Part 1 out of 6
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OF THE NORTH
A STORY OF OLD NEW YORK
AND A LOST CAMPAIGN
JOSEPH A. ALTSHELER
"The Shadow of the North," while an independent story, in itself, is
also the second volume of the Great French and Indian War series which
began with "The Hunters of the Hills." All the important characters of
the first romance reappear in the second.
CHARACTERS IN THE FRENCH AND INDIAN WAR SERIES
ROBERT LENNOX A lad of unknown origin
TAYOGA A young Onondaga warrior
DAVID WILLET A hunter
RAYMOND LOUIS DE ST. LUC A brilliant French officer
AGUSTE DE COURCELLES A French officer
FRANCOIS DE JUMONVILLE A French officer
LOUIS DE GALISONNIERE A young French officer
JEAN DE MEZY A corrupt Frenchman
ARMAN GLANDELET A young Frenchman
PIERRE BOUCHER A bully and bravo
PHILIBERT DROUILLAR A French priest
THE MARQUIS DUQUESNE Governor-General of Canada
MARQUIS DE VAUDREUIL Governor-General of Canada
FRANCOIS BIGOT Intendant of Canada
MARQUIS DE MONTCALM French commander-in-chief
DE LEVIS A French general
BOURLAMAQUE A French general
BOUGAINVILLE A French general
ARMAND DUBOIS A follower of St. Luc
M. DE CHATILLARD An old French Seigneur
CHARLES LANGLADE A French partisan
THE DOVE The Indian wife of Langlade
TANDAKORA An Ojibway chief
DAGANOWEDA A young Mohawk chief
HENDRICK An old Mohawk chief
BRADDOCK A British general
ABERCROMBIE A British general
WOLFE A British general
COL. WILLIAM JOHNSON Anglo-American leader
MOLLY BRANT Col. Wm. Johnson's Indian wife
JOSEPH BRANT Young brother of Molly Brant,
afterward the great Mohawk
ROBERT DINWIDDIE Lieutenant-Governor of Virginia
WILLIAM SHIRLEY Governor of Massachusetts
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN Famous American patriot
JAMES COLDEN A young Philadelphia captain
WILLIAM WILTON A young Philadelphia lieutenant
HUGH CARSON A young Philadelphia lieutenant
JACOBUS HUYSMAN An Albany burgher
CATERINA Jacobus Huysman's cook
ALEXANDER MCLEAN An Albany schoolmaster
BENJAMIN HARDY A New York merchant
JOHNATHAN PILLSBURY Clerk to Benjamin Hardy
ADRIAN VAN ZOON A New York merchant
THE SLAVER A nameless rover
ACHILLE GARAY A French spy
ALFRED GROSVENOR A young English officer
JAMES CABELL A young Virginian
WALTER STUART A young Virginian
BLACK RIFLE A famous "Indian fighter"
ELIHU STRONG A Massachusetts colonel
ALAN HERVEY A New York financier
STUART WHYTE Captain of the British sloop,
JOHN LATHAM Lieutenant of the British sloop,
EDWARD CHARTERIS A young officer of the Royal Americans
ZEBEDEE CRANE A young scout and forest runner
ROBERT ROGERS Famous Captain of American Rangers
I. THE ONONDAGA
II. THE AMBUSH
III. THE SIGNAL
IV. THE PERILOUS PATH
V. THE RUNNER
VI. THE RETURN
VII. THE RED WEAPON
IX. THE WATCHER
X. THE PORT
X1. THE PLAY
XII. THE SLAVER
XIII. THE MEETING
XIV. THE VIRGINIA CAPITAL
XV. THE FOREST FIGHT
THE SHADOW OF THE
Tayoga, of the Clan of the Bear, of the nation Onondaga, of the great
League of the Hodenosaunee, advanced with utmost caution through a
forest, so thick with undergrowth that it hid all objects twenty yards
away. He was not armed with a rifle, but carried instead a heavy bow,
while a quiver full of arrows hung over his shoulder. He wore less
clothing than when he was in the white man's school at Albany, his
arms and shoulders being bare, though not painted.
The young Indian's aspect, too, had changed. The great struggle
between English and French, drawing with it the whole North American
wilderness, had begun and, although the fifty sachems still sought to
hold the Six Nations neutral, many of their bravest warriors were
already serving with the Americans and English, ranging the forest as
scouts and guides and skirmishers, bringing to the campaign an
unrivaled skill, and a faith sealed by the long alliance.
Tayoga had thrown himself into the war heart and soul. Nothing could
diminish by a hair his hostility to the French and the tribes allied
with them. The deeds of Champlain and Frontenac were but of yesterday,
and the nation to which they belonged could never be a friend of the
Hodenosaunee. He trusted the Americans and the English, but his chief
devotion, by the decree of nature was for his own people, and now,
that fighting in the forest had occurred between the rival nations, he
shed more of the white ways and became a true son of the wilderness,
seeing as red men saw and thinking as red men thought.
He was bent over a little, as he walked slowly among the bushes, in
the position of one poised for instant flight or pursuit as the need
might be. His eyes, black and piercing, ranged about incessantly,
nothing escaping a vision so keen and trained so thoroughly that he
not only heard everything passing in the wilderness, but he knew the
nature of the sound, and what had made it.
The kindly look that distinguished Tayoga in repose had
disappeared. Unnumbered generations were speaking in him now, and the
Indian, often so gentle in peace, had become his usual self, stern and
unrelenting in war. His strong sharp chin was thrust forward. His
cheek bones seemed to be a little higher. His tread was so light that
the grass scarcely bent before his moccasins, and no leaves
rustled. He was in every respect the wilderness hunter and warrior,
fitted perfectly by the Supreme Hand into his setting, and if an enemy
appeared now he would fight as his people had fought for centuries,
and the customs and feelings of the new races that had come across the
ocean would be nothing to him.
A hundred yards more, and he sat down by the trunk of a great oak,
convinced that no foe was near. His own five splendid senses had told
him so, and the fact had been confirmed by an unrivaled sentinel
hidden among the leaves over his head, a small bird that poured forth
a wonderful volume of song. Were any other coming the bird would cease
his melody and fly away, but Tayoga felt that this tiny feathered
being was his ally and would not leave because of him. The song had
wonderful power, too, soothing his senses and casting a pleasing
spell. His imaginative mind, infused with the religion and beliefs of
his ancestors, filled the forest with friendly spirits. Unseen, they
hovered in the air and watched over him, and the trees, alive, bent
protecting boughs toward him. He saw, too, the very spot in the
heavens where the great shining star on which Tododaho lived came out
at night and glittered.
He remembered the time when he had gone forth in the dusk to meet
Tandakora and his friends, and how Tododaho had looked down on him
with approval. He had found favor in the sight of the great league's
founder, and the spirit that dwelt on the shining star still watched
over him. The Ojibway, whom he hated and who hated him in yet greater
measure, might be somewhere in the forest, but if he came near, the
feathered sentinel among the leaves over his head would give warning.
Tayoga sat nearly half an hour listening to the song of the bird. He
had no object in remaining there, his errand bade him move on, but
there was no hurry and he was content merely to breathe and to feel
the glory and splendor of the forest about him. He knew now that the
Indian nature had never been taken out of him by the schools. He loved
the wilderness, the trees, the lakes, the streams and all their
magnificent disorder, and war itself did not greatly trouble him,
since the legends of the tribes made it the natural state of man. He
knew well that he was in Tododaho's keeping, and, if by chance, the
great chief should turn against him it would be for some grave fault,
and he would deserve his punishment.
He sat in that absolute stillness of which the Indian by nature and
training was capable, the green of his tanned and beautifully soft
deerskin blending so perfectly with the emerald hue of the foliage
that the bird above his head at last took him for a part of the forest
itself and so, having no fear, came down within a foot of his head and
sang with more ecstasy than ever. It was a little gray bird, but
Tayoga knew that often the smaller a bird was, and the more sober its
plumage the finer was its song. He understood those musical notes
too. They expressed sheer delight, the joy of life just as he felt it
then himself, and the kinship between the two was strong.
The bird at last flew away and the Onondaga heard its song dying among
the distant leaves. A portion of the forest spell departed with it,
and Tayoga, returning to thoughts of his task, rose and walked on,
instinct rather than will causing him to keep a close watch on earth
and foliage. When he saw the faint trace of a large moccasin on the
earth all that was left of the spell departed suddenly and he became
at once the wilderness warrior, active, alert, ready to read every
He studied the imprint, which turned in, and hence had been made by an
Indian. Its great size too indicated to him that it might be that of
Tandakora, a belief becoming with him almost a certainty as he found
other and similar traces farther on. He followed them about a mile,
reaching stony ground where they vanished altogether, and then he
turned to the west.
The fact that Tandakora was so near, and might approach again was not
unpleasant to him, as Tayoga, having all the soul of a warrior, was
anxious to match himself with the gigantic Ojibway, and since the war
was now active on the border it seemed that the opportunity might
come. But his attention must be occupied with something else for the
present, and he went toward the west for a full hour through the
primeval forest. Now and then he stopped to listen, even lying down
and putting his ear to the ground, but the sounds he heard, although
varied and many, were natural to the wild.
He knew them all. The steady tapping was a woodpecker at work upon an
old tree. The faint musical note was another little gray bird singing
the delight of his soul as he perched himself upon a twig; the light
shuffling noise was the tread of a bear hunting succulent nuts; a
caw-caw so distant that it was like an echo was the voice of a
circling crow, and the tiny trickling noise that only the keenest ear
could have heard was made by a brook a yard wide taking a terrific
plunge over a precipice six inches high. The rustling, one great
blended note, universal but soft, was that of the leaves moving in
harmony before the gentle wind.
The young Onondaga was sure that the forest held no alien
presence. The traces of Tandakora were hours old, and he must now be
many miles away with his band, and, such being the case, it was fit
time for him to choose a camp and call his friends.
It pleased Tayoga, zealous of mind, to do all the work before the
others came, and, treading so lightly and delicately, that he would
not have alarmed a rabbit in the bush, he gathered together dead
sticks and heaped them in a little sunken place, clear of undergrowth.
Flint and steel soon lighted a fire, and then he sent forth his call,
the long penetrating whine of the wolf. The reply came from the north,
and, building his fire a little higher, he awaited the result, without
The dry wood crackled and many little flames red or yellow arose.
Tayoga heaped dead leaves against the trunk of a tree and sat down
comfortably, his shoulders and back resting against the bark. Presently
he heard the first alien sound in the forest, a light tread approaching
That he knew was Willet, and then he heard the second tread, even
lighter than the first, and he knew that it was the footstep of Robert.
"All ready! It's like you, Tayoga," said Willet, as he entered the
open space. "Here you are, with the house built and the fire burning
on the hearth!"
"I lighted the fire," said Tayoga, rising, "but Manitou made the
hearth, and built the house which is worthy of Him."
He looked with admiration at the magnificent trees spreading away on
every side, and the foliage in its most splendid, new luxuriant green.
"It is worthy, Tayoga," said Robert, whose soul was like that of the
Onondaga, "and it takes Manitou himself a century or more to grow
trees like these."
"Some of them, I dare say, are three or four hundred years old or
more," said Willet, "and the forest goes west, so I've heard the
Indians say, a matter of near two thousand miles. It's pleasant to
know that if all the axes in the world were at work it couldn't all be
cut down in our time or in the time of our children."
Tayoga's heart swelled with indignation at the idea that the forest
might be destroyed, but he said nothing, as he knew that Willet and
Robert shared his feeling.
"Here's your rifle, Tayoga," said the hunter; "I suppose you didn't
have an occasion to use your bow and arrows."
"No, Great Bear," replied the Onondaga, "but I might have had the
chance had I come earlier."
"What do you mean by that?"
"I saw on the grass a human trace. It was made by a foot clothed in a
moccasin, a large foot, a very large foot, the foot of a man whom we
all have cause to hate."
"I take it you're speaking of Tandakora, the Ojibway."
"None other. I cannot be mistaken. But the trail was cold. He and his
warriors have gone north. They may be thirty, forty miles from here."
"Likely enough, Tayoga. They're on their way to join the force the
French are sending to the fort at the junction of the Monongahela and
the Alleghany. Perhaps St. Luc--and there isn't a cleverer officer in
this continent--is with them. I tell you, Tayoga, and you too, Robert,
I don't like it! That young Washington ought to have been sent earlier
into the Ohio country, and they should have given him a much larger
force. We're sluggards and all our governors are sluggards, except
maybe Shirley of Massachusetts. With the war just blazing up the
French are already in possession, and we're to drive 'em out, which
doubles our task. It was a great victory for us to keep the
Hodenosaunee on our side, or, in the main, neutral, but it's going to
be uphill work for us to win. The young French leaders are genuine
kings of the wilderness. You know that, Robert, as well as I do."
"Yes," said the youth. "I know they're the men whom the English
colonies have good cause to fear."
When he spoke he was thinking of St. Luc, as he had last seen him in
the vale of Onondaga, defeated in the appeal to the fifty sachems, but
gallant, well bred, showing nothing of chagrin, and sure to be a
formidable foe on the field of battle. He was an enemy of whom one
could be proud, and Robert felt an actual wish to see him again, even
though in opposing ranks.
"We may come into contact with some of 'em," said the hunter. "The
French are using all their influence over the Indians, and are
directing their movements. I know that St. Luc, Jumonville, Beaujeu,
Dumas, De Villiers, De Courcelles and all their best men are in the
forest. It's likely that Tandakora, fierce and wild as he is, is
acting under the direction of some Frenchman. St. Luc could control
Robert thought it highly probable that the chevalier was in truth with
the Indians on the border, either leading some daring band or
gathering the warriors to the banner of France. His influence with
them would be great, as he understood their ways, adapted himself to
them and showed in battle a skill and daring that always make a
powerful appeal to the savage heart. The youth had matched himself
against St. Luc in the test of words in the vale of Onondaga, and now
he felt that he must match himself anew, but in the test of forest
Tayoga having lighted the fire, the hunter cooked the food over it,
while the two youths reposed calmly. Robert watched Willet with
interest, and he was impressed for the thousandth time by his great
strength, and the lightness of his movements. When he was younger, the
disparity in years had made him think of Willet as an old man, but he
saw now that he was only in early middle age. There was not a gray
hair on his head, and his face was free from wrinkles.
An extraordinarily vivid memory of that night in Quebec when the
hunter had faced Boucher, the bully and bravo, reputed the best
swordsman of France, leaped up in Robert's mind. He had found no time
to think of Willet's past recently and he realized now that he knew
little about it. The origin of that hunter was as obscure as his
own. But the story of the past and its mysteries must wait. The
present was so great and overwhelming that it blotted out everything
"The venison and the bacon are ready," said Willet, "and you two lads
can fall on. You're not what I'd call epicures, but I've never known
your appetites to fail."
"Nor will they," said Robert, as he and Tayoga helped
themselves. "What's the news from Britain, Dave? You must have heard a
lot when you were in Albany."
"It's vague, Robert, vague. The English are slow, just as we Americans
are, too. They're going to send out troops, but the French have
dispatched a fleet and regiments already. The fact that our colonies
are so much larger than theirs is perhaps an advantage to them, as it
gives them a bigger target to aim at, and our people who are trying to
till their farms, will be struck down by their Indians from ambush."
"And you see now what a bulwark the great League of the Hodenosaunee
is to the English," said Tayoga.
"A fact that I've always foreseen," said Willet warmly. "Nobody knows
better than I do the power of the Six Nations, and nobody has ever
been readier to admit it."
"I know, Great Bear. You have always been our true friend. If all the
white men were like you no trouble would ever arise between them and
Robert finished his food and resumed a comfortable place against a
tree. Willet put out the fire and he and Tayoga sat down in like
fashion. Their trees were close together, but they did not talk
now. Each was absorbed in his own thoughts and Robert had much to
The war was going slowly. He had believed a great flare would come at
once and that everybody would soon be in the thick of action, but
since young Washington had been defeated by Coulon de Villiers at the
Great Meadows the British Colonies had spent much time debating and
pulling in different directions. The union for which his eager soul
craved did not come, and the shadow of the French power in the north,
reinforced by innumerable savages, hung heavy and black over the
land. Every runner brought news of French activities. Rumor painted as
impregnable the fort they had built where two rivers uniting formed
the Ohio, and it was certain that many bands already ranged down in
the regions the English called their own.
Spring had lingered far into summer where they were, and the foliage
was not yet touched by heat. All the forest was in deep and heavy
green, hiding every object a hundred yards away, but from their
opening they saw a blue and speckless sky, which the three by and by
watched attentively, and with the same motive. Before the dark had
begun to come in the east they saw a thin dark line drawn slowly
across it, the trail of smoke. It might not have been noticed by eyes
less keen, but they understood at once that it was a signal. Robert
noted its drifting progress across the heavens, and then he said to
"How far from here do you calculate the base of that smoke is, Dave?"
"A long distance, Robert. Several miles maybe. The fire, I've no
doubt, was kindled on top of a hill. It may be French speaking to
Indians, or Indians talking to Indians."
"And you don't think it's people of ours?"
"I'm sure it isn't. We've no hunters or runners in these parts, except
"And it's not Tandakora," said the Onondaga. "He must be much farther
"But the signal may be intended for him," said the hunter. "It may be
carried to him by relays of smoke. I wish I could read that trail
across the sky."
"It's thinning out fast," said Robert. "You can hardly see it! and now
it's gone entirely!"
But the hunter continued to look thoughtfully at the sky, where the
smoke had been. He never underrated the activity of the French, and he
believed that a movement of importance, something the nature of which
they should discover was at hand.
"Lads," he said, "I expected an easy night of good sleep for all three
of us, but I'm thinking instead that we'd better take to the trail,
and travel toward the place where that smoke was started."
"It's what scouts would do," said Tayoga tersely.
"And such we claim to be," said Robert.
As the sun began to sink they saw far in the west another smoke, that
would have been invisible had it not been outlined against a fiery red
sky, across which it lay like a dark thread. It was gone in a few
moments, and then the dusk began to come.
"An answer to the first signal," said Tayoga. "It is very likely that
a strong force is gathering. Perhaps Tandakora has come back and is
planning a blow."
"It can't be possible that they're aiming it at us," said the hunter,
thoughtfully. "They don't know of our presence here, and if they did
we've too small a party for such big preparations."
"Perhaps a troop of Pennsylvanians are marching westward," said
Tayoga, "and the French and their allies are laying a trap for them."
"Then," said Robert, "there is but one thing for us to do. We must
warn our friends and save them from the snare."
"Of course," said Willet, "but we don't know where they are, and
meanwhile we'd better wait an hour or two. Perhaps something will
happen that will help us to locate them."
Robert and Tayoga nodded and the three remained silent while the night
came. The blazing red in the west faded rapidly and darkness swept
down over the wilderness. The three, each leaning against his tree,
did not move but kept their rifles across their knees ready at once
for possible use. Tayoga had fastened his bow over his back by the
side of his quiver, and their packs were adjusted also.
Robert was anxious not so much for himself as for the unknown others
who were marching through the wilderness, and for whom the French and
Indians were laying an ambush. It had been put forward first as a
suggestion, but it quickly became a conviction with him, and he felt
that his comrades and he must act as if it were a certainty. But no
sound that would tell them which way to go came out of this black
forest, and they remained silent, waiting for the word.
The night thickened and they were still uncertain what to do. Robert
made a silent prayer to the God of the white man, the Manitou of the
red man, for a sign, but none came, and infected strongly as he was
with the Indian philosophy and religion, he felt that it must be due
to some lack of virtue in himself. He searched his memory, but he
could not discover in what particular he had erred, and he was forced
to continue his anxious waiting, until the stars should choose to
fight for him.
Tayoga too was troubled, his mind in its own way being as active as
Robert's. He knew all the spirits of earth, air and water were abroad,
but he hoped at least one of them would look upon him with favor, and
give him a warning. He sought Tododaho's star in the heavens, but the
clouds were too thick, and, eye failing, he relied upon his ear for
the signal which he and his young white comrade sought so earnestly.
If Tayoga had erred either in omission or commission then the spirits
that hovered about him forgave him, as when the night was thickest
they gave the sign. It was but the faint fall of a foot, and, at
first, he thought a bear or a deer had made it, but at the fourth or
fifth fall he knew that it was a human footstep and he whispered to
"Some one comes!"
As if by preconcerted signal the three arose and crept silently into
the dense underbrush, where they crouched, their rifles thrust
"It is but one man and he walks directly toward us," whispered Tayoga.
"I hear him now," said Robert. "He is wearing moccasins, as his step
is too light for boots."
"Which means that he's a rover like ourselves," said Willet. "Now he's
stopped. There isn't a sound. The man, whoever he is, has taken alarm,
or at least he's decided that it's best for him to be more
watchful. Perhaps he's caught a whiff from the ashes of our fire. He's
white or he wouldn't be here alone, and he's used to the forest, or he
wouldn't have suspected a presence from so little."
"The Great Bear thinks clearly," said Tayoga. "It is surely a white
man and some great scout or hunter. He moved a little now to the
right, because I heard his buckskin brush lightly against a bush. I
think Great Bear is right about the fire. The wind has brought the
ashes from it to his nostrils, and he will lie in the bush long before
"Which doesn't suit our plans at all," said Willet. "There's a
chance, just a chance, that I may know who he is. White men of the
kind to go scouting through the wilderness are not so plenty on the
border that one has to make many guesses. You lads move away a little
so you won't be in line if a shot comes, and I'll give a signal."
Robert and Tayoga crept to other points in the brush, and the hunter
uttered a whistle, low but very clear and musical. In a moment or two,
a like answer came from a place about a hundred yards away, and Willet
rising, advanced without hesitation. Robert and Tayoga followed
promptly, and a tall figure, emerging from the darkness, came forward
to meet them.
The stranger was a man of middle years, and of a singularly wild
appearance. His eyes roved continually, and were full of suspicion,
and of a sort of smoldering anger, as if he had a grievance against
all the world. His hair was long and tangled, his face brown with sun
and storm, and his dress more Indian than white. He was heavily armed,
and, whether seen in the dusk or in the light, his whole aspect was
formidable and dangerous. But Willet continued to advance without
"Captain Jack," he said extending his hand. "We were not looking for
you tonight, but no man could be more welcome. These are young friends
of mine, brave warriors both, the white and the red, Robert Lennox,
who is almost a son to me, and Tayoga, the Onondaga, to whom I feel
nearly like a father too."
Now Robert knew him, and he felt a thrill of surprise, and of the most
intense curiosity. Who along the whole border had not heard of Captain
Jack, known also as the Black Hunter, the Black Rifle and by many
other names? The tale had been told in every cabin in the woods how
returning home, he had found his wife and children tomahawked and
scalped, and how he had taken a vow of lifelong vengeance upon the
Indians, a vow most terribly kept. In all the villages in the Ohio
country and along the Great Lakes, the name of Black Rifle was spoken
with awe and terror. No more singular and ominous figure ever crossed
the pages of border story.
He swept the two youths with questing glances, but they met his gaze
firmly, and while his eye had clouded at first sight of the Onondaga
the threatening look soon passed.
"Friends of yours are friends of mine, Dave Willet," he said. "I know
you to be a good man and true, and once when I was at Albany I heard
of Robert Lennox, and of the great young warrior, Tayoga, of the clan
of the Bear, of the nation Onondaga, of the great League of the
The young Onondaga's eyes flashed with pleasure, but he was silent.
"How does it happen, Willet?" asked Black Rifle, "that we meet here in
the forest at such a time?"
"We're on our way to the Ohio country to learn something about the
gathering of the French and Indian forces. Just before sundown we saw
smoke signals and we think our enemies are planning to cut off a force
of ours, somewhere here in the forest."
Black Rifle laughed, but it was not a pleasant laugh. It had in it a
quality that made Robert shudder.
"Your guesses are good, Dave," said Black Rifle. "About fifty men of
the Pennsylvania militia are in camp on the banks of a little creek
two miles from here. They have been sent out to guard the farthest
settlements. Think of that, Dave! They're to be a guard against the
French and Indians!"
His face contracted into a wry smile, and Robert understood his
feeling of derision for the militia.
"As I told you, they're in camp," continued Black Rifle. "They built a
fire there to cook their supper, and to show the French and Indians
where they are, lest they miss 'em in the darkness. They don't know
what part of the country they're in, but they're sure it's a long
distance west of Philadelphia, and if the Indians will only tell 'em
when they're coming they'll be ready for 'em. Oh, they're brave
enough! They'll probably all die with their faces to the enemy."
He spoke with grim irony and Robert shuddered. He knew how helpless
men from the older parts of the country were in the depths of the
wilderness, and he was sure that the net was already being drawn about
"Are the French here too, Black Rifle?" asked Willet.
The strange man pointed toward the north.
"A band led by a Frenchman is there," he replied. "He is the most
skillful of all their men in the forest, the one whom they call
"I thought so!" exclaimed Robert. "I believed all the while he would
be here. I've no doubt he will direct the ambush."
"We must warn this troop," said Willet, "and save 'em if they will let
us. You agree with me, don't you, Tayoga?"
"The Great Bear is right."
"And you'll back me up, of course, Robert. Will you help us too, Black
The singular man smiled again, but his smile was not like that of
anybody else. It was sinister and full of menace. It was the smile of
a man who rejoiced in sanguinary work, and it made Robert think again
of his extraordinary history, around which the border had built so
much of truth and legend.
"I will help, of course," he replied. "It's my trade. It was my
purpose to warn 'em before I met you, but I feared they would not
listen to me. Now, the words of four may sound more real to 'em than
the words of one."
"Then lead the way," said Willet. "'Tis not a time to linger."
Black Rifle, without another word, threw his rifle over his shoulder
and started toward the north, the others falling into Indian file
behind him. A light, pleased smile played over his massive and rugged
features. More than the rest he rejoiced in the prospect of combat.
They did not seek battle and they fought only when they were compelled
to do so, but he, with his whole nature embittered forever by that
massacre of long ago, loved it for its own sake. He had ranged the
border, a torch of fire, for years, and now he foresaw more of the
revenge that he craved incessantly.
He led without hesitation straight toward the north. All four were
accomplished trailers and the flitting figures were soundless as they
made their swift march through the forest. In a half hour they reached
the crest of a rather high hill and Black Rifle, stopping, pointed
with a long forefinger toward a low and dim light.
"The camp of the Pennsylvanians," he said with bitter irony. "As I
told you, fearing lest the savages should miss 'em in the forest they
keep their fire burning as a beacon."
"Don't be too hard on 'em, Black Rifle," said Willet. "Maybe they
come from Philadelphia itself, and city bred men can scarcely be
expected to learn all about the wilderness in a few days."
"They'll learn, when it's too late, at the muzzles of the French and
Indian rifles," rejoined Black Rifle, abating a little his tone of
"At least they're likely to be brave men," said Willet, "and now what
do you think will be our best manner of approaching 'em?"
"We'll walk directly toward their fire, the four of us abreast. They'll
blaze away all fifty of 'em together, as soon as they see us, but the
darkness will spoil their aim, and at least one of us will be left
alive, able to walk, and able to tell 'em of their danger. We don't
know who'll be the lucky man, but we'll see."
"Come, come, Captain Jack! Give 'em a chance! They may be a more
likely lot than you think. You three wait here and I'll go forward and
announce our coming. I dare say we'll be welcome."
Willet advanced boldly toward the fire, which he soon saw consisted of
a great bed of coals, surrounded by sleepers. But the figures of men,
pacing back and forth, showed that the watch had not been neglected,
although in the deep forest such sentinels would be but little
protection against the kind of ambush the French and Indians were able
Not caring to come within the circle of light lest he be fired upon,
the hunter whistled, and when he saw that the sentinels were at
attention he whistled again. Then he emerged from the bushes, and
walked boldly toward the fire.
"Who are you?" a voice demanded sharply, and a young man in a fine
uniform stood up in front of the fire. The hunter's quick and
penetrating look noted that he was tall, built well, and that his face
was frank and open.
"My name is David Willet," he replied, "and I am sometimes called by
my friends, the Iroquois, the Great Bear. Behind me in the woods are
three comrades, young Robert Lennox, of New York and Albany; Tayoga, a
young warrior of the clan of the Bear, of the nation Onondaga, of the
great League of the Hodenosaunee, and the famous hunter and border
fighter, of whom everybody has heard, Captain Jack, Black Hunter, or
Black Rifle as he has been called variously."
"I know the name," replied the young man, "and yours too, Mr.
Willet. My own is Colden, James Colden of Philadelphia, and I am in
command of this troop, sent to guard the farthest settlements against
the French and Indians. Will you call your comrades, Mr. Willet? All
of you are welcome."
The hunter whistled again, and Robert, Tayoga and Black Rifle,
advancing from the forest, came within the area of half light cast by
the glow from the coals, young Captain Colden watching them with the
most intense curiosity as they approached. And well he might feel
surprise. All, even Robert, wore the dress of the wilderness, and
their appearance at such a time was uncommon and striking. Most of the
soldiers had been awakened by the voices, and were sitting up, rubbing
sleepy eyes. Robert saw at once that they were city men, singularly
out of place in the vast forest and the darkness.
"We welcome you to our camp," said young Captain Colden, with dignity.
"If you are hungry we have food, and if you are without blankets we
can furnish them to you."
Willet and Tayoga looked at Robert and he knew they expected him to
fill his usual role of spokesman. The words rushed to his lips, but
they were held there by embarrassment. The soldiers who had been
awakened were already going back to sleep. Captain Colden sat down on
a log and waited for them to state their wants. Then Robert spoke,
knowing they could not afford to delay.
"We thank you, Captain Colden," he said, "for the offer of supper and
bed, but I must say to you, sir, that it's no time for either."
"I don't take your meaning, Mr. Lennox."
"Tayoga, Mr. Willet and Black Rifle, are the best scouts in the
wilderness, and before sunset they saw smoke on the horizon. Then they
saw smoke answering smoke, and Black Rifle has seen more. The French
and Indians, sir, are in the forest, and they're led, too, by
Young James Colden was a brave man, and his eyes glittered.
"We ask nothing better than to meet 'em," he said, "At the first
breath of dawn we'll march against 'em, if your friends will only be
so good as to show us the way."
"It's not a matter of waiting until dawn, nor even of going to meet
'em. They'll bring the battle to us. You and your force, Captain
Colden, are surrounded already."
The young captain stared at Robert, but his eyes were full of
incredulity. Several of the soldiers were standing near, and they too
heard, but the warning found no answer in their minds. Robert looked
around at the men asleep and the others ready to follow them, and,
despite his instinctive liking for Colden, his anger began to rise.
"I said that you were surrounded," he repeated sharply, "and it's no
time, Captain Colden, for unbelief! Mr. Willet, Tayoga and I saw the
signals of the enemy, but Black Rifle here has looked upon the
warriors themselves. They're led too by the French, and the best of
all the French forest captains, St. Luc, is undoubtedly with them off
He waved his hand toward the north, and a little of the high color
left Colden's face. The youth's manner was so earnest and his words
were spoken with so much power of conviction that they could not fail
"You really mean that the French and Indians are here, that they're
planning to attack us tonight?" said the Philadelphian.
"Beyond a doubt and we must be prepared to meet them."
Colden took a few steps back and forth, and then, like the brave young
man he was, he swallowed his pride.
"I confess that I don't know much of the forest, nor do my men," he
said, "and so I shall have to ask you four to help me."
"We'll do it gladly," said Robert. "What do you propose, Dave?"
"I think we'd better draw off some distance from the fire," replied
the hunter. "To the right there is a low hill, covered with thick
brush, and old logs thrown down by an ancient storm. It's the very
"Then," said Captain Colden briskly, "we'll occupy it inside of five
minutes. Up, men, up!"
The sleepers were awakened rapidly, and, although they were awkward
and made much more noise than was necessary, they obeyed their
captain's sharp order, and marched away with all their arms and stores
to the thicket on the hill, where, as Willet had predicted, they found
also a network of fallen trees, affording a fine shelter and
defense. Here they crouched and Willet enjoined upon them the
necessity of silence.
"Sir," said young Captain Colden, again putting down his pride, "I beg
to thank you and your comrades."
"You don't owe us any thanks. It's just what we ought to have done,"
said Willet lightly. "The wilderness often turns a false face to those
who are not used to it, and if we hadn't warned you we'd have deserved
The faint whine of a wolf came from a point far in the north.
"It's one of their signals," said Willet. "They'll attack inside of an
Then they relapsed into silence and waited, every heart beating hard.
Robert now had much experience of Indian attack and forest warfare,
but it always made a tremendous impression upon his vivid and uncommon
imagination. The great pulses in his throat and temples leaped, and
his ear became so keen that he seemed to himself to hear the fall of
the leaf in the forest. It was this acute sharpening of the senses,
the painting of pictures before him, that gave him the gift of golden
speech that the Indians had first noticed in him. He saw and heard
much that others could neither hear nor see, and the words to describe
it were always ready to pour forth.
Willet and Tayoga were crouched near him, their rifles thrust forward
a little, and just beyond them was Captain Colden who had drawn a
small sword, more as an evidence of command than as a weapon. The
men, city bred, were silent, but the faces of some of them still
expressed amazement and incredulity. Robert's quick and powerful
imagination instantly projected itself into their minds, and he saw as
they saw. To them the cry of a wolf was the cry of a real wolf, the
forest was dark, lonely and uncomfortable, but it was empty of any
foe, and the four who had come to them were merely trying to create a
sense of their own importance. They began to move restlessly, and it
required Captain Colden's whispered but sharp command to still them
The cry of the wolf, used much by both the Indians and the borderers
as a signal, came now from the east, and after the lapse of a minute
it was repeated from the west. Call and answer were a relief to
Robert, whose faculties were attuned to such a high degree that any
relief to the strain, though it brought the certainty of attack, was
"You're sure those cries were made by our enemies?" said young Colden.
"Beyond a doubt," replied Willet. "I can tell the difference between
the note and that of a genuine wolf, but then I've spent many years in
the wilderness, and I had to learn these things in order to live.
They'll send forward scouts, and they'll expect to find you and your
men around the fire, most of you asleep. When they miss you there
they'll try to locate you, and they'll soon trail us to these bushes."
Captain James Colden had his share of pride, and much faith in
himself, but he had nobility of soul, too.
"I believe you implicitly, Mr. Willet," he said. "If it had not been
for you and your friends the enemy would have been upon us when we
expected him not at all, and 'tis most likely that all of us would
have been killed and scalped. So, I thank you now, lest I fall in the
battle, and it be too late then to express my gratitude."
It was a little bit formal, and a little bit youthful, but Willet
accepted the words in the fine spirit in which they were uttered.
"What we did was no more than we should have done," he replied, "and
you'll pay us back. In such times as these everybody ought to help
everybody else. Caution your soldiers, captain, won't you, not to
make any noise at all. The wolf will howl no more, and I fancy their
scouts are now within two or three hundred yards of the fire. I'm glad
it's turned darker."
The troop, hidden in the bushes, was now completely silent. The
Philadelphia men, used to contiguous houses and streets, were not
afraid, but they were appalled by their extraordinary position at
night, in the deep brush of an unknown wilderness with a creeping foe
coming down upon them. Many a hand quivered upon the rifle barrel, but
the heart of its owner did not tremble.
The moonlight was scant and the stars were few. To the city men trees
and bushes melted together in a general blackness, relieved only by a
single point of light where the fire yet smoldered, but Robert,
kneeling by the side of Tayoga, saw with his trained eyes the separate
trunks stretching away like columns, and then far beyond the fire he
thought he caught a glimpse of a red feather raised for a moment above
"Did you see!" he whispered to Tayoga.
"Yes. It was a painted feather in the scalp lock of a Huron," replied
"And where he is others are sure to be."
"Well spoken, Dagaeoga. They have discovered already that the soldiers
are not by the fire, and now they will search for them."
"They will lie almost flat on their faces and follow, a little, the
broad trail the city men have left."
Willet had already warned Captain Colden, and the soldiers were ready.
Tayoga was on Robert's right, and on his left was Black Rifle to whom
his attention was now attracted. The man's eyes were blazing in his
dark face, and his crouched figure was tense like that of a lion about
to spring. Face and attitude alike expressed the most eager
anticipation, and Robert shuddered. The ranger would add more lives to
the toll of his revenge, and yet the youth felt sympathy for him, too.
Then his mind became wholly absorbed in the battle, which obviously
was so close at hand.
Their position was strong. Just behind them the thickets ended in a
cliff hard to climb, and on the right was an open space that the enemy
could not cross without being seen. Hence the chief danger was in
front and on the left, and most of the men watched those points.
"I can see the bushes moving about a hundred yards away," whispered
Tayoga. "A warrior is there, but to fire at him would be shooting at
"Let them begin it. They'll open soon. They'll know by our absence
from the fire that we're looking for 'em."
"Spoken well, Dagaeoga. You'll be a warrior some day."
Robert smiled in the dark. Tayoga himself was so great a warrior that
he could preserve his sense of humor upon the eve of a deadly battle.
Robert also saw bushes moving now, but nothing was definite enough for
a shot, and he waited with his fingers on the trigger.
"The enemy is at hand, Captain Colden," said Willet. "If you will look
very closely at the thicket about one hundred yards directly in front
of us you'll see the leaves shaking."
"Yes, I can make out some movement there," said Colden.
"They've discovered, of course, that we've left the fire, and they
know also where we are."
"Do you think they'll try to rush us?"
"Not at all. It's not the Indian way, nor is it the way either of the
French, who go with them. They know your men are raw--pardon
me--inexperienced troops, and they'll put a cruel burden upon your
patience. They may wait for hours, and they'll try in every manner to
wear them out, and to provoke them at last into some rash movement.
You'll have to guard most, Captain Colden, against the temper of your
troop. If you'll take advice from one who's a veteran in the woods,
you'd better threaten them with death for disobedience of orders."
"As I said before, I'm grateful to you for any advice or suggestion,
Mr. Willet. This seems a long way from Philadelphia, and I'll confess
I'm not so very much at home here."
He crawled among his men, and Willet and Robert heard him threatening
them in fierce whispers, and their replies that they would be cautious
and patient. It was well that Willet had given the advice, as a full
hour passed without any sign from the foe. Troops even more
experienced than the city men might well have concluded it was a false
alarm, and that the forest contained nothing more dangerous than a
bear. There was no sound, and Captain Colden himself asked if the
warriors had not gone away.
"Not a chance of it," replied Willet. "They think they're certain of a
victory, and they would not dream of retiring."
"And we have more long waiting in the dark to do?"
"I warned you. There is no other way to fight such enemies. We must
never make the mistake of undervaluing them."
Captain Colden sighed. He had a gallant heart, and he and his troop
had made a fine parade through the streets of Philadelphia, before he
started for the frontier, but he had expected to meet the French in
the open, perhaps with a bugle playing, and he would charge at the
head of his men, waving the neat small sword, now buckled to his side.
Instead he lay in a black thicket, awaiting the attack of creeping
savages. Nevertheless, he put down his pride for the third time, and
resolved to trust the four who had come so opportunely to his aid, and
who seemed to be so thoroughly at home in the wilderness.
Another hour dragged its weary length away, and there was no sound of
anything stirring in the forest. The skies lightened a little as the
moon came out, casting a faint whitish tint over trees and bushes, but
the brave young captain was yet unable to see any trace of the enemy.
"Do you feel quite sure that we're still besieged?" he whispered to
"Yes, Captain," replied the hunter, "and, as I said, patience is the
commodity we need most. It would be fatal for us to force the action,
but I don't think we have much longer to wait. Since they can't induce
us to take some rash step they're likely to make a movement soon."
"I see the bushes waving again," said Tayoga. "It is proof that the
warriors are approaching. It would be well for the soldiers to lie
flat for a little while."
Captain Colden, adhering to his resolution to take the advice of his
new friends, crept along the line, telling the men in sharp whispers
to hug the earth, a command that they obeyed willingly, as the
darkness, the silence and the mysterious nature of the danger had
begun to weigh heavily upon their nerves.
Robert saw a bead of flame among the bushes, and heard a sharp report.
A bullet cut a bough over his head, and a leaf drifted down upon his
face. The soldiers shifted uneasily and began to thrust their rifles
forward, but again the stern command of the young captain prompted by
the hunter, held them down.
"'Twas intended merely to draw us," said Willet. "They're sure we're
in this wood, but of course they don't know the exact location of our
men. They're hoping for a glimpse of the bright uniforms, but, if the
men keep very low, they won't get it."
It was a tremendous trial for young and raw troops, but they managed
to still their nerves, and to remain crouched and motionless. A second
shot was fired soon, and then a third, but like the first they were
trial bullets and both went high. Black Rifle grew impatient. The
memory of his murdered family began to press upon him once more. The
night was black, but now it looked red to him. Lying almost flat, he
slowly pulled himself forward like a great wild beast, stalking its
prey. Colden looked at him, and then at Willet, who nodded.
"Don't try to stop him," whispered the hunter, "because he'll go
anyhow. Besides, it's time for us to reply to their shots."
The dark form, moving forward without noise, had a singular
fascination for Robert. His imagination, which colored and magnified
everything, made Black Rifle sinister and supernatural. The complete
absence of sound, as he advanced, heightened the effect. Not a leaf
nor a blade of grass rustled. Presently he stopped and Robert saw the
black muzzle of his rifle shoot forward. A stream of flame leaped
forth, and then the man quickly slid into a new position.
A fierce shout came from the opposing thicket, and a half dozen shots
were fired. Bullets again cut twigs and leaves over Robert's head, but
all of them went too high.
"Do you think Black Rifle hit his mark?" whispered Robert to Tayoga.
"It is likely," replied the Onondaga, "but we may never know. I think
it would be well, Dagaeoga, for you and me to go toward the left. They
may try to creep around our flank, and we must meet them there."
Willet and Colden approved of the plan, and a half dozen of the best
soldiers went with them, the movement proving to be wise, as within
five minutes a scattering fire was opened upon that point. The
soldiers fired two rash shots, merely aiming at the reports and the
general blackness, but Robert and Tayoga quickly reduced them to
control, insisting that they wait until they saw a foe, before pulling
trigger again. Then they sank back among the bushes and remained quite
Tayoga suddenly drew a deep and very long breath, which with him was
equivalent to an exclamation.
"What is it, Tayoga?" asked Robert.
"I saw a bit of a uniform, and I caught just a glimpse of a white
"An officer. Then we were right in our surmise that the French are
here, leading the warriors."
"It was but a glimpse, but it showed the curve of his jaw and chin,
and I knew him. He is one who is beginning to be important in your
"None other. I could not be mistaken. He is leading the attack upon
us. Perhaps Tandakora is with him. The Frenchman does not like the
Ojibway, but war makes strange comrades. That was close!"
A bullet whistled directly between them, and Tayoga, kneeling, fired
in return. There was no doubt about his aim, as a warrior uttered the
death cry, and a fierce shout of rage from a dozen throats followed.
Robert, imaginative, ready to flame up in a moment, exulted, not
because a warrior had fallen, but because the flank attack upon his
own people had been stopped in the beginning. St. Luc himself would
have admitted that the Americans, or the English, as he would have
called them, were acting wisely. The soldiers, stirred by the
successful shot, showed again a great desire to fire at the black
woods, but Robert and the Onondaga still kept them down.
A crackling fire arose behind them, showing that the main force had
engaged, and now and then the warriors uttered defiant cries. But
Robert had enough power of will to watch in front, sure that Willet
and Black Rifle were sufficient to guide the central defense. He
observed intently the segment of the circle in front of them, and he
wondered if St. Luc would appear there again, but he concluded that he
would not, since the failure of the attempted surprise at that point
would be likely to send him back to the main force.
"Do you think they'll go away and concentrate in front?" he asked
"No," replied the Onondaga. "They still think perhaps that they have
only the soldiers from the city to meet, and they may attempt a rush."
Robert crept from soldier to soldier, cautioning every one to take
shelter, and to have his rifle ready, and they, being good men, though
without experience, obeyed the one who so obviously knew what he was
doing. Meantime the combat behind them proceeded with vigor, the shots
crashing in volleys, accompanied by shouts, and once by the cry of a
stricken soldier. It was evident that St. Luc was now pushing the
battle, and Robert was quite sure the attack on the flank would soon
They did not wait much longer. The warriors suddenly leaped from the
undergrowth and rushed straight toward them, a white man now in front.
The light was sufficient for Robert to see that the leader was not
St. Luc, and then without hesitation he raised his rifle and fired.
The man fell, Tayoga stopped the rush of a warrior, and the bullets of
the soldiers wounded others. But their white leader was gone, and
Indians have little love for an attack upon a sheltered enemy. So the
charge broke, before it was half way to the defenders, and the savages
vanished in the thickets.
The soldiers began to exult, but Robert bade them reload as fast as
possible, and keep well under cover. The warriors from new points
would fire at every exposed head, and they could not afford to relax
their caution for an instant.
But it was a difficult task for the youthful veterans of the forest to
keep the older but inexperienced men from the city under cover. They
had an almost overpowering desire to see the Indians who were shooting
at them, and against whom they were sending their bullets. In spite of
every command and entreaty a man would raise his head now and then,
and one, as he did so, received a bullet between the eyes, falling
back quietly, dead before he touched the ground.
"A brave lad has been lost," whispered Tayoga to Robert, "but he has
been an involuntary example to the rest."
The Onondaga spoke in his precise school English, but he knew what he
was saying, as the soldiers now became much more cautious, and
controlled their impulse to raise up for a look, after every shot.
Another man was wounded, but the hurt was not serious and he went on
with his firing. Robert, seeing that the line on the flank could be
held without great difficulty, left Tayoga in command, and crept back
to the main force, where the bullets were coming much faster.
Two of the soldiers in the center had been slain, and three had been
wounded, but Captain Colden had not given ground. He was sitting
behind a rocky outcrop and at the suggestion of Willet was giving
orders to his men. Oppressed at first by the ambush and weight of
responsibility he was exulting now in their ability to check the
savage onset. Robert was quite willing to play a little to his pride
and he said in the formal military manner:
"I wish to report, sir, that all is going well on the southern flank.
One of our men has been killed, but we have made it impossible for the
enemy to advance there."
"Thank you, Mr. Lennox," said the young captain with dignity. "We have
also had some success here, due chiefly to the good advice of
Mr. Willet, and the prowess and sharpshooting of the extraordinary man
whom you call Black Rifle. See him now!"
He indicated a dark figure a little distance ahead, behind a clump of
bushes, and, as Robert looked, a jet of fire leaped from the muzzle of
the man's rifle, followed almost immediately by a cry in the forest.
"I think he has slain more of our enemies than the rest of us
combined," said Captain Colden.
Robert shuddered a little, but those who lived on the border became
used to strange things. The constant struggle for existence hardened
the nerves, and terrible scenes did not dwell long in the mind. He
bent forward for a better look, and a bullet cut the hair upon his
forehead. He started back, feeling as if he had been seared by
lightning and Willet looked at him anxiously.
"The lead burned as it passed," the lad said, "but the skin is not
broken. I was guilty of the same rashness, for which I have been
lecturing the men on the flank."
"I caught a glimpse of the fellow who fired the shot," said Willet. "I
think it was the Canadian, Dubois, whom we saw with St. Luc."
"Tayoga saw St. Luc himself on the flank," said Robert, "and so there
is no doubt that he is leading the attack. The fact makes it certain
that it will be carried on with persistence."
"We shall be here, still besieged, when day comes," said the hunter.
"It's lucky that the cliff protects us on one side."
As if to disprove his assertion, all the firing stopped suddenly, and
for a long time the forest was silent. Fortunately they had water in
their canteens, and they were able to soothe the thirst of the wounded
men. They talked also of victory, and, knowing that it was only two or
three hours until dawn, Captain Colden's spirits rose to great
heights. He was sure now that the warriors, defeated, had gone away.
This Frenchman, St. Luc, of whom they talked, might be a great
partisan leader, but he would know when the price he was paying became
too high, and would draw off.
The men believed their captain, and, despite the earnest protest of
the foresters, began to stir in the bushes shortly before dawn. A
rifle shot came from the opposing thickets and one of them would stir
no more. Captain Colden, appalled, was all remorse. He took the death
of the man directly to himself, and told Willet with emotion that all
advice of his would now be taken at once.
"Let the men lie as close as they can," said the hunter. "The day will
soon be here."
Robert found shelter behind the trunk of a huge oak, and crouched
there, his nerves relaxing. He did not believe any further movement of
the enemy would come now. As the great tension passed for a time he
was conscious of an immense weariness. The strain upon all the
physical senses and upon the mind as well made him weak. It was a
luxury merely to sit there with his back against the bark and rest.
Near him he heard the soldiers moving softly, and now and then a
wounded man asking for water. A light breeze had sprung up, and it had
upon his face the freshness of the dawn. He wondered what the day
would bring. The light that came with it would be cheerful and
uplifting, but it would disclose their covert, at least in part, and
St. Luc might lead both French and Indians in one great rush.
"Better eat a little," said Tayoga, who had returned to the center.
"Remember that we have plenty of food in our knapsacks, nor are our
"I had forgotten it," said Robert, and he ate and drank sparingly. The
breeze continued to freshen, and in the east the dawn broke, gray,
turning to silver, and then to red and gold. The forest soon stood
out, an infinite tracery in the dazzling light, and then a white fleck
appeared against the wall of green.
"A flag of truce!" exclaimed Captain Colden. "What can they want to
say to us?"
"Let the bearer of the flag appear first," suggested Willet, "and then
we'll talk with 'em."
The figure of a man holding up a white handkerchief appeared and it
was St. Luc himself, as neat and irreproachable as if he were
attending a ball in the Intendant's palace at Quebec. Robert knew that
he must have been active in the battle all through the night, but he
showed no signs of it. He wore a fine close-fitting uniform of dark
blue, and the handkerchief of lace was held aloft on the point of a
small sword, the golden hilt of which glittered in the morning
sunlight. He was a strange figure in the forest, but a most gallant
one, and to Robert's eyes a chevalier without fear and without
"I know that you speak good French, Mr. Lennox," said Captain
Colden. "Will you go forward and meet the Frenchman? You will perhaps
know what to say to him, and, if not, you can refer to Mr. Willet and
"I will do my best, sir," said Robert, glad of the chance to meet
St. Luc face to face again. He did not know why his heart leaped so
every time he saw the chevalier, but his friendship for him was
undeniable. It seemed too that St. Luc liked him, and Robert felt
sure that whatever hostility his official enemy felt for the English
cause there was none for him personally.
Unconsciously he began to arrange his own attire of forest green,
beautifully dyed and decorated deerskin, that he might not look less
neat than the man whom he was going to meet. St. Luc was standing
under the wide boughs of an oak, his gold hilted rapier returned to
its sheath and his white lace handkerchief to its pocket. The smile of
welcome upon his face as he saw the herald was genuine.
"I salute you, Mr. Lennox," he said, "and wish you a very good
morning. I learned that you were in the force besieged by us, and it's
a pleasure to see that you've escaped unhurt. When last we met the
honors were yours. You fairly defeated me at the word play in the vale
of Onondaga, but you will admit that the savage, Tandakora, played
into your hands most opportunely. You will admit also that word play
is not sword play, and that in the appeal to the sword we have the
advantage of you."
"It may seem so to one who sees with your eyes and from your
position," said Robert, "but being myself I'm compelled to see with my
own eyes and from our side. I wish to say first, however, Chevalier de
St. Luc, that since you have wished me a very good morning I even wish
you a better."
St. Luc laughed gayly.
"You and I will never be enemies. It would be against nature," he
"No, we'll never be enemies, but why is it against nature?"
"Perhaps I was not happy in my phrase. We like each other too well,
and--in a way--our temperaments resemble too much to engender a mutual
hate. But we'll to business. Mine's a mission of mercy. I come to
receive the surrender of your friends and yourself, since continued
resistance to us will be vain!"
Robert smiled. His gift of golden speech was again making its presence
felt. He had matched himself against St. Luc before the great League
of the Hodenosaunee in the vale of Onondaga, and they had spoken where
all might hear. Now they two alone could hear, but he felt that the
test was the same in kind. He knew that his friends in the thickets
behind him were watching, and he was equally sure that French and
savages in the thickets before him were watching too. He had no doubt
the baleful eyes of Tandakora were glaring at him at that very moment,
and that the fingers of the Ojibway were eager to grasp his scalp. The
idea, singularly enough, caused him amusement, because his imagination,
vivid as usual, leaped far ahead, and he foresaw that his hair would
never become a trophy for Tandakora.
"You smile, Mr. Lennox," said St. Luc. "Do you find my words so
"Not amusing, chevalier! Oh, no! And if, in truth, I found them so I
would not be so impolite as to smile. But there is a satisfaction in
knowing that your official enemy has underrated the strength of your
position. That is why my eyes expressed content--I would scarcely call
it a smile."
"I see once more that you're a master of words, Mr. Lennox. You play
with them as the wind sports among the leaves."
"But I don't speak in jest, Monsieur de St. Luc. I'm not in command
here. I'm merely a spokesman a herald or a messenger, in whichever way
you should choose to define me. Captain James Colden, a gallant young
officer of Philadelphia, is our leader, but, in this instance, I don't
feel the need of consulting him. I know that your offer is kindly,
that it comes from a generous soul, but however much it may disappoint
you I must decline it. Our resistance in the night has been quite
successful, we have inflicted upon you much more damage than you have
inflicted upon us, and I've no doubt the day will witness a battle
continued in the same proportion."
St. Luc threw back his head and laughed, not loud, but gayly and with
unction. Robert reddened, but he could not take offense, as he saw
that none was meant.
"I no longer wonder at my defeat by you in the vale of Onondaga," said
the chevalier, "since you're not merely a master of words, you're a
master-artist. I've no doubt if I listen to you you'll persuade me
it's not you but we who are besieged, and it would be wise for us to
yield to you without further ado."
"Perhaps you're not so very far wrong," said Robert, recovering his
assurance, which was nearly always great. "I'm sure Captain Colden
would receive your surrender and treat you well."
The eyes of the two met and twinkled.
"Tandakora is with us," said St. Luc, "and I've a notion he wouldn't
relish it. Perhaps he distrusts the mercy he would receive at the
hands of your Onondaga, Tayoga. And at this point in our dialogue,
Mr. Lennox, I want to apologize to you again, for the actions of the
Ojibway before the war really began. I couldn't prevent them, but,
since there is genuine war, he is our ally, and I must accord to him
all the dignities and honors appertaining to his position."
"You're rather deft with words yourself, Monsieur de St. Luc. Once, at
New York, I saw a juggler with balls who could keep five in the air at
the same time, and in some dim and remote way you make me think of
him. You'll pardon the illustration, chevalier, because I really mean
it as a compliment."
"I pardon gladly enough, because I see your intentions are good. We
both play with words, perhaps because the exercise tickles our fancy,
but to return to the true spirit and essence of things, I warn you
that it would be wise to surrender. My force is very much greater than
Captain Colden's, and has him hemmed in. If my Indian allies suffer
too much in the attack it will be difficult to restrain them. I'm not
stating this as a threat--you know me too well for that--but to make
the facts plain, and to avoid something that I should regret as much
"I don't think it necessary to consult Captain Colden, and without
doing so I decline your offer. We have food to eat, water to drink
and bullets to shoot, and if you care to take us you must come and do
"And that is the final answer? You're quite sure you don't wish to
consult your superior officer, Captain Colden?"
"Absolutely sure. It would waste the time of all of us."
"Then it seems there is nothing more to say, and to use your own
fanciful way of putting it, we must go back from the play of words to
the play of swords."
"I see no alternative."
"And yet I hope that you will survive the combat, Mr. Lennox."
"I've the same hope for you, Chevalier de St. Luc."
Each meant it, and, in the same high manner of the day, they saluted
and withdrew. Robert, as he walked back to the thickets in which the
defenders lay, felt that Indian eyes were upon him, and that perhaps
an Indian bullet would speed toward him, despite St. Luc. Tandakora
and the savages around him could not always be controlled by their
French allies, as was to be shown too often in this war. His sensitive
mind once more turned fancy into reality and the hair on his head
lifted a little, but pride would not let him hasten his steps.
No gun was fired, and, with an immense relief, he sank down behind a
fallen log, and by the side of Colden and Willet.
"What did the Frenchman want?" asked the young captain.
"Our instant and unconditional surrender. Knowing how you felt about
it, I gave him your refusal at once."
"Well done, Mr. Lennox."
"He said that in case of a rush and heavy loss by his Indians he
perhaps would not be able to control them in the moment of victory,
which doubtless is true."
"They will know no moment of victory. We can hold them off."
"Where is Tayoga?" asked Robert of Willet.
The hunter pointed westward.
"Why, the cliff shuts off the way in that direction!" said Robert.
"Not to a good climber."
"Do you mean, then, that Tayoga is gone?"
"I saw him go. He went while you were talking with St. Luc."
"Why should Tayoga leave us?"
"He saw another smoke against the sky. It was but a faint trace. Only
an extremely keen eye would have noticed it, and having much natural
curiosity, Tayoga is now on his way to see who built the fire that
made the smoke."
"And it may have been made by friends."
"That's our hope."
Robert drew a long breath and looked toward the west. The sky was now
clear there, but he knew that Tayoga could not have made any mistake.
Then, his heart high once more, he settled himself down to wait.
The day advanced, brilliant with sunshine, and the forces of St. Luc
were quiet. For a long time, not a shot was fired, and it seemed to
the besieged that the forest was empty of human beings save themselves.
Robert did not believe the French leader would attempt a long siege,
since an engagement could not be conducted in that manner in the
forest, where a result of some kind must be reached soon. Yet it was
impossible to tell what plan St. Luc had in mind, and they must wait
until Tayoga came.
Young Captain Colden was in good spirits. It was his first taste of
wilderness warfare, and he knew that he had done well. The dead were
laid decently among the bushes to receive Christian burial later, if
the chance came, and the wounded, their hurts bound up, prepared to
take what part they could in a new battle. Robert crept to the edge
of the cliff, and looked toward the west, whence Tayoga had gone. He
saw only a dazzling blue sky, unflecked by anything save little white
clouds, and there was nothing to indicate whether the mission of his
young Onondaga comrade would have any success. He crept back to the
side of Willet.
"Have you any opinion, Dave, about the smoke that Tayoga saw," he
"None, Robert, just a hope. It might have been made by another French
and Indian band, most probably it was, but there is a chance, too,
that friends built the fire."
"If it's a force of any size it could hardly be English. I don't
think any troop of ours except Captain Colden's is in this region."
"We can't look for help from our own race."
Robert was silent, gazing intently into the west, whence Tayoga had
gone. He recognized the immense difficulties of their position.
Indians, if an attack or two of theirs failed, would be likely to go
away, but the French, and especially St. Luc, would increase their
persistence and hold them to the task. He returned to the forest, and
his attention was drawn once more by Black Rifle. The man was lying
almost flat in the thicket, and evidently he had caught a glimpse of a
foe, as he was writhing slowly forward like a great beast of prey, and
his eyes once more had the expectant look of one who is going to
strike. Robert considered him. He knew that the man's whole nature
had been poisoned by the great tragedy in his life, and that it gave
him a sinister pleasure to inflict blows upon those who had inflicted
the great blow upon him. Yet he would be useful in the fierce war that
was upon them and he was useful now.
Black Rifle crept forward two or three yards more, and, after he had
lain quite still for a few moments, he suddenly thrust out his rifle
and fired. A cry came from the opposing thicket and Robert heard the
sharpshooter utter a deep sigh of satisfaction. He knew that St. Luc
was one warrior less, which was good for the defense, but he shuddered
a little. He could never bring himself to steal through the bushes and
shoot an unseeing enemy. Still Black Rifle was Black Rifle, and being
what he was he was not to be judged as other men were.
After a half hour's silence, the besiegers suddenly opened fire from
five or six points, sending perhaps two score bullets into the wood,
clipping off many twigs and leaves which fell upon the heads of the
defenders. Captain Colden did not forget to be grateful to Willet for
his insistence that the soldiers should always lie low, as the hostile
lead, instead of striking, now merely sent a harmless shower upon
them. But the fusillade was brief, Robert, in truth, judging that it
had been against the commands of St. Luc, who was too wise a leader to
wish ammunition to be wasted in random firing. At the advice of
Willet, Captain Colden would not let his men reply, restraining their
eagerness, and silence soon returned.
It was nearly noon now and a huge golden sun shone over the vast
wilderness in which two little bands of men fought, mere motes in the
limitless sea of green. Robert ate some venison, and drank a little
water from the canteen of a friendly soldier. Then his thoughts turned
again to Tayoga. The Onondaga was a peerless runner, he had been gone
long now, and what would he find at the base of the smoke? If it had
been the fire of an enemy then he would be back in the middle of the
afternoon, and they would be in no worse case than before. They might
try to escape in the night down the cliff, but it was not likely that
vigilant foes would permit men, clumsy in the woods like the soldiers,
to steal away in such a manner.
The earlier hours of the afternoon were passed by the sharpshooters on
either side trying to stalk one another. Although Robert had no part
in it, it was a savage play that alternately fascinated and repelled
him. He had no way to tell exactly, but he believed that two more of
the Indians had fallen, while a soldier received a wound. A bullet
grazed Black Rifle's head, but instead of daunting him it seemed to
give him a kind of fierce joy, and to inspire in him a greater desire
These efforts, since they achieved no positive results, soon died
down, and both sides lay silent in their coverts. Robert made himself
as comfortable as he could behind a log, although he longed to stand
upright, and walk about once more like a human being. It was now
mid-afternoon and if the smoke had meant nothing good for them it was
time for Tayoga to be back. It was not conceivable that such a
marvelous forester and matchless runner could have been taken, and,
since he had not come, Robert's heart again beat to the tune of hope.
Willet with whom he talked a little, was of like opinion. He looked to
Tayoga to bring them help, and, if he failed their case, already hard,
would become harder. The hunter did not conceal from himself the
prowess and skill of St. Luc and he knew too, that the savage
persistency of Tandakora was not to be held lightly. Like Robert he
gazed long into the blue west, which was flecked only by little clouds
"A sign! A sign!" he said. "If we could only behold a sign!"
But the heavens said nothing. The sun, a huge ball of glowing copper,
was already far down the Western curve, and the hunter's heart beat
hard with anxiety. He felt that if help came it should come soon. But
little water was left to the soldiers, although their food might last
another day, and the night itself, now not far away, would bring the
danger of a new attack by a creeping foe, greatly superior in
numbers. He turned away from the cliff, but Robert remained, and
presently the youth called in a sharp thrilling whisper:
"Dave! Dave! Come back!"
Robert had continued to watch the sky and he thought he saw a faint
dark line against the sea of blue. He rubbed his eyes, fearing it was
a fault of vision, but the trace was still there, and he believed it
to be smoke.
"Dave! Dave! The signal! Look! Look!" he cried.
The hunter came to the edge of the cliff and stared into the west. A
thread of black lay across the blue, and his heart leaped.
"Do you believe that Tayoga has anything to do with it?" asked Robert.
"I do. If it were our foes out there he'd have been back long since."
"And since it may be friends they've sent up this smoke, hoping we'll
divine what they mean."
"It looks like it. Tayoga is a sharp lad, and he'll want to put heart
in the soldiers. It must be the Onondaga, and I wish I knew what his
smoke was saying."
Captain Colden joined them, and they pointed out to him the trace
across the sky which was now broadening, explaining at the same time
that it was probably a signal sent up by Tayoga, and that he might be
leading a force to their aid.
"What help could he bring?" asked the captain.
Willet shook his head.
"I can't answer you there," he replied; "but the smoke has
significance for us. Of that I feel sure. By sundown we'll know what
"And that's only about two hours away," said Captain Colden. "Whatever
happens we'll hold out to the last. I suppose, though, that St. Luc's
force also will see the smoke."
"Quite likely," replied Willet, "and the Frenchman may send a runner,
too, to see what it means, but however good a runner he may be he'll
be no match for Tayoga."
"That's sure," said Robert.
So great was his confidence in the Onondaga that it never occurred to
him that he might be killed or taken, and he awaited his certain
return, either with or without a helping force. He lay now near the
edge of the cliff, whence he could look toward the west, the point of
hope, whenever he wished, ate another strip of venison, and took
another drink of water out of a friendly canteen.
The west was now blazing with terraces of red and yellow, rising above
one another, and the east was misty, gray and dim. Twilight was not
far away. The thread of smoke that had lain against the sky above the
forest was gone, the glittering bar of red and gold being absolutely
free from any trace. St. Luc's force opened fire again, bullets
clipping twigs and leaves, but the defense lay quiet, except Black
Rifle, who crept back and forth, continually seeking a target, and
pulling the trigger whenever he found it.
The misty gray in the east turned to darkness, in the west the sun
went down the slope of the world, and the brilliant terraces of color
began to fade. The firing ceased and another tense period of quiet,
hard, to endure, came. At the suggestion of the hunter Colden drew in
his whole troop near the cliff and waited, all, despite their
weariness and strain, keeping the keenest watch they could.
But Robert, instead of looking toward the east, where St. Luc's force
was, invariably looked into the sunset, because it was there that
Tayoga had gone, and it was there that they had seen the smoke, of
which they expected so much. The terraces of color, already grown dim,
were now fading fast. At the top they were gone altogether, and they
only lingered low down. But on the forest the red light yet blazed.
Every twig and leaf seemed to stand individual and distinct, black
against a scarlet shield. But it was for merely a few minutes. Then
all the red glow disappeared, like a great light going out suddenly,
and the western forest as well as the eastern, lay in a gray gloom.
It always seemed to Robert that the last going of the sunset that day
was like a signal, because, when the night swept down, black and
complete everywhere, there was a burst of heavy firing from the south
and a long exultant yell. No bullet sped through the thickets, where
the defenders lay, and Willet cried:
"Tayoga! Tayoga and help! Ah, here they come! The Mohawks!"
Tayoga, panting from exertion, sprang into the bushes among them, and
he was followed by a tall figure in war paint, lofty plumes waving
from his war bonnet. Behind him came many warriors, and others were
already on the flanks, spreading out like a fan, filing rapidly and
shouting the war whoop. Robert recognized at once the great figure
that stood before them. It was Daganoweda, the young Mohawk chief of
his earlier acquaintance, whom he had met both on the war path and at
the great council of the fifty sachems in the vale of Onondaga. Had
his been the right to choose the man who was to come to their aid, the
Mohawk would have been his first choice. Robert knew his intense
hatred of the French and their red allies, and he also knew his fierce
courage and great ability in battle.
The soldiers looked in some alarm at the painted host that had sprung
among them, but Willet and Robert assured them insistently that these
were friends, and the sound of the battle they were already waging on
the flank with St. Luc's force, was proof enough.
"Captain Colden," said Robert, not forgetful that an Indian likes the
courtesies of life, and can take his compliments thick, "this is the
great young Mohawk Chief, Daganoweda, which in our language means 'The
Inexhaustible' and such he is, inexhaustible in resource and courage
in battle, and in loyalty to his friends."
Daganoweda smiled and extended his hand in the white man's fashion.
Young Colden had the tact to shake it heartily at once and to say in
English, which the young Mohawk chief understood perfectly:
"Daganoweda, whatever praise of you Mr. Lennox has given it's not half
enough. I confess now although I would not have admitted it before,
that if you had not come we should probably have been lost."
He had made a friend for life, and then, without further words the two
turned to the battle. But Robert remained for a minute beside Tayoga,
whose chest was still heaving with his great exertions.
"Where did you find them?" he asked.
"Many miles to the west, Lennox. After I descended the cliff I was
pursued by Huron skirmishers, and I had to shake them off. Then I ran
at full speed toward the point where the smoke had risen, knowing that
the need was great, and I overtook Daganoweda and the Mohawks. Their
first smoke was but that from a camp-fire, as being in strong force
they did not care who saw them, but the last, just before the sunset,
was sent up as a signal by two warriors whom we left behind for the
purpose. We thought you might take it to mean that help was coming."
"And so we did. How many warriors has Daganoweda?"
"Fifty, and that is enough. Already they push the Frenchman and his
force before them. Come, we must join them, Dagaeoga. The breath has
come back into my body and I am a strong man again!"
The two now quickly took their places in the battle in the night and
the forest, the position of the two forces being reversed. The
soldiers and the Mohawks were pushing the combat at every point, and
the agile warriors extending themselves on the flanks had already
driven in St. Luc's skirmishers. Black Rifle, uttering fierce shouts,
was leading a strong attack in the center. The firing was now rapid
and much heavier than it had been at any time before. Flashes of flame
appeared everywhere in the thicket. Above the crackle of rifles and
muskets swelled the long thrilling war cry of the Mohawks, and back in
fierce defiance came the yells of the Hurons and Abenakis.
Willet joined Robert and the two, with Tayoga, saw that the soldiers
fought well under cover. The young Philadelphians, in the excitement
of battle and of a sudden and triumphant reversal of fortune, were
likely to expose themselves rashly, and the advice of the forest
veterans was timely. Captain Colden saw that it was taken, although
two more of his men were slain as they advanced and several were
wounded. But the issue was no longer doubtful. The weight that the
Mohawks had suddenly thrown into the battle was too great. The force
of St. Luc was steadily driven northward, and Daganoweda's alert
skirmishers on the flanks kept it compressed together.
Robert knew how bitter the defeat would be to St. Luc, but the
knowledge did not keep his exultation from mounting to a high pitch.
St. Luc might strive with all his might to keep his men in the battle,
but the Frenchmen could not be numerous, and it was the custom of
Indians, once a combat seemed lost, to melt away like a mist. They
believed thoroughly that it was best to run away and fight another
day, and there was no disgrace in escaping from a stricken field.
"They run! They run! And the Frenchmen must run with them!" exclaimed
Black Rifle. As he spoke, a bullet grazed his side and struck a
soldier behind him, but the force pressed on with the ardor fed by
victory. Willet did not try any longer to restrain them, although he
understood full well the danger of a battle in the dark. But he knew
that Daganoweda and his Mohawks, experienced in every forest wile,
would guard them against surprise, and he deemed it best now that they
should strike with all their might.
Robert seldom saw any of the warriors before him, and he did not once
catch a glimpse of a Frenchman. Whenever his rifle was loaded he
fired at a flitting form, never knowing whether or not his bullet
struck true, and glad of his ignorance. His sensitive and imaginative
mind became greatly excited. The flashes of flame in the thickets were
multiplied a hundred fold, a thousand little pulses beat heavily in
his temples, and the shouts of the savages seemed to fill the forest.
But he pressed on, conscious that the enemy was disappearing before
In his eagerness he passed ahead of Willet and Tayoga and came very
near to St. Luc's retreating line. His foot became entangled in
trailing vines and he fell, but he was up in an instant, and he fired
at a shadowy figure not more than twenty feet in advance. In his haste
he missed, and the figure, turning, raised a rifle. There was a fair
moonlight and Robert saw the muzzle of the weapon bearing directly
upon him, and he knew too that the rifle was held by firm hands. His
vivid and sensitive imagination at once leaped into intense life. His
own weapon was empty and his last moment had come. He saw the strong
brown hands holding the rifle, and then his gaze passed on to the face
of St. Luc. He saw the blue eyes of the Frenchman, as they looked down
the sights, open wide in a kind of horror. Then he abruptly dropped
the muzzle, waved one hand to Robert, and vanished in the thickets and
The battle was over. There were a few dying shots, scattered beads of
flame, an occasional shout of triumph from the Mohawks, a defiant yell
or two in reply from the Hurons and the Abenakis, and then the trail
of the combat swept out of the sight and hearing of Robert, who stood
dazed and yet with a heart full of gratitude. St. Luc had held his
life upon the pressure of a trigger, and the trigger would have been
pulled had he not seen before it was too late who stood before the
muzzle of his rifle. The moonlight was enough for Robert to see that
look of horror in his eyes when he recognized the target. And then the
weapon had been turned away and he had gone like a flash! Why? For
what reason had St. Luc spared him in the heat and fury of a desperate
and losing battle? It must have been a powerful motive for a man to
stay his bullet at such a time!
"Wake up, lad! Wake up! The battle has been won!"
Willet's heavy but friendly hand fell upon his shoulder, and Robert
came out of his daze. He decided at once that he would say nothing
about the meeting with St. Luc, and merely remarked in a cryptic
"I was stunned for a moment by a bullet that did not hit me. Yes,
we've won, Dave, thanks to the Mohawks."
"Thanks to Daganoweda and his brave Mohawks, and to Tayoga, and to the
gallant Captain Colden and his gallant men. All of us together have
made the triumph possible. I understand that the bodies of only two
Frenchmen have been found and that neither was that of St. Luc. Well,
I'm glad. That Frenchman will do us great damage in this war, but he's
an honorable foe, and a man of heart, and I like him."
A man of heart! Yes, truly! None knew it better than Robert, but again
he kept his own counsel. He too was glad that his had not been one of
the two French bodies found, but there was still danger from the
pursuing Mohawks, who would hang on tenaciously, and he felt a sudden
thrill of alarm. But it passed, as he remembered that the chevalier
was a woodsman of experience and surpassing skill.
Tayoga came back to them somewhat blown. He had followed the fleeing
French and Indian force two or three miles. But there was a limit even
to his nerves and sinews of wrought steel. He had already run thirty
miles before joining in the combat, and now it was time to rest.
"Come, Tayoga," said the hunter, "we'll go back to the ground our lads
have defended so well, and eat, drink and sleep. The Mohawks will
attend to all the work that's left, which isn't much. We've earned our
Captain Colden, slightly wounded in the arm, appeared and Willet gave
him the high compliments that he and his soldiers deserved. He told
him it was seldom that men unused to the woods bore themselves so well
in an Indian fight, but the young captain modestly disclaimed the
chief merit, replying that he and his detachment would surely have
been lost, had it not been for Willet and his comrades.
Then they went back to the ground near the cliff, where they had made
their great fight, and Willet although the night was warm, wisely had
a large fire built. He knew the psychological and stimulating effect
of heat and light upon the lads of the city, who had passed through
such a fearful ordeal in the dark and Indian-haunted forest. He
encouraged them to throw on more dead boughs, until the blaze leaped
higher and higher and sparkled and roared, sending up myriads of
joyous sparks that glowed for their brief lives among the trees and
then died. No fear of St. Luc and the Indians now! That fierce fringe
of Mohawks was a barrier that they could never pass, even should they
choose to return, and no such choice could possibly be theirs! The
fire crackled and blazed in increasing volume, and the Philadelphia
lads, recovering from the collapse that had followed tremendous
exertions and excitement, began to appreciate the extent of their
victory and to talk eagerly with one another.
But the period of full rest had not yet come. Captain Colden made them
dig with their bayonets shallow graves for their dead, six in number.
Fluent of speech, his sensitive mind again fitting into the deep
gravity of the situation, Robert said a few words above them, words
that he felt, words that moved those who heard. Then the earth was
thrown in and stones and heavy boughs were placed over all to keep
away the digging wolves or other wild animals.
The wounded were made as comfortable as possible before the fire, and
in the light of the brilliant flames the awe created by the dead
quickly passed. Food was served and fresh water was drunk, the
canteens being refilled from a spring that Tayoga found a quarter of a
mile away. Then the soldiers, save six who had been posted as guard,
stretched themselves on grass or leaves, and fell asleep, one by
one. Tayoga who had made the greatest physical effort followed them to
the land of slumber, but Captain Colden sat and talked with Robert and
Willet, although it was now far past midnight.
The bushes parted and a dark figure, making no sound as it came,
stepped into the circle of light. It was Black Rifle and his eyes
still glittered, but he said nothing. Robert thought he saw upon his
face a look of intense satisfaction and once more he shuddered a
little. The man lay down with his rifle beside him, and fell asleep,
his hands still clutching his weapon.
Before dawn Daganoweda and the Mohawks came back also, and Robert in
behalf of them all thanked the young chief in the purest Mohawk, and
with the fine phrasing and apt allegory so dear to the Indian heart.
Daganoweda made a fitting reply, saying that the merit did not belong
to him but to Manitou, and then, leaving a half dozen of his warriors
to join in the watch, he and the others slept before the fire.
"It was well that you played so strongly upon the feelings of the
Mohawks at that test in the vale of Onondaga, Robert," said Willet. "If
you had not said over and over again that the Quebec of the French was
once the Stadacona of the Mohawks they would not have been here
tonight to save us. They say that deeds speak louder than words, but
when the same man speaks with both words and deeds people have got to
"You give me too much credit, Dave. The time was ripe for a Mohawk
attack upon the French."
"Aye, lad, but one had to see a chance and use it. Now, join all
those fellows in sleep. We won't move before noon."
But Robert's brain was too active for sleep just yet. While his
imaginative power made him see things before other people saw them, he
also continued to see them after they were gone. The wilderness battle
passed once more before him, and when he brushed his eyes to thrust it
away, he looked at the sleeping Mohawks and thought what splendid
savages they were. The other tribes of the Hodenosaunee were still
holding to their neutrality--all that was asked of them--but the
Mohawks, with the memories of their ancient wrongs burning in their
hearts, had openly taken the side of the English, and tonight their
valor and skill had undoubtedly saved the American force. Daganoweda
was a hero! And so was Tayoga, the Onondaga, always the first of red
men to Robert.
His heated brain began to grow cool at last. The vivid pictures that
had been passing so fast before his eyes faded. He saw only reality,
the blazing fire, the dusky figures lying motionless before it, and
the circling wall of dark woods. Then he slept.
Willet was the only white man who remained awake. He saw the great
fire die, and the dawn come in its place. He felt then for the first
time in all that long encounter the strangeness of his own position.
The wilderness, savages and forest battle had become natural to him,
and yet his life had once been far different. There was a taste of a
distant past in that fierce duel at Quebec when he slew the bravo,
Boucher, a deed for which he had never felt a moment's regret, and yet
when he balanced the old times against the present, he could not say
which had the advantage. He had found true friends in the woods, men
who would and did risk their own lives to save his.
The dawn came swiftly, flooding the earth with light. Daganoweda and
many of the Mohawk warriors awoke, but the young Philadelphia captain
and his men slept on, plunged in the utter stupor of exhaustion.
Tayoga, who had made a supreme effort, both physical and mental, also
continued to sleep, and Robert, lying with his feet to the coals,
Daganoweda shook himself, and, so shaking, shook the last shred of
sleep from his eyes. Then he looked with pride at his warriors, those
who yet lay upon the ground and those who had arisen. He was a young
chief, not yet thirty years of age, and he was the bloom and flower of
Mohawk courage and daring. His name, Daganoweda, the Inexhaustible,
was fully deserved, as his bravery and resource were unlimited. But
unlike Tayoga, he had in him none of the priestly quality. He had not
drunk or even sipped at the white man's civilization. The spirituality
so often to be found in the Onondagas was unknown to him. He was a
warrior first, last and all the time. He was Daganoweda of the Clan of
the Turtle, of the Nation Ganeagaono, the Keepers of the Eastern Gate,
of the great League of the Hodenosaunee, and he craved no glory save
that to be won in battle, which he craved all the time.
Daganoweda, as he looked at his men, felt intense satisfaction,
because the achievement of his Mohawks the night before had been
brilliant and successful, but he concealed it from all save himself. It
was not for a chief who wished to win not one victory, but a hundred
to show undue elation. But he turned and for a few moments gazed