Part 1 out of 5
Produced by Suzanne Shell, Leah Moser and PG Distributed Proofreaders
THE LORDS OF THE WILD
_A Story of the Old New York Border_
JOSEPH A. ALTSHELER
"The Lords of the Wild" tells a complete story, but it is also a part
of the French and Indian War Series, of which the predecessors were
"The Hunters of the Hills," "The Shadow of the North," "The Rulers
of the Lakes" and "The Masters of the Peaks." Robert Lennox, Tayoga,
Willet, St. Luc, Tandakora and all the principal characters of the
earlier volumes reappear.
CHARACTERS IN THE FRENCH AND INDIAN WAR SERIES
ROBERT LENNOX A lad of unknown origin
TAYOGA A young Onondaga warrior
DAVID WILLET A hunter
RAYMOND LOUIS DE ST. LUC A brilliant French officer
AGUSTE DE COURCELLES A French officer
FRANCOIS DE JUMONVILLE A French officer
LOUIS DE GALISONNIERE A young French officer
JEAN DE MEZY A corrupt Frenchman
ARMAN GLANDELET A young Frenchman
PIERRE BOUCHER A bully and bravo
PHILIBERT DROUILLARD A French priest
THE MARQUIS DUQUESNE Governor-General of Canada
MARQUIS DE VAUDREUIL Governor-General of Canada
FRANCOIS BIGOT Intendant of Canada
MARQUIS DE MONTCALM French commander-in-chief
DE LEVIS A French general
BOURLAMAQUE A French general
BOUGAINVILLE A French general
ARMAND DUBOIS A follower of St. Luc
M. DE CHATILLARD An Old French Seigneur
CHARLES LANGLADE A French partisan
THE DOVE The Indian wife of Langlade
TANDAKORA An Ojibway chief
DAGONOWEDA A young Mohawk chief
HENDRICK An old Mohawk chief
BRADDOCK A British general
ABERCROMBIE A British general
WOLFE A British general
COL. WILLIAM JOHNSON Anglo-American leader
MOLLY BRANT Col. Wm. Johnson's Indian wife
JOSEPH BRANT Young brother of Molly Brant,
afterward the great Mohawk
ROBERT DINWIDDIE Lieutenant-Governor of Virginia
WILLIAM SHIRLEY Governor of Massachusetts
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN Famous American Patriot
JAMES COLDEN A young Philadelphia captain
WILLIAM WILTON A young Philadelphia lieutenant
HUGH CARSON A young Philadelphia lieutenant
JACOBUS HUYSMAN An Albany burgher
CATERINA Jacobus Huysman's cook
ALEXANDER MCLEAN An Albany schoolmaster
BENJAMIN HARDY A New York merchant
JOHNATHAN PILLSBURY Clerk to Benjamin Hardy
ADRIAN VAN ZOON A New York merchant
THE SLAVER A nameless rover
ACHILLE GARAY A French spy
ALFRED GROSVENOR A young English officer
JAMES CABELL A young Virginian
WALTER STUART A young Virginian
BLACK RIFLE A famous "Indian fighter"
ELIHU STRONG A Massachusetts colonel
ALAN HERVEY A New York financier
STUART WHITE Captain of the British sloop,
JOHN LATHAM Lieutenant of the British sloop,
EDWARD CHARTERIS A young officer of the Royal
ZEBEDEE CRANE A young scout and forest runner
ROBERT ROGERS Famous Captain of American
I.--THE BLUE BIRD
II.--THE LIVE CANOE
III.--IN THE CLIFF
IV.--THE DARING ATTEMPT
VII.--THE FOREST BATTLE
VIII.--THE BOAT BUILDERS
IX.--THE MASKED ATTACK
X.--IN THE FOG
XI.--THE HAPPY ESCAPE
XII.--THE FRENCH CAMP
XIII.--EVE OF BATTLE
THE LORDS OF THE WILD
A STORY OF THE OLD NEW YORK BORDER
THE BLUE BIRD
The tall youth, turning to the right, went down a gentle slope until
he came to a little stream, where he knelt and drank. Despite his
weariness, his thirst and his danger he noticed the silvery color of
the water, and its soft sighing sound, as it flowed over its pebbly
bed, made a pleasant murmur in his ear. Robert Lennox always had an
eye for the beautiful, and the flashing brook, in its setting of deep,
intense forest green, soothed his senses, speaking to him of comfort
He drank again and then sat back among the bushes, still breathing
heavily, but with much more freedom. The sharp pain left his chest,
new strength began to flow into his muscles, and, as the body was
renewed, so the spirit soared up and became sanguine once more. He put
his ear to the earth and listened long, but heard nothing, save sounds
natural to the wilderness, the rustling of leaves before the light
wind, the whisper of the tiny current, and the occasional sweet note
of a bird in brilliant dress, pluming itself on a bough in its pride.
He drew fresh courage from the peace of the woods, and resolved to
remain longer there by the stream. Settling himself into the bushes
and tall grass, until he was hidden from all but a trained gaze, he
waited, body and soul alike growing steadily in vigor.
The forest was in its finest colors. Spring had never brought to it a
more splendid robe, gorgeous and glowing, its green adorned with wild
flowers, and the bloom of bush and tree like a gigantic stretch of
tapestry. The great trunks of oak and elm and maple grew in endless
rows and overhead the foliage gleamed, a veil of emerald lace before
Robert drank in the glory, eye and ear, but he never failed to watch
the thickets, and to listen for hostile sounds. He knew full well that
his life rested upon his vigilance and, often as he had been in danger
in the great northern woods, he valued too much these precious days of
his youth to risk their sudden end through any neglect of his own.
He looked now and then at the bird which still preened itself on a
little bough. When the shadows from the waving foliage fell upon
its feathers it showed a bright purple, but when the sunlight poured
through, it glowed a glossy blue. He did not know its name, but it was
a brave bird, a gay bird. Now and then it ceased its hopping back and
forth, raised its head and sent forth a deep, sweet, thrilling note,
amazing in volume to come from so small a body. Had he dared to make a
sound Robert would have whistled a bar or two in reply. The bird was a
friend to one alone and in need, and its dauntless melody made his
own heart beat higher. If a creature so tiny was not afraid in the
wilderness why should he be!
He had learned to take sharp notice of everything. On the border and
in such times, man was compelled to observe with eye and ear, with all
the five senses; and often too with a sixth sense, an intuition, an
outgrowth of the other five, developed by long habit and training,
which the best of the rangers possessed to a high degree, and in which
the lad was not lacking. He knew that the minutest trifle must not
escape his attention, or the forfeit might be his life.
While he relaxed his own care not at all, he felt that the bird was a
wary sentinel for him. He knew that if an enemy came in haste through
the undergrowth it would fly away before him. He had been warned in
that manner in another crisis and he had full faith now in the caution
of the valiant little singer. His trust, in truth, was so great that
he rose from his covert and bent down for a third drink of the clear
cool water. Then he stood up, his figure defiant, and took long, deep
breaths, his heart now beating smoothly and easily, as if it had been
put to no painful test. Still no sound of a foe, and he thought that
perhaps the pursuit had died down, but he knew enough of the warriors
of the woods to make sure, before he resumed a flight that would
expose him in the open.
He crept back into the thicket, burying himself deep, and was careful
not to break a twig or brush a leaf which to the unerring eyes of
those who followed could mark where he was. Hidden well, but yet lying
where he could see, he turned his gaze back to the bird. It was now
pouring out an unbroken volume of song as it swayed on a twig, like
a leaf shaken in the wind. Its voice was thrillingly sweet, and it
seemed mad with joy, as its tiny throat swelled with the burden of its
melody. Robert, in the thicket, smiled, because he too shared in so
A faint sound out of the far west came to him. It was so slight
that it was hard to tell it from the whisper of the wind. It barely
registered on the drum of the ear, but when he listened again and with
all his powers he was sure that it was a new and foreign note. Then he
separated it from the breeze among the leaves, and it seemed to him
to contain a quality like that of the human voice. If so, it might
be hostile, because his friends, Willet, the hunter, and Tayoga, the
Onondaga, were many miles away. He had left them on the shore of the
lake, called by the whites, George, but more musically by the Indians,
Andiatarocte, and there was nothing in their plans that would now
bring them his way. However welcome they might be he could not hope
for them; foes only were to be expected.
The faint cry, scarcely more than a variation of the wind, registered
again though lightly on the drum of his ear, and now he knew that it
came from the lungs of man, man the pursuer, man the slayer, and so,
in this case, the red man, perhaps Tandakora, the fierce Ojibway chief
himself. Doubtless it was a signal, one band calling to another, and
he listened anxiously for the reply, but he did not hear it, the point
from which it was sent being too remote, and he settled back into his
bed of bushes and grass, resolved to keep quite still until he
could make up his mind about the next step. On the border as well as
elsewhere it was always wise, when one did not know what to do, to do
But the tall youth was keenly apprehensive. The signals indicated that
the pursuing force had spread out, and it might enclose him in a fatal
circle. His eager temperament, always sensitive to impressions, was
kindled into fire, and his imagination painted the whole forest
scene in the most vivid colors. A thought at first, it now became a
conviction with him that Tandakora led the pursuit. The red leader had
come upon his trail in some way, and, venomous from so many failures,
would follow now for days in an effort to take him. He saw the huge
Ojibway again with all the intensity of reality, his malignant face,
his mighty body, naked to the waist and painted in hideous designs.
He saw too the warriors who were with him, many of them, and they were
fully as eager and fierce as their chief.
But his imagination which was so vital a part of him did not paint
evil and danger alone; it drew the good in colors no less deep and
glowing. It saw himself refreshed, stronger of body and keener of mind
than ever, escaping every wile and snare laid for his ruin. It saw
him making a victorious flight through the forest, his arrival at the
shining lake, and his reunion with Willet and Tayoga, those faithful
friends of many a peril.
He knew that if he waited long enough he would hear the Indian call
once more, as the bands must talk to one another if they carried out
a concerted pursuit, and he decided that when it came he would go. It
would be his signal too. The only trouble lay in the fact that they
might be too near when the cry was sent. Yet he must take the risk,
and there was his sentinel bird still pluming itself in brilliant
colors on its waving bough.
The bird sang anew, pouring forth a brilliant tune, and Robert from
his covert smiled up at it again. It had a fine spirit, a gay spirit
like his own and now it would surely warn him if danger crept too
close. While the thought was fresh in his mind the third signal
came, and now it was so clear and distinct that it indicated a rapid
approach. But he was still unable to choose a way for his flight and
he lingered for a sign from the bird. If the warriors were stealing
through the bushes it would fly directly from them. At least he
believed so, and fancy had so much power over him, especially in such
a situation that belief became conviction.
The bird stopped singing suddenly, but kept his perch on the waving
bough. Robert always insisted that it looked straight at him before it
uttered two or three sharp notes, and then, rising in the air, hovered
for a few minutes above the bough. It was obvious to him that his
call had come. Steeped in Indian lore he had seen earth and air work
miracles, and it was not less wonderful that a living creature should
perform one now, and in his behalf.
For a breathless instant or two he forgot the warriors and watched the
bird, a flash of blue flame against the green veil of the forest. It
was perched there in order to be sure that he saw, and then it would
show the way! With every pulse beating hard he stood up silently,
his eyes still on the blue flash, confident that a new miracle was at
The bird uttered three or four notes, not short or sharp now, but
soft, long and beckoning, dying away in the gentlest of echoes. His
imagination, as vivid as ever, translated it into a call to him to
come, and he was not in the least surprised, when the blue flame like
the pillow of cloud by day moved slowly to the northeast, and toward
the lake. Stepping cautiously he followed his sign, thrilled at the
doing of the miracle, his eyes on his flying guide, his ears attuned
to warn him if any danger threatened from the forest so near.
It never occurred to Robert that he might not be led aright. His faith
and confidence were supreme. He had lived too much with Tayoga not to
share his belief that the hand of Manitou was stretched forth now to
lead those who put their trust in him.
The blue flame that was a living bird flew slowly on, pausing an
instant or two on a bough, turning for a short curve to right or
left, but always coming back to the main course that pointed toward
He walked beside the little brook from which he had drunk, then across
it and over a low hill, into a shallow valley, the forest everywhere,
but the undergrowth not too dense for easy passage. His attentive ear
brought no sound from either flank save those natural to the woods,
though he was sure that a hostile call would come soon. It would be
time for the bands to talk to one another. But he had no fear. The
supreme intervention had been made in his favor, and he kept his eyes
on his flying guide.
They crossed the valley and began the ascent of another and high hill,
rough with rocky outcrops and a heavy growth of briars and vines. His
pace became slower of necessity and once or twice he thought he had
lost the blue flame, but it always reappeared, and, for the first
time since its flight from the bough, it sang a few notes, a clear
melodious treble, carrying far through the windy forest.
The lad believed that the song was meant for him. Clearly it said to
him to follow, and, with equal clearness, it told him that safety lay
only in the path he now traveled. He believed, with all the ardor of
his soul, and there was no weariness in his body as he climbed the
high hill. Near the summit, he heard on his right the long dying
Indian cry so full of menace, its answer to the left, and then a third
shout directly behind him. He understood. He was between the horns of
a crescent, and they were not far away. He left faint traces only as
he fled, but they had so much skill they could follow with speed, and
he was quite sure they expected to take him. This belief did not keep
his heart from beating high. They did not know how he was protected
and led, and there was the blue flame before him always showing him
the way. He reached the crest of the hill, and saw other hills, fold
on fold, lying before him. He had hoped to catch a glimpse of the lake
from the summit, but no glint of its waters came, and then he knew it
must yet be miles away. His heart sank for a moment. Andiatarocte had
appealed to him as a refuge. Just why he did not know, but he vaguely
expected to find safety there. Perhaps he would meet Willet and Tayoga
by its shore, and to him the three united always seemed invincible.
His courage was gone only an instant or two. Then it came back
stronger than ever. The note of his guide, clear and uplifting, rose
again, and he increased his speed, lest he be enclosed within those
horns. The far slope was rocky and he leaped from one stony outcrop to
another. Even if he could hide his trail only a few yards it would
be so much time gained while they were compelled to seek it. He was
forced to watch his steps here, but, when he was at the bottom and
looked up, the blue flame was still before him. On it went over the
next slope and he followed at speed, noticing with joy that the rocky
nature of the ground continued, and the most skillful warrior who ever
lived must spend many minutes hunting his traces. He had no doubt that
he was gaining and he had proof of it in the fact that the pursuers
now uttered no cry. Had they been closing in on him they would have
called to one another in triumph.
Well for him that he was so strong and sound of heart and lung! Well
for him too that he was borne up by a great spirit and by his belief
that a supreme power was working in his behalf. He felt little
weariness as he climbed a ridge. His breath was easy and regular and
his steps were long and swift. His guide was before him. Whatever his
pace, whether fast or slow, the distance between them never seemed to
change. The bird would dart aside, perhaps to catch an insect, but it
always returned promptly to its course.
His eyes caught a gleam of silver from the crest of the fourth ridge
that he crossed, and he knew it was a ray of sunlight striking upon
the waters of the lake. Now his coveted haven was not so far away, and
the great pulses in his temples throbbed. He would reach the lake, and
he would find refuge. Tandakora, in all his malice, would fail once
more. The thought was so pleasant to him that he laughed aloud, and
now feeling the need to use the strength he had saved with such care
he began to run as fast as he could. It was his object to open up
a wide gap between himself and the warriors, one so great that, if
occasion came, he might double or turn without being seen.
The forest remained dense, a sea of trees with many bushes and
clinging vines in which an ignorant or incautious runner would have
tripped and fallen, but Robert was neither, and he did not forget, as
he fled, to notice where his feet fell. His skill and presence of mind
kept him from stumbling or from making any noise that would draw the
attention of possible pursuers who might have crept up on his flank.
While they had only his faint trail to guide them the pursuit was
impeded, and, as long as they did not see him, his chance to hide was
He lost sight of his feathered guide two or three times, but the bird
never failed to reappear, a brilliant blue flame against the green
wall of the wilderness, his emblem of hope, leading him over the hills
and valleys toward Andiatarocte. Now he saw the lake from a crest, not
a mere band of silver showing through the trees, but a broad surface
reflecting the sunlight in varied colors. It was a beacon to him, and,
summoning the last ounce of his strength and will, he ran at amazing
speed. Once more he heard the warriors behind him calling to one
another, and they were much farther away. His mighty effort had not
been in vain. His pulses beat hard with the throb of victory not yet
won, but of which he felt sure, and he rejoiced too, because he had
come again upon rocky ground, where his flight left so little trace
that Tandakora himself would be baffled for a while.
He knew that the shores of the lake at the point he was nearing were
comparatively low, and a vague plan to hide in the dense foliage at
the water's edge came into his mind. He did not know just how he would
do it, but he would be guided by events as they developed. The bird
surely would not lead him on unless less to safety, and no doubt
entered his mind. But it was highly important to widen yet more the
distance between him and the warriors, and he still ran with all the
speed at his command.
The last crest was reached and before him spread the splendid lake in
its deep green setting, a glittering spectacle that he never failed to
admire, and that he admired even now, when his life was in peril, and
instants were precious. The bird perched suddenly on a bough, uttered
a few thrilling notes, and was then gone, a last blue flash into the
dense foliage. He did not see it again, and he did not expect to
do so. Its work was done. Strong in the faith of the wilderness, he
believed and always believed.
He crouched a few moments on a ledge and looked back. Tandakora and
his men had not yet come in sight, nor could he hear them. Doubtless
they had lost his trail, when he leaped from one stone to another, and
were now looking for it. His time to hide, if he were to have one, was
at hand, and he meant to make the most of the chance. He bent lower
and remained there until his breathing became regular and easy after
his mighty effort, all his five senses and the sixth that was instinct
or divination, alert to every sound.
Two or three birds began to sing, but they were not his bird and he
gave them no attention. A rabbit leaped from its nest under the bushes
and ran. It went back on his trail and he considered it a sure sign
that his pursuers were yet distant. He might steal another precious
minute or two for his overworked lungs and heart. He knew the need of
doing everything to gain a little more strength. It was his experience
in border war and the stern training of Willet and Tayoga that made
him able to do so, and he was ruler enough of himself to wait yet a
little longer than he had planned. Then when he felt that Tandakora
must be near, he straightened up, though not to his full height, and
ran swiftly down the long slope to the lake.
He found at the bottom a narrow place between cliff and water, grown
thickly with bushes, and he followed it at least half a mile, until
the shores towered above him dark and steep, and the lake came up
against them like a wall. He could go no farther and he waded into a
dense growth of bushes and weeds, where he stood up to his waist in
water and waited, hidden well.
He knew that if the warriors followed and saw him he would have little
opportunity to escape, but the chances were a hundred to one against
their finding him in such a covert. Rock and water had blotted out his
trail and he felt safe. He secured his belt, containing his smaller
weapons and ammunition, about his shoulders beyond touch of water, and
put his rifle in the forks of two bushes, convenient to his hands.
It was a luxury to rest, even if one did stand half-sunken in a lake.
The water was cold, but he did not yet feel the chill, and he listened
for possible sounds of pursuit. He heard, after a while, the calls of
warriors to one another and he laughed softly to himself. The shouts
were faint and moreover they came from the crest of the cliff. They
had not found his trail down the slope and they were hunting for him
on the heights. He laughed again with sheer satisfaction. He had been
right. Rock and water had come to his aid, and he was too well hidden
even for the eager eyes of Tandakora and his warriors to follow him.
He waited a long time. He heard the cries nearer him, then farther
away, and, at last, at such a great distance that they could barely
be separated from the lap of the waters. He was growing cold now; the
chill from the lake was rising in his body, but with infinite patience
bred by long practice of the wilderness he did not stir. He knew that
silence could be deceptive. Some of the warriors might come back,
and might wait in a thicket, hoping that he would rise and disclose
himself, thinking the danger past. More than one careless wanderer
in the past had been caught in such a manner, and he was resolved to
guard against the trick. Making the last call upon his patience, he
stood motionless, while the chill crept steadily upward through his
veins and muscles.
He could see the surface of the open lake through the veil of bushes
and tall grass. The water broke in gentle waves under a light wind,
and kept up a soft sighing that was musical and soothing. Had he been
upon dry land he could have closed his eyes and gone to sleep, but,
as it was, he did not complain, since he had found safety, if not
comfort. He even found strength in himself, despite his situation, to
admire the gleaming expanse of Andiatarocte with its shifting colors,
and the far cliffs lofty and dim.
Much of Robert's life, much of its most eventful portion, was passing
around this lake, and he had a peculiar affection for it. It always
aroused in him a sense of beauty, of charm and of majesty, and he had
grown too to look upon it as a friend and protector. He believed that
it had brought him good luck, and he did not doubt that it would do so
He looked for a canoe, one perhaps that might contain Willet and
Tayoga, seeking him and keeping well beyond the aim of a lurking
marksman on the shore, but he saw no shadow on the water, nothing
that could be persuaded into the likeness of a boat, only wild fowl
circling and dipping, and, now and then, a gleam where a fish leaped
up to fall swiftly back again. He was alone, and he must depend upon
He began to move a little, to lift one foot and then the other,
careful to make no splash in the water, and the slight exercise
checked the creeping chill. Encouraged, he increased it, stopping at
intervals to listen for the approach of a foe. There was no sound
and he walked back and forth a little. Presently his eyes, trained to
observe all things, noticed a change in the air. A gray tint, so far a
matter of quality rather than color, was coming into it, and his
heart leaped with joy. Absorbed in his vital struggle he had failed to
reckon the passage of time. The day was closing and blessed, covering
night was at hand. Robert loved the day and the sun, but darkness was
always a friend of those who fled, and now he prayed that it would
come thick and dark.
The sun still hung over the eastern shores, red and blazing, but
before long it went down, seeming to sink into the lake, and the night
that Robert had wished, heavy and black, swept over the earth. Then he
left the water, and stood upon dry land, the narrow ledge between the
cliff and the waves, where he took off his lower garments, wrung them
as nearly dry as he could, and, hanging them on the bushes, waited
for the wind to do the rest. His sense of triumph had never been so
strong. Alone and relying only upon his own courage and skill, he had
escaped the fierce Tandakora and his persistent warriors. He could
even boast of it to Willet and Tayoga, when he found them again.
It was wonderful to feel safe, after great peril, and his bright
imagination climbed the heights. As he had escaped them then, so he
would slip always from the snares of his foes. It was this quality in
him, the spirit of eternal hope, that appealed so strongly to all who
knew him, and that made him so attractive.
After a while, he took venison and hominy from his knapsack and ate
with content. Then he resumed his clothing, now dried completely by
the wind, and felt that he had never been stronger or more fitted to
cope with attack.
The darkness was intense and the surface of the lake showed through
it, only a fitful gray. The cliff behind him was now a black bank, and
its crest could not be seen at all. He was eager to go, but he still
used the patience so necessary in the wilderness, knowing that the
longer he waited the less likely he was to meet the band of Tandakora.
He lay down in a thicket of tall grass and bushes, resolved not to
start before midnight, and he felt so much at peace that before he
knew he was going to sleep he was sleeping. When he awoke he felt a
little dismay at first, but it was soon gone. After all, he had passed
the time of waiting in the easiest way, and no enemy had come. The
moon and stars were not to be seen, but instinct told him that it was
not beyond midnight.
He arose to go, but a slight sound came from the lake, and he stayed.
It was merely the cry of the night bird, calling to its mate, one
would have said, but Robert's attention was attracted by an odd
inflection in it, a strain that seemed familiar. He listened with the
utmost attention, and when it came a second time, he was so sure that
his pulses beat very fast.
Willet and Tayoga, as he had hoped in the day, were out there on the
lake. It had been foolish of him to think they would come in the full
sunlight, exposed to every hostile eye. It was their natural course to
approach in the dark and send a signal that he would know. He imitated
the call, a soft, low note, but one that traveled far, and soon the
answer came. No more was needed. The circle was complete. Willet and
Tayoga were on the lake and they knew that he was at the foot of the
He took a long breath of intense relief and delight. Tandakora would
resume the search for him in the morning, hunting along the crest,
and he might even find his way to the narrow ledge on which Robert now
stood, but the lad would be gone across the waters, where he left no
He saw a stout young bush growing on the edge of the lake, and,
leaning far out while he held on to it with one hand, he watched. He
did not repeat the call. One less cautious would have done so, but he
knew that his friends had located him already and he meant to run
no risk of telling the warriors also where he stood. Meanwhile, he
listened attentively for the sound of the paddles, but many long
minutes passed before he heard the faint dip, dip that betokened the
approach of Willet and Tayoga. He never doubted for an instant that
it was their canoe and again his heart felt that triumphant feeling.
Surely no man ever had more loyal or braver comrades! If he had
malignant enemies he also had staunch friends who more than offset
He saw presently a faint shadow, a deeper dark in the darkness, and
he uttered very low the soft note of the bird. In an instant came the
answer, and then the shadow, turning, glided toward him. A canoe took
form and shape and he saw in it two figures, which were unmistakably
those of Willet and Tayoga, swinging their paddles with powerful
hands. Again he felt a thrill of joy because these two trusty comrades
had come. But it was absurd ever to doubt for an instant that they
He leaned out from the tree to the last inch, and called in a
"Dave! Tayoga! This way!"
The canoe shifted its course a little, and entered the bushes by
the side of Robert, the hunter and the Onondaga putting down their
dripping paddles, and stepping out in the shallow water. In the
dusk the great figure of Willet loomed up, more than ever a tower of
strength, and the slender but muscular form of Tayoga, the very model
of a young Indian warrior, seemed to be made of gleaming bronze. Had
Robert needed any infusion of courage and will their appearance alone
would have brought it with them.
"And we have found Dagaeoga again!" said the Onondaga, in a whimsical
"No I have found you," said Robert. "You were lost from me, I was not
lost from you."
"It is the same, and I think by your waiting here at midnight that you
have been in great peril."
"So I have been, and I may be yet--and you too. I have been pursued
by warriors, Tandakora at their head. I have not seen them, but I know
from the venom and persistence of the pursuit that he leads them. I
eluded them by coming down the cliff and hiding among the bushes here.
I stood in the water all the afternoon."
"We thought you might be somewhere along the western shore. After we
divided for our scout about the lake, the Great Bear and I met as we
had arranged, but you did not come. We concluded that the enemy had
got in the way, and so we took from its hiding place a canoe which had
been left on a former journey, and began to cruise upon Andiatarocte,
calling at far intervals for you."
He spoke in his usual precise school English and in a light playful
tone, but Robert knew the depth of his feelings. The friendship of the
white lad and the red was held by hooks of steel like that of Damon
and Pythias of old.
"I think I heard your first call," said Robert. "It wasn't very loud,
but never was a sound more welcome, nor can I be too grateful for that
habit you have of hiding canoes here and there in the wilderness. It's
saved us all more than once."
"It is merely the custom of my people, forced upon us by need, and I
"It doesn't alter my gratitude. I see that the canoe is big enough for
"So it is, Dagaeoga. You can enter it. Take my paddle and work."
The three adjusted their weight in the slender craft, and Robert,
taking Willet's paddle instead of Tayoga's, they pushed out into the
lake, while the great hunter sat with his long rifle across his knees,
watching for the least sign that the warriors might be coming.
THE LIVE CANOE
Robert was fully aware that their peril was not yet over--the Indians,
too, might have canoes upon the lake--but he considered that the bulk
of it had passed. So his heart was light, and, as they shot out toward
the middle of Andiatarocte, he talked of the pursuit and the manner in
which he had escaped it.
"I was led the right way by a bird, one that sang," he said. "Your
Manitou, Tayoga, sent that bird to save me."
"You don't really believe it came for that special purpose?" asked the
"Why not?" interrupted the Onondaga. "We do know that miracles are
done often. My nation and all the nations of the Hodenosaunee have
long known it. If Manitou wishes to stretch out his hand and snatch
Dagaeoga from his foes it is not for us to ask his reason why."
Willet was silent. He would not say anything to disturb the belief of
Tayoga, he was never one to attack anybody's religion, besides he was
not sure that he did not believe, himself.
"We know too," continued Tayoga devoutly, "that Tododaho, the mighty
Onondaga chief who went away to his star more than four hundred years
ago, and who sits there watching over the Hodenosaunee has intervened
more than once in our behalf. He is an arm of Manitou and acts for
He looked up. The sky was hidden by the thick darkness. No ray of
silver or gray showed anywhere, but the Onondaga knew where lay the
star upon which sat his patron saint with the wise snakes, coil on
coil, in his hair. He felt that through the banks of mist and vapor
Tododaho was watching over him, and, as long as he tried to live the
right way taught to him by his fathers, the great Onondaga chieftain
would lead him through all perils, even as the bird in brilliant blue
plumage had shown Robert the path from the pursuit of Tandakora. The
sublime faith of Tayoga never wavered for an instant.
The wind rose a little, a heavy swell stirred the lake and their light
craft swayed with vigor, but the two youths were expert canoemen, none
better in all the wilderness, and it shipped no water. The hunter,
sitting with his hands on his rifle, did not stir, nor did he speak
for a long time. Willet, at that moment, shared the faith of his two
younger comrades. He was grateful too because once more they had
found Robert, for whom he had all the affection of a father. The three
reunited were far stronger than the three scattered, and he did not
believe that any force on the lakes or in the mountains could trap
them. But his questing eyes watched the vast oblong of the lake,
looking continually for a sign, whether that of friend or foe.
"What did you find, Robert?" he asked at last.
"Nothing but the band of Tandakora," replied the lad, with a light
laugh. "I took my way squarely into trouble, and then I had hard work
taking it out again. I don't know what would have happened to me, if
you two hadn't come in the canoe."
"It seems," said the Onondaga, in his whimsical precise manner, "that
a large part of our lives, Great Bear, is spent in rescuing Dagaeoga.
Do you think when we go into the Great Beyond and arrive at the feet
of Manitou, and he asks us what we have done with our time on earth,
he will put it to our credit when we reply that we consumed at least
ten years saving Dagaeoga from his enemies?"
"Yes, Tayoga, we'll get white marks for it, because Robert has
also saved us, and there is no nobler work than saving one's
fellow creatures. Manitou knows also that it is hard to live in the
wilderness and a man must spend a lot of his time escaping death. Look
to the east, Tayoga, lad, and tell me if you think that's a point of
light on the mountain over there."
The Onondaga studied intently the dark wall of the east, and presently
his eyes picked out a dot against its background, infinitesimal like
the light of a firefly, but not to be ignored by expert woodsmen.
"Yes, Great Bear," he replied, "I see it is not larger than the
littlest star, but it moves from side to side, and I think it is a
"So do I, lad. The lake is narrow here, and the answer, if there be
any, will come from the west shore. Now we'll look, all together.
Three pairs of eyes are better than one."
The two lads ceased paddling, holding the canoe steady, with
an occasional stroke, and began to search the western cliffs in
methodical fashion, letting the eye travel from the farthest point in
the north gradually toward the south, and neglecting no place in the
"There it is!" exclaimed Robert. "Almost opposite us! I believe it's
in the very cliff at the point of which I lay!"
"See it, winking and blinking away."
"Yes, that's it," said Robert. "Now I wonder what those two lights are
saying to each other across Lake George?"
"It might be worth one's while to know, for they're surely signaling.
It may be about us, or it may be about the army in the south."
"I didn't find anything but trouble," said Robert. "Now what did you
and Tayoga find?"
"Plenty traces of both white men and red," replied the hunter. "The
forests were full of French and Indians. I think St. Luc with a
powerful force is near the north end of Lake George, and the Marquis
de Montcalm will soon be at Ticonderoga to meet us."
"But we'll sweep him away when our great army comes up from New York."
"So we should, lad, but the Marquis is an able general, wily and
brave. He showed his quality at Fort William Henry and we mustn't
underrate him, though I am afraid that's what we'll do; besides the
forest fights for the defense."
"It's not like you to be despondent, Dave," said Robert.
"I'm not, lad. I've just a feeling that we should be mighty cautious.
Some think the Marquis won't stand when our big army comes, but I
do, and I look for a great battle on the shores of either George or
"And we'll win it," said Robert in sanguine tones.
"That rests on the knees of the gods," said Willet thoughtfully. "But
we've got to deal with one thing at a time. It's our business now to
escape from the people who are making those lights wink at each other,
or the battle wherever it's fought or whoever wins won't include us
because we'll be off on another star, maybe sitting at the feet of
"There's another light on the west shore toward the south," said the
"And a fourth on the eastern cliff also toward the south," added
Robert. "All four of them are winking now. It seems to be a general
"And I wish we could understand their language," said the hunter
earnestly. "I'm thinking, however, that they're talking about us. They
must have found out in some manner that we're on the lake, and they
want to take us."
"Then," said Robert, "it's time for Manitou to send a heavy mist that
we may escape in it."
"Manitou can work miracles for those whom he favors," said Tayoga,
"and now and then he sends them, but oftenest he withholds his hand,
lest we become spoiled and rely upon him when we should rely upon
"You never spoke a truer word, Tayoga," said the hunter. "It's the
same as saying that heaven helps those who help themselves, and we've
got to do a lot of work for ourselves this night. I think the Indian
canoes are already on Andiatarocte looking for us."
Robert would have felt a chill had it not been for the presence of his
comrades. The danger was unknown, mysterious, it might come from any
point, and, while the foe prepared, they must wait until he disclosed
himself. Waiting was the hardest thing to do.
"I think we'd better stay just where we are for a while," said the
hunter. "It would be foolish to use our strength, until we know what
we are using it for. It's certain that Manitou intends to let us fend
for ourselves because the night is lightening, which is a hard thing
The clouds floated away toward the north, a star came out, then
another, and then a cluster, the lofty shores on either side rose up
clear and distinct, no longer vague black walls, the surface of the
water turned to gray, but it was still swept by a heavy swell, in
which the canoe rocked. Willet finally suggested that they pull to
a small island lying on their right, and anchor in the heavy foliage
overhanging the water.
"If it grows much lighter they'll be able to see us from the cliffs,"
he said, "and for us now situated as we are the most important of all
things is to hide."
It was a tiny island, not more than a quarter of an acre in size, but
it was covered with heavy forest, and they found refuge among the long
boughs that touched the water, where they rested in silence, while
more stars came out, throwing a silver radiance over the lake. The
three were silent and Robert watched the western light that lay
farthest south. It seemed to be about two miles away, and, as he
looked he saw it grow, until he became convinced that it was no longer
a light, but a fire.
"What is the meaning of it?" he asked, calling the attention of
The hunter looked for a while before replying. The fire still grew
and soon a light on the eastern shore began to turn into a fire,
increasing in the same manner.
"I take it that they intend to illuminate the lake, at least this
portion of it," said Willet. "They'll have gigantic bonfires casting
their light far over the water, and they think that we won't be able
to hide then."
"Which proves that they are in great force on both shores," said
"How does it prove it?" asked Robert.
The Onondaga laughed softly.
"O Dagaeoga," he said, "you speak before you think. You are always
thinking before you speak, but perhaps it is not your fault. Manitou
gave you a tongue of gold, and it becomes a man to use that which he
can use best. It is very simple. To drag up the fallen wood for such
big fires takes many men. Nor would all of them be employed for such
work. While some of them feed the flames others are seeking us. We can
look for their canoes soon."
"Their plan isn't a bad one for what they want to do," said the
hunter. "A master mind must be directing them. I am confirmed in my
opinion that St. Luc is there."
"I've been sure of it all the time," said Robert; "it seems that fate
intends us to be continually matching our wits against his."
"It's a fact, and it's strange how it's come about," said the hunter
Robert looked at him, hoping he would say more, but he did not
continue the subject. Instead he said:
"That they know what they're doing is shown by the fact that we must
move. All the area of the lake about us will be lighted up soon."
The two bonfires were now lofty, blazing pyramids, and a third farther
north began also to send its flames toward the sky.
The surface of the lake glowed with red light which crept steadily
toward the little island, in the shadow of which the three scouts lay.
It became apparent that they had no time to waste, if they intended to
avoid being trapped.
"Push out," said Willet, and, with strong sweeps of the paddle, Robert
and Tayoga sent the canoe from the shelter of the boughs. But they
still kept close to the island and then made for another about a
hundred yards south. The glow had not yet come near enough to disclose
them, while they were in the open water, but Robert felt intense
relief when they drew again into the shelter of trees.
The bonfire on the western shore was the largest, and, despite the
distance, he saw passing before the flames tiny black figures which he
knew to be warriors or French, if any white men were there. They
were still feeding the fire and the pyramid of light rose to an
extraordinary height, but Robert knew the peril was elsewhere. It
would come on the surface of the lake and he shifted his gaze to the
gray waters, searching everywhere for Indian canoes. He believed that
they would appear first in the north and he scoured the horizon there
from side to side, trying to detect the first black dot when it should
show over the lake.
The waters where his eyes searched were wholly in darkness, an
unbroken black line of the sky meeting a heaving surface. He looked
back and forth over the whole extent, a half dozen times, and found
nothing to break the continuity. Hope that the warriors of Tandakora
were not coming sprang up in his breast, but he put it down again.
Although imagination was so strong in him he was nevertheless, in
moments of peril, a realist. Hard experience had taught him long since
that when his life was in danger he must face facts.
"There's another island about a half mile away," he said to Willet.
"Don't you think we'd better make for it now?"
"In a minute or two, lad, if nothing happens," replied the hunter.
"I'd like to see what's coming here, if anything at all comes."
Robert turned his gaze back toward the north, passing his eyes once
more to and fro along the line where the dusky sky met the dusky lake,
and then he started a little. A dot detached itself from the center of
the line, followed quickly by another, another and others. They were
points infinitely small, and one at that distance could have told
nothing about them from their appearance only, but he knew they were
Indian canoes. They could be nothing else. It was certain also that
they were seeking the three.
"Do you see them?" asked Robert.
"Yes, and it's a fleet," replied Willet. "They are lighting up the
lake with their bonfires, and their canoes are coming south to drive
us into the open. There's generalship in this. I think St. Luc is
surely in command."
The hunter expressed frank admiration. Often, in the long duel between
them and the redoubtable French leader, he paid tribute to the valor
and skill of St. Luc. Like Robert, he never felt any hostility toward
him. There was nothing small about Willet, and he had abundant esteem
for a gallant foe.
"It's time now to run for it again," he said, "and it's important to
keep out of their sight."
"I think it will be better for us to swim," said Tayoga, "and let the
canoe carry our weapons and ammunition."
"And for us to hide behind it as we've done before. You're right, lad.
The canoe is low and does not make much of a blur upon the lake, but
if we are sitting upright in it we can be much more easily seen. Now,
quick's the word!"
They took off all their outer clothing and moccasins, putting the
garments and their weapons into the little craft, and, sinking into
the water behind it, pushed out from the overhanging boughs. It was
a wise precaution. When they reached the long open stretch of water,
Robert felt that the glow from the nearest bonfire was directly upon
them, although he knew that his fancy made the light much stronger
than it really was.
The canoe still merged with the color of the waves which were now
running freely, and, as the three swam with powerful strokes sending
it swiftly ahead of them, Robert was hopeful that they would reach the
next island, unseen.
The distance seemed to lengthen and grow interminable, and their pace,
although rapid, was to Robert like that of a snail. Yet the longest
journey must come to an end. The new island rose at last before them,
larger than the others but like the rest covered throughout with heavy
They were almost in its shelter, when a faint cry came from the lofty
cliff on the west. It was a low, whining sound, very distant,
but singularly penetrating, a sinister note with which Robert was
familiar, the Indian war whoop. He recognized it, and understood its
significance. Warriors had seen the canoe and knew that it marked the
flight of the three.
"What do you think we'd better do?" he said.
"We'll stop for a moment or two at the island and take a look around
us," replied Willet.
They moored the canoe, and waded to the shore. Far behind them was
the Indian fleet, about twenty canoes, coming in the formation of
an arrow, while the bonfires on the cliffs towered toward the sky. A
rising wind swept the waves down and they crumbled one after another,
as they broke upon the island.
"It looks like a trap with us inside of it," said the hunter. "That
shout meant that they've seen our canoe, as you lads know. Warriors
have already gone below to head us off, and maybe they've got another
fleet, which, answering their signals, will come up from the south,
shutting us between two forces."
"We are in their trap," admitted Robert, "but we can break out of it.
We've been in traps before, but none of them ever held us."
"So we can, lad. I didn't mean to be discouraging. I was just stating
the situation as it now is. We're a long way from being taken."
"The path has been opened to us," said the Onondaga.
"What do you mean?" asked Robert.
"Lo, Dagaeoga, the wind grows strong, and it sweeps toward the south
the way we were going."
"I hear, Tayoga, but I don't understand."
"We will send the canoe with wind and waves, but we will stay here."
"Put 'em on a false scent!" exclaimed the hunter. "It's a big risk,
but it's the only thing to be done. As the bird saved Robert so the
wind may save us! The waves are running pretty fast toward the south
now and the canoe will ride 'em like a thing of life. They're too far
away to tell whether we are in it."
It was a daring thing to do but Robert too felt that it must be
done, and they did not delay in the doing of it. They took out their
clothing, weapons, and ammunition, Willet gave the canoe a mighty
shove, and it sailed gallantly southward on the crest of the high
"I feel as if I were saying good-by to a faithful friend," said
"It's more than a friend," said Willet. "It's an ally that will draw
the enemy after it, and leave us here in safety."
"If Manitou so wills it," said Tayoga. "It is for him to say whether
the men of Tandakora will pass us by. But the canoe is truly alive,
Dagaeoga. It skims over the lake like a great bird. If it has a spirit
in it, and I do not know that it has not, it guards us, and means to
lead away our enemy in pursuit of it."
Quick to receive impressions, Robert also clothed the canoe with life
and a soul, a soul wholly friendly to the three, who, now stooping
down on the island, amid the foliage, watched the action of the little
craft which seemed, in truth, to be guided by reason.
"Now it pauses a little," said Robert. "It's beckoning to the Indian
fleet to follow."
"It is because it hangs on the top of a wave that is about to break,"
said Willet. "Often you see waves hesitate that way just before they
"I prefer to believe with Dagaeoga," said the Onondaga. "The canoe
is our ally, and, knowing that we want the warriors to pass us, it
lingers a bit to call them on."
"It may be as you say," said the hunter, "I'm not one to disturb the
faith of anybody. If the canoe is alive, as you think, then--it is
alive and all the better for us."
"Spirits go into the bodies of inanimate things," persisted the
red youth, "and make them alive for a while. All the people of the
Hodenosaunee have known that for centuries."
"The canoe hesitates and beckons again," said Robert, "and, as sure
as we are here, the skies have turned somewhat darker. The warriors in
the fleet or on the shore cannot possibly tell the canoe is empty."
"Again the hand of Manitou is stretched forth to protect us," said
Tayoga devoutly. "It is he who sends the protecting veil, and we shall
"We'll have to wait and see whether the warriors stop and search our
island or follow straight after the canoe. Then we'll know," said
"They will go on," said Tayoga, with great confidence. "Look at
the canoe. It is not going so fast now. Why? Because it wishes to
tantalize our enemies, to arouse in their minds a belief that they
can overtake it. It behaves as if we were in it, and as if we were
becoming exhausted by our great exertions with the paddles. Its
conduct is just like that of a man who flees for his life. I know,
although I cannot see their eyes, that the pursuing warriors think
they have us now. They believe that our weakness will grow heavier
and heavier upon us until it overpowers us. Tandakora reckons that our
scalps are already hanging at his belt. Thus does Manitou make foolish
those whom he intends to lead away from their dearest wish."
"I begin to think they're really going to leave us, but it's too early
yet to tell definitely," said the hunter. "We shouldn't give them an
earthly chance to see us, and, for that reason, we'd better retreat
into the heart of the island. We mustn't leave all the work of
deception to the canoe."
"The Great Bear is right," said Tayoga. "Manitou will not help those
who sit still, relying wholly on him."
They drew back fifteen or twenty yards, and sat down on a hillock,
covered with dense bushes, though from their place of hiding they
could see the water on all sides. Unless the Indians landed on the
island and made a thorough search they would not be found. Meanwhile
the canoe was faithful to its trust. The strong wind out of the north
carried it on with few moments of hesitation as it poised on breaking
waves, its striking similitude to life never being lost for an
instant. Robert began to believe with Tayoga that it was, in very
fact and truth, alive and endowed with reason. Why not? The Iroquois
believed that spirits could go into wood and who was he to argue that
white men were right, and red men wrong? His life in the forest had
proved to him often that red men were right and white men wrong.
Whoever might be right the canoe was still a tantalizing object to the
pursuit. It may have been due to a slight shift of the wind, but
it began suddenly to have the appearance of dancing upon the waves,
swinging a little to and fro, teetering about, but in the main keeping
its general course, straight ahead.
Tayoga laughed softly.
"The canoe is in a frolicsome mood," he said. "It has sport with the
men of Tandakora. It dances, and it throws jests at them. It says,
'You think you can catch me, but you cannot. Why do you come so
slowly? Why don't you hurry? I am here. See, I wait a little. I do not
go as fast as I can, because I wish to give you a better chance.' Ah,
here comes the fleet!"
"And here comes our supreme test," said Willet gravely. "If they
turn in toward the island then we are lost, and we'll know in five
Robert's heart missed a beat or two, and then settled back steadily.
It was one thing to be captured by the French, and another to be taken
by Tandakora. He resolved to fight to the last, rather than fall into
the hands of the Ojibway chief who knew no mercy. Neither of the three
spoke, not even in whispers, as they watched almost with suspended
breath the progress of the fleet. The bonfires had never ceased to
rise and expand. For a long distance the surface of the lake was
lighted up brilliantly. The crests of the waves near them were tipped
with red, as if with blood, and the strong wind moaned like the voice
of evil. Robert felt a chill in his blood. He knew that the fate of
his comrades and himself hung on a hair.
Nearer came the canoes, and, in the glare of the fires, they saw the
occupants distinctly. In the first boat, a large one for those waters,
containing six paddles, sat no less a person than the great Ojibway
chief himself, bare as usual to the waist and painted in many a
hideous design. Gigantic in reality, the gray night and the lurid
light of the fires made him look larger, accentuating every wicked
He seemed to Robert to be, in both spirit and body, the prince of
Just behind Tandakora sat two white men whom the three recognized as
Auguste de Courcelles and Francois de Jumonville, the French officers
with whom they had been compelled to reckon on other fields of battle
and intrigue. There was no longer any doubt that the French were
present in this great encircling movement, and Robert was stronger
than ever in his belief that St. Luc had the supreme command.
"I could reach Tandakora from here with a bullet," whispered Willet,
"and almost I am tempted to do it."
"But the Great Bear will not yield to his temptation," Tayoga
whispered back. "There are two reasons. He knows that he could slay
Tandakora, but it would mean the death of us all, and the price is too
great. Then he remembers that the Ojibway chief is mine. It is for me
to settle with him, in the last reckoning."
"Aye, lad, you're right. Either reason is good enough. We'll let him
pass, if pass he means, and I hope devoutly that he does."
The fleet preserving its formation was now almost abreast of the
island, and once Robert thought it was going to turn in toward them.
The long boat of Tandakora wavered and the red giant looked at the
island curiously, but, at the last moment the empty canoe, far ahead
and dim in the dark, beckoned them on more insistently than ever.
"Now the die is cast," whispered the Onondaga tensely. "In twenty
seconds we shall know our fate, and I think the good spirit that has
gone into our canoe means to save us."
Tandakora said something to the French officers, and they too looked
at the island, but the fleeing canoe danced on the crest of a high
wave and its call was potent in the souls of white men and red alike.
It was still too far away for them to tell that it was empty. Sudden
fear assailed them in the darkness, that it would escape and with it
the three who had eluded them so often, and whom they wanted most to
take. Tandakora spoke sharply to the paddlers, who bent to their task
with increased energy. The long canoe leaped forward, and with it the
"Manitou has stretched forth his hand once more, and he has stretched
it between our enemies and us," said Tayoga, in a voice of deep
"It's so, lad," said the hunter, his own voice shaking a little. "I
truly believe you're right when you say that as the bird was sent to
save Robert so a good spirit was put into the canoe to save us all.
Who am I and who is anybody to question the religion and beliefs of
"Nor will I question them," said Robert, with emphasis.
They were stalwart men in the Indian fleet, skilled and enduring with
the paddle, and the fugitive canoe danced before them, a will o'
the wisp that they must pursue without rest. Their own canoes leaped
forward, and, as the arrow into which they were formed shot past the
island, the three hidden in its heart drew the deep, long breaths of
those who have suddenly passed from death to life.
"We won't stop 'em!" said Robert in a whimsical tone. "Speed ye,
Tandakora, speed ye! Speed ye, De Courcelles and De Jumonville of
treacherous memory! If you don't hasten, the flying canoe will yet
escape you! More power to your arms, O ye paddlers! Bend to your
strokes! The canoe that you pursue is light and it is carried in the
heart of the wind! You have no time to lose, white men and red, if you
would reach the precious prize! The faster you go the better you will
like it! And the better we will, too! On! swift canoes, on!"
"The imagination of Dagaeoga has been kindled again," said Tayoga,
"and the bird with a golden note has gone into his throat. Now he
can talk, and talk much, without ever feeling weariness--as is his
"At least I have something to talk about," laughed Robert. "I was
never before so glad to see the backs of anybody, as I am now to look
at the backs of those Indians and Frenchmen."
"We won't do anything to stop 'em," said the hunter.
From their hillock they saw the fleet sweep on at a great rate toward
the south, while the fires in the north, no longer necessary to the
Indian plan, began to die. The red tint on the water then faded, and
the surface of the lake became a solemn gray.
"It's well for us those fires sank," said the hunter, "because while
Tandakora has gone on we can't live all the rest of our lives on this
little island. We've got to get to the mainland somehow without being
"And darkness is our best friend," said Robert.
"So it is, and in their pursuit of the canoe our foes are likely to
relax their vigilance on this part of the lake. Can you see our little
boat now, Robert?"
"Just faintly, and I think it's a last glimpse. I hope the wind behind
it will stay so strong that Tandakora will never overtake it. I should
hate to think that a canoe that has been such a friend to us has been
compelled to serve our enemies. There it goes, leading straight ahead,
and now it's gone! Farewell, brave and loyal canoe! Now what do you
intend to do, Dave?"
"Swim to the mainland as soon as those fires sink a little more.
We have got to decide when the head of a swimming man won't show to
chance warriors in the bushes, and then make a dash for it, because,
if Tandakora overtakes the canoe, he'll be coming back."
"In a quarter of an hour it will be dark enough for us to risk it,"
said the Onondaga.
Again came the thick dusk so necessary to those who flee for life. Two
fires on the high cliffs blazed far in the south, but the light from
them did not reach the island where the three lay, where peril had
grazed them before going on. The water all about them and the nearer
shores lay in shadow.
"The time to go has come," said the hunter. "We'll swim to the western
side and climb through that dip between the high cliffs."
"How far would you say it is?" asked Robert.
"About a half mile."
"Quite a swim even for as good swimmers as we are, when you consider
we have to carry our equipment. Why not launch one of those fallen
trees that lie near the water's edge and make it carry us?"
"A good idea, Robert! A happy thought does come now and then into that
young head of yours."
"Dagaeoga is wiser than he looks," said the Onondaga.
"I wish I could say the same for you, Tayoga," retorted young Lennox.
"Oh, you'll both learn," laughed Willet.
As in the ancient wood everywhere, there were fallen trees on the
island and they rolled a small one about six inches through at the
stem into the lake. They chose it because it had not been down long
and yet had many living branches, some with young leaves on them.
"There is enough foliage left to hide our heads and shoulders," said
Willet. "The tree will serve a double purpose. It's our ship and also
They took off all their clothing and fastened it and the arms,
ammunition and knapsacks of food on the tree. Then, they pushed
off, with a caution from the hunter that they must not allow their
improvised raft to turn in the water, as the wetting of the ammunition
could easily prove fatal.
With a prayer that fortune which had favored them so much thus far
would still prove kind, they struck out.
IN THE CLIFF
It was only a half mile to the promised land and Robert expected a
quick and easy voyage, as they were powerful swimmers and could push
the tree before them without trouble.
"When I reach the shore and get well back of the lake," he said to
Tayoga, "I mean to lie down in a thicket and sleep forty-eight hours.
I am entitled now to a rest that long."
"Dagaeoga will sleep when the spirits of earth and air decree it, and
not before," replied the Onondaga gravely. "Can you see anything of
our foes in the south?"
"Not a trace."
"Then your eyes are not as good as mine or you do not use them as
well, because I see a speck on the water blacker than the surface of
the lake, and it is moving."
"Look toward the eastern shore, where the cliff rises tall and almost
"Ah, I see it now. It _is_ a canoe, and it _is_ moving."
"So it is, Dagaeoga, and it is coming our way. Did I not tell you that
Manitou, no matter how much he favors us, will not help us all the
time? Not even the great and pious Tododaho, when he was on earth,
expected so much. Now I think that after saving you with the bird
and all of us with the empty canoe he means to leave us to our own
strength and courage, and see what we will do."
"And it will be strange, if after being protected so far by a power
greater than our own we can't protect ourselves now," said Willet
"The canoe is coming fast," said Tayoga. "I can see it growing on the
"So it is, and I infer from its speed that it has at least four
paddles in it. There's no doubt they are disappointed in not finding
us farther down, and their boat has come back to look for us."
"This is not the only tree uprooted by the wind and afloat on the
lake," said Tayoga, "and now it must be our purpose to make the
warriors think it has come into the water naturally."
Long before the French word "camouflage" was brought into general use
by a titanic war the art of concealment and illusion was practiced
universally by the natives of the North American wilderness. It was in
truth their favorite stratagem in their unending wars, and there was
high praise for those who could use it best.
"Well spoken, Tayoga," said Willet. "Luckily these living branches
hide us, and, as the wind still blows strongly toward the south, we
must let the tree float in that direction."
"And not go toward the mainland!" said Robert.
"Aye, lad, for the present. It's stern necessity. If the warriors in
that canoe saw the tree floating against the wind they'd know
we're here. Trust 'em for that. I think we're about to run another
The trunk now drifted with the wind, though the three edged it ever so
slightly, but steadily, toward the shore.
Meanwhile the canoe grew and grew, and they saw, as Willet had
surmised, that it contained four paddles. It was evident too that they
were on a quest, as the boat began to veer about, and the four Indians
swept the lake with eager eyes.
The tree drifted on. Farther to the west and near the shore, another
tree was floating in the same manner, and off to the east a third was
beckoning in like fashion. There was nothing in the behavior of the
three trees to indicate that one of them was different from the other
The eyes of the savages passed over them, one after another, but they
saw no human being hidden within their boughs. Yet Robert at least,
when those four pairs of eyes rested on his tree, felt them burning
into his back. It was a positive relief, when they moved on and began
to hunt elsewhere.
"They will yet bring their canoe much closer," whispered Willet. "It's
too much to expect that they will let us go so easily, and we've got
to keep up the illusion quite a while longer. Don't push on the tree.
The wind is dying a little, and our pace must be absolutely the pace
of the breeze. They notice everything and if we were to go too fast
they'd be sure to see it."
They no longer sought to control their floating support, and, as the
wind suddenly sank very much, it hung lazily on the crests of little
It was a hard test to endure, while the canoe with the four relentless
warriors in it rowed about seeking them. Robert paid all the price of
a vivid and extremely brilliant imagination. While those with such a
temperament look far ahead and have a vision of triumphs to come out
of the distant future, they also see far more clearly the troubles
and dangers that confront them. So their nerves are much more severely
tried than are those of the ordinary and apathetic. Great will power
must come to their relief, and thus it was with Robert. His body
quivered, though not with the cold of the water, but his soul was
Although the wind sank, which was against them, the darkness
increased, and the fact that two other trees were afloat within
view, was greatly in their favor. It gave them comrades in that lazy
drifting and diverted suspicion.
"If they conclude to make a close examination of our tree, what shall
we do?" whispered Robert.
"We'll be at a great disadvantage in the water," the hunter whispered
back, "but we'll have to get our rifles loose from their lashings and
make a fight of it. I'm hoping it won't come to that."
The canoe approached the tree and then veered away again, as if the
warriors were satisfied with its appearance. Certainly a tree more
innocent in looks never floated on the waves of Lake George.
The three were masters of illusion and deception, and they did not do
a single thing to turn the tree from its natural way of drifting. It
obeyed absolutely the touch of the wind and not that of their hands,
which rested as lightly as down upon the trunk. Once the wind stopped
entirely and the tree had no motion save that of the swell. It
wandered idly, a lone derelict upon a solitary lake.
Robert scarcely breathed when the canoe was sent their way. He was
wholly unconscious of the water in which he was sunk to the shoulders,
but every imaginative nerve was alive to the immense peril.
"If they return and come much nearer we must immerse to the eyes,"
whispered Willet. "Then they would have to be almost upon us before
they saw us. It will make it much harder for us to get at our weapons,
but we must take that risk too."
"They have turned," said Robert, "and here they come!"
It looked this time as if the savages had decided to make a close and
careful inspection of the tree, bearing directly toward it, and coming
so close that Robert could see their fierce, painted faces well and
the muscles rising and falling on their powerful arms as they swept
their paddles through the water. Now, he prayed that the foliage of
the tree would hide them well and he sank his body so deep in the lake
that a little water trickled into his mouth, while only the tips of
his fingers rested on the trunk. The hunter and the Onondaga were
submerged as deeply as he, the upper parts of their faces and their
hair blending with the water. When he saw how little they were
disclosed in the dusk his confidence returned.
The four savages brought the canoe within thirty feet, but the
floating tree kept its secret. Its lazy drift was that of complete
innocence and their eyes could not see the dark heads that merged so
well with the dark trunk. They gazed for a half minute or so, then
brought their canoe about in a half circle and paddled swiftly away
toward the second tree.
"Now Tododaho on his star surely put it in their minds to go away,"
whispered the Onondaga, "and I do not think they will come back
"Even so, we can't yet make haste," said the hunter cautiously. "If
this tree seems to act wrong they'll see it though at a long distance
and come flying down on us."
"The Great Bear is right, as always, but the wind is blowing again,
and we can begin to edge in toward the shore."
"So we can. Now we'll push the tree slowly toward the right. All
together, but be very gentle. Robert, don't let your enthusiasm run
away with you. If we depart much from the course of the wind they'll
be after us again no matter how far away they are now."
"They have finished their examination of the second tree," said Tayoga
in his precise school English, "and now they are going to the third,
which will take them a yet greater distance from us."
"So they are. Fortune is with us."
They no longer felt it necessary to keep submerged to the mouth, but
drew themselves up, resting their elbows on the trunk, floating easily
in the buoyant water. They had carefully avoided turning the tree in
any manner, and their arms, ammunition and packs were dry and safe.
But they had been submerged so long that they were growing cold, and
now that the immediate danger seemed to have been passed they realized
"I like Lake George," said Robert. "It's a glorious lake, a beautiful
lake, a majestic lake, the finest lake I know; but that is no reason
why I should want to live in its waters."
"Dagaeoga is never satisfied," said Tayoga. "He might have been sunk
in some shallow, muddy lake in a flat country, but instead he is
put in this noble one with its beautiful cool waters, and the grand
mountains are all about him."
"But this is the second time I've been immersed in a very short space,
Tayoga, and just now I crave dry land. I can't recall a single hour or
a single moment when I ever wanted it more than I do this instant."
"I'm of a mind with you in that matter, Robert," said the hunter, "and
if all continues to go as well as it's now going, we'll set foot on it
in fifteen minutes. That canoe is close to the third tree, and they've
stopped to look at it. I think we can push a little faster toward the
land. They can't notice our slant at that distance. Aye, that's
right, lads! Now the cliffs are coming much nearer, and they look real
friendly. I see a little cove in there where our good tree can land,
and it won't be hard for us to find our way up the banks, though they
do rise so high. Now, steady! In we go! It's a snug little cove, put
here to receive us. Be cautious how you rise out of the water, lads!
Those fellows see like owls in the dark, and they'd trace us outlined
here against the shore. That's it, Tayoga, you always do the right
thing. We'll crawl out of the lake behind this little screen of
bushes. Now, have you lads got all your baggage loose from the tree?"
"Yes," replied Robert.
"Then we'll let it go."
"It's been a fine tree, a kind tree," said Robert, "and I've no doubt
Tayoga is right when he thinks a good spirit friendly to us has gone
They pushed it off and saw it float again on the lake, borne on by
the wind. Then they dried their bodies as well as they could in their
haste, and resumed their clothing. The hunter shook his gigantic
frame, and he felt the strength pour back into his muscles and veins,
when he grasped his rifle. It had been his powerful comrade for many
years, and he now stood where he could use it with deadly effect, if
the savages should come.
They rested several minutes, before beginning the climb of the cliff,
and saw a second and then a third canoe coming out of the south,
evidently seeking them.
"They're pretty sure now that we haven't escaped in that direction,"
said Willet, "and they'll be back in full force, looking for us. We
got off the lake just in time."
The cliffs towered over them to a height of nearly two thousand feet,
but they began the ascent up a slanting depression that they had seen
from the lake, well covered with bushes, and they took it at ease,
looking back occasionally to watch the futile hunt of the canoes for
"We're not out of their ring yet," said Willet. "They'll be carrying
on another search for us on top of the cliffs."
"Don't discourage us, Dave," said Robert. "We feel happy now having
escaped one danger, and we won't escape the other until we come to
"Perhaps you're right, lad. We'll enjoy our few minutes of safety
while we can and the sight of those canoes scurrying around the lake,
looking for their lost prey, will help along our merriment."
"That's true," said Robert, "and I think I'll take a glance at them
now just to soothe my soul."
They were about three quarters of the way up the cliff, and the three,
turning at the same time, gazed down at a great height upon the vast
expanse of Lake George. The night had lightened again, a full moon
coming out and hosts of stars sparkling in the heavens. The surface of
the lake gleamed in silver and they distinctly saw the canoes cruising
about in their search for the three. They also saw far in the south
a part of the fleet returning, and Robert breathed a sigh of
thankfulness that they had escaped at last from the water.
They turned back to the top, but the white lad felt a sudden faintness
and had he not clung tightly to a stout young bush he would have gone
crashing down the slope. He quickly recovered himself and sought to
hide his momentary weakness, but the hunter had noticed his stumbling
step and gave him a keen, questing glance. Then he too stopped.
"We've climbed enough," he said. "Robert, you've come to the end of
your rope, for the present. It's a wonder your strength didn't give
out long ago, after all you've been through."
"Oh, I can go on! I'm not tired at all!" exclaimed the youth
"The Great Bear tells the truth, Dagaeoga," said the Onondaga, looking
at him with sympathy, "and you cannot hide it from us. We will seek a
Robert knew that any further effort to conceal his sudden exhaustion
would be in vain. The collapse was too complete, but he had nothing to
be ashamed of, as he had gone through far more than Willet and Tayoga,
and he had reached the limit of human endurance.
"Well, yes, I am tired," he admitted. "But as we're hanging on the
side of a cliff about fifteen hundred feet above the water I don't see
any nice comfortable inn, with big white beds in it, waiting for us."
"Stay where you are, Dagaeoga," said the Onondaga. "We will not try
the summit to-night, but I may find some sort of an alcove in the
cliff, a few feet of fairly level space, where we can rest."
Robert sank down by the friendly bush, with his back against a great
uplift of stone, while Willet stood on a narrow shelf, supporting
himself against a young evergreen. Tayoga disappeared silently upward.
The painful contraction in the chest of the lad grew easier, and black
specks that had come before his eyes floated away. He returned to
a firm land of reality, but he knew that his strength was not yet
sufficient to permit of their going on. Tayoga came back in about ten
"I have found it," he said in his precise school English. "It is not
much, but about three hundred feet from the top of the cliff is a
slight hollow that will give support for our bodies. There we may lie
down and Dagaeoga can sleep his weariness away."
"Camping securely between our enemies above and our enemies below,"
said Robert, his vivid imagination leaping up again. "It appeals to
me to be so near them and yet well hidden, especially as we've left no
trail on this rocky precipice that they can follow."
"It would help me a lot if they were not so close," laughed the
hunter. "I don't need your contrasts, Robert, to make me rest. I'd
like it better if they were a hundred miles away instead of only a
few hundred yards. But lead on, Tayoga, and we'll say what we think of
this inn of yours when we see it."
The hollow was not so bad, an indentation in the stone, extending
back perhaps three feet, and almost hidden by dwarfed evergreens and
climbing vines. It was not visible twenty feet above or below, and it
would have escaped any eye less keen than that of the Onondaga.
"You've done well, Tayoga," said Willet. "There are better inns in
Albany and New York, but it's a pretty good place to be found in the
side of a cliff fifteen hundred feet above the water."
"We'll be snug enough here."
They crawled into the hollow, matted the vines carefully in front of
them to guard against a slip or an incautious step, and then the three
lay back against the wall, feeling an immense relief. While not so
worn as Robert, the bones and muscles of Willet and Tayoga also were
calling out for rest.
"I'm glad I'm here," said the hunter, and the others were forced to
laugh at his intense earnestness.
Robert sank against the wall of the cliff, and he felt an immense
peace. The arching stone over his head, and the dwarfed evergreens
pushing themselves up where the least bit of soil was to be found,
shut out the view before them, but it was as truly an inn to him at
that moment as any he had ever entered. He closed his eyes in content
and every nerve and muscle relaxed.
"Since you've shut down your lids, lad, keep 'em down," said the
hunter. "Sleep will do you more good now than anything else."
But Robert quickly opened his eyes again.
"No," he said, "I think I'll eat first."
"I might have known that you would remember your appetite," he said.
"But it's not a bad idea. We'll all have a late supper."
They had venison and cold hominy from their knapsacks, and they ate
with sharp appetites.
Then Robert let his lids fall again and in a few minutes was off to
"Now you follow him, Tayoga," said Willet, "and I'll watch."
"But remember to awake me for my turn," said the Onondaga.
"You can rely upon me," said the hunter.
The disciplined mind of Tayoga knew how to compel sleep, and on this
occasion it was needful for him to exert his will. In an incredibly
brief time he was pursuing Robert through the gates of sleep to the
blessed land of slumber that lay beyond, and the hunter was left alone
Willet, despite his long life in the woods, was a man of cultivation
and refinement. He knew and liked the culture of the cities in its
highest sense. His youth had not been spent in the North American
wilderness. He had tasted the life of London and Paris, and long use
and practice had not blunted his mind to the extraordinary contrasts
between forest and town.
He appreciated now to the full their singular situation, practically
hanging on the side of a mighty cliff, with cruel enemies seeking them
below and equally cruel enemies waiting for them above.
The crevice in which they lay was little more than a dent in the stone
wall. If either of the lads moved a foot and the evergreens failed to
hold him he would go spinning a quarter of a mile straight down to the
lake. The hunter looked anxiously in the dusk at the slender barrier,
but he judged that it would be sufficient to stop any unconscious
movement. Then he glanced at Robert and Tayoga and he was reassured.
They were so tired and sleep had claimed them so completely that they
lay like the dead. Neither stirred a particle, but in the silence the
hunter heard their regular breathing.
The years had not made Willet a skeptic. While he did not accept
unquestioningly all the beliefs of Tayoga, neither did he wholly
reject them. It might well be true that earth, air, trees and other
objects were inhabited by spirits good or bad. At least it was a
pleasing belief and he had no proof that it was not true. Certainly,
it seemed as if some great protection had been given to his comrades
and himself in the last day or two. He looked up through the evergreen
veil at the peaceful stars, and gave thanks and gratitude.
The night continued to lighten. New constellations swam into the
heavenly blue, and the surface of the lake as far as eye could range
was a waving mass of molten silver. The portion of the Indian fleet
that had come back from the south was passing. It was almost precisely
opposite the covert now and not more than three hundred yards from the
base of the cliff. The light was so good that Willet distinctly saw
the paddlers at work and the other warriors sitting upright. It was
not possible to read eyes at such a distance, but he imagined what
they expressed and the thought pleased him. As Robert had predicted,
the snugness of their hiding place with savages above and savages
below heightened his feeling of comfort and safety. He was in sight
and yet unseen. They would never think of the three hanging there in
the side of the cliff. He laughed softly, under his breath, and he had
never laughed with more satisfaction.
He tried to pick out Tandakora, judging that his immense size would
disclose him, but the chief was not there. Evidently he was with the
other part of the fleet and was continuing the vain search in the
south. He laughed again and with the same satisfaction when he thought
of the Ojibway's rage because the hated three had slipped once more
through his fingers.
"An Ojibway has no business here in the province of New York, anyway,"
he murmured. "His place is out by the Great Lakes."
The canoes passed on, and, after a while, nothing was to be seen on
the waves of Lake George. Even the drifting trees, including the one
that had served them so well, had gone out of sight. The lake only
expressed peace. It was as it might have been in the dawn of time with
the passings of no human beings to vex its surface.
Something stirred in the bushes near the hunter. An eagle, with great
spread of wing, rose from a nest and sailed far out over the silvery
waters. Willet surmised that the nearness of the three had disturbed
it, and he was sorry. He had a kindly feeling toward birds and beasts
just then, and he did not wish to drive even an eagle from his home.
He hoped that it would come back, and, after a while, it did so,
settling upon its nest, which could not have been more than fifty
yards away, where its mate had remained unmoving while the other went
abroad to hunt.
There was no further sign of life from the people of the wilderness,
and Willet sat silent a long time. Dawn came, intense and brilliant.
He had hoped the day would be cloudy, and he would have welcomed rain,
despite its discomfort, but the sun was in its greatest splendor, and
the air was absolutely translucent. The lake and the mountains sprang
out, sharp and clear. Far to the south the hunter saw a smudge upon
the water which he knew to be Indian canoes. They were miles away, but
it was evident that the French and Indians still held the lake, and
there was no escape for the three by water. There had been some idea
in Willet's mind of returning along the foot of the cliffs to their
own little boat, but the brilliant day and the Indian presence
compelled him to put it away.
The sun, huge, red and scintillating, swung clear of the mighty
mountains, and the waters that had been silver in the first morning
light turned to burning gold. In the shining day far came near and
objects close by grew to twice their size. To attempt to pass the
warriors in such a light would be like walking on an open plain,
thought the hunter, and, always quick to decide, he took his
It was characteristic of David Willet that no matter what the
situation he always made the best of it. His mind was a remarkable
mingling of vigor, penetration and adaptability. If one had to wait,
well, one had to wait and there was nothing else in it. He sank down
in the little cove in the cliff and rested his back against the stony
wall. He, Robert and Tayoga filled it, and his moccasined feet touched
the dwarfed shrubs which made the thin green curtain before the
opening. He realized more fully now in the intense light of a
brilliant day what a slender shelf it was. Any one of them might have
pitched from it to a sure death below. He was glad that the white lad
and the red lad had been so tired that they lay like the dead. Their
positions were exactly the same as when they sank to sleep. They had
not stirred an inch in the night, and there was no sign now that
they intended to awake any time soon. If they had gone to the land of
dreams, they were finding it a pleasant country and they were in no
hurry to return from it.
The giant hunter smiled. He had promised the Onondaga to awaken him at
dawn, and he knew that Robert expected as much, but he would not keep
his promise. He would let nature hold sway; when it chose to awaken
them it could, and meanwhile he would do nothing. He moved just a
little to make himself more comfortable and reclined patiently.
Willet was intensely grateful for the little curtain of evergreens.
Without it the sharp eyes of the warriors could detect them even in
the side of the lofty cliff. Only a few bushes stood between them and
torture and death, but they stood there just the same. Time passed
slowly, and the morning remained as brilliant as ever. He paid little
attention to what was passing on the lake, but he listened with all
the power of his hearing for anything that might happen on the cliff
above them. He knew that the warriors were far from giving up the
chase, and he expected a sign there. About two hours after sunrise it
came. He heard the cry of a wolf, and then a like cry replying, but
he knew that the sounds came from the throats of warriors. He pressed
himself a little harder against the stony wall, and looked at his two
young comrades. Their souls still wandered in the pleasant land of
dreams and their bodies took no interest in what was occurring here.
They did not stir.
In four or five minutes the two cries were repeated much nearer
and the hunter fairly concentrated all his powers into the organ of
hearing. Faint voices, only whispers, floated down to him, and he
knew that the warriors were ranging along the cliff just above them.
Leaning forward cautiously, he peeped above the veil of evergreens,
and saw two dark faces gazing over the edge of the precipice. A brief
look was enough, then he drew back and waited.
THE DARING ATTEMPT
Willet knew from their paint that the faces looking down were those of
Huron warriors, but he was quite sure they had not seen anything,
and that the men would soon pass on. It was impossible even for the
sharpest eyes to pick out the three behind the evergreen screen.
Nevertheless he put his rifle forward, ready for an instant shot, if
needed, but remained absolutely still, waiting for them to make the
His sensitive hearing brought down the faint voices again and once
or twice the light crush of footsteps. Evidently, the warriors were
moving slowly along the edge of the cliff, talking as they went,
and the hunter surmised that the three were the subject of their
attention. He imagined their chagrin at the way in which the chase had
vanished, and he laughed softly to think that he and the lads lay so
near their enemies, but invisible and so well hidden.
The voices became fainter and died away, the soft crush of footsteps
came no more, and the world returned to all the seeming of peace,
without any trace of cruelty in it; but Willet was not lured by such
an easy promise into any rash act. He knew the savages would come
again, and that unbroken vigilance was the price of life. Once more he
settled himself into the easiest position and watched. He had all the
patience of the Indians themselves, to whom time mattered little, and
since sitting there was the best thing to be done he was content to
Robert and Tayoga slept on. The morning was far gone, but they still
rambled happily in the land of dreams, and showed no signs of a wish
to return to earth. Willet thought it better that they should sleep
on, because youthful bodies demanded it, and because the delay which
would be hard for Robert especially would thus pass more easily. He
was willing for them to stay longer in the far, happy land that they
The sun slowly climbed the eastern arch of the heavens. The day lost
none of its intense, vivid quality. The waters of the lake glowed in
wonderful changing colors, now gold, now silver, and then purple or
blue. Willet even in those hours of anxiety did not forget to steep
his soul in the beauty of Lake George. His life was cast amid great
and continuous dangers, and he had no family that he could call his
own. Yet he had those whom he loved, and if he were to choose over
again the land in which to live he would choose this very majestic
land in which he now sat. As human life went, the great hunter was
The sound of a shot, and then of a second, came from the cliff
above. He heard no cry following them, no note of the war whoop, and,
thinking it over, he concluded that the shots were fired by Indians
hunting. Since the war, game about the lake had increased greatly, and
the warriors, whether attached to the French army or roving at their
own will, relied chiefly upon the forest for food. But the reports
were significant. The Indian ring about them was not broken, and he
measured their own supplies of venison and hominy.
A little after noon Tayoga awoke, and he awoke in the Indian fashion,
without the noise of incautious movements or sudden words, but
stepping at once from complete sleep to complete consciousness. Every
faculty in him was alive.
"I have slept long, Great Bear, and it is late," he said.
"But not too late, Tayoga. There's nothing for us to do."
"Then the warriors are still above!"
"I heard two shots a little while ago. I think they came from
"It is almost certainly so, Great Bear, since there is nothing in this
region for them to shoot at save ourselves, and no bullets have landed
"Yours has been a peaceful sleep. Robert too is now coming out of his
The white lad stirred and murmured a little as he awoke. His reentry
into the world of fact was not quite as frictionless as that of his
"Do not fall down the cliff while you stretch yourself, Dagaeoga,"
said the Onondaga.
"I won't, Tayoga. I've no wish to reach the lake in such fashion. I
see by the sun that it's late. What happened while I slept?"
"Two great attacks by Tandakora and his men were beaten off by the
Great Bear and myself. As we felt ourselves a match for them we did
not consider it necessary to awaken you."
"But of course if you had been pushed a bit harder you would have
called upon me. I'm glad you've concluded to use me for tipping the
scales of a doubtful combat. To enter at the most strenuous moment is
what I'm fitted for best."
"And if your weapons are not sufficient, Dagaeoga, you can make a
speech to them and talk them to death."
The hunter smiled. He hoped the boys would always be willing to jest
with each other in this manner. It was good to have high spirits in a
"Take a little venison and hominy, lads," he said, "because I think
we're going to spend some time in this most spacious and hospitable
inn of ours."
They ate and then were thirsty, but they had no water, although it
floated peacefully in millions of gallons below.
"We're dry, but I think we're going to be much dryer," said Willet.
"We must go down one by one in the night for water," said Tayoga.
"We are to reckon on a long stay, then!" said Robert.
"Yes," said Willet, "and we might as well make ourselves at home. It's
a great climb down, but we'll have to do it."
"If I could get up and walk about it would be easier," said Robert. "I
think my muscles are growing a bit stiff from disuse."
"The descent for water to-night will loosen them up," said Willet
It was a tremendously long afternoon, one of the longest that Robert
ever spent, and his position grew cramped and difficult. He found some
relief now and then in stretching his muscles, but there was nothing