Part 5 out of 5
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Robert saw the Frenchmen attack the trees with their axes and the
earth with their spades, and he divined at once the news that
Langy had brought. The Anglo-American army was advancing. His heart
throbbed. Victory and rescue were at hand.
"Mr. Tilden," he said to the hunter, "listen to the ring of the ax and
the thud of the spade!"
"Aye, I hear 'em," was the apathetic reply; "but they don't interest
me. I'm a prisoner."
"But it may mean that you won't be a prisoner much longer. The French
are fortifying, and they've gone to work with so much haste and energy
that it shows an imminent need. There's only one conclusion to be
drawn from it. They're expecting our army and a prompt attack."
Tilden began to show interest.
"On my life, I think you're right," he said.
And yet Montcalm changed his mind again at the last moment. Two
veteran officers, Montguy and Bernes, pointed out to him that his
present position was dominated by the adjacent heights, and in order
to escape that danger he resolved to retreat a little. He broke up his
camp late in the afternoon of the next day, part of the army fell back
through the woods more than a mile, and the rest of it withdrew in
boats on the lake to the same point.
Robert and his comrades were carried with the army on land to the
fort. There he became separated from the others, and remained in the
rear, but luckily for his wishes, on a mount where he could see most
that was passing, though his chance of escape was as remote as ever.
He stood on the rocky peninsula of Ticonderoga. Behind him the great
lake, Champlain, stretched far into north and south. To the west the
ground sloped gently upward a half mile and then sank again. On each
side of the ridge formed thus was low ground, and the ridge presented
itself at once to the military eye as a line of defense. Hugues, one
of his officers, had already recommended it to Montcalm, and men under
two of his engineers, Desandrouin and Pontleroy, were now at work
The final line of defense was begun at dawn, and Robert, whom no one
disturbed, witnessed a scene of prodigious energy. The whole French
army threw itself heart and soul into the task. The men, hot under the
July sun, threw aside their coats, and the officers, putting their own
hands to the work, did likewise. There was a continuous ring of axes,
and the air resounded with the crash of trees falling in hundreds and
The tops and ends of the boughs were cut off the trees, the ends left
thus were sharpened and the trees were piled upon one another with the
sharp ends facing the enemy who was to come.
Robert watched as these bristling rows grew to a height of at least
nine feet, and then he saw the men build on the inner side platforms
on which they could stand and fire over the crest, without exposing
anything except their heads. In front of the abattis more trees with
sharpened boughs were spread for a wide space, the whole field with
its stumps and trees, looking as if a mighty hurricane had swept over
Robert was soldier enough to see what a formidable obstruction was
being raised, but he thought the powerful artillery of the attacking
army would sweep it away or level it. He did not know that the big
guns were being left behind. In truth, Langy's first news that the
cannon would not be embarked upon the lake was partly wrong. The
loading of the cannon was delayed, but after the British and Americans
reached their landing and began the march across country for the
attack, the guns, although brought down the lake, were left behind as
not needed. But the French knew all these movements, and whether the
cannon were left at one point or another, it was just the same to
them, so long as they were not used in the assault.
Robert's intense mortification that he should be compelled to lie idle
and witness the efforts of his enemies returned, but no matter how he
chafed he could see no way out of it. Then his absorption in what was
going on about him made him forget his personal fortunes.
The setting for the great drama was wild and picturesque in the
extreme. On one side stretched the long, gleaming lake, a lake of
wildness and beauty associated with so much of romance and peril in
American story. Over them towered the crest of the peak later known
as Defiance. To the south and west was Lake George, the Iroquois
Andiatarocte, that gem of the east, and, on all sides, save Champlain,
circled the forest, just beginning to wither under the fierce summer
The energy of the French did not diminish. Stronger and stronger grew
abattis and breastwork, the whole becoming a formidable field over
which men might charge to death. But Robert only smiled to himself.
Abercrombie's mighty array of cannon would smash everything and then
the brave infantry, charging through the gaps, would destroy the
French army. The French, he knew, were brave and skillful, but their
doom was sure. Once St. Luc spoke to him. The chevalier had thrown off
his coat also, and he had swung an ax with the best.
"I am sorry, Mr. Lennox," he said, "that we have not had time to send
you away, but as you can see, our operations are somewhat hurried.
Chance put you here, and here you will have to stay until all is
"I see that you are expecting an army," said Robert, "and I infer from
all these preparations that it will soon be upon you."
"It is betraying no military secret to admit that it is even so.
Abercrombie will soon be at hand."
"And I am surprised that you should await him. I judge that he has
sufficient force to overwhelm you."
"We are never beaten before battle. The Marquis de Montcalm would not
stay, unless he had a fair chance of success."
Robert was silent and St. Luc quickly went back to his work. All day
the men toiled, and when the sun went down, they were still at their
task. The ring of axes and the crash of falling trees resounded
through the dark. Part of the soldiers put their kettles and pots on
the fires, but the others labored on. In the night came the valiant
De Levis with his men, and Montcalm gave him a heartfelt welcome. De
Levis was a host in himself, and Montcalm felt that he was just in
time. He expected the battle on the morrow. His scouts told him that
Abercrombie would be at hand, but without his artillery. The Marquis
looked at the formidable abattis, the rows and rows of trees,
presenting their myriad of spiked ends, and hope was alive in his
heart. He regretted once more the absence of the Indians who had been
led away by the sulky Tandakora, but victory, won with their help,
demanded a fearful price, as he had learned at William Henry.
Montcalm, St. Luc, De Levis, Bourlamaque, Lotbiniere and other trusted
officers held a consultation far in the night. An important event
had occurred already. A scouting force of French and Canadians under
Trepezec and Langy had been trapped by rangers under Rogers and troops
under Fitch and Lyman. The French and Canadians were cut to pieces,
but in the battle the gallant young Lord Howe, the real leader of the
Anglo-American army, had been killed. He had gone forward with the
vanguard, exposing himself rashly, perhaps, and his life was the
forfeit. Immediate confusion in the Anglo-American councils followed,
and Montcalm and his lieutenants had noticed the lack of precision and
Robert did not see the French officers going to the council, but
he knew that the French army meant to stay. Even while the men were
cutting down the trees he could not persuade himself wholly that
Montcalm would fight there at Ticonderoga, but as the night advanced
his last faint doubt disappeared. He would certainly witness a great
battle on the morrow.
He could not sleep. Every nerve in him seemed to be alive. One vivid
picture after another floated before his mind. The lake behind him
grew dim. Before him were the camp fires of the French, the wooden
wall, the dark line of the forest and hills, and the crest of Defiance
looking solemnly down on them. Although held firmly there, within
lines which one could not pass, nobody seemed to take any notice of
him. He could rest or watch as he chose, and he had no choice but to
He saw the French lie down on their arms, save for the numerous
sentinels posted everywhere, and after a while, though most of the
night was gone, the ring of axes and the fall of trees ceased.
There was a hum of voices but that too died in time, and long after
midnight, with his back against a tree, he dozed a little while.
He was awakened by a premonition, a warning out of the dark, and
opening his eyes he saw Garay slinking near. He did not know whether
the spy meant another attempt upon his life, but, standing up, he
stared at him intently. Garay shrank away and disappeared in the
further ranges of the camp. Robert somehow was not afraid. The man
would not make such a trial again at so great a risk, and his mind
turned back to its preoccupation, the great battle that was coming.
Near morning he dozed again for an hour or so, but he awoke before the
summer dawn. All his faculties were alive, and his body attuned when
he saw the sun rise, bringing with it the momentous day.
The French army rose with the sun, the drums beating the call to
battle. Montcalm stationed the battalions of Languedoc and La Sarre on
the left with Bourlamaque to command them, on the right De Levis led
the battalions of Bearn, Guienne and La Reine. Montcalm himself stood
with the battalion of Royal Roussillon in the center, and St. Luc was
by his side. Volunteers held the sunken ground between the breastwork
and the outlet of Lake George, a strong force of regulars and
Canadians was on the side of Lake Champlain under the guns of the fort
there. Then, having taken their places, all the parts of the army went
to work again, strengthening the defenses with ax and spade, improving
every moment that might be left.
All thought of escape left Robert's mind in the mighty and thrilling
drama that was about to be played before him. Once more he stared at
the long line of the lake, and then his whole attention was for the
circling forest, and the hills. That was where the army of his country
lay. Nothing was to be expected from the lake. Victory would come
from the woods, and he looked so long at the trees that they blurred
together into one mass. He knew that the English and Americans were
near, but just how near he could not gather from those around him.
He brushed his eyes to clear them, and continued to study the forest.
The sun, great and brilliant, was flooding it with light, gilding the
slopes and crests of Defiance, and tinging the green of the leaves
with gold. Nothing stirred there. The wilderness seemed silent, as if
men never fought in its depths. Time went slowly on. After all,
the army might not advance to the attack that day. If so, his
disappointment would be bitter. He wanted a great victory, and he
wanted it at once.
His eyes suddenly caught a gleam on the crest of Defiance. A bit
of red flashed among the trees. He thought it was the uniform of
a British soldier, and his heart beat hard. The army was surely
advancing, the attack would be made, and the victory would be won that
day, not on the morrow nor next week, but before the sun set.
The blood pounded in his temples. He looked at the French. They,
too, had seen the scarlet gleam on Defiance and they were watching.
Montcalm and St. Luc began to talk together earnestly. De Levis and
Bourlamaque walked back and forth among their troops, but their gaze
was upon the crest. The men lay down ax and spade for the time, and
reached for their arms. Robert saw the sunlight glittering on musket
and bayonet, and once more he thrilled at the thought of the great
drama on which the curtain was now rising.
Another scarlet patch appeared on the crest and then more. He knew
that the scouts and skirmishers were there, doubtless in strong force.
It was likely that the rangers, who would be in forest green, were
more numerous than the English, and the attack could not now be far
away. A sharp crack, a puff of white smoke on the hill, and the first
shot of Ticonderoga was fired. Then came a volley, but the French made
no reply. None of the bullets had reached them. Robert did not know
it then, but the gleam came from the red blankets of Iroquois Indians,
the allies of the English, and not from English uniforms. They kept up
a vigorous but harmless fire for a short while, and then drew off.
Silence descended once more on the forest, and Robert was puzzled. It
could not be possible that this was to be the only attack. The smoke
of the rifles was already drifting away from the crest, gone like
summer vapor. The French were returning to their work with ax and
spade. The forest covered and enclosed everything. No sound came from
it. Montcalm and St. Luc, walking up and down, began to talk together
again. They looked no longer toward the crest of Defiance, but watched
the southern wilderness.
The work with the ax increased. Montcalm had no mind to lose the
precious hours. More trees fell fast, and they were added to the
formidable works. The sun grew hotter and poured down sheaves of fiery
rays, but the toilers disregarded it, swinging the axes with muscles
that took no note of weariness. Robert thought the morning would
last forever. An hour before noon De Galissonniere was passing, and,
noticing him sitting on a low mound, he said:
"I did not know what had become of you, Mr. Lennox, but I see that
you, like ourselves, await the battle."
"So I do," said Robert as lightly as he could, "but it seems to me
that it's somewhat delayed."
"Not our fault, I assure you. Perhaps you didn't think so earlier, but
you see we're willing to fight, no matter how great the odds."
"I admit it. The Marquis de Montcalm has his courage--perhaps too
De Galissonniere glanced at the strong works, and his smile was
confident, but he merely said:
"It is for the future to tell."
Then he went on, and Robert hoped that whatever happened the battle
would spare the young Frenchman.
Up went the sun toward the zenith. A light wind rustled the foliage.
Noon was near, and he began to wonder anew what had become of the
advancing army. Suddenly, the echo of a crash came out of the forest
in front. He stood erect, listening intently, and the sound rose
again, but it was not an echo now. It was real, and he knew that the
battle was at hand.
The crashes became continuous. Mingled with them were shouts, and
a cloud of smoke began to float above the trees. The French fired a
cannon as a signal, and, before the echoes of its report rolled away,
every man dropped ax or spade, and was in his place, weapon in hand.
The noise of the firing in front grew fast. Montcalm's scouts and
pickets were driven in, and the soldiers of the advancing army began
to show among the trees. The French batteries opened. The roar in
Robert's ear was terrific, but he stood at his utmost height in order
that he might see the assault. His eyes caught the gleam of uniforms
and the flash of sunlight on bayonet and rifle. He knew now that his
own people, dauntless and tenacious, were coming. He did not know
that they had left their artillery behind, and that they expected to
destroy the French army with bayonet and rifle and musket.
The fire from the French barrier increased in volume. Its crash beat
heavily and continuously on the drums of Robert's ears. A deadly sleet
was beating upon the advancing English and Americans. Already their
dead were heaping up in rows. Montcalm's men showed their heads only
above their works, their bodies were sheltered by the logs and they
fired and fired into the charging masses until the barrels of rifles
and muskets grew too hot for them to hold. Meanwhile they shouted with
all their might: "Vive la France! Vive notre General! Vive le Roi!"
and St. Luc, who stood always with Montcalm, hummed softly and under
his breath: "Hier, sur le pont d'Avignon, j'ai oui chanter la belle."
"It goes well," he said to Montcalm.
"Aye, a fair beginning," replied the Marquis.
Fire ran through French veins. No cannon balls were coming from the
enemy to sweep down their defenses. Bullets from rifle and musket were
beating in vain on their wooden wall, and before them came the foe, a
vast, converging mass, a target that no one could miss. They were far
from their own land, deep in the great North American wilderness, but
as they saw it, they fought for the honor and glory of France, and to
keep what was hers. They redoubled their shouts and fired faster and
faster. A great cloud of smoke rose over the clearing and the forest,
but through it the attacking army always advanced, a hedge of bayonets
Robert saw everything clearly. His heart sank for a moment, and then
leaped up again. Many of his own had fallen, but a great red curve was
advancing. It was the British regulars, the best troops in the charge
that Europe could furnish, and they would surely carry the wooden
wall. As far as he could see, in front and to left and right, their
bayonets flashed in the sun, and a cry of admiration sprang to his
lips. Forward they came, their line even and beautiful, and then the
tempest beat upon them. The entire French fire was concentrated upon
the concave red lines. The batteries poured grape shot upon them and
a sleet of lead cut through flesh and bone. Gaps were torn in their
ranks, but the others closed up, and came on, the American Colonials
on their flanks charging as bravely.
Robert suddenly remembered a vision of his, vague and fleeting then,
but very real now. He was standing here at Ticonderoga, looking at
the battle as it passed before him, and now it was no vision, but the
truth. Had Tayoga's Manitou opened the future to him for a moment?
Then the memory was gone and the terrific drama of the present claimed
his whole mind.
The red lines were not stopped. In the face of awful losses they were
still coming. They were among the trees where the men were entangled
with the boughs or ran upon the wooden spikes. Often they tripped and
fell, but rising they returned to the charge, offering their breasts
to the deadly storm that never diminished for an instant.
Robert walked back and forth in his little space. Every nerve was on
edge. The smoke of the firing was in eye, throat and nostril, and
his brain was hot. But confidence was again supreme. "They'll come!
They'll come! Nothing can stop them!" he kept repeating to himself.
Now the Colonials on the flank pressed forward, and they also advanced
through the lines of the regulars in front and charged with them.
Together British and Americans climbed over the mass of fallen trees
in face of the terrible fire, and reached the wooden wall itself,
where the sleet beat directly upon their faces. For a long distance
behind them, their dead and wounded lay in hundreds and hundreds.
Many of them tried to scale the barrier, but were beaten back. Now
Montcalm, St. Luc, De Levis, Bourlamaque and all the French leaders
made their mightiest efforts. The eye of the French commander swept
the field. He neglected nothing. Never was a man better served by his
lieutenants. St. Luc was at every threatened point, encouraging with
voice and example. Bourlamaque received a dangerous wound, but refused
to quit the field. Bougainville was hit, but his hurt was less severe,
and he took no notice of it, two bullets pierced the hat of De Levis,
St. Luc took a half dozen through his clothes and his body was grazed
three times, but his gay and warlike spirit mounted steadily, and he
hummed his little French air over and over again.
More British and Americans pressed to the wooden wall. The new Black
Watch, stalwart Scotchmen, bagpipes playing, charged over everything.
Two British columns made a powerful and tremendous attack upon the
French right, where stood the valiant battalions of Bearn and Guienne.
It seemed, for a while, that they might overwhelm everything. They
were against the barrier itself, and were firing into the defense.
Montcalm rushed to the spot with all the reserves he could muster. St.
Luc sprang among the men and shouted to them to increase their fire.
This point became the center of the battle, and its full fury was
concentrated there. A mass of Highlanders, tearing at the wooden wall,
refused to give back. Though they fell fast, a captain climbed up the
barrier. Officers and men followed him. They stood a moment on the
crest as if to poise themselves, and then leaped down among the
French, where they were killed. Those who stood on the other side were
swept by a hurricane of fire, and at last they yielded slowly.
Robert saw all, and he was seized with a great horror. The army was
not crashing over everything. Those who entered the French works died
there. The wooden wall held. Nowhere was the line of defense broken.
Boats loaded with troops coming down the outlet of Lake George to
turn the French left were repelled by the muskets of the Canadian
volunteers. Some of the boats were sunk, and the soldiers struggled in
the water, as cannon balls and bullets beat upon them.
His view of the field was blurred, for a while, by the smoke from
so much firing, which floated in thickening clouds over all the
open spaces and the edges of the forest. It produced curious optical
illusions. The French loomed through it, increased fourfold in
numbers, every individual man magnified in size. He saw them lurid and
gigantic, pulling the triggers of their rifles or muskets, or
working the batteries. The cannon also grew from twelve-pounders or
eighteen-pounders into guns three or four times as large, and many
stood where none had stood before.
The smoke continued to inflame his brain also, and it made him pass
through great alternations of hope and fear. Now the army was going to
sweep over the wooden wall in spite of everything. With sheer weight
and bravery it would crush the French and take Ticonderoga. It must
be. Because he wanted it to be, it was going to be. Then he passed
to the other extreme. When one of the charges spent itself at the
barrier, sending perhaps a few men over it, like foam from a wave that
has reached its crest, his heart sank to the depths, and he was sure
the British and Americans could not come again. Mortal men would
not offer themselves so often to slaughter. If the firing died for a
little space he was in deep despair, but his soul leaped up again as
the charge came anew. It was certainly victory this time. Hope
could not be crushed in him. His vivid fancy made him hear above the
triumphant shouts of the French the deep cheers of the advancing army,
the beating of drums and the playing of invisible bands.
All the time, whether in attack or retreat, the smoke continued to
increase and to inflame and excite. It was like a gas, its taste was
acrid and bitter as death. Robert coughed and tried to blow it away,
but it returned in waves heavier than ever, and then he ceased to
fight against it.
The British and American troops came again and again to the attack,
their officers leading them on. Never had they shown greater courage
or more willingness to die. When the first lines were cut down at the
barrier, others took their places. They charged into the vast mass of
fallen trees and against the spikes. Blinded by the smoke of so much
firing, they nevertheless kept their faces toward the enemy and sought
to see him. The fierce cheering of the French merely encouraged them
to new attempts.
The battle went on for hours. It seemed days to Robert. Mass after
mass of British and Colonials continued to charge upon the wooden
wall, always to be broken down by the French fire, leaving heaps of
their dead among those logs and boughs and on that bristling array of
spikes. At last they advanced no more, twilight came over the field,
the terrible fire that had raged since noon died, and the sun set upon
the greatest military triumph ever won by France in the New World.
Twilight gathered over the most sanguinary field America had yet seen.
In the east the dark was already at hand, but in the west the light
from the sunken sun yet lingered, casting a scarlet glow alike over
the fallen and the triumphant faces of the victors. Within the works
where the French had stood fires were lighted, and everything there
was brilliant, but outside, where so much valor had been wasted,
the shadows that seemed to creep out of the illimitable forest grew
thicker and thicker.
The wind moaned incessantly among the leaves, and the persistent smoke
that had been so bitter in the throat and nostrils of Robert still
hung in great clouds that the wind moved but little. From the woods
came long, fierce howls. The wolves, no longer frightened by the crash
of cannon and muskets, were coming, and under cover of bushes and
floating smoke, they crept nearer and nearer.
Robert sat a long time, bewildered, stunned. The incredible had
happened. He had seen it with his own eyes, and yet it was hard to
believe that it was true. The great Anglo-American army had been
beaten by a French force far less in numbers. Rather, it had beaten
itself. That neglect to bring up the cannon had proved fatal, and the
finest force yet gathered on the soil of North America had been cut
to pieces. A prodigious opportunity had been lost by a commander who
stayed a mile and a half in the rear, while his valiant men charged to
Young Lennox walked stiffly a few steps. No one paid any attention to
him. In the dark, and amid the joyous excitement of the defenders, he
might have been taken for a Frenchman. But he made no attempt,
then, to escape. No such thought was in his mind for the moment. His
amazement gave way to horror. He wanted to see what was beyond the
wooden wall where he knew the dead and wounded lay, piled deep among
the logs and sharpened boughs. Unbelievable it was, but it was true.
His own eyes had seen and his own ears had heard. He listened to the
triumphant shouts of the French, and his soul sank within him.
A few shots came from the forest now and then, but the great army had
vanished, save for its fallen. Montcalm, still cautious, relaxing no
vigilance, fearing that the enemy would yet come back with his cannon,
walked among his troops and gave them thanks in person. Beer and wine
in abundance, and food were served to them. Fires were lighted and the
field that they had defended was to be their camp. Many scouts were
sent into the forest to see what had become of the opposing army. Most
of the soldiers, after eating and drinking, threw themselves upon the
ground and slept, but it was long before the leader and any of his
lieutenants closed their eyes. Although he felt a mighty joy over his
great victory of the day, Montcalm was still a prey to anxieties. His
own force, triumphant though it might be, was small. The enemy might
come again on the morrow with nearly four to one, and, if he brought
his cannon with him, he could take Ticonderoga, despite the great
losses he had suffered already. Once more he talked with St. Luc, whom
he trusted implicitly.
The Chevalier did not believe a second attack would be made, and his
belief was so strong it amounted to a conviction.
"The same mind," he said, "that sent their army against us without
artillery, will now go to the other extreme. Having deemed us
negligible it will think us invincible."
St. Luc's logic was correct. The French passed the night in peace, and
the next morning, when De Levis went out with a strong party to look
for the enemy he found that he was gone, and that in his haste he
had left behind vast quantities of food and other supplies which the
French eagerly seized. Montcalm that day, full of pride, caused a
great cross to be erected on his victorious field of battle and upon
it he wrote in Latin:
"Quid dux? quid miles? quid strata ingentia ligna?
En Signum! en victor! Deus hic, Deus ipse triumphat."
Which a great American writer has translated into:
"Soldier and chief and ramparts' strength are nought;
Behold the conquering cross! 'Tis God the triumph wrought."
But for Robert the night that closed down was the blackest he had ever
known. It had never occurred to him that Abercrombie's army could be
defeated. Confident in its overwhelming numbers, he had believed that
it would easily sweep away the French and take Ticonderoga. The skill
and valor of Montcalm, St. Luc, De Levis and the others, no matter how
skillful and valiant they might be, could avail nothing, and, after
Ticonderoga, it would be a mere question of time until Crown Point
fell too. And after that would come Quebec and the conquest of Canada.
Now, when his spirits had soared so high, the fall was correspondingly
low. His sensitive mind, upon which events always painted themselves
with such vividness, reflected only the darkest pictures. He saw the
triumphant advance of the French, the Indians laying waste the whole
of New York Province, and the enemy at the gates of New York itself.
The night itself was a perfect reproduction of his own mind. He saw
through his spirits as through a glass. The dusk was thick, heavy,
it was noisome, it had a quality that was almost ponderable, it was
unpleasant to eye and nostril, he tasted and breathed the smoke that
was shot through it, and he felt a sickening of the soul. He heard a
wind moaning through the forest, and it was to him a dirge, the lament
of those who had fallen.
He knew there had been no lack of bravery on the part of his own.
After a while he took some consolation in that fact. British and
Americans had come to the attack long after hope of success was gone.
They had not known how to win, but never had men known better how to
die. Such valor would march to triumph in the end.
He lay awake almost the whole night, and he did not expect Abercrombie
to advance again. Somehow he had the feeling that the play, so far as
this particular drama was concerned, was played out. The blow was
so heavy that he was in a dull and apathetic state from which he was
stirred only once in the evening, and that was when two Frenchmen
passed near him, escorting a prisoner of whose face he caught a
glimpse in the firelight. He started forward, exclaiming:
The young man, tall, handsome and firm of feature, although a
"Who called me?" he asked.
"It is I, Robert Lennox," said Robert. "I knew you in New York!"
"Aye, Mr. Lennox. I recognize you now. We meet again, after so long
a time. I could have preferred the meeting to be elsewhere and under
other circumstances, but it is something to know that you are alive."
They shook hands with great friendliness and the Frenchmen, who were
guarding Charteris, waited patiently.
"May our next meeting be under brighter omens," said Robert.
"I think it will be," said Charteris confidently.
Then he went on. It was a long time before they were to see each other
again, and the drama that was to bring them face to face once more was
destined to be as thrilling as that at Ticonderoga.
The next night came heavy and dark, and Robert, who continued to be
treated with singular forbearance, wandered toward Lake Champlain,
which lay pale and shadowy under the thick dusk. No one stopped him.
The sentinels seemed to have business elsewhere, and suddenly he
remembered his old threat to escape. Hope returned to a mind that had
been stunned for a time, and it came back vivid and strong. Then hope
sank down again, when a figure issued from the dusk, and stood before
him. It was St. Luc.
"Mr. Lennox," said the Chevalier, "what are you doing here?"
"Merely wandering about," replied Robert. "I'm a prisoner, as you
know, but no one is bothering about me, which I take to be natural
when the echoes of so great a battle have scarcely yet died."
St. Luc looked at him keenly and Robert met his gaze. He could not
read the eye of the Chevalier.
"You have been a prisoner of ours once before, but you escaped," said
the Chevalier. "It seems that you are a hard lad to hold."
"But then I had the help of the greatest trailer and forest runner in
the world, my staunch friend, Tayoga, the Onondaga."
"If he rescued you once he will probably try to do it again, and the
great hunter, Willet, is likely to be with him. I suppose you were
planning a few moments ago to escape along the shore of the lake."
"I might have been, but I see now that it is too late."
"Too late is a phrase that should be seldom used by youth."
Robert tried once again to read the Chevalier's eye, but St. Luc's
look contained the old enigma.
"I admit," said young Lennox, "that I thought I might find an open
place in your line. It was only a possible chance."
St. Luc shrugged his shoulders, and looked at the darkness that lay
before them like a great black blanket.
"There is much yet to be done by us at Ticonderoga," he said. "Perhaps
it is true that a possible chance for you to escape does exist, but
my duties are too important for me to concern myself about guarding a
His figure vanished. He was gone without noise, and Robert stared at
the place where he had been. Then the hope of escape came back, more
vivid and more powerful than ever. "Too late," was a phrase that
should not be known to youth. St. Luc was right. He walked straight
ahead. No sentinel barred the way. Presently the lake, still and
luminous, stretched across his path, and, darting into the bushes
along its edge, he ran for a long time. Then he sank down and looked
back. He saw dimly the lights of the camp, but he heard no sound of
Rising, he began a great curve about Ticonderoga, intending to seek
his own army, which he knew could not yet be far away. Once he heard
light footsteps and hid deep in the bush. From his covert he saw a
band of warriors at least twenty in number go by, their lean, sinewy
figures showing faintly in the dusk. Their faces were turned toward
the south and he shuddered. Already they were beginning to raid the
border. He knew that they had taken little or no part in the battle at
Ticonderoga, but now the great success of the French would bring them
flocking back to Montcalm's banner, and they would rush like wolves
upon those whom they thought defenseless, hoping for more slaughters
like that of William Henry.
Tandakora would not neglect such a glowing opportunity for scalps. His
savage spirit would incite the warriors to attempts yet greater, and
Robert looked closely at the dusky line, thinking for a moment that
he might be there. But he did not see his gigantic figure and the
warriors flitted on, gone like shadows in the darkness. Then the
fugitive youth resumed his own flight.
Far in the night Robert sank down in a state of exhaustion. It was
a physical and mental collapse, coming with great suddenness, but he
recognized it for what it was, the natural consequence flowing from
a period of such excessive strain. His emotions throughout the great
battle had been tense and violent, and they had been hardly less so in
the time that followed and in the course of the events that led to his
escape. And knowing, he forced himself to do what was necessary.
He lay down in the shelter of dense bushes, and kept himself perfectly
quiet for a long time. He would not allow hand or foot to move. His
weary heart at last began to beat with regularity, the blood ceased to
pound in his temples, and his nerves grew steadier. He dozed a little,
or at least passed into a state that was midway between wakefulness
and oblivion. Then the terrible battle was fought once more before
him. Again he heard the crash and roar of the French fire, again
he saw British and Americans coming forward in indomitable masses,
offering themselves to death, once again he saw them tangled among the
logs and sharpened boughs, and then mowed down at the wooden wall.
He roused himself and passed his hands over his eyes to shut away that
vision of the stricken field and the vivid reminder of his terrible
disappointment. The picture was still as fresh as the reality and it
sent shudders through him every time he saw it. He would keep it from
his sight whenever he could, lest he grow too morbid.
He rose and started once more toward the south, but the forest became
more dense and tangled and the country rougher. In his weakened state
he was not able to think with his usual clearness and precision, and
he lost the sense of direction. He began to wander about aimlessly,
and at last he stopped almost in despair.
He was in a desperate plight. He was unarmed, and a man alone and
without weapons in the wilderness was usually as good as lost. He
looked around, trying to study the points of the compass. The night
was not dark. Trees and bushes stood up distinctly, and on a bough not
far away, his eyes suddenly caught a flash of blue.
The flash was made by a small, glossy bird that wavered on a bough,
and he was about to turn away, taking no further notice of it, when
the bird flew slowly before him and in a direction which he now knew
led straight toward the south. He remembered. Back to his mind rushed
an earlier escape, and how he had followed the flight of a bird to
safety. Had Tayoga's Manitou intervened again in his favor? Was it
chance? Or did he in a dazed state imagine that he saw what he did not
The bird, an azure flash, flew on before him, and hope flowing in an
invincible tide in his veins, he followed. He was in continual fear
lest the blue flame fade away, but on he went, over hills and across
valleys and brooks, and it was always just before him. He had been
worn and weary before, but now he felt strong and active. Courage
rose steadily in his veins, and he had no doubt that he would reach
Near dawn the bird suddenly disappeared among the leaves. Robert
stopped and heard a light foot-step in the bushes. Being apprehensive
lest he be re-taken, he shrank away and then stopped. He listened a
while, and the sound not being repeated, he hoped that he had been
mistaken, but a voice called suddenly from a bush not ten feet away:
"Come, Dagaeoga! The Great Bear and I await you. Tododaho, watching on
his star, has sent us into your path."
Robert, uttering a joyful cry, sprang forward, and the Onondaga and
Willet, rising from the thicket, greeted him with the utmost warmth.
"I knew we'd find you again," said Willet "How did you manage to
"A way seemed to open for me," replied Robert. "The last man I saw in
the French camp was St. Luc. After that I met no sentinel, although I
passed where a sentinel would stand."
"Ah!" said Willet.
They gave him food, and after sunrise they started toward the south.
Robert told how he had seen the great battle and the French victory.
"Tayoga, Black Rifle, Grosvenor and I were in the attack," said
Willet, "but we went through it without a scratch. No troops ever
fought more bravely than ours. The defeat was the fault of the
commander, not theirs. But we'll put behind us the battle lost and
think of the battle yet to be won."
"So we will," said Robert, as he looked around at the great curving
forest, its deep green tinted with the light brown of summer. It was a
friendly forest now. It no longer had the aspect of the night before,
when the wolves, their jaws slavering in anticipation, howled in its
thickets. Rabbits sprang up as they passed, but the little creatures
of the wild did not seem to be afraid. They did not run away. Instead,
they crouched under the bushes, and gazed with mild eyes at the human
beings who made no threats. A deer, drinking at the edge of a brook,
raised its head a little and then continued to drink. Birds sang in
the dewy dawn with uncommon freshness and sweetness. The whole world
Creature, as he was, of his moods, Robert's spirits soared again at
his meeting with Tayoga and Willet, those staunch friends of his,
bound to him by such strong ties and so many dangers shared. The past
was the past, Ticonderoga was a defeat, a great defeat, when a victory
had been expected, but it was not irreparable. Hope sang in his
heart and his face flushed in the dawn. The Onondaga, looking at him,
"Dagaeoga already looks to the future," he said.
"So I do," replied Robert with enthusiasm. "Why shouldn't I? The night
just passed has favored me. I escaped. I met you and Dave, and it's a
The sun was rising in a splendid sea of color, tinting the woods with
red and gold. Never had the wilderness looked more beautiful to him.
He turned his face in the direction of Ticonderoga.
"We'll come back," he said, his heart full of courage, "and we'll yet
win the victory, even to the taking of Quebec."
"So we will," said the hunter.
"Aye, Stadacona itself will fall," said Tayoga.
Refreshed and strong, they plunged anew into the forest, traveling
swiftly toward the south.
[Footnote 1: The story of Edward Charteris and his adventures at
Ticonderoga and Quebec is told in the author's novel, "A Soldier of