Part 5 out of 6
"Very well, sir, thank you," replied Robert, "and again I wish to make
my apologies for deserting, but the temptations of New York are very
strong, sir. The city went to my head."
"So it seems. We missed you on the voyage to Boston and back, but we
have you now. Doubtless Miguel has told you that you are to help him a
couple of days in his galley, and you'll stay there close. If you come
out before I give the word it's a belaying pin for you. But when I do
give the word you'll go back to your work as one of the cleverest
sailormen I ever had. You'll remember how you used to go out on the
spars in the iciest and slipperiest weather. None so clever at it as
you, Peter, and I'll soon see that you have the chance to show again
to all the men that you're the best sailor aboard ship."
Robert shivered mentally. He divined the plan of this villain, who
would send him in the icy rigging to sure death. He, an untrained
sailor, could not keep his footing there in a storm, and it could be
said that it was an accident, as it would be in the fulfilment though
not in the intent. But he divined something else that stopped the
mental shudder and that gave him renewed hope. Why should the captain
threaten him with a belaying pin if he did not stay in the cook's
galley for two days? To Robert's mind but one reason appeared, and it
was the fear that he should be seen on deck. And that fear existed
because they were yet close to land. It was all so clear to him that
he never doubted and again his heart leaped. He was bareheaded, but he
touched the place where his cap brim should have been and replied:
"I'll remember, captain."
"See that you do," said the man in level tones, instinct nevertheless
with hardness and cruelty.
Robert touched his forehead again and turned away with Miguel,
descending to the cook's galley, resolved upon some daring trial, he
did not yet know what. Here the Portuguese set him to work at once,
scouring pots and kettles and pans, and he toiled without complaint
until his arms ached. Miguel at last began to talk. He seemed to
suffer from the lack of companionship, and Robert divined that he was
the only Portuguese on board.
"Good helper, you Peter," he said. "It no light job to cook for twenty
men, and all of them hungry all the time."
"Have we our full crew on board, Miguel?"
"Yes, twenty men and four more, and plenty guns, plenty powder and
ball. Fine cannon, too."
Robert judged that the slaver would be well armed and well manned, but
he decided to ask no more questions at present, fearing to arouse the
suspicions of Miguel, and he worked on with shut lips. The Portuguese
himself talked--it seemed that he had to do so, as the longing for
companionship overcame him--but he did not tell the name of the
schooner or its captain. He merely chattered of former voyages and of
the ports he had been in, invariably addressing his helper as Peter,
and speaking of him as if he had been his comrade.
Robert, while apparently absorbed in his tasks, listened attentively
to all that he might hear from above He knew that the fog was as thick
as ever, and that the ship was merely moving up and down with the
swells. She might be anchored in comparatively shallow water. Now he
was absolutely sure that they were somewhere near the coast, and the
coast meant hope and a chance.
Dinner, rude but plentiful, was served for the sailors and food
somewhat more delicate for the captain in his cabin.
Robert himself attended to the captain, and he could see enough now to
know that the dark had come. He inferred there would be no objection
to his going upon deck in the night, but he made no such suggestion.
Instead he waited upon the tall man with a care and deftness that made
that somber master grin.
"I believe absence has really improved you, Peter," he said. "I
haven't been waited on so well in a long time."
"Thank you, sir," said Robert.
Secretly he was burning with humiliation. It hurt his pride terribly
to serve a rough sea captain in such a manner, but he had no choice
and he resolved that if the chance came he would pay the debt. When
the dinner or supper, whichever it might be called, was over, he went
back to the galley and cheerfully began to clear away, and to wash and
wipe dishes. Miguel gave him a compliment, saying that he had improved
since their latest voyage and Robert thanked him duly.
When all the work was done he crawled into a bunk just over the cook's
and in any other situation would have fallen asleep at once. But his
nerves were on edge, and he was not sleepy in the least. Miguel,
without taking off his clothes, lay down in the bunk beneath him, and
Robert soon heard him snoring. He also heard new sounds from above, a
whistle and a shriek and a roar combined that he did not recognize at
first, but which a little thought told him to be a growing wind and
the crash of the waves. The schooner began to dip and rise
violently. He was dizzy for a little while, but he soon recovered. A
storm! The knowledge gave him pleasure. He did not know why, but he
felt that it, too, contributed hope and a chance.
The roar of the storm increased, but Miguel, who had probably spent
nearly all his life at sea, continued to sleep soundly. Robert was
never in his life more thoroughly awake.
He sat up in his bunk, and now and then he heard the sound of voices
and of footsteps overhead, but soon they were lost entirely in the
incessant shrieking of the wind and the continuous thunder of the
great waves against the side of the schooner. In truth, it was a
storm, one of great fury. He knew that the ship although stripped to
the utmost, must be driving fast, but in what direction he had no
idea. He would have given much to know.
The tumult grew and by and by he heard orders shouted through a
trumpet. He could stand it no longer, and, leaping down, he seized the
Portuguese by the shoulder and shook him.
"Up, Miguel," he cried. "A great storm is upon us!"
The cook opened his eyes sleepily, and then sprang up, a look of alarm
on his face. While the eyes of the Portuguese were filled with fear,
he also seemed to be in a daze. It was apparent to Robert that he was
a heavy sleeper, and his long black hair falling about his forehead he
stared wildly. His aspect made an appeal to Robert's sense of humor,
even in those tense moments.
"My judgment tells me, Miguel," he shouted--he was compelled to raise
his voice to a high pitch owing to the tremendous clatter
overhead--"that there is a great storm, and the schooner is in danger!
And you know, too, that your old comrade, Peter Smith, who has sailed
the seas with you so long, is likely to be right in his opinions!"
The gaze of Miguel became less wild, but he looked at Robert with awe
and then with superstition.
"You have brought us bad luck," he exclaimed. "An evil day for us
when you came aboard."
Robert laughed. A fanciful humor seized him.
"But this is my place," he said. "I, Peter Smith, belong on board this
schooner and you know, Miguel, that you and the captain insisted on my
"We go on deck!" cried the cook, now thoroughly alarmed by the uproar,
which always increased. He rushed up the ladder and Robert followed
him, to be blown completely off his feet when he reached the deck. But
he snatched at the woodwork, held fast, and regained an upright
position. The captain stood not far away, holding to a rope, but he
was so deeply engrossed in directing his men that he paid no attention
The youth cleared the mist and spray from his eyes and took a
comprehensive look. The aspect of sea and sky was enough to strike
almost any one with terror, but upon this occasion he was an
exception. He had never looked upon a wilder world, but in its very
wildness lay his hope. The icy spars from which he would slip to
plunge to his death in the chilling sea were gone, and so was far
Africa, and the slaver's hunt. He was not a seaman, his experience had
been with lakes, but one could reason from lakes to the universal
ocean, and he knew that the schooner was in a fight for life. And
involved in it was his fight for freedom.
The wind, cold as death, and sharp as a sword, blew out of the
northeast, and the schooner, heeled far over, was driving fast before
it, in spite of every effort of a capable captain and crew. The ship
rose and fell violently with the huge swells, and water that stung
like an icy sleet swept over her continually. Looking to the westward
Robert saw something that caused his heart to throb violently. It was
a dim low line, but he knew it to be land.
What land it was he had no idea, nor did he at the moment care, but
there lay freedom. Rows of breakers opening their strong teeth for the
ship might stretch between, but better the breakers than the slaver's
deck and the man hunt in the slimy African lagoons. For him the icy
wind was the breath of life, and he soon ceased to shiver. But he
became conscious of chattering teeth near him and he saw Miguel, his
face a reproduction of terror in all its aspects.
"We go!" shouted the Portuguese. "The storm drive the ship on the
breakers and she break to pieces, and all of us lost!"
Robert's fantastic spirit was again strong upon him.
"Then let us go!" he shouted back. "Better this clean, cold coast than
the fever swamps of Africa! Hold fast, Miguel, and we'll ride in
The superstitious awe of the Portuguese deepened, and he drew away
from Robert. In the moment of terrible storm and approaching death
this could be no mortal youth who showed not fear, but instead a joy
that was near to exaltation. Then and there he was convinced that when
they had seized him and brought him aboard they had made their own
"In twenty minutes, we strike!" cried Miguel. "Ah, how the wind rise!
Many a year since I see such a storm!"
Spars snapped and were carried away in the foaming sea. Then the mast
went, and the crew began to launch the boats. Robert rushed to the
captain's cabin. When he served the man there he had not failed to
observe what the room contained, and now he snatched from the wall a
huge greatcoat, a belt containing a brace of pistols in a holster with
ammunition, and a small sword. He did not know why he took the sword,
but it was probably some trick of the fancy and he buckled it on with
the rest. Then he returned to the deck, where he could barely hold his
footing, the schooner had heeled so far over, and so powerful was the
wind and the driving of the spray. One of the boats had been launched
under the command of the second mate, but she was overturned almost
instantly, and all on board her were lost. Robert was just in time to
see a head bob once or twice on the surface of the sea, and then
A second boat commanded by the first mate was lowered and seven or
eight men managed to get into it, rowing with all their might toward
an opening that appeared in the white line of foam. A third which
could take the remainder of the crew was made ready and the captain
himself would be in charge of it.
It was launched successfully and the men dropped into it, one by one,
but very fast. Miguel swung down and into a place. Robert advanced for
the same purpose, but the captain, who was still poised on the rail of
the ship, took notice of him for the first time.
"No! No, Peter!" he shouted, and even in the roar of the wind Robert
observed the grim humor in his voice. "You've been a good and faithful
sailorman, and we leave you in charge of the ship! It's a great
promotion and honor for you, Peter, but you deserve it! Handle her
well because she's a good schooner and answers kindly to a kind hand!
Now, farewell, Peter, and a long and happy voyage to you!"
A leveled pistol enforced his command to stop, and the next moment he
slid down a rope and into the boat. A sailor cut the rope and they
pulled quickly away, leaving Robert alone on the schooner. His
exultation turned to despair for a moment, and then his courage came
back. Tayoga in his place would not give up. He would pray to his
Manitou, who was Robert's God, and put complete faith in His wisdom
and mercy. Moreover, he was quit of all that hateful crew. The ship
of the slavers was beneath his feet, but the slavers themselves were
As he looked, he saw the second boat overturn, and he thought he heard
the wild cry of those about to be lost, but he felt neither pity nor
sympathy. A stern God, stern to such as they, had called them to
account. The captain's boat had disappeared in the mist and spray.
Robert, with the huge greatcoat wrapped about him clung to the stump
of the mast, which long since had been blown overboard, and watched
the white line of the breakers rapidly coming nearer, as they reached
out their teeth for the schooner. He knew that he could do nothing
more for himself until the ship struck. Then, with some happy chance
aiding him, he would drop into the sea and make a desperate try for
the land. He would throw off the greatcoat when he leaped, but
meanwhile he kept it on, because one would freeze without it in the
He heard presently the roaring of the breakers mingled with the
roaring of the wind, and, shutting his eyes, he prayed for a miracle.
He felt the foam beating upon his face, and believing it must come
from the rocks, he clung with all his might to the stump of the mast,
because the shock must occur within a few moments. He felt the
schooner shivering under him, and rising and falling heavily, and then
he opened his eyes to see where best to leap when the shock did come.
He beheld the thick white foam to right and left, but he had not
prayed in vain. The miracle had happened. Here was a narrow opening
in the breakers, and, with but one chance in a hundred to guide it,
the schooner had driven directly through, ceasing almost at once to
rock so violently. But there was enough power left in the waves even
behind the rocks to send the schooner upon a sandy beach, where she
must soon break up.
But Robert was saved. He knew it and he murmured devout thanks. When
the schooner struck in the sand he was thrown roughly forward, but he
managed to regain his feet for an instant, and he leaped outward as
far as he could, forgetting to take off his greatcoat. A returning
wave threw him down and passed over his head, but exerting all his
will, and all his strength he rose when it had passed, and ran for the
land as hard as he could. The wave returned, picked him up, and
hurried him on his way. When it started back again its force was too
much spent and the water was too shallow to have much effect on
Robert. He continued running through the yielding sand, and, when the
wave came in again and snatched at him, it was not able to touch his
He reached weeds, then bushes, and clutched them with both hands, lest
some wave higher and more daring than all the rest should yet come for
him and seize him. But, in a moment, he let them go, knowing that he
was safe, and laughing rather giddily, sank down in a faint.
When Robert revived the wind was still blowing hard, although there
had been some decrease in its violence, and it was yet night. He was
wet and very cold, and, as he arose, he shivered in a chill. The
greatcoat was still wrapped about his body, and although it was soaked
he always believed, nevertheless, that in some measure it had
protected him while he slept. The pistols, the ammunition and the
sword were in his belt, and he believed that the ammunition, fastened
securely in a pouch, was dry, though he would look into that later.
He was quite sure that he had not been unconscious long, as the
appearance of the sky was unchanged. The bushes among which he had
lain were short but tough, and had run their roots down deeply into
the sand. They were friendly bushes. He remembered how glad he had
been to grasp them when he made that run from the surf, and to some
extent they had protected him from the cold wind when he lay among
them like one dead.
The big rollers, white at the top, were still thundering on the beach,
and directly in front of him he saw a lowering hulk, that of the
schooner. The slaver's wicked days were done, as every wave drove it
deeper into the sand, and before long it must break up. Robert felt
that it had been overtaken by retributive justice, and, despite the
chill that was shaking him, he was shaken also by a great thrill of
joy. Wet and cold and on a desolate shore, he was, nevertheless, free.
He began to run back and forth with great vigor, until he felt the
blood flowing in a warm, strong current through his veins again, and
he believed that in time his clothes would dry upon him. He took off
the greatcoat, and hung it upon the bushes where the wind would have a
fair chance at it, and he believed that in the morning it would be
dry, too. Then, finding his powder untouched by the water, he withdrew
the wet charges from the pistols and reloaded them.
If he had not been seasoned by a life in the wilderness and countless
hardships he probably would have perished from exhaustion and cold,
but his strong, enduring frame threw off the chill, and he did not
pause for three full hours until he had made a successful fight for
his life. Then very tired but fairly warm he stopped for a while, and
became conscious that the wind had died to a great extent. The rollers
were not half so high and the hulk of the ship showed larger and
clearer than ever. He believed that when the storm ceased he could
board her and find food, if he did not find it elsewhere. Meanwhile he
Buckling on his pistols and sword, but leaving the greatcoat to
continue its process of drying, he walked inland, finding only a
desolate region of sand, bushes and salt marshes, without any sign of
human habitation. He believed it was the Jersey coast, and that he
could not be any vast distance from New York. But it seemed hopeless
to continue in that direction and being worn to the bone he returned
to his greatcoat, which had become almost dry in the wind.
Now he felt that he must address himself to the need of the moment,
which was sleep, and he hunted a long time for a suitable lair. A high
bank of sand was covered with bushes larger and thicker than the
others, and at the back of the bank grew a tree of considerable size
with two spreading roots partly above ground. The sand was quite dry,
and he heaped it much higher along the roots. Then he lay down between
them, being amply protected on three sides, while the bushes waved
over his head. He was not only sheltered, he was hidden also, and
feeling safe, with the greatcoat, now wholly dry, wrapped around him,
and the pistols and sword beside him, he closed his eyes and fell
The kindly fortune that had taken the lad out of such desperate
circumstances remained benevolent. The wind ceased entirely and the
air turned much warmer. Day soon came, and with it a bright cheerful
sun, that gilded the great expanse of low and desolate shore. The boy
slept peacefully while the morning passed and the high sun marked the
coming of the afternoon.
He had been asleep about ten hours when he awoke, turned once or twice
in his lair and then stood up. It was a beautiful day, in striking
contrast with the black night of storm, and he knew by the position of
the sun that it was within about three hours of its setting. He
tested his body, but there was no soreness. He was not conscious of
anything but a ravening hunger, and he believed that he knew where he
could satisfy it.
There was no wind and the sea was calm, save for a slight swell. The
schooner, its prow out of the water, was in plain view. It was so
deeply imbedded in the sand that Robert considered it a firm house of
shelter, until it should be broken to pieces by successive storms. But
at present he looked upon it as a storehouse of provisions, and he
hurried down the beach.
His foot struck against something, and he stopped, shuddering. It was
the body of one of the slavers and presently he passed another. The
sea was giving up its dead. He reached the schooner, glad to leave
these ghastly objects behind him, and, with some difficulty, climbed
aboard. The vessel had shipped much water, but she was not as great a
wreck as he had expected, and he instantly descended to the cook's
galley, where he had given his brief service. In the lockers he found
an abundance of food of all kinds, as the ship had been equipped for a
long voyage, and he ate hungrily, though sparingly at first. Then he
went into the captain's cabin, lay down on a couch, and took a long
and luxurious rest.
Robert was happy. He felt that he had won, or rather that Providence
had won for him, a most wonderful victory over adverse fate. His
brilliant imagination at once leaped up and painted all things in
vivid colors. Tayoga, Willet and the others must be terribly alarmed
about him as they had full right to be, but he would soon be back in
New York, telling them of his marvelous risk and adventure.
Then he deliberated about taking a supply of provisions to his den in
the bushes, but when he went on deck the sun was already setting, and
it was becoming so cold again that he decided to remain on the
schooner. Why not? It seemed strange to him that he had not thought of
it at first. The skies were perfectly clear, and he did not think
there was any danger of a storm.
He rummaged about, discovered plenty of blankets and made a bed for
himself in the captain's cabin, finding a grim humor in the fact that
he should take that sinister man's place. But as it was only three or
four hours since he had awakened he was not at all sleepy and he
returned to the deck, where he wrapped his treasure, the huge
greatcoat, about his body and sat and watched. He saw the big red sun
set and the darkness come down again, the air still and very cold.
But he was snug and warm, and bethought himself of what he must
undertake on the morrow. If he continued inland long enough he would
surely come to somebody, and at dawn, taking an ample supply of
provisions, he would start. That purpose settled, he let his mind
rest, and remained in a luxurious position on the deck. The rebound
from the hopeless case in which he had seemed to be was so great that
he was not lonely. He had instead a wholly pervading sense of ease and
security. His imagination was able to find beauty in the sand and the
bushes and the salt marshes, and he did not need imagination at all to
discover it in the great, mysterious ocean, which the moon was now
tinting with silver. It was a fine full moon, shedding its largest
supply of beams, and swarms of bright stars sparkled in the cold, blue
skies. A fine night, thought Robert, suited to his fine future.
It was very late, when he went down to the captain's cabin, ate a
little more food and turned in. He soon slept, but not needing sleep
much now, he awoke at dawn. His awakening may have been hastened by
the footsteps and voices he heard, but in any event he rose softly and
buckled on his sword and pistols. One of the voices, high and sharp,
he recognized, and he believed that once more he was the child of good
fortune, because he had been awakened in time.
He sat on the couch, facing the door, put the sword by his side and
held one of the pistols, cocked and resting on his knee. The footsteps
and voices came nearer, and then the keen, cruel face appeared at the
"Good morning, captain," said Robert, equably. "You left me in
command of the ship and I did my best with her. I couldn't keep her
afloat, and so I ran her up here on the beach, where, as you see, she
is still habitable."
"You're a good seaman, Peter," said the captain, hiding any surprise
that he may have felt, "but you haven't obeyed my orders in full. I
expected you to keep the ship afloat, and you haven't done so."
"That was too much to expect. I see that you have two men with
you. Tell them to step forward where I can cover them as well as you
with the muzzle of this pistol. That's right. Now, I'm going to
confide in you."
"Go ahead, Peter."
"I haven't liked your manner for a long time, captain. I'm only Peter
Smith, a humble seaman, but since you left me in command of the ship
last night I mean to keep the place, with all the responsibilities,
duties and honors appertaining to it. Take your hands away from your
belt. This is a lone coast, and I'm the law, the judge and the
executioner. Now, you and the two men back away from the door, and as
sure as there's a God in Heaven, if any one of you tries to draw a
weapon I'll shoot him. You'll observe that I've two pistols and also a
sword. A sailor engaged in a hazardous trade like ours, catching and
selling slaves, usually learns how to use firearms, but I'm pretty
good with the sword, too, captain, though I've hid the knowledge from
you before. Now, just kindly back into the cook's galley there, and
you and your comrades make up a good big bag of food for me. I'll tell
you what to choose. I warn you a second time to keep your hands away
from your belt. I'll really have to shoot off a finger or two as a
warning, if you don't restrain your murderous instincts. Murder is
always a bad trade, captain. Put in some of those hard biscuits, and
some of the cured meats. No, none of the liquors, I have no use for
them. By the way, what became of Miguel, with whom I worked so often?"
"He's drowned," replied the captain.
"I'm sorry," said Robert, and he meant it. Miguel was the only one on
board the slaver who had shown a ray of human sympathy.
"What do you mean to do?" asked the captain, his face contorted with
rage and chagrin.
"First, I'll see that you finish filling that bag as I direct. Put in
the packages yourself. I like to watch you work, captain, it's good
for you, and after you fill the bag and pass it to me I'm going to
hand the ship back to you. I've never really liked her, and I mean to
resign the command. I think Peter Smith is fit for better things."
"So, you intend to leave the schooner?"
"Yes, but you won't see me do it. Pass me the bag now. Be careful with
your hands. In truth, I think you'd better raise them above your head,
and your comrades can do the same. Quick, up with them, or I shoot!
That's right. Now, I'll back away. I'm going up the ladder backward,
and when I go out I intend to shove in place the grating that covers
the entrance to the deck there. You can escape in five minutes, of
course, but by that time I'll be off the ship and among the bushes out
of your reach. Oh, I know it's humiliating, captain, but you've had
your way a long time, and the slaver's trade is not a nice one. The
ghosts of the blacks whom you have caused to die must haunt you some
time, captain, and since your schooner is lost you'll now have a
chance to turn to a better business. For the last time I tell you to
be careful with your hands. A sailor man would miss his fingers."
He backed cautiously until his heels touched the ladder, meanwhile
watching the eyes of the man. He knew that the captain was consumed
with rage, but angry and reckless as he was he would not dare to reach
for a weapon of his own, while the pistol confronting him was held
with such a steady hand. He also listened for sounds made by other men
on the ship, but heard none. Then he began to back slowly up the
stairway, continuing his running address.
"I know that your arms must be growing weary, captain," he said, and
he enjoyed it as he said it, "but you won't have to keep 'em up much
longer. Two more steps will take me out upon the deck, and then you'll
be free to do as you please."
It was the last two steps that troubled him most. In order to keep
the men covered with the pistol he had to bend far down, and he knew
that when he could no longer bend far enough the danger would come.
But he solved it by straightening up suddenly and taking two steps at
a leap. He heard shouts and oaths, and the report of a pistol, but the
bullet was as futile as the cries. He slammed down the grating,
fastened it in an instant, ran to the low rail and swiftly lowered
himself and his pack over it and into the sand. Then he ran for the
Robert did not waste his breath. Having managed the affair of the
grating, he knew that he was safe for the present. So, when he reached
the higher bushes, he stopped, well hidden by them, and looked
back. In two or three minutes the captain and the two men appeared on
the deck, and he laughed quietly to himself. He could see that their
faces were contorted by rage. They could follow his trail some
distance at least in the sand, but he knew that they would be
cautious. He had shown them his quality and they would fear an
He was justified in his opinion, as they remained on the deck,
evidently searching for a glimpse of him among the bushes, and, after
watching them a little while, he set out inland, bearing his burden of
weapons and food, and laughing to himself at the manner in which he
had made the captain serve him. He felt now that the score between
them was even, and he was willing to part company forever.
Youth and success had an enormous effect upon him. When one triumph
was achieved his vivid temperament always foresaw others. Willet had
often called him the child of hope, and hope is a powerful factor in
victory. Now it seemed to him for a little while that his own rescue,
achieved by himself, was complete. He had nothing to do but to return
to New York and his friends, and that was just detail.
He swung along through the bushes, forgetting the burden of his
weapons and his pack of food. In truth, he swaggered a bit, but it was
a gay and gallant swagger, and it became him. He walked for some
distance, feeling that he had been changed from a seaman into a
warrior, and then from a warrior into an explorer, which was his
present character. But he did not see at present the variety and
majesty that all explorers wish to find. The country continued low,
the same alternation of sand and salt marsh, although the bushes were
increasing in size, and they were interspersed here and there with
trees of some height.
Reaching the crest of a low hill he took his last look backward, and
was barely able to see the upper works of the stranded schooner. Then
he thought of the captain and his exuberant spirits compelled him to
laugh aloud. With the chances a hundred to one against him he had
evened the score. While he had been compelled to serve the captain,
the captain in turn had been forced to serve him. It was enough to
make a sick man well, and to turn despair into confidence. He was in
very truth and essence the child of hope.
Another low hill and from its summit he saw nothing but the bushy
wilderness, with a strip of forest appearing on the sunken horizon. He
searched the sky for a wisp of smoke that might tell of a human
habitation, below, but saw none. Yet people might live beyond the
strip of forest, where the land would be less sandy and more fertile,
and, after a brief rest, he pushed on with the same vigor of the body
and elation of the spirit, coming soon to firmer ground, of which he
was glad, as he now left no trail, at least none that an ordinary
white man could follow.
He trudged bravely on for hours through a wilderness that seemed to be
complete so far as man was concerned, although its character steadily
changed, merging into a region of forest and good soil. When he came
into a real wood, of trees large and many, it was about noon, and
finding a comfortable place with his back to a tree he ate from the
The day was still brilliant but cold and he wisely kept himself
thoroughly wrapped in the greatcoat. As he ate he saw a large black
bear walk leisurely through the forest, look at him a moment or two,
and then waddle on in the same grave, unalarmed manner. The incident
troubled Robert, and his high spirits came down a notch or two.
If a black bear cared so little for the presence of an armed human
being then he could not be as near to New York as he had
thought. Perhaps he had been unconscious on the schooner a long
time. He felt of the lump which was not yet wholly gone from his head,
and tried his best to tell how old it was, but he could not do it.
The little cloud in his golden sky disappeared when he rose and
started again through a fine forest. His spirits became as high as
ever. Looking westward he saw the dim blue line of distant hills, and
he turned northward, inferring that New York must lie in that
direction. In two hours his progress was barred by a river running
swiftly between high banks, and with ice at the edges. He could have
waded it as the water would not rise past his waist, but he did not
like the look of the chill current, and he did not want another
wetting on a winter day.
He followed the stream a long distance, until he came to shallows,
where he was able to cross it on stones. His search for a dry ford had
caused much delay, but he drew comfort from his observation that the
stones making his pathway through the water were large and almost
round. He had seen many such about New York, and he had often marveled
at their smoothness and roundness, although he did not yet know the
geological reason. But the stones in the river seemed to him to be
close kin to the stones about New York, and he inferred, or at least
he hoped, that it indicated the proximity of the city.
But he believed that he would have to spend another night in the
wilderness. Search the sky as he would, and he often did, there was no
trace of smoke, and, as the sun went down the zenith and the cold
began to increase, his spirits fell a little. But he reasoned with
himself. Why should one inured as he was to the forest and winter,
armed, provisioned and equipped with the greatcoat, be troubled? The
answer to his question was a return of confidence in full tide, and
resolving to be leisurely he looked about in the woods for his new
camp. What he wanted was an abundance of dead leaves out of which to
make a nest. Dead leaves were cold to the touch, but they would serve
as a couch and a wall, shutting out further cold from the earth and
from the outside air, and with the greatcoat between, he would be warm
enough. He would have nothing to fear except snow, and the skies gave
no promise of that danger.
He found the leaves in a suitable hollow, and disposed them according
to his plan, the whole making a comfortable place for a seasoned
forester, and, while he ate his supper, he watched the sun set over
the wilderness. Long after it was gone he saw the stars come out and
then he looked at the particular one on which Tododaho, Tayoga's
patron saint, had been living more than four hundred years. It was
glittering in uncommon splendor, save for a slight mist across its
face, which must be the snakes in the hair of the great Onondaga
chieftain who he felt was watching over him, because he was the friend
Then he fell asleep, sleeping soundly, all through the night, and
although he was a little stiff in the morning a few minutes of
exercise relieved him of it and he ate his breakfast. His journey
toward the north was resumed, and in an hour he emerged into a little
valley, to come almost face to face with the captain and the two
sailors. They were sitting on a log, apparently weary and at a loss,
but they rose quickly at his coming and the captain's hand slid down
to his pistol. Robert's slid to his, making about the same
speed. Although his heart pounded a moment or two at first he was
surprised to find how soon he became calm. It was perhaps because he
had been through so many dangers that one more did not count for much.
"You see, captain," he said, "that neither has the advantage of the
other. I did not expect to meet you here, or in truth, anywhere
else. I left you in command of the schooner, and you have deserted
your post. When I held that position I remained true to my duty."
The captain, who was heavily armed, carrying a cutlass as well as
pistols, smiled sourly.
"You're a lad of spirit, Peter," he said. "I've always given you
credit for that. In my way I like you, and I think I'll have you to go
along with us again."
"I couldn't think of it. We must part company forever. We did it once,
but perhaps the second time will count."
"No, my crew is now reduced to two--the ocean has all the others--and
I need your help. It would be better anyway for you to come along with
us. This Acadia is a desolate coast."
There was a log opposite the one upon which they had been sitting and
Robert took his place upon it easily, not to say confidently. He felt
sure that they would not fire upon him now, having perhaps nothing to
gain by it, but he kept a calculating eye upon them nevertheless.
"And so this is Acadia," he said. "I've been wondering what land it
might be. I did not know that we had come so far. Acadia is a long way
from New York."
"A long, long way, Peter."
"But you know the coast well, of course, captain?"
"Of course. I've made several voyages in the neighboring
waters. There's only one settlement within fifty miles of us, and
you'd never find it, it's so small and the wilderness is such a maze."
"The country does look like much of a puzzle, but I've concluded,
captain, that I won't go with you."
"I'm persuaded that you're the very prince of liars, and in your
company my morals might be contaminated."
The man's face was too tanned to flush, but his eyes sparkled.
"You're over loose with words, lad," he said, "and it's an expensive
"I can afford it. I know as surely as we're sitting here facing each
other that this is not the coast of Acadia."
"Then what coast is it?"
"That I know not, but taking the time, I mean to have, I shall find
out. Then I'll tell you if you wish to know. Where shall I deliver my
"I think you're insolent. I say again that it's the coast of Acadia,
and you're going with us. We're three to your one, and you'll have to
do as I say."
Robert turned his gaze from the captain to his two men. While their
faces were far from good they showed no decision of character. He knew
at once that they belonged to the large class of men who are always
led. Both carried pistols, but he did not think it likely that they
would attempt to use them, unless the captain did so first. His gaze
came back to the tall man, and, observing again the heavy cutlass he
carried, a thought leaped up in his mind.
"You wish me to go with you," he said, "and I don't wish to go, which
leaves it an open question. It's best to decide it in clean and
decisive fashion, and I suggest that we leave it to your cutlass and
The close-set eyes of the captain gleamed.
"I don't want to kill you, but to take you back alive," he said. "You
were always a strong and handy lad, Peter, and I need your help."
"You won't kill me. That I promise you."
"You haven't a chance on earth."
"You pledge your word that your men will not interfere while the
combat is in progress, nor will they do so afterward, if I win."
"They will not stir. Remain where you are, lads."
The two sailors settled themselves back comfortably, clasping their
knees with their hands, and Robert knew that he had nothing to fear
from them. Their confidence in the captain's prowess and easy victory
was sufficient assurance. They were not to be blamed for the belief,
as their leader's cutlass was heavy and his opponent was only a
youth. The captain was of the same opinion and his mood became light
"I don't intend to kill you, Peter," he said, "but a goodly cut or two
will let out some of your impertinent blood."
"Thanks, captain, for so much saving grace, because I like to live. I
make you the same promise. I don't want your death on my hands, but
there is poison in the veins of a man who is willing to be a slaver. I
will let it out, in order that its place may be taken by pure and
The captain frowned, and made a few swings with his cutlass. Then he
ran a finger along its keen edge, and he felt satisfied with
himself. A vast amount of rage and mortification was confined in his
system, and not charging any of it to the storm, the full volume of
his anger was directed against his cook's former assistant, Peter
Smith, who was entirely too jaunty and independent in his manner. He
could not understand Robert's presumption in challenging him to a
combat with swords, but he would punish him cruelly, while the two
sailors looked on and saw it well done.
Robert put his pack, his greatcoat, his coat, and his belt with the
pistols and ammunition in a heap, and looked carefully to the sword
that he had taken from the captain's cabin. It was a fine weapon,
though much lighter than the cutlass. He bent the blade a little, and
then made it whistle in curves about his head. He had a purpose in
doing so, and it was attained at once. The captain looked at him with
"Peter," he said, "you don't seem to be wholly unfamiliar with the
sword, and you nothing but a cook's helper."
"It's true, captain. The hilt fits lovingly into my hand. In my spare
moments and when nobody was looking I've often stolen this sword of
yours from the cabin and practiced with it. I mean now to make you
feel the result of that practice."
The captain gazed at him doubtfully, but in a moment or two the
confident smile returned to his eyes. It was not possible that a mere
stripling could stand before him and his cutlass. But he took off his
own coat which he had believed hitherto was a useless precaution.
There was a level space about thirty feet across, and Robert, sword in
hand, advanced toward the center of it. He had already chosen his
course, which would be psychological as well as physical. He intended
that the battle should play upon the slaver's mind as well as upon his
"I'm ready, captain," he said. "Don't keep us waiting. It's winter as
you well know, and we'll both grow cold standing here. In weather like
this we need work quick and warm."
The angry blood surged into the captain's face, although it did not
show through his tan. But he made an impatient movement, and stepped
"It can't be told of me that I kept a lad waiting," he said. "I'll
warrant you you'll soon be warm enough."
"Then we're both well suited, captain, and it should be a fine passage
The two sailors, sitting on the log, looked at each other and
chuckled. It was evident to Robert that they had supreme confidence in
the captain and expected to see Peter Smith receive a lesson that
would put him permanently in his place. The mutual look and the mutual
chuckle aroused some anger in Robert, but did not impair his certainty
of victory. Nevertheless he neglected no precaution.
The captain advanced, holding the heavy cutlass with ease and
lightness. He was a tall and very strong man, and Robert noted the
look of cruelty in the close-set eyes. He knew what he must expect in
case of defeat, and again telling himself to be careful he recalled
all the cunning that Willet had taught him.
"Are you ready?" he asked quietly.
"Aye, Peter, and your bad quarter of an hour is upon you."
Again the two sailors on the log looked at each other and chuckled.
"I don't think so, captain," said Robert. "Perhaps the bad quarter of
an hour is yours."
He stared straight into the close-set cruel eyes so fixedly and so
long that the captain lowered his gaze, proving that the superior
strength of will lay with his younger opponent. Then he shook himself
angrily, his temper stirred, because his eyes had given way.
"Begin!" said Robert.
The captain slashed with the heavy cutlass, and Robert easily turned
aside the blow with his lighter weapon. He saw then that the captain
was no swordsman in the true sense, and he believed he had nothing to
fear. He waited until the man attacked again, and again he deftly
turned aside the blow.
The two sailors sitting on the log looked at each other once more, but
they did not chuckle.
Robert, still watching the close-set cruel eyes, saw a look of doubt
"My bad quarter of an hour seems to be delayed, captain," he said with
The man, stung beyond endurance, attacked with fury, the heavy cutlass
singing and whistling as he slashed and thrust. Robert contented
himself with the defense, giving ground slowly and moving about in a
circle. The captain's eye at first glittered with a triumphant light
as he saw his foe retreat, and the two sailors sitting on the log and
exchanging looks found cause to chuckle once more.
But the light sank as they completed the circle, leaving Robert
untouched, and breathing as easily as ever, while the captain was
panting. Now he decided that his own time had come and knowing that
the combat was mental as well as physical he taunted his opponent.
"In truth, captain," he said, "my bad quarter of an hour did not
arrive, but yours, I think, is coming. Look! Look! See the red spot
on your waistcoat!"
Despite himself the captain looked down. The sword flickered in like
lightning, and then flashed away again, but when it was gone the red
spot on the waistcoat was there. His flesh stung with a slight wound,
but the wound to his spirit was deeper. He rushed in and slashed
"Have a care, captain!" cried Robert. "You are fencing very wildly! I
tell you again that your play with the cutlass is bad. You can't see
it, but there is now a red spot on your cheek to match the one on your
His sword darted by the other's guard, and when it came away it's
point was red with blood. A deep and dripping gash in the captain's
left cheek showed where it had passed. The two sailors sitting on the
log exchanged looks once more, but there was no sign of a chuckle.
"That's for being a slaver, captain," said Robert. "It's a bad
occupation, and you ought to quit it. But your wound will leave a
scar, and you will not like to say that it was made by one whom you
kidnapped, and undertook to carry away to his death."
The captain in a long career of crime and cruelty had met with but few
checks, and to experience one now from the hands of a lad was bitter
beyond endurance. The sting was all the greater because of his
knowledge that the two sailors who still exchanged looks but no
chuckles, were witnesses of it. The blood falling from his left cheek
stained his left shoulder and he was a gruesome sight. He rushed in
again, mad with anger.
"Worse and worse, captain," said his young opponent. "You're not
showing a single quality of a swordsman. You've nothing but
strength. I bade you have a care! Now your right cheek is a match for
The captain uttered a cry, drawn as much by anger as by pain. The deep
point of his opponent's sword had passed across his right cheek and
the red drops fell on both shoulders. The two sailors looked at each
other in dismay. The man paused for breath and he was a ghastly sight.
"I told you more than once to beware, captain," said Robert, "but you
would not heed me. Your temper has been spoiled by success, but in
time nearly every slaver meets his punishment. I'm grateful that it's
been permitted to me to inflict upon you a little of all that's owing
to you. Wounds in the face are very painful and they leave scars, as
He had already decided upon his finishing stroke, and his taunts were
meant to push the captain into further reckless action. They were
wholly successful as the man sprang forward, and slashed almost at
random. Now, Robert, light of foot and agile, danced before him like
a fencing master. The captain cut and thrust at the flitting form but
always it danced away, and the heavy slashes of his cutlass cut the
empty air, his dripping wounds and his vain anger making him weaker
and weaker. But he would not stop. Losing all control of his temper he
rushed continually at his opponent.
The two sailors looked once more at each other, half rose to their
feet, but sat down again, and were silent.
Now the captain saw a flash of light before him, and he felt a darting
pain across his brow, as the keen point of the sword passed there. The
blood ran down into his eyes, blinding him for the time. He could not
see the figure before him, but he knew that it was tense and
waiting. He groped with his cutlass, but touching only thin air he
threw it away, and clapped his hands to his eyes to keep away the
"You'll have three scars, captain," came the maddening voice, "one on
each cheek and one on the forehead. It's not enough punishment for a
slaver, but, in truth, it's something. And now I'm going. You can't
see to follow me, or even to take care of yourself but I leave you in
the hands of your two sailors."
Robert put on his coat and greatcoat, resumed all his weapons and his
pack and turned away. The sailors were still sitting on the log,
gazing at each other in amazement and awe. Neither had spoken
throughout the duel, nor did they speak now. The victor did not look
back, but walked swiftly toward the north, glad that he had been the
instrument in the hands of fate to give to the slaver at least a part
of the punishment due him.
He kept steadily on several hours, until he saw a smoke on the western
sky, when he changed his course and came in another half hour to a
small log house, from which the smoke arose. A man standing on the
wooden step looked at him with all the curiosity to which he had a
"Friend," said Robert, "how far is it to New York?"
"About ten miles."
"And this is not the coast of Acadia."
"Acadia! What country is that? I never heard of it."
"It exists, but never mind. And New York is so near? Tell me that
distance again. I like to hear it."
"Ten miles, stranger. When you reach the top of the hill there you can
see the houses of Paulus Hook."
Robert felt a great sense of elation, and then of thankfulness. While
fortune had been cruel in putting him into the hands of the slaver, it
had relented and had taken him out of them, when the chance of escape
"Stranger," said the man, "you look grateful about something."
"I am. I have cause to be grateful. I'm grateful that I have my life,
I'm grateful that I have no wounds and I'm grateful that from the top
of the hill there I shall be able to see the houses of Paulus
Hook. And I say also that yours is the kindliest and most welcome face
I've looked upon in many a day. Farewell."
"Farewell," said the man, staring after him.
Two hours later Robert was being rowed across the Hudson by a stalwart
waterman. As he passed by the spot where his boat had been cut down by
the schooner he took off his hat.
"Why do you do that?" asked the waterman.
"Because at this spot my life was in great peril a few days ago, or
rather, here started the peril from which I have been delivered most
An hour later he stood on the solid stone doorstep of Master Benjamin
Hardy, important ship owner, merchant and financier. The whimsical
fancy that so often turned his troubles and hardships into little
things seized Robert again. He adjusted carefully his somewhat
bedraggled clothing, set the sword and pistols in his belt at a rakish
slant, put the pack on the step beside him, and, lifting the heavy
brass knocker, struck loudly. He heard presently the sound of
footsteps inside, and Master Jonathan Pillsbury, looking thinner and
sadder than ever, threw open the door. When he saw who was standing
before him he stared and stared.
"Body o' me!" he cried at last, throwing up his hands. "Is it
Mr. Lennox or his ghost?"
"It's Mr. Lennox and no ghost," said Robert briskly. "Let me in,
Mr. Pillsbury. I've grown cold standing here on the steps."
"Are you sure you're no ghost?"
"Quite sure. Here pinch me on the arm and see that I'm substantial
flesh. Not quite so hard! You needn't take out a piece. Are you
"More than satisfied, Mr. Lennox! I'm delighted, Overjoyed! We feared
that you were dead! Where have you been?"
"I've been serving on board a slaver on the Guinea coast. That's a
long distance from here, and it was an exciting life, but I'm back
again safe and sound, Master Jonathan."
"I don't understand you. You jest, Mr. Lennox."
"And so I do, but I tell you, Master Jonathan, I'm glad to be back
again, you don't know how glad. Do you hear me, Master Jonathan? The
sight of you is as welcome as that of an angel!"
The air grew black before him, and he reeled and would have fallen,
but the strong arm of Jonathan Pillsbury caught him. In a moment or
two his eyes cleared and he became steady.
"It was not altogether a pleasure voyage of yours," said Master
"No, Mr. Pillsbury, it wasn't. But I came near fainting then, because
I was so glad to see you. Is Mr. Hardy here?"
"No, he has gone to the Royal Exchange. He has been nigh prostrated
with grief, but I persuaded him that business might lighten it a
little, and he went out today for the first time. Oh, young sir, he
will be truly delighted to find that you have come back safely,
because, although you may know it not, he has a strong affection for
"And I have a high regard for him, Master Jonathan. He has been most
kind to me."
"Come in, Mr. Lennox. Sit down in the drawingroom and rest yourself,
while I hurry forth with the welcome news."
Robert saw that his prim and elderly heart was in truth rejoiced, and
his own heart warmed in turn. Obscure and of unknown origin though he
might be, friends were continually appearing for him everywhere. A
servant took his weapons and what was left of his pack, Master
Jonathan insisted upon his drinking a small glass of wine to refresh
himself, and then he was left alone in the imposing drawing-room of
He sank back in a deep chair of Spanish leather, and shutting his eyes
took several long breaths of relief. He had come back safely and his
escape seemed marvelous even to himself. As he opened his eyes a mild
"And so Dagaeoga who went, no one knows where, has returned no one
Tayoga, smiling but grave, and looking taller and more majestic than
ever, stood before him.
"Aye, I'm back, and right glad I am to be here!" exclaimed Robert,
springing to his feet and seizing Tayoga's hand. "Oh, I've been on a
long voyage, Tayoga! I've been to the coast of Africa on a slaver,
though we caught no slaves, and I was wrecked on the coast of Acadia,
and I fought and walked my way back to New York! But it's a long tale,
and I'll not tell it till all of you are together. I hope you were not
too much alarmed about me, Tayoga."
"I know that Dagaeoga is in the keeping of Manitou. I have seen too
many proofs of it to doubt. I was sure that at the right time he would
Mr. Hardy came presently and then Willet. They made no display of
emotion, but their joy was deep. Then Robert told his story to them
"Did you see any name on the wrecked schooner?" asked Mr. Hardy.
"None at all," replied Robert. "If she had borne a name at any time
I'm sure it was painted out."
"Nor did you hear the captain called by name, either?"
"No, sir. It was always just 'captain' when the men addressed him."
"That complicates our problem. There's no doubt in my mind that you
were the intended victim of a conspiracy, from which you were saved by
the storm. I can send a trusty man down the North Jersey coast to
examine the wreck of the schooner, but I doubt whether he could learn
anything from it."
He drew Willet aside and the two talked together a while in a low
voice, but with great earnestness.
"We have our beliefs," said Willet at length, "but we shall not be
able to prove anything, no, not a thing, and, having nothing upon
which to base an accusation against anybody, we shall accuse nobody."
"'Tis the prudent way," Hardy concurred, "though there is no doubt in
my mind about the identity of the man who set this most wicked pot to
Robert had his own beliefs, too, but he remained silent.
"We'll keep the story of your absence to ourselves," said
Mr. Hardy. "We did not raise any alarm, believing that you would
return, a belief due in large measure to the faith of Tayoga, and
we'll explain that you were called away suddenly on a mission of a
somewhat secret nature to the numerous friends who have been asking
Willet concurred, and he also said it was desirable that they should
depart at once for Virginia, where the provincial governors were to
meet in council, and from which province Braddock's force, or a
considerable portion of it, would march. Then Robert, after a
substantial supper, went to his room and slept. The next morning, both
Charteris and Grosvenor came to see him and expressed their delight at
his return. A few days later they were at sea with Grosvenor and other
young English officers, bound for the mouth of the James and the great
expedition against Fort Duquesne.
THE VIRGINIA CAPITAL
They were on a large schooner, and while Robert looked forward with
eagerness to the campaign, he also looked back with regret at the
roofs of New York, as they sank behind the sea. The city suited
him. It had seemed to him while he was there that he belonged in it,
and now that he was going away the feeling was stronger upon him than
ever. He resolved once more that it should be his home when the war
Their voyage down the coast was stormy and long. Baffling winds
continually beat them back, and, then they lay for long periods in
dead calms, but at last they reached the mouth of the James, going
presently the short distance overland to Williamsburg, the town that
had succeeded Jamestown as the capital of the great province of
Spring was already coming here in the south and in the lowlands by the
sea, and the tinge of green in the foliage and the warm winds were
grateful after the winter of the cold north. Robert, eager as always
for new scenes, and fresh knowledge, anticipated with curiosity his
first sight of Williamsburg, one of the oldest British towns in North
America. He knew that it was not large, but he found it even smaller
than he had expected.
He and his comrades reached it on horseback, and they found that it
contained only a thousand inhabitants, and one street, straight and
very wide. On this street stood the brick buildings of William and
Mary, the oldest college in the country, a new capitol erected in the
place of one burned, not long before, and a large building called the
Governor's Palace. It looked very small, very quiet, and very content.
Robert was conscious of a change in atmosphere that was not a mere
matter of temperature. Keen, commercial New York was gone. Here,
people talked of politics and the land. The men who came into
Williamsburg on horseback or in their high coaches were owners of
great plantations, where they lived as patriarchs, and feudal
lords. The human stock was purely British and the personal customs and
modes of thought of the British gentry had been transplanted.
"I like it," said Grosvenor. "I feel that I've found England again."
"There appears to be very little town life," said Robert. "It seems
strange that Williamsburg is so small, when Virginia has many more
people than New York or Pennsylvania or Massachusetts."
"They're spread upon the land," said Willet. "I've been in Virginia
before. They don't care much about commerce, but you'll find that a
lot of the men who own the great plantations are hard and good
Robert soon discovered that in Virginia a town was rather a meeting
place for the landed aristocracy than a commercial center. The arrival
of the British troops and of Americans from other colonies brought
much life into the little capital. The people began to pour in from
the country houses, and the single street was thronged with the best
horses and the best carriages Virginia could show, their owners,
attended by swarms of black men and black women whose mouths were
invariably stretched in happy grins, their splendid white teeth
There was much splendor, a great mingling of the fine and the tawdry,
as was inevitable in a society that maintained slavery on a large
scale. Nearly all the carriages had been brought from London, and they
were of the best. When their owners drove forth in the streets or the
country roundabout they were escorted by black coachmen and footmen in
livery. The younger men were invariably on horseback, dressed like
English country gentlemen, and they rode with a skill and grace that
Robert had never before seen equaled. The parsons, as in England, rode
with the best, and often drank with them too.
It was a proud little society, exclusive perhaps, and a little bit
provincial too, possibly, but it was soon to show to the world a group
of men whose abilities and reputation and service to the state have
been unequaled, perhaps, since ancient Athens. One warm afternoon as
Robert walked down the single street with Tayoga and Grosvenor, he saw
a very young man, only three or four years older than himself, riding
a large, white horse.
The rider's lofty stature, apparent even on horseback, attracted
Robert's notice. He was large of bone, too, with hands and feet of
great size, and a very powerful figure. His color was ruddy and high,
showing one who lived out of doors almost all the time.
The man, Robert soon learned, was the young officer, George
Washington, who had commanded the Virginians in the first skirmish
with the French and Indians in the Ohio country.
"One of most grave and sober mien," said Grosvenor. "I take him to be
of fine quality."
"There can scarce be a doubt of it," said Robert.
But he did not dream then that succeeding generations would reckon the
horseman the first man of all time.
Robert, Willet and Tayoga saw the governor, Dinwiddie, a thrifty
Scotchman, and offered to him their services, saying that they wished
to go with the Braddock expedition as scouts.
"But I should think, young sir," said Dinwiddie to Robert, "that you,
at least, would want a commission. 'Twill be easy to obtain it in the
"I thank you, sir, for the offer, which is very kind," said Robert,
"but I have spent a large part of my life in the woods with
Mr. Willet, and I feel that I can be of more use as a scout and
skirmisher. You know that they will be needed badly in the forest.
Moreover, Mr. Willet would not be separated from Tayoga, who in the
land of the Six Nations, known to themselves as the Hodenosaunee, is a
Governor Dinwiddie regarded the Onondaga, who gave back his gaze
steadily. The shrewd Scotchman knew that here stood a man, and he
treated him as one.
"Have your way," he said. "Perhaps you are right. Many think that
General Braddock has little to fear from ambush, they say that his
powerful army of regulars and colonials can brush aside any force the
French and Indians may gather, but I've been long enough in this
country to know that the wilderness always has its dangers. Such eyes
as the eyes of you three will have their value. You shall have the
commissions you wish."
Willet was highly pleased. He had been even more insistent than Robert
on the point, saying they must not sacrifice their freedom and
independence of movement, but Grosvenor was much surprised.
"An army rank will help you," he said.
"It's help that we don't need," said Robert smiling.
The governor showed them great courtesy. He liked them and his
penetrating Scotch mind told him that they had quality. Despite his
hunter's dress, which he had resumed, Willet's manners were those of
the great world, and Dinwiddie often looked at him with
curiosity. Robert seemed to him to be wrapped in the same veil of
mystery, and he judged that the lad, whose manners were not inferior
to those of Willet, had in him the making of a personage. As for
Tayoga, Dinwiddie had been too long in America and he knew too much of
the Hodenosaunee not to appreciate his great position. An insult or a
slight in Virginia to the coming young chief of the Clan of the Bear,
of the nation Onondaga would soon be known in the far land of the Six
Nations, and its cost would be so great that none might count it. Just
as tall oaks from little acorns grow, so a personal affront may sow
the seed of a great war or break a great alliance, and Dinwiddie knew
The governor, assisted by his wife and two daughters, entertained at
his house, and Robert, Tayoga, Willet, and Grosvenor, arrayed in their
best, attended, forming conspicuous figures in a great crowd, as the
Virginia gentry, also clad in their finest, attended. Robert, with
his adaptable and imaginative mind, was at home at once among them. He
liked the soft southern speech, the grace of manner and the good
feeling that obtained. They were even more closely related than the
great families of New York, and it was obvious that they formed a
cultivated society, in close touch with the mother country, intensely
British in manner and mode of thought, and devoted in both theory and
practice to personal independence.
As the spring was now well advanced the night was warm and the windows
and doors of the Governor's Palace were left open. Negroes in livery
played violins and harps while all the guests who wished
danced. Others played cards in smaller rooms, but there was no such
betting as Robert had seen at Bigot's ball in Quebec. There was some
drinking of claret and punch, but no intoxication. The general note
was of great gayety, but with proper restraints.
Robert noticed that the men, spending their lives in the open air and
having abundant and wholesome food, were invariably tall and big of
bone. The women looked strong and their complexions were rosy. The
same facility of mind that had made him like New York and Quebec, such
contrasting places, made him like Williamsburg too, which was
different from either.
Quickly at home, in this society as elsewhere, the hours were all too
short for him. Both he and Grosvenor, who was also adaptable, seeing
good in everything, plunged deep into the festivities. He danced with
young women and with old, and Willet more than once gave him an
approving glance. It seemed that the hunter always wished him to fit
himself into any group with which he might be cast, and to make
himself popular, and to do so Robert's temperament needed little
The music and the dancing never ceased. When the black musicians grew
tired their places were taken by others as black and as zealous, and
on they went in a ceaseless alternation. Robert learned that the
guests would dance all night and far into the next day, and that
frequently at the great houses a ball continued two days and two
About three o'clock in the morning, after a long dance that left him
somewhat weary, he went upon one of the wide piazzas to rest and take
the fresh air. There, his attention was specially attracted by two
young men who were waging a controversy with energy, but without
"I tell you, James," said one, who was noticeable for his great shock
of fair hair and his blazing red face, "that at two miles Blenheim is
"Unbeatable he may be, Walter," said the other, "but there is no horse
so good that there isn't a better. Blenheim, I grant you, is a
splendid three year old, but my Cressy is just about twenty yards
swifter in two miles. There is not another such colt in all Virginia,
and it gives me great pride to be his owner."
The other laughed, a soft drawling laugh, but it was touched with
"You're a vain man, James," he said, "not vain for yourself, but vain
for your sorrel colt."
"I admit my vanity, Walter, but it rests upon a just basis. Cressy, I
repeat, is the best three year old in Virginia, which of course means
the best in all the colonies, and I have a thousand weight of prime
tobacco to prove it."
"My plantation grows good tobacco too, James, and I also have a
thousand weight of prime leaf which talks back to your thousand
weight, and tells it that Cressy is the second best three year old in
Virginia, not the best."
"Done. Nothing is left but to arrange the time."
Both at this moment noticed Robert, who was sitting not far away, and
they hailed him with glad voices. He remembered meeting them earlier
in the evening. They were young men, Walter Stuart and James Cabell,
who had inherited great estates on the James and they shipped their
tobacco in their own vessels to London, and detecting in Robert a
somewhat kindred spirit they had received him with great friendliness.
Already they were old acquaintances in feeling, if not in time.
"Lennox, listen to this vain boaster!" exclaimed Cabell. "He has a
good horse, I admit, but his spirit has become unduly inflated about
it. You know, don't you, Lennox, that my colt, Cressy, has all
Virginia beaten in speed?"
"You know nothing of the kind, Lennox!" exclaimed Stuart, "but you do
know that my three year old Blenheim is the swiftest horse ever bred
in the colony. Now, don't you?"
"I can't give an affirmative to either of you," laughed Robert, "as
I've never seen your horses, but this I do say, I shall be very glad
to see the test and let the colts decide it for themselves."
"A just decision, O Judge!" said Stuart. "You shall have an honored
place as a guest when the match is run. What say you to tomorrow
morning at ten, James?"
"A fit hour, Walter. You ride Blenheim yourself, of course?"
"Truly, and you take the mount on Cressy?"
"None other shall ride him. I've black boys cunning with horses, but
since it's horse against horse it should also be master against
"A match well made, and 'twill be a glorious contest. Come, Lennox,
you shall be a judge, and so shall be your friend Willet, and so shall
that splendid Indian, Tayoga."
Robert was delighted. He had thrown himself with his whole soul into
the Virginia life, and he was eager to see the race run. So were all
the others, and even the grave eyes of Tayoga sparkled when he heard
It was broad daylight when he went to bed, but he was up at noon, and
in the afternoon he went to the House of Burgesses to hear the
governor make a speech to the members on the war and its emergencies.
Dinwiddie, like Shirley, the governor of Massachusetts, appreciated
the extreme gravity of the crisis, and his address was solemn and
He told them that the shadow in the north was black and menacing. The
French were an ambitious people, brave, tenacious and skillful. They
had won the friendship of the savages and now they dominated the
wilderness. They would strike heavy blows, but their movements were
enveloped in mystery, and none knew where or when the sword would
fall. The spirit animating them flowed from the haughty and powerful
court at Versailles that aimed at universal dominion. It became the
Virginians, as it became the people of all the colonies, to gather
their full force against them.
The members listened with serious faces, and Robert knew that the
governor was right. He had been to Quebec, and he had already met
Frenchmen in battle. None understood better than he their skill,
courage and perseverance, and the shadow in the north was very heavy
and menacing to him too.
But his depression quickly disappeared when he returned to the bright
sunshine, and met his young friends again. The Virginians were a
singular compound of gayety and gravity. Away from the House of
Burgesses the coming horse race displaced the war for a brief
space. It was the great topic in Williamsburg and the historic names,
Blenheim and Cressy, were in the mouths of everybody.
Robert soon discovered that the horses were well known, and each had
its numerous group of partisans. Their qualities were discussed by
the women and girls as well as the men and with intelligence. Robert,
filled with the spirit of it, laid a small wager on Blenheim, and
then, in order to show no partiality, laid another in another quarter,
but of exactly the same amount on Cressy.
The evening witnessed more arrivals in Williamsburg, drawn by the news
of the race, and young men galloped up and down the wide street in the
moonlight, testing their own horses, and riding improvised
matches. The rivalry was always friendly, the gentlemen's code that
there should be no ill feeling prevailed, and more than ever the
entire gathering seemed to Robert one vast family. Grosvenor was
intensely interested in the race, and also in the new sights he was
"Still," he said, "if it were not for the colored people I could
imagine with ease that I was back at a country meeting at home. Do you
know anything, Lennox, about these horses, Blenheim and
Cressy--patriotic fellows their owners must be--and could you give a
chap advice about laying a small wager?"
"I know nothing about them except what Stuart and Cabell say."
"What do they say?"
"Stuart knows that Blenheim is the fastest horse in Virginia, and
Cabell knows that Cressy is, and so there the matter stands until the
race is run."
"I think I'll put a pound on Blenheim, nevertheless. Blenheim has a
much more modern sound than Cressy, and I'm all for modernity."
There was an excellent race track, the sport already being highly
developed in Virginia, and, the next day being beautiful, the seats
were filled very early in the morning. The governor with his wife and
daughters was present, and so were many other notables. Robert,
Tayoga and Grosvenor were in a group of nearly fifty young
Virginians. All about were women and girls in their best spring
dresses, many imported from London, and there were several men whom
Robert knew by their garb to be clergymen. Colored women, their heads
wrapped in great bandanna handkerchiefs, were selling fruits or
The whole was exhilarating to the last degree, and all the youth and
imagination in Robert responded. Dangers befell him, but delights
offered themselves also, and he took both as they came. Several
preliminary races, improvised the day before, were run, and they
served to keep the crowd amused, while they waited for the great
Robert and Tayoga then moved to advanced seats near the Governor,
where Willet was already placed, in order that they might fulfill
their honorable functions as judges, and the people began to stir with
a great breath of expectation. They were packed in a close group for a
long distance, and Robert's eye roved over them, noting that their
faces, ruddy or brown, were those of an open air race, like the
English. Almost unconsciously his mind traveled back to a night in
New York, when he had seen another crowd gather in a theater, and then
with a thrill he recalled the face that he had beheld there. He could
never account for it, although some connection of circumstances was
back of it, but he had a sudden instinctive belief that in this new
crowd he would see the same face once more.
It obsessed him like a superstition, and, for the moment, he forgot
the horses, the race, and all that had brought him there. His eye
roved on, and then, down, near the front of the seats he found him,
shaved cleanly and dressed neatly, like a gentleman, but like one in
poor circumstances. Robert saw at first only the side of his face, the
massive jaw, the strong, curving chin, and the fair hair crisping
slightly at the temples, but he would have known him anywhere and in
St. Luc sat very still, apparently absorbed in the great race which
would soon be run. In an ordinary time any stranger in Williamsburg
would have been noticed, but this was far from being an ordinary time.
The little town overflowed with British troops, and American visitors
known and unknown. Tayoga or Willet, if they saw him, might recognize
him, although Robert was not sure, but they, too, might keep silent.
For a little while, he wondered why St. Luc had come to the Virginia
capital, a journey so full of danger for him. Was he following him?
Was it because of some tie between them? Or was it because St. Luc was
now spying upon the Anglo-American preparations? He understood to the
full the romantic and adventurous nature of the Frenchman, and knew
that he would dare anything. Then he had a consuming desire for the
eyes of St. Luc to meet his, and he bent upon him a gaze so long, and
of such concentration, that at last the chevalier looked up.
St. Luc showed recognition, but in a moment or two he looked
away. Robert also turned his eyes in another direction, lest Tayoga or
Willet should follow his gaze, and when he glanced back again in a
minute or two St. Luc was gone. His roving eyes, traveling over the
crowd once more, could not find him, and he was glad. He believed now
that St. Luc had come to Williamsburg to discover the size and
preparations of the American force and its plan, and Robert felt that
he must have him seized if he could. He would be wanting in his
patriotism and duty if he failed to do so. He must sink all his liking
for St. Luc, and make every effort to secure his capture.
But there was a sudden murmur that grew into a deep hum of
expectation, punctuated now and then by shouts: "Blenheim!" "Cressy!"
"Cabell!" "Stuart!" Horses and horsemen alike seemed to have their
partisans in about equal numbers. Ladies rose to their feet, and waved
bright fans, and men gave suggestions to those on whom they had laid
The race, for a space, crowded St. Luc wholly out of Robert's
mind. Stuart and Cabell, each dressed very neatly in jockey attire,
came out and mounted their horses, which the grooms had been leading
back and forth. The three year olds, excited by the noise and
multitude of faces, leaped and strained at their bits. Robert did not
know much of races, but it seemed to him that there was little to
choose between either horses or riders.
The circular track was a mile in length, and they would round it
twice, start and finish alike being made directly in front of the
judges' stand. The starter, a tall Virginian, finally brought the
horses to the line, neck and neck, and they were away. The whole crowd
rose to its feet and shouted approval as they flashed past. Blenheim
was a bay and Cressy was a sorrel, and when they began to turn the
curve in the distance Robert saw that bay and sorrel were still neck
and neck. Then he saw them far across the field, and neither yet had
Now, Robert understood why the Virginians loved the sport. The test of
a horse's strength and endurance and of a horseman's skill and
judgment was thrilling. Presently he found that he was shouting with
the shouting multitude, and sometimes he shouted Cressy and sometimes
he shouted Blenheim.
They came around the curve, the finish of the first mile being near,
and Robert saw the nose of the sorrel creeping past the nose of the
bay. A shout of triumph came from the followers of Cressy and Cabell,
but the partisans of Blenheim and Stuart replied that the race was not
yet half run. Cressy, though it was only in inches, was still
gaining. The sorrel nose crept forward farther and yet a little
farther. When they passed the judges' stand Cressy led by a head and a
Robert, having no favorite before, now felt a sudden sympathy for
Blenheim and Stuart, because they were behind, and he began to shout
for them continuously, until sorrel and bay were well around the curve
on the second mile, when the entire crowd became silent. Then a sharp
shout came from the believers in Blenheim and Stuart. The bay was
beginning to win back his loss. The Cressy men were silent and gloomy,
as Blenheim, drawing upon the stores of strength that had been
conserved, continued to gain, until now the bay nose was creeping past
the sorrel. Then the bay was a full length ahead and that sharp shout
of triumph burst now from the Blenheim people. Robert found his
feelings changing suddenly, and he was all for Cressy and Cabell.
The joy of the Blenheim people did not last long. The sorrel came
back to the side of the bay, the second mile was half done, and a
blanket would have covered the two. It was yet impossible to detect
any sign indicating the winner. The eyes of Tayoga, sitting beside
Robert, sparkled. The Indians from time unknown had loved ball games
and had played them with extraordinary zest and fire. As soon as they
came to know the horse of the white man they loved racing in the same
way. Their sporting instincts were as genuine as those of any country
"It is a great race," said Tayoga. "The horses run well and the men
ride well. Tododaho himself, sitting on his great and shining star,
does not know which will win."
"The kind of race I like to see," said Robert. "Stuart and Cabell
were justified in their faith in their horses. A magnificent pair,
Blenheim and Cressy!"
"It has been said, Dagaeoga, that there is always one horse that can
run faster than another, but it seems that neither of these two can
run faster than the other. Now, Blenheim thrusts his nose ahead, and
now Cressy regains the lead by a few inches. Now they are so nearly
even that they seem to be but one horse and one rider."
"A truly great race, Tayoga, and a prettily matched pair! Ah, the bay
leads! No, 'tis the sorrel! Now, they are even again, and the finish
is not far away!"
The great crowd, which had been shouting, each side for its favorite,
became silent as Blenheim and Cressy swept into the stretch. Stuart
and Cabell, leaning far over the straining necks, begged and prayed
their brave horses to go a little faster, and Blenheim and Cressy,
hearing the voices that they knew so well, responded but in the same
measure. The heads were even, as if they had been locked fast, and
there was still no sign to indicate the winner. Faster and faster
they came, their riders leaning yet farther forward, continually
urging them, and they thundered past the stand, matched so evenly that
not a hair's breadth seemed to separate the noses of the sorrel and
"It's a dead heat!" exclaimed Robert, as the people, unable to
restrain their enthusiasm, swarmed over the track, and such was the
unanimous opinion of the judges. Yet it was the belief of all that a
finer race was never run in Virginia, and while the horses, covered
with blankets, were walked back and forth to cool, men followed them
and uttered their admiration.
Stuart and Cabell were eager to run the heat over, after the horses
had rested, but the judges would not allow it.
"No! No, lads!" said the Governor. "Be content! You have two splendid
horses, the best in Virginia, and matched evenly. Moreover, you rode
them superbly. Now, let them rest with the ample share of honor that
belongs to each."
Stuart and Cabell, after the heat of rivalry was over, thought it a
good plan, shook hands with great warmth three or four times, each
swearing that the other was the best fellow in the world, and then
with a great group of friends they adjourned to the tavern where huge
beakers of punch were drunk.
"And mighty Todadaho himself, although he looks into the future, does
not yet know which is the better horse," said Tayoga. "It is
well. Some things should remain to be discovered, else the salt would
go out of life."
"That's sound philosophy," said Willet. "It's the mystery of things
that attracts us, and that race ended in the happiest manner
possible. Neither owner can be jealous or envious of the other;
instead they are feeling like brothers."
Then Robert's mind with a sudden rush, went back to St. Luc, and his
sense of duty tempted him to speak of his presence to Willet, but he
concluded to wait a little. He looked around for him again, but he did
not see him, and he thought it possible that he had now left the
dangerous neighborhood of Williamsburg.
As they walked back to their quarters at a tavern Willet informed them
that there was to be, two days later, a grand council of provincial
governors and high officers at Alexandria on the Potomac, where
General Braddock with his army already lay in camp, and he suggested
that they go too. As they were free lances with their authority
issuing from Governor Dinwiddie alone, they could do practically as
they pleased. Both Robert and Tayoga were all for it, but in the
afternoon they, as well as Willet, were invited to a race dinner to be
given at the tavern that evening by Stuart and Cabell in honor of the
great contest, in which neither had lost, but in which both had won.
"I suppose," said Willet, "that while here we might take our full
share of Virginia hospitality, which is equal to any on earth,
because, as I see it, before very long we will be in the woods where
so much to eat and drink will not be offered to us. March and battle
will train us down."
The dinner to thirty guests was spread in the great room of the tavern
and the black servants of Stuart and Cabell, well trained, dextrous
and clad in livery, helped those of the landlord to serve. The
abundance and quality of the food were amazing. Besides the resources
of civilization, air, wood and water were drawn upon for
game. Virginia, already renowned for hospitality, was resolved that
through her young sons, Stuart and Cabell, she should do her best that
A dozen young British officers were present, and there was much
toasting and conviviality. The tie of kinship between the old country
and the new seemed stronger here than in New England, where the
England of Cromwell still prevailed, or in New York, where the Dutch
and other influences not English were so powerful. They had begun with
the best of feeling, and it was heightened by the warmth that food and
drink bring. They talked with animation of the great adventure, on
which they would soon start, as Stuart and Cabell and most of the
Virginians were going with Braddock. They drank a speedy capture of
Fort Duquesne, and confusion to the French and their red allies.
Robert, imitating the example of Tayoga, ate sparingly and scarcely
tasted the punch. About eleven o'clock, the night being warm,
unusually warm for that early period of spring, and nearly all the
guests having joined in the singing, more or less well, of patriotic
songs, Robert, thinking that his absence would not be noticed, walked
outside in search of coolness and air.
It was but a step from the lights and brilliancy of the tavern to the
darkness of Williamsburg's single avenue. There were no street
lanterns, and only a moon by which to see. He could discern the dim
bulk of William and Mary College and of the Governor's Palace, but
except near at hand the smaller buildings were lost in the dusk. A
breeze touched with salt, as if from the sea, was blowing, and its
touch was so grateful on Robert's face that he walked on, hat in hand,
while the wind played on his cheeks and forehead and lifted his
hair. Then a darker shadow appeared in the darkness, and St. Luc stood
"Why do you come here! Why do you incur such danger? Don't you know
that I must give warning of your presence?" exclaimed Robert
The Frenchman laughed lightly. He seemed very well pleased with
himself, and then he hummed:
"Hier sur le pont d'Avignon
J'ai oui chanter la belle
"Your danger is great!" repeated Robert.
"Not as great as you think," said St. Luc. "You will not protect
me. You will warn the British officers that a French spy is here. I
read it in your face at the race today, and moreover, I know you
better than you know yourself. I know, too, more about you than you
know about yourself. Did I not warn you in New York to beware of
Mynheer Adrian Van Zoon?"
"You did, and I know that you meant me well."
"And what happened?"
"I was kidnapped by a slaver, and I was to have been taken to the
coast of Africa, but a storm intervened and saved me. Perhaps the
slaver was acting for Mynheer Van Zoon, but I talked it over with Mr.
Hardy and we haven't a shred of proof."
"Perhaps a storm will not intervene next time. You must look to
yourself, Robert Lennox."
"And you to yourself, Chevalier de St. Luc. I'm grateful to you for
the warning you gave me, and other acts of friendship, but whatever
your mission may have been in New York I'm sure that one of your
errands, perhaps the main one, in Williamsburg, is to gather
information for France, and, sir, I should be little of a patriot did
I not give the alarm, much as it hurts me to do so."
Robert saw very clearly by the moonlight that the blue eyes of St. Luc
were twinkling. His situation might be dangerous, but obviously he
took no alarm from it.
"You'll bear in mind, Mr. Lennox," he said, "that I'm not asking you
to shield me. Consider me a French spy, if you wish--and you'll not be
wholly wrong--and then act as you think becomes a man with a
commission as army scout from Governor Dinwiddie of Virginia."
There was a little touch of irony in his voice. His adventures and
romantic spirit was in the ascendant, and it seemed to Robert that he
was giving him a dare. That he would have endured because of his
admiration for St. Luc, and also because of his gratitude, but the
allusion to his commission from the governor of Virginia recalled him
to his sense of duty.
"I can do nothing else!" he exclaimed. "'Tis a poor return for the
services you have done me, and I tender my apologies for the action
I'm about to take. But guard yourself, St. Luc!"
"And you, Lennox, look well to yourself when Braddock marches! Every
twig and leaf will spout danger!"
His light manner was wholly gone for the moment, and his words were
full of menace. Up the street, a sentinel walked back and forth, and
Robert could hear the faint fall of his feet on the sand.
"Once more I bid you beware, St. Luc!" he exclaimed, and raising his
voice he shouted: "A spy! A spy!"
He heard the sentinel drop the butt of his musket heavily against the
earth, utter an exclamation and then run toward them. His shout had
also been heard at the tavern, and the guests, bareheaded, began to
pour out, and look about confusedly to see whence the alarm had come.
Robert looked at the sentinel who was approaching rapidly, and then he
turned to see what St Luc would do. But the Frenchman was gone. Near
them was a mass of shrubbery and he believed that he had flitted into
it, as silently as the passing of a shadow. But the sentinel had
caught a glimpse of the dusky figure, and he cried:
"Who was he? What is it?"
"A spy!" replied Robert hastily. "A Frenchman whom I have seen in
Canada! I think he sprang into those bushes and flowers!"
The sentinel and Robert rushed into the shrubbery but nothing was
there. As they looked about in the dusk, Robert heard a refrain,
distant, faint and taunting:
"Hier sur le pont d'Avignon
J'ai oui chanter la belle
It was only for an instant, then it died like a summer echo, and he
knew that St. Luc was gone. An immense weight rolled from him. He had
done what he should have done, but the result that he feared had not
"I can find nothing, sir," said the sentinel, who recognized in Robert
one of superior rank.
"Nor I, but you saw the figure, did you not?"
"I did, sir. 'Twas more like a shadow, but 'twas a man, I'll swear."
Robert was glad to have the sentinel's testimony, because in another
moment the revelers were upon him, making sport of him for his false
alarm, and asserting that not his eyes but the punch he had drunk had
seen a French spy.
"I scarce tasted the punch," said Robert, "and the soldier here is
witness that I spoke true."
A farther and longer search was organized, but the Frenchman had
vanished into the thinnest of thin air. As Robert walked with Willet
and Tayoga back to the tavern, the hunter said:
"I suppose it was St. Luc?"
"Yes, but why did you think it was he?"
"Because it was just the sort of deed he would do. Did you speak with
"Yes, and I told him I must give the alarm. He disappeared with
amazing speed and silence."
Robert made a brief report the next day to Governor Dinwiddie, not
telling that St. Luc and he had spoken together, stating merely that
he had seen him, giving his name, and describing him as one of the
most formidable of the French forest leaders.
"I thank you, Mr. Lennox," said the Governor. "Your information shall
be conveyed to General Braddock. Yet I think our force will be too
great for the wilderness bands."
On the following day they were at Alexandria on the Potomac, where the
great council was to be held. Here Braddock's camp was spread, and in
a large tent he met Governor Dinwiddie of Virginia, Governor de Lancey
of New York, Governor Sharpe of Maryland, Governor Dobbs of North
Carolina and Governor Shirley of Massachusetts, an elderly lawyer, but
the ablest and most energetic of all the governors.
It was the most momentous council yet held in North America, and all
the young officers waited with the most intense eagerness the news
from the tent. Robert saw Braddock as he went in, a middle-aged man of
high color and an obstinate chin. Grosvenor gave him some of the
gossip about the general.
"London has many stories of him," he said. "He has spent most of his
life in the army. He is a gambler, but brave, rough but generous,
irritable, but often very kind. Opposition inflames him, but he likes
zeal and good service. He is very fond of your young Mr. Washington,
who, I hear is much of a man."
The council in the great tent was long and weighty, and well it might
have been, even far beyond the wildest thoughts of any of the
participants. These were the beginnings of events that shook not only
America but Europe for sixty years. In the tent they agreed upon a
great and comprehensive scheme of campaign that had been proposed some
time before. Braddock would proceed with his attack upon Fort
Duquesne, Shirley would see that the forces of New England seized
Beausejour and De Lancey would have Colonel William Johnson to move
upon Crown Point and then Niagara. Acadia also would be
taken. Dinwiddie after Shirley was the most vigorous of the governors,
and he promised that the full force of Virginia should be behind
Braddock. But to Shirley was given the great vision. He foresaw the
complete disappearance of French power from North America, and, to
achieve a result that he desired so much, it was only necessary for
the colonists to act together and with vigor. While he recognized in
Braddock infirmities of temper and insufficient knowledge of his
battlefield, he knew him to be energetic and courageous and he
believed that the first blow, the one that he was to strike at Fort
Duquesne, would inflict a mortal blow upon France in the New World. In
every vigorous measure that he proposed Dinwiddie backed him, and the
other governors, overborne by their will, gave their consent.
While Robert sat with his friends in the shade of a grove, awaiting
the result of the deliberations in the tent, his attention was
attracted by a strong, thick-set figure in a British uniform.
"Colonel Johnson!" he cried, and running forward he shook hands
eagerly with Colonel William Johnson.
"Why, Colonel!" he exclaimed, "I didn't dream that you were here, but
I'm most happy to see you."
"And I to see you, Mr. Lennox, or Robert, as I shall call you," said
Colonel Johnson. "Alexandria is a long journey from Mount Johnson, but
you see I'm here, awaiting the results of this council, which I tell
you may have vast significance for North America."
"But why are you not in the tent with the others, you who know so much
more about conditions on the border than any man who is in there?"
"I am not one of the governors, Robert, my lad, nor am I General
Braddock. Hence I'm not eligible, but I'm not to be neglected. I may
as well tell you that we are planning several expeditions, and that
I'm to lead one in the north."
"And Madam Johnson, and everybody at your home? Are they well?"
"As well of body as human beings can be when I left. Molly told me
that if I saw you to give you her special love. Ah, you young blade,
if you were older I should be jealous, and then, again, perhaps I
"Young Thayendanegea? Fierce and warlike as becomes his lineage. He
demands if I lead an army to the war that he go with me, and he scarce
twelve. What is more, he will demand and insist, until I have to take
him. 'Tis a true eagle that young Joseph. But here is Willet! It
soothes my eyes to see you again, brave hunter, and Tayoga, too, who
is fully as welcome."
He shook hands with them both and the Onondaga gravely asked:
"What news of my people, Waraiyageh?"
Colonel Johnson's face clouded.
"Things do not go well between us and the vale of Onondaga," he
replied. "The Hodenosaunee complain of the Indian commissioners at
Albany, and with justice. Moreover, the French advance and the
superior French vigor create a fear that the British and Americans may
lose. Then the Hodenosaunee will be left alone to fight the French and
all the hostile tribes. Father Drouillard has come back and is working
with his converts."
"The nations of the Hodenosaunee will never go with the French,"
declared Tayoga with emphasis. "Although the times seem dark, and
men's minds may waver for a while, they will remain loyal to their
ancient allies. Their doubts will cease, Waraiyageh, when the king
across the sea takes away the power of dealing with us from the Dutch
commissioners at Albany, and gives it to you, you who know us so well
and who have always been our friend."
Colonel Johnson's face flushed with pleasure.
"Your opinion of me is too high, Tayoga," he said, "but I'll not deny
that it gratifies me to hear it."
"Have you heard anything from Fort Refuge, and Colden and Wilton and
the others?" asked Robert.
"An Oneida runner brought a letter just before I left Mount
Johnson. The brave Philadelphia lads still hold the little fortress,
and have occasional skirmishes with wandering bands. Theirs has been a
good work, well done."
But while Colonel Johnson was not a member of the council and could
not sit with it, he had a great reputation with all the governors, and
the next day he was asked to appear before them and General Braddock,
where he was treated with the consideration due to a man of his
achievements, and where the council, without waiting for the authority
of the English king, gave him full and complete powers to treat with
the Hodenosaunee, and to heal the wounds inflicted upon the pride of
the nations by the commissioners at Albany. He was thus made
superintendent of Indian affairs in North America, and he was also as
he had said to lead the expedition against Crown Point. He came forth
from the council exultant, his eyes glowing.
"'Tis even more than I had hoped," he said to Willet, "and now I must
say farewell to you and the brave lads with you. We have come to the
edge of great things, and there is no time to waste."