Part 2 out of 5
to assuage the intense thirst that assailed all three. Robert's throat
and mouth were dry and burning, and he looked longingly at the lake
that shimmered and gleamed below them. The waters, sparkling in their
brilliant and changing colors, were cool and inviting. They bade him
come, and his throat grew hotter and hotter, but he would make no
complaint. He must endure it in silence all the afternoon, and all the
next day too, if they should be held there.
Late in the afternoon they heard shots again, but they were quite sure
that the reports, as before, were due to Indian hunters. Rogers with
rangers might be somewhere in the region of the lakes, but they did
not think he was anywhere near them. If a skirmish was occurring on
the cliff they would hear the shouts of the combatants.
"The warriors will have a feast to-night," said Tayoga.
"And they will have plenty of water to drink," said Robert ruefully.
"You remember that time when we were on the peak, and we found the
spring in the slope?"
"But there is no spring here," said Tayoga. "We know that because we
came up the cliff. There is no water for us this side of the lake."
The afternoon, long as it was, ended at last. The intense burning
sunlight faded, and the cool, grateful shadows came. The three stirred
in the niche, and Robert felt a little relief. But his throat and
mouth were still dry and hard, and they pained him whenever he talked.
Yet they forced themselves to eat a scant supper, although the food
increased their thirst, but they knew that without it their strength
would decrease, and they expected to obtain water in the dark.
The twilight passed, night came, but they waited with infinite
patience refusing to move too soon, despite their great thirst.
Instead, Tayoga suggested that he go to the crest of the cliff and
see if there was a possible way out for them in that direction. Willet
agreed, and the Onondaga crept up, without sound, disappearing in a
few seconds among the short bushes that hung in the face of the cliff.
Tayoga was a trailer of surpassing skill, and he reached the top
without rustling a bush or sending a single pebble rolling. Then he
peered cautiously over the rim and beheld a great fire burning not
more than a hundred yards away. Thirty or forty warriors were sitting
around it, eating. He did not see Tandakora among them, but he
surmised, that it was an allied band and that the Ojibway was not far
The feast that the three had expected was in full progress. The hunt
had been successful, and the Indians, with their usual appetites, were
enjoying the results. They broiled or roasted great pieces of deer
over the coals, and then devoured them to the last shred. But Tayoga
saw that while the majority were absorbed in their pleasant task, a
half dozen sentinels, their line extending on either side of the camp,
kept vigilant watch. It would be impossible for the three to pass
there. They would have to go down to the lake for water, and then hide
in their niche.
Tayoga was about to turn back from the cliff, when he heard a shout
that he knew was full of significance. He understood the meaning of
every cry and he translated it at once into a note of triumph. It
sounded like the whoop over the taking of a scalp or the capture of a
prisoner, and his curiosity was aroused. Something had happened, and
he was resolved to see what it was.
Several of the warriors by the fire replied to the whoop, and then it
came again, nearer but with exactly the same note, that of triumph.
The Onondaga flattened his body against the earth, and drew himself a
little higher. In the dusk, his black eyes glowed with interest, but
he knew that his curiosity would soon be gratified. Those who had sent
forth the cry were swiftly approaching the camp.
Four warriors came through the undergrowth and they were pushing a
figure before them. It was that of a man in a bedraggled and torn red
uniform, his hands tied behind him, and all the color gone from his
face. Powerful as was his self-control, Tayoga uttered a low cry of
surprise. It was the young Englishman, Grosvenor, a prisoner of the
hostile warriors, and in a most desperate case.
The Onondaga wondered how he had been taken, but whatever the way, he
was in the hands of enemies who knew little mercy.
The warriors around the fire uttered a universal yell of triumph when
they saw the captain, and many of them ran forward to meet Grosvenor,
whirling their tomahawks and knives in his face, and dancing about as
if mad with joy. It was a truly ferocious scene, the like of which was
witnessed thousands of times in the great North American forests, and
Tayoga, softened by long contact with high types of white men, felt
pity. The light from the great fire fell directly on Grosvenor's face
and showed its pallor. It was evident that he was weary through and
through, but he tried to hold himself erect and he did not flinch when
the sharp blades flashed close to his face. But Tayoga knew that his
feelings had become blunted. Only the trained forest runner could keep
steady in the face of such threats.
When they came near the fire, one of the warriors gave Grosvenor a
push, and he fell amid cruel laughter. But he struggled to his feet
again, stood a few minutes, and then sank down on a little hillock,
where his captors left him alone for the present. Tayoga watched him
thoughtfully. He knew that his presence in the Indian camp complicated
their own situation. Robert would never hear of going away without an
attempt at rescue and Tayoga's own good heart moved him to the same
course. Yet it would be almost impossible to take the young Englishman
from the center of the Indian camp.
Tayoga knew too what grief his news would cause to young Lennox,
between whom and Grosvenor a great friendship had been formed. For
the matter of that, both the Onondaga and the hunter also were very
partial to the Englishman.
The warriors presently untied Grosvenor's hands and gave him some
food. The captive ate a little--he had no appetite for more--and then
tried to smooth out his hair and his clothing and to make himself more
presentable. He also straightened his worn figure, and sat more erect.
Tayoga gave silent approval. Here was a man! He might be a prisoner,
and be in a most desperate plight, but he would present the best
possible face to his foes. It was exactly what an Onondaga or a Mohawk
warrior would do, and the young Englishman, though he knew little of
the forest, was living up to its traditions.
"If he has to die," reflected Tayoga, "he will die well. If his people
hear that he has gone they will have no cause to be ashamed of the way
in which he went. Here is the making of a great white warrior."
The Onondaga knew that Robert and Willet were now expecting him back,
but his interest in Grosvenor kept him a while longer, watching at the
cliff's rim. He thought it likely that Tandakora might come, and
he had not long to wait. The huge Ojibway came striding through the
bushes and into the circle of the firelight, his body bare as usual
save for breech cloth, leggins and moccasins, and painted with the
hideous devices so dear to the savage heart.
The warriors received him with deference, indicating clearly to Tayoga
that they were under his authority, but without making any reply to
their salutation he strode up to the prisoner, and, folding his arms
across his mighty breast, regarded him, smiling cruelly. The Onondaga
did not see the smile, but he knew it was there. The man would not be
Tandakora if it were not. In that savage heart, the chivalry that so
often marked the Indians of the higher type found no place.
Grosvenor, worn to the bone and dazed by the extraordinary and fearful
situation in which he found himself, nevertheless straightened up
anew, and gave back defiantly the stare of the gigantic and sinister
figure that confronted him. Then Tayoga saw Tandakora raise his hand
and strike the young Englishman a heavy blow in the face. Grosvenor
fell, but sprang up instantly and rushed at the Ojibway, only to find
himself before the point of a knife.
The young officer stood still a few minutes, then turned with dignity
and sat down once more. Tayoga knew and appreciated his feelings. He
had suffered exactly the same humiliation from Tandakora himself, and
he meant, with all his soul, that some day the debt should be paid
in full. Now in a vicarious way he took upon himself Grosvenor's debt
also. The prisoner did not have experience in the woods, his great
merits lay elsewhere, but he was the friend of Robert, therefore of
Tayoga, and the Onondaga felt it only right that he should pay for
Tandakora sat down, a warrior handed him a huge piece of deer meat,
and he began to eat. All the others, interrupted for a few minutes by
the arrival of the chief, resumed the same pleasant occupation. Tayoga
deciding that he had seen enough, began to climb down with great care.
The descent was harder than the ascent, but he reached the niche,
without noise, and the sight of him was very welcome to Robert and the
hunter who had begun to worry over his absence, which was much longer
than they had expected.
"Did you see the warriors, Tayoga?" asked young Lennox.
"I saw them, Dagaeoga. They are at the top of the cliff, only two or
three hundred yards away; they have a good fire, and they are eating
the game they killed in the day."
"And there is no chance for us to pass?"
"None to-night, Dagaeoga. Nor would we pass if we could."
"Why not? I see no reason for our staying here save that we have to do
"One is there, Dagaeoga, whom we cannot leave a prisoner in their
"Who? It's not Black Rifle! Nor Rogers, the ranger! They would never
let themselves be taken!"
"No, Dagaeoga, it is neither of those. But while I watched at the
cliff's rim I saw the warriors bring in that young Englishman,
Grosvenor, whom you know and like so well."
"What! Grosvenor! What could he have been doing in this forest!"
"That, I know not, Dagaeoga, save that he has been getting himself
captured; how, I know not either, but I saw him brought in a prisoner.
Tandakora came, while I watched, and smote the captive heavily in the
face with his hand. That debt I take upon myself, in addition to my
"You will pay both, Tayoga, and with interest," said the hunter with
conviction. "But you were right when you assumed that we could not
go away and leave Grosvenor a prisoner in their hands. Because we're
here, and because you saw him, your Manitou has laid upon us the duty
of saving him."
Robert's face glowed in the dusk.
"We're bound to see it that way," he said. "We'd be disgraced forever
with ourselves, if we went away and left him. Now, how are we to do
"I don't know how yet," replied the Onondaga, "but we must first go
down to the water. We've forgotten our thirst in the news I bring, but
it will soon be on us again, fiercer and more burning than ever. And
we must have all our strength for the great task before us."
"I think it's better for all three of us to go down to the lake at
once," said Willet. "If anything happens we'll be together, and we are
stronger against danger, united than separated. I'll lead the way."
It was a long and slow descent, every step taken with minute care, and
as they approached the lake Robert found that his thirst was up and
"I feel that I could drink the whole lake dry," he said.
"Do not do that, Dagaeoga," said Tayoga in his precise way. "Lake
George is too beautiful to be lost."
"We might swim across it," said Willet, looking at the silvery surface
of the water unbroken by the dark line of any canoe. "A way has opened
to us here, but we can't follow it now."
Robert knelt at the margin, and took a little drink first, letting the
cool water moisten his mouth and throat before he swallowed it. How
grateful it was! How wonderfully refreshing! One must almost perish
with thirst before he knew the enormous value of water. And when it
was found, one must know how to drink it right. He took a second and
somewhat larger drink. Then, waiting a while, he drank freely and as
much as he wanted. Strength, courage, optimism flowed back into his
veins. As they came down the cliff he had not seen any way to rescue
Grosvenor, nor did he see it now, but he knew that they would do it.
His restored body and mind would not admit the possibility of failure.
They remained nearly an hour in the shadow of the bushes at the
water's edge, and then began the slow and painful ascent to the niche,
which they reached without mishap. Another half hour there, and,
having examined well their arms, they climbed to the cliff's rim,
where they looked over, and Robert obtained his first view of the
The feasting was over, the fires had sunk far down, and most of the
warriors were asleep, but Tandakora himself sat with his arms across
his chest, glowering into the coals, and a line of sentinels was set.
A red gleam from his uniform showed where Grosvenor, leaning against
a log, had fallen at last into a happy slumber, in which his desperate
case was forgotten for the time.
"I confess that I don't know how to do it, still it must be done,"
whispered the hunter.
"Yes, it must be done," the Onondaga whispered back. "We must steal
our friend out of the hands of his enemies. Neither do I know how to
do it, but perhaps Tododaho will tell me. See, there is his star!"
He pointed to a great star dancing in the sky, a star with a light
mist across its face, which he knew to be the wise snakes that lay
coil on coil in the hair of the Onondaga sage who had gone away
four hundred years ago to his place in the heavens, and prayed for a
thought, a happy thought that would tell him the way. In a moment, his
mind was in a state of high spiritual exaltation. An electric current
seemed to pass from the remote star to him. He shut his eyes, and
his face became rapt. In a few minutes, he opened them again and said
"I think, Great Bear, that Tododaho has told us how to proceed. You
and Dagaeoga must draw off the warriors, and then I will take Red Coat
from those that may be left behind."
"It's mighty risky."
"Since when, Great Bear, have we been turned aside by risks! Besides,
there is no other way."
"It seems that I can't think of any other."
Tayoga unfolded his plan. Robert and Willet must steal along the edge
of the cliff and seek to pass to the north of the line of sentinels.
If not detected, they would purposely cause an alarm, and, as a
consequence, draw off the main portion of the band. Then it was their
duty to see to it that they were not taken. Meanwhile Tayoga in the
excitement and confusion was to secure the release of Grosvenor, and
they would flee southward to the mouth of a small creek, in the lake,
where Robert and Willet, after making a great turn, were to join them.
"It's complicated and it's a desperate chance," said Willet
thoughtfully, "but I don't see anything else to do. Besides, we have
got to act quickly. Being on the war-path, they won't hold him long,
and you know the kind of death Tandakora will serve out to him."
Robert shuddered. He knew too well, and knowing so well he was ready
to risk his life to save his friend.
"I think," said Tayoga, "that we had better wait until it is about two
hours after midnight. Then the minds and bodies of the warriors will
be at their dullest, and we will have the best chance."
"Right, Tayoga," said the hunter. "We'll have to use every trifle
that's in our favor. Can you see Tandakora from here?"
"He is leaning against the big tree, asleep."
"I'm glad of that. He may be a bit confused when he awakes suddenly
and rushes off after us, full tilt, with nearly all the warriors. If
only two guards are left with the prisoner, Tayoga, you can dispose of
"Fortune may favor us."
"Provided we use our wits and strength to the utmost."
"That provision must always be made, Great Bear."
Using what patience they could, they remained at the edge of the
cliff, crouched there, until they judged it was about two o'clock
in the morning, the night being then at its darkest. Tandakora still
slept against his tree, and the fires were almost out. The red gleam
from the uniform of Grosvenor could no longer be seen, but Robert
had marked well the place where he sat, and he knew that the young
Englishman was there, sleeping the sleep of utter exhaustion.
Everything was still and peaceful.
"After all, we could escape through their lines, now," whispered
"So it turns out," said the hunter.
"But it looks as if we were held back in order that we might save
"That too may be true."
"It is time to go," said Tayoga. "Farewell, Great Bear! Farewell,
Dagaeoga! May we meet at the mouth of the creek as we have planned,
and may we be four who meet there and not three!"
"May all the stars fight for us," said Robert with emotion, and then
he and Willet moved away among the bushes, leaving Tayoga alone at
the cliff's rim. Young Lennox knew that theirs was a most perilous
venture. Had he given himself time to think about it he would have
seen that the chances were about ten to one against its success, but
he resolutely closed his mind against that phase of it and insisted
upon hope. His was the spirit that leads to success in the face of
Willet was first, and Robert was close behind.
Neither looked back, but they knew that Tayoga would not move, until
the alarm was given, and they could flee away with the pursuit hot
upon their heels. Young Lennox saw again that they could now have
slipped through the Indian lines, but the thought of deserting
Grosvenor never entered his mind. It seemed though as if all the
elements of nature were conspiring to facilitate the flight of the
hunter and himself. The sentinels, whose dusky figures they were yet
able to see, moved sleepily up and down. No dead wood that would break
with a snap thrust itself before their feet. The wilderness opened a
way for them.
"I think a warrior or two may be watching in the forest to the north
of us," whispered Willet, "but we'll go through the line there. See
that fellow standing under the tree, about a hundred yards to the
south. He's the one to give the alarm."
But circumstances still favored them. Nature was peaceful. When they
wished for the first time in their lives that their flight should
be detected, nothing happened, and the vigilance of the warriors who
usually watched so well seemed to be relaxed. Robert was conscious
that they were passing unseen and unheard between the sentinel on the
north and the sentinel on the south.
Two hundred yards farther on, and the hunter brought his moccasin
sharply down upon a dead stick which broke with a sharp snap, a sound
that penetrated far in the still night. Robert, glancing back, saw
the sentinel on the south stiffen to attention and then utter a cry of
alarm, a shout sufficient to awaken any one of the sleeping Indians.
It was given back in an instant by several voices from the camp, and
then the hunter and the youth sprang to their task.
"Now we're to run as we've never run before," exclaimed Willet. "But
we must let 'em think they're going to catch us."
First, sending back a tremendous shout of defiance that he knew would
enrage Tandakora's men to the utmost, he raced with long swift steps
through the forest, and Robert was always close on his heels. The
yells of the Indians behind them, who pushed forward in pursuit, were
succeeded by silence, and Robert knew they now were running for their
lives. Luckily, they were coming into a country with which the hunter
had some acquaintance, and, turning a little to the south, he led the
way into a ravine down which they took a swift course. After a mile or
so he stopped, and the two rested their lungs and muscles.
"They can't see our trail to-night," said the hunter, "and they'll
have to depend on eye and ear, but they'll stick to the chase for a
long time. I've no doubt they think all three of us are here, and that
they may take us in one haul. Ready to start on again, Robert?"
"My breath is all right now, and I'll run a race with anybody. You
don't think they've lost us, do you?"
"Not likely, but in case they have I'll tell 'em where we are."
He uttered a shout so piercing that it made Robert jump. Then he led
again at a great pace down the ravine, and a single cry behind
them showed that the pursuit was coming. As nearly as Robert could
calculate, the warriors were about three hundred yards away. He
could not see them, but he was sure they would hang on as long as the
slightest chance was left to overtake Willet and himself.
They fled in silence at least another mile, and then, feeling their
breath grow difficult again, they stopped a second time, still in the
ravine and among thick bushes.
"Our flight may be a joke on them, as we intend to draw them after
us," said Robert, "but constant running turns it into a joke on us
too. I've done so much of this sort of thing in the last few days that
I feel as if I were spending my life, dodging here and there in the
forest, trying to escape warriors."
Willet laughed dryly.
"It's not the sort of life for a growing youth," he said, "but you'll
have to live it for a while. Remember our task. If they lose our trail
it's our business to make 'em find it again. Here's another challenge
He shouted once more, a long, defiant war cry, much like that of the
warriors themselves, and then he and Robert resumed their flight,
leaving the ravine presently, and taking a sharper course toward the
"I think we'd have lost 'em back there if it hadn't been for that
whoop of mine," said Willet.
"Perhaps it's about time to lose them," said Robert hopefully. "The
sooner we do it the happier I'll feel."
"Not yet, Robert, my lad. We must give Tayoga all the time he needs
for the work he's trying to do. After all, his task is the main one,
and the most dangerous. I think we can slow up a bit here. We have to
save our breath."
They dropped down to a walk, and took another deep curve toward the
south, and now also to the east. Their present course, if persisted
in, would bring them back to the lake. The night was still dark, but
their trained eyes had grown so used to it that they could see very
well in the dusk. Both were looking back and at the same time they saw
a shadowy figure appear in the forest behind them. Robert knew that it
was the vanguard of the pursuit which was drawing uncomfortably close,
at least for him. A shout from the warriors was followed by a shot,
and a bullet cut its way through the leaves near them.
"I think we ought to give 'em a hint that they come too close, at
their peril," said Willet, and raising his own rifle he sent back an
answering shot which did not go astray. The first warrior fell, and
others who had come forward in the undergrowth gave back for the time.
"They'll take the hint," said the hunter, "and now we'll increase our
He reloaded, as they ran, and a little later Robert sent a bullet that
struck the mark. Once more the warriors shrank back for the time,
and the hunter and lad, using their utmost speed, fled toward the
southwest at such a great rate that the pursuit, at length, was left
behind and finally was lost. Day found their foes out of sight, and
two or three hours later they came to the mouth of the creek, where
they were to meet Tayoga, in case he succeeded.
"And now the rest is in other hands than ours," said Willet.
Forcing themselves to assume a patience they could scarcely feel, they
sat down to wait.
They still had food left in their knapsacks, and they ate a portion,
drinking afterward from the creek. Then they resumed their places
in the dense undergrowth, where they could watch well and yet remain
hidden. They could also see from where they lay the shimmering waters
of Andiatarocte, and the lake seemed to be once more at peace. They
felt satisfaction that they had completed their part of the great
enterprise, but their anxiety nevertheless was intense. As Willet had
truly said, Tayoga's share was the more dangerous and delicate by far.
"Do you think he will come?" Robert asked after a long silence.
"If any human being could come under such circumstances and bring
Grosvenor with him, it is Tayoga," replied the hunter. "I think
sometimes that the Onondaga is superhuman in the forest."
"Then he will come," said Robert hopefully.
"Best not place our hopes too high. The hours alone will tell. It's
hard work waiting, but that's our task."
The morning drew on. Another beautiful day had dawned, but Robert
scarcely noticed its character. He was thinking with all his soul of
Tayoga and Grosvenor. Would they come? Willet was able to read his
mind. He was intensely anxious himself, but he knew that the strain
of waiting upon Robert, with his youthful and imaginative mind, was
greater. He was bound to be suffering cruelly.
"We must give them time," he said. "Remember that Grosvenor is not
used to the woods, and can't go through them as fast as we can. We
must have confidence too. We both know what a wonder Tayoga is."
Robert sprang suddenly to his feet.
"What was that!" he exclaimed.
A sound had come out of the north, just a breath, but it was not the
wind among the leaves, nor yet the distant song of a bird. It was the
faint howl of a wolf, and yet Robert believed that it was not a wolf
that made it.
"Did you hear it?" he repeated.
"Aye, lad, I heard it," replied the hunter. "'Tis a signal, and 'tis
Tayoga too who comes. But whether he comes alone, or with a friend, I
know not. To tell that we must bide here and see."
"Should not we send our answer?"
"Nay, lad. He knows where we are. This is the appointed place, and the
fewer signals we give the less likely the enemy is to get a hint we're
here. I don't think we will hear from Tayoga again until he shows in
Robert said no more, knowing full well the truth of the hunter's
words, but his heart was beating hard, and he stirred nervously. He
had been drawn strongly to Grosvenor, and he knew what a horrible fate
awaited him at the hands of Tandakora, unless the Onondaga saved
him. Nor would there be another chance for interruption by Tayoga or
anybody else. But the minutes passed and he took courage. Tayoga
had not yet come. If alone he would have arrived by this time. His
slowness must be due to the fact that he had Grosvenor with him. More
minutes passed and he heard steps in the undergrowth. Now he was sure.
Tayoga was not alone. His moccasins never left any sound. He stood
up expectant, and two figures appeared among the bushes. They were
Tayoga, calm, his breath unhurried, a faint smile in his dark eyes,
and Grosvenor, exhausted, reeling, his clothing worse torn than ever,
but the light of hope on his face. Robert uttered a cry of joy and
grasped the young Englishman's hand.
"Thank God, you are here!" he exclaimed.
"I thank God and I thank this wonderful young Indian too," panted
Grosvenor. "It was a miracle! I had given up hope when he dropped from
the skies and saved me!"
"Sit down and get your breath, man," said Willet. "Then you can tell
us about it."
Grosvenor sank upon the ground, and did not speak again until the
pain in his laboring chest was gone. Tayoga leaned against a tree, and
Robert noticed then that he carried an extra rifle and ammunition. The
Onondaga thought of everything. Willet filled his cap with water at
the creek, and brought it to Grosvenor, who drank long and deeply.
"Tastes good!" said the hunter, smiling.
"Like nectar," said the Englishman, "but it's nectar to me too to see
both of you, Mr. Willet and Mr. Lennox. I don't understand yet how it
happened. It's really and truly a miracle."
"A miracle mostly of Tayoga's working," said the hunter.
"I thought the end of everything for me had come," said Grosvenor,
"and I was only praying that it might not be harder for me than I
could stand, when the alarm was heard in the forest, and nearly all
the Indians ran off in pursuit of something or other. Only two were
left with me. There was a shot from the woods, one of them fell, this
wonderful friend of yours appeared from the forest, wounded the other,
who took to his heels, then we started running in the other direction,
and here we are. It's a marvel and I don't yet see how it was done."
"Tayoga's marvelous knowledge of the woods, his skill and his
quickness made the greater part of the miracle," said the hunter, "and
you see too, Lieutenant Grosvenor, that he even had the forethought
to bring away with him the rifle and ammunition of the fallen warrior,
that you might have arms now that you are strong enough to bear them
Tayoga without a word handed him the rifle and ammunition, and
Grosvenor felt strength flowing back into his body when he took them.
"Could you eat a bite?" asked Willet.
"I think I could now," replied the Englishman, "although I'll confess
I've had no appetite up to the present. My situation didn't permit
Willet handed him a piece of venison and he ate. Meanwhile Tayoga, who
seemed to feel no weariness, and the others were watching. In a short
time the hunter announced that it was time to go.
"We can't afford to delay here any longer and have 'em overtake us!"
he said. "We're out of the ring now, and it's our affair to keep out.
Lieutenant Grosvenor, you can tell us as we go along how you happened
to be the prisoner of Tandakora."
"It needs only a few words," said the Englishman as they took their
way southward through the woods. "I was at Albany with a body of
troops, a vanguard for the force that we mean to march against the
French at Ticonderoga. I was sent northward with ten men to scour
the country, and in the woods we were set upon suddenly by savage
warriors. My troopers were either killed or scattered, and I was
taken. That was yesterday morning. Since then I have been hurried
through the forest, I know not where, and I have had a most appalling
experience. As I have said before, I'd long since given up hope for a
miracle like the one that has saved me. What a horrible creature that
giant Indian was!"
"Tandakora is all that you think him and more. He's been hunting us
too, and when he comes back to his camp he'll be after us all four
again. So, that's why we hurry."
"You're in no bigger hurry than I am," said Grosvenor with attempt at
a smile. "If I could find the seven-league boots I'd put them on."
Tayoga once more led the way, and he examined the forest on all sides
with eyes that saw everything.
Robert and Willet were greatly refreshed by their rest at the creek,
and the promise of life that had been made again so wonderfully put
new strength in Grosvenor's frame. So they were able to travel at a
good pace, though the three listened continually for any sound that
might indicate pursuit.
Yet as the morning progressed there was no hostile sign and their
Robert hoped most devoutly that they would soon come within the region
of friends. While the French and Indians held the whole length of Lake
Champlain and it was believed Montcalm would fortify somewhere
near Ticonderoga, yet Lake George was debatable. It was generally
considered within the British and American sphere, although they were
having ample proof that fierce bands of the enemy roved about it at
Aside from the danger there was another reason why he wished so
earnestly for escape from this tenacious pursuit. They were seeing
the bottoms of their knapsacks. One could not live on air and mountain
lakes alone, however splendid they might be, and, although the
wilderness usually furnished food to three such capable hunters,
they could not seek game while Tandakora and his savage warriors were
seeking them. So, their problem was, in a sense, economic, and could
not be fought with weapons only.
At a signal from Willet, who observed that Grosvenor was somewhat
tired, they sank their pace to a slow walk, and in about three hours
stopped entirely, sitting down on fallen timber which had been heaped
in a windrow by a passing hurricane. They were still in dense forest
and had borne away somewhat from Andiatarocte, but, through the
foliage, they caught glimpses of the lake rippling peacefully in
silver and blue and purple.
"Once more I want to thank you fellows for saving me," said Grosvenor.
"Don't mention it again," said the hunter. "In the wilderness we have
to save one another now and then, or none of us would live. Your turn
to rescue us may come before you think."
"I know nothing of the forest. I feel helpless here."
"Just the same, you don't know what weapon Tayoga's Manitou may place
in your hands. The border brings strange and unexpected chances. But
our present crisis is not over. We're not saved yet, and we can't
afford to relax our efforts a particle. What is it, Tayoga?"
The Onondaga, rising from the fallen tree, had gone about twenty yards
into the forest, where he was examining the ground, obviously with
great concentration of both eye and mind. He waited at least a minute
before replying. Then he said:
"Our friend, the lone ranger, Black Rifle, has passed here."
"How can you know that?" asked Grosvenor in surprise.
"Come and look at his traces," said Tayoga. "See where he has written
his name in the earth; that is, he has left what you would call in
Europe his visiting card."
Grosvenor looked attentively at the ground, but he saw only a very
faint impression, and he never would have noticed that had not the
Onondaga pointed it out to him.
"It might have been left by a deer," he objected.
"Impossible," said Tayoga. "The entire imprint is not made, but there
is enough to indicate very clearly that a human foot and nothing
else pressed there. Here is another trace, although lighter, and here
another and another. The trail leads southward."
"But granting it to be that of a man," Grosvenor again objected, "it
might be that of any one of the thousands who roam the wilderness."
The great red trailer who had inherited the forest lore of countless
"It is not any one of the thousands and it could not be," he said. "It
is easy to tell that. The footsteps are those of a white man, because
they turn out, and not in, as do ours of the red race. That is very
easy; even Dagaeoga here, the great talker, knows it. The footsteps
are far apart, so we are sure that they are those of a tall man; the
imprints are deep, proving them to have been made by a heavy man, and
at the outer edge of the heel the impression is deeper than on the
inner edge. I noticed, when we last saw Black Rifle, which was not
long ago, that he wore moccasins of moose hide, that he had turned
them outward a little, through wear, and that a small strip of the
hardest moose hide had been sewed on the right edge of each heel in
order to keep them level. Those strips have made their marks here."
"Somebody else might have put strips of hide on his moccasin heels!"
"It is so, but Black Rifle is tall and large and heavy, and we know
that the man who made this trail is tall, large and heavy. The chances
are a hundred to one against the fact that any other man tall, large
and heavy with moose hide strips to even the wear of his moccasin
heels has passed here, especially as this is within the range of Black
Rifle. I know that it is he as truly as I know that I am standing
"Of course," said Robert, who had never felt the slightest doubt of
Tayoga's knowledge. "What was Black Rifle doing?"
"He was looking for St. Luc or Tandakora, because his trail does not
lead straight on. See! here it comes, and here again. If Black Rifle
had been on a journey he would have gone straight, but he is seeking
something and so he turns about. Ah, he wishes to see if there are
any canoes visible on the lake, for lo! the trail now leads toward
the water! Here he found that none was to be seen and here he rested.
Black Rifle had been long on his feet, two days and two nights
perhaps, because it takes much to make him weary. He sat on this log.
He left a strand from the fringe of his buckskin hunting shirt, caught
on a splinter. Do you not see it, Lieutenant Grosvenor?"
"Now that you hold it up before my eyes I notice it But I should never
have found it in the wilderness." "Minute observation is what every
trailer has to learn," said Willet, "else you are no trailer at all,
and you'll learn, Lieutenant, while you are with us, that Tayoga is
probably the greatest trailer the world has ever produced."
"Peace, Great Bear! Peace!" protested the Onondaga.
"It's so, just the same. Now, what did Black Rifle do after he rested
himself on the log?"
"He went back farther into the woods, turning away from the lake,"
replied Tayoga, "and he sat down again on another fallen log. Black
Rifle was hungry, and he ate. Here is the small bone of a deer,
picked quite clean, lying on the ground by the log. Black Rifle was a
fortunate man. He had bread, too. See, here is a crumb in this crack
in the log too deep down for any bird to reach with his bill. Black
Rifle sat here quite a long time. He was thinking hard. He did not
need so much time for resting. He remained sitting on the log while he
was trying to decide what he would do. It is likely that Black Rifle
thought a great force was behind him, and he turned back to see. Had
he kept straight on toward the south, as he was going at first, he
would not have needed so much time for thinking over his plans. Ah, he
has turned! Lo! his trail goes almost directly back on his own course.
It will lead to the top of the hillock there, because he wants to see
far, and I think that after seeing he will turn again, and follow his
"Why do you think that?" asked Grosvenor.
"Because, O Red Coat, it is likely that Black Rifle knew from the
first which way he wanted to go and went that way. He has merely
turned back, like a wise general, to scout a little, and see that no
danger comes from the rear. Yes, he stood here on the hillock from
which we can get a good view over the country, and walked to every
side of the crest to find where the best view could be obtained. That,
Red Coat, is the simplest of all things. Behold the traces of his
moccasins as he walked from side to side. Nothing else could have made
Black Rifle move about so much in the space of a few square yards. Now
he leaves the hillock and goes down its side toward a low valley in
which runs a brook. Black Rifle is thirsty and will drink deep."
"That you can't possibly know, Tayoga."
"But I do know it, Red Coat."
"You don't even know a brook is near."
"I know it, because I have seen it. My eyes are trained to the forest,
and I caught the gleam of running water through the leaves to the
west. Running water, of course, means a brook. Black Rifle's trail now
leads toward it, and I assume that he was thirsty because he had just
eaten well. We are nearly always thirsty after eating. But we shall
see whether I am right. Here is the brook, and there are the faint
traces made by Black Rifle's knees, when he knelt to reach the water.
He started away, but found that he was still thirsty, so he came back
and drank again. Here are his footprints about a yard from the others.
This time, he will go back toward the south, and I think it is sure
that he is looking for St. Luc, who must have gone in that direction
with a strong force, Tandakora having stayed behind to take us. It is
likely that Black Rifle went on, because a great British and American
army is gathering below, which fact he knows well, and it is probable
that Black Rifle follows St. Luc, because he will hunt the biggest
Grosvenor's eyes sparkled.
"I understand," he said. "It is a great art, that of trailing through
the wilderness, and I can see how circumstances compel you to learn
"We have to learn it to live," said the hunter gravely, "but with
Tayoga it is an art carried to the highest degree of perfection. He
was born with a gift for it, a very great gift. He inherited all the
learning accumulated by a thousand years of ancestors, and then he
added to it by his own supreme efforts."
"Do not believe all that Great Bear tells you," said Tayoga modestly.
"For unknown reasons he is partial to me, and enlarges my small
"I think this would be a good place for all of you to wait, while
I went back on the trail a piece," said the hunter. "If Black Rifle
found it necessary to cover the rear, it's a much more urgent duty for
us who know that we've been followed by Tandakora to do the same."
"The Great Bear is always wise," said Tayoga. "We will take our ease
while we await him."
He flung himself down on the turf and relaxed his figure completely.
He had learned long since to make the most of every passing minute,
and, seeing Robert imitate him exactly, Grosvenor did likewise. The
hunter had disappeared already in the bushes and the three lay in
Grosvenor felt an immense peace. Brave as a young lion, he had been
overwhelmed nevertheless by his appalling experiences, and his sudden
rescue where rescue seemed impossible had taken him back to the
heights. Now, it seemed to him that the three, and especially the
Onondaga, could do everything. Tayoga's skill as a trailer and scout
was so marvelous that no enemy could come anywhere near without
his knowledge. The young Englishman felt that he was defended by
impassable walls, and he was so free from apprehension that his nerves
became absolutely quiet. Then worn nature took its toll, and his
eyelids drooped. Before he was aware that he was sleepy he was asleep.
"You might do as Red Coat has done, Dagaeoga," said Tayoga. "I can
watch for us all, and it is wise in the forest to take sleep when we
"I'll try," said Robert, and he tried so successfully that in a few
minutes he too slumbered, with his figure outstretched, and his head
on his arm. Tayoga made a circle about three hundred yards in diameter
about them, but finding no hostile sign came back and lay on the turf
near them. He relaxed his figure again and closed his eyes, which may
have seemed strange but which was not so in the case of Tayoga. His
hearing was extraordinarily acute, and, when his eyes were shut, it
grew much stronger than ever. Now he knew that no warrior could come
within rifle shot of them without his ears telling him of the savage
approach. Every creeping footstep would be registered upon that
With eyes shut and brain rested, Tayoga nevertheless knew all that was
going on near him. That eardrum of infinite delicacy told him that a
woodpecker was tapping on a tree, well toward the north; that a little
gray bird almost as far to the south was singing with great vigor and
sweetness; that a rabbit was hopping about in the undergrowth,
curious and yet fearful; that an eagle with a faint whirr of wings
had alighted on a bough, and was looking at the three; that the eagle
thinking they might be dangerous had unfolded his wings again and was
flying away; that a deer passing to the west had caught a whiff
of them on the wind and was running with all speed in the other
direction; that a lynx had climbed a tree, and, after staring at them,
had climbed down again, and had fled, his coward heart filled with
Thus Tayoga, with his ears, watched his world. He too, his eyelids
lowered, felt a peace that was soothing and almost dreamy, but, though
his body relaxed, those wonderfully sensitive drums of his ears caught
and registered everything. The record showed that for nearly two hours
the life of the wilderness went on as usual, the ordinary work and
play of animal and bird, and then the drums told him that man was
coming. A footstep was registered very clearly, and then another and
another, but Tayoga did not open his eyes. He knew who was coming as
well as if he had seen him. The drums of his ears made signals that
his mind recognized at once. He had long known the faint sound of
those footsteps. Willet was coming back.
Tayoga, through the faculty of hearing, was aware of much more than
the mere fact that the hunter was returning. He knew that Willet had
found nothing, that the pursuit was still far away and that they were
in no immediate danger. He knew it by his easy, regular walk, free
from either haste or lagging delay. He knew it by the straight, direct
line he took for the three young men, devoid of any stops or turnings
aside to watch and listen. Willet's course was without care.
Tayoga opened his eyes, and lazily regarded the giant figure of his
friend now in full view. Robert and Grosvenor slept on. "I am glad,"
said the Onondaga.
It was significant of the way in which they understood each other and
the way they could read the signs of the forest that they could talk
almost without words.
"So am I," said the hunter, "but I had hoped for it."
"Since it is so, we need not awaken them just yet."
"No, let them sleep another hour."
Tayoga meant that he was glad the enemy had not approached and Willet
replied that he had hoped for such good luck. No further explanation
"You had the heaviest part of the burden to carry, last night," said
the hunter, "so it would be wise for you to join them if you can, in
the hour that's left. See if you can't follow them, at once."
"I think I can," said Tayoga. "At least I will try."
In five minutes he too had gone to the land of dreams and the hunter
watched alone. Willet, although weary, was in high spirits. They had
come marvelously through many perils, and Tayoga's achievement in
rescuing Grosvenor, he repeated to himself, was well nigh miraculous.
After such startling luck they could not fail, and an omen of
continued good fortune was the fact they had encountered the trail of
Black Rifle. He would be a powerful addition to their little force,
when found, and Willet did not doubt that they would overtake him. The
only problem that really worried him now was that of food. Small
as was their army of four, it had to be provisioned, and, for the
present, he did not see the way to do it.
He let the three sleep overtime, and when they awoke they were
grateful to him for it.
"I am quite made over," said Grosvenor, "and I think that if I stay in
the wilderness long enough I may learn to be a scout too. But as all
my life has been spent in quite different kinds of country, I suppose
it will take a hundred years to give me a good start."
"Not a hundred years," he said. "Red Coat has begun very well."
"And now with a lot of good solid food I'll feel equal to any march,"
continued Grosvenor. "Most Englishmen, you know, eat well."
Tayoga looked at Robert, who looked at Willet, who in his turn looked
at the Onondaga.
"That's just what we'll have to do without," said the hunter gravely.
"The bottoms of our knapsacks are looking up at us. We'll have a
splendid chance to see how long we can do without food. One needs such
a test now and then."
Grosvenor's face fell, but his was the true mettle. In an instant his
countenance became cheerful again.
"I'm not hungry!" he exclaimed. "It was the delusion of a moment, and
it passed as quickly as it came. I suffer from such brief spells."
The others laughed.
"That's the right spirit," said Willet, "and while we have nothing to
eat we have lots of hope. I've been hungrier than this often, and,
as you see, I've never starved to death a single time. There's always
lots of food somewhere in the wilderness, if you only know how to put
your hand on it."
"I think it is now best for us to follow on the trail of Black Rifle,"
"That's so," responded the hunter. "It's grown a lot colder, while
you lads slept, though I think you can follow it without any trouble,
The red lad said nothing, but at once picked up the traces, which now
led south, slanting back a little toward the lake.
"Black Rifle was going fast," he said. "His stride lengthens. He must
have divined where St. Luc with his force lay, and he took a direct
course for it. Ah, he turns suddenly aside and walks to and fro."
"That's curious," said the hunter. "I see the footprints all about.
What did Black Rifle mean by moving about in such a manner?"
"It is not odd at all," said Tayoga. "Doubtless Black Rifle was
suffering from the same lack that we are, and it was necessary for him
to provision his army of one at once. He suddenly saw a chance to do
so and he turned aside from his direct journey toward the south. So we
shall soon see where Black Rifle shot his bear."
"And why not a deer?" said Grosvenor.
"Because his trail now leads toward that deep thicket on our right, a
thicket made up of bushes and vines and briars. A deer could not have
gone into it, but a bear could, and we know now it was a bear, because
here are its tracks. Black Rifle killed the bear in the thicket."
"Are you sure of that, Tayoga?" asked Robert.
"Absolutely sure, Dagaeoga. It is in this case a matter of mind and
not of eye. Black Rifle is too good a hunter to fire a useless shot,
and too experienced to miss his game, when he needs it so badly. He
would take every precaution for success. My mind tells me that it was
impossible for him to miss."
"And he didn't miss," said Robert, as they entered the thicket. "See
where the vines and briars were threshed about by the bear as he fell.
Here are spots of blood, and here goes the path along which he dragged
the body. All this is as plain as day."
"It was a fat bear too," said Tayoga. "Although it is early spring he
had found so many good roots and berries that he had more than made
up for the loss of weight in his long winter fast. We will soon find
where Black Rifle cleaned his prize. A bear is too heavy to carry far.
Ah, he did his work just beyond us in the little valley!"
"How do you know that?" asked Grosvenor. "We can't yet see into the
The great red trailer smiled.
"This time, O Red Coat," he replied, "it is a combination of mind and
eye. Mind tells me that Black Rifle could not clean and dress his bear
unless he got it to water. Mind tells me that a brook is flowing in
the valley just ahead of us, because there is scarcely a valley in the
country that does not have its brook. Eye tells me that Black Rifle
finished his task by the great oak there. Do you not see the huge
buzzards flying above the tree? They are conclusive. Ah, the forest
people gathered fast in numbers! They expected that Black Rifle would
leave them a great feast."
They found a little brook of clear, cold water and, beside it, the
place where Black Rifle had cleaned his bear, reserving afterward the
choice portion for himself.
"When he went on," said Tayoga, "the forest people made a rush for
what he did not want, which was much. Great birds came. We cannot see
their trail through the air, but we can see where they hopped about
here on the ground, tore at the flesh, and fought with one another for
the spoil. A lynx came, and then another, and then wolves. The weasel
and the mink too hung on the outskirts, waiting for what the bigger
animals might leave. Among them they left nothing and they were not
long in the task."
Only shining bones lay on the ground. They had been picked clean and
all the forest people had gone after their brief banquet. The trails
led away in different directions, but that of Black Rifle went on
toward the south. The traces, however, were more distinct than they
had been before he stopped for the bear.
"It is because he is carrying much weight," said Tayoga. "Black Rifle
no longer skips along like a youth, as Red Coat here does."
"You can have all the sport with me you wish," said Grosvenor. "I
don't forget that you saved my life, when by all the rules of logic it
was lost beyond the hope of recovery."
"Black Rifle would not eat so much bear meat himself," said Tayoga,
"nor would he carry such a burden, without good cause. It may be that
he expects us. He has perhaps heard that we are in this region."
"It's possible," said the hunter.
Full of eagerness, they pressed forward on the trail.
They had been following the trail about half an hour, when Tayoga
noticed that it was growing deeper.
"Ah," he said, "Black Rifle now walks much more slowly, so slow that
he barely creeps, and his feet press down harder. I think he is going
to make another stop."
"Maybe he intends to cook a part of that fat bear," said Grosvenor,
struggling hard, though, to keep all trace of envy out of his voice.
"You said a while back that he was going to kill the bear, because he
was hungry, and it seems to me that he would be a very foolish man, if
having got his bear, he didn't make use of any portion of it."
Tayoga laughed with sincere enjoyment.
"Red Coat reasons well," he said. "If a man is eager to eat, and he
has that which he can eat, then he would be a silly man if he did not
eat. Red Coat has all the makings of a trailer. In a few more yards,
Black Rifle will stop and cook himself a splendid dinner. Here he put
his bear meat upon this log. The red stains show it. Then he picked up
dead and fallen wood, and broke it into the right length over the log.
You can see where he broke places in the bark at the same time. Then
he heaped them all in the little hollow, where he has left the pile
of ashes. But, before he lighted a fire, with his flint and steel,
he made a wide circle all about to see if any enemy might be near. We
knew he would do that because Black Rifle is a very cautious man, but
his trail proves it to any one who wishes to look. Then, satisfied, he
came back, and started the flame. But he kept the blaze very low lest
a prowling foe see it. When the bed of coals was fanned he cooked
large portions of the bear and ate, because Black Rifle was hungry,
ah, so hungry! and the bear was very savory and pleasing to his
"Stop, Tayoga, stop!" exclaimed Grosvenor, "I can't stand such
torture! You'll make me starve to death where I stand."
"But as you are about to become a warrior of the woods, Red Coat,"
said the Onondaga gravely, "you must learn to endure. Among us a
warrior will purposely put the fire to his hand or his breast and hold
it there until the flesh smokes. Nor will he utter a groan or even
wince. And all his people will applaud him and call him brave."
Grosvenor shuddered. He did not see the lurking gleam of humor in the
eye of Tayoga.
"I don't need to pretend for the sake of practice that I am starving,"
he said. "I'm starving in fact and I do it without the need of
"But Black Rifle was enjoying himself greatly," continued the
Onondaga, "and we can rejoice in the joys of a friend. If we have not
a thing ourselves it is pleasant to know that somebody else had it.
He used his opportunities to the utmost. Here are more bones which
he threw away, with shreds of flesh yet on them, and which the forest
people came to pick clean. Lo, their tracks are everywhere about Black
Rifle's little camp. One of them became so persistent and bold--a wolf
it was--that Black Rifle, not willing to shoot, seized a large stone,
and threw it at him with great violence. There lies the stone at the
edge of the wood, and as there is fresh earth on its under surface it
was partly imbedded in the ground where Black Rifle snatched it up.
There, just beyond your right foot, Red Coat, is a little depression,
the place in the earth, from which he tore it. Black Rifle's aim was
good too. He struck the wolf. At the foot of the bank there are
red stains where several drops of blood fell. The wolf was full of
mortification, pain and anger, when he ran away. He would never have
been so bold and venturesome, if his hunger had not made him forget
his prudence. He was as hungry as you are this minute, Red Coat."
"I suppose you are giving me preliminary practice in torture, Tayoga.
Well, go on with it, old fellow. I'll try to stand it."
"No, that is enough as a beginning. We will follow the trail of Black
Rifle again. After he had eaten so well he was so much refreshed that
he will start again with a vigorous and strong step. Lo, it is as I
said! He is taking a long stride, but I do not think he is walking
fast. His pace is very slow. It may be that there is something in what
Dagaeoga says. It is possible that Black Rifle is waiting for those
who will not be unwelcome to him."
Robert was quite able to fathom what was passing in the brain of
the Onondaga. He saw that the trail was growing quite fresh, and his
spirits became buoyant.
"And Red Coat is hungry," said Tayoga, that lurking gleam of humor in
his eye growing larger. "Let him remember that however he may suffer
from lack of food he can suffer yet more. It is wonderful what the
body can endure and yet live. Here Black Rifle stopped and rested on
these stones, perhaps an hour. No, Red Coat, there are no signs to
show it, but the trail on the other side is much fresher, which proves
it. It is quite clear now that Black Rifle is waiting. He is not
running away from anybody or anything. Ah! Red Coat, if we only had
some of his precious bear steaks how welcome to us they would be!"
"Go on, Tayoga. As I told you, I'd try to stand it."
"That is well, Red Coat. But it is not enough merely to wish for Black
Rifle's bear steaks. We will have a portion of them ourselves."
"Now, Tayoga, your talk sounds a little wild to me."
"But listen, Red Coat."
The Onondaga suddenly put his fingers to his lips, and blew a shrill
whistle that penetrated far in the forest. In a few instants, the
answer, another whistle, came back from a point a few hundred yards
ahead, and Tayoga said quietly:
"Red Coat, Black Rifle is waiting for us. We will now go forward and
he will give us our dinner."
They advanced without hesitation and the figure of the dark hunter
rose up to meet them. His face showed pleasure, as he extended his
hand first to Willet.
"Dave, old comrade," he said, "the sight of you in the forest is
always a pleasure to the eye. I thought you'd be coming with the lads,
and I've been making ready for you. I knew that Tayoga, the greatest
trailer the world has ever known, would be sure to strike my traces,
and that he'd read them like print. And here's Robert too, a fine boy,
if I do say it to his face, and Lieutenant Grosvenor. You mayn't know
me, Lieutenant, though I recall you, and I can tell you you're mighty
lucky to fall into the hands of these three."
"I think so too," said Grosvenor earnestly.
"Red Coat is happy to see you," said Tayoga, "but he will be happier
to see your bear."
"The Lieutenant is hungry," said Black Rifle. "Then come; there is
enough for all."
"What made you wait for us?" asked Robert.
"You know how I roam the woods, doing as I please and under nobody's
command. I found that Tandakora was by the lake with warriors and
that St. Luc was not far away. Tandakora's men seemed to be trailing
somebody, and hiding in the bushes, I spied on them. I was near enough
to hear two warriors talking and I learned that it was you they were
following. Then, coming on ahead, I left a trail for you to see. And
I've got plenty of bear steaks already cooked for you."
"God bless you, Mr. Black Rifle," said Grosvenor fervently.
"Amen!" said Robert.
Black Rifle showed them his lair among dense bushes, and, after they
had satisfied their hunger, the bear, divided in equal portions among
all, was stored away in their knapsacks, Grosvenor luckily having
retained his own as the Indians had not deprived him of it. They now
had food enough for several days, and one great source of anxiety was
"What had you found, Black Rifle?" asked Willet.
"St. Luc has a big force. He's throwing a sort of veil before
Montcalm, while the Marquis fortifies to meet the attack of the
British and Americans that all know is coming. Perhaps the Lieutenant
can tell us most about that force!"
"It's to be a great one," said Grosvenor.
"And we'll go through to Quebec!" said Robert, his eyes flashing,
his imagination at once alive. "We'll put out forever the fire that's
always burning in the north and give our border peace."
"Easy, lads, easy!" said Willet. "A thing's never done until it's
done. I feel pretty sure we'll do it, but we'll reckon with present
difficulties first. It seems to me it's our duty now to follow St.
Luc, and see what he means to do with his force. It's hard on you,
Lieutenant, because you'll have to stay with us. You can't go back to
Albany just yet."
Grosvenor glanced around at the unbroken forest. "I'm resigned," he
said. "After that wonderful escape I'm ready for anything. I see that
this is my great chance to become a scout, and I'll do the best I
"I take it," said Black Rifle, "that the main object of St. Luc is to
clear the forest of all our scouts and skirmishers in order that we
may be kept in complete ignorance of Montcalm's movements. We'll show
him that he can't do it. You have not forgotten any of your skill,
have you, Tayoga?"
"So far from forgetting any of it he's acquired more," said Willet,
answering for the Onondaga. "When it comes to trailing that boy just
breathes it in. He adds some new tricks every day. But I think we'd
better lie by, the rest of to-day, and to-night, don't you, Black
Rifle? We don't want to wear out our lads at the start."
"Well spoken, Dave," responded Black Rifle. "It's a camp in the
enemy's country we'll have to make with the warriors all about us, but
we must take the risk. We'd better go to the next brook and walk up it
a long distance. It's the oldest of all tricks to hide your trail, but
it is still the best."
They found the brook only a few hundred yards farther on, and
extended their walk along its pebbly bed fully a mile and a half as a
precaution, keeping to their wading until they could emerge on rocky
ground, where they left no trail.
"It will be only chance now that will bring them down on us," said
Willet. "Do you think, Lieutenant, that after such a long walk you
could manage another bear steak?"
"If the company will join me!" replied Grosvenor. "I don't wish to
show bad manners."
"I'll join you," said Willet, speaking for the others, "and I think
we'll make a brief camp on that wooded hill there."
"Why on a hill, Mr. Willet? Why not in a hollow where it seems to me
we would be better hidden?"
"Because, besides hiding ourselves, we want to see, and you can see
better from a height than from a valley. In the bushes there we'll
have a view all about us, and I don't think our enemies can come
too near, unseen by us. When we get into the thicket on the hill,
Lieutenant, you can resume that pleasant nap that you did not finish.
Eight or ten hours more of sleep will be just the thing for you."
"All of you sleep a while," said Black Rifle. "I'll guard. I'm fresh.
But be sure you walk on the stones. We must leave no trace."
They found a fairly comfortable place in the thicket and soon all were
asleep except Black Rifle, who sat with his rifle between his knees,
and from his covert scanned the forest on all sides.
Black Rifle felt satisfaction. He was pleased to be with the friends
for whom he cared most. An historical figure, solitary, aloof, he was
a vivid personality, yet scarcely anything was known about him. His
right name even had disappeared, and, to the border, far and near he
was just Black Rifle, or Black Jack, a great scout and a terror to the
Indians. In his way, he was fond of Willet, Tayoga and young Lennox,
and he felt also that he would like Grosvenor when he knew him better.
So, while they slept, he watched with a vigilance that nobody save
Tayoga could surpass.
Black Rifle saw the life of the forest go on undisturbed. The birds on
the boughs went about their business, and the little animals worked
or played as usual in the bushes. Everything said to him that no enemy
was near, and his own five senses confirmed it. The afternoon passed,
and, about twilight, Tayoga awoke, but the others slept on.
"Sleep now, Black Rifle," said the Onondaga. "I will take up the
"I don't feel like closing my eyes just yet, Tayoga," replied the
scout, "and I'll sit a while with you. Nothing has happened. Tandakora
has not been able to find our trail."
"But he will hunt long for it, Black Rifle. When my race hates it
hates well. Tandakora feels his grudge against us. He has tried to do
us much harm and he is grieved because we have not fallen before him.
He blames us for it."
"I know he does. Did you hear something walking in the thicket at the
bottom of the hill?"
"It is only a bear. Perhaps he is looking for a good place in which to
pass the night, but he will go much farther away."
"Because the wind is shifting about a little, and, in another minute,
it will take him a whiff of the human odor. Then he will run away, and
run fast. Now he is running."
"I don't hear him, Tayoga, but I take it that you know what you are
saying is true."
"My ears are uncommonly keen, Black Rifle. It is no merit of mine that
they are so. Why should a man talk about a gift from Manitou, when it
really is the work of Manitou? Ah, the bear is going toward the south
and he is well frightened because he never stops to look back, nor
does he hesitate! Now he is gone and he will not come back again!"
Black Rifle glanced at the Onondaga in the dusk, and his eyes were
full of admiration.
"You have wonderful gifts, Tayoga," he said. "I don't believe such
eyes and ears as yours are to be found in the head of any other man."
"But, as I have just told you, Black Rifle, however good they may
be the credit belongs to Manitou and not to me. I am but a poor
"Still you find 'em useful, and the exercise of such powers must yield
a certain pleasure. They're particularly valuable just now, as I'm
thinking we'll have an eventful night."
"I think so too, Black Rifle. With the warriors and the French so near
us it is not likely that it could pass in peace."
"At any rate, Dave and the lads are not worrying about it. I never saw
anybody sleep more soundly. I reckon they were pretty well worn out."
"So they were, and, unless danger comes very close, we will not awaken
them. That it will be near us soon I do not doubt because Tododaho
warns me that peril is at hand."
He was looking up at the star on which his patron saint sat and his
face had that rapt expression which it always wore when his spirit
leaped into the void to meet that of the great Onondaga chief who
had gone away four hundred years ago. Black Rifle regarded him with
respect. He too was steeped in Indian lore and belief, and, if Tayoga
said he saw and heard what others could not hear or see, then he saw
and heard them and that was all there was to it.
"What do you see, Tayoga?" he asked.
"Tododaho sits on his star with the wise snakes, coil on coil in
his hair, and the great Mohawk, Hayowentha, who is inferior only to
Tododaho, speaks to him from his own star across infinite space. They
are talking of us, but it comes only as a whisper, like the dying
voice of a distant wind, and I cannot understand their words. But both
the great warriors look down warningly at us. They tell us to beware,
that we are threatened by a great peril. I can read their faces. But
a mist is passing in the heavens. The star of the Mohawk fades. Lo,
it is gone! And now the vapors gather before the face of Tododaho too.
Lo, he also has gone, and there are only clouds and mists in the far
heavens! But the great chiefs, from their stars, have told us to watch
and to watch well."
"I believe you! I believe every word you say, Tayoga," exclaimed Black
Rifle, in a tone of awe. "The mist is coming down here too. I think
it's floating in from the lake. It will be all over the thickets soon.
I reckon that the danger threatening us is from the warriors, and
if we are in a veil of fog we'll have to rely on our ears. I'm not
bragging when I say that mine are pretty good, but yours are better."
Tayoga did not reply. He knew that the compliment was true, but, as
before, he ascribed the credit to Manitou because he had made the gift
and not to himself who was merely an involuntary agent. The mist and
vapors were increasing, drifting toward them in clouds from the lake,
a vanguard of shreds and patches, already floating over the bushes in
which they lay. It was evident that soon they would not be able to see
five yards from there.
In ten minutes the mist became a fog, white and thick. The sleeping
three were almost hidden, although they were at the feet of the
watchers, and the two saw each other but dimly. They seemed to be in
a tiny island with a white ocean circling about them. The Onondaga lay
flat and put his ear to the earth.
"What do you hear, Tayoga?" whispered the scout.
"Nothing yet, Black Rifle, but the usual whispers of the wilderness, a
little wind among the trees and a distant and uneasy deer walking."
"Why should a deer be walking about at this time, and why should he be
uneasy, Tayoga? Any deer in his right mind ought to be taking his rest
now in the forest."
"That is true, Black Rifle, but this deer is worried and when a deer
is worried there is a cause. A deer is not like a man, full of fancies
and creating danger when danger there is none. He is troubled because
there are strange presences in the woods, presences that he dreads."
"Maybe he scents us."
"No, the wind does not blow from us toward him. Do not move! Do not
stir in the least, Black Rifle! I think I catch another sound, almost
as light as that made by a leaf when it falls! Ah, Manitou is good to
me! He makes me hear to-night better than I ever heard before, because
it is his purpose, I know not why, to make me do so! There comes the
little sound again and it is real! It was a footstep far away, and
then another and another and now many! It is the tread of marching men
and they are white men!"
"How do you know they are white men, Tayoga?"
"Mingled with the sound of their footsteps is a little clank made
by the hilts of swords and the butts of pistols striking against the
metal on their belts. There is a slight creaking of leather, too,
which could not possibly come from a band of warriors. I hear the echo
of a voice! I think it is a command, a short, sharp word or two such
as white officers give. The sounds of the footsteps merge now, Black
Rifle, because the men are marching to the same step. I think there
must be at least fifty of them. They are sure to be French, because
we are certain our troops are not yet in this region, and because only
the French are so active that they make these swift marches at night."
"Unfortunately that's so, Tayoga. Will they pass near us?"
"Very near us, but I do not think they will see us, as the fog is so
"Should we wake the others and move?"
"No, at least not yet. Now they are going very slowly. It is not
because they do not know the way, but because the fog troubles them.
It is St. Luc who leads them."
"I don't see how your ear can tell you that, Tayoga."
"It is not my ear, it is my mind that tells me, Black Rifle. The
French would not go through the forest to-night, unless they had
warriors with them as guides, flankers and skirmishers. Only St. Luc
could make them come, because we know that even the French have great
trouble in inducing them to enter big battles. They like better ambush
and foray. De Courcelles could not make them march on this journey nor
could Jumonville. My reason tells me it could be only St. Luc. It must
"Yes, I'm sure now it's St. Luc up to some trick that we ought to
"But we do not know what the trick is, Black Rifle. Ah, they have
stopped! All of them have stopped!"
"It is not possible that they have seen any traces of us, Tayoga! We
left no trail. Besides, this fog is so thick and heavy; it's like a
blanket hiding everything!"
"No, it is not that. We left no trail. They are so near that we could
see them if there were no fog. Now I hear some one walking alone in
front of the company. His step is quick, sharp and positive. It is St.
Luc, because, being the leader, he is the only one who would walk that
way at such a time. I think he wants to see for himself or rather feel
just where they are. Now he too stops, and some one walks forward to
join him. It is a Frenchman, because he has on boots. I can hear just
the faintest creak of the leather. It must be De Courcelles."
"It may be his comrade Jumonville."
"No, it is De Courcelles, because he is tall while Jumonville is not,
and the stride of this man who is going forward to join St. Luc is
long. It is surely De Courcelles. St. Luc does not like him, but he
has to use him, because the Frenchmen are not many, and a leader can
only lead those who are at hand to be led. Now they talk together.
Perhaps they are puzzled about the direction."
"Well, so would I be if I had to go anywhere in such a fog."
"They walk back together to the soldiers, and now there is no noise of
"I take it that they're waiting for something."
"Aye, Black Rifle. They are waiting in the hope that the fog will
rise. You know how suddenly a fog can lift and leave everything bright
"And they would see us at once. They'll be fairly on top of us."
"So they would be, if the fog should go quickly away."
"And do you think it will?" asked Black Rifle in alarm.
Tayoga laughed under his breath.
"I do not," he replied confidently. "There is no wind to take it away.
The great bank of mist and vapor will be heavy upon the ground and
will increase in thickness. It would not be wise for us to move,
because there may be ears among them as keen as ours, and they might
hear us. Then blinded by the fog we might walk directly into the hands
of prowling warriors. Although we are not many yards from them we are
safest where we are, motionless and still."
Black Rifle also lay down and put his ear to the earth.
"I hear very well myself, although not as well as you, Tayoga," he
whispered, "and I want to notice what they're doing as far as I can.
I make out the sound of a lot of footsteps, but I can't tell what they
"They are sending groups in different directions, Black Rifle, looking
for a way through the forest rather than for us. They are still
uncertain where they are. Five or six men are going southward, about
as many have turned toward the west, and two warriors and a Frenchman
are coming toward us, the rest stay where they are."
"It's the three coming in our direction who are bothering me."
"But remember, Black Rifle, that we are hidden in the deep fog as a
fish is hidden in the water, and it will be almost as hard to find us.
They must step nearly upon us before they could see us."
Black Rifle, in his eventful life upon the border, had passed through
many a crisis, but never any that tested his nerves more thoroughly
than the one he now faced. He too heard the steps of the three
warriors coming in their direction, cautiously feeling a way through
the great bank of mist. It was true that they could pass near without
seeing, but chance might bring them straight to the little group. He
shifted his fingers to the lock and trigger of his rifle, and looked
at the sleeping three whose figures were almost hidden, although they
were not a yard away. He felt that they should be awake and ready but
in waking, Grosvenor, at least, might make enough noise to draw the
warriors upon them at once.
"They have shifted their course a little," whispered Tayoga, "and
it leads to our right. Now they change back again, and now they keep
turning toward the left. I think they will pass eight or ten yards
from us, which will be as good as five hundred or a thousand."
The white man slowly raised his rifle, but did not cock it. That
action would have made a clicking sound, sharp and clear in the fog,
but the quick hands were ready for instant use. He knew, as Tayoga
had said, that the chance of the warriors walking upon them in the
blinding fog was small, but if the chance came it would have to be met
with all their power and resource.
"I think they will come within about ten feet of us," continued
Tayoga, in his soft whisper. "There are two tall warriors and one
quite short. The tall ones take about three steps to the short one's
four and even then the short man is always behind. They do not walk
in single file as usual, but spread out that they may cover as much
ground as possible. Now they are coming very near and I think it best,
Black Rifle, that I talk no more for the present, but I will hold my
rifle ready as you are doing, if unlucky chance should bring them upon
The footsteps approached and passed a little to the left, but came so
near that Black Rifle almost fancied he could see the dim figures
in the fog. When they went on he drew a mighty breath and wiped the
perspiration from his face.
"We fairly grazed the edge of death," he whispered. "I'll sit up now
and you can do the rest of the listening all by yourself, Tayoga."
"The three have rejoined the main body," said the Onondaga, "and the
other parties that went out have also gone back. I think the one that
went south probably found the way in which they wanted to go, and they
will now move on, leaving us safe for the while. Yes, I can hear them
marching and the clank of the French weapons and equipment."
He listened a few minutes longer, and then announced that they were
quite beyond hearing.
"They are gone," he said, "and Great Bear, Dagaeoga, and Red Coat have
not even known that they were here."
"In which they were lucky," said Black Rifle.
The scout awoke the three, who were much astonished to learn that such
danger had passed so near them. Then they considered what was best for
them to do next.
THE FOREST BATTLE
"It is quite evident," said Robert, as they talked, "that we must
follow on the trail of St. Luc. We've settled in our minds that
he wants to keep our people busy along Lake George, while Montcalm
fortifies higher up. Then it's our duty to find out what he's doing
and stop it if we can."
All were in agreement upon the point, even Grosvenor, who did not yet
feel at home in the woods.
"But we must wait until the fog lifts," said Willet. "If we moved now
we might walk directly into the arms of the enemy, and we can afford
to wait the night through, anyhow. Tayoga, we have got to keep you
fresh, because your senses and faculties must be at their finest and
most delicate pitch for trailing, so now you go to sleep. All the rest
of you do the same, and I'll watch."
Soon four slumbered, and only the hunter was awake and on guard. But
he was enough. His sight and hearing were almost as good as those of
Tayoga himself and he too began to believe that the Onondaga's Manitou
was a shield before them. Danger had come often and very near, but
it had always passed, and, for the present, at least, he was not
apprehensive. The fog might hang on all night if it chose. They
could easily make up lost ground in the morning. Meanwhile they were
accumulating fresh strength. The four were sleeping very placidly, and
it was not likely that they would awake before dawn. Willet looked at
their relaxed figures with genuine benevolence. There were the friends
for whom he cared most, and he felt sure the young Englishman also
would become an addition. Grosvenor was full of courage and he had
already proved that he was adaptable. He would learn fast. The hunter
had every reason to be satisfied with himself and the situation.
The fog did not go away. Instead, it thickened perceptibly, rolling
up in new waves from the lake. The figures of the sleeping four were
wrapped in it as in a white blanket, but Willet knew they were there.
No air stirred, and, as he sat silent, he listened for sounds that
might come through the white veil, hearing only the occasional
stirring of some animal. Toward morning the inevitable change
occurred. A wind arose in the south, gentle puffs in the beginning,
then blowing steady and strong. The fog was torn away first at the
top, where it was thinnest, floating off in shreds and patches, and
then the whole wall of it yielded before the insistent breeze, driven
toward the north like a mist, and leaving the woods and thickets free.
Willet made a careful circle about the camp, at a range of several
hundred yards, and found no sign of hostile presence. Then he resumed
his silent vigil, and, an hour later, the sun rose in a shower of
gold. Tayoga opened his eyes and Willet awakened the others.
"The fog is gone," said the hunter, "and eyes are useful once more.
I've been around the camp and there is no immediate threat hanging
over us. We can enjoy a good breakfast on Black Rifle's cold bear, and
then we'll start on St. Luc's trail."
The path of the force that had marched past in the night was quite
plain. Even Grosvenor, with his inexperience, could tell that many
men had walked there. Most of the Frenchmen as well as the Indians
had worn moccasins, but the imprints made by the boot heels of De
Courcelles and Jumonville were clearly visible among the fainter
"How many men would you say were in this force, Tayoga?" asked Willet.
"About fifty Frenchmen and maybe as many warriors," replied the
Onondaga. "The Frenchmen stay together, but the warriors leave now
and then in little parties, and the trail also shows where some of the
parties came back. See, Red Coat, here is where two warriors returned.
The French stay with St. Luc, not because they are not good scouts and
trailers, but because the division of the work now allots this task to
"You're right when you call the French good scouts and trailers," said
Willet. "They seem to take naturally to forest life, and I know the
Indians like them better than they do any other white people. As I
often tell Robert, here, the French are enemies of whom anybody can be
proud. There isn't a braver race in the world."
"I don't underrate 'em," said Grosvenor.
"It won't be long until we reach their camp," said Tayoga. "Sharp
Sword is too great a leader to have carried his men very far in a
blind fog. I do not think he went on more than a mile. It is likely
that he stopped at the first brook, and the slope of the ground shows
that we will come soon to a stream. More of the scouts that he sent
out are returning to the main trail. They could not have gone far in
the fog and of course they found nothing."
"We'll have, then, to beware lest we run into their camp before
they've left it," said Willet.
"I don't think Sharp Sword would stay there after dawn," continued the
Onondaga. "The fact that he marched at night in the fog shows that he
is eager to get on, and I am quite sure we will find a cold camp. Here
go the footsteps of St. Luc. I know they are his, because his foot
is small and he wears moccasins. All the French soldiers have larger
feet, and the other two Frenchmen, De Courcelles and De Jumonville,
wear boots. Sharp Sword does not regard the two officers with favor.
He does not associate with them more than is necessary. He keeps
on the right side of the trail and they on the left. Here go his
moccasins and there go their boots."
"And straight ahead is the brook by the side of which we'll find their
camp," said Robert, who had caught the silver flash of water through
the green foliage.
The trail, as he had said, led to the brook where the signs of an
encampment were numerous.
"The fog was dense with them as it was with us," said Tayoga. "It is
shown by the fact that they moved about a great deal, walking over all
the ground, before they finally chose a place. If there had been no
fog or even only a little they could have chosen at once what they
wanted. Knowing that they had no enemy strong enough to be feared they
kindled a fire here by this log, more for the sake of light than for
warmth. Sharp Sword did not talk over anything with his lieutenants,
De Courcelles and Jumonville. His trail leads to the north side of the
camp, where he wrapped himself in his blanket and lay down. I imagine
that the Canadian, Dubois, who goes with him, as an attendant, watched
over him. De Courcelles and Jumonville slept on the other side of the
camp. There go their boots. All the French soldiers but Dubois lay
down to sleep, and only the warriors watched. They left at dawn, not
stopping to eat breakfast. If they had eaten, birds would be here
hunting shreds of flesh in the grass, but we do not see a single bird,
nor has any wolf or other prowling animal been drawn by the odor of
food. We were right in our surmise that Sharp Sword did not wish to
delay. Perhaps there is some force of ours that he can catch in a
trap, and he wishes to repeat his success against the Mountain Wolf."
"And it is our business to stop him," said Willet.
"If so, we must act promptly, Great Bear. When Sharp Sword makes up
his mind to strike he strikes, quick and hard. After his brief camp
here he continued his march toward the south. He threw out warriors as
scouts and skirmishers. You can see their trail, leading off into the
woods, and then his main force marched in a close and compact group.
Just beyond the camp a little while after they made the new start he
called De Courcelles and De Jumonville to him, and talked with them
a little. Here is where his moccasins stood, and here is where their
boots stood, facing him, while they received his orders. Then the
boots walked back to the end of the line and St. Luc must have spoken
to them very sharply."
"Why do you say that, Tayoga?" asked Grosvenor.
"You will notice that here where the trails of boots turn back the
stems of grass in two or three places are broken off, not crushed
down. De Courcelles and Jumonville kicked them in anger with the sharp
toes of their boots, and they could have been angry only because Sharp
Sword rebuked them."
"You must be right, Tayoga."
"It does not admit of any doubt, Red Coat. They took their places at
the rear of the marching line, and Sharp Sword went on ahead. At no
time does he permit them to walk beside him. He still regards the two
Frenchmen with much disfavor, and he will continue to do so though he
must use them in his expedition."
Tayoga spoke in his precise school English, in which he never omitted
or abbreviated a word, but he was very positive. It did not occur to
any of the others to doubt him. They had seen too many evidences of
his surpassing skill on the trail. They swung along and Grosvenor
noticed that many birds now appeared, hopping about in the path, as if
searching among the bushes and in the grass for something.
"It looks as if they were seeking food dropped by our foes," he said.
"Did we not say that Red Coat would learn and learn fast!" exclaimed
Tayoga. "He has in him the spirit of the forester, and, in time, he
will make a great trailer. I have observed the birds, Red Coat, and
your conclusion is correct. Sharp Sword's force did not pause to cook
breakfast or even to eat it at the camp, but they took it as they
walked along swiftly, dropping shreds of flesh or grains of hominy
or bones picked clean as they walked. The birds have come to feast on
their leavings. Doubtless, they have eaten all already and are merely
hunting for more that does not exist. It is strange that no prowling
wolf has come. Ah, I see the nose of one now in the thicket! Sharp
Sword and his force cannot be very far ahead, and we shall have to be
very cautious how we proceed."
"I think it likely," said Willet, "that Tandakora and his band will
join him soon. If he is intending an attack upon us somewhere he will
want to mass his full strength for it."
"Tandakora will join him before he makes his next camp," said Tayoga,
in the most positive manner. "Great Bear reasons well. I expect to see
the trail of the Ojibway chief, within an hour."
They went forward slowly, lest they walk into an ambush set by the
foe, and, before they had gone two miles, the Onondaga pointed to a
new trail coming out of the forest and merging into that of St. Luc.
"Dagaeoga knows who has walked here!" he said.
"Yes," replied Robert. "It's easy to tell where the great feet of
Tandakora have passed. I suppose he leaves bigger footprints than any
other man now in the province of New York. His warriors were with him
too when he joined St. Luc. We were right in supposing that the French
leader meditates an attack upon us somewhere."
"Tandakora talked a while with St. Luc," said Tayoga, when they
had gone a hundred yards farther. "The big moccasins and the small
moccasins stood together beside the trail. The earth was dampened much
by the fog last night and it leaves the impressions. I think he talked
longer with the Ojibway than he did with De Courcelles and Jumonville.
Tandakora is an evil man but perhaps St. Luc feels less dislike for
him than he does for the two white men. The Ojibway is only a savage
from the region of the Great Lakes, but the Frenchmen should know
that the straight way of life is the right way. You do not forget,
Dagaeoga, how De Courcelles planned with the others that time we were
in Quebec, to have you killed by the bully, Boucher!"
"I don't forget it," said Robert. "I can never forget it, nor do I
forget how Dave took my place and sent the bully to a land where he
can never more do murder. Much as I hate Tandakora, I don't blame St.
Luc for hating him less than he does De Courcelles and Jumonville."
"After the talk they went on together to the head of the line,"
said Tayoga. "Now they increase their speed. The stride of St. Luc
lengthens and as it lengthens so must those of all the rest. We are
not now in any danger of running into them, but we may incur it before
They did not abate their own speed, but continued in the path without
pause, until nearly noon. The broad trail led straight on, over hills,
across valleys and always through deep forest, cut here and there
by clear streams. The sun came out, and it was warm under the trees.
Grosvenor, unused to such severe exertion of this kind, began to
breathe with difficulty. But Tayoga called a halt in time at the edge
of a brook, and all knelt to drink.
"St. Luc's men were tired and thirsty too, Red Coat," said the
Onondaga. "All of them drank. You can see the prints of their knees
and feet as they bent over the water. It is a good brook. Manitou
has filled the wilderness with its like, that man and beast may enjoy
them. We will rest here a while, if Great Bear and Black Rifle say
"We do," said the two men together.
They remained fully an hour by the little stream. Robert himself,
used as he was to the wilderness, was glad of the rest, and Grosvenor
fairly reveled in it, feeling that his nerves and muscles were
being created anew. They also made further inroads on their bear
and Grosvenor was glad to see the birds coming for the shreds
they dropped. He had quite a kindly feeling for the little winged
"I don't want to think that everything in the woods is an enemy," he
When they resumed the pursuit they found another new trail merging
into that of the main force. It was a mixed band, red and white as the
character of the footprints showed, and numbered about twenty men.
"It is clear," said Tayoga, "that as we supposed, Sharp Sword is
planning a heavy stroke. All the detached forces are coming in, under
instructions, to join him. We know that Montcalm drew back into the
north after his great blow at Fort William Henry, and we think he is
going to fortify on Champlain or between the two lakes. Some of our
people must be along the shores of Andiatarocte and Sharp Sword does
not want them to find out too much about Montcalm."
"At any rate I think our own enterprise will culminate before night,"
said Willet. "We should overtake them by dusk if we try."
"Sharp Sword's men will make a new camp before long," said Tayoga,
"and from that they will launch their attack upon whatever point or
force of ours they intend to attack. They are not going so fast now,
and the trail is growing very warm. Sharp Sword's stride is shortening
and so, of course, is the stride of all the others. I think he now
feels that the need of hurrying is over, and he is likely to become
much more deliberate."
"And the ground is beginning to slope down toward a deep valley," said
Willet. "Water and wood will be plentiful there, and I think that's
where St. Luc will make his camp to-night."
"I think so too," said Tayoga. "And since the dusk is not far away
maybe they have lighted the fire already. Suppose, Great Bear, we
climb the hill on our right and see if our eyes can reach their
The crest of the hill was about three hundred feet above them, but
when they reached it they could see a great distance on all sides,
the lake a vast glittering bowl on their left and the mighty green
wilderness of hills, mountains and woods on their right. Directly
ahead of them was a faint dark line against the dazzling blue of the
"Smoke!" said Tayoga.
"St. Luc's smoke," said Willet.
"The very smoke of the camp for which we were looking and which we
were expecting!" said Black Rifle.
Robert's pulses beat hard, as they always did when he knew the great
French Chevalier to be near. But that emotion soon passed and in
its place came the thought of the enemy's presence. However much
he admired St. Luc he was an official foe, to be met upon the
"We must look into their camp," he said.
"So we must," said Willet, "and to do that we shall have to go much
nearer. The risk is too great now, but it will soon be night, and then
we can approach. We can see them well, then, because they'll build all
the fires they like, since they think they have nothing to fear."
Then the five waited in silence among the thick woods on the crest of
the hill, and Grosvenor prepared his mind for his first stalk. Full of
courage, ambitious, eager to excel, he resolved to acquit himself with
credit. But this was war, far different from that on the open fields
of Europe for which his early training had fitted him. One must lie
in the deep forest and depend upon the delicacy of eye and ear and an
exceeding quickness of hand. It had not been long since he would
have considered his present situation incredible, and, even now, it
required some effort to convince himself that it was true.
But there beside him were the comrades whom he liked so well, Robert,
Tayoga and the hunter whom he had known before and the strange dark
figure of Black Rifle, that man of mystery and terror. Around him was
the wilderness now in the glow of advancing twilight, and before him
he knew well lay St. Luc and the formidable French and Indian force.
Time and place were enough to try the soul of an inexperienced youth
and yet Grosvenor was not afraid. His own spirit and willingness
to dare peril made a shield for him. His comrades were only four in
number, but Grosvenor felt that, in fact, they were twenty. He did
not know what strange pass into which they would lead him, but he felt
sure they would succeed.
He saw the red rim of the sun sink behind the western crests, and then
the last twilight died into the night. Heavy darkness trailed over the
forest, but soon moon and stars sprang out, and the sky became silver,
the spire of smoke reappearing across its southern face. But Willet,
who was in reality the leader of the little party, gave no sign.
Grosvenor knew that they were waiting for the majority of St.
Luc's force to go to sleep, leaving only the sentinels before they
approached, but it was hard to sit there so long. His nerves were on
edge and his muscles ached, but his spirit put a powerful rein over
the flesh and he said never a word, until far in the night Willet gave
the order to advance.
"Be careful, lads," he said, "and now is your chance, Lieutenant, to
show how well you can keep up the start you've made as a trailer. That
smoke over there which merges from several camp fires is our beacon."
They crept through the thickets. Grosvenor saw the dark gray tower
against the sky grow larger and larger, and at last a luminous glow
that came from the camp fires, rose under the horizon.
"To the edge of this last hill," whispered Willet, "and I think we can
They redoubled their care as they advanced, and then, thrusting their
heads through the bushes, looked down into the little valley in which
the camp of St. Luc was pitched.
Several fires were burning, and Robert distinctly saw the French
leader standing before one of them, not in forest green, but in his
splendid officer's uniform of white and silver. A gallant and romantic
figure he looked, outlined by the blaze, young, lithe and strong.
Again the heart of the lad throbbed, and he was drawn powerfully
toward St. Luc. What was it that caused this feeling and why had the
Chevalier on more than one occasion and at risk shown himself to be
Not as many in the camp as they had expected had yet gone to sleep.
Tandakora, somber and gigantic, gnawed the flesh from the big bone of
a deer and then, throwing the bone into the fire, approached St. Luc.
Robert saw them talking and presently De Courcelles and Jumonville