“The bee is a bird I have never been compelled to seek,” returned the other, laughing; “though I have, too, been something of a fowler in my time.”

“I thought as much,” exclaimed Paul, thrusting forth his hand frankly, and with the true freedom of manner that marks an American borderer. “Let us cross fingers. You and I will never quarrel about the comb, since you set so little store by the honey. And now, if your stomach has an empty corner, and you know how to relish a genuine dew-drop when it falls into your very mouth, there lies the exact morsel to put into it. Try it, stranger; and having tried it, if you don’t call it as snug a fit as you have made since— How long ar’ you from the settlements, pray?”

“’Tis many weeks, and I fear it may be as many more before I can return. I will, however, gladly profit by your invitation, for I have fasted since the rising of yesterday’s sun, and I know too well the merits of a bison’s hump to reject the food.”

“Ah! you ar’ acquainted with the dish! Well, therein you have the advantage of me, in setting out, though I think I may say we could now start on equal ground. I should be the happiest fellow between Kentucky and the Rocky Mountains, if I had a snug cabin, near some old wood that was filled with hollow trees, just such a hump every day as that for dinner, a load of fresh straw for hives, and little El—”

“Little what?” demanded the stranger, evidently amused with the communicative and frank disposition of the bee-hunter.

“Something that I shall have one day, and which concerns nobody so much as myself,” returned Paul, picking the flint of his rifle, and beginning very cavalierly to whistle an air well known on the waters of the Mississippi.

During this preliminary discourse the stranger had taken his seat by the side of the hump, and was already making a serious inroad on its relics. Dr. Battius, however, watched his movements with a jealousy, still more striking than the cordial reception which the open-hearted Paul had just exhibited.

But the doubts, or rather apprehensions, of the naturalist were of a character altogether different from the confidence of the bee-hunter. He had been struck with the stranger’s using the legitimate, instead of the perverted name of the animal off which he was making his repast; and as he had been among the foremost himself to profit by the removal of the impediments which the policy of Spain had placed in the way of all explorers of her trans-Atlantic dominions, whether bent on the purposes of commerce, or, like himself, on the more laudable pursuits of science, he had a sufficiency of every-day philosophy to feel that the same motives, which had so powerfully urged himself to his present undertaking, might produce a like result on the mind of some other student of nature. Here, then, was the prospect of an alarming rivalry, which bade fair to strip him of at least a moiety of the just rewards of all his labours, privations, and dangers. Under these views of his character, therefore, it is not at all surprising that the native meekness of the naturalist’s disposition was a little disturbed, and that he watched the proceedings of the other with such a degree of vigilance as he believed best suited to detect his sinister designs.

“This is truly a delicious repast,” observed the unconscious young stranger, for both young and handsome he was fairly entitled to be considered; “either hunger has given a peculiar relish to the viand, or the bison may lay claim to be the finest of the ox family!”

“Naturalists, sir, are apt, when they speak familiarly, to give the cow the credit of the genus,” said Dr. Battius, swelling with secret distrust, and clearing his throat, before speaking, much in the manner that a duellist examines the point of the weapon he is about to plunge into the body of his foe. “The figure is more perfect; as the bos, meaning the ox, is unable to perpetuate his kind; and the bos, in its most extended meaning, or vacca, is altogether the nobler animal of the two.”

The Doctor uttered this opinion with a certain air, that he intended should express his readiness to come, at once, to any of the numerous points of difference which he doubted not existed between them; and

  By PanEris using Melati.

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