They were clever educated men who had given their lives to christianising brainless savages in a sparsely settled country; and any news of the outer world was very welcome. They pushed back their hoods and sat about the boys, their faces beaming with interest and amusement as they listened to the adventures of those wayward youths.
Should you retire, as you have threatened, of course another lieutenant will be appointed in your stead; but, should you chance to lose your scalp during the struggle with the savages, the step goes in the regiment, and he, being the senior ensign, obtains promotion in consequence." "Ah!" observed Captain Blessington, "this is indeed the greatest curse attached to the profession of a soldier.
We had need to go carefully here, for suspicion of snakes. We found no sign of savage wild beasts, though of harmless ones there were plenty, some of which made very good meat. As for savages, we saw none; and as far as we could make out we were the only human beings upon the island.
Not another human being was to be seen in the clearing at that moment; for all the savages, including even the women assembled outside, were now within the fort assisting in the complex horrors of murder, fire, and spoliation.
A small canoe, carrying only three men, at length rowed towards us; we laid to, and by signs gave permission to the savages to come on board; this they could not resolve upon; but one of them climbed the ship's side high enough to see over the deck, and handed to us a few cocoa-nuts, all the provisions they had brought; a piece of iron, which we gave him in return, he pressed to his forehead in sign of thankfulness, and then bowed his head.
More and more the young men of Canada continued to visit the savages at their villages. By 1660 the coureurs de bois formed a distinct class, who, despite the laws against it, pushed from Michillimackinac into the wilderness. Wisconsin was a favorite resort of these adventurers. By the time of the arrival of the Jesuits they had made themselves entirely at home upon our lakes.
It is impossible to prove, historically, which of the two main elements in belief the idea of an Eternal Being or Beings, or the idea of surviving ghosts came first into the minds of men. The idea of primeval Eternal Beings, as understood by savages, does not depend on, or require, the ghost theory.
Dismounting my men, we received the savages with a heavy fire, which brought them to a halt with some damage and more or less confusion. General Rains now became very much excited and alarmed about me, and endeavored to ford the swift river with his infantry and artillery, but soon had to abandon the attempt, as three or four of the poor fellows were swept off their feet and drowned.
As he sits at his table, breaking his bread and eating fish and oysters, he has his dog, parrot, and goats as companions and gives them a share of his meal. One day he sees from his look-out hill five boats come to the island and put to shore, and thirty savages jump on land and light a fire. Then they bring two prisoners from a boat. One they kill with a club.
The belief of our friends was that the troublesome natives were entirely confined to the left bank, though it was not likely they refrained from crossing so narrow a stream as the Xingu at its upper portion. If the savages had been slow to learn from their first experience with the white men, there could be no doubt that the valuable lesson of the last encounter would not be lost upon them.