Part 3 out of 5
came also. The four talked a little while and now and then the
Chevalier pointed toward the south.
"That is where they intend their blow to fall," whispered Tayoga.
"Beyond a doubt, lad," the hunter whispered back, "but we may be able
to anticipate 'em."
The wild scene, the like of which he had never looked upon before,
cast a strange spell over Grosvenor. He too recognized, even at the
distance, the power of St. Luc's personality, and Tandakora, looming,
immense, in the firelight, was like some monster out of an earlier,
primordial world. Warriors and soldiers asleep were scattered before
the fires, and, at the edge of the forest, walked the sentinels. It
was an alert and formidable camp, and the young Englishman felt that
he and his comrades were grazing the extreme edge of danger.
De Courcelles and Jumonville presently left St. Luc and went to
another fire, where they lay down and fell asleep, their military
cloaks spread over them. Then the short, dark Canadian Dubois appeared
and St. Luc spoke to him also. Dubois bowed respectfully and brought a
blanket, which he spread before the fire. St. Luc lay down on it, and
he too was soon asleep.
"It's time for us to go," whispered Willet, "but I'd feel safer
if Tandakora also went to sleep. That savage is likely to send out
"Tandakora does not mean to sleep to-night," said Tayoga. "He suspects
that we are somewhere near and he is troubled. If he were not uneasy
he would take his rest, which is what a chief always does when the
opportunity presents itself. But he has thrown his second bone into
the fire, and he walks about, looking now at the sleepers and now at
the forest. I think he will soon send two or three runners toward the
south. See, he is speaking to them now, and two are starting."
Two Indians left the camp and glided silently into the woods. Then
Tandakora stopped his restless pacing, and lay down on the ground. His
face was in the shadow, but he seemed to be asleep.
The four on the hill crept away as cautiously as they had come,
and they agreed that they would make a curve around St. Luc's camp,
traveling all night toward the south. Willet was anxious about the
two warriors whom Tandakora had sent out, and he felt that they might
possibly encounter them on the way. He led his little group first
toward the lake and then bore south, being quite sure that before noon
the next day they would reach a British or American detachment of some
kind. Everything indicated such proximity and they were agreed that
they would find their friends on the shores of the lake. It was not
likely that either colonials or regulars would leave the open water
and go far into woods which furnished so many perils.
They were refreshed by sleep and plenty of food and they made good
time. They walked in single file, Willet leading with Tayoga last and
Grosvenor in front of him. The young Englishman's ambition, encouraged
by success, was rising higher than ever, and he was resolved that this
night trail which he was treading should be a good one, so far as he
was concerned. Robert walked in front of him and he was careful to
step exactly where young Lennox did, knowing that if he did so he
would break no sticks and make no undue noise. The test was severe,
but he succeeded. By and by his breath grew short once more.
Nevertheless he was glad when Willet halted, and asked Tayoga if he
heard any unusual sound in the forest. Before replying the Onondaga
lay down and put his ear to the ground.
"I do hear a sound which is not that of the trees nor of an animal,"
he replied. "It is made by men walking, and I think they are the two
warriors whom Tandakora sent out from the camp."
"And if you can hear them walking they must be very near. That is
"It is true, Great Bear. These two warriors are sent south to spy upon
whatever force of ours St. Luc means to attack, and it may be that
they will strike our trail, although they are not looking for it.
There is light enough now to show our traces to good trailers."
"Aye, Tayoga, you speak truly. Lie down, lads, we must not show
ourselves. It's possible that they'll pass on and not dream of our
"It is in the hands of Manitou," said the Onondaga gravely. "They are
still walking toward the south at an even pace, which shows that they
have seen nothing. I can hear their footfalls, only a whisper against
the earth, but unmistakable. Now, they are just behind us, and
their course is the same as ours. Ah, the footfalls cease! They have
stopped. They have seen our trail, Great Bear. Manitou has given his
decree against us, and who are we to complain? He has done so much for
us that now he would put us to the test, and see whether we are worthy
of his favor. We shall have to fight the messengers."
"It should be easy enough for us who are five to beat two warriors,"
"We can surely beat two," said Tayoga, "but they will try to hold us
while they call help. It will not be long before you hear the cry of a
night bird, doubtless an owl."
"Have they begun to move again?" asked Robert.
"I cannot hear a sound. Perhaps they are stirring, but they creep so
cautiously that they make no noise at all. It would be their object
to make their own position uncertain and then we would go on at great
peril from their bullets. It will be best for us to stay a while where
Tayoga's words were accepted at once as wise by the others. It was
impossible to tell where the two warriors now lay, and, if they
undertook to go on, their figures would be disclosed at once by the
brilliant moonshine. So they flattened themselves against the ground
in the shadow of the bushes and waited patiently. The time seemed to
Grosvenor to be forever, but he thrilled with the belief in coming
combat. He still felt that he was in the best of all company for
forest and midnight battle, and he did not fear the issue.
Willet was hopeful that the skies would darken, but they did not do
so. The persistent moon and a host of stars continued to shine down,
flooding the forest with light, and he knew that if any one of them
stood up a bullet would be his instant welcome. At last came the
cry of the night bird, the note of the owl, as Tayoga had predicted,
rising from a point to their right and somewhat behind them, but too
far away for rifle shot. It was a singular note, wild, desolate and
full of menace.
"There may have been another band of warriors in this direction,"
whispered Tayoga, "perhaps a group of hunters who had not yet returned
to St. Luc, and he is calling to them."
"No earthly doubt of it," said Black Rifle. "Can you hear the reply,
"Now I hear it, though it is very faint. It is from the south and the
warriors will soon be here. We shall have a band to fight."
"Then we'd better bear off toward the west," said Willet. "Come, lads,
we have to creep for it."
They made their way very slowly on hands and knees away from the
lake, Willet leading and Tayoga bringing up the rear. It was hard
and painful work for Grosvenor, but again he succeeded in advancing
without noise, and he began to think they would elude the vigilance of
the savage scouts, when a sibilant whisper from Willet warned them to
fall flat again. His command was just in time as a rifle cracked in
the bushes ahead of them, and Grosvenor distinctly heard the bullet as
it hissed over their heads. Willet threw his rifle to his shoulder but
quickly took it down again. The Indian who had fired was gone and a
little puff of smoke rising above the bushes told where he had been.
Then the five crept away toward the right and drew into a slight
hollow, rimmed around with bushes, where they lay hugging the earth.
"Our course took us almost directly into the path of that fellow,"
said Willet, "and of course he saw us. I'm sorry I didn't get a shot
"Do not worry, Great Bear," said Tayoga. "You will find plenty of use
for your bullets. The band has come. Hark to the war whoop!"
The long, piercing yell, so full of menace and most sinister in its
dying note, swelled through the forest. Grosvenor, despite his courage
and confidence in his comrades, shivered. He had heard that same yell
many a time, when Braddock's army was cut down in the deep forest by
an invisible foe. He could never forget its import. But he grasped
his rifle firmly, and strove to see the enemy, who, he knew, was
approaching. His four comrades lay in silence, but the muzzle of every
weapon was thrust forward.
"It's fortunate we found this little hollow," said Willet. "It will
give us shelter for a while."
"And we'll need it," said Black Rifle. "They know where we are, of
course, but they'll take their time about attacking."
"Keep your heads down, lads," said Willet. "Don't be too eager to see.
If they're too far away for us to shoot at we are too far away for
Five minutes later and a flash came from a thicket on their left.
Willet pulled trigger at the flash and a death cry came back.
"That's one out of the way," said Black Rifle calmly, "and they're mad
clean through. Hear 'em yell!"
The fierce war whoop died in many echoes, and bullets spattered the
rocks about them. The five made no further reply as yet, but the
forest battle was now on.
THE BOAT BUILDERS
Robert and Grosvenor lay, side by side, propped up partly on their
elbows, their rifles thrust well forward, and watching toward the
north. They were not able to see anything, save the dark outline of
the forest, and a little puff of smoke rising where an Indian had
fired. The wilderness itself was absolutely still but Robert's vivid
imagination as usual peopled it thickly. Although his eye did not
reach any human figure his mind pictured them everywhere, waiting
patiently for a chance at his comrades and himself. He, more than
any other of the five, realized the full extent of the danger. His
extraordinary fancy pictured to him every possibility, and so his
courage was all the greater, because he had the strength to face them
with a tranquil mind.
A flash in the thicket and a bullet struck on a rock near Robert,
glanced off and buried itself in a tree beyond them. He shivered a
little. Fancy pictured the bullet not as missing, but as hitting him.
Then he steadied himself, and was as ready as Willet or Black Rifle
for whatever might come.
"I think that shot was fired by a sharpshooter who has crept forward
ahead of the others," whispered the hunter. "He's lying behind that
low bush to the west."
"I'm of your mind about it," said Black Rifle. "As soon as he reloads
he'll chance another shot at where he thinks we're lying, and that
will be his last."
Robert heard the low words, and he shivered again a little. He could
never grow used to the taking of human life, even in dire necessity.
He knew that Willet had spoken the truth, and that the red
sharpshooter would fire only one more shot. Soon he had the proof. The
second flash came from the same point. Again the bullet glanced among
the rocks, but, before the report of the rifle died, another answered.
It was that of the hunter and he found his mark. A cry came from the
bush, followed by a fierce yell of anger from those farther back, and
then the sinister stillness settled again over the wilderness.
"The Indian has gone!" whispered Grosvenor in an awed tone to Robert.
"Yes, Dave fired at the flash, and he never misses. The cry showed it.
But it will make the warriors all the more eager to take us."
The silence lasted about a quarter of an hour, and then fire was
opened upon them from three sides, bullets singing over their heads,
or spattering upon the rocks.
"Lie flat, lads," commanded Willet. "This is random lead, and if we
keep close to the earth 'twill all pass us by. The warriors are seldom
But one of the bullets, glancing from a rock, nipped Black Rifle in
the shoulder. It was a very slight wound, though, and its only effect
was to make him more eager to reach his enemy. In a few minutes his
chance came as he caught a glimpse of a dusky but incautious figure
among the trees, and, quick as a flash, drew trigger on it. There was
no cry, but he saw the shadowy figure go down, not to rise again, and
the fierce soul of Black Rifle was satisfied.
Scattered shots were fired, after another silence, and a bullet grazed
the back of Grosvenor's hand, drawing a drop or two of blood. It stung
for a few moments, but, on the whole, he was proud of the little hurt.
It was a badge of honor, and made him truly a member of this great
forest band. It also stimulated his zeal, and he became eager for a
shot of his own. He watched intently and when the warriors fired again
he sent his bullet at the flash, as he had seen Willet and Black Rifle
do. He did not know whether he had hit anything, but he hoped. Tayoga,
who fired for the first time presently brought down a warrior, and
Robert wounded another. But Willet and Black Rifle talked together in
whispers and they were anxious.
"They won't try to rush us so long as we keep among the rocks," said
the hunter. "They know now that we're good shots, but they'll hold us
here until day when their main force will come up and then we'll be
"It seems pretty certain that's their plan now," said the scout, "and
between you and me, Dave, we've got to get away from here somehow.
The moon has faded a bit, and that will help us a little. What do you
"We did not escape other traps to remain here in this," replied the
Onondaga. "We must take the chance and go."
"In half an hour, perhaps. When the clouds floating up there get well
before the moon."
Robert heard them distinctly and he glanced at the moon which was
steadily growing paler, while the shadows were deepening over the
forest. Yet it was obvious that it would not become very dark, and the
half hour of which Willet had spoken would probably measure the limit
of the increase.
"Can you hear them moving in the bush, Tayoga?" asked Willet.
The Onondaga put his ear to the ground.
"Only a light sound toward the north reaches me," he replied.
"Warriors there seem to be moving about. It may be that they have
received more help. I think, Great Bear, that the time for us to go,
if we go at all, is coming fast."
Willet decided in a few minutes that it would not be any darker than
it was then; and, choosing a southern direction, he crept from the
rocks, the others following him in line, Tayoga as usual bringing up
the rear. They made a hundred yards in silence, and, then, at a
low signal from the hunter, they sank down, almost flat, every one
listening for a sound from the besiegers. Only Tayoga was able to hear
faint noises to right and left.
"They do not know yet that we have left the rocks," he whispered, "and
they are still watching that point. Manitou may carry us in safety
They were about to resume their painful creeping, when a half dozen
rifles on their right flashed, and they dropped down again. But the
bullets did not come their way, instead they rang among the rocks
which they had just left. Tayoga laughed softly.
"They think we are still there," he whispered, "and they send much
lead against the inoffensive stone. The more the better for us."
"I'm devoutly glad the rocks catch what is intended for us," said
Grosvenor, feeling intense relief. "How long do you think it will be,
Tayoga, before I can stand up and walk like a man again?"
"No one can answer that question," replied the Onondaga. "But
remember, Red Coat, that you are getting splendid practice in the
art of going silently along a trail on a dark night. It is what every
forest runner must learn."
Grosvenor in the dusk could not see the twinkle in Tayoga's eye,
but, drawing upon fresh founts of courage and resolution, he settled
himself anew to his task. His elbows and knees ached and it was
difficult to carry his rifle as he crawled along, but his ambition was
as high as ever, and he would not complain. The lone hoot of an owl
came from the point on the right, where one of the Indian groups
lay, and it was promptly answered by a like sound from the left where
another group was hidden.
"I think they're beginning to suspect that we may have slipped away,"
said Willet, "and they're talking to one another about it. Now they'll
stalk the rocks to see, but that will take time, which we can use
handily. Come on, lads, we'll go as fast as possible."
Curving around a small hill, Willet rose to his feet and the others,
with intense relief, did likewise. Robert's and Grosvenor's joints
were young and elastic, and the stiffness quickly left them, but
both had done enough creeping and crawling for one night. All stood
listening for a minute or two. They heard no more shots fired at the
rocks, but the two owls began to call again to each other.
"Do you understand them, Tayoga?" asked Willet.
"They talk the Huron language," replied the Onondaga, in his precise
fashion, "that is, their signals are those used by the Hurons. They
are asking each other what has happened at the rocks, and neither can
tell. Their expression is that of doubt, impatience and worry. They
say to each other: 'Those whom we believed we held in a trap may have
broken out of it. It will take time to see and also much peril if they
are still in the trap, because they can use their rifles well.' We
annoy them much, Great Bear."
The big hunter chuckled.
"I don't mind that," he said. "Their worries are not my worries. Ah,
there they go again! What are they saying now, Tayoga?"
"Their tone grows more anxious. You can tell what they feel by the
expression of the owl. Their fear that we may have stolen out of the
trap is increasing, but they cannot know unless they go and see, and
then they may be creeping into the muzzles of our rifles. It is a
difficult problem that we have given them to solve, Great Bear."
"We'll leave it for 'em, lads. Now that we're on our feet we'll go at
They walked very rapidly, but they stopped when they heard once more
the faint cries of the owls, now almost lost in the distance. Tayoga
"They are cries of anger," he said. "They have discovered that we are
not in the rocks, and now they will look around for our trail, which
will be hard to find in the darkness of the night."
"And the thing for us to do is to keep on toward the south as hard as
"So it would be, Great Bear, but others are coming up from the south,
and we would go directly into their arms."
"What do you mean, Tayoga?"
"A number of men are advancing, and I think they are warriors."
"Then we have merely slipped out of one trap to fall into another."
"It is possible, Great Bear. It is also possible that those who come
are friends. Let me put my ear to the earth, which is the bringer of
sound. It is clear to me that those who walk toward us are warriors.
White men would not tread so lightly. I do not think, Great Bear,
that any force of the Indians who are allied with the French would be
coming up from the south, and the chances are that these be friends."
He sent forth the call of a bird, a beautiful, clear note, and it was
answered instantly with a note as clear and as beautiful.
"They are friends!" said Tayoga joyfully. "These be the Ganeagaono!"
"Ganeagaono?" exclaimed Grosvenor.
"Mohawks," explained Robert. "The Keepers of the Eastern Gate. The
leading warriors of the Six Nations and friends of ours. We are, in
truth, in luck."
Ten dusky figures came forward to meet them, and with great joy Robert
recognized in the leader the fierce young Mohawk chief, Daganoweda,
who once before had come to their help in a crisis. But it was Tayoga
who welcomed him first.
"Daganoweda, of the clan of the Turtle, of the nation, Ganeagaono,
of the great League of the Hodenosaunee, the sight of you is very
pleasant to our eyes," he said.
"Tayoga, of the clan of the Bear, of the Nation, Onondaga, of the
great League of the Hodenosaunee, you are my brother and we are well
met," the chief rejoined.
They saluted each other and then Daganoweda greeted the others, all
of whom were known to him of old save Grosvenor, but who was presented
duly in the ceremonious style loved by the Iroquois.
"We are pursued by men of Tandakora," said Willet. "They are not far
away now. We do not wish to fight them because we would hasten below
with a warning."
The black eyes of the fierce Mohawk flashed.
"Will the Great Bear give us his battle?" he said.
He asked for it as if for a favor.
"We usually fight our own quarrels through," replied Willet, "but as
I said, duty calls us from here in haste. Then, since you wish it,
Daganoweda, we pass the fight to you. But have you enough men?"
"Ten Mohawks are enough to meet any wandering band of our enemies that
may be in the woods," replied the young chief, proudly. "Let Great
Bear and his friends go in peace. This fight is ours."
Despite the dusk, Robert saw Daganoweda's eyes glisten. He thoroughly
understood the fierce soul of the young Mohawk chief, who would not
let such a brilliant opportunity for battle pass him.
"Then farewell, Daganoweda," said Willet. "You have been a friend at
the right moment."
He led again in the flight toward the south and the five saw the chief
and his warriors passing the other way sink into the dusk. Soon they
heard shots behind them and they knew that the Mohawks were engaged
in battle with the Hurons and their friends. They sped on for a long
time, and when they stopped they were close to the shores of the lake,
the water showing dimly through the trees.
"I think we may rest easy for a while now," said Willet. "I'm certain
not one of those warriors was able to get by the Mohawks, and it's
not likely that an enemy is within several miles of us. Can you hear
"Nothing," replied the Onondaga. "Tododaho, on his star, tells me that
we have this part of the forest to ourselves."
"That being so, we'll stay here a long time. Lads, you might unroll
your blankets and make the best of things."
Grosvenor's blanket had not been taken from him when he was a
prisoner, and it was still strapped on his back. He and Robert found
the rest most welcome and they were not slow in wrapping the blankets
around their bodies and making themselves comfortable. Without willing
it, they fell asleep, but were awakened shortly after dawn.
"See!" said Willet, pointing toward the south.
A filmy trail of blue smoke rose across the clear, blue sky.
"That, whatever it is," said the hunter, "is what St. Luc is advancing
against, but in spite of all the risks we've run we'll be there in
time to give warning."
Robert looked with the deepest interest at the smoke, which was a long
way off, but it seemed to rise from the lake's edge and he thought
it must be a British or American post. It was at a most exposed and
dangerous point, but his heart thrilled at Willet's words. Yes, in
spite of every danger that had been thrown across their path, they
would be able to carry word in time.
"We'll be there in half an hour, and we'll know what's going forward,"
"We'll know before then," said Grosvenor confidently. "Our marvelous
Indian friend here will tell us when we're half way."
Tayoga smiled, but said nothing, and they started again, Willet, as
usual, leading, and the Onondaga bringing up the rear. The spire of
smoke thickened and darkened, and, to Robert and Grosvenor, it seemed
most friendly and alluring. It appeared to rise from a little point of
land thrust into the lake but they could not yet see its base, owing
to an intervening hill. Just before they reached the crest of the hill
"Wait a moment, Great Bear. I think I hear a sound from the place
where the smoke rises, and we may be able to tell what it means."
They stopped promptly, and the Onondaga put his ear to the earth.
"I hear the sounds very distinctly now," he said. "They are of a kind
not often occurring on these shores."
"What are they?" asked Robert eagerly.
"They are made by axes biting into wood. Many men are cutting down
"They're building a fort, and they're in a hurry about it or they
would not be felling trees so early in the morning."
"Your reasoning about the hurry is good, Dagaeoga. The white man will
not go into the forest with his ax at daybreak, unless the need of
haste is great, but it is not a fort they build. Mingled with the fall
of the axes I hear another note. It is a humming and a buzzing. It is
heard in these forests much less often than the thud of the ax. Ah!
I was in doubt at first, but I know it now! It is the sound made by a
great saw as it eats into the wood."
"A saw mill, Tayoga!"
"Yes, Dagaeoga, that is what it is, and now mind will tell us why it
is here. The logs that the axes cut down are sawed in the mill. The
saw would not be needed if the logs were to be used for building a
fort. The ax would do it all. The logs are being turned into planks
"Which shows that they're being used for some purpose requiring much
finer finish than the mere building of a fort."
"Now the mind of Dagaeoga is working well. Great Bear and I have been
on the point where the new saw mill stands."
"And the timber there is fine," interrupted Willet.
"Just the kind that white men use when they build long boats for
traveling on the lakes, boats that will carry many men and armband
supplies. We know that a great army of red coats is advancing. It
expects to come up George and then probably to Champlain to meet
Montcalm and to invade Canada. It is an army that will need hundreds
of boats for such a purpose, and they must be built."
"And they're building some of 'em right here on this point, before
us!" exclaimed Robert.
"It is so," he said precisely. "There cannot be any doubt of it. A saw
mill could not be here for any other purpose. But if we had not come
it would be destroyed or captured before night by St. Luc."
"Come on, lads, and we'll soon be among 'em," said Willet.
From the crest of a hill they looked down upon a scene of great
activity. The sun was scarcely risen but more than fifty men were at
work on the forest with axes, and, at the very edge of the water, a
saw mill was in active operation. Along the shore, where as many more
toiled, were boats finished and others in all stages of progress.
Soldiers in uniform, rifles on shoulder, walked about.
It was a pleasant sight, refreshing to the eyes of Robert and
Grosvenor. Here were many men of their own race, and here were many
activities, telling of great energy in the war. After so much peril
in the forest they would be glad to be in the open and with their own
"Look, Robert," said Willet, "don't you know them?"
"Know whom?" asked young Lennox.
"The officers of this camp. The lads in the brave uniforms. If my eyes
make no mistake, and they don't make any, the fine, tall young fellow
standing at the edge of the water is our Philadelphia friend, Captain
"Beyond a doubt it is, Dave, and right glad am I to see him, and there
too is Wilton, the fighting Quaker, and Carson also. Why this is to
be, in truth, a reunion!"
Willet put his hands to his mouth trumpet fashion, and uttered a long,
piercing shout. Then the five advanced and marched into the camp
of their friends, where they received a welcome, amazed but full of
warmth, Grosvenor, too, being made to feel at home.
"Have you dropped from the skies?" asked Colden.
"Scarcely that," replied Robert, laughing with pleasure, "but we've
been shot out of the forest, and very glad we are to be here. We've
come to tell you also that we've been pursued by a strong French and
Indian force, led by St. Luc himself, and that it will be upon you
"And I, trained in my boyhood not to fight, will have to fight again,"
"I know that none will do it better," said Robert.
"But we will give you breakfast," said Colden, "and while you are
eating I will put the camp in a posture of defense. We are here
building boats to be used by the army in its advance against Montcalm,
and we didn't know that the enemy in force was south of Crown Point."
There were several sheds and in one of these a most abundant breakfast
was served to them, including coffee and white bread, neither of which
they had seen in a long time, and which were most welcome. While they
ate, they saw the young Pennsylvania officers arranging their forces
with skill and rapidity.
"They've learned a lot since we were with 'em that time at Fort
Refuge," said Robert.
"They've had to learn," said Willet. "The forests in these times are a
hard teacher, but they're bright and good boys, just the same. Nobody
would learn faster."
"Even as Red Coat has learned to be a scout and to know the trail,"
said Tayoga, "but he is not sorry to come among white men and to have
good food once more."
"No, I'm not," said Grosvenor emphatically. "My ambition to be a fine
trailer was high last night, and it's still with me, but I had enough
of creeping and crawling to last me a long time, and if we have to
fight again I think I can fight better standing up."
"We will have to fight again. Be sure of that," said Tayoga
Before breakfast was over Colden came to them, and Robert told,
in detail and with great vividness, all they had seen. The young
Philadelphia captain's face became very grave.
"It was you who warned us before Fort Refuge," he said, "and now you
come again. You helped us to success then, and you'll help us now.
Even if your coming does bring news of danger I'll consider it a good
"We'll be proud to stand in line with you once more," said Robert,
although he felt that, with St. Luc in command, the attack of the
French and Indians would be formidable. Colden would have available
for battle between one hundred and fifty and two hundred men, about
fifty of whom were soldiers. But all the others, the boat builders
and the rest, were capable fighters too. They could certainly make a
powerful resistance even to the daring and skillful French Chevalier,
and, with a certain number of boats finished, the lake also was open
to them, in case retreat became necessary. Luckily, too, St. Luc had
no cannon. Courageous Captain Colden considered their situation far
from desperate. There was hope too that Daganoweda and his Mohawks
might come, not only those he had with him in the night battle, but
others as well. The Mohawks, loving a combat, would not let go by such
a one as that now threatening.
Willet rose from his breakfast and surveyed the position. There were
no real buildings, only sheds, the largest covering the saw mill, and
the others used for the protection of tools and of the men, when they
slept, against the weather. All the trees for a distance well beyond
rifle shot had been cut away for timber, a lucky fact, as the hostile
Indians could not now use them for ambush. Stout arms were throwing
the fallen trees into a long line of breastworks, and the place
already began to look like a fortified point. Willet's eyes glistened.
"Although St. Luc beat us when we were with Rogers," he said, "I
think we'll hold him here. We've certain advantages that will help us
"Thanks to you and your comrades for bringing us such timely warning,"
repeated Colden. "I'll confess that I did not suspect any enemy was
nearer than Champlain, and neither we nor our superiors at Albany have
feared an attack here."
"It's sure to come," said Willet.
Grosvenor, refreshed and reinvigorated, was taking an active share
in the preparations. He had smoothed and brushed his uniform with
scrupulous care, and despite the great hardships through which he
had passed, looked once more neat and trim. He had returned to his
incarnation as a trim young British officer. Adaptable and liking the
Americans, equipped moreover with a certain experience of the border,
he was at once on the best of terms with Colden, Wilton, Carson and
the others, and was, in truth, one of them. Wilton found him a belt
and a small sword, which he buckled on, and which as a badge of office
gave him a certain moral strength, making him in fact a thoroughly
happy man that morning.
Black Rifle, after food, had slid quietly into the forest to spy out
the enemy. Robert, flexible, vivid, his imagination always alive, was
with Tayoga, helping him with the breastworks, and keeping an eye at
the same time on the forest. The lake behind him stretched away, vast,
peaceful and beautiful, but he seldom looked at it now. He did not
anticipate danger that way. It would come through the woods.
A gradual slope, hemmed in on either side by high cliffs and only a
few hundred yards wide, led to the point on which the saw mill stood.
St. Luc must approach by the slope. The cliffs were impossible, and,
the longer he looked at it, the better Robert liked the position.
Daring men such as Colden had could hold it against a much larger
force. Let St. Luc come, he would find a brave and ready defense.
"Dagaeoga thinks we can hold the saw mill even against Sharp Sword,"
"How do you know I think it?"
"Because it is printed on Dagaeoga's face. When Dagaeoga's fancy is
alive, which is nearly all the time, his eyes speak and they tell one
very clearly what he thinks. His eyes say that the slope is narrow;
St. Luc can come that way only; we have here more than one hundred and
fifty good rifles; and in face of the storm of lead that we can send
against him he cannot rush us. That is what the eyes and face of
"You're right, Tayoga, that is what my brain thinks, though I didn't
know it was printed on my face. But it's all the easier for you to
read it, because you're probably thinking the same that I do."
"I do, Dagaeoga. Since St. Luc is not able to effect a surprise, he
has a great task before him, though he will persist in it, because he
wants to destroy our force and our boats also."
But the morning passed without any demonstration from the forest.
Many of the boat builders began to believe it was a false alarm, and
murmured at the continuous and hard labor on the breastworks, but
Colden, knowing that Willet and his friends were to be trusted
implicitly, held them to their tasks. The hunter also looked into the
question of food supply and found it ample. They had brought much food
with them from Albany and the forest had furnished much more. There
was no occasion for alarm on that point, since the siege could not be
a long one. Noon came and no sign of the enemy. Willet began to think
the attack would be postponed until night, as St. Luc doubtless had
learned already that he could not carry the place by surprise. But he
relied most upon the word of Black Rifle who had not yet returned
from the forest. The dark scout came back about the middle of the
afternoon, and he told Colden and Willet that he had seen nothing
of Daganoweda and his Mohawks, though there were indications in the
forest that they had defeated the Hurons the night before. But St. Luc
Was at hand, not much more than a mile away, where he had pitched a
camp. More French and Canadians had arrived and he now led a force of
at least five hundred men, the great majority of whom were warriors.
He thought an attack would be made after dark, but in what form it was
impossible to say.
"Which means," said Colden, "that I must have sentinels who will never
relax their vigilance."
"Particularly as the night is going to be dark," said Willet. "There's
a haze over the lake now, and the sun will set in a mist."
The twilight was heavy as he had predicted, and it was soon black on
the mountains and the lake. But within the camp fires were burning,
throwing a cheerful light, and many guards were posted. Crude but
effective fortifications stretched all along the forest side of the
camp, and Willet, Black Rifle and Tayoga were among the stumps in
front of them. No enemy would be able to hide there even in the night.
Wagons in which they had brought their supplies were drawn up in
a circle, and would form an inner line of defense. Robert was with
Grosvenor and Wilton near the center of the camp.
"Knowing the French and Indians as I now do," said Wilton, "I never
doubt for an instant that an attack will come before morning. My
experience at Fort Refuge is sufficient indication. It is strange that
I, who was reared not to believe in fighting, should now be compelled
to do it all the time."
"And while my profession is fighting," said Grosvenor, "I always
expected to fight in the open fields of Europe and now I'm learning my
trade in the deep forests of North America, where it's quite another
sort of business. How long do you think it will be, Lennox, before we
hear the owls hoot and the wolves bark?"
"We've had a lot of such signals in the last few days," he replied,
"but in this country battles are not always opened with 'em. Still, I
dare say we'll hear 'em."
Out of the forest in front of them came a long, lonely hoot.
"Speak of the owl and you hear his voice," said Wilton.
"If Tayoga were here he could tell us exactly what that owl, who is
no owl but an Indian, meant," said Grosvenor, "also the tribe of the
Indian, his age, his complexion, what he had for supper, how he is
feeling and whether he is married or single. Oh, I assure you,
Wilton, you needn't smile! I've seen the Onondaga do things much more
marvelous. Nothing short of trailing a bird through the air would
really test his wilderness powers."
"I wasn't smiling at your belief, Grosvenor," said the young Quaker,
"I was merely smiling at your earnestness. When you tell me anything
about Tayoga's skill on the trail I shall believe it, I don't care
what it is. I saw him do marvelous things when we were at Fort
The owl ceased its melancholy cry, and no other sound came from the
forest, while the camp waited, with as much patience as it could
muster, for the attack.
THE MASKED ATTACK
Light clouds floated before the moon, and the surface of the lake
was ruffled by a southern wind. As no attack was anticipated from the
south, the guard in that quarter was comparatively small, but it was
composed, nevertheless, of good men, the boat builders mostly, but all
experienced with the rifle and under the direct command of Carson. But
the main force was always kept facing the forest, and, there, behind
the logs, Colden stood with the four--Black Rifle again being outside.
The hooting of the owls had not been repeated and the long wait had
become hard upon the nerves of the young Philadelphia captain.
"Do you feel sure that they will attack to-night?" he asked Willet.
"Perhaps St. Luc, seeing the strength of our position, will draw off
or send to Montcalm for cannon, which doubtless would take a week."
The hunter shook his head.
"St. Luc will not go away," he said, "nor will he send for cannon,
which would take too long. He will not use his strength alone, he will
depend also upon wile and stratagem, against which we must guard every
minute. I think I'll take my own men and go outside. We can be of more
"I suppose you're right, but don't walk into danger. I depend a lot on
Willet climbed over the logs. Tayoga, Robert and Grosvenor followed.
"Red Coat buckled on a sword, and I did not think he would go on a
trail again," said Tayoga.
"One instance in which you didn't read my mind right," rejoined the
Englishman. "I know that swords don't belong on the trail, but this is
only a little blade, and you fellows can't leave me behind."
"I did read your mind right," said Tayoga, laughing softly. "I merely
spoke of your sword to see what you would say. I knew all the time
that you would come with us."
The stumps, where the forest had been cut away, stretched for a
distance of several hundred yards up the slope, and, a little distance
from the breastwork, the dark shadow of Black Rifle came forward to
"Nothing yet?" asked the hunter.
"Nothing so far. Three or four good men are with me among the stumps,
but not a warrior has yet appeared. I suppose they know we'll be on
watch here, and it's not worth while taking so great a risk."
They advanced to the far edge of the stump region and crouched there.
The night was now quite dark, the moon almost hidden, the stars but
few, and the forest a solid black line before them.
"Why can't Tayoga use his ears?" said Grosvenor. "He'll hear them,
though a mile away."
"A little farther on and he will," replied Willet, "but we, in our
turn, don't dare to go deep into the forest."
A hundred yards more and the Onondaga put ear to earth, but it was a
long time before he announced anything.
"I hear footsteps fairly near to us," he said at last, "and I think
they are those of warriors. They would be more cautious, but they do
not believe we are outside the line of logs. Yes, they are warriors,
all warriors, there is no jingle of metal such as the French have
on their coats or belts, and they are going to take a look at our
position. They are about to pass now to our right. I also hear
steps, but farther away, on our left, and I think they are those of
"Likely De Courcelles and Jumonville wanting also to look us over,"
"There is another and larger force coming directly toward us,"
continued the Onondaga, "and I think it includes both French and
warriors. This may be the attack and perhaps it would be better for us
to fall back."
They withdrew a little, but remained among the stumps, though hidden
carefully. Robert himself could now hear the advance of the large
force in front of them, and he wondered what could be St. Luc's plan
of battle. Surely he would not try to take the sawmill by storm in
face of so many deadly rifles!
Black Rifle suddenly left the others and crept toward the right.
Robert's eyes followed him, and his mind was held by a curious sort of
fascination. He knew that the scout had heard something and he almost
divined what was about to occur. Black Rifle stopped a moment or two
at a stump, and then curved swiftly about it. A dusky figure sprang
up, but the war cry was choked in the throat of the Huron, and then
the knife, wielded by a powerful arm, flashed. Robert quickly turned
his eyes away, because he did not wish to see the fall of the blade,
and he knew that the end was certain. Black Rifle came back in a few
moments. His dark eyes glittered, but he had wiped the knife, and it
was in his belt again.
"His comrades will find him in a few minutes," said Willet, "and we'd
better not linger here."
"They went back toward the sawmill and presently they heard a terrible
cry of rage, a cry given for the fallen warrior.
"I don't think I shall ever grow used to such yells," said Grosvenor,
"I've never grown used to 'em yet," said Robert.
The shout was followed by a half dozen shots, and a bullet or two
whistled overhead, but it was clear that all of them had been fired
at random. The warriors, aware that the chance of surprise had passed,
were venting their wrath in noise. Willet suddenly raised his own
rifle and pulled the trigger. Another dusky figure sprang up and then
"They were coming too close," he said. "That'll be a warning. Now
back, lads, to the breastwork!"
As they retreated the shots and yells increased, the forest ringing
with the whoops, while bullets pattered on the stumps. Both Grosvenor
and Robert were glad when they were inside the logs once more, and
Colden was glad to see them.
"For all I knew you had fallen," he said, "and I can't spare you."
"We left our mark on 'em," said the saturnine Black Rifle. "They know
we're waiting for 'em."
The demonstration increased in volume, the whole forest ringing with
the fierce whoops. Stout nerves even had good excuse for being shaken,
and Colden paled a little, but his soul was high.
"Sound and fury but no attack," he said.
Willet looked at him approvingly.
"You've become a true forest leader, Captain Colden," he said. "You've
learned to tell the real rush from the pretended one. They won't try
anything yet a while, but they're madder than hornets, and they're
sure to move on us later. You just watch."
Yet Colden, Wilton and the others were compelled to argue with the
men, especially with the boat builders and wood choppers. Stern
military discipline was unknown then in the forest; the private often
considered himself a better man than his officer, and frequently told
him so. Troops from the towns or the older settled regions seemed
never to grow used to Indian methods of warfare. They walked again and
again into the same sort of ambush. Now, they felt sure, because the
Indian fire had evaporated in scattered shots, that the French and the
warriors had gone away, and that they might as well be asleep, save
for the guards. But Colden repressed them with a stern hand.
"If it hadn't been for our experience at Fort Refuge I might feel that
way myself," he said. "The silence is certainly consoling, and makes
one feel that all danger has passed."
"The silence is what I dread most," said Robert. "Is anything stirring
on the lake?"
"Not a thing," replied Wilton, who had been watching in that quarter.
"I never saw George look more peaceful."
Robert suggested that they go down to the shore again, and Wilton,
Grosvenor and he walked through the camp, not stopping until they
stood at the water's edge.
"You surely don't anticipate anything here," said Wilton.
"I don't know," replied Robert, thoughtfully, "but our enemies, both
French and Indians, are full of craft. We must guard against wile and
Wilton looked out over the lake, where the gentle wind still blew and
the rippling waters made a slight sighing sound almost like a lullaby.
The opposite cliffs rose steep and lofty, showing dimly through the
dusk, but there was no threat in their dark wall. To south and north
the surface melted in the darkness, but it too seemed friendly and
protecting. Wilton shook his head. No peril could come by that road,
but he held his peace. He had his opinion, but he would not utter it
aloud against those who had so much more experience than he.
The darkness made a further gain. The pallid moon went wholly out, and
the last of the stars left. But they had ample wood inside the camp
and they built the fires higher, the flames lighting up the tanned
eager faces of the men and gleaming along the polished barrels of
their long rifles. Willet had inspected the supply of ammunition and
he considered it ample. That fear was removed from his mind.
Tayoga went to the edge of the forest again, and reported no apparent
movement in the force of St. Luc. But they had built a great fire of
their own, and did not mean to go away. The attack would come some
time or other, but when or how no man could tell.
Robert, who could do as he pleased, concluded to stay with Wilton on
the shore of the lake, where the darkness was continually creeping
closer to the shore. The high cliffs on the far side were lost to
sight and only a little of Andiatarocte's surface could now be seen.
The wind began to moan. Wilton shivered.
"The lake don't look as friendly as it did an hour ago," he said.
A crash of shots from the slope followed his words. The war whoop rose
and fell and rose again. Bullets rattled among the stumps and on the
"The real attack!" said Wilton.
"Perhaps," said Robert.
He was about to turn away and join in the defense, but an impulse
from some unknown source made him stay. Wilton's duty kept him there,
though he chafed to be on the active side of the camp. The sharp crack
of rifles showed that the defenders were replying and they sent forth
a defiant cheer.
"They may creep down to the edge of the stumps and try to pick off our
men," said Robert, "but they won't make a rush. St. Luc would never
allow it. I don't understand this demonstration. It must be a cover
for something else."
He looked thoughtfully into the darkness, and listened to the moan of
the lake. Had the foe a fleet he might have expected an attack that
way, but he knew that for the present the British and Americans
The darkness was still gathering on the water. He could not see twenty
yards from the land, but behind him everything was brightness. The
fires had been replenished, the men lined the stockade and were firing
fast. Cheers replied to whoops. Smoke of battle overhung the camp, and
drifted off into the forest. Robert looked toward the stockade. Again
it was his impulse to go, and again he stayed. There was a slight
gurgling in the water almost at his feet, and a dark figure rose from
the waves, followed in an instant by another, and then by many more.
Robert, his imagination up and leaping, thrilled with horror. He
understood at once. They were attacked by swimming savages. While
the great shouting and turmoil in their front was going on a line of
warriors had reached the lake somewhere in the darkness, and were now
in the camp itself.
He was palsied only for a moment. Then his faculties were alive and he
saw the imminent need. Leaping back, he uttered a piercing shout, and,
drawing his pistol, he fired point blank at the first of the warriors.
Wilton, who had felt the same horror at sight of the dark faces, fired
also, and there was a rush of feet as men came to their help.
The warriors were armed only with tomahawk and knife, and they had
expected a surprise which they might have effected if it had not been
for Robert's keenness, but more of them came continually and they
made a formidable attack. Sending forth yell after yell as a signal to
their comrades in front that they had landed, they rushed forward.
Neither Robert nor Wilton ever had any clear idea of that fierce
combat in the dark. The defenders fired their rifles and pistols,
if they had time, and then closed in with cold steel. Meanwhile the
attack on the front redoubled. But here at the water's edge it was
fiercest. Borderer met warrior, and now and then, locked in the arms
of one another, they fell and rolled together into the lake. Grosvenor
came too, and, after firing his pistols, he drew his small sword,
plunging into the thick of the combat, thrusting with deadly effect.
The savages were hurled back, but more swimming warriors came to their
aid. Dark heads were continually rising from the lake, and stalwart
figures, almost naked, sprang to the shore. Tomahawks and knives
gleamed, and the air echoed with fierce whoop of Indian and shout of
borderer. And on the other side of the camp, too, the attack was now
pressed with unrelenting vigor. The shrill call of a whistle showed
that St. Luc himself was near, and Frenchmen, Canadians and Indians,
at the edge of the cleared ground and in the first line of stumps,
poured a storm of bullets against the breastwork and into the camp.
Many of the defenders were hit, some mortally. The gallant Colden had
his fine three cornered hat, of which he was very proud, shot away,
but, bare-headed, calm and resolute, he strode about among his men,
handling his forces like the veteran that he had become, strengthening
the weak points, applauding the daring and encouraging the faltering.
Willet, who was crouched behind the logs, firing his rifle with deadly
effect, glanced at him more than once with approval.
"Do you think we can hold 'em off, Tayoga?" the hunter said to the
Onondaga, who was by his side.
"Aye, Great Bear, we can," replied Tayoga. "They will not be able to
enter our camp here, but this is not their spearhead. They expect
to thrust through on the side of the water, where they have come
swimming. Hark to the shouts behind us!"
"And the two lads, Robert and the young Englishman, have gone there.
I think you judge aright about that being their spearhead. We'll go
Choosing a moment when they were not observed by the others, lest it
might be construed as a withdrawal in the face of force, they slipped
away from the logs. It was easy to find such an opportunity as the
camp was now full of smoke from the firing, drifting over everything
and often hiding the faces of the combatants from their comrades only
a few yards away.
But the battle raged most fiercely along the water's edge. There it
was hand to hand, and for a while it looked as if the dusky warriors
would make good their footing. To the defenders it seemed that the
lake spewed them forth continually, and that they would overwhelm with
weight of numbers. Yet the gallant borderers would not give back, and
encouraging one another with resounding cheers they held the doubtful
shore. Into this confused and terrible struggle Willet and Tayoga
hurled themselves, and their arrival was most opportune.
"Push 'em back, lads! Push 'em back! Into the water with 'em!" shouted
the stalwart hunter, and emptying rifle and pistol he clubbed the
former, striking terrific blows. Tayoga, tomahawk in hand, went up and
down like a deadly flame. Soldiers and borderers came to the danger
point, and the savages were borne back. Not one of them coming from
the water was able to enter the camp. The terrible line of lead and
steel that faced them was impassable, and all the time the tremendous
shouts of Willet poured fresh courage and zeal into the young troops
and the borderers.
"At 'em, lads! At 'em!" he cried. "Push 'em back! Throw 'em into the
water! Show 'em they can't enter our camp, that the back door, like
the front door, is closed! That's the way! Good for you, Grosvenor!
A sword is a deadly weapon when one knows how to use it! A wonderful
blow for you, Tayoga! But you always deal wonderful ones! Careful,
Robert! 'Ware the tomahawk! Now, lads, drive 'em! Drive 'em hard!"
The men united in one mighty rush that the warriors could not
withstand. They were hurled back from the land, and, after their
fashion when a blow had failed, they quit in sudden and utter fashion.
Springing into the water, and swimming with all their power, they
disappeared in the heavy darkness which now hovered close to shore.
Many of the young soldiers, carried away by the heat of combat, were
about to leap into the lake and follow them, but Willet, running up
and down, restrained their eager spirits.
"No! No!" he cried. "Don't do that. They'll be more'n a match for you
in the water. We've won, and we'll keep what we've won!"
All the warriors who had landed, save the dead, were now gone,
evidently swimming for some point near by, and the battle in front, as
if by a preconcerted signal, also sank down suddenly. Then St. Luc's
silver whistle was heard, and French and Indians alike drew off.
Robert stood dazed by the abrupt end of the combat. His blood was
hot, and millions of black specks danced before his eyes. The sudden
silence, after so much shouting and firing, made his pulses beat like
the sound of drums in his ears. He held an empty pistol in his right
hand, but he passed his left palm over his hot face, and wiped away
the mingled reek of perspiration and burned gunpowder. Grosvenor stood
near him, staring at the red edge of his own sword.
"Put up your weapon, Red Coat," said Tayoga, calmly. "The battle is
over--for the time."
"And we've won!" exclaimed Grosvenor. "I could hardly believe it was
real when I saw all those dark figures coming out of the water!"
Then he shuddered violently, and in sudden excess of emotion flung his
sword from him. But he went a moment later and picked it up again.
The attack had been repulsed on every side, but the price paid was
large. Fifteen men were dead and many others were wounded. The bodies
of seventeen Indians who had fallen in the water attack were found
and were consigned to the waves. Others, with their French allies, had
gone down on the side of the forest, but most of the fallen had been
taken away by their comrades.
It was a victory for Colden and his men, but it left serious alarm for
the future. St. Luc was still in the forest, and he might attack again
in yet greater force. Besides, they would have to guard against many
a cunning and dangerous device from that master of forest warfare.
Colden called a council, at which Willet and Black Rifle were central
figures, and they agreed that there was nothing to be done but to
strengthen their log outworks and to practice eternal vigilance. Then
they began to toil anew on the breastworks, strengthening them with
fresh timber, of which, fortunately, they had a vast supply, as so
much had been cut to be turned into boats. A double guard was placed
at the water's edge, lest the warriors come back for a new attack, and
the wounded were made as comfortable as the circumstances would admit.
Luckily Willet and many others were well acquainted with the rude but
effective border surgery, much of it learned from the Indians, and
they were able to give timely help.
The hurt endured in silence. Their frontier stoicism did not allow
them to give voice to pain. Blankets were spread for them under the
sheds or in the sawmill, and some, despite their injuries, fell asleep
from exhaustion. Soldiers and borderers walked behind the palisades,
others continually molded bullets, while some were deep in slumber,
waiting their turn to be called for the watch.
It began to rain by and by, not heavily, but a slow, dull, seeping
fall that was inexpressibly dreary, and the thick, clammy darkness,
shot with mists and vapors from the lake, rolled up to the very
edge of the fires. Robert might have joined the sleepers, as he was
detached from immediate duty, but his brain was still too much heated
to admit it. Despite his experience and his knowledge that it could
not be so, his vivid fancy filled forest and water with enemies coming
forward to a new attack. He saw St. Luc, sword in hand, leading them,
and, shaking his body violently, he laughed at himself. This would
"What does Dagaeoga see that is so amusing?" asked Tayoga.
"Nothing, Tayoga. I was merely ridiculing myself for looking into the
blackness and seeing foes who are not there."
"And yet we all do it. If our enemies are not there they are at least
not far away. I have been outside with Black Rifle, and we have been
into the edge of the forest. Sharp Sword makes a big camp, and shows
all the signs of intending to stay long. We may yet lose the sawmill.
It is best to understand the full danger. What does Dagaeoga mean to
"I think I'll go back to the water's edge, and help keep the watch
there. That seems to be my place."
He found Wilton still in command of the lake guard, and Grosvenor
with him. The young Quaker had been shocked by the grim battle, but he
showed a brave front nevertheless. He had put on his military cloak to
protect himself from the rain, and Robert and Grosvenor had borrowed
others for the same purpose.
"We've won a victory," said Wilton, "but, as I gather, it's not final.
That St. Luc, whose name seems to inspire so much terror, will come
again. Am I not right, Lennox?"
"You're right, Wilton. St. Luc will come not a second time only, but a
third, and a fourth, if necessary."
"And can't we expect any help? We're supposed to have command of this
lake for the present."
"I know of none."
The three walked up and down, listening to the mournful lapping of the
waves on the beach, and the sigh of the dripping rain. The stimulus
of excited action had passed and they felt heavy and depressed. They
could see only a few yards over the lake, and must depend there upon
ear to warn them of a new attack that way. The fact added to their
worries, but luckily Tayoga, with his amazing powers of hearing,
joined them, establishing at once what was in effect a listening
post, although it was not called then by that name. Wilton drew
much strength from the presence of the Onondaga, while it made the
confidence of Grosvenor supreme.
"Now we'll surely know if they come," he said.
A long while passed without a sign, but they did not relax their
vigilance a particle, and Tayoga interpreted the darkness for them.
"There was a little wind," he said, after a while, "but it is almost
dead now. The waves are running no longer. I hear a slight sound to
the south which was not there before."
"I hear nothing, Tayoga," said Robert.
"Perhaps not, Dagaeoga, but I hear it, which is enough. The sound is
quite faint, but it is regular like the beating of a pulse. Now I can
tell what it is. It is the stroke of a paddle. There is a canoe upon
the lake, passing in front of us. It is not the canoe of a friend, or
it would come at once to the land. It contains only one man. How do
I know, Red Coat? Because the canoe is so small. The stroke of the
paddle is light and yet the canoe moves swiftly. A canoe heavy enough
to hold two men could not be moved so fast without a stroke also
heavy. How do I know it is going fast, Dagaeoga? Do not ask such
simple questions. Because the sound of the paddle stroke moving
rapidly toward the north shows it. Doubtless some of Sharp Sword's
warriors brought with them a canoe overland, and they are now using it
to spy upon us."
"What can we do about it, Tayoga?"
"Nothing, Red Coat. Ah, the canoe has turned and is now going back
toward the south, but more slowly. The man in it could locate our camp
easily by the glow of the fires through the mist and vapors. Perhaps
he can see a dim outline of our figures."
"And one of us may get a bullet while we stand here watching."
"No, Red Coat, it is not at all likely. His aim would be extremely
uncertain in the darkness. The warrior is not usually a good marksman,
nor is it his purpose here to shoot. He would rather spy upon us,
without giving an alarm. Ah, the man has now stopped his southward
journey, and is veering about uncertainly! He dips in the paddle
only now and then. That is strange. All his actions express doubt,
uncertainty and even alarm."
"What do you think has happened, Tayoga?"
"Manitou yet has the secret in his keeping, Dagaeoga, but if we wait
in patience a little it may be revealed to me. The canoe is barely
moving and the man in it watches. Now his paddle makes a little splash
as he turns slightly to the right. It is certain that he has been
alarmed. The spy thinks he is being spied upon, and doubtless he is
right. He grows more and more uneasy. He moves again, he moves twice
in an aimless fashion. Although we do not see him in the flesh, it is
easy to tell that he is trying to pierce the darkness with his eyes,
not to make out us, but to discern something very near the canoe. His
alarm grows and probably with good cause. Ah, he has made a sudden
powerful stroke, with the paddle, shooting the canoe many feet to the
left, but it is too late!"
"Too late for what, Tayoga?" exclaimed Robert.
The Onondaga did not reply for a moment or two, but stood tense and
strained. His eyes, his whole attitude showed excitement, a rare thing
"It was too late," he repeated. "Whatever threatened the man in
the canoe, whatever the danger was, it has struck. I heard a little
splash. It was made by the man falling into the water. He has gone.
Now, what has become of the canoe? Perhaps the warrior when he fell
dropped the paddle into the water, and the canoe is drifting slowly
away. No, I think some one is swimming to it. Ah, he is in the canoe
now, and he has recovered the paddle! I hear the strokes, which are
different from those made by the man who was in it before. They have
a longer sweep. The new man is stronger. He is very powerful, and he
does not take the canoe back and forth. He is coming toward the land.
Stand here, and we will welcome Daganoweda of the Ganeagaono. It
might be some other, but I do not think it possible. It is surely
A canoe shot from the mists and vapors. The fierce young Mohawk chief
put down the paddle, and, stepping from the light craft into the
shallow water, raised his hand in a proud salute. He was truly a
striking figure. The dusk enlarged him until he appeared gigantic.
He was naked except for belt and breech cloth, and water ran from his
shining bronze body. A tomahawk and knife in the belt were his only
weapons, but Robert knew instinctively that one of them had been
"Welcome, Daganoweda," he said. "We were not looking for you, but
if we had taken thought about it we might have known that you would
The dark eyes of the Mohawk flashed and his figure seemed to grow in
"There has been a battle," he said, "and Sharp Sword with a great
force is pressing hard upon the white brothers of the Ganeagaono. It
was not possible for Daganoweda to stay away."
"That is true. You are a great chief. You scent the conflict afar, and
you always come to it. Our people could have no truer, no braver ally.
The arrival of Daganoweda alone is as the coming of ten men."
The nostrils of the chief dilated. Obviously he was pleased at
Robert's round and swelling sentences.
"I come in the canoe of a foe," he said. "The warrior who was in it
has gone into the lake."
"We know that. Tayoga, who is a wonder for hearing, and a still
greater wonder at interpreting what he hears, followed your marvelous
achievement and told us every step in its progress. He even knew that
it was you, and announced your coming through the mists and vapors."
"Tayoga of the clan of the Bear, of the nation Onondaga, of the great
League of the Hodenosaunee, is a great warrior, and the greatest
trailer in the world, even though he be so young."
Tayoga said nothing, and his face did not move, but his eyes gleamed.
"Do you come alone?" asked Robert.
"The warriors who were with me when you met us in the woods are at
hand," replied the chief, "and they await my signal. They have crept
past the line of Sharp Sword, though Tandakora and many men watched,
and are not far away. I will call them."
He sent forth twice the harsh cry of a water fowl. There was no
answer, but he did not seem to expect any, standing at attention,
every line of his figure expressing supreme confidence. The others
shared his belief.
"I hear them. They come," said Tayoga at length.
Presently a slight sound as of long, easy strokes reached them all,
and in a few moments a line of dark heads appeared through the mists
and vapors. Then the Mohawks swam to land, carrying their rifles and
ammunition, Daganoweda's too, on their heads, and stood up in a silent
and dripping line before their chief.
"It is well," said Daganoweda, looking them over with an approving
eye. "You are all here, and we fight in the next battle beside our
"A battle that you would be loath to miss and right glad we are to
welcome such sturdy help," said the voice of Willet behind them. "I'll
tell Captain Colden that you're here."
The young captain came at once, and welcomed Daganoweda in proper
dignified fashion. Blankets and food were given to the Mohawks, and
they ate and warmed themselves by the fire. They were not many, but
Robert knew they were a great addition. The fiery spirit of Daganoweda
alone was worth twenty men.
"I think that we'd better seek sleep now," said young Lennox to
Grosvenor. "I admit one is tempted to stay awake that he may see and
hear everything, but sooner or later you've got to rest."
They found a good place under one of the sheds, and, wrapped in
blankets, soon sank to slumber. The day after such a momentous night
came dark and gloomy, with the rain still dripping. A north wind had
arisen, and high waves chased one another over the lake. There was
still much fog on the land side, and, under its cover, the French and
Indians were stalking the camp, firing at every incautious head.
"Most of those bullets are French," said Tayoga, "because the warriors
are not good sharpshooters, and they are aimed well. I think that
Sharp Sword has selected all the best French and Canadian marksmen and
has sent them down to the edge of the woods to harass us. As long as
the fog hangs there we may expect their bullets."
The fire of these hidden sharpshooters soon became terribly harassing.
From points of vantage they sent their bullets even into the very
heart of the camp. Not a head or a shoulder, not an arm could be
exposed. Three men were killed, a dozen more were wounded, and the
spirit of the garrison was visibly affected. At the suggestion of
Willet, Colden selected thirty sharpshooters of his own and sent them
among the stumps to meet the French and Canadian riflemen.
Robert and Tayoga were in this band, and Willet himself led it.
Daganoweda and three of his warriors who were good shots also went
along. Black Rifle was already outside on one of his usual solitary
but fierce man-hunts. All the men as soon as they left the breastworks
lay almost flat on the wet ground, and crept forward with the utmost
care. It was a service of extreme danger, none could be more so, and
it was certain that not all of them would come back.
IN THE FOG
When Robert went into the fog and began to creep from stump to stump,
his imagination leaped up at once and put a foe at every point in
front of him. Perhaps he deserved more credit for courage and daring
than any of the others, because his vivid fancy foresaw all the
dangers and more. Tayoga was on his right and Willet on his left.
Daganoweda, who had all the eagerness of Black Rifle himself, was
farther down the line. Flashes of fire appeared now and then in the
fog ahead of them, and bullets hummed over their heads.
Robert, essentially humane, began to share, nevertheless, the zeal of
these hunters of men around him. The French and Canadians were seeking
their lives and they must strike back. He peered through the fog,
looking for a chance to fire, forgetting the wet ground, and the rain
which was fast soaking him through and through. He was concerned only
to keep his rifle and powder dry. Two flashes on his right showed that
the defenders were already replying.
"We cannot go much farther, Dagaeoga," whispered Tayoga, "or we will
be among them. I shall take this stump just ahead."
"And I the one beside it. I don't mind admitting that a thick stump
between you and your enemy is a good thing."
He sank down behind his chosen bulwark, and stared through the fog.
The flashes of fire continued, but they were on his right and left,
and nothing appeared directly in front of him. A cry came from a point
farther down the line. One of the defenders had been hit and presently
another fell. Robert again saw all the dangers and more, but his mind
was in complete command of his body and he watched with unfailing
vigilance. He saw Willet suddenly level his rifle across his
protecting stump and fire. No cry came in response, but he believed
that the hunter's bullet had found its target. Tayoga also pulled
trigger, but Robert did not yet see anything at which to aim,
although the sound of shots from the two hostile fronts was now almost
The combat in the dim mists had a certain weird quality and Robert's
imaginative mind heightened its effect. It was almost like the blind
shooting at the blind. A pink dot would appear in the fog, expand a
little, and then go out. There would be a sharp report, the whistling
of a bullet, perhaps, and that was all. The white men fought in
silence, and, if there were any Indians with the French and Canadians
they imitated them.
Robert, at last, caught a glimpse of a dusky figure about thirty yards
in front of him, and, aiming his rifle, quickly fired. He had no
way of knowing that he had hit, save that no shot came in reply, but
Tayoga, who was once again ear to the ground, said that their foes
were drawing back a little.
"They find our fire hotter than they had expected," he said. "If they
can shoot in the fog so can we, and the Great Bear is more than a
match for them in such a contest."
The whole line crept forward and paused again behind another row of
stumps. A general volley met them and they found protection none too
soon. Bullets chipped little pieces off the stumps or struck in the
ground about them. But Robert knew that they had been fired largely
at random, or had been drawn perhaps by a slight noise. There was a
strong temptation to return the fire in a like manner, but he had the
strength of mind to withhold his aim for the present, and not shoot
until he had a sure target.
Yet the dim battle in the fog increased in volume. More skirmishers
from the forces of St. Luc came up, and the line of fire spread to
both left and right. A yell was heard now and then, and it was
evident that the Indians in large numbers were coming into the combat.
Willet's band was reenforced also from the camp, and his line extended
to meet that of the foe. Rifles cracked incessantly, the white fog
was sprinkled with pink dots, and, above the heads of the men, it was
darkened by the smoke that rose from the firing. At rare intervals a
deep cheer from a borderer replied to the savage war whoop.
A man four stumps from Robert was hit in the head and died without
a sound, but Willet, firing at the flash of the rifle that slew him,
avenged his loss. A bullet grazed Robert's head, cutting off two locks
of hair very neatly. Its passage took his breath for a moment or two,
and gave him a shock, but he recovered quickly, and, still controlling
his impulse to pull trigger in haste, looked for something at which to
The fog had not lifted at all, but by gazing into its heart a long
time, Robert was able to see a little distance. Now and then the
figure of an enemy, as he leaped from the shelter of one stump to
another, was outlined dimly, but invariably there was not enough time
for a shot. Soon he made out a large stump not very far ahead of him,
and he saw the flash of a rifle from it. He caught a glimpse only of
the hands that held the weapon, but he believed them to be a white
man's hands and he believed also that the man behind the stump was one
of the best French sharpshooters.
Robert resolved to bring down the Frenchman, who presently, when
firing once more, might then expose enough of himself for a target. He
waited patiently and the second shot came. He saw the hands again, the
arms, part of one shoulder and the side of the head, and taking quick
aim he pulled the trigger, though he was satisfied that his bullet had
But the flame of battle was lighted in Robert's soul. Hating nobody
and wishing good to all, he nevertheless sought to kill, because some
one was seeking to kill him, and because killing was the business of
those about him. What came to be known later as mass psychology took
hold of him. All his mental and physical powers were concentrated on
the single task of slaying an enemy. The affair now resolved itself
into a duel between single foes.
Deciding to await a third shot from his enemy, he made his position
behind the stump a little easier, poised, as it were, ready to throw
every faculty, physical and mental, into his reply to that expected
third shot. He was quite sure, too, that he would have a chance,
because the man had exposed so much more of himself at the second
shot than at the first, and his escape from the bullets would make him
expose yet more at the third. His heart began to throb hard, and his
pulses were beating fast. The battle was still going on about him, but
he forgot all the rest of it, the shots, the shouts, the flashes, and
remembered only his own part. He judged that in another minute the man
would show himself. So believing, he laid his rifle across his stump,
cocked it, and was ready to take aim and fire in a few seconds.
His foe's head appeared, after just about the delay that he had
expected, and Robert's hand sprang to the trigger at the very moment
the man pulled his own. The bullet hummed by his cheek. His finger
contracted and then it loosened. A sudden acuteness of vision, or a
chance thinning of the fog at that point, enabled him to see the man's
face, and he recognized the French partisan, Charles Langlade, known
also to the Indians as the Owl, who, with his wife, the Dove, had once
held him in a captivity by no means unkind.
His humane instincts, his gratitude, his feeling for another flared
up even in that moment of battle and passion, when the man-hunting
impulse was so strong. His aim, quick as it was, had been sure and
deadly, but, deflecting the muzzle of the rifle a shade, his finger
contracted again. The spurt of fire leaped forth and the bullet sang
by the ear of Langlade, singing to him a little song of caution as it
passed, telling such a wary partisan as he that his stump was a very
exposed stump, dangerous to the last degree, and that it would be
better for him to find one somewhere else.
Robert did not see the Owl go away, but he was quite sure that he had
gone, because it was just the sort of thing that such a skilled forest
fighter would do. The fog thickened again, and, in a few more minutes,
both lines shifted somewhat. Then he had to watch new stumps at new
points, and his thoughts were once more in tune with those about him,
concentrated on the battle and the man-hunt.
A bullet tipped his ear, and he saw that it came from a stump hardly
visible in the fog. The sharpshooter was not likely to be Langlade
again, and, at once, it became Robert's ambition to put him out of
action. No consideration of mercy or humanity would restrain him now,
if he obtained a chance of a good shot, and he waited patiently for
it. Evidently this new sharpshooter had detected his presence also,
and the second duel was on.
The man fired again in a minute or two, and the bullet chipped very
close. He was so quick, too, that Robert did not get an opportunity to
return his fire, but he recognized the face and to his great surprise
saw that it was De Courcelles who had taken a place in line with the
skirmishers. Rage seized him at once. This was the man who had tried
to trick him to his death in that affair with the bully, Boucher, at
Quebec. He was shaken with righteous anger. All the kindliness and
mercy that he had felt toward Langlade disappeared. He was sure, too,
that De Courcelles knew him and was trying his best to kill him.
Robert peered over his stump and sought eagerly for a shot. He
could play at that game as well as De Courcelles, but his enemy was
cautious. It was some time before he risked another bullet, and then
Robert's, in reply, missed, though he also had been untouched. His
anger increased. Although he had little hate in his composition he
could not forget that this man De Courcelles had been a party to an
infamous attempt upon his life, and even now, in what amounted to a
duel, was seeking to kill him. His own impulses, under such a spur,
and for the moment, were those of the slayer. He used all the skill
that he had learned in the forest to secure an opportunity for the
taking of his foe's life.
Robert sought to draw De Courcelles' fire again, meanwhile having
reloaded his own rifle, and he raised his cap a little above the edge
of the stump. But the trick was too old for the Frenchman and he did
not yield to it. Taking the chance, he thrust up his face, dropping
back immediately as De Courcelles' bullet sang over his head. Then he
sprang up and was in time to pull trigger at his enemy, who fell back.
Robert was able to tell in the single glimpse through the fog that De
Courcelles was not killed. The bullet had struck him in the shoulder,
inflicting a wound, certainly painful but probably not dangerous,
although it was likely to feed the man's hate of Robert. Even so,
young Lennox was glad now that he had not killed him, that his death
was not upon his hands; it was enough to disable him and to drive him
out of the battle.
The fighting grew once more in volume and fury. Rifles cracked
continuously up and down the line. The war whoop of the Indians was
incessant, and the deep cheer of the borderers replied to it. But
Robert saw that the end of the combat was near; not that the rage of
man was abated, but because nature, as if tired of so much strife, was
putting in between a veil that would hide the hostile forces from each
other. The fog suddenly began to thicken rapidly, rolling up from the
lake in great, white waves that made figures dim and shadowy, even a
few paces away.
If the fighting went on it would be impossible to tell friend from
foe, and Willet at once sent forth a sharp call which was repeated up
and down the line. The French leaders took like action, and, by mutual
consent, the two forces fell apart. The firing and the shouts ceased
abruptly and a slow withdrawal was begun. The fog had conquered.
"Is Dagaeoga hurt?" asked Tayoga.
"Untouched," replied Robert.
"I saw that you and the Frenchman, De Courcelles, were engaged in a
battle of your own. I might have helped you, but if I know you, you
did not wish my aid."
"No, Tayoga. It was man to man. I confess that while our duel was on
I was filled with rage against him, and tried my best to kill, but now
I'm glad I gave him only a wound."
"Your hate flows away as De Courcelles' blood flows out."
"If you want to put it that way. But do you hear anything of the
enemy, Tayoga? Fog seems to be a conductor of sound now and then."
"Nothing except the light noises of withdrawal. The retreating
footsteps become fainter and fainter, and I think we shall have peace
for to-day. They might fire bullets at random against the camp, but
St. Luc will not let them waste lead in such a manner. No, Dagaeoga,
we will lie quiet now and dress our wounds."
He was right, as the firing was not renewed, though the pickets,
stationed at short intervals, kept as sharp a watch as they could in
the fog, while the others lay by the fires which were now built higher
than usual. Colden was hopeful that St. Luc would draw off, but Tayoga
and Black Rifle, who went out again into the fog, reported no sign of
it. Beyond a doubt, he was prepared to maintain a long siege.
"We must get help," said Willet. "We're supposed to control Lake
George and we know that forces of ours are at the south end, where
they've advanced since the taking of Fort William Henry. We'll have to
"Who are they to be?" asked Colden.
"Robert and Tayoga are most fit. You have plenty of boats. They can
take a light one and leave at once, while the fog holds."
Colden agreed. Young Lennox and the Onondaga were more than willing,
and, in a half hour, everything was ready for the start. A strong
canoe with paddles for two was chosen and they put in it their rifles,
plenty of ammunition and some food.
"A year from now, if the war is still going on, I'll be going with you
on such errands," said Grosvenor confidently.
"Red Coat speaks the truth. He learns fast," said Tayoga.
"I won't tell you lads to be careful, because you don't need any
advice," said Willet.
Many were at the water's edge, when they pushed off, and Robert knew
that they were followed by the best of wishes, not only for their
success but for themselves also. A few strokes of the paddles and the
whole camp, save a luminous glow through the fog, was gone. A few more
strokes and the luminous glow too departed. The two were alone once
more in the wilderness, and they had little but instinct to guide them
in their perilous journey upon the waters. But they were not afraid.
Robert, instead, felt a curious exaltation of the spirit. He was
supremely confident that he and Tayoga would carry out their mission,
in spite of everything.
"It is odd how quickly the camp sank from sight," he said.
"It is because we are in the heart of a great fog," said Tayoga.
"Since it was thick enough to hide the battle it is thick enough
also to hide the camp and us from each other. But, Dagaeoga, it is a
friendly fog, as it conceals us from our enemies also."
"That's so, Tayoga, but I'm thinking this fog will hold dangers for us
too. St. Luc is not likely to neglect the lake, and he'll surmise that
we'll send for help. We've had experience on the water in fogs before,
and you'll have to use your ears as you did then."
"So I will, Dagaeoga. Suppose we stop now, and listen."
But nothing of a hostile nature came to them through the mists and
vapors, and, resuming the paddles again, they bore more toward the
center of the lake, where they thought they would be likely to escape
the cruising canoes of the enemy, if any should be sent out by St.
Luc. They expected too that the fog would thin there, but it did not
do so, seeming to spread over the full extent of Andiatarocte.
"How long do you think the fog will last?" asked Robert.
"All day, I fear," replied Tayoga.
"That's bad. If any of our friends should be on the shore we won't be
able to see 'em."
"But we have to make the best of it, Dagaeoga. We may be able to hear
The fog was the greatest they had ever seen on Andiatarocte,
seeming to ooze up from the depths of the waters, and to spread over
everything. The keenest eyes, like those of Robert and Tayoga, could
penetrate it only a few yards, and it hung in heavy, wet folds over
their faces. It was difficult even to tell direction and they paddled
very slowly in a direction that they surmised led to the south. After
a while they stopped again that Tayoga might establish a new listening
post upon the water, though nothing alarming yet came to those
marvelous ears of his. But it was evident that he expected peril, and
Robert also anticipated it.
"A force as large as St. Luc's is sure to have brought canoes
overland," said young Lennox, "and in a fog like this he'll have them
launched on the lake."
"It is so," said Tayoga, using his favorite expression, "and I think
they will come soon."
They moved on once more a few hundred yards, and then, when the
Onondaga listened a long time, he announced that the hostile canoes
were on the lake, cruising about in the fog.
"I hear one to the right of us, another to the left, and several
directly ahead," he said. "Sharp Sword brought plenty of canoes with
him and he is using them. I think they have formed a line across the
lake, surmising that we would send a message to the south. Sharp Sword
is a great leader, and he forgets nothing."
"They can't draw a line that we won't pass."
Now they began to use their paddles very slowly and gently, the canoe
barely creeping along, and Tayoga listening with all his powers. But
the Onondaga was aware that his were not the only keen ears on the
lake, and that, gentle as was the movement of the paddies that he and
Robert held, it might be heard.
"The canoe on our right is coming in a little closer to us," he
whispered. "It is a very large canoe, because it holds four paddles.
I can trace the four separate sounds. They try to soften their strokes
lest the hidden messenger whom they want to catch may hear them, but
they cannot destroy the sound altogether. Now, the one on the left is
bearing in toward us also. I think they have made a chain across the
lake, and hope to keep anything from passing."
"Can you hear those ahead of us?"
"Very slightly, and only now and then, but it is enough to tell us
that they are still there. But, Dagaeoga, we must go ahead even if
they are before us; we cannot think of turning back."
"No such thought entered my head, Tayoga. We'll run this gauntlet."
"That was what I knew you would say. The canoes from both right and
left still approach. I think they carry on a patrol in the fog, and
move back and forth, always keeping in touch. Now, we must go forward
a little, or they will be upon us, but be ever so gentle with the
paddle, Dagaeoga. That is it! We make so little sound that it is no
sound at all, and they cannot hear us. Now, we are well beyond them,
and the two canoes are meeting in the fog. The men in them talk
together. You hear them very well yourself, Dagaeoga. Their exact
words do not come to our ears, but we know they are telling one
another that no messenger from the beleaguered camp has yet passed.
Now, they part and go back on their beat. We can afford to forget
them, Dagaeoga, and think of those ahead. We still have the real
gauntlet to run. Be very gentle with the paddle again.
"I hear the canoes ahead of us very clearly now. One of them is large
also with four paddles in it, and two of the men are Frenchmen. I
cannot understand what they say, but I hear the French accent; the
sound is not at all like that the warriors make. One of the Frenchmen
is giving instructions, as I can tell by his tone of command, and I
think the canoes are going to spread out more. Yes, they are moving
away to both right and left. They must feel sure that we are here
somewhere in the fog, trying to get by them, but the big canoe with
the Frenchmen in it keeps its place. Bear a little to the left,
Dagaeoga, and we can pass it unseen."
It was the most delicate of tasks to paddle the canoe, and cause
scarcely a ripple in the water, but they were so skillful they were
able to do it, and make no sound that Robert himself could hear.
Although his nerves were steady his excitement was intense. A
situation so extraordinary put every power of his imagination into
play. His fancy fairly peopled the water with hostile canoes; they
were in a triple ring about him and Tayoga. All his pulses were
beating hard, yet his will, as usual, was master of his nerves, and
the hand that held the paddle never shook.
"A canoe on the outer line, and from the left, is now bearing in
toward us," whispered Tayoga.
"There are two men in it, as the strokes of the paddles show. They are
coming toward us. Some evil spirit must have whispered to them that we
are here. Ah, they have stopped! What does it mean, Dagaeoga? Listen!
Did you not hear a little splash? They think to surprise us! They keep
the paddles silent and try a new trick! Hold the canoe here, Dagaeoga,
and I will meet the warrior who comes!"
The Onondaga dropped his rifle, hunting shirt and belt with his pistol
in it, into the bottom of the canoe, and then, his knife in his teeth,
he was over the side so quickly that Robert did not have time to
protest. In an instant he was gone in the fog, and the youth in
the canoe could do nothing but wait, a prey to the most terrible
Robert, with an occasional motion of the paddle, held the canoe steady
on the water, and tried to pierce the fog with his eyes. He knew that
he must stay just where he was, or Tayoga, when he came back, might
never find him. If he came back! If--He listened with all his ears for
some sound, however slight, that might tell him what was happening.
Out of the fog came a faint splash, and then a sigh that was almost
a groan. Young Lennox shuddered, and the hair on his head stood up a
little. He knew that sound was made by a soul passing, but whose soul?
Once more he realized to the full that his lot was cast in wild and
A swimming face appeared in the fog, close to the canoe, and then his
heart fell from his throat to its usual place. Tayoga climbed lightly
into the canoe, no easy feat in such a situation, put on his belt and
replaced the knife in the sheath. Robert asked him nothing, he had
no need to do so. The sigh that was almost a groan had told the full
"Now we will bear to the right again, Dagaeoga," said Tayoga, calmly,
as the water dripped from him. Robert shivered once more. His fertile
fancy reproduced that brief, fierce struggle in the water, but he said
nothing, promptly following the suggestion of Tayoga, and sending the
canoe to the right. The position was too perilous, though, for them
to continue on one course long, and at the end of forty or fifty yards
they stopped, both listening intently.
"Some of them are talking with one another now," whispered Tayoga.
"The warrior who swam does not come back to his canoe, and they wonder
why he stays in the water so long. Soon they will know that he is
never coming out of the water. Now I hear a voice raised somewhat
above the others. It is a French voice. It is not that of St. Luc,
because he must remain on shore to direct his army. It is not that of
De Courcelles, because you wounded him, and he must be lying in camp
nursing his hurts. So I conclude that it is Jumonville, who is next
in rank and who therefore would be likely to command on this important
service. I am sure it is Jumonville, and his raised voice indicates
that he is giving orders. He realizes that the swimmer will not
return and that we must be near. Perhaps he knows or guesses that the
messengers are you and I, because he has learned long since that we
are fitted for just such service, and that we have done such deeds.
For instance, our journey to Quebec, on which we first met him."
"Then he'll think Dave is here too, because he was with us then."
"No, he will be quite sure the Great Bear is not here. He knows that
he is too important in the defense of the camp, that, while Captain
Colden commands, it is the Great Bear who suggests and really directs
everything. His sharp orders signify some sudden, new plan. They have
a fleet of canoes, and I think they are making a chain, with the links
connected so closely that we cannot pass. It is a real gauntlet for us
to run, Dagaeoga."
"And how are we to run it?"
"We must pass as warriors, as men of their own."
"I do not look like a warrior."
"But you can make yourself look like one, in the fog at least, enough,
perhaps, to go by. Your hair is a little long; take off your hunting
shirt, and the other shirt beneath it, bare yourself to the waist, and
in such a fog as this it would take the keenest of eyes, only a few
yards away, to tell that you are white. Quick, Dagaeoga! Lay the
garments on the bottom of the canoe. Bend well upon your paddle and
appear to be searching the water everywhere for the messengers who try
to escape. I will do the same. Ah, that is well. You look and act so
much like a warrior of the woods, Dagaeoga, that even I, in the same
canoe, could well take you for a Huron. Now we will whisper no more
for a while, because they come, and they will soon be upon us."
Robert bent over his paddle. His upper clothing lay in the bottom of
the canoe, with his rifle and Tayoga's upon the garments, ready to be
snatched up in an instant, if need should come. The cold, wet fog beat
upon his bare shoulders and chest, but he did not feel it. Instead his
blood was hot in every vein, and the great pulses in his temples beat
so hard that they made a roaring in his ears.
Distinct sounds now came from both left and right, the swish of
paddles, the ripple of water against the side of a canoe, men talking.
They were coming to the chain that had been stretched in front of
them, and their fate would soon be decided. Now, they must be not only
brave to the uttermost, but they must be consummate actors too.
Figures began to form themselves in the fog, the outline of a canoe
with two men in it appeared on their right, another showed just ahead,
and two more on the left. Robert from his lowered eyes, bent over the
paddle, caught a glimpse of the one ahead, a great canoe, or rather
boat, containing five men, one of whom wielded no paddle, but who sat
in its center, issuing orders. Through the fog came a slight gleam
of metal from his epaulets and belt, and, although the face was
indistinct, Robert knew that it was Jumonville.
The officer was telling the canoes to keep close watch, not to let
the chain be broken, that the messengers were close at hand, that
they would soon be taken, and that their comrade who did not come
back would be avenged. Robert bent a little lower over his paddle. His
whole body prickled, and the roaring in his ears increased.
Tayoga suddenly struck him a smart blow across his bowed back,
and spoke to him fiercely in harsh, guttural Huron. Robert did not
understand the words, but they sounded like a stern rebuke for poor
work with the paddle. The blow and the words stimulated him, keyed him
to a supreme effort as an actor. All his histrionic temperament flared
up at once. He made a poor stroke with the paddle, threw up much
surplus water, and, as he cowered away from Tayoga, he corrected
himself hastily. Tayoga uttered a sharp rebuke again, but did not
strike a second time. That would have been too much. Robert's next
stroke was fine and sweeping, and he heard Jumonville say in French
which many of the Indians understood:
"Go more toward the center of the lake and take a place in the line."
Tayoga and Robert obeyed dumbly, passing Jumonville's boat at a range
of five or six yards, going a little beyond the line, and, turning
about as if to make a curve that would keep them from striking any
other canoe. Again Robert made a false stroke with the paddle, causing
the canoe to rock dangerously, and now, Tayoga, fully justified by
the fierce code of the forest in striking him again, snatched his own
paddle out of the water and gave him a smart rap with the flat of it
across the back, at the same time upbraiding him fiercely in Huron.
"Dolt! Fool!" he exclaimed. "Will you never learn how to hold your
paddle? Will you never know the stroke? Will you tip us both into the
water at such a time, when the messengers of the enemy are seeking
to steal through? Do better with the paddle or you shall stay at home
with the old women, and work for the warriors!"
Robert snarled in reply, but he did not repay the blow. He made
another awkward sweep that sent them farther on the outward curve, and
he heard Jumonville's harsh laugh. He was still the superb actor. His
excitement was real, and he counterfeited a nervousness and jerkiness
that appeared real also. One more wild stroke, and they shot farther
out. Jumonville angrily ordered them to return, but Robert seemed to
be possessed by a spell of awkwardness, and Tayoga craftily aided him.
"Come back!" roared Jumonville.
Robert and Tayoga were fifteen yards away, and the great blanket of
fog was enclosing them.
"Now! Now, Dagaeoga!" whispered the Onondaga tensely. "We paddle with
all our might straight toward the south!"
Two paddles wielded by skillful and powerful arms flashed in the
water, and the canoe sped on its way. A shout of anger rose behind
them, and Robert distinctly heard Jumonville say in French: