Scaring the bejeezus out of Kalm

More on Peter Kalm and his travels through North America:

October 22, 749.  Here, Peter and some companions (French guides who he had never met before) were traveling through the wilds of Northern New York, returning from a trip to the French colony of Canada and on his way back to Philadelphia.  The weather was extremely unhelpful, delaying the waterborne portion of his trip for days.  I imagine sitting around in the same uninhabited area for days at a time, while the days are getting shorter and colder, among people who you are barely acquainted with and knowing that there remains a long way to go to the next settlement would begin to wear on anyone’s nerves.

Tales of Horror. During the evenings my companions were busy telling one another how they had gone forth in the last  war to attack the English; how they had had Indians among and how they had beaten to death the enemy and scalped him.  They also told how the natives often scalped the enemy while he was still alive; how they did the same thing with prisoners who were too weak to follow them, and of other gruesome deeds which it was horrible for me to listen to in these wildernesses, where the forests were now full of Indians who to-day might be at peace with one another and to-morrow at war, killing and beating to death whomsoever they could steal upon.  A little while ago there was a crackling sound in the woods just as if something had walked or approached slowly in order to steal upon us.  Almost everyone arose to see what was the matter, but we heard nothing more.  It was said that we had just been talking about scalping and that we could suffer the same fate before we were aware of it.  The long autumn nights are rather terrifying in these vast wildernesses.  May God be with us!

I can almost picture Kalm sitting around the fire with his compatriots, scribbling away furiously in his notes and trying like hell not to hear the stories about ambushes in the middle of the night and scalping the unsuspecting.  I’m guessing he didn’t sleep that well that night.


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