From Chap. 13, State of Indiana, 1819
I had taken a complete inventory of his office by the time his story appeared to be drawing to a close: "How did we know the man was a spy? We knowed he was a lyin' soon as he undressed for bed. Nobody captive of the Indians two years coulda possibly had on a undergarmet that clean!"
The men who were gathered around the agent, sitting on barrels, chairs, and high stools, guffawed and slapped their thighs. He nonchalantly lit his pipe, then all turned their attention toward me. "State your business," the agent snapped.
I introduced myself, told him of my plans, and asked if he would teach me the Miami tongue.
"As I recollect . . . " he drawled, glancing about for assurance that his audience was ready. "As I recollect, it was you Baptists, you independent-as-an-old-sow-Baptists, what was responsible for the gov'ment bein' separated from the chu'ches in the fust place. But now-now that you've hit a snag, now that you need some hep, you come a runnin' to the gov'ment."
I felt the blood rise to my face, but answered calmly. "Sir, I come to you--I beseech you--not as a church man to a government man, but as one human being to another."
The agent was at a loss for a clever retort to that, and his trained assembly was waiting. One of his catch-crumbs, a slack-jawed, blond fellow lolling in a chair slanted against the wall, came to his master's aid. He leaned forward, banging the front legs of his chair onto the floor. Long, uncombed hair fell over his cheeks just as he opened his mouth. "Mister? Hain't you never heard it takes forty years to tame a red man?"
"But only six months for a white man to go wild?" I responded. Yes, I've heard that . . . but I believe only half of it." I dared not look into his face too long; he might have surprised me by understanding what I was telling him.
This exchange had allowed the agent time to puff on his pipe a couple of times and come up with his answer: "Only a danged fool would get involved in a scheme to teach them savages anythin'," he said with a smirk on his face. "And preacher man, I'm no fool."
To the obvious disappointment of the audience, I left without saying another word.