it was not to seize the bee-hunter, and confiscate his effects. Although le Bourdon was personally a stranger to Elksfoot, news flies through the wilderness in an extraordinary manner; and it was not at all unlikely that the fact of a white American’s being in the openings should soon spread, along with the tidings that the hatchet was dug up, and that a party should go out in quest of his scalp and the plunder. It would seem that the savage tact of the Chippewa detected that in the manner of the Pottawattamie chief, which assured him the intentions of the old warrior were not amicable; and that he took the very summary process which has been related, not only to secure his scalp, but effectually to put it out of his power to do any mischief to one who was an ally, and by means of recent confidence, now a friend. All this the Indian explained to his companion, in his usual clipped English, but with a clearness sufficient to make it perfectly intelligible to his listener. The bee-hunter listened with the most profound attention, for he was fully aware of the importance of comprehending all the hazards of his own situation.
While this dialogue was going on, Margery had succeeded in lighting her fire, and was busy in preparing some warm compound, which she knew would be required by her unhappy brother after his debauch, Dorothy passed often between the fire and the canoe, feeling a wife’s anxiety in the fate of her husband. As for the Chippewa, intoxication was a very venial offence in his eyes; though he had a contempt for a man who would thus indulge while on a warpath. The American Indian does possess this merit of adapting his deportment to his circumstances. When engaged in war he usually prepares himself, in the coolest and wisest manner, to meet its struggles, indulging only in moments of leisure, and of comparative security. It is true that the march of what is called civilization is fast changing the red man’s character, and he is very apt now to do that which he sees done by the “Christians” around him.