Pierre felt relaxed. The water was lapping the sides of his canoe gently and the sound of his paddle dipping into the surface of the lake served to keep a steady beat for the sounds from the wilderness around him.
How do grasshoppers keep up that constant hum? he wondered to himself. If I’m not careful I’ll fall asleep, right into the water.
It was early spring and Pierre was on his way to a Chippewa settlement, northwest of the Superior Lake. His brother-in-law, Medard, had sent Pierre on his own because of his knowledge of, and experience in, Indian ways. The discussion had not been a long one.
As they parted, Medard had said to Pierre that he should be able to quickly win the Indians over to their side. It was the Potawatomi who had told them of their allies, the ‘Ojibwa’ as they were known by their neighbours. The Chippewa covered most of the northern Great Lakes regions and were the largest tribe on the North American continent. Their help was needed by the French furtraders, in order to keep out the English and keep the other Indian tribes friendly.
Now, thought Pierre, I must keep my wits about me, if I’m to be persuasive.
His abilities to be persuasive were already legendary: only one winter ago he had single-handedly prevented a massacre of the Jesuits and the French garrison at Sainte-Marie-of-Gahentra by the Iroquois, by pretending to have had a dream where he was going to die unless there was a Great Feast. To avoid his death, the Great Feast was held, and after the Indians fell asleep, the French and Jesuits escaped unharmed.
That time of his life seemed distant to Pierre, now, as he paddled quietly on the still water.
In about an hour, I will be there, he thought. Then I can go to work on the Saulters. I’ll prove to Medard that his trust in me is not misplaced. Now, if I can only keep alert instead of falling into reveie.
With that, he increased the tempo of his stroke and broke the spell.