Part 7 out of 9
trip, out of his turn; but, instead of returning, as had been the practice
of both, the next day, we saw no more of him for near a fortnight. As
we talked over this sudden and unexpected disappearance, we came to the
conclusion, that, perceiving he was distrusted, the fellow had deserted,
and would be seen no more. During his absence, we paid a visit to
Ravensnest ourselves, spending two or three happy days with the girls,
whom we found delighted with the wildness of their abode, and as happy as
innocence, health, and ceaseless interest in the forest and its habits,
could make them. Herman Mordaunt, having fortified his house sufficiently,
as he fancied, to remove all danger of an assault, returned with us to
Mooseridge, and passed two or three days in walking over and examining
the quality of the land, together with the advantages offered by the
water-courses. As for Mr. Worden and Jason, the former had gone to join the
army, craving the flesh-pots of a regimental mess, in preference to the
simple fare of the woods; while Jason had driven a hard bargain with Herman
Mordaunt for the possession of the mill-seat; which had been the subject of
frequent discussions between the parties, and about which the pedagogue had
deemed it prudent to draw on the wisdom of Mother Doortje. As the reader
may have some curiosity to know how such things were conducted in the
colony, in the year 1758, I will recapitulate the terms of the bargain that
was finally agreed on, signed and sealed.
Herman Mordaunt expected no emolument to himself, from Ravensnest, but
looked forward solely to a provision for posterity. In consequence of these
views, he refused to sell, but gave leases on such conditions as would
induce tenants to come into his terms, in a country in which land was far
plentier than men. For some reason, that never was very clear to me, he was
particularly anxious to secure Jason Newcome, and no tolerable terms seemed
extravagant to effect his purpose. It is not surprising, therefore,
that our miller in perspective got much the best of the bargain, as its
conditions will show.
The lease was for three lives, and twenty-one years afterwards. This would
have been thought equal to a lease for forty-two years, in that day, in
Europe; but experience is showing that it is, in truth, for a much longer
period, in America.  The first ten years, no rent at all was to be
paid. For the next ten, the land, five hundred acres, was to pay sixpence
currency an acre, the tenant having the right to cut timber at pleasure.
This was a great concession, as the mill-lot contained much pine. For the
remainder of the lease, be it longer or shorter, a shilling an acre, or
about sixpence sterling, was to be paid for the land, and forty pounds
currency, or one hundred dollars a year, for the mill-seat. The mills to be
taken by the landlord, at an appraisal 'made by men', at the expiration of
the lease; the tenant to pay the taxes. The tenant had the privilege of
using all the materials for his dams, buildings, &c., he could find on the
The policy of the owners of Mooseridge was different. We intended to sell
at low prices, at first, reserving for leases hereafter, such farms as
could not be immediately disposed of, or for which the purchaser failed to
pay. In this manner it was thought we should sooner get returns for our
outlays, and sooner 'build up a settlement,' as the phrase goes. In
America, the reader should know, everything is 'built.' The priest 'builds
up' a flock; the speculator, a fortune; the lawyer, a reputation; and the
landlord, a settlement; sometimes, with sufficient accuracy in language, he
even builds a town.
Jason was a very happy man, the moment he got his lease, signed and sealed,
in his own possession. It made him a sort of a land-holder on the spot, and
one who had nothing to pay for ten years to come. God forgive me, if I
do the man injustice; but, from the first, I had a suspicion that Jason
trusted to fortune to prevent any pay-day from ever coming at all. As for
Herman Mordaunt, he seemed satisfied, for he fancied that he had got a
man of some education on his property, who might answer a good purpose in
civilizing, and in otherwise advancing the interests of his estate.
Just as the rays of the rising sun streamed through the crevices of our log
tenement, and ere one of us three idlers had risen from his pallet, I heard
a moccasined foot moving near me, in the nearly noiseless tread of an
Indian. Springing to my feet, I found myself face to face with the missing
"You here, Susquesus!" I exclaimed; "we supposed you had abandoned us. What
has brought you back?"
"Time to go, now," answered the Indian, quietly. "Yengeese and Canada
warrior soon fight."
"Is this true!--And do you, _can_ you know it to be true! Where have you
been this fortnight past?"
"Been see--have see--know him just so. Come--call young men; go on
Here, then, was an explanation of the mystery of the Onondago's absence! He
had heard us speak of an intention of moving with the troops, at the
last moment, and he had gone to reconnoitre, in order that we might have
seasonable notice when it would be necessary to quit the 'Ridge,' as we
familiarly termed the Patent. I saw nothing treasonable in this, but rather
deemed it a sign of friendly interest in our concerns; though it was
certainly 'running' much farther than the Indian had been directed to
proceed, and 'running' a little off the track. One might overlook such an
irregularity in a savage, however, more especially as I began to weary of
the monotony of our present manner of living, and was not sorry to discover
a plausible apology for a change.
The reader may be certain, it was not long before I had communicated the
intelligence brought by the Trackless, to my companions; who received it as
young men would be; apt to listen to tidings so stirring. The Onondago was
summoned to our council, and he renewed his protestation that it was time
for us to be moving.
"No stop"--he answered, when questioned again on the subject; "time go.
Canoe ready--gun loaded--warrior counted--chief woke up--council fire gone
out. Time, go."
"Well then, Corny," said Guert, rising and stretching his fine frame like a
lion roused from his lair, "here's off. We can go to Ravensnest to sleep,
to-day; and, to-morrow we will work our way out into the highway, and fall
into the line of march of the army. I shall have another opportunity of
seeing Mary Wallace, and of telling her how much I love her. That will be
so much gained, at all events."
"No see squaw--no go to Nest!" said the Indian, with energy. "War-path
_this_ way," pointing in a direction that might have varied a quarter of a
circle from that to Herman Mordaunt's settlement. "Bad for warrior to see
squaw when he dig up hatchet--only make woman of him. No; go this way--path
there--no here--scalp there--squaw here."
As the gestures of the Onondago were quite as significant as his language,
we had no difficulty in understanding him. Guert continued his questions,
however, while dressing, and we all soon became convinced, by the words of
the Indian, broken and abrupt as they were, that Abercrombie was on the
point of embarking with his army on Lake George, and that we must needs
be active, if we intended to be present at the contemplated operations in
front of Ticonderoga.
Our decision was soon reached, and our preparations made. By packing and
shouldering his knapsack, and arming himself, each man would be ready;
though a short delay grew out of the absence of Traverse and his
chain-bearers. We wrote a letter, however, explaining the reason of our
intended absence, promising to return as soon as the operations in front of
Ty should be terminated. This letter we left with Pete, who was to remain
as cook, though Jaap bestirred himself, loaded his broad shoulders with
certain indispensables for our march, took his rifle, pack and horn and
was ready to move as soon as any of us. All this the fellow did, moreover,
without orders; deeming it a part of his duty to follow his young master,
even if he followed him to evil. No dog, indeed, could be truer, in this
particular, than Jaap or Jacob Satanstoe, for he had adopted the name of
the Neck as his patronymic; much as the nobles of other regions style
themselves after _their_ lands.
When all was ready, and we were on the point of quitting the hut, the
question arose seriously, whether we were to go by Ravensnest, or by the
new route that the Onondago had mentioned. Path there was not, in either
direction; but, we had land-marks, springs, and other known signs, on the
former; while of the latter we literally knew nothing. Then Anneke and
Mary Wallace, with their bright, blooming, sunny faces--bright and
happy whenever we appeared, most certainly, of late--were in the former
direction, and even Dirck cried out 'for Ravensnest.' But, on that route
the Onondago refused to stir one foot. He stood, resembling a finger-post,
pointing north-westerly with an immovable obstinacy, that threatened to
bring the order of our march into some confusion.
"We know nothing of that route, Trackless," Guert observed, or rather
replied, for the Indian's manner was so expressive as to amount to a
remark, "and we would rather travel a road with which we are a little
acquainted. Besides, we wish to pay our parting compliments to the ladies."
"Squaw no good, now--war-path no go to squaw. Huron--French warrior, here."
"Ay, and they are there, too. We shall be on their heels soon enough, by
going to Ravensnest."
"No soon 'nough--can't do him. Path long, time short. Pale-face warrior in
"Pale-face warriors' friends are in a hurry, too--so you will do well to
follow us, as we do not intend to follow you. Come, gentlemen, we will lead
the Indian, as the Indian does not seem disposed to lead us. After a mile
or two he will think it more honourable to go in advance; and, for that
distance, I believe, I can show you the way."
"That road good for young men who don't want see enemy!" said Susquesus,
with ironical point.
"By St. Nicholas! Indian, what do you mean?" cried Guert, turning short on
his heels and moving swiftly towards the Onondago, who did not wait for
the menacing blow, but wheeled in his tracks and led off, at a quick pace,
directly towards the north-west.
I do believe that Guert pursued, for the first minute, with no other
intention than that of laying his powerful arm on the offender's shoulder;
but I dropped in on his footsteps so soon, Dirck following me, and Jaap
Dirck, that we were all moving off Indian file, or in the fashion of the
woods, at the rate of four miles in the hour, almost before we knew it. An
impulse of that angry nature is not over in a minute, and, before either of
us had sufficiently cooled to be entirely reasonable, the whole party was
fairly out of sight of the hut. After that no one appeared to think of the
necessity or of the expediency of reverting to the original intention. It
was certainly indiscreet, thus to confide absolutely in the good faith of a
savage, or a semi-savage, at least, whom we scarcely knew, and whom we had
actually distrusted; but we did it, and precisely in the manner and
under the feelings I have described. I know that we all thought of the
indiscretion of which we had been guilty, after the first mile; but each
was too proud to make the other acquainted with his misgivings. I say all,
but Jaap ought to be excepted, for nothing in the shape of danger ever gave
that negro any concern, unless it was spooks. He _was_ afraid of 'spooks,'
but he did not fear man.
Susquesus manifested the same confidence in his knowledge of the woods,
while now leading the way, league after league through the dark forest,
as he had done when he took us to the oak with the broken top. On this
occasion, he guided us more by the sun, and the course generally, than by
any acquaintance with objects that we passed; though, three times that day
did he point out to us particular things that he had before seen, while
traversing the woods in directions that crossed, at angles more or less
oblique, the line of our present route. As for us, it was like a sailor's
pointing to a path on the trackless ocean. We had our pocket-compasses, it
is true, and understood well enough that a north-west course would bring us
out somewhere near the foot of Lake George; but I much doubt if we could
have made, by any means, as direct a line, by their aid, as we did by that
of the Indian.
On this subject we had a discussion among ourselves, I well remember, when
we halted to eat and rest, a little after the turn of the day. For five
hours had we walked with great rapidity, much as the bird flies, so far as
course was concerned, never turning aside, unless it might be to avoid some
impassable obstacle; and our calculation was that we had made quite twenty,
of the forty miles we had to go over, according to the Onondago's account
of the probable length of our journey. We had strung our sinews and
hardened our muscles in such a way as to place us above the influence of
common fatigue; yet, it must be confessed, the Indian was much the freshest
of the five, when we reached the spring where we dined.
"An Indian does seem to have a nose much like that of a hound," said Guert,
as our appetites began to be appeased; "_that_ must be admitted. Yet I
think, Corny, a compass would carry a man through the woods with more
certainty than any signs on the bark of trees, or looks at the sun."
"A compass cannot err, of course; but it would be a troublesome thing to be
stopping every minute or two, to look at your compass, which must have time
to become steady, you will remember, or it would become a guide that is
worse than none."
"Every minute or two! Say once in an hour, or once in half an hour, at
most. I would engage to travel as straight as the best Indian of them all,
by looking at my compass once in half an hour."
Susquesus was seated near enough to us three to over hear our conversation,
and he understood English perfectly, though he spoke it in the usual,
clipped manner of an Indian. I thought I could detect a covert gleam of
contempt in his dark countenance, at this boast of Guert's; but he made no
remark. We finished our meal, rested our legs; and, when our watches told
us it was one o'clock, we rose in a body to resume our march. We were
renewing the priming of our rifles, a precaution each man took twice every
day, to prevent the effects of the damps of the woods, when the Onondago
quietly fell in behind Guert, patiently waiting the leisure of the latter.
"We are all ready, Trackless," cried the Albanian 'give us the lead and the
step, as before."
"No"--answered the Indian. "Compass lead, now Susquesus no see any
longer,--blind as young dog."
"Oh! that is your game, is it! Well, let it be so. Now, Corny, you shall
learn the virtue there is in a compass."
Hereupon Guert drew his compass from a pocket in his hunting-shirt, placed
it on a log, in order to get a perfectly accurate start, and waited until
the quivering needle had become perfectly stationary. Then he made his
observation, and took a large hemlock, which stood at the distance of some
twenty rods, a great distance for a sight in the forest, as his land-mark,
gave a shout, caught up his compass, and led off. We followed, of course,
and soon reached the tree. As Guert now fancied he was well entered on the
right course, he disdained to turn to renew his observation, but called out
for us to 'come on;' as he had a new tree for his guide, and that in the
true direction. We may have proceeded in this manner for half a mile, and I
began to think that Guert was about to triumph--for, to me, it did really
seem that our course was as straight as it had been at any time that day.
Guert now began to brag of his success, talking _to_ me, and _at_ the
Indian, who was between us over his shoulder.
"You see, Corny," he said, "I am used to the bush, after all, and have
often been up among the Mohawks, and on their hunts. The great point is to
begin right; after which you can have no great trouble. Make certain of the
first ten rods, and you can be at ease about the ten thousand that are to
follow. So it is with life, Corny, boy; begin right, and a young man is
pretty certain of coming out right. I made a mistake at the start, and you
see the trouble it has given me. But, I was left an orphan, Littlepage, at
ten years of age; and the boy that has neither father nor money, must be
an uncommon boy not to kick himself out of the traces before he is twenty.
Well, Onondago, what do you say to following the compass, now!"
"Best look at him--he tell," answered Susquesus, our whole line halting to
let Guert comply.
"This d----d compass will never come round!" exclaimed Guert, shaking the
little instrument in order to help the needle round to the point at which
he wished to see it stand. "These little devils are very apt to get out of
order, Corny after all."
"Try more--got three"--said the Indian, holding up the number of fingers he
mentioned, as was his wont, when mentioning numbers of any sort.
On this hint Dirck and I drew out our compasses, and the three were placed
on a log, at the side of which we had come to our halt. The result showed
that the three 'little devils' agreed most accurately, and that we were
marching exactly south-east, instead of north-west! Guert looked, on
that occasion, very much as he did when he rose from the snow, after the
hand-sled had upset with us. There was no resisting the truth; we had got
turned completely round, without knowing it. The fact that the sun was so
near the zenith, probably contributed to our mistake; but, any one who has
tried the experiment, will soon ascertain how easy it is for him to lose
his direction, beneath the obscurity and amid the inequalities of a virgin
forest. Guert gave it up, like a man as he was, and the Indian again passed
in front, without the slightest manifestation of triumph or discontent. It
required nothing less than a thunderbolt to disturb the composure of that
From that moment our progress was as swift as it had been previously to
the halt; while our course was seemingly as unerring as the flight of the
pigeon. Susquesus did not steer exactly north-west, as before, however, but
he inclined more northerly. At length, it was just as the sun approached
the summits of the western mountains, an opening appeared in our front,
beneath the arches of the woods, and we knew that a lake was near us, and
that we were on the summit of high land, though at what precise elevation
could not yet be told. Our route had lain across hills, and through
valleys, and along small streams; though, as I afterwards ascertained, the
Hudson did not run far enough north to intercept our march; or rather, by
a sudden turn to the west, it left our course clear. Had we inclined
westwardly ourselves, we might have almost done that which Col. Follock had
once laughingly recommended to my mother, in order to avoid the dangers of
the Powles Hook Ferry, gone round the river.
A clearing now showed itself a little on our right; and thither the Indian
held his way. This clearing was not the result of the labours of man, but
was the fruit of one of those forest accidents that sometimes let in the
light of the sun upon the mysteries of the woods. This clearing was on the
bald cap of a rocky mountain, where Indians had doubtless often encamped;
the vestiges of their fires proving that the winds had been assisted by the
sister element, in clearing away the few stunted trees that had once grown
in the fissures of the rocks. As it was, there might have been an open
space of some two or three acres, that was now as naked as if it had never
known any vegetation more ambitious than the bush of the whortleberry or
the honeysuckle. Delicious water was spouting from a higher ridge of the
rocks, that led away northerly, forming the summit of an extensive range
in that direction. At this spring Susquesus stooped to drink; then he
announced that our day's work was done.
Until this announcement, I do not believe that one of us all had taken
the time to look about him, so earnest and rapid had been our march. Now,
however, each man threw aside his pack, laid down his rifle, and, thus
disencumbered, we turned to gaze on one of the most surprisingly beautiful
scenes eye of mine had ever beheld.
From what I have read and heard, I am now fully aware, that the grandest of
our American scenery falls far behind that which is to be found among the
lakes and precipices of the Alps, and along the almost miraculous coast
of the Mediterranean; and I shall not pretend that the view I now beheld
approached many, in magnificence, that are to be met with in those magic
regions. Nevertheless, it was both grand and soft; and it had one element
of vastness, in the green mantle of its interminable woods, that is not
often to be met with in countries that have long submitted to the sway of
man. Such as it was, I shall endeavour to describe it.
Beneath us, at the distance of near a thousand feet, lay a lake of the most
limpid and placid water, that was beautifully diversified in shape, by
means of bluffs, bays, and curvatures of the shores, and which had an
extent of near forty miles, We were on its eastern margin, and about
one-third of the distance from its southern to its northern end. Countless
islands lay almost under our feet, rendering the mixture of land and water,
at that particular point, as various and fanciful as the human imagination
could desire. To the north, the placid sheet extended a great distance,
bounded by rocky precipices, passing by a narrow gorge into a wider and
larger estuary beyond. To the south, the water lay expanded to its oval
termination, with here and there an island to relieve the surface. In that
direction only, were any of the results of human industry to be traced.
Everywhere else, the gorges, the receding valleys, the long ranges of
hills, and the bald caps of granite, presented nothing to the eye but the
unwearying charms of nature. Far as the eye could reach, mountain behind
mountain, the earth was covered with its green mantle of luxuriant leaves;
such as vegetation bestows on a virgin soil beneath a beneficent sun. The
rolling and variegated carpet of the earth resembled a firmament reversed,
with clouds composed of foliage.
At the southern termination of the lake, however, there was an opening in
the forest of considerable extent; and one that had been so thoroughly made
as to leave few or no trees. From this point we were distant several miles,
and that distance necessarily rendered objects indistinct; though we had
little difficulty in perceiving the ruins of extensive fortifications. A
thousand white specks, we now ascertained to be tents, for the works were
all that remained of Fort William Henry, and there lay encamped the army
of Abercrombie; much the largest force that had then ever collected in
America, under the colours of England. History has since informed us that
this army contained the formidable number of sixteen thousand men. Hundreds
of boats, large batteaux, that were capable of carrying forty or fifty men,
were moving about in front of the encampment, and, remote as we were, it
was not impossible to discover the signs of preparation, and of an early
movement. The Indian had not deceived us thus far, at least, but had shown
himself an intelligent judge of what was going on, as well as a faithful
We were to pass the night on the mountain. Our beds were none of the best,
as the reader may suppose, and our cover slight; yet I do not remember to
have opened my eyes from the moment they were closed, until I awoke in the
morning. The fatigue of a forced march did that for us which down cannot
obtain for the voluptuary, and we all slept as profoundly as children.
Consciousness returned to me, by means of a gentle shake of the shoulder,
which proceeded from Susquesus. On arising, I found the Indian still near
me, his countenance, for the first time since I had known him, expressing
something like an animated pleasure. He had awoke none of the others, and
he signed for me to follow him, without arousing either of my companions.
Why I had been thus particularly selected for the scene that succeeded,
I cannot say, unless the Onondago's native sagacity had taught him to
distinguish between the educations and feelings of us three young men. So
it was, however, and I left the rude shelter we had prepared for the night,
A glorious sight awaited me! The sun had just tipped the mountain-tops with
gold, while the lake and the valleys, the hill-sides even, and the entire
world beneath, still reposed in shadow. It appeared to me like the
awakening of created things from the sleep of nature. For a moment or more,
I could only gaze on the wonderful picture presented by the strong contrast
between the golden hill-tops and their shadowed sides--the promises of day
and the vestiges of night. But the Onondago was too much engrossed with his
own feelings, to suffer me long to disregard what he conceived to be the
principal point of interest. Directed by his finger, and eye, for he spoke
not, I turned my look towards the distant shore of William Henry, and at
once perceived the cause of his unusual excitement. As soon as the Indian
was certain that I saw the objects that attracted himself so strongly, he
exclaimed with a strong, guttural, emphatic cadence--
Abercrombie's army was actually in motion! Sixteen thousand men had
embarked in boats, and were moving towards the northern end of the lake,
with imposing force, and a most beautiful accuracy. The unruffled surface
of the lake was dotted with the flotilla, boats in hundreds stretching
across it in long, dark lines, moving on towards their point of destination
with the method and concert of an army with its wings displayed. The last
brigade of boats had just left the shore when I first saw this striking
spectacle, and the whole picture lay spread before me at a single glance.
America had never before witnessed such a sight; and it may be long before
she will again witness such another. For several minutes I stood entranced;
nor did I speak until the rays of the sun had penetrated the dusky light
that lay on the inferior world, as low as the bases of the western
"What are we to do, Susquesus?" I then asked, feeling how much right the
Indian now might justly claim to govern our movements.
"Eat breakfast, first"--the Onondago quietly replied; "then go down
"Neither of which will place us in the midst of that gallant army, as it is
our wish to be."
"See, bye'm by. Injin know--no hurry, now. Hurry come, when Frenchman
I did not like this speech, nor the manner in which it was uttered; but
there were too many things to think of, just then, to be long occupied by
vague conjectures touching the Onondago's evasive allusions. Guert and
Dirck were called, and made to share in the pleasure that such a sight
could not fail to communicate. Then it was I got the first notion of what I
should call the truly martial character of Ten Eyck. His fine, manly figure
appeared to me to enlarge, his countenance actually became illuminated, and
the expression of his eye, usually so full of good-nature and fun, seemed
to change its character entirely, to one of sternness and seventy.
"This is a noble sight, Mr. Littlepage," Guert remarked, after gazing
at the measured but quick movement of the flotilla, for some time, in
silence--"a truly noble sight, and it is a reproach to us three for having
lost so much time in the woods, when we ought to have been _there_, ready
to aid in driving the French from the province."
"We are not too late, my good friend, as the first blow yet remains to be
"You say true, and I shall join that army, if I have to swim to reach the
boats. It will be no difficult thing for us to swim from one of these
islands to another, and the troops must pass through the midst of them, 'n
order to get into the lower lake. Any reasonable man would stop to pick us
"No need," said the Onondago, in his quiet way. "Eat breakfast; then go.
Got canoe--that 'nough."
"A canoe! By St. Nicholas! Mr. Susquesus, I'll tell you what it is--you
shall never want a friend as long as Guert Ten Eyek is living, and able to
assist you. That idea of the canoe is a most thoughtful one, and shows that
a reasoning man has had the care of us. We can now join the troops, with
the rifles in our hand, as becomes gentlemen and volunteers."
By this time Jaap was up, and looking at the scene, with all his eyes. It
is scarcely necessary to describe the effect on a negro. He laughed in
fits, shook his head like the Chinese figure of a mandarin, rolled over on
the rocks, arose, shook himself like a dog that quits the water, laughed
again, and finally shouted. As we were all accustomed to these displays of
negro sensibility, they only excited a smile among us, and not even that
from Dirck. As for the Indian, he took no more notice of these natural, but
undignified signs of pleasure, in Jaap, than if the latter had been a dog,
or any other unintellectual animal. Perhaps no weakness would be so likely
to excite his contempt, as to be a witness of so complete an absence of
self-command, as the untutored negro manifested on this occasion.
As soon as our first curiosity and interest were a little abated, we
applied ourselves to the necessary duty of breaking our fasts. The meal was
soon despatched; and, to say the truth, it was not of a quality to detain
one long from anything of interest. The moment we had finished, the whole
party left the cap of the mountain, following our guide as usual.
The Onondago had purposely brought us to that look-out, a spot known to
him, in order that we might get the view of its panorama. It was impossible
to descend to the lake-shore at that spot, however, and we were obliged to
make a detour of three or four miles, in order to reach a ravine, by means
of which, and not without difficulty either, that important object was
obtained. Here we found a bark canoe of a size sufficient to hold all five
of us, and we embarked without a moment's delay.
The wind had sprung up from the south, as the day advanced, and the
flotilla of boats was coming on, at a greatly increased rate, as to speed.
By the time we had threaded our way through the islands, and reached the
main channel, if indeed any one passage could be so termed, among such a
variety, the leading boat of the army was within hail. The Indian paddled,
and, waving his hand in sign of amity, he soon brought us alongside of the
batteau. As we approached it, however, I observed the fine, large form
of the Viscount Howe, standing erect in its bows, dressed in his Light
Infantry Forest Uniform, as if eager to be literally the foremost man of
a movement, in the success of which, the honour of the British empire,
itself, was felt to be concerned.
[Footnote 35: It has been found that a three lives' lease, in the State of
New York, is equal to a term of more than thirty years.--EDITOR.]
"My sons? It may
Unman my heart, and the poor boys will weep;
And what can I reply, to comfort them,
Save with some hollow hopes, and ill-worn smiles?"
My Lord Howe did not at first recognise us, in our hunting-shirts. With
Guert Ten Eyck, however, he had formed such an acquaintance, while at
Albany, as caused him to remember his voice, and our welcome was both frank
and cordial. We inquired for the ----th, declaring our intention to join
that corps, from the commander of which all three of us had reiterated and
pressing invitations to join his mess. The intention of seeking our friend
immediately, nevertheless, was changed by a remark of our present host if
one may use such a term as applied to the commander of a brigade of boats.
"Bulstrode's regiment is in the centre, and will be early in the field," he
said; "but not as early as the advanced guard. If you desire good living,
gentlemen, I am far from wishing to dissuade you from seeking the
flesh-pots of the ----th; there being a certain Mr. Billings, in that
corps, who has an extraordinary faculty, they tell me, in getting up a good
dinner out of nothing; but, if you want service, we shall certainly be the
first brigade in action; and, to such fare as I can command, you will be
most acceptable guests. As for anything else, time must show."
After this, no more was said about looking for Bulstrode; though we let our
noble commander understand, that we should tax his hospitality no longer
than to see him fairly in the field, after driving away the party that it
was expected the enemy would send to oppose our landing.
Susquesus no sooner learned our decision, than he took his departure,
quietly paddling away towards the eastern shore; no one attempting to
intercept a canoe that was seen to quit the batteau that was known to carry
the commander of the advanced brigade.
The wind freshened, as the day advanced, and most of the boats having
something or other in the shape of a sail, our progress now became quite
rapid. By nine o'clock we were fairly in the Lower Lake, and there was
every prospect of our reaching our point of destination by mid-day. I
confess, the business we were on, the novelty of my situation, and the
certainty that we should meet in Montcalm an experienced as well as a most
gallant foe, conspired to render me thoughtful, though I trust not timid,
during the few hours we were in the batteau. Perfectly inactive, it is
not surprising that so young a soldier should feel sobered by the solemn
reflections that are apt to get possession of the mind, at the probable
approach of death--if not to myself, at least to many of those who were
around me. Nor was there anything boastful or inflated in the manner or
conversation of our distinguished leader, who had seen much warm service in
Germany, in the wars of his reputed grandfather and uncle, young as he
was. On the contrary, My Lord Howe, that day, was grave and thoughtful, as
became a man who held the lives of others in his keeping, though he was
neither depressed nor doubting. There were moments, indeed, when he spoke
cheerfully to those who were near him; though, as a whole, his deportment
was, as I have just said, grave and thoughtful. Once I caught his eye
fastened on me, with a saddened expression; and, I suppose that a question
he soon after put me, was connected with the subject of his thoughts.
"How would our excellent and respectable friend, Madam Schuyler, feel, did
she know our precise position at this moment, Mr. Littlepage? I do believe
that excellent woman feels more concern for those in whom she takes an
interest, than they often feel for themselves."
"I think, my lord, that, in such a case, we should certainly receive the
benefit of her prayers."
"You are an only child, I think she told me, Littlepage?"
"I am, my lord; and thankful am I that my mother cannot foresee this
"I, too, have those that love me, though they are accustomed to think of me
as a soldier, and liable to a soldier's risks. Happy is the military
man who can possess his mind, in the moment of trial, free from the
embarrassing, though pleasing, and otherwise so grateful ties of affection.
But, we are nearing the shore, and must attend to duty."
This is the last conversation I held with that brave soldier; and these
were the last words, of a private nature, I ever heard him utter. From that
moment, his whole soul seemed occupied with the discharge of his duty, the
success of our arms, and the defeat of the enemy.
I am not soldier enough to describe what followed in a very military or
intelligible manner. As the brigade drew near the foot of the lake, where
there was a wide extent of low land, principally in forest, however, some
batteaux were brought to the front, on which were mounted a number of
pieces of heavy artillery. The French had a party of considerable force
to oppose our landing; but, as it appeared they had not made a sufficient
provision of guns, on their part, to contend with success; and our grape
scouring the woods, we met with but little real resistance. Nor did we
assail them precisely at the point where we were expected but proceeded
rather to the right of their position. At the signal, the advanced brigade
pushed for the shore, led by our gallant commander, and we were all soon on
_terra firma_, without sustaining any loss worth naming. We four, that is,
Guert, Dirck, myself and Jaap, kept as near as was proper to the noble
brigadier, who instantly ordered an advance, to press the retreating foe.
The skirmishing was not sharp, however, and we gained ground fast, the
enemy retiring in the direction of Ticonderoga, and we pressing on their
rear, quite as fast as prudence and our preparations would allow. I could
see that a cloud of Indians was in our front, and will own, that I felt
afraid of an ambush; for the artful warfare practised by those beings of
the wood, could not but be familiar, by tradition at least, to one born and
educated in the colonies. We had landed in a cove, not literally at the
foot of the lake, but rather on its western side; and room was no sooner
obtained, than Gen. Abercrombie got most of his force on shore, and formed
it, as speedily as possible, in columns. Of these columns we had four, the
two in the centre being composed entirely of King's troops, six regiments
in all, numbering more than as many thousand men; while five thousand
provincials were on the flanks, leaving quite four thousand of the latter
with the boats, of which this vast flotilla actually contained the large
number of one thousand and twenty five! All our boats, however, had not yet
reached the point of debarkation; those with the stores, artillery, &c.,
&c., being still some distance in the rear.
Our party was now placed with the right centre column, at the head of which
marched our noble acquaintance. The enemy had posted a single battalion in
a log encampment, near the ordinary landing; but finding the character of
the force with which he was about to be assailed, its commandant set fire
to his huts and retreated. The skirmishing was now even of less moment than
it had been on landing, and we all moved forward in high spirits, though
the want of guides, the density of the woods, and the difficulties of the
ground, soon produced a certain degree of confusion in our march. The
columns got entangled with each other, and no one seemed to possess the
means of promptly extricating them from this awkward embarrassment. Want of
guides was the great evil under which we laboured; but it was an evil that
it was now too late to remedy.
Our column, notwithstanding, or its head rather, continued to advance, with
its gallant leader keeping even pace with its foremost platoon. We four
volunteers acted as look-outs, a little on its flank; and I trust there
will be no boasting, if I say, we kept rather in advance of the leading
files, than otherwise. In this state of things, French uniforms were seen
in front, and a pretty strong party of the enemy was encountered,
wandering, like ourselves, a little uncertain of the route they ought to
take, in order to reach their entrenchments in the shortest time. As a
matter of course, this party could not pass the head of our column, without
bringing on a collision, though it were one that was only momentary. Which
party gave the first fire, I cannot say, though I thought it was the
French. The discharge was not heavy, however, and was almost immediately
mutual. I know that all four of us let off our rifles, and that we halted,
under a cover, to reload. I had just driven the ball down, when my eye
caught the signs of some confusion in the head of the column, and I saw the
body of an officer borne to the rear. It was that of Lord Howe! He had
fallen at the first serious discharge made by the enemy in that campaign!
The fall of its leader, so immediately in its presence, seemed to rouse the
column into a sense of the necessity of doing something effective, and it
assaulted the party in its front with the rage of so many tigers,
dispersing the enemy like chaff; making a considerable number of prisoners,
besides killing and wounding not a few.
I never saw a man more thoroughly aroused than was Guert Ten Eyck, in this
little affair. He had been much noticed by Lord Howe, during the residence
of that unfortunate nobleman at Albany; and the loss of the last appeared
to awaken all that there was of the ferocious in the nature of my usually
kind-hearted Albany friend. He acted as our immediate commander; and he led
us forward on the heels of the retreating French, until we actually came in
sight of their entrenchments. Then, indeed, we all saw it was necessary to
retreat in our turn; and Guert consented to fall back, though it was done
surlily, and like a lion at bay. A party of Indians pressed us hard, in
this retreat, and we ran an imminent risk of our scalps; all of which, I
have ever believed, would have been lost, were it not for the resolution
and Herculean strength of Jaap. It happened, as we were dodging from tree
to tree, that all four of our rifles were discharged at the same time; a
circumstance of which our assailants availed themselves to make a rush at
us. Luckily the weight of the onset fell on Jaap, who clubbed his rifle,
and literally knocked down in succession the three Indians that first
reached him. This intrepidity and success gave us time to reload; and
Dirck, ever a cool and capital shot, laid the fourth Huron on his face,
with a ball through his heart. Guert then held his fire, and called on Jaap
to retreat. Fie was obeyed; and under cover of our two rifles, the whole
party got off; the red-skins being too thoroughly rebuked to press us very
closely, after the specimen they had just received of the stuff of which we
We owed our escape, however, as much to another circumstance, as to this
resolution of Jaap, and the expedient of Guert. Among the provincials was a
partisan of great repute, of the name of Rogers. This officer led a party
of riflemen on our left flank, and he drove in the enemy's skirmishers,
along his own front, with rapidity, causing them to suffer a considerable
loss. By this means, the Indians before us were held in check; as there was
the danger that Major Rogers's party might fall in upon their rear, should
they attempt to pursue us, and thus cut them off from their allies. It was
well it was so; inasmuch as we had to fall back more than a mile, ere we
reached the spot where Abercrombie brought his columns to a halt, and
encamped far the night. This position was distant about two miles from the
works before Ticonderoga; and consequently at no great distance from the
outlet of Lake George. Here the army was brought into good order, and took
up its station for some little time.
It was necessary to await the arrival of the stores, ammunition and
artillery. As the bringing up these materials, through a country that was
little else than a virgin forest, was no easy task, it occupied us quite
two days. Melancholy days they were, too; the death of Lord Howe acting
on the whole army much as if it had been a defeat. He was the idol of the
King's troops, and he had rendered himself as popular with us Americans, as
with his own countrymen. A sort of ominous sadness prevailed among us each
common man appearing to feel his loss as he might have felt that of a
We looked up the ----th, and joined Bulstrode, as soon as we reached the
ground chosen for the new encampment. Our reception was friendly, and even
kind; and it became warmer still, as soon as it was understood that we
composed the little party that had skirmished so freely on the flank of the
right centre column, and which was known to have gone farther in advance
than any one else, in that part of the field. Thus we joined our corps with
some _eclat_, at the very outset, everybody welcoming us cordially, and
with seeming sincerity.
Nevertheless, the general sadness existed in the ----th, as well as in all
the other corps. Lord Howe was as much beloved in that regiment, as in
any other; and our meeting and subsequent intercourse could not be called
joyful. Bulstrode had an extensive and important command, for his rank and
years, and he certainly was proud of his position; but I could see that
even his elastic and usually gay temperament was much affected by what had
occurred. That night we walked together, apart from our companions, when he
spoke on the subject of our loss.
"It may appear strange to you, Corny," he said, "to find so much depression
in camp, after a debarkation that has certainly been successful, and a
little affair that has given us, as they assure me, a couple of hundred
prisoners. I tell you, however, my friend, it were better for this army to
have seen its best corps annihilated, than to have lost the man it has.
Howe was literally the soul of this entire force. He was a soldier by
nature, and made all around him soldiers. As for the Commander-In-Chief, he
does not understand you Americans, and will not use you as he ought; then
he does not understand the nature of the warfare of this continent, and
will be very likely to make a blunder. I'll tell you how it is, Corny; Howe
had as much influence with Abercrombie, as he had with every one else; and
an attempt will be made to introduce his mode of fighting; but such a man
as Lord Howe requires another Lord Howe to carry out his own conceptions.
That is the point on which, I fear, we shall fail."
All this sounded very sensible to me, though it sounded discouragingly; I
found, however, that Bulstrode did not entertain these feelings alone, but
that most around me were of the same way of thinking. In the mean time, the
preparations proceeded; and it was understood that the 8th was to be the
day that was to decide the fate of Ticonderoga; The fort proper, at this
celebrated station, stands on a peninsula, and can only be assailed on one
side. The outworks were very extensive on that side, and the garrison was
known to be formidable. As these outworks, however, consisted principally
of a log breastwork, and it could be approached through open woods, which
of itself afforded some cover, it was determined to carry it by storm, and,
if possible, enter the main work with the retreating enemy. Had we waited
for our artillery, and established batteries, our success would have been
certain; but the engineer reported favourably of the other project; and
perhaps it better suited the temper and impatience of the whole army, to
push on, rather than proceed by the slow movements of a regular siege.
On the morning of the 8th, therefore, the troops were paraded for the
assault, our party falling in on the flank of the ----th, as volunteers.
The ground did not admit of the use of many horses, and Bulstrode marched
with us on foot; I can relate but little of the general movements of that
memorable day, the woods concealing so much of what was done, on both
sides. I know this, however; that the flower of our army were brought into
the line, and were foremost in the assault; including both regulars and
provincials. The 42d, a Highland corps, that had awakened much interest in
America, both by the appearance and character of its men, was placed at a
point where it was thought the heaviest service was to be performed. The
55th, another corps on which much reliance was placed, was also put at the
head of another column. A swamp extending for some distance along the only
exposed front of the peninsula, these two corps were designated to carry
the log breastwork, that commenced at the point where the swamp ceases;
much the most arduous portion of the expected service, since this was the
only accessible approach to the fortress itself. To render their position
more secure, the French had placed several pieces of artillery in battery,
along the line of this breastwork; while we had not yet a gun in front to
cover our advance.
It was said, that Abercrombie did not take counsel of any of the American
officers with him, before he decided on the attack of the 8th of July. He
had directed his principal engineer to reconnoitre; and that gentleman
having reported that the defences offered no serious scientific obstacles,
the assault was decided on. This report was accurate, doubtless, agreeably
to the principles and facts of European warfare; but it was not suited to
those of the conflicts of this continent. It was to be regretted, however,
that the experience of 1755, and the fate of Braddock, had not inculcated
a more extensive lesson of discretion among the royal commanders, than was
manifested by the incidents of this day.
The ----th was placed in column directly in the rear of the Highlanders,
who were led, on this occasion, by Col. Gordon Graham; a veteran officer of
great experience, and of an undaunted courage.  Of course, I saw this
officer and this regiment, being as they were directly in my front, but I
saw little else; more especially after the smoke of the first discharge was
added to the other obstacles to vision.
A considerable time was consumed in making the preparations; but, when
everything was supposed to be ready, the columns were set in motion. It was
generally understood that the troops were to receive the enemy's fire, then
rush forward to the breastwork, cross the latter at the bayonet's point, if
it should be necessary, and deliver their own fire at close quarters; or on
their retreating foes. Permission was given to us volunteers, and to divers
light parties of irregulars, to open on any of the French of whom we might
get glimpses, as little was expected from us in the charge.
Nearly an hour was consumed in approaching the point of attack, owing to
the difficulties of the ground, and the necessity of making frequent halts,
in order to dress. At length the important moment arrived when the head of
the column was ready to unmask itself, and consequently to come under
fire. A short halt sufficed for the arrangements here, when the bagpipes
commenced their exciting music, and we broke out of cover, shouting and
cheering each other on. We must have been within two hundred yards of the
breastwork at the time, and the first gun discharged was Jaap's, who, by
working his way into the cover of the swamp, had got some distance ahead of
us, and who actually shot down a French officer who had got upon the logs
of his defences, in order to reconnoitre. That assault, however, was
fearfully avenged! The Highlanders were moving on like a whirlwind, grave,
silent and steady, cheered only by their music, when a sheet of flame
glanced along the enemy's line, and the iron and leaden messengers of death
came whistling in among us like a hurricane. The Scotsmen were staggered by
that shock; but they recovered instantly and pressed forward. The ----th
did not escape harmless, by any means; while the din told us that
the conflict extended along the whole of the breastwork, towards the
lake-shore. How many were shot down in our column, by that first discharge,
I never knew; but the slaughter was dreadful, and among those who fell was
the veteran Graham, himself. I can safely say, however, that the plan
of attack was completely deranged from this first onset; the columns
displaying and commencing their fire as soon as possible. No men could have
behaved better than all that I could see; the whole of us pushing on for
the breastwork, until we encountered fallen trees; which were made to serve
the purpose of chevaux-de-frise. These trees had been felled along the
front of the breastwork, while their branches were cut, and pointed like
stakes. It was impossible to pass in any order, and the troops halted
when they reached them, and continued to fire by platoons, with as much
regularity as on parade. A few minutes of this work, however, compelled
different corps to fall back, and the vain conflict was continued for four
hours, on our part almost entirely by a smart but ineffective fire of
musketry; while the French sent their grape into our ranks almost with as
much impunity as if they had been on parade. It had been far better for our
men had they been less disciplined, and less under the control of their
officers; for the sole effect of steadiness, under such circumstances, is
to leave the gallant and devoted troops, who refuse to fall back, while
they are unable to advance, only so much the longer in jeopardy.
Guert had shouted with the rest; and I soon found that by following him for
a leader, we should quickly be in the midst of the fray. He actually led us
up to the fallen trees, and, finding something like a cover there, we three
established ourselves among them as riflemen, doing fully out share of
service. When the troops fell back, however, we were left in a manner
alone, and it was rather dangerous work to retire; and finding ourselves
out of the line of fire from our own men, no immaterial point in such a
fray, we maintained our post to the last. Admonished, after a long time,
of the necessity of retreating, by the manner in which the fire of our own
line lessened, we got off with sound skins, though Guert retired the whole
distance with his face to the enemy, firing as he withdrew. We all did the
last, indeed, using the trees for covers. Towards the close we attracted
especial attention; and there were two or three minutes during which the
flight of bullets around us might truly, without much exaggeration, be
likened to a storm of hail!
Jaap was not with us in this sally, and I went into the swamp to look for
him. The search was not long, for I found my fellow retreating also, and
bringing in with him a stout Canadian Indian as a prisoner. He was making
his captive carry three discharged rifles, and blankets; one of which had
been his own property once, and the others that of two of his tribe, whom
the negro had left lying in the swamp as bloody trophies of his exploits. I
cannot explain the philosophy of the thing, but that negro ever appeared to
me to fight as if he enjoyed the occupation as an amusement.
These facts were scarcely ascertained, when we learned the important
intelligence that a general retreat was ordered. Our proud and powerful
army was beaten, and that, too, by a force two-thirds less than its own! It
is not easy to describe the miserable scene that followed. The transporting
of the wounded to the rear had been going on the whole time, and, as
usually happens, when it is permitted, it had contributed largely to thin
the ranks. These unfortunate men were put into the batteaux in hundreds,
while most of the dead were left where they lay. So completely were our
hopes frustrated, and our spirits lowered, that most of the boats pulled
off that night, and all the remainder quitted the foot of the lake early
Thus terminated the dire expedition of 1758 against Ticonderoga, and with
it our expectations of seeing Montreal, or Quebec, that season. I dare say,
we had fully ten thousand bayonets in the field that bloody day, and quite
five thousand men closely engaged. The mistake was in attempting to carry a
post that was so nearly impregnable, by assault; and this, too, without the
cover of artillery. The enemy was said to have four or five thousand men
present, and this may be true, as applied to all within the defences;
though I question if more than half that number pulled triggers on us, in
the miserable affair. There is always much of exaggeration in both the
boasting and the apologies of war.
Our own loss, on this sad occasion, was reported at 548 slain, and 1356
wounded. This was probably within the truth; though the missing were said
to be surprisingly few, some thirty or forty, in all; the men having no
place to repair to but the boats. Of the Highlanders, it was said that
nearly half the common men, and twenty-five, or nearly _all_ the officers,
were either killed or wounded! One account, indeed, said that _every_
officer of that corps, who was on the ground, suffered. The 55th, also, was
dreadfully cut up. Ten of its officers were slain outright, and many were
wounded. As for the ----th, it fared a little better, not heading a column;
but its loss was fearful. Bulstrode was seriously wounded, early in the
attack, though his hurt was never supposed to be dangerous. Billings was
left dead on the field, and Harris got a scratch that served him to talk of
in after life.
The confusion was tremendous after such a conflict and such a defeat. The
troops re-embarked without much regard to corps or regularity of movement;
and the boats moved away as fast as they received their melancholy cargoes.
An immense amount of property was lost; though I believe all the customary
military trophies were preserved. As the provincials had been the least
engaged, and had suffered much the least, in proportion to numbers, a large
body of them was kept as a rear-guard, while the regular corps removed
their wounded and _materiel_.
As for us three or four, including Jaap, who stuck by his prisoner, we
scarcely knew what to do with ourselves. Everybody who felt any interest in
us, was either killed or wounded. Bulstrode we could not see; nor could we
even find the regiment. Should we succeed in the attempt at the last, very
few now remained in it who would have taken much, or indeed any concern
in us. Under the circumstances, therefore, we held a consultation on the
lake-shore, uncertain whether to ask admission into one of the departing
boats, or to remain until morning, that our retreat might have a more manly
"I'll tell you what it is, Corny," said Guert Ten Eyck, in a somewhat
positive manner, "the less _we_ say about this campaign, and of our share
in it, the petter. We are not soldiers, in the regular way, and if we keep
quiet, nobody will know what a t'rashing we t'ree, in particular, haf
receivet. My advice is, t'at we get out of this army as we got into
it--t'at is, py a one-sided movement, and for ever after-holt our tongues
about our having had anyt'ing to do with it. I never knew a worsted man any
the more respected for his mishap; and I will own, that I set down flogging
as a very material part of a fight."
"I am quite sure, Guert, I am as little disposed to brag of my share in
this affair, as you or any one can possibly be; but it is much easier to
talk about getting away from this confused crowd than really to do the
thing. I doubt if any of these boats will take us in; for an Englishman,
flogged, is not apt to be very good-natured; and all our friends seem to be
killed or wounded."
"You want go?" asked a low Indian voice at my elbow. "Got 'nough, eh?"
Turning, I saw Susquesus standing within two feet of me. Our consultation
was necessarily in the midst of a moving throng; and the Onondago must have
approached us, unnoticed, at the commencement of our conference. There
he was, however, though whence he came or how he got there, I could not
imagine, at the time, and have never been able to learn since.
"Can you help us to get away, Susquesus?" was my answer. "Do you know of
any means of crossing the lake?"
"Got canoe. That good. Canoe go, though Yengeese run."
"That in which we came off to the army, do you mean?"
The Indian nodded his head, and made a sign for us to follow. Little
persuasion was necessary, and we proceeded at his heels, in a body, in the
direction he led. I will confess, that when I saw our guide proceeding
eastward, along the lake-shore, I had some misgivings on the subject of his
good faith. That was the direction which took us towards, instead of _from_
the enemy; and there was something so mysterious in the conduct of this
man, that it gave me uneasiness. Here he was, in the midst of the English
army in the height of its confusion, though he had declined joining it
previously to the battle. Nothing was easier than to enter the throng, in
its present confused state, and move about undetected for hours, if one had
the nerve necessary for the service; and, in that property, I felt certain
the Onondago was not deficient. There was a coolness in the manner of
the man, a quiet observation, both blended with the seeming apathy of a
red-skin, that gave every assurance of his fitness for the duty.
Nevertheless, there was no remedy but to follow, or to break with our guide
on the spot. We did not like to do the last, although we conferred together
on the subject, but followed, keeping our hands on the locks of our rifles,
in readiness for a brush, should we be led into danger. Susquesus had no
such treacherous intentions, however, while he had disposed of his canoe
in a place that denoted his judgment. We had to walk quite a mile ere we
reached the little bush-fringed creek in which he had concealed it. I have
always thought we ran a grave risk, in advancing so far in that direction,
since the enemy's Indians would certainly be hanging around the skirts of
our army, in quest of scalps; but I afterwards learned the secret of the
Onondago's confidence, who first spoke on the subject after we had left the
shore, and then only in an answer to a remark of Guert's.
"No danger," he said; "red-man gettin' Yengeese scalps, on the war-path.
Too much kill, now, to want more."
As both governments pursued the culpable policy of paying for human scalps,
this suggestion probably contained the whole truth.
Previously to quitting the creek, however, there was a difficulty to
dispose of. Jaap had brought his Huron prisoner with him; and the Onondago
declared that the canoe could not carry six. This we knew from experience,
indeed, though five went in it very comfortably.
"No room," said Susquesus, "for red-man. Five good--six bad."
"What shall we do with the fellow, Corny?" asked Guert, with a little
interest. "Jaap says he is a proper devil, by daylight, and that he had a
world of trouble in taking him, and in bringing him in. For five minutes,
it was heads or tails which was to give in; and the nigger only got the
best of it, by his own account of the battle, because the red-skin had the
unaccountable folly to try to beat in Jaap's brains. He might as well have
battered the Rock of Gibraltar, you know, as to attempt to break a nigger's
skull, and so your fellow got the best of it. What shall we do with the
"Take scalp," said the Onondago, sententiously; "got good scalp--war-lock
ready--paint, war-paint--capital scalp."
"Ay, that may do better for you, Master Succetush"--so Guert always called
our guide, "than it will do for us Christians. I am afraid we shall have to
let the ravenous devil go, after disarming him."
"Disarmed he is already; but he cannot be long without a musket, on this
battle-ground. I am of your opinion, Guert; so, Jaap, release your prisoner
at once, that we may return to Ravensnest, as fast as possible."
"Dat berry hard, Masser Corny, sah!" exclaimed Jaap, who did not half like
the orders he received.
"No words about it, sir, but cut his fastenings"--Jaap had tied the
Indian's arms behind him, with a rope, as an easy mode of leading him
along. "Do you know the man's name?"
"Yes, sah--he say he name be Muss"--probably Jaap's defective manner of
repeating some Indian sound; "and a proper muss he get in, Masser Corny,
when he try to cotch Jaap by he wool!"
Here I was obliged to clap my hand suddenly on the black's mouth, for the
fellow was so delighted with the recollection of the manner in which he
had got the better of his red adversary, that he broke out into one of the
uncontrollable fits of noisy laughter, that are so common to his race. I
repeated the order, somewhat sternly, for Jaap to cut the cords, and then
to follow us to the canoe, in which the Onondago and my two friends had
already taken their places. My own foot was raised to enter the canoe, when
I heard heavy stripes inflicted on the back of some one. Rushing back to
the spot where I had left Jaap and his captive, Muss, I found the former
inflicting a severe punishment, on the naked back of the other, with the
end of the cord that still bound his arms. Muss, as Jaap called him,
neither flinched nor cried. The pine stands not more erect or unyielding,
in a summer's noontide, than he bore up under the pain. Indignantly I
thrust the negro away, cut the fellow's bonds with my own hands, and drove
my slave before me to the canoe.
[Footnote 36: Holmes's Annals say, that Lord John Murray commanded the 42d,
on this occasion. I presume, as Mr. Littlepage was there, and was posted
so near the corps in question, he cannot well be mistaken. Mrs. Grant, of
Laggan, who was at Albany at the time, and whose father was in the
battle, agrees with Mr. Littlepage, in saying that Gordon Graham led the
"Pale set the sun--the shades of evening fell,
The mournful night-wind sung their funeral knell;
And the same day beheld their warriors dead,
Their sovereign captive and their glory fled!"
I shall never forget the journey of that fearful night. Susquesus paddled
the canoe, unaided by us, who were too much fatigued with the toil of the
day, to labour much, as soon as we found ourselves in a place of safety.
Even Jaap lay down and slept for several hours, the sleep of the weary. I
do not think any of us, however, actually slept for the first hour or two,
the scenes through which we had just passed, and that, indeed, through
which we were then passing, acting as preventives to such an indulgence.
It must have been about nine in the evening, when our canoe quitted the
ill-fated shore at the south end of Lake George, moving steadily and
silently along the eastern margin of the sheet. By that time, fully five
hundred boats had departed for the head of the lake, the retreat having
commenced long before sunset. No order was observed in this melancholy
procession, each batteau moving off as her load was completed. All the
wounded were on the placid bosom of the 'Holy Lake,' as some writers have
termed this sheet of limpid water, by the time we ourselves got in motion;
and the sounds of parting boats told us that the unhurt were following as
fast as circumstances would allow.
What a night it was! There was no moon, and a veil of dark vapour was drawn
across the vault of the heavens, concealing most of the mild summer stars,
that ought to have been seen twinkling in their Creator's praise. Down,
between the boundaries of hills, there was not a breath of air, though we
occasionally heard the sighings of light currents among the tree-tops,
above us. The eastern shore having fewer sinuosities than the western, most
of the boats followed its dark, frowning mass, as the nearest route, and we
soon found ourselves near the line of the retiring batteaux. I call it the
line, for though there was no order observed each party making the best of
its way to the common point of destination, there were so many boats in
motion at the same time, that, far as the eye could penetrate by that
gloomy light, an unbroken succession of them was visible. Our motion was
faster than that of these heavily-laden and feebly-rowed batteaux, the
soldiers being too much fatigued to toil at the oars, after the day they
had just gone through. We consequently passed nearly everything, and soon
got on a parallel course with that of the boats, moving along at a few rods
in-shore of them. Dirck remarked, however, that two or three small craft
even passed us. They went so near the mountain, quite within its shadows,
in fact, as to render it difficult to say what they were; though it was
supposed they might be whale-boats, of which there were more than a hundred
in the flotilla, carrying officers of rank.
No one spoke. It appeared to me that not a human voice was raised among
those humiliated and defeated thousands. The plash of oars, so long as we
were at a distance from the line, alone broke the silence of night; but
that was incessant. As our canoe drew ahead, however, an hour or two after
we had left the shore, and we overtook the boats that had first started,
the moaning and groans of the wounded became blended with the monotonous
sounds of the oars. In two respects, these unfortunate men had reason to
felicitate themselves, notwithstanding their sufferings. No army could have
transported its wounded with less pain to the hurt; and the feverish thirst
that loss of blood always induces, might be assuaged by the limpid element
on which we all floated.
After paddling for hours, Susquesus was relieved by Jaap, Dirck, Guert and
myself occasionally lending our aid. Each had a paddle, and each used it as
he saw fit, while the Onondago slept. Occasionally I caught a nap, myself,
as did my companions; and we all felt refreshed by the rest and sleep. At
length we reached the narrow pass, that separated the Upper from the Lower
Lake, and we entered the former. This is near the place where the islands
are so numerous, and we were unavoidably made to pass quite close to some
of the batteaux. I say to some, for the line became broken at this point,
each boat going through the openings it found the most convenient.
"Come nearer with that bark canoe," called out an officer, from a batteau;
"I wish to learn who is in it."
"We are volunteers, that joined the ----th, the day the army moved up,
and were guests of Major Bulstrode. Pray sir, can you tell us where that
officer can be found?"
"Poor Bulstrode! He got a very awkward hit, early in the day, and was taken
past me to the rear. He will be able neither to walk nor to ride, for some
months, if they save his leg. I heard the Commander-In-Chief order him to
be sent across the lake, in the first boat with wounded; and some one told
me, Bulstrode, himself, expressed an intention to be carried some distance,
to a friend's house, to escape from the abominations of an army hospital.
The fellow has horses enough to transport him, on a horse-litter, to Cape
Horn, if he wishes it. I'll warrant you, Bulstrode works his way into good
quarters, if they are to be had in America. I suppose this arm of mine will
have to come off, as soon as we reach Fort William Henry; and, that job
done, I confess I should like amazingly to keep him company. Proceed,
gentlemen; I hope I have not detained you; but, observing a bark canoe, I
thought it my duty to ascertain we were not followed by spies."
This, then, was another victim of war! He spoke of the loss of his arm,
notwithstanding, with as much coolness as if it were the loss of a tooth;
yet; I question not, that in secret, he mourned over the calamity in
bitterness of heart. Men never wear the mask more completely than when
excited and stimulated by the rivalry of arms. Bulstrode, too, at
Ravensnest! He could be carried nowhere else, so easily; and, should his
wound be of a nature that did not require constant medical treatment, where
could he be so happily bestowed as under the roof of Herman Mordaunt? Shall
I confess that the idea gave me great pain, and that I was fool enough
to wish I, too, could return to Anneke, and appeal to her sympathies, by
dragging with me a wounded limb!
Our canoe now passed quite near another batteau, the officer in command of
which was standing erect, seemingly watching our movements. He appeared to
be unhurt, but was probably intrusted with some special duty. As we paddled
by, the following curious conversation occurred.
"You move rapidly to the rear, my friends," observed the stranger; "pray
moderate your zeal; others are in advance of you with the evil tidings!"
"You must think ill of our patriotism and loyalty, sir, to imagine we are
hastening on with the intelligence of a check to the British arms," I
answered as drily, and almost as equivocally, in manner, as the other had
"The check!--I beg a thousand pardons--I see you _are_ patriots, and of the
purest water! Check is just the word; though check-_mate_ would be more
descriptive and significant! A charming time we've had of it, gentlemen!
What say you?--it is your move, now."
"There has been much firmness and gallantry manifested by the troops," I
answered, "as we, who have been merely volunteers, will always be ready to
"I beg your pardons, again and again," returned the officer, raising his
hat and bowing profoundly--"I did not know I had the honour to address
volunteers. You are entitled to superlative respect, gentlemen, having come
voluntarily into such a field. For my part, I find the honour oppressive,
having no such supererogatory virtue to boast of. Volunteers! On my word,
gentlemen, you will have many wonders to relate, when you get back into the
"We shall have to speak of the gallantry of the Highlanders, for we saw all
they did and all they suffered."
"Ah! Were you, then, near that brave corps!" exclaimed the other, with
something like honest, natural feeling, for the first time exhibited in
his voice and meaning; "I honour men who were only _spectators_ of so much
courage, especially if they took a tolerably _near_ view of it. May I
venture to ask your names, gentlemen."
I answered, giving him our names, and mentioning the fact that we had been
the guest of Bulstrode, and how much we were disappointed in having missed
not only our friend, but his corps.
"Gentlemen, I honour courage, let it come whence it may," said the
stranger, with strong feeling, and no acting, "and most admire it when I
see it exhibited by natives of these colonies, in a quarrel of their own. I
have heard of you as being with poor Howe, when he fell, and hope to know
more of you. As for Mr. Bulstrode, he has passed southward, now some hours,
and intends to make his cure among some connections that he has in this
province. Do not let this be the last of our intercourse, I beg of you; but
look up Capt. Charles Lee, of the ----th, who will be glad to take each and
all of you by the hand, when we once more get into camp."
We expressed our thanks, but Susquesus causing the canoe to make a sudden
inclination towards the shore, the conversation was suddenly interrupted.
By this time the Indian was awake, and exercising his authority in the
canoe, again. Gliding among the islands, he shortly landed us at the
precise point where we had embarked only five days before. Securing his
little bark, the Onondago led the way up the ravine, and brought us out on
the naked cap of the mountain, where we had before slept, after an hour of
If the night had been so memorable, the picture presented at the dawn of
day, was not less so! We reached that lofty look-out about the same time in
the morning as the Indian had awakened me on the previous occasion, and had
the same natural outlines to the view. In one sense, also, the artificial
accessaries were the same, though exhibited under a very different aspect.
I presume the truth will not be much, if any exceeded, when I say that a
thousand boats were in sight, on this, as on the former occasion! A few, a
dozen or so, at most, appeared to have reached the head of the lake; but
all the rest of that vast flotilla was scattered along the placid surface
of the lovely sheet, forming a long, straggling line of dark spots, that
extended to the beach under Fort William Henry, in one direction, and far
as eye could reach in the other. How different did that melancholy, broken
procession of boats appear, from the gallant array, the martial bands, the
cheerful troops, and the multitude of ardent young men who had pressed
forward, in brigades, less than a week before, filled with hope, and
exulting in their strength! As I gazed on the picture I could not but fancy
to myself the vast amount of physical pain, the keen mental suffering,
and the deep mortification that might have been found, amid that horde of
returning adventurers. We had just come up from the level of this scene of
human agony, and our imaginations could portray details that were beyond
the reach of the senses, at the elevation on which we stood.
A week before, and the name of Abercrombie filled every mouth in America;
expectation had almost placed his renown on that giddy height, where
performance itself is so often insecure. In the brief interval, he was
destroyed. Those who had been ready to bless him, would now heap curses on
his devoted head, and none would be so bold as to urge aught in his favour.
Men in masses, when goaded by disappointment, are never just. It is,
indeed, a hard lesson for the individual to acquire; but, released from
his close, personal responsibility, the single man follows the crowd, and
soothes his own mortification and wounded pride by joining in the cry that
is to immolate a victim. Yet Abercrombie was not the foolhardy and besotted
bully that Braddock had proved himself to be. His misfortune was to be
ignorant of the warfare of the region in which he was required to serve,
and possibly to over-estimate the imaginary invincible character of the
veterans he led. In a very short time he was recalled, and America heard no
more of him. As some relief to the disgrace that had anew alighted on the
British arms, Bradstreet, a soldier who knew the country, and who placed
much reliance on the young man of her name and family whom I had met at
Madam Schuyler's, marched against Frontenac, in Canada, at the head of a
strong body of provincials; an enterprise that, as it was conducted with
skill, resulted in a triumph.
But with all this my narrative has no proper connection. No sooner did we
reach the bald mountain-top, than the Onondago directed Jaap to light a
fire, while he produced, from a deposit left on the advance, certain of the
materials that were necessary to a meal. As neither of us had tasted food
since the morning of the previous day, this repast was welcome, and we
all partook of it like so many famished men. The negro got his share, of
course, and then we called a council as to future proceedings.
"The question is, whether we ought to make a straight path to Ravensnest,"
observed Guert, "or proceed first to the surveyor's, and see how things are
going on in that direction."
"As there can be no great danger of a pursuit on the part of the French,
since all their boats are in the other lake," I remarked, "the state of the
country is very much what it was before the army moved."
"Ask that question of the Indian," put in Dirck, a little significantly.
We looked at Susquesus inquiringly, for a look always sufficed to let him
comprehend us, when a tolerably plain allusion had been previously made.
"Black-man do foolish t'ing," observed the Onondago.
"What I do, you red-skin devil?" demanded Jaap, who felt a sort of natural
antipathy to all Indians, good or bad, excellent or indifferent; a feeling
that the Indians repaid to his race by contempt indifferently concealed.
"What I do, red-devil, ha?--dat you dares tell Masser Corny _dat_!"
Susquesus manifested no resentment at this strong and somewhat rude appeal;
but sat as motionless as if he had not heard it. This vexed Jaap so much
the more; and, my fellow being exceedingly pugnacious on all occasions that
touched his pride, there might have been immediate war between the two, had
I not raised a finger, at once effectually stilling the outbreak of Jacob
"You should not bring such a charge against my slave, Onondago," I said,
"unless able to prove it."
"He beat red warrior like dog."
"What of dat!" growled Jaap, who was only half-quieted by my sign. "Who
ebber hear it hurt red-skin to rope-end him?"
"Warrior back like squaw's. Blow hurt him. He never forget."
"Well, let him remember den," grinned the negro, showing his ivory teeth
from ear to ear. "Muss was _my_ prisoner; and what _good_ he do me, if he
let go widout punishment. I wish you tell Masser Corny _dat_, instead of
tellin' him nonsense. When he flog me, who ebber hear me grumble?"
"You have not had half enough of it, Jaap, or your manners would be
better," I thought it necessary to put in, for the fellow had never before
manifested so quarrelsome a disposition in my presence; most probably
because I had never before seen him at variance with an Indian. "Let me
hear no more of this, or I shall be obliged to pay off the arrears on the
"A little hiding does a nigger good, sometimes," observed Guert,
I observed that Dirck, who loved my very slave principally because he
was mine, looked at the offender reprovingly; and by these combined
demonstrations, we succeeded in curbing the fellow's tongue.
"Well, Susquesus," I added, "we all listen, to hear what you mean.
"Musquerusque chief--Huron chief--got very tender back; never forget rope."
"You mean us to understand that my black's prisoner will be apt to make
some attempt to revenge himself for the flogging he got from his captor?"
"Just so. Indian good memory--no forget friend--no forget enemy."
"But your Huron will be puzzled to find us, Onondago. He will suppose us
with the army; and, should he even venture to look for us there, you see he
will be disappointed."
"Never know. Wood full of paths--Injin full of cunning. Why talk of
"Was the name of Ravensnest mentioned in the presence of that Huron?" I
asked, more uneasy than such a trifle would probably have justified me in
"Ay, something was said about it, but not in a way the fellow could
understand," answered Guert, carelessly. "Let him come on, if he has not
had enough of us yet."
This was not my manner of viewing the matter, however; for the mentioning
of Ravensnest brought Anneke to my mind, surrounded by the horrors of an
"I will send you back to the Huron, Susquesus," I added, "if you can name
to me the price that will purchase his forgiveness."
The Onondago looked at me meaningly a moment; then, bending forward, he
passed the fore-finger of his hand around the head of Jaap, along the line
that is commonly made by the knife of the warrior, as he cuts away the
trophy of success from his victim. Jaap comprehended the meaning of this
very significant gesture, as well as any of us, and the manner in which
he clutched the wool, as if to keep the scalp in its place, set us all
laughing. The negro did not partake of our mirth; but I saw that he
regarded the Indian, much as the bull-dog shows his teeth, before he makes
his spring. Another motion of my finger, however, quelled the rising. It
was necessary to put an end to this, and Jaap was ordered to prepare our
packs, in readiness for the expected march. Relieved from his presence,
Susquesus was asked to be more explicit.
"You know Injin," the Onondago answered. "Now he t'ink red-coats driv' away
and skeared, he go look for scalp. Love all sort scalp--old scalp, young
scalp--man scalp, woman scalp--boy scalp, gal scalp--all get pay, all get
honour. No difference to him."
"Ay!" exclaimed Guert, with a strong aspiration, such as escapes a man who
feels strongly; "he is a devil incarnate, when he once gets fairly on the
scent of blood! So you expect these French Injins will make an excursion in
among the settlers, out here to the south-east of us?"
"Go to nearest--don't care where he be. Nearest your friend; won't like
"You are right enough, Onondago, in saying that. I shall not like it, nor
will my companions, here, like it; and the first thing you will have to do,
will be to guide us, straight as the bird flies, to the Ravensnest; the
picketed house, you know, where we have left our sweethearts."
Susquesus understood all that was said, without any difficulty; in proof of
which, he smiled at this allusion to the precious character of the inmates
of the house Guert told him to seek.
"Squaw pretty 'nough," he answered, complacently. "No wonder young man like
him. But, can't go there, now. First find friends measure land. All Injin
This last remark was made in a way I did not like; for the idea seemed to
cross the Onondago's brain so suddenly, as to draw from him this brief
assertion in pure bitterness of spirit.
"I should be very sorry if it had not been, Susquesus," I observed, myself,
"since the title is all the better for its having been so, as our Indian
deed will show. You know, of course, that my father, and his friend, Col.
Follock, bought this land of the Mohawks, and paid them their own price for
"Red-man nebber measure land so. He p'int with finger, break bush down, and
say, 'there, take from that water to that water.'"
"All very true, my friend; but, as that sort of measurement will not answer
to keep farms separate, we are obliged to survey the whole off into lots of
smaller size. The Mohawks first gave my father and his friend, as much land
as they could walk round in two suns, allowing them the night to rest in."
"_That_ good deed!" exclaimed the Indian, with strong emphasis. "Leg can't
cheat--pen great rogue."
"Well, we have the benefit of both grants; for the proprietors actually
walked round the estate, a party of Indians accompanying them, to see that
all was fair. After that, the chiefs signed a deed in writing, that there
might be no mistake, and then we got the King's grant."
"Who give King land, at all?--All land here red-man land; who give him to
"Who made the Delawares women?--The warriors of he Six nations, was it not,
"Yes--my people help. Six Nation great warrior, and put petticoat on
Delawares, so they can't go on war-path any more. What that to do with
"Why, the King's warriors, you know, my friend, have taken possession of
this country, just as the Six Nations took possession of the Delawares,
before they made them women."
"What become of King's warrior, now?" demanded the Indian, quick as
lightning. "Where he run away to? Where land Ticonderoga, now? Whose land
t'other end lake, now?"
"Why, the King's troops have certainly met with a disaster; and, for the
present, their rights are weakened, it must be admitted. But, another day
may see all this changed, and the King will got his land again. You will
remember, he has not sold Ticonderoga to the French, as the Mohawks sold
Mooseridge to us; and that, you must admit, makes a great difference. A
bargain is a bargain, Onondago."
"Yes, bargain, bargain--that good. Good for red-man, good for pale-face--no
difference--what Mohawk sell, he no take back, but let pale-face keep--but
how come Mohawk and King sell, too? Bot' own land, eh?"
This was rather a puzzling question to answer to an Indian. We white people
can very well understand that a human government, which professes, on the
principles recognised by civilized nations, to have jurisdiction over
certain extensive territories that lie in the virgin forest, and which
are used only, and that occasionally, by certain savage tribes as
hunting-grounds, should deem it right to satisfy those tribes, by purchase,
before they parcelled out their lands for the purposes of civilized life;
but, it would not be so easy to make an unsophisticated mind understand
that there could be two owners to the same property. The transaction is
simple enough to us, and it tells in favour of our habits, for we have the
power to grant these lands without 'extinguishing the Indian title,' as it
is termed; but it presents difficulties to the understandings of those who
are not accustomed to see society surrounded by the multifarious interests
of civilization. In point of fact, the Indian purchases give no other
title, under our laws, than the right to sue out, in council, a claim
to acquire by, the grant of the crown; paying to the latter such a
consideration as in its wisdom it shall see fit to demand. Still, it was
necessary to make some answer to the Onondago's question, lest he might
carry away the mistaken notion that we did not justly own our possessions.
"Suppose you find a rifle to your fancy, Susquesus," I said, after
reflecting a moment on the subject, "and you find two Indians who both
claim to own it; now, if you pay each warrior his price, is your right to
the title any the worse for having done so? Is it not rather better?"
The Indian was struck with this reply, which suited the character of his
mind. Thrusting out his hand, he received mine, and shook it cordially,
as much as to say he was satisfied. Having disposed of this episode thus
satisfactorily, we turned to the more interesting subject of our immediate
"It would seem that the Onondago expects the French Indians will now strike
at the settlements," I remarked to my companions, "and, that our friends
at Ravensnest may need our aid; but, at the same time, he thinks we
should first return to Mooseridge, and join the surveyors. Which mode of
proceeding strikes you as the best, my friends?"
"Let us first hear the Injin's reasons for going after the surveyors,"
answered Guert. "If he has a sufficient reason for his plan, I am ready to
"Surveyor got scalp, as well as squaw," said Susquesus, in his brief,
"That must settle the point!" exclaimed Guert. "I understand it all, now.
The Onondago thinks the Mooseridge party may be cut off, as being alone and
unsupported, and that we ought to apprise them of this danger."
"All perfectly just," I replied, "and it is what they, being our own
people, have a right to expect from us. Still, Guert, I should think those
surveyors might be safe where they are, in the bosom of the forest, for
a year to come. Their business there cannot be known, and who is then to
"See," said Susquesus, earnestly. "Kill deer, and leave him in the wood.
Won't raven find carcass?"
"That may be true enough; but a raven has an instinct, given him by nature,
to furnish him with food. He flies high in the air, moreover, and can see
farther than an Indian."
"Nuttin' see farther than Injin! Red-man fly high, too. See from salt lake
to sweet water. Know ebbery t'ing in wood. Tell him nuttin' he don't know."
"You do not suppose, Susquesus, that the Huron warriors could find our
surveyors, at Mooseridge?"
"Why, no find him? Find moose; why no find ridge, too? Find Mooseridge,
sartain; find land-measurer."
"On the whole, Corny," Guert remarked after musing a little, "we may do
well to follow the Injin's advice. I have heard of so many misfortunes that
have befallen people in the bush, from having despised Indian counsels,
that I own to a little superstition on the subject. Just look at what
happened yesterday! Had red-skin opinions been taken, Abercrombie might now
have been a conqueror, instead of a miserable, beaten man."
Susquesus raised a finger, and his dark countenance became illumined by an
expression that was more eloquent even than his tongue.
"Why no open ear to red-man!" he asked, with dignity. "Some bird sing a
song that good--some sing bad song--but all bird know his own song. Mohawk
warrior use to wood, and follow a crooked war-path, when he meet much
enemy. Great Yengeese chief think his warrior have two life, that he put
him before cannon and rifle, to stand up and be shot. No Injin do so
As this was too true to be controverted, the matter was not discussed; but,
having determined among ourselves to let the Onondago take us back on the
path by which we had come, we announced our readiness to start as soon as
it might suit his convenience. Being sufficiently rested, Susquesus, who
did everything on system, manifesting neither impatience nor laziness,
arose and quietly led the way. Our course was just the reverse of that
on which we had travelled when we left Mooseridge; and I did not fail to
observe that, so accurate was the knowledge of our guide, we passed many of
the same objects as we had previously gone near. There was nothing like a
track, with the exception of occasional foot-prints left by ourselves;
but it was evident the Onondago paid not the least attention to these,
possessing other and more accessible clues to his course.
Guert marched next to the Indian, and I was third in the line. How often,
that busy day, did I gaze at my file-leader, in admiration of his figure
and mien! Nature appeared to have intended him for a soldier. Although
so powerful, his frame was agile--a particular in which he differed from
Dirck; who, although so young, already gave symptoms of heaviness, at no
distant day. Then Guert's carriage waa as fine as his form. The head was
held erect; the eye was intrepid in its glance; and the tread elastic,
though so firm. To the last hour, on that long and weary march, Guert
leaped logs, sprang across hollows in the ground, and otherwise manifested
that his iron sinews and hardened muscles retained all their powers. As he
moved in my front, I saw, for the first time, that some of the fringe of
his hunting-shirt had been cut away in the fight, and that a musket-ball
had passed directly through his cap. I afterwards ascertained that Guert
was aware of these escapes, but his nature was so manly he did not think of
We made a single halt, as before, to dine; but little was said, at this
meal, and no change in our plan was proposed. This was the point where we
ought to have diverged from the former course, did we intend to proceed
first to Ravensnest; but, though all knew it, nothing was said on the
"We shall carry unwelcome tidings to Mr. Traverse, and his men," Guert
observed, a minute or two before our halt was up; "for, I take it for
granted, the news cannot have gone ahead of _us_."
"We first," answered the Onondago. "Too soon for Huron, yet. T'ink
"I wish, Corny," pursued the Albanian, "we had thought of saying a word to
Doortje about this accursed expedition. There is no use in a man's being
above his business; and he who puts himself in the way of fortune, might
profit by now and then consulting a fortune-teller."
"Had we done so, and had all that has happened been foretold, do you
suppose it would have made any change in the result?"
"Perhaps not, since we should have been the persons to relate what we had
heard. But, Abercrombie, himself, need have had no scruples about visiting
that remarkable old woman. She's a wonderful creature, Corny, as we must
allow, and a prudent general would not fail to respect what she told
him. It is a thousand pities that either the Commander-In-Chief, or the
Adjutant-General, had not paid Doortje a visit before they left Albany. My
Lord Howe's valuable life might then have been saved."
"In what way. Guert? I am at a loss to see in what manner any good could
come of it."
"In what manner?--Why, in the plainest possible. Now, suppose Doortje had
foretold this defeat; it is clear, Abercrombie, if he put any faith in the
old woman, would not have made the attack."
"And thus defeat the defeat. Do you not see, Guert, that the soothsayer
can, at the best, but foretell what _is_ to happen, and that which _must_
come _will_. It would be an easy matter for any of us to get great
reputations for fortune-telling, if all we had to do was to predict
misfortunes, in order that our friends might avoid them. As nothing would
ever happen, in consequence of the precautions taken to avert the evils, a
name would be easily and cheaply maintained."
"By St. Nicholas! Corny, I never thought of that! But, you have been
college-taught; and a thousand things are picked up at colleges, that
one never dreams of at an academy. I see reason, every day, to lament my
idleness when a boy; and fortunate shall I be, if I do not lament it all my
Poor Guert! He was always so humble, when the subject of education arose,
however accidentally or unintentionally on my part, that it was never
commented on, that it did not give me pain, exciting a wish to avoid it.
As the time for the halt was now up, it was easy to terminate the present
discussion, by declaring as much, and proceeding on our way.
We had a hard afternoon's walk of it, though neither of the five manifested
the least disposition to give in. As for Susquesus, to me, he never seemed
to know either fatigue or hunger. He was doubtless acquainted with both;
but his habits of self-command were so severe, as to enable him completely
to conceal his sufferings in this, as well as in most other respects.
The sun was near setting when we entered within the limits of the
Mooseridge estate. We ascertained this fact by passing the line-trees, some
of which had figures cut into their barks, to denote the numbers of the
great subdivisions of the property. Guert pointed out these marks; being
far more accustomed to the woods than either Dirck or myself. Aided by such
guides, we had no difficulty in making a sufficiently straight course to
Susquesus thought a little caution necessary, as we drew near to the end of
our journey. Causing us to remain behind, he advanced in front, himself, to
reconnoitre. A signal, however, soon took us to the place where he stood,
when we discovered the hut just as we had left it, but no one near it.
This might be the result of mere accident, the surveying party frequently
'camping out,' in preference to making a long march after a fatiguing day's
work; and Pete would be very likely to prefer going to join these men, to
remaining alone in the hut. We advanced to the building, therefore,
with confidence. On reaching it, we found the place empty, as had been
anticipated, though with every sign about it of its tenants having left it
but a short time previously; that morning, at the furthest.
Jaap set about preparing a supper out of the regular supplies of the party;
all of which were found in their places, and in abundance. On inquiry of
the fellow, I ascertained it was his opinion Mr. Traverse had gone off that
very day, most probably to some distant portion of the Patent, taking Pete
with him, as everything was covered up and put away with that sort of care
that denotes an absence of some little time. The Indian heard the negro's
remark, to this effect, and, tossing his head significantly, he said--
"No need guess---go see--light enough--plenty time. Injin soon tell."
He quitted the hut, on the spot, and immediately set about this
"Thou tremblest; and the whiteness in thy cheek
Is apter than thy tongue to tell thy errand."
Curiosity induced me to follow the Indian, in order to watch his movements.
Susquesus proceeded a short distance from the hut, quitting the knoll
entirely, until he reached lower land, where a foot-print would be most
likely to be visible, when he commenced a slow circuit of the place, with
eyes fastened on the earth, as the nose of the hound follows the scent. I
was so much interested in the Onondago's manner, as to join him, falling-in
in his rear, in order not to interfere with his object.
Of foot-marks there were plenty, more particularly on the low, moist
ground, where we were; but they all appeared, to me, to have no interest
with the Indian. Most of our party wore moccasins; and it was not easy to
see how, under such circumstances, and amid such a maze of impressions,
it could be possible for any one to distinguish a hostile from a friendly
trail. That Susquesus thought the thing might be done, however, was very
evident by his perseverance, and his earnestness.
At first, my companion met with no success, or with nothing that he fancied
success; but, after making half the circuit of the hut, keeping always a
hundred yards distant from it, he suddenly stopped; stooped quite to the
earth; then arose, and, sticking a broken knot into the ground, as a mark,
he signed to me to keep a little on one side, while he turned at right
angles to his former course, and moved inwards towards our dwelling. I
followed slowly, watching his movements, step by step.
In this manner we reached the hut, deviating from a direct line, in order
to do so. At the hut, itself, Susquesus made a long and minute examination;
but even I could see, that the marks here were so numerous, as to baffle
even him. After finishing his search at this point, the Indian turned, and
went back to the place where he had stuck the knot in the ground. In doing
this, however, he followed his own trail, returning by precisely the same
deviating course as that by which he had come. This, alone, would have
satisfied me that he saw more than I did; for, to own the truth, I could
not have done the same thing.
When we reached the knot, Susquesus followed that (to me invisible) trail
outside of the circle, leading off into the forest in a direct line from
the hut and spring. I continued near him, although neither had spoken
during the whole of this examination, which had now lasted quite half an
hour. As it was getting dark, however, and Jaap showed the signal that
our supper was ready, I thought it might be well, at length, to break the
"What do you make of all this, Trackless?" I inquired. "Do you find any
signs of a trail?"
"Good trail"--Susquesus answered; "new trail, too Look like Huron!"
This was startling intelligence, certainly; yet, much as I was disposed to
defer to my companion's intelligence in such matters, in general, I thought
he must be mistaken in his fact. In the first place, though I had seen many
foot-prints near the hut, and along the low land on which the Indian made
his circuit, I could see none where we then were. I mentioned this to the
Indian, and desired him to show me, particularly, one of the signs which
had led him to his conclusion.
"See," said Susquesus, stooping so low as to place a finger on the
dead leaves that ever make a sort of carpet to the forest, "here been
moccasin--that heel; this toe."
Aided, in this manner, I could discover a faint foot-print, which might,
by aid of the imagination, be thus read; though the very slight impression
that was to be traced, might almost as well be supposed anything else, as
it seemed to me.
"I see what you mean, Susquesus; and, I allow, it _may_ be a foot-print," I
answered; "but then it may also have been left by anything else, which has
touched the ground just at that spot. It may have been made by a falling
branch of a tree."
"Where branch?" asked the Indian, quick as lightning.
"Sure enough; that is more than I can tell you. But I cannot suppose _that_
a Huron foot-print, without more evidence than you now give."
"What you call that?--this--that--t'other?" added the Indian, stepping
quickly back, and pointing to four other similar, but very faint
impressions on the leaves; "no see him, eh?--Just leg apart, too!"
This was true enough; and now my attention was thus directed, and my senses
were thus aided, I confess I did discover certain proofs of footsteps, that
would, otherwise, have baffled my most serious search.
"I can see what you mean, Susquesus," I said, "and will allow that this
line of impressions, or marks, does make them look more like footsteps. At
any rate, most of our party wear moccasins as well as the red-men, and how
do you know that some of the surveyors have not passed this way?"
"Surveyor no make such mark. Toe turn in."
This was true, too. But it did not follow that a foot-print was a Huron's,
merely because it was Indian. Then, where were the enemy's warriors to come
from, in so short a time as had intervened between the late battle and the
present moment? There was little question all the forces of the French,
pale-face and red-man, had been collected at Ticonderoga to meet the
English; and the distance was so great as almost to render it impossible
for a party to reach this spot so soon, coming from the vicinity of
the fortress after the occurrence of the late events. Did not the lake
interpose an obstacle, I might have inferred that parties of skirmishers
would be thrown on the flanks of the advancing army, thus bringing foes
within a lessened distance of us; but, there was the lake, affording a safe
approach for more than thirty miles, and rendering the employment of any
such skirmishers useless. All this occurred to me at the moment, and I
mentioned it to my companion as an argument against his own supposition.
"No true," answered Susquesus, shaking his head. "That trail--he Huron
trail, too. Don't know red-man to say so."
"But red-men are human as well as pale-faces. It must be seventy miles from
this spot to the foot of Lake George, and your conjecture would make it
necessary that a party should have travelled that distance in less than
twenty-four hours, and be here some time before us."
"We no travel him, eh?"
"I grant you that, Trackless; but we came a long bit of the road in a
canoe, each and all of us sleeping, and resting ourselves, in turns. These
Hurons must have come the whole distance by land."
"No so. Huron paddle canoe well as Onondago. Lake there--canoe plenty. Why
"Do you suppose, Trackless, that any of the French Indians would venture on
the lake while it was covered with our boats, as was the case last night?"
"What 'our boat' good for, eh? Carry wounded warrior--carry runaway
warrior--what he care? T'ink Huron 'fraid of boat? Boat got eye, eh? Boat
see; boat hear, boat shoot, eh?"
"Perhaps not; but those who were in the boats can do all this, and would be
apt, at least, to speak to a strange canoe."
"Boat speak my canoe, eh? Onondago canoe, strange canoe, too."
All this was clear enough, when I began to reflect on it. It was certainly
possible for a canoe with two or three paddles, to go the whole length of
the lake in much less time than we had employed in going two-thirds of
the distance; and a party landing in the vicinity of William-Henry, could
certainly have reached the spot where we then were, several hours sooner
than we had reached it ourselves. Still, there existed all the other
improbabilities on my side of the question. It was improbable that a
party should have proceeded in precisely this manner; it was still more
improbable that such a party, coming on a war-path, from a distant part of
the country, should know exactly where to find our hut. After a moment's
pause, and while we both slowly proceeded to join our companion, I
suggested these objections to the Onondago.
"Don't know Injin," answered the other, betraying more earnestness of
manner than was usual with him, when he condescended to discuss any of
the usages of the tribes, with a pale-face. "He fight first; then he want
scalp. Ever see dead horse in wood--well, no crow there, eh? Plenty crow,
isn't he? Just so, Injin. Wounded soldier carry off, and Injin watch in
wood, behind army, to get scalp. Scalp good, after battle. Want him, very
much. Wood full of Huron, along path to Albany. Yengeese down in heart;
Huron up. Scalp so good, t'ink of nuttin' else."
By this time we had reached the hut, where I found Guert and Dirck already
at their supper. I will own that my appetite was not as good as it might
have been, but for the Onondago's conjectures and discoveries; though
I took a seat, and began to eat with my friends. While at the meal, I
communicated to my companions all that had passed, particularly asking of
Guert, who had a respectable knowledge of the bush, what he thought of the
probabilities of the case.
"If hostile red-skins have really been here, lately," the Albanian
answered, "they have been thoroughly cunning devils; for not an article
in or about the hut has been disturbed. I had an eye to that myself, the
moment we arrived; for I have thought it far from unlikely that the Hurons
would be out, on the road between William-Henry and the settlements, trying
to get scalps from the parties that would be likely to be sent to the rear
with wounded officers."
"In which case our friend Bulstrode might be in danger?"
"He must take his chance, like all of us. But, he will probably be carried
to Ravensnest, as the nearest nest for him to nestle in. I don't half like
this trail, however, Corny; it is seldom a red-skin of the Onondago's
character, makes a mistake in such a matter!"
"It is too late, now, to do anything to-night," Dirck observed. "Besides,
I don't think any great calamity is likely to befall any of us, or Doortje
would have dropped some hint about it. These fortune-tellers seldom let
anything serious pass without a notice of some sort or other. You see,
Corny, we went through all this business at Ty, without a scratch, which is
so much in favour of the old woman's being right."
Poor Dirck! that prediction had made a deep impression on his character,
and on his future life. A man's faith must be strong, to fancy that a
negative of this nature could carry with it any of the force of a positive,
affirmative prediction. Nevertheless, Dirck had spoken the truth, in one
respect. It was too late to do anything that night, and it only remained to
prepare to take our rest as securely as possible.
We consulted on the subject, calling on the Indian to aid us. After talking
the matter over, it was determined to remain where we were, securing the
door, and bringing everybody within the building; for the negroes and the
Indians had been much in the habit of sleeping about, under brush covers
that they had erected for themselves. It was thought that, having once
visited the hut, and finding it empty, the enemy, if enemy there were,
would not be very likely to return to it immediately, and that wo might
consider our selves as comparatively safe, from that circumstance alone.
Then, there were all the chances that the trail might have been left by
friendly, instead of hostile Indians, although Susquesus shook his head
in the negative, whenever this was mentioned. At all events, we had but
a choice of three expedients--to abandon the Patent, and seek safety in
flight; to 'camp out;' or to shut ourselves up in our fortress. Of the
first, no one thought for a moment; and of the two others, we decided on
the last, as far the most comfortable, and, on the whole, as the safest.
An hour after we had come to this determination, I question if either of
the five knew anything about it. I never slept more profoundly in my life,
and my companions subsequently gave the same account of their several
conditions. Fatigue, and youth, and health, gave us all refreshing sleep;
and, as we lay down at nine, two o'clock came after so much time totally
lost in the way of consciousness. I say two o'clock; for my watch told me
that was just the hour, when the Indian awoke me, by shaking my shoulder.
One gets the habits of watchfulness in the woods, and I was on my feet in
Dark as it was, for it was deep night, I could distinguish that Susquesus
was alone stirring, and that he had unbarred the door of our cabin. Indeed,
he passed through that open space, into the air of the forest, the moment
he perceived I was conscious of what I was about. Without pausing to
reflect, I followed, and soon stood at his side, some fifteen or twenty
feet from the hut.
"This good place to hear," said the Indian, in a low suppressed tone. "Now,
What a scene was that, which now presented itself to my senses! I can see
it, at this distance of time, after years of peaceful happiness, and years
of toil and adventure. The morning, or it might be better to say the night,
was not very dark in itself; but the gloom of the woods being added to the
obscurity of the hour, it lent an intensity of blackness to the trunks
of the trees, that gave to each a funereal and solemn aspect. It was
impossible to see for any distance, and the objects that were visible were
only those that were nearest at hand. Notwithstanding, one might imagine
the canopied space beneath the tops of the trees, and fancy it, in the
majesty of its gloomy vastness. Of sounds there were literally none, when
the Indian first bade me listen. The stillness was so profound, that I
thought I heard the sighing of the night air among the upper branches of
the loftier trees. This might have been mere imagination; nevertheless, all
above the summits of the giant oaks, maples and pines, formed a sort of
upper world as regarded us; a world with which we had little communication,
during our sojourn in the woods below. The raven, and the eagle, and the
hawk, sailed in that region, above the clouds of leaves beneath them, and
occasionally stooped, perhaps, to strike their quarry; but, to all else, it
was inaccessible, and to a degree invisible.
But, my present concern is with the world I was in; and, what a world it
was! Solemn, silent, dark, vast and mysterious. I listened in vain, to
catch the footstep of some busy squirrel, for the forest was alive with the
smaller animals, by night quite as much as by day; but everything, at that
moment, seemed stilled to the silence of death.
"I can hear nothing, Trackless," I whispered--"Why are you out here?"
"You hear, soon--wake me up, and I hear twice. Soon come ag'in."
It did soon come again. It was a human cry, escaping from human lips in
their agony! I heard it once only; but, should I live to be a hundred, it
would not be forgotten. I often hear it in my sleep, and twenty times have
I awoke since, fancying that agonizing call was in my ears. It was long,
loud, piercing, and the word 'help' was as distinct as tongue could make
"Great God!" I exclaimed--"some one is set upon, and calls for aid in his
extremity. Let us arouse our friends, and go to his assistance. I cannot
remain here, Susquesus, with such a cry in my ears."
"Best go, t'ink too," answered the Onondago. "No need call, though; two
better than four. Stop minute."
I did remain stationary that brief space, listening with agonized
uncertainty, while the Indian entered the hut, and returned, bringing out
his rifle and my own. Arming ourselves, and shutting the door of the cabin,
to exclude the night-air, at least, Susquesus led off, with his noiseless
step, in a south-west direction, or that in which we had heard the sound.
Our march was too swift and earnest to admit of discourse. The Onondago had
admonished me to make as little noise as possible; and, between the anxiety
I felt, and the care taken to comply, there was, indeed, but little
opportunity for conversing. My feelings were wrought up to a high pitch;
but my confidence in my companion being great, I followed in his footsteps,
as diligently as my skill would allow. Susquesus rather trod on air than
walked; yet I kept close at his heels, until we had gone, as I should
think, fully half a mile in the direction from which that awful cry had
come. Here Susquesus halted, saying to me, in a low voice--
"No far from here--best stop."
I submitted, in all things, to the directions of my Indian guide. The
latter had selected the dark shadows of two or three young pines for our
cover, where, by getting within their low branches, we were completely
concealed from any eye that was distant from us eight or ten feet. No
sooner were we thus posted, than the Onondago pointed to the trunk of a
fallen tree, and we took our seats silently on it. I observed that my
companion kept his thumb on the cock of his rifle, while his fore-finger
was passed around the trigger. It is scarcely necessary to say that I
observed the same precaution.