Part 2 out of 6
directly into the sun with unwinking eyes, and when he shifted his
gaze away, a great tide of life leaped in his veins.
Then he gave silent thanks. Like all the other Indians in North
America the Mohawks personified and worshipped the sun, which to them
was the mighty Dweller in Heaven, almost the same as Manitou, a great
spirit to whom sacrifices and thanksgivings were to be made. The sun,
an immortal being, had risen that morning and from his seat in the
highest of the high heavens he had looked down with his invincible eye
which no man could face more than a few seconds, upon his favorite
children, the Mohawks, to whom he had given the victory. Daganoweda
bowed a head naturally haughty and under his breath murmured thanks
for the triumph given and prayers for others to come.
The warriors built the fire anew and cooked their breakfasts. They had
venison and hominy of three kinds according to the corn of which it
was made, _Onaogaant_ or the white corn, _Ticne_ or the red corn, and
_Hagowa_ or the white flint corn. They also had bear meat and dried
beans. So their breakfast was abundant, and they ate with the appetite
of warriors who had done mighty deeds.
Daganoweda and Willet, as became great men, sat together on a log and
were served by a warrior who took honor from the task. Black Rifle sat
alone a little distance away. He would have been welcome in the
company of the Mohawk chief and the hunter, but, brooding and solitary
in mind, he wished to be alone and they knew and respected his wish.
Daganoweda glanced at him more than once as he remained in silence,
and always there was pity in his looks. And there was admiration too,
because Black Rifle was a great warrior. The woods held none greater.
When Robert awoke it was well on toward noon and he sprang up,
refreshed and strong.
"You've had quite a nap, Robert," said Willet, who had not slept at
all, "but some of the soldiers are still sleeping, and Tayoga has just
gone down to the spring to bathe his face."
"Which I also will do," said Robert.
"And when you come back food will be ready for you."
Robert found Tayoga at the spring, flexing his muscles, and taking
short steps back and forth. "It was a great run you made," said the
white youth, "and it saved us. There's no stiffness, I hope?"
"There was a little, Dagaeoga, but I have worked it out of my
body. Now all my muscles are as they were. I am ready to make another
and equal run."
"It's not needed, and for that I'm thankful. St. Luc will not come
back, nor will Tandakora, I think, linger in the woods, hoping for a
shot. He knows that the Mohawk skirmishers will be too vigilant."
As they went back to the fire for their food they heard a droning song
and the regular beat of feet. Some of the Mohawks were dancing the
Buffalo Dance, a dance named after an animal never found in their
country, but which they knew well. It was a tribute to the vast energy
and daring of the nations of the Hodenosaunee that they should range
in such remote regions as Kentucky and Tennessee and hunt the buffalo
with the Cherokees, who came up from the south.
They called the dance Dageyagooanno, and it was always danced by men
only. One warrior beat upon the drum, _ganojoo_, and another used
_gusdawasa_ or the rattle made of the shell of a squash. A dozen
warriors danced, and players and dancers alike sang. It was a most
singular dance and Robert, as he ate and drank, watched it with
The warriors capered back and forth, and often they bent themselves
far over, until their hands touched the ground. Then they would arch
their backs, until they formed a kind of hump, and they leaped to and
fro, bellowing all the time. The imitation was that of a buffalo,
recognizable at once, and, while it was rude and monotonous, both
dancing and singing preserved a rhythm, and as one listened
continuously it soon crept into the blood. Robert, with that singular
temperament of his, so receptive to all impressions, began to feel
it. Their chant was of war and victory and he stirred to both. He was
on the warpath with them, and he passed with them through the thick of
They danced for a long time, quitting only when exhaustion
compelled. By that time all the soldiers were awake and Captain Colden
talked with the other leaders, red and white. His instructions took
him farther west, where he was to build a fort for the defense of the
border, and, staunch and true, he did not mean to turn back because he
had been in desperate battle with the French and their Indian allies.
"I was sent to protect a section of the frontier," he said to Willet,
"and while I've found it hard to protect my men and myself, yet I must
go on. I could never return to Philadelphia and face our people
"It's a just view you take, Captain Colden," said Willet.
"I feel, though, that my men and I are but children in the
woods. Yesterday and last night proved it. If you and your friends
continue with us our march may not be in vain."
Willet glanced at Robert, and then at Tayoga.
"Ours for the present, at least, is a roving commission," said young
Lennox. "It seems to me that the best we can do is to go with Captain
"I am not called back to the vale of Onondaga," said Tayoga, "I would
see the building of this fort that Captain Colden has planned."
"Then we three are agreed," said the hunter. "It's best not to speak
to Black Rifle, because he'll follow his own notions anyway, and as
for Daganoweda and his Mohawks I think they're likely to resume their
march northward against the French border."
"I'm grateful to you three," said Captain Colden, "and, now that it's
settled, we'll start as soon as we can."
"Better give them all a good rest, and wait until the morning," said
Again Captain Colden agreed with him.
THE PERILOUS PATH
After a long night of sleep and rest, the little troop resumed its
march the next morning. The wounded fortunately were not hurt so
badly that they could not limp along with the others, and, while the
surgery of the soldiers was rude, it was effective nevertheless.
Daganoweda, as they had expected, prepared to leave them for a raid
toward the St. Lawrence. But he said rather grimly that he might
return, in a month perhaps. He knew where they were going to build
their fort, and unless Corlear and all the other British governors
awoke much earlier in the morning it was more than likely that the
young captain from Philadelphia would need the help of the Mohawks
Then Daganoweda said farewell to Robert, Tayoga, Willet and Black
Rifle, addressing each according to his quality. Them he trusted. He
knew them to be great warriors and daring rovers of the wilderness.
He had no advice for them, because he knew they did not need it, but
he expected them to be his comrades often in the great war, and he
wished them well. To Tayoga he said:
"You and I, oh, young chief of the Onondagas, have hearts that beat
alike. The Onondagas do well to keep aloof from the white man's
quarrels for the present, and to sit at peace, though watchful, in the
vale of Onondaga, but your hopes are with our friends the English and
you in person fight for them. We Mohawks know whom to hate. We know
that the French have robbed us more than any others. We know, that
their Quebec is our Stadacona. So we have dug up the tomahawk and last
night we showed to Sharp Sword and his men and Tandakora the Ojibway
how we could use it."
Sharp Sword was the Iroquois name for St. Luc, who had already proved
his great ability and daring as a forest leader.
"The Ganeagaono are now the chief barrier against the French and their
tribes," said Tayoga.
The brilliant eyes of Daganoweda glittered in his dark face. He knew
that Tayoga would not pay the Mohawks so high a compliment unless he
"Tayoga," he said, "we belong to the leading nations of the great
League of the Hodenosaunee, you to the Onundahgaono and I to the
Ganeagaono. You are first in the council and we are first on the
warpath. It was Tododaho, the Onondaga, who first formed the great
League and it was Hayowentha, the Mohawk, who combed the snakes out of
his hair and who strengthened it and who helped him to build it so
firmly that it shall last forever. Brothers are we, and always shall
He touched his forehead in salute, and the Onondaga touched his in
"Aye, brothers are we," he said, "Mohawk and Onondaga, Onondaga and
Mohawk. The great war of the white kings which draws us in it has
come, but I know that Hayowentha watches over his people, and Tododaho
over his. In the spring when I went forth in the night to fight the
Hurons I gazed off there in the west where shines the great star on
which Tododaho makes his home, and I saw him looking down upon me, and
casting about me the veil of his protection."
Daganoweda looked up at the gleaming blue of the heavens, and his eyes
glittered again. He believed every word that Tayoga said.
"As Tododaho watches over you, so Hayowentha watches over me," he
said, "and he will bring me back in safety and victory from the
St. Lawrence. Farewell again, my brother."
"Farewell once more, Daganoweda!"
The Mohawk chief plunged into the forest, and his fifty warriors
followed him. Like a shadow they were gone, and the waving bushes gave
back no sign that they had ever been. Captain Colden rubbed his eyes
and then laughed.
"I never knew men to vanish so swiftly before," he said, "but last
night was good proof that they were here, and that they came in
time. I suppose it's about the only victory of which we can make
He spoke the full truth. From the St. Lawrence to the Ohio the border
was already ravaged with fire and sword. Appeals for help were pouring
in from the distant settlements, and the governors of New York,
Pennsylvania and Massachusetts scarcely knew what to do. France had
struck the first blow, and she had struck hard. Young Washington,
defeated by overwhelming numbers, was going back to Virginia, and
Duquesne, the fort of the French at the junction of the Monongahela
and Allegheny, was a powerful rallying place for their own forces and
the swarming Indian bands, pouring out of the wilderness, drawn by the
tales of unlimited scalps and plunder.
The task before Captain Colden's slender force was full of danger. His
numbers might have been five times as great and then they would not
have been too many to build and hold the fort he was sent to build and
hold. But he had no thought of turning back, and, as soon as
Daganoweda and the Mohawks were gone, they started, bending their
course somewhat farther toward the south. At the ford of a river
twenty men with horses carrying food, ammunition and other supplies
were to meet them, and they reckoned that they could reach it by
The men with the horses had been sent from another point, and it was
not thought then that there was any danger of French and Indian attack
before the junction was made, but the colonial authorities had
reckoned without the vigor and daring of St. Luc. Now the most cruel
fears assailed young Captain Colden, and Robert and the hunter could
not find much argument to remove them. It was possible that the second
force had been ambushed also, and, if so, it had certainly been
destroyed, being capable of no such resistance as that made by
Colden's men, and without the aid of the three friends and the
Mohawks. And if the supplies were gone the expedition would be
"Don't be downhearted about it, captain," said Willet. "You say
there's not a man in the party who knows anything about the
wilderness, and that they've got just enough woods sense to take them
to the ford. Well, that has its saving grace, because now and then,
the Lord seems to watch over fool men. The best of hunters are trapped
sometimes in the forest, when fellows who don't know a deer from a
beaver, go through 'em without harm."
"Then if there's any virtue in what you say we'll pray that these men
are the biggest fools who ever lived."
"Smoke! smoke again!" called Robert cheerily, pointing straight ahead.
Sure enough, that long dark thread appeared once more, now against the
western sky. Willet laughed.
"They're the biggest fools in the forest, just as you hoped, Captain,"
he said, "and they've taken no more harm than if they had built their
fires in a Philadelphia street. They've set themselves down for the
night, as peaceful and happy as you please. If that isn't the campfire
of your men with the pack horses then I'll eat my cap."
Captain Colden laughed, but it was the slightly hysterical laugh of
relief. He was bent upon doing his task, and, since the Lord had
carried him so far through a mighty danger, the disappointment of
losing the supplies would have been almost too much to bear.
"You're sure it's they, Mr. Willet?" he said.
"Of course. Didn't I tell you it wasn't possible for another such
party of fools to be here in the wilderness, and that the God of the
white man and the Manitou of the red man taking pity on their
simplicity and innocence have protected them?"
"I like to think what you say is true, Mr. Willet."
"It's true. Be not afraid that it isn't. Now, I think we'd better stop
here, and let Robert and Tayoga go ahead, spy 'em out and make
signals. It would be just like 'em to blaze away at us the moment they
saw the bushes move with our coming."
Captain Colden was glad to take his advice, and the white youth and
the red went forward silently through the forest, hearing the sound of
cheerful voices, as they drew near to the campfire which was a large
one blazing brightly. They also heard the sound of horses moving and
they knew that the detachment had taken no harm. Tayoga parted the
bushes and peered forth.
"Look!" he said. "Surely they are watched over by Manitou!"
About twenty men, or rather boys, for all of them were very young,
were standing or lying about a fire. A tall, very ruddy youth in the
uniform of a colonial lieutenant was speaking to them.
"Didn't I tell you, lads," he said, "there wasn't an Indian nearer
than Fort Duquesne, and that's a long way from here! We've come a
great distance and not a foe has appeared anywhere. It may be that the
French vanish when they hear this valiant Quaker troop is coming, but
it's my own personal opinion they'll stay pretty well back in the west
with their red allies."
The youth, although he called himself so, did not look much like a
Quaker to Robert. He had a frank face and merry eyes, and manner and
voice indicated a tendency to gayety. Judging from his words he had no
cares and Indians and ambush were far from his thoughts. Proof of this
was the absence of sentinels. The men, scattered about the fire, were
eating their suppers and the horses, forty in number, were grazing in
an open space. It all looked like a great picnic, and the effect was
heightened by the youth of the soldiers.
"As the Great Bear truly said," whispered Tayoga, "Manitou has watched
over them. The forest does not hold easier game for the taking, and
had Tandakora known that they were here he would have come seeking
revenge for his loss in the attack upon Captain Colden's troop."
"You're right as usual, Tayoga, and now we'd better hail them. But
don't you come forward just yet. They don't know the difference
between Indians and likely your welcome would be a bullet."
"I will wait," said Tayoga.
"I tell you, Carson," the young lieutenant was saying in an oratorical
manner, "that they magnify the dangers of the wilderness. The ford at
which we were to meet Colden is just ahead, and we've come straight to
it without the slightest mishap. Colden is no sluggard, and he should
be here in the morning at the latest. Do you find anything wrong with
my reasoning, Hugh?"
"Naught, William," replied the other, who seemed to be second in
command. "Your logic is both precise and beautiful. The dangers of the
border are greatly exaggerated, and as soon as we get together a good
force all these French and Indians will flee back to Canada. Ah, who
Both he and his chief turned and faced the woods in astonishment. A
youth had stepped forth, and stood in full view. He was taller than
either, but younger, dressed completely in deerskin, although superior
in cut and quality to that of the ordinary borderer, his complexion
fair beneath his tan, and his hair light. He gazed at them steadily
with bright blue eyes, and both the first lieutenant and the second
lieutenant of the Quaker troop saw that he was no common person.
"Who are you?" repeated William Wilton, who was the first lieutenant.
"Who are you?" repeated Hugh Carson, who was the second lieutenant.
"My name is Robert Lennox," replied the young stranger in a mellow
voice of amazing quality, "and you, I suppose, are Lieutenant William
Wilton, the commander of this little troop."
He spoke directly to the first lieutenant, who replied, impressed as
much by the youth's voice as he was by his appearance:
"Yes, such is my name. But how did you know it? I don't recall ever
having met you before, which doubtless is my loss."
"I heard it from an associate of yours, your chief in command, Captain
James Colden, and I am here with a message from him."
"And so Colden is coming up? Well, we beat him to the place of
meeting. We've triumphed with ease over the hardships of the
wilderness." "Yes, you arrived first, but he was delayed by a matter
of importance, a problem that had to be solved before he could resume
"You speak in riddles, sir."
"Perhaps I do for the present, but I shall soon make full
explanations. I wish to call first a friend of mine, an
Indian--although you say there are no Indians in the forest--a most
excellent friend of ours. Tayoga, come!"
The Onondaga appeared silently in the circle of light, a splendid
primeval figure, drawn to the uttermost of his great height, his lofty
gaze meeting that of Wilton, half in challenge and half in
greeting. Robert had been an impressive figure, but Tayoga, owing to
the difference in race, was even more so. The hands of several of the
soldiers moved towards their weapons.
"Did I not tell you that he was a friend, a most excellent friend of
ours?" said Robert sharply. "Who raises a hand against him raises a
hand against me also, and above all raises a hand against our
cause. Lieutenant Wilton, this is Tayoga, of the Clan of the Bear, of
the nation Onondaga, of the great League of the Hodenosaunee. He is a
prince, as much a prince as any in Europe. His mind and his valor have
both been expended freely in our service, and they will be expended
with equal freedom again."
Robert's tone was so sharp and commanding that Wilton, impressed by
it, saluted the Onondaga with the greatest courtesy, and Tayoga bowed
gravely in reply.
"You're correct in assuming that my name is Wilton," said the young
lieutenant. "I'm William Wilton, of Philadelphia, and I beg to present
my second in command, Hugh Carson, of the same city."
He looked questioningly at Robert, who promptly responded:
"My name is Lennox, Robert Lennox, and I can claim either Albany or
New York as a home."
"I think I've heard of you," said Wilton. "A rumor came to
Philadelphia about a man of that name going to Quebec on an errand for
the governor of New York."
"I was the messenger," said Robert, "but since the mission was a
failure it may as well be forgotten."
"But it will not be forgotten. I've heard that you bore yourself with
great judgment and address. Nevertheless, if your modesty forbids the
subject we'll come back to another more pressing. What did you mean
when you said Captain Colden's delay was due to the solution of a
"It had to do with Indians, who you say are not to be found in these
forests. I could not help overhearing you, as I approached your camp."
Wilton reddened and then his generous impulse and sense of truth came
to his aid.
"I'll admit that I'm careless and that my knowledge may be small!" he
exclaimed. "But tell me the facts, Mr. Lennox. I judge by your face
that events of grave importance have occurred."
"Captain Colden, far east of this point, was attacked by a strong
force of French and Indians under the renowned partisan leader,
St. Luc. Tayoga, David Willet, the hunter, the famous ranger Black
Rifle and I were able to warn him and give him some help, but even
then we should have been overborne and destroyed had not a Mohawk
chief, Daganoweda, and a formidable band come to our aid. United, we
defeated St. Luc and drove him northward. Captain Colden lost several
of his men, but with the rest he is now marching to the junction with
Wilton's face turned gray, but in a moment or two his eyes brightened.
"Then a special Providence has been watching over us," he said. "We
haven't seen or heard of an Indian."
His tone was one of mingled relief and humor, and Robert could not
keep from laughing.
"At all events," he said, "you are safe for the present. I'll remain
with you while Tayoga goes back for Captain Colden."
"If you'll be so good," said Wilton, who did not forget his manners,
despite the circumstances. "I've begun to feel that we have more eyes,
or at least better ones, with you among us. Where is that Indian? You
don't mean to say he's gone?"
Robert laughed again. Tayoga, after his fashion, had vanished in
"He's well on his way to Captain Colden now," he said, exaggerating a
little for the sake of effect. "He'll be a great chief some day, and
meanwhile he's the fastest runner in the whole Six Nations."
Colden and his troop arrived soon, and the two little commands were
united, to the great joy of all. Lieutenant Wilton had passed from
the extreme of confidence to the utmost distrust. Where it had not
been possible for an Indian to exist he now saw a scalplock in every
"On my honor," he said to Colden, "James, I was never before in my
life so happy to see you. I'm glad you have the entire command now. As
Mr. Lennox said, Providence saved me so far, but perhaps it wouldn't
lend a helping hand any longer."
The pack horses carried surgical supplies for the wounded, and Willet
and Black Rifle were skillful in using them. All of the hurt, they
were sure would be well again within a week, and there was little to
mar the general feeling of high spirits that prevailed in the
camp. Wilton and Carson were lads of mettle, full of talk of
Philadelphia, then the greatest city in the British Colonies, and
related to most of its leading families, as was Colden too, his family
being a branch of the New York family of that name. Robert was at home
with them at once, and they were eager to hear from him about Quebec
and the latest fashions of the French, already the arbiters of
fashion, and recognized as such, despite the war between them, by
English and Americans.
"I had hoped to go to Quebec myself," said Wilton reflectively, "but I
suppose it's a visit that's delayed for a long time now."
"How does it happen that you, a Quaker, are second in command here?"
"It must be the belligerency repressed through three or four
generations and breaking out at last in me," replied Wilton, his eyes
twinkling. "I suppose there's just so much fighting in every family,
and if three or four generations in succession are peaceful the next
that follows is likely to be full of warlike fury. So, as soon as the
war began I started for it. It's not inherent in me. As I said, it's
the confined ardor of generations bursting forth suddenly in my
person. I'm not an active agent. I'm merely an instrument."
"It was the same warlike fury that caused you to come here, build your
fire and set no watch, expecting the woods to be as peaceful as
Philadelphia?" said Colden.
"I didn't dream the French and Indians were so near," he replied
"If comparisons are valuable you needn't feel any mortification about
it, Will," said Colden. "I was just about as careless myself, and all
of us would have lost our scalps, if Willet, Lennox and Tayoga hadn't
Wilton was consoled. But both he and Colden after the severe lesson
the latter had received were now all for vigilance. Many sentinels had
been posted, and since Colden was glad to follow the advice of Willet
and Tayoga they were put in the best places. They let the fire die
early, as the weather had now become very warm, and all of them, save
the watch soon slept. The night brought little coolness with it, and
the wind that blew was warm and drying. Under its touch the leaves
began to crinkle up at the edge and turn brown, the grass showed signs
of withering and Willet, who had taken charge of the guard that night,
noticed that summer was passing into the brown leaf. It caused him a
pang of disappointment.
Great Britain and the Colonies had not yet begun to move. The
Provincial legislatures still wrangled, and the government at London
was provokingly slow. There was still no plan of campaign, the great
resources of the Anglo-Saxons had not yet been brought together for
use against the quick and daring French, and while their slow, patient
courage might win in the end, Willet foresaw a long and terrible war
with many disasters at the beginning.
He was depressed for the moment. He knew what an impression the early
French successes would make on the Indian tribes, and he knew, too, as
he heard the wind rustling through the dry leaves, that there would be
no English campaign that year. One might lead an army in winter on the
good roads and through the open fields of Europe, but then only
borderers could make way through the vast North American wilderness in
the deep snows and bitter cold, where Indian trails alone existed. The
hunter foresaw a long delay before the British and Colonial forces
moved, and meanwhile the French and Indians would be more strongly
planted in the territory claimed by the rival nations, and, while in
law possession was often nine points, it seemed in war to be ten
points and all.
As he walked back and forth Black Rifle touched him on the arm.
"I'm going, Dave," he said. "They don't need me here any
longer. Daganoweda and his Mohawks, likely enough, will follow the
French and Indians, and have another brush with 'em. At any rate, it's
sure that St. Luc and Tandakora won't come back, and these young men
can go on without being attacked again and build their fort. But
they'll be threatened there later on, and I'll come again with a
"I know you will," said Willet. "Wherever danger appears on the
border, Black Rifle, there you are. I see great and terrible days
ahead for us all."
"And so do I," said Black Rifle. "This continent is on fire."
The two shook hands, and the somber figure of Black Rifle disappeared
in the forest. Willet looked after him thoughtfully, and then resumed
his pacing to and fro.
They made an early start at dawn of a bright hot day, crossed the
ford, and resumed their long march through the forest which under the
light wind now rustled continually with the increasing dryness.
But the company was joyous. The wounded were put upon the pack horses,
and the others, young, strong and refreshed by abundant rest, went
forward with springing steps. Robert and Tayoga walked with the three
Philadelphians. Colden already knew the quality of the Onondaga, and
respected and admired him, and Wilton and Carson, surprised at first
at his excellent English education, soon saw that he was no ordinary
youth. The five, each a type of his own, were fast friends before the
day's march was over. Wilton, the Quaker, was the greatest talker of
them all, which he declared was due to suppression in childhood.
"It's something like the battle fever which will come out along about
the fourth or fifth generation," he said. "I suppose there's a certain
amount of talk that every man must do in his lifetime, and, having
been kept in a state of silence by my parents all through my youth,
I'm now letting myself loose in the woods."
"Don't apologize, Will," said Colden. "Your chatter is harmless, and
it lightens the spirits of us all."
"The talker has his uses," said Tayoga gravely. "My friend Lennox,
known to the Hodenosaunee as Dagaeoga, is golden-mouthed. The gift of
great speech descends upon him when time and place are fitting."
"And so you're an orator, are you?" said Carson, looking at Robert.
Young Lennox blushed.
"Tayoga is my very good friend," he replied, "and he gives me praise I
"When one has a gift direct from Manitou," said the Onondaga, gravely,
"it is not well to deny it. It is a sign of great favor, and you must
not show ingratitude, Dagaeoga."
"He has you, Lennox," laughed Wilton, "but you needn't say more. I
know that Tayoga is right, and I'm waiting to hear you talk in a
Robert blushed once more, but was silent. He knew that if he protested
again the young Philadelphians would chaff him without mercy, and he
knew at heart also that Tayoga's statement about him was true. He
remembered with pride his defeat of St. Luc in the great test of words
in the vale of Onondaga. But Wilton's mind quickly turned to another
subject. He seemed to exemplify the truth of his own declaration that
all the impulses bottled up in four or five generations of Quaker
ancestors were at last bursting out in him. He talked more than all
the others combined, and he rejoiced in the freedom of the wilderness.
"I'm a spirit released," he said. "That's why I chatter so."
"Perhaps it's just as well, Will, that while you have the chance you
should chatter to your heart's content, because at any time an Indian
arrow may cut short your chance for chattering," said Carson.
"I can't believe it, Hugh," said Wilton, "because if Providence was
willing to preserve us, when we camped squarely among the Indians, put
out no guards, and fairly asked them to come and shoot at us, then it
was for a purpose and we'll be preserved through greater and
"There may be something in it, Will. I notice that those who deserve
it least are often the chosen favorites of fortune."
"Which seems to be a hit at your superior officer, but I'll pass it
over, Hugh, as you're always right at heart though often wrong in the
Although the young officers talked much and with apparent lightness,
the troop marched with vigilance now. Willet and Tayoga, and Colden,
who had profited by bitter experience, saw to it. The hunter and the
Onondaga, often assisted by Robert, scouted on the flanks, and three
or four soldiers, who developed rapid skill in the woods, were soon
able to help. But Tayoga and Willet were the main reliance, and they
found no further trace of Indians. Nevertheless the guard was never
relaxed for an instant.
Robert found the march not only pleasant but exhilarating. It
appealed to his imaginative and sensitive mind, which magnified
everything, and made the tints more vivid and brilliant. To him the
forests were larger and grander than they were to the others, and the
rivers were wider and deeper. The hours were more intense, he lived
every second of them, and the future had a scope and brilliancy that
few others would foresee. In company with youths of his own age coming
from the largest city of the British colonies, the one that had the
richest social traditions, his whole nature expanded, and he cast away
much of his reserve. Around the campfires in the evening he became one
of the most industrious talkers, and now and then he was carried away
so much by his own impulse that all the rest would cease and listen to
the mellow, golden voice merely for the pleasure of hearing. Then
Tayoga and Willet would look at each other and smile, knowing that
Dagaeoga, though all unconsciously, held the center of the stage, and
the others were more than willing for him to hold it.
The friendships of the young ripen fast, and under such circumstances
they ripen faster than ever. Robert soon felt that he had known the
three young Philadelphians for years, and a warm friendship, destined
to last all their lives, in which Tayoga was included, was soon
formed. Robert saw that his new comrades, although they did not know
much of the forest, were intelligent, staunch and brave, and they saw
in him all that Tayoga and Willet saw, which was a great deal.
The heat and dryness increased, and the brown of leaf and grass
deepened. Nearly all the green was gone now, and autumn would soon
come. The forest was full of game, and Willet and Tayoga kept them
well supplied, yet their progress became slower. Those who had been
wounded severely approached the critical stage, and once they stopped
two days until all danger had passed.
Three days later a fierce summer storm burst upon them. Tayoga had
foreseen it, and the whole troop was gathered in the lee of a hill,
with all their ammunition protected by blankets, canvas and the skins
of deer that they had killed. But the young Philadelphians,
unaccustomed to the fury of the elements in the wilderness, looked
upon it with awe.
In the west the lightning blazed and the thunder crashed for a long
time. Often the forest seemed to swim in a red glare, and Robert
himself was forced to shut his eyes before the rapid flashes of
dazzling brightness. Then came a great rushing of wind with a mighty
rain on its edge, and, when the wind died, the rain fell straight down
in torrents more than an hour.
Although they kept their ammunition and other supplies dry the men
themselves were drenched to the bone, but the storm passed more
suddenly than it had come. The clouds parted on the horizon, then all
fled away. The last raindrop fell and a shining sun came out in a hot
blue sky. As the men resumed a drooping march their clothes dried fast
in the fiery rays and their spirits revived.
When night came they were dry again, and youth had taken no harm. The
next day they struck an Indian trail, but both Willet and Tayoga said
it had been made by less than a dozen warriors, and that they were
"It's my belief," said Willet, "that they were warriors from the Ohio
country on their way to join the French along the Canadian border."
"And they're not staying to meet us," said Colden. "I'm afraid, Will,
it'll be some time before you have a chance to show your unbottled
"Perhaps not so long as you think," replied Wilton, who had plenty of
penetration. "I don't claim to be any great forest rover, although I
do think I've learned something since I left Philadelphia, but I
imagine that our building of a fort in the woods will draw 'em. The
Indian runners will soon be carrying the news of it, and then they'll
cluster around us like flies seeking sugar."
"You're right, Mr. Wilton," said Willet. "After we build this fort
it's as sure as the sun is in the heavens that we'll have to fight for
Two days later they reached the site for their little fortress which
they named Fort Refuge, because they intended it as a place in which
harried settlers might find shelter. It was a hill near a large creek,
and the source of a small brook lay within the grounds they intended
to occupy, securing to them an unfailing supply of good water in case
Now, the young soldiers entered upon one of the most arduous tasks of
the war, to build a fort, which was even more trying to them than
battle. Arms and backs ached as Colden, Wilton and Carson, advised by
Willet, drove them hard. A strong log blockhouse was erected, and then
a stout palisade, enclosing the house and about an acre of ground,
including the precious spring which spouted from under a ledge of
stone at the very wall of the blockhouse itself. Behind the building
they raised a shed in which the horses could be sheltered, as all of
them foresaw a long stay, dragging into winter with its sleet and
snow, and it was important to save the animals.
Robert, Willet and Tayoga had a roving commission, and, as they could
stay with Colden and his command as long as they chose, they chose
accordingly to remain where they thought they could do the most
good. Robert took little part in the hunting, but labored with the
soldiers on the building, although it was not the kind of work to
which his mind turned.
The blockhouse itself, was divided into a number of rooms, in which
the soldiers who were not on guard could sleep, and they had blankets
and the skins of the larger animals the hunters killed for
beds. Venison jerked in great quantities was stored away in case of
siege, and the whole forest was made to contribute to their
larder. The work was hard, but it toughened the sinews of the young
soldiers, and gave them an occupation in which they were interested.
Before it was finished they were joined by another small detachment
with loaded pack horses, which by the same kind of miracle had come
safely through the wilderness. Colden now had a hundred men, fifty
horses and powder and lead for all the needs of which one could think.
"If we only had a cannon!" he said, looking proudly at their new
blockhouse, "I think I'd build a platform for it there on the roof,
and then we could sweep the forest in every direction. Eh, Will, my
"But as we haven't," said Wilton, "we'll have to do the sweeping with
"And our men are good marksmen, as they showed in that fight with
St. Luc. But it seems a world away from Philadelphia, doesn't it,
Will? I wonder what they're doing there!"
"Counting their gains in the West India trade, looking at the latest
fashions from England that have come on the ships up the Delaware,
building new houses out Germantown way, none of them thinking much of
the war, except old Ben Franklin, who pegs forever at the governor of
the Province, the Legislature, and every influential man to take
action before the French and Indians seize the whole border."
"I hope Franklin will stir 'em up, and that they won't forget us out
here in the woods. For us at least the French and Indians are a
Meanwhile summer had turned into autumn, and autumn itself was
Fort Refuge, the stronghold raised by young arms, was the most distant
point in the wilderness held by the Anglo-American forces, and for a
long time it was cut off entirely from the world. No message came out
of the great forest that rimmed it round, but Colden had been told to
build it and hold it until he had orders to leave it, and he and his
men waited patiently, until word of some kind should come or they
should be attacked by the French and Indian forces that were gathering
continually in the north.
They saw the autumn reach its full glory. The wilderness glowed in
intense yellows and reds. The days grew cool, and the nights cold, the
air was crisp and fresh like the breath of life, the young men felt
their muscles expand and their courage rise, and they longed for the
appearance of the enemy, sure that behind their stout palisade they
would be able to defeat whatever numbers came.
Tayoga left them early one morning for a visit to his people. The
leaves were falling then under a sharp west wind, and the sky had a
cold, hard tint of blue steel. Winter was not far away, but the day
suited a runner like Tayoga who wished to make speed through the
wilderness. He stood for a moment or two at the edge of the forest, a
strong, slender figure outlined against the brown, waved his hand to
his friends watching on the palisade, and then disappeared.
"A great Indian," said young Wilton thoughtfully. "I confess that I
never knew much about the red men or thought much about them until I
met him. I don't recall having come into contact with a finer mind of
"Most of the white people make the mistake of undervaluing the
Indians," said Robert, "but we'll learn in this war what a power they
are. If the Hodenosaunee had turned against us we'd have been beaten
"At any rate, Tayoga is a noble type. Since I had to come into the
forest I'm glad to meet such fellows as he. Do you think, Lennox, that
he'll get through safely?"
"Get through safely?" he repeated. "Why, Tayoga is the fastest runner
among the Indian nations, and they train for speed. He goes like the
wind, he never tires, night and day are the same to him, he's so light
of foot that he could pass through a band of his own comrades and they
would never know he was there, and yet his own ears are so keen that
he can hear the leaves falling a hundred yards away. The path from
here to the vale of Onondaga may be lined on either side with the
French and the hostile tribes, standing as thick as trees in the
forest, but he will flit between them as safely and easily as you and
I would ride along a highroad into Philadelphia. He will arrive at the
vale of Onondaga, unharmed, at the exact minute he intends to arrive,
and he will return, reaching Fort Refuge also on the exact day, and at
the exact hour and minute he has already selected."
The young Quaker surveyed Robert with admiration and then laughed.
"What they tell of you is true," he said. "In truth that was a most
gorgeous and rounded speech you made about your friend. I don't recall
finer and more flowing periods! What vividness! What imagery! I'm
proud to know you, Lennox!"
Robert reddened and then laughed.
"I do grow enthusiastic when I talk about Tayoga," he said, "but
you'll see that what I predict will come to pass. He's probably told
Willet just when he'll be back at Fort Refuge. We'll ask him."
The hunter informed them that Tayoga intended to take exactly ten
"This is Monday," he said. "He'll be here a week from next Thursday at
"But suppose something happens to detain him," said Wilton, "suppose
the weather is too bad for traveling, or suppose a lot of other things
that can happen easily."
Willet shrugged his shoulders.
"In such a case as this where Tayoga is concerned," he said, "we don't
suppose anything, we go by certainties. Before he left, Tayoga
settled the day and the hour when he would return and it's not now a
problem or a question. He has disposed of the subject."
"I can't quite see it that way," said Wilton tenaciously. "I admit
that Tayoga is a wonderful fellow, but he cannot possibly tell the
exact hour of his return from such a journey as the one he has
"You wait and see," said the hunter in the utmost good nature. "You
think you know Tayoga, but you don't yet know him fully."
"If I were not a Quaker I'd wager a small sum of money that he does
not come at the time appointed," said Wilton.
"Then it's lucky for your pocket that you're a Quaker," laughed
It turned much colder that very afternoon, and the raw edge of winter
showed. The wind from the northwest was bitter and the dead leaves
fell in showers. At dusk a chilling rain began, and the young
soldiers, shivering, were glad enough to seek the shelter of the
blockhouse, where a great fire was blazing on the broad hearth. They
had made many rude camp stools and sitting down on one before the
blaze Wilton let the pleasant warmth fall upon his face.
"I'm sorry for Tayoga," he said to Robert. "Just when you and Willet
were boasting most about him this winter rain had to come and he was
no more than fairly started. He'll have to hunt a den somewhere in the
forest and crouch in it wrapped in his blanket."
Robert smiled serenely.
"Den! Crouch! Wrapped in his blanket! What do you mean?" he asked in
his mellow, golden voice. "Are you speaking of my friend, Tayoga, of
the Clan of the Bear, of the nation Onondaga, of the great League of
the Hodenosaunee? Can it be possible, Wilton, that you are referring
to him, when you talk of such humiliating subterfuges?"
"I refer to him and none other, Lennox. I see him now, stumbling about
in the deep forest, looking for shelter."
"No, Wilton, you don't see Tayoga. You merely see an idle figment of a
brain that does not yet fully know my friend, the great young Onondaga.
But _I_ see him, and I see him clearly. I behold a tall, strong figure,
head slightly bent against the rain, eyes that see in the dark as well
as yours see in the brightest sunlight, feet that move surely and
steadily in the path, never stumbling and never veering, tireless
muscles that carry him on without slackening."
"Dithyrambic again, Lennox. You are certainly loyal to your friend. As
for me, I'm glad I'm not out there in the black and wet forest. No
human being can keep to his pace at such a time."
Robert again smiled serenely, but he said nothing more. His confidence
was unlimited. Presently he wrapped around his body a rude but
serviceable overcoat of beaver skin that he had made for himself, and
went out. The cold, drizzling icy rain that creeps into one's veins
was still falling, and he shivered despite his furs. He looked toward
the northeast whither Tayoga's course took him, and he felt sorry for
his red comrade, but he never doubted that he was speeding on his way
with sure and unfaltering step.
The sentinels, mounted on the broad plank that ran behind the
palisade, were walking to and fro, wrapped to their eyes. A month or
two earlier they might have left everything on such a night to take
care of itself, but now they knew far better. Captain Colden, with the
terrible lesson of the battle in the bush, had become a strict
disciplinarian, and Willet was always at his elbow with unobtrusive
but valuable advice which the young Philadelphian had the good sense
Robert spoke to them, and one or two referred to the Indian runner who
had gone east, saying that he might have had a better night for his
start. The repetition of Wilton's words depressed Robert for a moment,
but his heart came back with a bound. Nothing could defeat
Tayoga. Did he not know his red comrade? The wilderness was like a
trimmed garden to him, and neither rain, nor hail, nor snow could stop
As he said the word "hail" to himself it came, pattering upon the dead
leaves and the palisade in a whirlwind of white pellets. Again he
shivered, and knowing it was no use to linger there returned inside,
where most of the men had already gone to sleep. He stretched himself
on his blanket and followed them in slumber. When he awoke the next
morning it was still hailing, and Wilton said in a serious tone that
he hoped Tayoga would give up the journey and come back to Fort
"I like that Onondaga," he said, "and I don't want him to freeze to
death in the forest. Why, the earth and all the trees are coated with
ice now, and even if a man lives he is able to make no progress."
Once more Robert smiled serenely.
"You're thinking of the men you knew in Philadelphia, Will," he
said. "They, of course, couldn't make such a flight through a white
forest, but Tayoga is an altogether different kind of fellow. He'll
merely exert himself a little more, and go on as fast as ever."
Wilton looked at the vast expanse of glittering ice, and then drew the
folds of a heavy cloak more closely about his body.
"I rejoice," he said, "that it's the Onondaga and not myself who has
to make the great journey. I rejoice, too, that we have built this
fort. It's not Philadelphia, that fine, true, comfortable city, but
it's shelter against the hard winter that I see coming so fast."
Colden, still following the advice of Willet, kept his men busy,
knowing that idleness bred discontent and destroyed discipline. At
least a dozen soldiers, taught by Willet and Robert, had developed
into excellent hunters, and as the game was abundant, owing to the
absence of Indians, they had killed deer, bear, panther and all the
other kinds of animals that ranged these forests. The flesh of such as
were edible was cured and stored, as they foresaw the day when many
people might be in Fort Refuge and the food would be needed. The skins
also were dressed and were put upon the floor or hung upon the
walls. The young men working hard were happy nevertheless, as they
were continually learning new arts. And the life was healthy to an
extraordinary degree. All the wounded were as whole as before, and
everybody acquired new and stronger muscles.
Their content would have been yet greater in degree had they been able
to learn what was going on outside, in that vast world where France
and Britain and their colonies contended so fiercely for the
mastery. But they looked at the wall of the forest, and it was a
blank. They were shut away from all things as completely as Crusoe on
his island. Nor would they hear a single whisper until Tayoga came
back--if he came back.
On the second day after the Onondaga's departure the air softened, but
became darker. The glittering white of the forest assumed a more
somber tinge, clouds marched up in solemn procession from the
southwest, and mobilized in the center of the heavens, a wind, touched
with damp, blew. Robert knew very well what the elements portended and
again he was sorry for Tayoga, but as before, after the first few
moments of discouragement his courage leaped up higher than ever. His
brilliant imagination at once painted a picture in which every detail
was vivid and full of life, and this picture was of a vast forest,
trees and bushes alike clothed in ice, and in the center of it a
slender figure, but straight, tall and strong, Tayoga himself speeding
on like the arrow from the bow, never wavering, never weary. Then his
mind allowed the picture to fade. Wilton might not believe Tayoga
could succeed, but how could this young Quaker know Tayoga as he knew
The clouds, having finished their mobilization in the center of the
heavens, soon spread to the horizon on every side. Then a single great
white flake dropped slowly and gracefully from the zenith, fell within
the palisade, and melted before the eyes of Robert and Wilton. But it
was merely a herald of its fellows which, descending at first like
skirmishers, soon thickened into companies, regiments, brigades,
divisions and armies. Then all the air was filled with the flakes, and
they were so thick they could not see the forest.
"The first snow of the winter and a big one," said Wilton, "and again
I give thanks for our well furnished fort. There may be greater
fortresses in Europe, and of a certainty there are many more famous,
but there is none finer to me than this with its' stout log walls, its
strong, broad roofs, and its abundance of supplies. Once more, though,
I'm sorry for your friend, Tayoga. A runner may go fast over ice, if
he's extremely sure of foot and his moccasins are good, but I know of
no way in which he can speed like the gull in its flight through deep
"Not through the snow, but he may be on it," said Robert.
"And how on it, wise but cryptic young sir?"
"But he took none with him and had none to take."
"Which proves nothing. The Indians often hide in the forest articles
they'll need at some far day. A canoe may be concealed in a thicket at
the creek's edge, a bow and arrows may be thrust away under a ledge,
all awaiting the coming of their owner when he needs them most."
"The chance seems too small to me, Lennox. I can't think a pair of
snow shoes will rise out of the forest just when Tayoga wants 'em,
walk up to him and say: 'Please strap us on your feet.' I make
concession freely that the Onondaga is a most wonderful fellow, but he
can't work miracles. He does not hold such complete mastery over the
wilderness that it will obey his lightest whisper. I read fairy tales
in my youth and they pleased me much, but alas! they were fairy
tales! The impossible doesn't happen!"
"Who's the great talker now? Your words were flowing then like the
trickling of water from a spout. But you're wrong, Will, about the
impossible. The impossible often happens. Great spirits like Tayoga
love the impossible. It draws them on, it arouses their energy, they
think it worth while. I've seen Tayoga more than once since he
started, as plainly as I see you, Will. Now, I shut my eyes and I
behold him once more. He's in the forest. The snow is pouring down. It
lies a foot deep on the ground, the boughs bend with it, and sometimes
they crack under it with a report like that of a rifle. The tops of
the bushes crowned with white bend their weight toward the ground, the
panthers, the wolves, and the wildcats all lie snug in their
dens. It's a dead world save for one figure. Squarely in the center of
it I see Tayoga, bent over a little, but flying straight forward at a
speed that neither you nor I could match, Will. His feet do not sink
in the snow. He skims upon it like a swallow through the air. His feet
are encased in something long and narrow. He has on snow shoes and he
goes like the wind!"
"You do have supreme confidence in the Onondaga, Lennox!"
"So would you if you knew him as I do, Will, a truth I've told you
several times already."
"But he can't provide for every emergency!"
"Must I tell you for the twentieth time that you don't know Tayoga as
I know him?"
"No, Lennox, but I'll wait and see what happens."
The fall of snow lasted the entire day and the following night. The
wilderness was singularly beautiful, but it was also inaccessible,
comfortable for those in the fort, but outside the snow lay nearly two
"I hope that vision of yours comes true," said Wilton to Robert, as
they looked at the forest. "They say the Highland Scotch can go into
trances or something of that kind, and look into the future, and I
believe the Indians claim the gift, but I've never heard that English
and Americans assumed the possession of such powers."
"I'm no seer," laughed Robert. "I merely use my imagination and
produce for myself a picture of things two or three days ahead."
"Which comes to the same thing. Well, we'll see. I take so great an
interest in the journey of your Onondaga friend that somehow I feel
myself traveling along with him."
"I know I'm going with him or I wouldn't have seen him flying ahead on
his snow shoes. But come, Will, I've promised to teach you how to sew
buckskin with tendons and sinews, and I'm going to see that you do
The snow despite its great depth was premature, because on the fourth
day soft winds began to blow, and all the following night a warm rain
fell. It came down so fast that the whole earth was flooded, and the
air was all fog and mist. The creek rose far beyond its banks, and the
water stood in pools and lakes in the forest.
"Now, in very truth, our friend Tayoga has been compelled to seek a
lair," said Wilton emphatically. "His snow shoes would be the
sorriest of drags upon his feet in mud and water, and without them he
will sink to his knees. The wilderness has become impassable."
"I see no way out of it for him," said Wilton.
"But I do."
"Then what, in Heaven's name, is it?"
"I not only see the way for Tayoga, but I shut my eyes once more and I
see him using it. He has put away his snow shoes, and, going to the
thick bushes at the edge of a creek, he has taken out his hidden
canoe. He has been in it some time, and with mighty sweeps of the
paddle, that he knows so well how to use, it flies like a wild duck
over the water. Now he passes from the creek into a river flowing
eastward, and swollen by the floods to a vast width. The rain has
poured upon him, but he does not mind it. The powerful exercise with
the paddles dries his body, and sends the pleasant warmth through
every vein. His feet and ankles rest, after his long flight on the
snow shoes, and his heart swells with pleasure, because it is one of
the easiest parts of his journey. His rifle is lying by his side, and
he could seize it in a moment should an enemy appear, but the forest
on either side of the stream is deserted, and he speeds on unhindered.
There may be better canoemen in the world than Tayoga, but I doubt
"Come, come, Lennox! You go too far! I can admit the possibility of
the snow shoes and their appearance at the very moment they're needed,
but the evocation of a river and a canoe at the opportune instant puts
too high a strain upon credibility."
"Then don't believe it unless you wish to do so," laughed Robert, "but
as for me I'm not only believing it, but I'm almost at the stage of
The flood was so great that all hunting ceased for the time, and the
men stayed under shelter in the fort, while the fires were kept
burning for the sake of both warmth and cheer. But they were on the
edge of the great Ohio Valley, where changes in temperature are often
rapid and violent. The warm rain ceased, the wind came out of the
southwest cold and then colder. The logs of the buildings popped with
the contracting cold all through the following night and the next dawn
came bright, clear and still, but far below zero. The ice was thick
on the creek, and every new pool and lake was covered. The trees and
bushes that had been dripping the day before were sheathed in silver
mail. Breath curled away like smoke from the lips.
"If Tayoga stayed in his canoe," said Wilton, "he's frozen solidly in
the middle of the river, and he won't be able to move it until a thaw
Robert laughed with genuine amusement and also with a certain scorn.
"I've told you many times, Will," he said, "that you didn't know all
about Tayoga, but now it seems that you know nothing about him."
"Well, then, wherein am I wrong, Sir Robert the Omniscient?" asked
"In your assumption that Tayoga would not foresee what was
coming. Having spent nearly all his life with nature he has naturally
been forced to observe all of its manifestations, even the most
delicate. And when you add to these necessities the powers of an
exceedingly strong and penetrating mind you have developed faculties
that can cope with almost anything. Tayoga foresaw this big freeze,
and I can tell you exactly what he did as accurately as if I had been
there and had seen it. He kept to the river and his canoe almost until
the first thin skim of ice began to show. Then he paddled to land, and
hid the canoe again among thick bushes. He raised it up a little on
low boughs in such a manner that it would not touch the water. Thus it
was safe from the ice, and so leaving it well hidden and in proper
condition, and situation, he sped on."
"Of course you're a master with words, Robert, and the longer they are
the better you seem to like 'em, but how is the Onondaga to make speed
over the ice which now covers the earth? Snow shoes, I take it, would
not be available upon such a smooth and tricky surface, and, at any
rate, he has left them far behind."
"In part of your assumption you're right, Will. Tayoga hasn't the
snow shoes now, and he wouldn't use 'em if he had 'em. He foresaw the
possibility of the freeze, and took with him in his pack a pair of
heavy moose skin moccasins with the hair on the outside. They're so
rough they do not slip on the ice, especially when they inclose the
feet of a runner, so wiry, so agile and so experienced as Tayoga. Once
more I close my eyes and I see his brown figure shooting through the
white forest. He goes even faster than he did when he had on the snow
shoes, because whenever he comes to a slope he throws himself back
upon his heels and lets himself slide down the ice almost at the speed
of a bird darting through the air."
"If you're right, Lennox, your red friend is not merely a marvel, but
a series of marvels."
"I'm right, Will. I do not doubt it. At the conclusion of the tenth
day when Tayoga arrives on the return from the vale of Onondaga you
will gladly admit the truth."
"There can be no doubt about my gladness, Lennox, if it should come
true, but the elements seem to have conspired against him, and I've
learned that in the wilderness the elements count very heavily."
"Earth, fire and water may all join against him, but at the time
appointed he will come. I know it."
The great cold, and it was hard, fierce and bitter, lasted two
days. At night the popping of the contracting timbers sounded like a
continuous pistol fire, but Willet had foreseen everything. At his
instance, Colden had made the young soldiers gather vast quantities of
fuel long ago from a forest which was filled everywhere with dead
boughs and fallen timber, the accumulation of scores of years.
Then another great thaw came, and the fickle climate proceeded to show
what it could do. When the thaw had been going on for a day and a
night a terrific winter hurricane broke over the forest. Trees were
shattered as if their trunks had been shot through by huge cannon
balls. Here and there long windrows were piled up, and vast areas were
a litter of broken boughs.
"As I reckon, and allowing for the marvels you say he can perform,
Tayoga is now in the vale of Onondaga, Lennox," said Wilton. "It's
lucky that he's there in the comfortable log houses of his own people,
because a man could scarcely live in the forest in such a storm as
this, as he would be beaten to death by flying timbers."
"This time, Will, you're wrong in both assumptions. Tayoga has
already been to the vale of Onondaga. He has spent there the half day
that he allowed to himself, and now on the return journey has left the
vale far behind him. I told you how sensitive he was to the changes of
the weather, and he knew it was coming several hours before it
arrived. He sought at once protection, probably a cleft in the rock,
or an opening of two or three feet under a stony ledge. He is lying
there now, just as snug and safe as you please, while this storm,
which covers a vast area, rages over his head. There is much that is
primeval in Tayoga, and his comfort and safety make him fairly enjoy
the storm. As he lies under the ledge with his blanket drawn around
him, he is warm and dry and his sense of comfort, contrasting his
pleasant little den with the fierce storm without, becomes one of
"I suppose of course, Lennox, that you can shut your eyes and see him
once more without any trouble."
"In all truth and certainty I can, Will. He is lying on a stone shelf
with a stone ledge above him. His blanket takes away the hardness of
the stone that supports him. He sees boughs and sticks whirled past by
the storm, but none of them touches him. He hears the wind whistling
and screaming at a pitch so fierce that it would terrify one unused to
the forest, but it is only a song in the ears of Tayoga. It soothes
him, it lulls him, and knowing that he can't use the period of the
storm for traveling, he uses it for sleep, thus enabling him to take
less later on when the storm has ceased. So, after all, he loses
nothing so far as his journey is concerned. Now his lids droop, his
eyes close, and he slumbers while the storm thunders past, unable to
"You do have the gift, Lennox. I believe that sometimes your words are
music in your own ears, and inspire you to greater efforts. When the
war is over you must surely become a public man--one who is often
called upon to address the people."
"We'll fight the war first," laughed Robert.
The storm in its rise, its zenith and its decline lasted several
hours, and, when it was over, the forest looked like a wreck, but
Robert knew that nature would soon restore everything. The foliage of
next spring would cover up the ruin and new growth would take the
place of the old and broken. The wilderness, forever restoring what
was lost, always took care of itself.
A day or two of fine, clear winter weather, not too cold, followed,
and Willet went forth to scout. He was gone until the next morning and
when he returned his face was very grave.
"There are Indians in the forest," he said, "not friendly warriors of
the Hodenosaunee, but those allied with the enemy. I think a
formidable Ojibway band under Tandakora is there, and also other
Indians from the region of the Great Lakes. They may have started
against us some time back, but were probably halted by the bad
weather. They're in different bodies now, scattered perhaps for
hunting, but they'll reunite before long."
"Did you see signs of any white men, Dave?" asked Robert.
"Yes, French officers and some soldiers are with 'em, but I don't
think St. Luc is in the number. More likely it's De Courcelles and
Jumonville, whom we have such good cause to remember."
"I hope so, Dave, I'd rather fight against those two than against
"So would I, and for several reasons. St. Luc is a better leader than
they are. They're able, but he's the best of all the French."
That afternoon two men who ventured a short distance from Fort Refuge
were shot at, and one was wounded slightly, but both were able to
regain the little fortress. Willet slipped out again, and reported the
forest swarming with Indians, although there was yet no indication of
a preconcerted attack. Still, it was well for the garrison to keep
close and take every precaution.
"And this shuts out Tayoga," said Wilton regretfully to Robert. "He
may make his way through rain and flood and sleet and snow and
hurricane, but he can never pass those watchful hordes of Indians in
Once more the Onondaga's loyal friend laughed. "The warriors turn
Tayoga back, Will?" he said. "He will pass through 'em just as if
they were not there. The time will be up day after tomorrow at noon,
and then he will be here."
"Even if the Indians move up and besiege us in regular form?"
"Even that, and even anything else. At noon day after tomorrow Tayoga
will be here."
Another man who went out to bring in a horse that had been left
grazing near the fort was fired upon, not with rifles or muskets but
with arrows, and grazed in the shoulder. He had, however, the presence
of mind to spring upon the animal's back and gallop for Fort Refuge,
where the watchful Willet threw open the gate to the stockade, let him
in, then quickly closed and barred it fast. A long fierce whining cry,
the war whoop, came from the forest.
"The siege has closed in already," said Robert, "and it's well that we
have no other men outside."
"Except Tayoga," said Wilton.
"The barrier of the red army doesn't count so far as Tayoga is
concerned. How many times must I tell you, Will, that Tayoga will come
at the time appointed?"
After the shout from the woods there was a long silence that weighed
upon the young soldiers, isolated thus in the wintry and desolate
wilderness. They were city men, used to the streets and the sounds of
people, and their situation had many aspects that were weird and
appalling. They were hundreds of miles from civilization, and around
them everywhere stretched a black forest, hiding a tenacious and cruel
foe. But on the other hand their stockade was stout, they had plenty
of ammunition, water and provisions, and one victory already to their
credit. After the first moments of depression they recalled their
courage and eagerly awaited an attack.
But the attack did not come and Robert knew it would not be made, at
least not yet. The Indians were too wary to batter themselves to
pieces against the palisade, and the Frenchmen with them, skilled in
forest war, would hold them back.
"Perhaps they've gone away, realizing that we're too strong for 'em,"
"That's just what we must guard against," said Robert. "The Indian
fights with trick and stratagem. He always has more time than the
white man, and he is wholly willing to wait. They want us to think
they've left, and then they'll cut off the incautious."
The afternoon wore on, and the silence which had grown oppressive
persisted. A light pleasant wind blew through the forest, which was
now dry, and the dead bark and wintry branches rustled. To many of the
youths it became a forest of gloom and threat, and they asked
impatiently why the warriors did not come out and show themselves like
men. Certainly, it did not become Frenchmen, if they were there to
lurk in the woods and seek ambush.
Willet was the pervading spirit of the defense. Deft in word and
action, acknowledging at all times that Colden was the commander, thus
saving the young Philadelphian's pride in the presence of his men, he
contrived in an unobtrusive way to direct everything. The guards were
placed at suitable intervals about the palisade, and were instructed
to fire at anything suspicious, the others were compelled to stay in
the blockhouse and take their ease, in order that their nerves might
be steady and true, when the time for battle came. The cooks were also
instructed to prepare an unusually bountiful supper for them.
Robert was Willet's right hand. Next to the hunter he knew most about
the wilderness, and the ways of its red people. There was no
possibility that the Indians had gone. Even if they did not undertake
to storm the fort they would linger near it, in the hope of cutting
off men who came forth incautiously, and at night, especially if it
happened to be dark, they would be sure to come very close.
The palisade was about eight feet high, and the men stood on a
horizontal plank three feet from the ground, leaving only the head to
project above the shelter, and Willet warned them to be exceedingly
careful when the twilight came, since the besiegers would undoubtedly
use the darkness as a cover for sharp-shooting. Then both he and
Robert looked anxiously at the sun, which was just setting behind the
"The night will be dark," said the hunter, "and that's bad. I'm afraid
some of our sentinels will be picked off. Robert, you and I must not
sleep until tomorrow. We must stay on watch here all the while."
As he predicted, the night came down black and grim. Vast banks of
darkness rolled up close to the palisade, and the forest showed but
dimly. Then the warriors proved to the most incredulous that they had
not gone far away. Scattered shots were fired from the woods, and one
sentinel who in spite of warnings thrust his head too high above the
palisade, received a bullet through it falling back dead. It was a
terrible lesson, but afterwards the others took no risks, although
they were anxious to fire on hostile figures that their fancy saw for
them among the trees. Willet, Robert and Colden compelled them to
withhold their fire until a real and tangible enemy appeared.
Later in the night burning arrows were discharged in showers and fell
within the palisade, some on the buildings. But they had pails, and an
unfailing spring, and they easily put out the flames, although one man
was struck and suffered both a burn and a bruise.
Toward midnight a terrific succession of war whoops came, and a great
number of warriors charged in the darkness against the palisade. The
garrison was ready, and, despite the darkness, poured forth such a
fierce fire that in a few minutes the horde vanished, leaving behind
several still forms which they stole away later. Another of the young
Philadelphians was killed, and before dawn he and his comrade who had
been slain earlier in the evening were buried behind the blockhouse.
At intervals in the remainder of the night the warriors fired either
arrows or bullets, doing no farther damage except the slight wounding
of one man, and when day came Willet and Robert, worn to the bone,
sought a little rest and sleep in the blockhouse. They knew that
Golden could not be surprised while the sun was shining, and that the
savages were not likely to attempt anything serious until the
following night So they felt they were not needed for the present.
Robert slept until nearly noon, when he ate heartily of the abundant
food one of the young cooks had prepared, and learned that beyond an
occasional arrow or bullet the forest had given forth no threat. His
own spirits rose high with the day, which was uncommonly brilliant,
with a great sun shining in the center of the heavens, and not a cloud
in the sky. Wilton was near the blockhouse and was confident about
the siege, but worried about Tayoga.
"You tell me that the Indians won't go away," he said, "and if you're
right, and I think you are, the Onondaga is surely shut off from Fort
"I tell you for the last time that he will come at the appointed
hour," he said.
A long day began. Hours that seemed days in themselves passed, and
quiet prevailed in the forest, although the young soldiers no longer
had any belief that the warriors had gone away.
It was near the close of a day that had been marked by little
demonstration from the enemy, and the young officers, growing used to
the siege, attained a philosophical state of mind. They felt sure they
could hold the palisade against any number of enemies, and the
foresight of Willet, Robert and Tayoga had been so great that by no
possibility could they be starved out. They began now to have a
certain exultation. They were inside comfortable walls, with plenty
to eat and drink, while the enemy was outside and must forage for
"If it were not for Tayoga," said Wilton to Robert, "I should feel
more than satisfied with the situation. But the fate of your Onondaga
friend sticks in my mind. Mr. Willet, who knows everything, says we're
surrounded completely, and I don't wish him to lose his life in an
attempt to get through at a certain time, merely on a point of honor."
"It's no point of honor, Will. It's just the completion of a plan at
the time and place chosen. Do you see anything in that tall tree to
the east of the palisade?"
"Something appears to be moving up the trunk, but as it's on the far
side, I catch only a glimpse of it."
"That's an Indian warrior, seeking a place for a shot at us. He'll
reach the high fork, but he'll always keep well behind the body of the
tree. It's really too far for a bullet, but I think it would be wise
for us to slip back under cover."
The sharpshooter reached his desired station and fired, but his bullet
fell short. He tried three more, all without avail, and then Willet
picked him off with his long and deadly rifle. Robert shut his eyes
when he saw the body begin its fall, but his vivid imagination, so
easily excited, made him hear its thump when it struck the earth.
"And so ends that attempt!" he said.
An hour later he saw a white flag among the trees, and when Willet
mounted the palisade two French officers came forward. Robert saw at
once that they were De Courcelles and Jumonville, and his heart beat
hard. They linked him with Quebec, in which he had spent some
momentous days, and despite their treachery to him he did not feel
hatred of them at that moment.
"Will you stay with me, Mr. Willet, and you also, Mr. Lennox, while I
talk to them?" asked Captain Colden. "You know these Frenchmen better
than I do, and their experience is so much greater than mine that I
need your help."
Robert and the hunter assented gladly. Robert, in truth, was very
curious to hear what these old friends and enemies of his had to say,
and he felt a thrill when the two recognized and saluted him in the
most friendly fashion, just as if they had never meant him any harm.
"Chance brings about strange meetings between us, Mr. Lennox," said De
Courcelles. "It gives me pleasure to note that you have not yet taken
any personal harm from our siege."
"Nor you nor Monsieur de Jumonville, from our successful defense,"
replied Robert in the same spirit.
"You have us there. The points so far are in your favor, although only
superficially so, as I shall make clear to you presently."
Then De Courcelles turned his attention to Colden, who he saw was the
nominal leader of the garrison.
"My name," he said, "is Auguste de Courcelles, a colonel in the
service of His Majesty, King Louis of France. My friend is Captain
Francois de Jumonville, and we have the honor to lead the numerous and
powerful force of French and Indians now besieging you."
"And my name is Colden, Captain James Colden," replied the young
officer. "I've heard of you from my friends, Mr. Lennox and
Mr. Willet, and I have the honor of asking you what I can do for you."
"You cannot do for us more than you can do for yourself, Captain
Colden. We ask the surrender of your little fort, and of your little
garrison, which we freely admit has defended itself most
gallantly. It's not necessary for us to make an assault. You're deep
in the wilderness, we can hold you here all winter, and help cannot
possibly come to you. We guarantee you good treatment in Canada, where
you will be held until the war is over."
Young Colden smiled. They were standing before the single gate in the
palisade, and he looked back at the solid buildings, erected by the
hands of his own men, with the comfortable smoke curling up against
the cold sky. And he looked also at the wintry forest that curved in
"Colonel de Courcelles," he said, "it seems to me that we are in and
you are out. If it comes to holding us here all winter we who have
good houses can stand it much better than you who merely have the
forest as a home, where you will be rained upon, snowed upon, hailed
upon, and maybe frozen. Why should we exchange our warm house for your
Colonel de Courcelles frowned. There was a humorous inflection in
Colden's tone that did not please him, and the young officer's words
also had a strong element of truth.
"It's not a time to talk about houses and forests," he said, somewhat
haughtily. "We have here a formidable force capable of carrying your
fort, and, for that reason, we demand your surrender. Indians are
always inflamed by a long and desperate resistance and while Captain
de Jumonville and I will do our best to restrain them, it's possible
that they may escape from our control in the hour of victory."
Young Colden smiled again. With Willet at his right hand and Robert at
his left, he acquired lightness of spirit.
"A demand and a threat together," he replied. "For the threat we
don't care. We don't believe you'll ever see that hour of victory in
which you can't control your Indians, and there'll be no need for you,
Colonel de Courcelles, to apologize for a massacre committed by your
allies, and which you couldn't help. We're also growing used to
requests of surrender.
"There was your countryman, St. Luc, a very brave and skillful man, who
asked it of us, but we declined, and in the end we defeated him. And
if we beat St. Luc without the aid of a strong fort, why shouldn't we
beat you with it, Colonel de Courcelles?"
Colonel de Courcelles frowned once more, and Captain de Jumonville
frowned with him.
"You don't know the wilderness, Captain Colden," he said, "and you
don't give our demand the serious consideration to which it is
entitled. Later on, the truth of what I tell you may bear heavily upon
"I may not know the forest as you do, Colonel de Courcelles, but I
have with me masters of woodcraft, Mr. Lennox and Mr. Willet, with
whom you're already acquainted."
"We've had passages of various kinds with Colonel de Courcelles, both
in the forest and at Quebec," said Robert, quietly.
Both De Courcelles and Jumonville flushed, and it became apparent that
they were anxious to end the interview.
"This, I take it, is your final answer," the French Colonel said to
the young Philadelphia captain.
"It is, sir."
"Then what may occur rests upon the knees of the gods."
"It does, sir, and I'm as willing as you to abide by the result."
"And I have the honor of bidding you good day."
"An equally great honor is mine."
The two French officers were ceremonious. They lifted their fine,
three-cornered hats, and bowed politely, and Colden, Willet and Robert
were not inferior in courtesy. Then the Frenchmen walked away into the
forest, while the three Americans went inside the palisade, where the
heavy gate was quickly shut behind them and fastened securely. But
before he turned back Robert thought he saw the huge figure of
Tandakora in the forest.
When the French officers disappeared several shots were fired and the
savages uttered a long and menacing war whoop, but the young soldiers
had grown used to such manifestations, and, instead of being
frightened, they felt a certain defiant pleasure.
"Yells don't hurt us," said Wilton to Robert. "Instead I feel my
Quaker blood rising in anger, and I'd rejoice if they were to attack
now. A very heavy responsibility rests upon me, Robert, since I've to
fight not only for myself but for my ancestors who wouldn't fight at
all. It rests upon me, one humble youth, to bring up the warlike
average of the family."
"You're one, Will, but you're not humble," laughed Robert. "I believe
that jest of yours about the still, blood of generations bursting
forth in you at last is not a jest wholly. When it comes to a pitched
battle I expect to see you perform prodigies of valor."
"If I do it won't be Will Wilton, myself, and I won't be entitled to
any credit. I'll be merely an instrument in the hands of fate, working
out the law of averages. But what do you think those French officers
and their savage allies will do now, Robert, since Colden, so to
speak, has thrown a very hard glove in their faces?"
"Draw the lines tighter about Fort Refuge. It's cold in the forest,
but they can live there for a while at least. They'll build fires and
throw up a few tepees, maybe for the French. But their anger and their
desire to take us will make them watch all the more closely. They'll
draw tight lines around this snug little, strong little fort of ours."
"Which removes all possibility that your friend Tayoga will come at
the appointed time."
Robert glared at him.
"Will," he said, "I've discovered that you have a double nature,
although the two are never struggling for you at the same time."
"That is I march tandem with my two natures, so to speak?"
"They alternate. At times you're a sensible boy."
"Boy? I'm older than you are!"
"One wouldn't think it. But a well bred Quaker never interrupts. As I
said, you're quite sensible at times and you ought to thank me for
saying so. At other times your mind loves folly. It fairly swims and
dives in the foolish pool, and it dives deepest when you're talking
about Tayoga. I trust, foolish young, sir, that I've heard the last
word of folly from you about the arrival of Tayoga, or rather what you
conceive will be his failure to arrive. Peace, not a word!"
"At least let me say this," protested Wilton. "I wish that I could
feel the absolute confidence in any human being that you so obviously
have in the Onondaga."
The night came, white and beautiful. It was white, because the Milky
Way was at its brightest, which was uncommonly bright, and every star
that ever showed itself in that latitude came out and danced. The
heavens were full of them, disporting themselves in clusters on
spangled seas, and the forest was all in light, paler than that of
day, but almost as vivid.
The Indians lighted several fires, well beyond rifle shot, and the
sentinels on the palisade distinctly saw their figures passing back
and forth before the blaze Robert also noticed the uniforms of
Frenchmen, and he thought it likely that De Courcelles and Jumonville
had with them more soldiers than he had supposed at first. The fires
burned at different points of the compass, and thus the fort was
encircled completely by them. Both young Lennox and Willet knew they
had been lighted that way purposely, that is in order to show to the
defenders that a belt of fire and steel was drawn close about them.
To Wilton at least the Indian circle seemed impassable, and despite
the enormous confidence of Robert he now had none at all himself. It
was impossible for Tayoga, even if he had triumphed over sleet and
snow and flood and storm, to pass so close a siege. He would not
speak of it again, but Robert had allowed himself to be deluded by
friendship. He felt sorry for his new friend, and he did not wish to
see his disappointment on the morrow.
Wilton was in charge of the guard until midnight, and then he slept
soundly until dawn, awakening to a brilliant day, the fit successor of
such a brilliant night. The Indian fires were still burning and he
could see the warriors beside them sleeping or eating at leisure.
They still formed a complete circle about the fort, and while the
young Quaker felt safe inside the palisade, he saw no chance for a
friend outside. Robert joined him presently but, respecting his
feelings, the Philadelphian said nothing about Tayoga.
The winter, it seemed, was exerting itself to show how fine a day it
could produce. It was cold but dazzling. A gorgeous sun, all red and
gold, was rising, and the light was so vivid and intense that they
could see far in the forest, bare of leaf. Robert clearly discerned
both De Courcelles and Jumonville about six hundred yards away,
standing by one of the fires. Then he saw the gigantic figure of
Tandakora, as the Ojibway joined them. Despite the cold, Tandakora
wore little but the breechcloth, and his mighty chest and shoulders
were painted with many hideous devices. In the distance and in the
glow of the flames his size was exaggerated until he looked like one
of the giants of ancient mythology.
Robert was quite sure the siege would never be raised if the voice of
the Ojibway prevailed in the allied French and Indian councils.
Tandakora had been wounded twice, once by the hunter and once by the
Onondaga, and a mind already inflamed against the Americans and the
Hodenosaunee cherished a bitter personal hate. Robert knew that
Willet, Tayoga and he must be eternally on guard against his murderous
The savages built their fires higher, as if in defiance and
triumph. They could defend themselves against cold, because the forest
furnished unending fuel, but rain or hail, sleet or snow would bring
severe hardship. The day, however, favored them to the utmost. It
had seemed at dawn that it could not be more brilliant, but as the
morning advanced the world fairly glowed with color. The sky was
golden save in the east, where it burned in red, and the trunks and
black boughs of the forest, to the last and least little twig, were
touched with it until they too were clothed in a luminous glow.
The besiegers seemed lazy, but Robert knew that the watch upon the
fort and its approaches was never neglected for an instant. A fox
could not steal through their lines, unseen, and yet he never doubted.
Tayoga would come, and moreover he would come at the time
appointed. Toward the middle of the morning the Indians shot some
arrows that fell inside the palisade, and uttered a shout or two of
defiance, but nobody was hurt, and nobody was stirred to action. The
demonstration passed unanswered, and, after a while, Wilton called
Robert's attention to the fact that it was only two hours until
noon. Robert did not reply, but he knew that the conditions could not
be more unfavorable. Rain or hail, sleet or snow might cover the
passage of a warrior, but the dazzling sunlight that enlarged twigs
two hundred yards away into boughs, seemed to make all such efforts
vain. Yet he knew Tayoga, and he still believed.
Soon a stir came in the forest, and they heard a long, droning
chant. A dozen warriors appeared coming out of the north, and they
were welcomed with shouts by the others.
"Hurons, I think," said Willet. "Yes, I'm sure of it. They've
undoubtedly sent away for help, and it's probable that other bands
will come about this time." He reckoned right, as in half an hour a
detachment of Abenakis came, and they too were received with approving
shouts, after which food was given to them and they sat luxuriously
before the fires. Then three runners arrived, one from the north, one
from the west, and one from the east, and a great shout of welcome was
uttered for each.
"What does it mean?" Wilton asked Robert.
"The runners were sent out by De Courcelles and Tandakora to rally
more strength for our siege. They've returned with the news that
fresh forces are coming, as the exultant shout from the warriors
The young Philadelphian's heart sank. He knew that it was only a half
hour until noon, and noon was the appointed time. Nor did the heavens
give any favoring sign. The whole mighty vault was a blaze of gold and
blue. Nothing could stir in such a light and remain hidden from the
warriors. Wilton looked at his comrade and he caught a sudden glitter
in his eyes. It was not the look of one who despaired. Instead it was
a flash of triumph, and the young Philadelphian wondered. Had Robert
seen a sign, a sign that had escaped all others? He searched the
forest everywhere with his own eyes, but he could detect nothing
unusual. There were the French, and there were the Indians. There were
the new warriors, and there were the three runners resting by the
The runners rose presently, and the one who had come out of the north
talked with Tandakora, the one who had come out of the west stood near
the edge of the forest with an Abenaki chief and looked at the
fort. The one who had come out of the east joined De Courcelles
himself and they came nearer to the fort than any of the others,
although they remained just beyond rifle shot. Evidently De Courcelles
was explaining something to the Indian as once he pointed toward the
Wilton heard Robert beside him draw a deep breath, and he turned in
surprise. The face of young Lennox was tense and his eyes fairly
blazed as he gazed at De Courcelles and the warrior. Then looking back
at the forest Robert uttered a sudden sharp, Ah! the release of
uncontrollable emotion, snapping like a pistol shot.
"Did you see it, Will? Did you see it?" he exclaimed. "It was quicker
The Indian runner stooped, snatched the pistol from the belt of De
Courcelles, struck him such a heavy blow on the head with the butt of
it that he fell without a sound, and then his brown body shot forward
like an arrow for the fort.
"Open the gate! Open the gate!" thundered Willet, and strong arms
unbarred it and flung it back in an instant. The brown body of Tayoga
flashed through, and, in another instant, it was closed and barred
"He is here with five minutes to spare!" said Robert as he left the
palisade with Wilton, and went toward the blockhouse to greet his
Tayoga, painted like a Micmac and stooping somewhat hitherto, drew
himself to his full height, held out his hand in the white man's
fashion to Robert, while his eyes, usually so calm, showed a passing
gleam of triumph.
"I said, Tayoga, that you would be back on time, that is by noon
today," said Robert, "and though the task has been hard you're with us
and you have a few minutes to spare. How did you deceive the sharp
eyes of Tandakora?"
"I did not let him see me, knowing he would look through my disguise,
but I asked the French colonel to come forward with me at once and
inspect the fort, knowing that it was my only chance to enter here,
and he agreed to do so. You saw the rest, and thus I have come. It is
not pleasant to those who besiege us, as your ears tell you."
Fierce yells of anger and disappointment were rising in the
forest. Jumonville and two French soldiers had rushed forward, seized
the reviving De Courcelles and were carrying him to one of the fires,
where they would bind up his injured head. But inside the fort there
was only exultation at the arrival of Tayoga and admiration for his
skill. He insisted first on being allowed to wash off the Micmac
paint, enabling him to return to his true character. Then he took food
"Tayoga," said Wilton, "I believed you could not come. I said so often
to Lennox. You would never have known my belief, because Lennox would
not have told it to you, but I feel that I must apologize to you for
the thought. I underrated you, but I underrated you because I did not
believe any human being could do what you have done."
Tayoga smiled, showing his splendid white teeth. "Your thoughts did
me no wrong," he said in his precise school English, "because the
elements and chance itself seemed to have conspired against me."
Later he told what he had heard in the vale of Onondaga where the
sachems and chiefs kept themselves well informed concerning the
movements of the belligerent nations. The French were still the more
active of the rival powers, and their energy and conquests were
bringing the western tribes in great numbers to their flag. Throughout
the Ohio country the warriors were on the side of the French who were
continuing the construction of the powerful fortress at the junction
of the Alleghany and the Monongahela. The French were far down in the
province of New York, and they held control of Lake Champlain and of
Lake George also. More settlements had been cut off, and more women
and children had been taken prisoners into Canada.
But the British colonies and Great Britain too would move, so Tayoga
said. They were slow, much slower than Canada, but they had the
greater strength and the fifty sachems in the vale of Onondaga knew
it. They could not be moved from their attitude of friendliness toward
the English, and the Mohawks openly espoused the English side. The
American, Franklin, was very active, and a great movement against Fort
Duquesne would be begun, although it might not start until next
spring. An English force under an English general was coming across
the sea, and the might of England was gathering for a great blow.
The Onondaga had few changes in the situation to report, but he at
least brought news of the outside world, driving away from the young
soldiers the feeling that they were cut off from the human
race. Wilton was present when he was telling of these things and when
he had finished Robert asked:
"How did you make your way through the great snow, Tayoga?"
"It is well to think long before of difficulties," he replied. "Last
year when the winter was finished I hid a pair of snow shoes in this
part of the forest, and when the deep snow came I found them and used
Robert glanced at Wilton, whose eyes were widening.
"And the great rain and flood, how did you meet that obstacle?" asked
"That, too, was forethought. I have two canoes hidden in this region,
and it was easy to reach one of them, in which I traveled with speed
and comfort, until I could use it no longer. Then I hid it away again
that it might help me another time."
"And what did you do when the hurricane came, tearing up the bushes,
cutting down the trees, and making the forest as dangerous as if it
were being showered by cannon balls?"
"I crept under a wide ledge of stone in the side of a hill, where I
lay snug, dry and safe."
Wilton looked at Tayoga and Robert, and then back at the Onondaga.
"Is this wizardry?" he cried.
"No," replied Robert.
"Then it's singular chance."
"Nor that either. It was the necessities that confronted Tayoga in the
face of varied dangers, and my knowledge of what he would be likely to
do in either case. Merely a rather fortunate use of the reasoning
Willet, who had come in, smiled.
"Don't let 'em make game of you, Mr. Wilton," he said, "but there's
truth in what Robert tells you. He understands Tayoga so thoroughly
that he knows pretty well what he'll do in every crisis."
After the Onondaga had eaten he wrapped himself in blankets, went to
sleep in one of the rooms of the blockhouse and slept twenty-four
hours. When he awoke he showed no signs of his tremendous journey and
infinite dangers. He was once more the lithe and powerful Tayoga of
the Clan of the Bear, of the nation Onondaga of the great League of
The besiegers meanwhile undertook no movement, but, as if in defiance,
they increased the fires in the red ring around the fort and they
showed themselves ostentatiously. Robert several times saw De
Courcelles with a thick bandage about his head, and he knew that the
Frenchman's mortification and rage at being tricked so by the Onondaga
must be intense.
Now the weather began to grow very cold again, and Robert saw the
number of tepees in the forest increase. The Indians, not content
with the fires, were providing themselves with good shelters, and to
every one it indicated a long siege. There was neither snow, nor hail,
but clear, bitter, intense cold, and again the timbers of the
blockhouse and outbuildings popped as they contracted under the lower
The horses were pretty well sheltered from the cold, and Willet, with
his usual foresight, had suggested before the siege closed in that a
great deal of grass be cut for them, though should the French and
Indians hang on for a month or two, they would certainly become a
problem. Food for the men would last indefinitely, but a time might
arrive when none would be left for the horses.
"If the pinch comes," said Willet, "we know how to relieve it."
"How?" asked Colden.
"We'll eat the horses."
Colden made a wry face.
"It's often been done in Europe," said the hunter. "At the famous
sieges of Leyden and Haarlem, when the Dutch held out so long against
the Spanish, they'd have been glad enough to have had horseflesh."
"I look ahead again," said Robert, hiding a humorous gleam in his eyes
from Colden, "and I see a number of young men behind a palisade which
they have held gallantly for months. They come mostly from
Philadelphia and they call themselves Quakers. They are thin, awfully
thin, terribly thin, so thin that there is scarcely enough to make a
circle for their belts. They have not eaten for four days, and they
are about to kill their last horse. When he is gone they will have to
live on fresh air and scenery."
"Now I know Lennox that you're drawing on your imagination and that
you're a false prophet," said Colden.
"I hope my prediction won't come true, and I don't believe it will,"
said Robert cheerfully.
Several nights later when there was no moon, and no stars, Willet and
Tayoga slipped out of the fort. Colden was much opposed to their
going, fearing for their lives, and knowing, too, how great a loss
they would be if they were taken or slain, but the hunter and the