The sad butterfly, Waving his lackered wings, darts quickly on, And, by his free flight, counsels us to speed For better lodgings, and a scene more sweet, Than these dear borders offer us to-night. SIMMS.
It was noon before Ben and Gershom dared to commence the process of cutting and splitting the tree, in order to obtain the honey. Until then, the bees lingered around their fallen hive, and it would have been dangerous to venture beyond the smoke and heat, in order to accomplish the task. It is true, le Bourdon possessed several secrets, of more or less virtue, to drive off the bees when disposed to assault him, but no one that was as certain as a good fire, backed by a dense column of vapor. Various plants are thought to be so offensive to the insects, that they avoid even their odor; and the bee-hunter had faith in one or two of them; but none of the right sort happened now to be near, and he was obliged to trust, first to a powerful heat, and next to the vapor of damp wood.
As there were axes, and wedges, and a beetle in the canoe, and Gershom was as expert with these implements as a master of fencing is with his foil, to say nothing of the skill of le Bourdon, the tree was soon laid open, and its ample stores of sweets exposed. In the course of the afternoon the honey was deposited in kegs, the kegs were transferred to the canoe, and the whole deposited in the chiente. The day had been one of toil, and when our two bordermen sat down near the spring, to take their evening meal, each felt glad that his work was done.
"I believe this must be the last hive I line, this summer," said le Bourdon, while eating his supper. "My luck has been good so far, but in troublesome times one had better not be too far from home. I am surprised, Waring, that you have ventured so far from your family, while the tidings are so gloomy."
"That's partly because you don't know me, and partly because you don't know Dolly. As for leaving hum, with anybody to kear for it, I should like to know who is more to the purpose than Dolly Waring? I haven't no idee that even bees would dare get upon her! If they did, they'd soon get the worst on't Her tongue is all-powerful, to say nawthin' of her arms; and if the so'gers can only handle their muskets as she can handle a broom, there is no need of new regiments to carry on this war."
Now, nothing could be more false than this character; but a drunkard has little regard to what he says.
"I am glad your garrison is so strong," answered the beehunter, thoughtfully; "but mine is too weak to stay any longer, out here in the openings. Whiskey Centre, I intend to break up, and return to the settlement, before the red-skins break loose in earnest. If you will stay and lend me a hand to embark the honey and stores, and help to carry the canoe down the river, you shall be well paid for your trouble."
"Waal, I'd about as lief do that, as do anything else. Good jobs is scarce, out here in the wilderness, and when a body lights of one, he ought to profit by it. I come up here thinkin' to meet you, for I heer'n tell from a voyager that you was a-beeing it, out in the openin's, and there's nawthin' in natur' that Dolly takes to with a greater relish than good wild honey. 'Try whiskey,' I've told her a thousand times, 'and you'll soon get to like that better than all the rest of creation'; but not a drop could I ever get her, or Blossom, to swallow. It's true, that leaves so much the more for me; but I'm a companionable crittur, and don't think I've drunk as much as I want, unless I take it society-like. That's one reason I've taken so mightily to you, Bourdon; you're not much at a pull, but you an't downright afeared of a jug, neither."
The bee-hunter was glad to hear that all the family had not this man's vice, for he now plainly foresaw that the accidents of his position must bring him and these strangers much in contact, for some weeks, at least. Le Bourdon, though not absolutely "afraid of a jug," as Whiskey Centre had expressed it, was decidedly a temperate man; drinking but seldom, and never to excess. He too well knew the hazards by which he was surrounded, to indulge in this way, even had he the taste for it; but he had no taste that way, one small jug of brandy forming his supply for a whole season. In these days of exaggeration in all things, exaggeration in politics, in religion, in temperance, in virtue, and even in education, by putting "new wine into old bottles," that one little jug might have sufficed to give him a bad name; but five-and-thirty years ago men had more real independence than they now possess, and were not as much afraid of that croquemitaine, public opinion, as they are to-day. To be sure, it was little to le Bourdon's taste to make a companion of such a person as Whiskey Centre; but there was no choice. The man was an utter stranger to him; and the only means he possessed of making sure that he did not carry off the property that lay so much at his mercy, was by keeping near him. With many men, the bee-hunter would have been uneasy at being compelled to remain alone with them in the woods; for cases in which one had murdered another, in order to get possession of the goods, in these remote regions, were talked of, among the other rumors of the borders; but Gershom had that in his air and manner that rendered Ben confident his delinquencies, at the most, would scarcely reach bloodshed. Pilfer he might; but murder was a crime which he did not appear at all likely to commit.
After supping in company, our two adventurers secured everything; and, retiring to the chiente, they went to sleep. No material disturbance occurred, but the night passed in tranquillity; the bee- hunter merely experiencing some slight interruption to his slumbers, from the unusual circumstance of having a companion. One as long accustomed to be alone as himself would naturally submit to some such sensation, our habits getting so completely the mastery as often to supplant even nature.
The following morning the bee-hunter commenced his preparations for a change of residence. Had he not been discovered, it is probable that the news received from the Chippewa would not have induced him to abandon his present position, so early in the season; but he thought the risk of remaining was too great under all the circumstances. The Pottawattamie, in particular, was a subject of great distrust to him, and he believed it highly possible some of that old chief's tribe might be after his scalp ere many suns had risen. Gershom acquiesced in these opinions, and, as soon as his brain was less under the influence of liquor than was common with him, he appeared to be quite happy in having it in his power to form a species of alliance, offensive and defensive, with a man of his own color and origin. Great harmony now prevailed between the two, Gershom improving vastly in all the better qualities, the instant his intellect and feelings got to be a little released from the thraldom of the jug. His own immediate store of whiskey was quite exhausted, and le Bourdon kept the place in which his own small stock of brandy was secured a profound secret. These glimmerings of returning intellect, and of reviving principles, are by no means unusual with the sot, thus proving that "so long as there is life, there is hope," for the moral, as well as for the physical being. What was a little remarkable, Gershom grew less vulgar, even in his dialect, as he grew more sober, showing that in all respects he was becoming a greatly improved person.
The men were several hours in loading the canoe, not only all the stores and ammunition, but all the honey being transferred to it. The bee-hunter had managed to conceal his jug of brandy, reduced by this time to little more than a quart, within an empty powder-keg, into which he had crammed a beaver-skin or two, that he had taken, as it might be incidentally, in the course of his rambles. At length everything was removed and stowed in its proper place, on board the capacious canoe, and Gershom expected an announcement on the part of Ben of his readiness to embark. But there still remained one duty to perform. The beehunter had killed a buck only the day before the opening of our narrative, and shouldering a quarter, he had left the remainder of the animal suspended from the branches of a tree, near the place where it had been shot and cleaned. As venison might be needed before they could reach the mouth of the river, Ben deemed it advisable that he and Gershom should go and bring in the remainder of the carcass. The men started on this undertaking accordingly, leaving the canoe about two in the afternoon.
The distance between the spot where the deer had been killed, and the chiente, was about three miles; which was the reason why the bee-hunter had not brought home the entire animal the day he killed it; the American woodsman often carrying his game great distances in preference to leaving it any length of time in the forest. In the latter case there is always danger from beasts of prey, which are drawn from afar by the scent of blood. Le Bourdon thought it possible they might now encounter wolves; though he had left the carcass of the deer so suspended as to place it beyond the reach of most of the animals of the wilderness. Each of the men, however, carried a rifle: and Hive was allowed to accompany them, by an act of grace on the part of his master.
For the first half-hour, nothing occurred out of the usual course of events. The bee-hunter had been conversing freely with his companion, who, he rejoiced to find, manifested far more common sense, not to say good sense, than he had previously shown; and from whom he was deriving information touching the number of vessels, and the other movements on the lakes, that he fancied might be of use to himself when he started for Detroit. While thus engaged, and when distant only a hundred rods from the place where he had left the venison, le Bourdon was suddenly struck with the movements of the dog. Instead of doubling on his own tracks, and scenting right and left, as was the animal's wont, he was now advancing cautiously, with his head low, seemingly feeling his way with his nose, as if there was a strong taint in the wind.
"Sartain as my name is Gershom," exclaimed Waring, just after he and Ben had come to a halt, in order to look around them--"yonder is an Injin! The crittur' is seated at the foot of the large oak-- hereaway, more to the right of the dog, and Hive has struck his scent. The fellow is asleep, with his rifle across his lap, and can't have much dread of wolves or bears!"
"I see him," answered le Bourdon, "and am as much surprised as grieved to find him there. It is a little remarkable that I should have so many visitors, just at this time, on my hunting-ground, when I never had any at all before yesterday. It gives a body an uncomfortable feeling, Waring, to live so much in a crowd! Well, well--I'm about to move, and it will matter little twenty-four hours hence."
"The chap's a Winnebago by his paint," added Gershom--"but let's go up and give him a call."
The bee-hunter assented to this proposal, remarking, as they moved forward, that he did not think the stranger of the tribe just named; though he admitted that the use of paint was so general and loose among these warriors, as to render it difficult to decide.
"The crittur' sleeps soundly!" exclaimed Gershom, stopping within ten yards of the Indian, to take another look at him.
"He'll never awake," put in the bee-hunter, solemnly--"the man is dead. See; there is blood on the side of his head, and a rifle- bullet has left its hole there."
Even while speaking, the bee-hunter advanced, and raising a sort of shawl, that once had been used as an ornament, and which had last been thrown carelessly over the head of its late owner, he exposed the well-known features of Elks-foot, the Pottawattamie, who had left them little more than twenty-four hours before! The warrior had been shot by a rifle-bullet directly through the temple, and had been scalped. The powder had been taken from his horn, and the bullets from his pouch; but, beyond this, he had not been plundered. The body was carefully placed against a tree, in a sitting attitude, the rifle was laid across its legs, and there it had been left, in the centre of the openings, to become food for beasts of prey, and to have its bones bleached by the snows and the rains!
The bee-hunter shuddered, as he gazed at this fearful memorial of the violence against which even a wilderness could afford no sufficient protection. That Pigeonswing had slain his late fellow- guest, le Bourdon had no doubt, and he sickened at the thought. Although he had himself dreaded a good deal from the hostility of the Pottawattamie, he could have wished this deed undone. That there was a jealous distrust of each other between the two Indians had been sufficiently apparent; but the bee-hunter could not have imagined that it would so soon lead to results as terrible as these!
After examining the body, and noting the state of things around it, the men proceeded, deeply impressed with the necessity, not only of their speedy removal, but of their standing by each other in that remote region, now that violence had so clearly broken out among the tribes. The bee-hunter had taken a strong liking to the Chippewa, and he regretted so much the more to think that he had done this deed. It was true, that such a state of things might exist as to justify an Indian warrior, agreeably to his own notions, in taking the life of any one of a hostile tribe; but le Bourdon wished it had been otherwise. A man of gentle and peaceable disposition himself, though of a profoundly enthusiastic temperament in his own peculiar way, he had ever avoided those scenes of disorder and bloodshed, which are of so frequent occurrence in the forest and on the prairies; and this was actually the first instance in which he had ever beheld a human body that had fallen by human hands. Gershom had seen more of the peculiar life of the frontiers than his companion, in consequence of having lived so closely in contact with the "fire- water"; but even he was greatly shocked with the suddenness and nature of the Pottawattamie's end.
No attempt was made to bury the remains of Elksfoot, inasmuch as our adventurers had no tools fit for such a purpose, and any merely superficial interment would have been a sort of invitation to the wolves to dig the body up again.
"Let him lean ag'in' the tree," said Waring, as they moved on toward the spot where the carcass of the deer was left, "and I'll engage nothin' touches him. There's that about the face of man, Bourdon, that skears the beasts; and if a body can only muster courage to stare them full in the eye, one single human can drive before him a whull pack of wolves."
"I've heard as much," returned the bee-hunter, "but should not like to be the 'human' to try the experiment That the face of man may have terrors for a beast, I think likely; but hunger would prove more than a match for such fear. Yonder is our venison, Waring; safe where I left it."
The carcass of the deer was divided, and each man shouldering his burden, the two returned to the river, taking care to avoid the path that led by the body of the dead Indian. As both labored with much earnestness, everything was soon ready, and the canoe speedily left the shore. The Kalamazoo is not in general a swift and turbulent stream, though it has a sufficient current to carry away its waters without any appearance of sluggishness. Of course, this character is not uniform, reaches occurring in which the placid water is barely seen to move; and others, again, are found, in which something like rapids, and even falls, appear. But on the whole, and more especially in the part of the stream where it was, the canoe had little to disturb it, as it glided easily down, impelled by a light stroke of the paddle.
The bee-hunter did not abandon his station without regret. He had chosen a most agreeable site for his chiente, consulting air, shade, water, verdure, and groves, as well as the chances of obtaining honey. In his regular pursuit he had been unusually fortunate; and the little pile of kegs in the centre of his canoe was certainly a grateful sight to his eyes. The honey gathered this season, moreover, had proved to be of an unusually delicious flavor, affording the promise of high prices and ready sales. Still, the bee-hunter left the place with profound regret. He loved his calling; he loved solitude to a morbid degree, perhaps; and he loved the gentle excitement that naturally attended his "bee-lining," his discoveries, and his gains. Of all the pursuits that are more or less dependent on the chances of the hunt and the field, that of the bee-hunter is of the most quiet and placid enjoyment. He has the stirring motives of uncertainty and doubt, without the disturbing qualities of bustle and fatigue; and, while his exercise is sufficient for health, and for the pleasures of the open air, it is seldom of a nature to weary or unnerve. Then the study of the little animal that is to be watched, and, if the reader will, plundered, is not without a charm for those who delight in looking into the wonderful arcana of nature. So great was the interest that le Bourdon sometimes felt in his little companions, that, on three several occasions that very summer, he had spared hives after having found them, because he had ascertained that they were composed of young bees, and had not yet got sufficiently colonized to render a new swarming more than a passing accident. With all this kindness of feeling toward his victims, Boden had nothing of the transcendental folly that usually accompanies the sentimentalism of the exaggerated, but his feelings and impulses were simple and direct, though so often gentle and humane. He knew that the bee, like all the other inferior animals of creation, was placed at the disposition of man, and did not scruple to profit by the power thus beneficently bestowed, though he exercised it gently, and with a proper discrimination between its use and its abuse.
Neither of the men toiled much, as the canoe floated down the stream. Very slight impulses served to give their buoyant craft a reasonably swift motion, and the current itself was a material assistant. These circumstances gave an opportunity for conversation, as the canoe glided onward.
"A'ter all," suddenly exclaimed Waring, who had been examining the pile of kegs for some time in silence--"a'ter all, Bourdon, your trade is an oncommon one! A most extr'ornary and oncommon callin'!"
"More so, think you, Gershom, than swallowing whiskey, morning, noon, and night?" answered the bee-hunter, with a quiet smile.
"Aye, but that's not a reg'lar callin'; only a likin'! Now a man may have a likin' to a hundred things in which he don't deal. I set nothin' down as a business, which a man don't live by."
"Perhaps you're right, Waring. More die by whiskey than live by whiskey."
Whiskey Centre seemed struck with this remark, which was introduced so aptly, and was uttered so quietly. He gazed earnestly at his companion for near a minute, ere he attempted to resume the discourse.
"Blossom has often said as much as this," he then slowly rejoined; "and even Dolly has prophesized the same."
The bee-hunter observed that an impression had been made, and he thought it wisest to let the reproof already administered produce its effect, without endeavoring to add to its power. Waring sat with his chin on his breast, in deep thought, while his companion, for the first time since they had met, examined the features and aspect of the man. At first sight, Whiskey Centre certainly offered little that was inviting; but a closer study of his countenance showed that he had the remains of a singularly handsome man. Vulgar as were his forms of speech, coarse and forbidding as his face had become, through the indulgence which was his bane, there were still traces of this truth. His complexion had once been fair almost to effeminacy, his cheeks ruddy with health, and his blue eye bright and full of hope. His hair was light; and all these peculiarities strongly denoted his Saxon origin. It was not so much Anglo-Saxon as Americo-Saxon, that was to be seen in the physical outlines and hues of this nearly self-destroyed being. The heaviness of feature, the ponderousness of limb and movement, had all long disappeared from his race, most probably under the influence of climate, and his nose was prominent and graceful in outline, while his mouth and chin might have passed for having been under the chisel of some distinguished sculptor. It was, in truth, painful to examine that face, steeped as it was in liquor, and fast losing the impress left by nature. As yet, the body retained most of its power, the enemy having insidiously entered the citadel, rather than having actually subdued it. The bee-hunter sighed as he gazed at his moody companion, and wondered whether Blossom had aught of this marvellous comeliness of countenance, without its revolting accompaniments.
All that afternoon, and the whole of the night that succeeded, did the canoe float downward with the current. Occasionally, some slight obstacle to its progress would present itself; but, on the whole, its advance was steady and certain. As the river necessarily followed the formation of the land, it was tortuous and irregular in its course, though its general direction was toward the northwest, or west a little northerly. The river-bottoms being much more heavily "timbered"--to use a woodsman term--than the higher grounds, there was little of the park-like "openings" on its immediate banks, though distant glimpses were had of many a glade and of many a charming grove.
As the canoe moved toward its point of destination, the conversation did not lag between the bee-hunter and his companion. Each gave the other a sort of history of his life; for, now that the jug was exhausted, Gershom could talk not only rationally, but with clearness and force. Vulgar he was, and, as such, uninviting and often repulsive; still his early education partook of that peculiarity of New England which, if it do not make her children absolutely all they are apt to believe themselves to be, seldom leaves them in the darkness of a besotted ignorance. As usually happens with this particular race, Gershom had acquired a good deal for a man of his class in life; and this information, added to native shrewdness, enabled him to maintain his place in the dialogue with a certain degree of credit. He had a very lively perception-- fancied or real--of all the advantages of being born in the land of the Puritans, deeming everything that came of the great "Blarney Stone" superior to everything else of the same nature elsewhere; and, while much disposed to sneer and rail at all other parts of the country, just as much indisposed to "take," as disposed to "give." Ben Boden soon detected this weakness in his companion's character, a weakness so very general as scarce to need being pointed out to any observant man, and which is almost inseparable from half-way intelligence and provincial self-admiration; and Ben was rather inclined to play on it, whenever Gershom laid himself a little more open than common on the subject. On the whole, however, the communications were amicable; and the dangers of the wilderness rendering the parties allies, they went their way with an increasing confidence in each other's support. Gershom, now that he was thoroughly sober, could impart much to Ben that was useful; while Ben knew a great deal that even his companion, coming as he did from the chosen people, was not sorry to learn. As has been, already intimated, each communicated to the other, in the course of this long journey on the river, an outline of his past life.
The history of Gershom Waring was one of every-day occurrence. He was born of a family in humble circumstances in Massachusetts, a community in which, however, none are so very humble as to be beneath the paternal watchfulness of the State. The common schools had done their duty by him; while, according to his account of the matter, his only sister had fallen into the hands of a female relative, who was enabled to impart an instruction slightly superior to that which is to be had from the servants of the public. After a time, the death of this relative, and the marriage of Gershom, brought the brother and sister together again, the last still quite young. From this period the migratory life of the family commenced. Previously to the establishment of manufactories within her limits, New England systematically gave forth her increase to the States west and south of her own territories. A portion of this increase still migrates, and will probably long continue so to do; but the tide of young women, which once flowed so steadily from that region, would now seem to have turned, and is setting back in a flood of "factory girls." But the Warings lived at too early a day to feel the influence of such a pass of civilization, and went west, almost as a matter of course. With the commencement of his migratory life, Gershom began to "dissipate," as it has got to be matter of convention to term "drinking." Fortunately, Mrs. Waring had no children, thus lessening in a measure the privations to which those unlucky females were obliged to submit. When Gershom left his birthplace he had a sum of money exceeding a thousand dollars in amount, the united means of himself and sister; but, by the time he had reached Detroit, it was reduced to less than a hundred. Several years, however, had been consumed by the way, the habits growing worse and the money vanishing, as the family went further and further toward the skirts of society. At length Gershom attached himself to a sutler, who was going up to Michilimackinac, with a party of troops; and finally he left that place to proceed, in a canoe of his own, to the head of Lake Michigan, where was a post on the present site of Chicago, which was then known as Fort Dearborn.
In quitting Mackinac for Chicago, Waring had no very settled plan. His habits had completely put him out of favor at the former place; and a certain restlessness urged him to penetrate still farther into the wilderness. In all his migrations and wanderings the two devoted females followed his fortunes; the one because she was his wife, the other because she was his sister. When the canoe reached the mouth of the Kalamazoo, a gale of wind drove it into the river; and finding a deserted cabin, ready built, to receive him, Gershom landed, and had been busy with the rifle for the last fortnight, the time he had been on shore. Hearing from some voyageurs who had gone down the lake that a bee-hunter was up the river, he had followed the stream in its windings until he fell in with le Bourdon.
Such is an outline of the account which Whiskey Centre gave of himself. It is true, he said very little of his propensity to drink, but this his companion was enabled to conjecture from the context of his narrative, as well as from what he had seen. It was very evident to the bee-hunter, that the plans of both parties for the summer were about to be seriously deranged by the impending hostilities, and that some decided movement might be rendered necessary, even for the protection of their lives. This much he communicated to Gershom, who heard his opinions with interest, and a concern in behalf of his wife and sister that at least did some credit to his heart. For the first time in many months, indeed, Gershom was now perfectly sober, a circumstance that was solely owing to his having had no access to liquor for eight-and-forty hours. With the return of a clear head, came juster notions of the dangers and difficulties in which he had involved the two self-devoted women who had accompanied him so far, and who really seemed ready to follow him in making the circuit of the earth.
"It's troublesome times," exclaimed Whiskey Centre, when his companion had just ended one of his strong and lucid statements of the embarrassments that might environ them, ere they could get back to the settled portions of the country--"it's troublesome times, truly! I see all you would say, Bourdon, and wonder I ever got my foot so deep into it, without thinkin' of all, beforehand! The best on us will make mistakes, hows'ever, and I suppose I've been called on to make mine, as well as another."
"My trade speaks for itself," returned the bee-hunter, "and any man can see why one who looks for bees must come where they're to be found; but I will own, Gershom, that your speculation lies a little beyond my understanding. Now, you tell me you have two full barrels of whiskey--"
"Had, Bourdon--had--one of them is pretty nearly half used, I am afeared."
"Well, had, until you began to be your own customer. But here you are, squatted at the mouth of the Kalamazoo, with a barrel and a half of liquor, and nobody but yourself to drink it! Where the profits are to come from, exceeds Pennsylvany calculations; perhaps a Yankee can tell."
"You forget the Injins. I met a man at Mackinaw, who only took out in his canoe one barrel, and he brought in skins enough to set up a grocery, at Detroit. But I was on the trail of the soldiers, and meant to make a business on't, at Fort Dearborn. What between the soldiers and the redskins, a man might sell gallons a day, and at fair prices."
"It's a sorry business at the best, Whiskey; and now you're fairly sober, if you'll take my advice you'll remain so. Why not make up your mind, like a man, and vow you'll never touch another drop."
"Maybe I will, when these two barrels is emptied--I've often thought of doin' some sich matter; and, ag'in and ag'in, has Dolly and Blossom advised me to fall into the plan; but it's hard to give up old habits, all at once. If I could only taper off on a pint a day, for a year or so, I think I might come round in time. I know as well as you do, Bourdon, that sobriety is a good thing, and dissipation a bad thing; but it's hard to give up all at once."
Lest the instructed reader should wonder at a man's using the term "dissipation" in a wilderness, it may be well to explain that, in common American parlance, "dissipation" has got to mean "drunkenness." Perhaps half of the whole country, if told that a man, or a woman, might be exceedingly dissipated and never swallow anything stronger than water, would stoutly deny the justice of applying the word to such a person. This perversion of the meaning of a very common term has probably arisen from the circumstance that there is very little dissipation in the country that is not connected with hard drinking. A dissipated woman is a person almost unknown in America; or when the word is applied, it means a very different degree of misspending of time, from that which is understood by the use of the same reproach in older and more sophisticated states of society. The majority rules in this country, and with the majority excess usually takes this particular aspect; refinement having very little connection with the dissipation of the masses, anywhere.
The excuses of his companion, however, caused le Bourdon to muse, more than might otherwise have been the case, on Whiskey Centre's condition. Apart from all considerations connected with the man's own welfare, and the happiness of his family, there were those which were inseparable from the common safety, in the present state of the country. Boden was a man of much decision and firmness of character, and he was clear-headed as to causes and consequences. The practice of living alone had induced in him the habits of reflection; and the self-reliance produced by his solitary life, a life of which he was fond almost to a passion, caused him to decide warily, but to act promptly. As they descended the river together, therefore, he went over the whole of Gershom Waring's case and prospects, with great impartiality and care, and settled in his own mind what ought to be done, as well as the mode of doing it. He kept his own counsel, however, discussing all sorts of subjects that were of interest to men in their situation, as they floated down the stream, avoiding any recurrence to this theme, which was possibly of more importance to them both, just then, than any other that could be presented.