Infomotions, Inc.The Lords of the Wild A Story of the Old New York Border / Altsheler, Joseph A. (Joseph Alexander), 1862-1919



Author: Altsheler, Joseph A. (Joseph Alexander), 1862-1919
Title: The Lords of the Wild A Story of the Old New York Border
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): tayoga; willet; tandakora; luc; dagaeoga; onondaga; robert; grosvenor; rifle; warriors; canoe; black rifle; lake; hunter; fog; forest; young lennox; camp
Contributor(s): Avond, Marcel [Illustrator]
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
Services: find in a library; evaluate using concordance
Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 81,909 words (short) Grade range: 7-9 (grade school) Readability score: 72 (easy)
Identifier: etext11961
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Title: The Lords of the Wild
       A Story of the Old New York Border

Author: Joseph A. Altsheler

Release Date: April 8, 2004 [EBook #11961]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ASCII

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THE LORDS OF THE WILD

_A Story of the Old New York Border_

BY

JOSEPH A. ALTSHELER

1919




FOREWORD


"The Lords of the Wild" tells a complete story, but it is also a part
of the French and Indian War Series, of which the predecessors were
"The Hunters of the Hills," "The Shadow of the North," "The Rulers
of the Lakes" and "The Masters of the Peaks." Robert Lennox, Tayoga,
Willet, St. Luc, Tandakora and all the principal characters of the
earlier volumes reappear.




CHARACTERS IN THE FRENCH AND INDIAN WAR SERIES

  ROBERT LENNOX                         A lad of unknown origin
  TAYOGA                                A young Onondaga warrior
  DAVID WILLET                          A hunter
  RAYMOND LOUIS DE ST. LUC              A brilliant French officer
  AGUSTE DE COURCELLES                  A French officer
  FRANCOIS DE JUMONVILLE                A French officer
  LOUIS DE GALISONNIERE                 A young French officer
  JEAN DE MEZY                          A corrupt Frenchman
  ARMAN GLANDELET                       A young Frenchman
  PIERRE BOUCHER                        A bully and bravo
  PHILIBERT DROUILLARD                  A French priest
  THE MARQUIS DUQUESNE                  Governor-General of Canada
  MARQUIS DE VAUDREUIL                  Governor-General of Canada
  FRANCOIS BIGOT                        Intendant of Canada
  MARQUIS DE MONTCALM                   French commander-in-chief
  DE LEVIS                              A French general
  BOURLAMAQUE                           A French general
  BOUGAINVILLE                          A French general
  ARMAND DUBOIS                         A follower of St. Luc
  M. DE CHATILLARD                      An Old French Seigneur
  CHARLES LANGLADE                      A French partisan
  THE DOVE                              The Indian wife of Langlade
  TANDAKORA                             An Ojibway chief
  DAGONOWEDA                            A young Mohawk chief
  HENDRICK                              An old Mohawk chief
  BRADDOCK                              A British general
  ABERCROMBIE                           A British general
  WOLFE                                 A British general
  COL. WILLIAM JOHNSON                  Anglo-American leader
  MOLLY BRANT                           Col. Wm. Johnson's Indian wife
  JOSEPH BRANT                          Young brother of Molly Brant,
                                          afterward the great Mohawk
                                          chief, Thayendanegea
  ROBERT DINWIDDIE                      Lieutenant-Governor of Virginia
  WILLIAM SHIRLEY                       Governor of Massachusetts
  BENJAMIN FRANKLIN                     Famous American Patriot
  JAMES COLDEN                          A young Philadelphia captain
  WILLIAM WILTON                        A young Philadelphia lieutenant
  HUGH CARSON                           A young Philadelphia lieutenant
  JACOBUS HUYSMAN                       An Albany burgher
  CATERINA                              Jacobus Huysman's cook
  ALEXANDER MCLEAN                      An Albany schoolmaster
  BENJAMIN HARDY                        A New York merchant
  JOHNATHAN PILLSBURY                   Clerk to Benjamin Hardy
  ADRIAN VAN ZOON                       A New York merchant
  THE SLAVER                            A nameless rover
  ACHILLE GARAY                         A French spy
  ALFRED GROSVENOR                      A young English officer
  JAMES CABELL                          A young Virginian
  WALTER STUART                         A young Virginian
  BLACK RIFLE                           A famous "Indian fighter"
  ELIHU STRONG                          A Massachusetts colonel
  ALAN HERVEY                           A New York financier
  STUART WHITE                          Captain of the British sloop,
                                          _Hawk_
  JOHN LATHAM                           Lieutenant of the British sloop,
                                          _Hawk_
  EDWARD CHARTERIS                      A young officer of the Royal
                                          Americans
  ZEBEDEE CRANE                         A young scout and forest runner
  ROBERT ROGERS                         Famous Captain of American
                                          Rangers




CONTENTS


  CHAPTER

       I.--THE BLUE BIRD

      II.--THE LIVE CANOE

     III.--IN THE CLIFF

      IV.--THE DARING ATTEMPT

       V.--TAYOGA'S REVENGE

      VI.--BLACK RIFLE

     VII.--THE FOREST BATTLE

    VIII.--THE BOAT BUILDERS

      IX.--THE MASKED ATTACK

       X.--IN THE FOG

      XI.--THE HAPPY ESCAPE

     XII.--THE FRENCH CAMP

    XIII.--EVE OF BATTLE

     XIV.--TICONDEROGA




THE LORDS OF THE WILD

A STORY OF THE OLD NEW YORK BORDER




CHAPTER I

THE BLUE BIRD


The tall youth, turning to the right, went down a gentle slope until
he came to a little stream, where he knelt and drank. Despite his
weariness, his thirst and his danger he noticed the silvery color of
the water, and its soft sighing sound, as it flowed over its pebbly
bed, made a pleasant murmur in his ear. Robert Lennox always had an
eye for the beautiful, and the flashing brook, in its setting of deep,
intense forest green, soothed his senses, speaking to him of comfort
and hope.

He drank again and then sat back among the bushes, still breathing
heavily, but with much more freedom. The sharp pain left his chest,
new strength began to flow into his muscles, and, as the body was
renewed, so the spirit soared up and became sanguine once more. He put
his ear to the earth and listened long, but heard nothing, save sounds
natural to the wilderness, the rustling of leaves before the light
wind, the whisper of the tiny current, and the occasional sweet note
of a bird in brilliant dress, pluming itself on a bough in its pride.
He drew fresh courage from the peace of the woods, and resolved to
remain longer there by the stream. Settling himself into the bushes
and tall grass, until he was hidden from all but a trained gaze, he
waited, body and soul alike growing steadily in vigor.

The forest was in its finest colors. Spring had never brought to it a
more splendid robe, gorgeous and glowing, its green adorned with wild
flowers, and the bloom of bush and tree like a gigantic stretch of
tapestry. The great trunks of oak and elm and maple grew in endless
rows and overhead the foliage gleamed, a veil of emerald lace before
the sun.

Robert drank in the glory, eye and ear, but he never failed to watch
the thickets, and to listen for hostile sounds. He knew full well that
his life rested upon his vigilance and, often as he had been in danger
in the great northern woods, he valued too much these precious days of
his youth to risk their sudden end through any neglect of his own.

He looked now and then at the bird which still preened itself on a
little bough. When the shadows from the waving foliage fell upon
its feathers it showed a bright purple, but when the sunlight poured
through, it glowed a glossy blue. He did not know its name, but it was
a brave bird, a gay bird. Now and then it ceased its hopping back and
forth, raised its head and sent forth a deep, sweet, thrilling note,
amazing in volume to come from so small a body. Had he dared to make a
sound Robert would have whistled a bar or two in reply. The bird was a
friend to one alone and in need, and its dauntless melody made his
own heart beat higher. If a creature so tiny was not afraid in the
wilderness why should he be!

He had learned to take sharp notice of everything. On the border and
in such times, man was compelled to observe with eye and ear, with all
the five senses; and often too with a sixth sense, an intuition, an
outgrowth of the other five, developed by long habit and training,
which the best of the rangers possessed to a high degree, and in which
the lad was not lacking. He knew that the minutest trifle must not
escape his attention, or the forfeit might be his life.

While he relaxed his own care not at all, he felt that the bird was a
wary sentinel for him. He knew that if an enemy came in haste through
the undergrowth it would fly away before him. He had been warned in
that manner in another crisis and he had full faith now in the caution
of the valiant little singer. His trust, in truth, was so great that
he rose from his covert and bent down for a third drink of the clear
cool water. Then he stood up, his figure defiant, and took long, deep
breaths, his heart now beating smoothly and easily, as if it had been
put to no painful test. Still no sound of a foe, and he thought that
perhaps the pursuit had died down, but he knew enough of the warriors
of the woods to make sure, before he resumed a flight that would
expose him in the open.

He crept back into the thicket, burying himself deep, and was careful
not to break a twig or brush a leaf which to the unerring eyes of
those who followed could mark where he was. Hidden well, but yet lying
where he could see, he turned his gaze back to the bird. It was now
pouring out an unbroken volume of song as it swayed on a twig, like
a leaf shaken in the wind. Its voice was thrillingly sweet, and it
seemed mad with joy, as its tiny throat swelled with the burden of its
melody. Robert, in the thicket, smiled, because he too shared in so
much gladness.

A faint sound out of the far west came to him. It was so slight
that it was hard to tell it from the whisper of the wind. It barely
registered on the drum of the ear, but when he listened again and with
all his powers he was sure that it was a new and foreign note. Then he
separated it from the breeze among the leaves, and it seemed to him
to contain a quality like that of the human voice. If so, it might
be hostile, because his friends, Willet, the hunter, and Tayoga, the
Onondaga, were many miles away. He had left them on the shore of the
lake, called by the whites, George, but more musically by the Indians,
Andiatarocte, and there was nothing in their plans that would now
bring them his way. However welcome they might be he could not hope
for them; foes only were to be expected.

The faint cry, scarcely more than a variation of the wind, registered
again though lightly on the drum of his ear, and now he knew that it
came from the lungs of man, man the pursuer, man the slayer, and so,
in this case, the red man, perhaps Tandakora, the fierce Ojibway chief
himself. Doubtless it was a signal, one band calling to another, and
he listened anxiously for the reply, but he did not hear it, the point
from which it was sent being too remote, and he settled back into his
bed of bushes and grass, resolved to keep quite still until he
could make up his mind about the next step. On the border as well as
elsewhere it was always wise, when one did not know what to do, to do
nothing.

But the tall youth was keenly apprehensive. The signals indicated that
the pursuing force had spread out, and it might enclose him in a fatal
circle. His eager temperament, always sensitive to impressions, was
kindled into fire, and his imagination painted the whole forest
scene in the most vivid colors. A thought at first, it now became a
conviction with him that Tandakora led the pursuit. The red leader had
come upon his trail in some way, and, venomous from so many failures,
would follow now for days in an effort to take him. He saw the huge
Ojibway again with all the intensity of reality, his malignant face,
his mighty body, naked to the waist and painted in hideous designs.
He saw too the warriors who were with him, many of them, and they were
fully as eager and fierce as their chief.

But his imagination which was so vital a part of him did not paint
evil and danger alone; it drew the good in colors no less deep and
glowing. It saw himself refreshed, stronger of body and keener of mind
than ever, escaping every wile and snare laid for his ruin. It saw
him making a victorious flight through the forest, his arrival at the
shining lake, and his reunion with Willet and Tayoga, those faithful
friends of many a peril.

He knew that if he waited long enough he would hear the Indian call
once more, as the bands must talk to one another if they carried out
a concerted pursuit, and he decided that when it came he would go. It
would be his signal too. The only trouble lay in the fact that they
might be too near when the cry was sent. Yet he must take the risk,
and there was his sentinel bird still pluming itself in brilliant
colors on its waving bough.

The bird sang anew, pouring forth a brilliant tune, and Robert from
his covert smiled up at it again. It had a fine spirit, a gay spirit
like his own and now it would surely warn him if danger crept too
close. While the thought was fresh in his mind the third signal
came, and now it was so clear and distinct that it indicated a rapid
approach. But he was still unable to choose a way for his flight and
he lingered for a sign from the bird. If the warriors were stealing
through the bushes it would fly directly from them. At least he
believed so, and fancy had so much power over him, especially in such
a situation that belief became conviction.

The bird stopped singing suddenly, but kept his perch on the waving
bough. Robert always insisted that it looked straight at him before it
uttered two or three sharp notes, and then, rising in the air, hovered
for a few minutes above the bough. It was obvious to him that his
call had come. Steeped in Indian lore he had seen earth and air work
miracles, and it was not less wonderful that a living creature should
perform one now, and in his behalf.

For a breathless instant or two he forgot the warriors and watched the
bird, a flash of blue flame against the green veil of the forest. It
was perched there in order to be sure that he saw, and then it would
show the way! With every pulse beating hard he stood up silently,
his eyes still on the blue flash, confident that a new miracle was at
hand.

The bird uttered three or four notes, not short or sharp now, but
soft, long and beckoning, dying away in the gentlest of echoes. His
imagination, as vivid as ever, translated it into a call to him to
come, and he was not in the least surprised, when the blue flame like
the pillow of cloud by day moved slowly to the northeast, and toward
the lake. Stepping cautiously he followed his sign, thrilled at the
doing of the miracle, his eyes on his flying guide, his ears attuned
to warn him if any danger threatened from the forest so near.

It never occurred to Robert that he might not be led aright. His faith
and confidence were supreme. He had lived too much with Tayoga not to
share his belief that the hand of Manitou was stretched forth now to
lead those who put their trust in him.

The blue flame that was a living bird flew slowly on, pausing an
instant or two on a bough, turning for a short curve to right or
left, but always coming back to the main course that pointed toward
Andiatarocte.

He walked beside the little brook from which he had drunk, then across
it and over a low hill, into a shallow valley, the forest everywhere,
but the undergrowth not too dense for easy passage. His attentive ear
brought no sound from either flank save those natural to the woods,
though he was sure that a hostile call would come soon. It would be
time for the bands to talk to one another. But he had no fear. The
supreme intervention had been made in his favor, and he kept his eyes
on his flying guide.

They crossed the valley and began the ascent of another and high hill,
rough with rocky outcrops and a heavy growth of briars and vines. His
pace became slower of necessity and once or twice he thought he had
lost the blue flame, but it always reappeared, and, for the first
time since its flight from the bough, it sang a few notes, a clear
melodious treble, carrying far through the windy forest.

The lad believed that the song was meant for him. Clearly it said to
him to follow, and, with equal clearness, it told him that safety lay
only in the path he now traveled. He believed, with all the ardor of
his soul, and there was no weariness in his body as he climbed the
high hill. Near the summit, he heard on his right the long dying
Indian cry so full of menace, its answer to the left, and then a third
shout directly behind him. He understood. He was between the horns of
a crescent, and they were not far away. He left faint traces only as
he fled, but they had so much skill they could follow with speed, and
he was quite sure they expected to take him. This belief did not keep
his heart from beating high. They did not know how he was protected
and led, and there was the blue flame before him always showing him
the way. He reached the crest of the hill, and saw other hills, fold
on fold, lying before him. He had hoped to catch a glimpse of the lake
from the summit, but no glint of its waters came, and then he knew it
must yet be miles away. His heart sank for a moment. Andiatarocte had
appealed to him as a refuge. Just why he did not know, but he vaguely
expected to find safety there. Perhaps he would meet Willet and Tayoga
by its shore, and to him the three united always seemed invincible.

His courage was gone only an instant or two. Then it came back
stronger than ever. The note of his guide, clear and uplifting, rose
again, and he increased his speed, lest he be enclosed within those
horns. The far slope was rocky and he leaped from one stony outcrop to
another. Even if he could hide his trail only a few yards it would
be so much time gained while they were compelled to seek it. He was
forced to watch his steps here, but, when he was at the bottom and
looked up, the blue flame was still before him. On it went over the
next slope and he followed at speed, noticing with joy that the rocky
nature of the ground continued, and the most skillful warrior who ever
lived must spend many minutes hunting his traces. He had no doubt that
he was gaining and he had proof of it in the fact that the pursuers
now uttered no cry. Had they been closing in on him they would have
called to one another in triumph.

Well for him that he was so strong and sound of heart and lung! Well
for him too that he was borne up by a great spirit and by his belief
that a supreme power was working in his behalf. He felt little
weariness as he climbed a ridge. His breath was easy and regular and
his steps were long and swift. His guide was before him. Whatever his
pace, whether fast or slow, the distance between them never seemed to
change. The bird would dart aside, perhaps to catch an insect, but it
always returned promptly to its course.

His eyes caught a gleam of silver from the crest of the fourth ridge
that he crossed, and he knew it was a ray of sunlight striking upon
the waters of the lake. Now his coveted haven was not so far away, and
the great pulses in his temples throbbed. He would reach the lake, and
he would find refuge. Tandakora, in all his malice, would fail once
more. The thought was so pleasant to him that he laughed aloud, and
now feeling the need to use the strength he had saved with such care
he began to run as fast as he could. It was his object to open up
a wide gap between himself and the warriors, one so great that, if
occasion came, he might double or turn without being seen.

The forest remained dense, a sea of trees with many bushes and
clinging vines in which an ignorant or incautious runner would have
tripped and fallen, but Robert was neither, and he did not forget, as
he fled, to notice where his feet fell. His skill and presence of mind
kept him from stumbling or from making any noise that would draw the
attention of possible pursuers who might have crept up on his flank.
While they had only his faint trail to guide them the pursuit was
impeded, and, as long as they did not see him, his chance to hide was
far greater.

He lost sight of his feathered guide two or three times, but the bird
never failed to reappear, a brilliant blue flame against the green
wall of the wilderness, his emblem of hope, leading him over the hills
and valleys toward Andiatarocte. Now he saw the lake from a crest, not
a mere band of silver showing through the trees, but a broad surface
reflecting the sunlight in varied colors. It was a beacon to him, and,
summoning the last ounce of his strength and will, he ran at amazing
speed. Once more he heard the warriors behind him calling to one
another, and they were much farther away. His mighty effort had not
been in vain. His pulses beat hard with the throb of victory not yet
won, but of which he felt sure, and he rejoiced too, because he had
come again upon rocky ground, where his flight left so little trace
that Tandakora himself would be baffled for a while.

He knew that the shores of the lake at the point he was nearing were
comparatively low, and a vague plan to hide in the dense foliage at
the water's edge came into his mind. He did not know just how he would
do it, but he would be guided by events as they developed. The bird
surely would not lead him on unless less to safety, and no doubt
entered his mind. But it was highly important to widen yet more the
distance between him and the warriors, and he still ran with all the
speed at his command.

The last crest was reached and before him spread the splendid lake in
its deep green setting, a glittering spectacle that he never failed to
admire, and that he admired even now, when his life was in peril, and
instants were precious. The bird perched suddenly on a bough, uttered
a few thrilling notes, and was then gone, a last blue flash into the
dense foliage. He did not see it again, and he did not expect to
do so. Its work was done. Strong in the faith of the wilderness, he
believed and always believed.

He crouched a few moments on a ledge and looked back. Tandakora and
his men had not yet come in sight, nor could he hear them. Doubtless
they had lost his trail, when he leaped from one stone to another, and
were now looking for it. His time to hide, if he were to have one, was
at hand, and he meant to make the most of the chance. He bent lower
and remained there until his breathing became regular and easy after
his mighty effort, all his five senses and the sixth that was instinct
or divination, alert to every sound.

Two or three birds began to sing, but they were not his bird and he
gave them no attention. A rabbit leaped from its nest under the bushes
and ran. It went back on his trail and he considered it a sure sign
that his pursuers were yet distant. He might steal another precious
minute or two for his overworked lungs and heart. He knew the need of
doing everything to gain a little more strength. It was his experience
in border war and the stern training of Willet and Tayoga that made
him able to do so, and he was ruler enough of himself to wait yet a
little longer than he had planned. Then when he felt that Tandakora
must be near, he straightened up, though not to his full height, and
ran swiftly down the long slope to the lake.

He found at the bottom a narrow place between cliff and water, grown
thickly with bushes, and he followed it at least half a mile, until
the shores towered above him dark and steep, and the lake came up
against them like a wall. He could go no farther and he waded into a
dense growth of bushes and weeds, where he stood up to his waist in
water and waited, hidden well.

He knew that if the warriors followed and saw him he would have little
opportunity to escape, but the chances were a hundred to one against
their finding him in such a covert. Rock and water had blotted out his
trail and he felt safe. He secured his belt, containing his smaller
weapons and ammunition, about his shoulders beyond touch of water, and
put his rifle in the forks of two bushes, convenient to his hands.

It was a luxury to rest, even if one did stand half-sunken in a lake.
The water was cold, but he did not yet feel the chill, and he listened
for possible sounds of pursuit. He heard, after a while, the calls of
warriors to one another and he laughed softly to himself. The shouts
were faint and moreover they came from the crest of the cliff. They
had not found his trail down the slope and they were hunting for him
on the heights. He laughed again with sheer satisfaction. He had been
right. Rock and water had come to his aid, and he was too well hidden
even for the eager eyes of Tandakora and his warriors to follow him.

He waited a long time. He heard the cries nearer him, then farther
away, and, at last, at such a great distance that they could barely
be separated from the lap of the waters. He was growing cold now; the
chill from the lake was rising in his body, but with infinite patience
bred by long practice of the wilderness he did not stir. He knew that
silence could be deceptive. Some of the warriors might come back,
and might wait in a thicket, hoping that he would rise and disclose
himself, thinking the danger past. More than one careless wanderer
in the past had been caught in such a manner, and he was resolved to
guard against the trick. Making the last call upon his patience, he
stood motionless, while the chill crept steadily upward through his
veins and muscles.

He could see the surface of the open lake through the veil of bushes
and tall grass. The water broke in gentle waves under a light wind,
and kept up a soft sighing that was musical and soothing. Had he been
upon dry land he could have closed his eyes and gone to sleep, but,
as it was, he did not complain, since he had found safety, if not
comfort. He even found strength in himself, despite his situation, to
admire the gleaming expanse of Andiatarocte with its shifting colors,
and the far cliffs lofty and dim.

Much of Robert's life, much of its most eventful portion, was passing
around this lake, and he had a peculiar affection for it. It always
aroused in him a sense of beauty, of charm and of majesty, and he had
grown too to look upon it as a friend and protector. He believed that
it had brought him good luck, and he did not doubt that it would do so
again.

He looked for a canoe, one perhaps that might contain Willet and
Tayoga, seeking him and keeping well beyond the aim of a lurking
marksman on the shore, but he saw no shadow on the water, nothing
that could be persuaded into the likeness of a boat, only wild fowl
circling and dipping, and, now and then, a gleam where a fish leaped
up to fall swiftly back again. He was alone, and he must depend upon
himself only.

He began to move a little, to lift one foot and then the other,
careful to make no splash in the water, and the slight exercise
checked the creeping chill. Encouraged, he increased it, stopping at
intervals to listen for the approach of a foe. There was no sound
and he walked back and forth a little. Presently his eyes, trained to
observe all things, noticed a change in the air. A gray tint, so far a
matter of quality rather than color, was coming into it, and his
heart leaped with joy. Absorbed in his vital struggle he had failed to
reckon the passage of time. The day was closing and blessed, covering
night was at hand. Robert loved the day and the sun, but darkness was
always a friend of those who fled, and now he prayed that it would
come thick and dark.

The sun still hung over the eastern shores, red and blazing, but
before long it went down, seeming to sink into the lake, and the night
that Robert had wished, heavy and black, swept over the earth. Then he
left the water, and stood upon dry land, the narrow ledge between the
cliff and the waves, where he took off his lower garments, wrung them
as nearly dry as he could, and, hanging them on the bushes, waited
for the wind to do the rest. His sense of triumph had never been so
strong. Alone and relying only upon his own courage and skill, he had
escaped the fierce Tandakora and his persistent warriors. He could
even boast of it to Willet and Tayoga, when he found them again.

It was wonderful to feel safe, after great peril, and his bright
imagination climbed the heights. As he had escaped them then, so he
would slip always from the snares of his foes. It was this quality in
him, the spirit of eternal hope, that appealed so strongly to all who
knew him, and that made him so attractive.

After a while, he took venison and hominy from his knapsack and ate
with content. Then he resumed his clothing, now dried completely by
the wind, and felt that he had never been stronger or more fitted to
cope with attack.

The darkness was intense and the surface of the lake showed through
it, only a fitful gray. The cliff behind him was now a black bank, and
its crest could not be seen at all. He was eager to go, but he still
used the patience so necessary in the wilderness, knowing that the
longer he waited the less likely he was to meet the band of Tandakora.

He lay down in a thicket of tall grass and bushes, resolved not to
start before midnight, and he felt so much at peace that before he
knew he was going to sleep he was sleeping. When he awoke he felt a
little dismay at first, but it was soon gone. After all, he had passed
the time of waiting in the easiest way, and no enemy had come. The
moon and stars were not to be seen, but instinct told him that it was
not beyond midnight.

He arose to go, but a slight sound came from the lake, and he stayed.
It was merely the cry of the night bird, calling to its mate, one
would have said, but Robert's attention was attracted by an odd
inflection in it, a strain that seemed familiar. He listened with the
utmost attention, and when it came a second time, he was so sure that
his pulses beat very fast.

Willet and Tayoga, as he had hoped in the day, were out there on the
lake. It had been foolish of him to think they would come in the full
sunlight, exposed to every hostile eye. It was their natural course to
approach in the dark and send a signal that he would know. He imitated
the call, a soft, low note, but one that traveled far, and soon the
answer came. No more was needed. The circle was complete. Willet and
Tayoga were on the lake and they knew that he was at the foot of the
cliff, waiting.

He took a long breath of intense relief and delight. Tandakora would
resume the search for him in the morning, hunting along the crest,
and he might even find his way to the narrow ledge on which Robert now
stood, but the lad would be gone across the waters, where he left no
trail.

He saw a stout young bush growing on the edge of the lake, and,
leaning far out while he held on to it with one hand, he watched. He
did not repeat the call. One less cautious would have done so, but he
knew that his friends had located him already and he meant to run
no risk of telling the warriors also where he stood. Meanwhile, he
listened attentively for the sound of the paddles, but many long
minutes passed before he heard the faint dip, dip that betokened the
approach of Willet and Tayoga. He never doubted for an instant that
it was their canoe and again his heart felt that triumphant feeling.
Surely no man ever had more loyal or braver comrades! If he had
malignant enemies he also had staunch friends who more than offset
them.

He saw presently a faint shadow, a deeper dark in the darkness, and
he uttered very low the soft note of the bird. In an instant came the
answer, and then the shadow, turning, glided toward him. A canoe took
form and shape and he saw in it two figures, which were unmistakably
those of Willet and Tayoga, swinging their paddles with powerful
hands. Again he felt a thrill of joy because these two trusty comrades
had come. But it was absurd ever to doubt for an instant that they
would come!

He leaned out from the tree to the last inch, and called in a
penetrating whisper:

"Dave! Tayoga! This way!"

The canoe shifted its course a little, and entered the bushes by
the side of Robert, the hunter and the Onondaga putting down their
dripping paddles, and stepping out in the shallow water. In the
dusk the great figure of Willet loomed up, more than ever a tower of
strength, and the slender but muscular form of Tayoga, the very model
of a young Indian warrior, seemed to be made of gleaming bronze. Had
Robert needed any infusion of courage and will their appearance alone
would have brought it with them.

"And we have found Dagaeoga again!" said the Onondaga, in a whimsical
tone.

"No I have found you," said Robert. "You were lost from me, I was not
lost from you."

"It is the same, and I think by your waiting here at midnight that you
have been in great peril."

"So I have been, and I may be yet--and you too. I have been pursued
by warriors, Tandakora at their head. I have not seen them, but I know
from the venom and persistence of the pursuit that he leads them. I
eluded them by coming down the cliff and hiding among the bushes here.
I stood in the water all the afternoon."

"We thought you might be somewhere along the western shore. After we
divided for our scout about the lake, the Great Bear and I met as we
had arranged, but you did not come. We concluded that the enemy had
got in the way, and so we took from its hiding place a canoe which had
been left on a former journey, and began to cruise upon Andiatarocte,
calling at far intervals for you."

He spoke in his usual precise school English and in a light playful
tone, but Robert knew the depth of his feelings. The friendship of the
white lad and the red was held by hooks of steel like that of Damon
and Pythias of old.

"I think I heard your first call," said Robert. "It wasn't very loud,
but never was a sound more welcome, nor can I be too grateful for that
habit you have of hiding canoes here and there in the wilderness. It's
saved us all more than once."

"It is merely the custom of my people, forced upon us by need, and I
but follow."

"It doesn't alter my gratitude. I see that the canoe is big enough for
me too."

"So it is, Dagaeoga. You can enter it. Take my paddle and work."

The three adjusted their weight in the slender craft, and Robert,
taking Willet's paddle instead of Tayoga's, they pushed out into the
lake, while the great hunter sat with his long rifle across his knees,
watching for the least sign that the warriors might be coming.




CHAPTER II

THE LIVE CANOE


Robert was fully aware that their peril was not yet over--the Indians,
too, might have canoes upon the lake--but he considered that the bulk
of it had passed. So his heart was light, and, as they shot out toward
the middle of Andiatarocte, he talked of the pursuit and the manner in
which he had escaped it.

"I was led the right way by a bird, one that sang," he said. "Your
Manitou, Tayoga, sent that bird to save me."

"You don't really believe it came for that special purpose?" asked the
hunter.

"Why not?" interrupted the Onondaga. "We do know that miracles are
done often. My nation and all the nations of the Hodenosaunee have
long known it. If Manitou wishes to stretch out his hand and snatch
Dagaeoga from his foes it is not for us to ask his reason why."

Willet was silent. He would not say anything to disturb the belief of
Tayoga, he was never one to attack anybody's religion, besides he was
not sure that he did not believe, himself.

"We know too," continued Tayoga devoutly, "that Tododaho, the mighty
Onondaga chief who went away to his star more than four hundred years
ago, and who sits there watching over the Hodenosaunee has intervened
more than once in our behalf. He is an arm of Manitou and acts for
him."

He looked up. The sky was hidden by the thick darkness. No ray of
silver or gray showed anywhere, but the Onondaga knew where lay the
star upon which sat his patron saint with the wise snakes, coil on
coil, in his hair. He felt that through the banks of mist and vapor
Tododaho was watching over him, and, as long as he tried to live the
right way taught to him by his fathers, the great Onondaga chieftain
would lead him through all perils, even as the bird in brilliant blue
plumage had shown Robert the path from the pursuit of Tandakora. The
sublime faith of Tayoga never wavered for an instant.

The wind rose a little, a heavy swell stirred the lake and their light
craft swayed with vigor, but the two youths were expert canoemen, none
better in all the wilderness, and it shipped no water. The hunter,
sitting with his hands on his rifle, did not stir, nor did he speak
for a long time. Willet, at that moment, shared the faith of his two
younger comrades. He was grateful too because once more they had
found Robert, for whom he had all the affection of a father. The three
reunited were far stronger than the three scattered, and he did not
believe that any force on the lakes or in the mountains could trap
them. But his questing eyes watched the vast oblong of the lake,
looking continually for a sign, whether that of friend or foe.

"What did you find, Robert?" he asked at last.

"Nothing but the band of Tandakora," replied the lad, with a light
laugh. "I took my way squarely into trouble, and then I had hard work
taking it out again. I don't know what would have happened to me, if
you two hadn't come in the canoe."

"It seems," said the Onondaga, in his whimsical precise manner, "that
a large part of our lives, Great Bear, is spent in rescuing Dagaeoga.
Do you think when we go into the Great Beyond and arrive at the feet
of Manitou, and he asks us what we have done with our time on earth,
he will put it to our credit when we reply that we consumed at least
ten years saving Dagaeoga from his enemies?"

"Yes, Tayoga, we'll get white marks for it, because Robert has
also saved us, and there is no nobler work than saving one's
fellow creatures. Manitou knows also that it is hard to live in the
wilderness and a man must spend a lot of his time escaping death. Look
to the east, Tayoga, lad, and tell me if you think that's a point of
light on the mountain over there."

The Onondaga studied intently the dark wall of the east, and presently
his eyes picked out a dot against its background, infinitesimal like
the light of a firefly, but not to be ignored by expert woodsmen.

"Yes, Great Bear," he replied, "I see it is not larger than the
littlest star, but it moves from side to side, and I think it is a
signal."

"So do I, lad. The lake is narrow here, and the answer, if there be
any, will come from the west shore. Now we'll look, all together.
Three pairs of eyes are better than one."

The two lads ceased paddling, holding the canoe steady, with
an occasional stroke, and began to search the western cliffs in
methodical fashion, letting the eye travel from the farthest point in
the north gradually toward the south, and neglecting no place in the
dark expanse.

"There it is!" exclaimed Robert. "Almost opposite us! I believe it's
in the very cliff at the point of which I lay!"

"See it, winking and blinking away."

"Yes, that's it," said Robert. "Now I wonder what those two lights are
saying to each other across Lake George?"

"It might be worth one's while to know, for they're surely signaling.
It may be about us, or it may be about the army in the south."

"I didn't find anything but trouble," said Robert. "Now what did you
and Tayoga find?"

"Plenty traces of both white men and red," replied the hunter. "The
forests were full of French and Indians. I think St. Luc with a
powerful force is near the north end of Lake George, and the Marquis
de Montcalm will soon be at Ticonderoga to meet us."

"But we'll sweep him away when our great army comes up from New York."

"So we should, lad, but the Marquis is an able general, wily and
brave. He showed his quality at Fort William Henry and we mustn't
underrate him, though I am afraid that's what we'll do; besides the
forest fights for the defense."

"It's not like you to be despondent, Dave," said Robert.

"I'm not, lad. I've just a feeling that we should be mighty cautious.
Some think the Marquis won't stand when our big army comes, but I
do, and I look for a great battle on the shores of either George or
Champlain."

"And we'll win it," said Robert in sanguine tones.

"That rests on the knees of the gods," said Willet thoughtfully. "But
we've got to deal with one thing at a time. It's our business now to
escape from the people who are making those lights wink at each other,
or the battle wherever it's fought or whoever wins won't include us
because we'll be off on another star, maybe sitting at the feet of
Tayoga's Tododaho."

"There's another light on the west shore toward the south," said the
Onondaga.

"And a fourth on the eastern cliff also toward the south," added
Robert. "All four of them are winking now. It seems to be a general
conversation."

"And I wish we could understand their language," said the hunter
earnestly. "I'm thinking, however, that they're talking about us. They
must have found out in some manner that we're on the lake, and they
want to take us."

"Then," said Robert, "it's time for Manitou to send a heavy mist that
we may escape in it."

"Manitou can work miracles for those whom he favors," said Tayoga,
"and now and then he sends them, but oftenest he withholds his hand,
lest we become spoiled and rely upon him when we should rely upon
ourselves."

"You never spoke a truer word, Tayoga," said the hunter. "It's the
same as saying that heaven helps those who help themselves, and we've
got to do a lot of work for ourselves this night. I think the Indian
canoes are already on Andiatarocte looking for us."

Robert would have felt a chill had it not been for the presence of his
comrades. The danger was unknown, mysterious, it might come from any
point, and, while the foe prepared, they must wait until he disclosed
himself. Waiting was the hardest thing to do.

"I think we'd better stay just where we are for a while," said the
hunter. "It would be foolish to use our strength, until we know what
we are using it for. It's certain that Manitou intends to let us fend
for ourselves because the night is lightening, which is a hard thing
for fugitives."

The clouds floated away toward the north, a star came out, then
another, and then a cluster, the lofty shores on either side rose up
clear and distinct, no longer vague black walls, the surface of the
water turned to gray, but it was still swept by a heavy swell, in
which the canoe rocked. Willet finally suggested that they pull to
a small island lying on their right, and anchor in the heavy foliage
overhanging the water.

"If it grows much lighter they'll be able to see us from the cliffs,"
he said, "and for us now situated as we are the most important of all
things is to hide."

It was a tiny island, not more than a quarter of an acre in size, but
it was covered with heavy forest, and they found refuge among the long
boughs that touched the water, where they rested in silence, while
more stars came out, throwing a silver radiance over the lake. The
three were silent and Robert watched the western light that lay
farthest south. It seemed to be about two miles away, and, as he
looked he saw it grow, until he became convinced that it was no longer
a light, but a fire.

"What is the meaning of it?" he asked, calling the attention of
Willet.

The hunter looked for a while before replying. The fire still grew
and soon a light on the eastern shore began to turn into a fire,
increasing in the same manner.

"I take it that they intend to illuminate the lake, at least this
portion of it," said Willet. "They'll have gigantic bonfires casting
their light far over the water, and they think that we won't be able
to hide then."

"Which proves that they are in great force on both shores," said
Tayoga.

"How does it prove it?" asked Robert.

The Onondaga laughed softly.

"O Dagaeoga," he said, "you speak before you think. You are always
thinking before you speak, but perhaps it is not your fault. Manitou
gave you a tongue of gold, and it becomes a man to use that which he
can use best. It is very simple. To drag up the fallen wood for such
big fires takes many men. Nor would all of them be employed for such
work. While some of them feed the flames others are seeking us. We can
look for their canoes soon."

"Their plan isn't a bad one for what they want to do," said the
hunter. "A master mind must be directing them. I am confirmed in my
opinion that St. Luc is there."

"I've been sure of it all the time," said Robert; "it seems that fate
intends us to be continually matching our wits against his."

"It's a fact, and it's strange how it's come about," said the hunter
thoughtfully.

Robert looked at him, hoping he would say more, but he did not
continue the subject. Instead he said:

"That they know what they're doing is shown by the fact that we must
move. All the area of the lake about us will be lighted up soon."

The two bonfires were now lofty, blazing pyramids, and a third farther
north began also to send its flames toward the sky.

The surface of the lake glowed with red light which crept steadily
toward the little island, in the shadow of which the three scouts lay.
It became apparent that they had no time to waste, if they intended to
avoid being trapped.

"Push out," said Willet, and, with strong sweeps of the paddle, Robert
and Tayoga sent the canoe from the shelter of the boughs. But they
still kept close to the island and then made for another about a
hundred yards south. The glow had not yet come near enough to disclose
them, while they were in the open water, but Robert felt intense
relief when they drew again into the shelter of trees.

The bonfire on the western shore was the largest, and, despite the
distance, he saw passing before the flames tiny black figures which he
knew to be warriors or French, if any white men were there. They
were still feeding the fire and the pyramid of light rose to an
extraordinary height, but Robert knew the peril was elsewhere. It
would come on the surface of the lake and he shifted his gaze to the
gray waters, searching everywhere for Indian canoes. He believed that
they would appear first in the north and he scoured the horizon there
from side to side, trying to detect the first black dot when it should
show over the lake.

The waters where his eyes searched were wholly in darkness, an
unbroken black line of the sky meeting a heaving surface. He looked
back and forth over the whole extent, a half dozen times, and found
nothing to break the continuity. Hope that the warriors of Tandakora
were not coming sprang up in his breast, but he put it down again.
Although imagination was so strong in him he was nevertheless, in
moments of peril, a realist. Hard experience had taught him long since
that when his life was in danger he must face facts.

"There's another island about a half mile away," he said to Willet.
"Don't you think we'd better make for it now?"

"In a minute or two, lad, if nothing happens," replied the hunter.
"I'd like to see what's coming here, if anything at all comes."

Robert turned his gaze back toward the north, passing his eyes once
more to and fro along the line where the dusky sky met the dusky lake,
and then he started a little. A dot detached itself from the center of
the line, followed quickly by another, another and others. They were
points infinitely small, and one at that distance could have told
nothing about them from their appearance only, but he knew they were
Indian canoes. They could be nothing else. It was certain also that
they were seeking the three.

"Do you see them?" asked Robert.

"Yes, and it's a fleet," replied Willet. "They are lighting up the
lake with their bonfires, and their canoes are coming south to drive
us into the open. There's generalship in this. I think St. Luc is
surely in command."

The hunter expressed frank admiration. Often, in the long duel between
them and the redoubtable French leader, he paid tribute to the valor
and skill of St. Luc. Like Robert, he never felt any hostility toward
him. There was nothing small about Willet, and he had abundant esteem
for a gallant foe.

"It's time now to run for it again," he said, "and it's important to
keep out of their sight."

"I think it will be better for us to swim," said Tayoga, "and let the
canoe carry our weapons and ammunition."

"And for us to hide behind it as we've done before. You're right, lad.
The canoe is low and does not make much of a blur upon the lake, but
if we are sitting upright in it we can be much more easily seen. Now,
quick's the word!"

They took off all their outer clothing and moccasins, putting the
garments and their weapons into the little craft, and, sinking into
the water behind it, pushed out from the overhanging boughs. It was
a wise precaution. When they reached the long open stretch of water,
Robert felt that the glow from the nearest bonfire was directly upon
them, although he knew that his fancy made the light much stronger
than it really was.

The canoe still merged with the color of the waves which were now
running freely, and, as the three swam with powerful strokes sending
it swiftly ahead of them, Robert was hopeful that they would reach the
next island, unseen.

The distance seemed to lengthen and grow interminable, and their pace,
although rapid, was to Robert like that of a snail. Yet the longest
journey must come to an end. The new island rose at last before them,
larger than the others but like the rest covered throughout with heavy
forest.

They were almost in its shelter, when a faint cry came from the lofty
cliff on the west. It was a low, whining sound, very distant,
but singularly penetrating, a sinister note with which Robert was
familiar, the Indian war whoop. He recognized it, and understood its
significance. Warriors had seen the canoe and knew that it marked the
flight of the three.

"What do you think we'd better do?" he said.

"We'll stop for a moment or two at the island and take a look around
us," replied Willet.

They moored the canoe, and waded to the shore. Far behind them was
the Indian fleet, about twenty canoes, coming in the formation of
an arrow, while the bonfires on the cliffs towered toward the sky. A
rising wind swept the waves down and they crumbled one after another,
as they broke upon the island.

"It looks like a trap with us inside of it," said the hunter. "That
shout meant that they've seen our canoe, as you lads know. Warriors
have already gone below to head us off, and maybe they've got another
fleet, which, answering their signals, will come up from the south,
shutting us between two forces."

"We are in their trap," admitted Robert, "but we can break out of it.
We've been in traps before, but none of them ever held us."

"So we can, lad. I didn't mean to be discouraging. I was just stating
the situation as it now is. We're a long way from being taken."

"The path has been opened to us," said the Onondaga.

"What do you mean?" asked Robert.

"Lo, Dagaeoga, the wind grows strong, and it sweeps toward the south
the way we were going."

"I hear, Tayoga, but I don't understand."

"We will send the canoe with wind and waves, but we will stay here."

"Put 'em on a false scent!" exclaimed the hunter. "It's a big risk,
but it's the only thing to be done. As the bird saved Robert so the
wind may save us! The waves are running pretty fast toward the south
now and the canoe will ride 'em like a thing of life. They're too far
away to tell whether we are in it."

It was a daring thing to do but Robert too felt that it must be
done, and they did not delay in the doing of it. They took out their
clothing, weapons, and ammunition, Willet gave the canoe a mighty
shove, and it sailed gallantly southward on the crest of the high
waves.

"I feel as if I were saying good-by to a faithful friend," said
Robert.

"It's more than a friend," said Willet. "It's an ally that will draw
the enemy after it, and leave us here in safety."

"If Manitou so wills it," said Tayoga. "It is for him to say whether
the men of Tandakora will pass us by. But the canoe is truly alive,
Dagaeoga. It skims over the lake like a great bird. If it has a spirit
in it, and I do not know that it has not, it guards us, and means to
lead away our enemy in pursuit of it."

Quick to receive impressions, Robert also clothed the canoe with life
and a soul, a soul wholly friendly to the three, who, now stooping
down on the island, amid the foliage, watched the action of the little
craft which seemed, in truth, to be guided by reason.

"Now it pauses a little," said Robert. "It's beckoning to the Indian
fleet to follow."

"It is because it hangs on the top of a wave that is about to break,"
said Willet. "Often you see waves hesitate that way just before they
crumble."

"I prefer to believe with Dagaeoga," said the Onondaga. "The canoe
is our ally, and, knowing that we want the warriors to pass us, it
lingers a bit to call them on."

"It may be as you say," said the hunter, "I'm not one to disturb the
faith of anybody. If the canoe is alive, as you think, then--it is
alive and all the better for us."

"Spirits go into the bodies of inanimate things," persisted the
red youth, "and make them alive for a while. All the people of the
Hodenosaunee have known that for centuries."

"The canoe hesitates and beckons again," said Robert, "and, as sure
as we are here, the skies have turned somewhat darker. The warriors in
the fleet or on the shore cannot possibly tell the canoe is empty."

"Again the hand of Manitou is stretched forth to protect us," said
Tayoga devoutly. "It is he who sends the protecting veil, and we shall
be saved."

"We'll have to wait and see whether the warriors stop and search our
island or follow straight after the canoe. Then we'll know," said
Willet.

"They will go on," said Tayoga, with great confidence. "Look at
the canoe. It is not going so fast now. Why? Because it wishes to
tantalize our enemies, to arouse in their minds a belief that they
can overtake it. It behaves as if we were in it, and as if we were
becoming exhausted by our great exertions with the paddles. Its
conduct is just like that of a man who flees for his life. I know,
although I cannot see their eyes, that the pursuing warriors think
they have us now. They believe that our weakness will grow heavier
and heavier upon us until it overpowers us. Tandakora reckons that our
scalps are already hanging at his belt. Thus does Manitou make foolish
those whom he intends to lead away from their dearest wish."

"I begin to think they're really going to leave us, but it's too early
yet to tell definitely," said the hunter. "We shouldn't give them an
earthly chance to see us, and, for that reason, we'd better retreat
into the heart of the island. We mustn't leave all the work of
deception to the canoe."

"The Great Bear is right," said Tayoga. "Manitou will not help those
who sit still, relying wholly on him."

They drew back fifteen or twenty yards, and sat down on a hillock,
covered with dense bushes, though from their place of hiding they
could see the water on all sides. Unless the Indians landed on the
island and made a thorough search they would not be found. Meanwhile
the canoe was faithful to its trust. The strong wind out of the north
carried it on with few moments of hesitation as it poised on breaking
waves, its striking similitude to life never being lost for an
instant. Robert began to believe with Tayoga that it was, in very
fact and truth, alive and endowed with reason. Why not? The Iroquois
believed that spirits could go into wood and who was he to argue that
white men were right, and red men wrong? His life in the forest had
proved to him often that red men were right and white men wrong.

Whoever might be right the canoe was still a tantalizing object to the
pursuit. It may have been due to a slight shift of the wind, but
it began suddenly to have the appearance of dancing upon the waves,
swinging a little to and fro, teetering about, but in the main keeping
its general course, straight ahead.

Tayoga laughed softly.

"The canoe is in a frolicsome mood," he said. "It has sport with the
men of Tandakora. It dances, and it throws jests at them. It says,
'You think you can catch me, but you cannot. Why do you come so
slowly? Why don't you hurry? I am here. See, I wait a little. I do not
go as fast as I can, because I wish to give you a better chance.' Ah,
here comes the fleet!"

"And here comes our supreme test," said Willet gravely. "If they
turn in toward the island then we are lost, and we'll know in five
minutes."

Robert's heart missed a beat or two, and then settled back steadily.
It was one thing to be captured by the French, and another to be taken
by Tandakora. He resolved to fight to the last, rather than fall into
the hands of the Ojibway chief who knew no mercy. Neither of the three
spoke, not even in whispers, as they watched almost with suspended
breath the progress of the fleet. The bonfires had never ceased to
rise and expand. For a long distance the surface of the lake was
lighted up brilliantly. The crests of the waves near them were tipped
with red, as if with blood, and the strong wind moaned like the voice
of evil. Robert felt a chill in his blood. He knew that the fate of
his comrades and himself hung on a hair.

Nearer came the canoes, and, in the glare of the fires, they saw the
occupants distinctly. In the first boat, a large one for those waters,
containing six paddles, sat no less a person than the great Ojibway
chief himself, bare as usual to the waist and painted in many a
hideous design. Gigantic in reality, the gray night and the lurid
light of the fires made him look larger, accentuating every wicked
feature.

He seemed to Robert to be, in both spirit and body, the prince of
darkness himself.

Just behind Tandakora sat two white men whom the three recognized as
Auguste de Courcelles and Francois de Jumonville, the French officers
with whom they had been compelled to reckon on other fields of battle
and intrigue. There was no longer any doubt that the French were
present in this great encircling movement, and Robert was stronger
than ever in his belief that St. Luc had the supreme command.

"I could reach Tandakora from here with a bullet," whispered Willet,
"and almost I am tempted to do it."

"But the Great Bear will not yield to his temptation," Tayoga
whispered back. "There are two reasons. He knows that he could slay
Tandakora, but it would mean the death of us all, and the price is too
great. Then he remembers that the Ojibway chief is mine. It is for me
to settle with him, in the last reckoning."

"Aye, lad, you're right. Either reason is good enough. We'll let him
pass, if pass he means, and I hope devoutly that he does."

The fleet preserving its formation was now almost abreast of the
island, and once Robert thought it was going to turn in toward them.
The long boat of Tandakora wavered and the red giant looked at the
island curiously, but, at the last moment the empty canoe, far ahead
and dim in the dark, beckoned them on more insistently than ever.

"Now the die is cast," whispered the Onondaga tensely. "In twenty
seconds we shall know our fate, and I think the good spirit that has
gone into our canoe means to save us."

Tandakora said something to the French officers, and they too looked
at the island, but the fleeing canoe danced on the crest of a high
wave and its call was potent in the souls of white men and red alike.
It was still too far away for them to tell that it was empty. Sudden
fear assailed them in the darkness, that it would escape and with it
the three who had eluded them so often, and whom they wanted most to
take. Tandakora spoke sharply to the paddlers, who bent to their task
with increased energy. The long canoe leaped forward, and with it the
others.

"Manitou has stretched forth his hand once more, and he has stretched
it between our enemies and us," said Tayoga, in a voice of deep
emotion.

"It's so, lad," said the hunter, his own voice shaking a little. "I
truly believe you're right when you say that as the bird was sent to
save Robert so a good spirit was put into the canoe to save us all.
Who am I and who is anybody to question the religion and beliefs of
another man?"

"Nor will I question them," said Robert, with emphasis.

They were stalwart men in the Indian fleet, skilled and enduring with
the paddle, and the fugitive canoe danced before them, a will o'
the wisp that they must pursue without rest. Their own canoes leaped
forward, and, as the arrow into which they were formed shot past the
island, the three hidden in its heart drew the deep, long breaths of
those who have suddenly passed from death to life.

"We won't stop 'em!" said Robert in a whimsical tone. "Speed ye,
Tandakora, speed ye! Speed ye, De Courcelles and De Jumonville of
treacherous memory! If you don't hasten, the flying canoe will yet
escape you! More power to your arms, O ye paddlers! Bend to your
strokes! The canoe that you pursue is light and it is carried in the
heart of the wind! You have no time to lose, white men and red, if you
would reach the precious prize! The faster you go the better you will
like it! And the better we will, too! On! swift canoes, on!"

"The imagination of Dagaeoga has been kindled again," said Tayoga,
"and the bird with a golden note has gone into his throat. Now he
can talk, and talk much, without ever feeling weariness--as is his
custom."

"At least I have something to talk about," laughed Robert. "I was
never before so glad to see the backs of anybody, as I am now to look
at the backs of those Indians and Frenchmen."

"We won't do anything to stop 'em," said the hunter.

From their hillock they saw the fleet sweep on at a great rate toward
the south, while the fires in the north, no longer necessary to the
Indian plan, began to die. The red tint on the water then faded, and
the surface of the lake became a solemn gray.

"It's well for us those fires sank," said the hunter, "because while
Tandakora has gone on we can't live all the rest of our lives on this
little island. We've got to get to the mainland somehow without being
seen."

"And darkness is our best friend," said Robert.

"So it is, and in their pursuit of the canoe our foes are likely to
relax their vigilance on this part of the lake. Can you see our little
boat now, Robert?"

"Just faintly, and I think it's a last glimpse. I hope the wind behind
it will stay so strong that Tandakora will never overtake it. I should
hate to think that a canoe that has been such a friend to us has been
compelled to serve our enemies. There it goes, leading straight ahead,
and now it's gone! Farewell, brave and loyal canoe! Now what do you
intend to do, Dave?"

"Swim to the mainland as soon as those fires sink a little more.
We have got to decide when the head of a swimming man won't show to
chance warriors in the bushes, and then make a dash for it, because,
if Tandakora overtakes the canoe, he'll be coming back."

"In a quarter of an hour it will be dark enough for us to risk it,"
said the Onondaga.

Again came the thick dusk so necessary to those who flee for life. Two
fires on the high cliffs blazed far in the south, but the light from
them did not reach the island where the three lay, where peril had
grazed them before going on. The water all about them and the nearer
shores lay in shadow.

"The time to go has come," said the hunter. "We'll swim to the western
side and climb through that dip between the high cliffs."

"How far would you say it is?" asked Robert.

"About a half mile."

"Quite a swim even for as good swimmers as we are, when you consider
we have to carry our equipment. Why not launch one of those fallen
trees that lie near the water's edge and make it carry us?"

"A good idea, Robert! A happy thought does come now and then into that
young head of yours."

"Dagaeoga is wiser than he looks," said the Onondaga.

"I wish I could say the same for you, Tayoga," retorted young Lennox.

"Oh, you'll both learn," laughed Willet.

As in the ancient wood everywhere, there were fallen trees on the
island and they rolled a small one about six inches through at the
stem into the lake. They chose it because it had not been down long
and yet had many living branches, some with young leaves on them.

"There is enough foliage left to hide our heads and shoulders," said
Willet. "The tree will serve a double purpose. It's our ship and also
our refuge."

They took off all their clothing and fastened it and the arms,
ammunition and knapsacks of food on the tree. Then, they pushed
off, with a caution from the hunter that they must not allow their
improvised raft to turn in the water, as the wetting of the ammunition
could easily prove fatal.

With a prayer that fortune which had favored them so much thus far
would still prove kind, they struck out.




CHAPTER III

IN THE CLIFF


It was only a half mile to the promised land and Robert expected a
quick and easy voyage, as they were powerful swimmers and could push
the tree before them without trouble.

"When I reach the shore and get well back of the lake," he said to
Tayoga, "I mean to lie down in a thicket and sleep forty-eight hours.
I am entitled now to a rest that long."

"Dagaeoga will sleep when the spirits of earth and air decree it, and
not before," replied the Onondaga gravely. "Can you see anything of
our foes in the south?"

"Not a trace."

"Then your eyes are not as good as mine or you do not use them as
well, because I see a speck on the water blacker than the surface of
the lake, and it is moving."

"Where, Tayoga?"

"Look toward the eastern shore, where the cliff rises tall and almost
straight."

"Ah, I see it now. It _is_ a canoe, and it _is_ moving."

"So it is, Dagaeoga, and it is coming our way. Did I not tell you that
Manitou, no matter how much he favors us, will not help us all the
time? Not even the great and pious Tododaho, when he was on earth,
expected so much. Now I think that after saving you with the bird
and all of us with the empty canoe he means to leave us to our own
strength and courage, and see what we will do."

"And it will be strange, if after being protected so far by a power
greater than our own we can't protect ourselves now," said Willet
gravely.

"The canoe is coming fast," said Tayoga. "I can see it growing on the
water."

"So it is, and I infer from its speed that it has at least four
paddles in it. There's no doubt they are disappointed in not finding
us farther down, and their boat has come back to look for us."

"This is not the only tree uprooted by the wind and afloat on the
lake," said Tayoga, "and now it must be our purpose to make the
warriors think it has come into the water naturally."

Long before the French word "camouflage" was brought into general use
by a titanic war the art of concealment and illusion was practiced
universally by the natives of the North American wilderness. It was in
truth their favorite stratagem in their unending wars, and there was
high praise for those who could use it best.

"Well spoken, Tayoga," said Willet. "Luckily these living branches
hide us, and, as the wind still blows strongly toward the south, we
must let the tree float in that direction."

"And not go toward the mainland!" said Robert.

"Aye, lad, for the present. It's stern necessity. If the warriors in
that canoe saw the tree floating against the wind they'd know
we're here. Trust 'em for that. I think we're about to run another
gauntlet."

The trunk now drifted with the wind, though the three edged it ever so
slightly, but steadily, toward the shore.

Meanwhile the canoe grew and grew, and they saw, as Willet had
surmised, that it contained four paddles. It was evident too that they
were on a quest, as the boat began to veer about, and the four Indians
swept the lake with eager eyes.

The tree drifted on. Farther to the west and near the shore, another
tree was floating in the same manner, and off to the east a third was
beckoning in like fashion. There was nothing in the behavior of the
three trees to indicate that one of them was different from the other
two.

The eyes of the savages passed over them, one after another, but they
saw no human being hidden within their boughs. Yet Robert at least,
when those four pairs of eyes rested on his tree, felt them burning
into his back. It was a positive relief, when they moved on and began
to hunt elsewhere.

"They will yet bring their canoe much closer," whispered Willet. "It's
too much to expect that they will let us go so easily, and we've got
to keep up the illusion quite a while longer. Don't push on the tree.
The wind is dying a little, and our pace must be absolutely the pace
of the breeze. They notice everything and if we were to go too fast
they'd be sure to see it."

They no longer sought to control their floating support, and, as the
wind suddenly sank very much, it hung lazily on the crests of little
waves.

It was a hard test to endure, while the canoe with the four relentless
warriors in it rowed about seeking them. Robert paid all the price of
a vivid and extremely brilliant imagination. While those with such a
temperament look far ahead and have a vision of triumphs to come out
of the distant future, they also see far more clearly the troubles
and dangers that confront them. So their nerves are much more severely
tried than are those of the ordinary and apathetic. Great will power
must come to their relief, and thus it was with Robert. His body
quivered, though not with the cold of the water, but his soul was
steady.

Although the wind sank, which was against them, the darkness
increased, and the fact that two other trees were afloat within
view, was greatly in their favor. It gave them comrades in that lazy
drifting and diverted suspicion.

"If they conclude to make a close examination of our tree, what shall
we do?" whispered Robert.

"We'll be at a great disadvantage in the water," the hunter whispered
back, "but we'll have to get our rifles loose from their lashings and
make a fight of it. I'm hoping it won't come to that."

The canoe approached the tree and then veered away again, as if the
warriors were satisfied with its appearance. Certainly a tree more
innocent in looks never floated on the waves of Lake George.

The three were masters of illusion and deception, and they did not do
a single thing to turn the tree from its natural way of drifting. It
obeyed absolutely the touch of the wind and not that of their hands,
which rested as lightly as down upon the trunk. Once the wind stopped
entirely and the tree had no motion save that of the swell. It
wandered idly, a lone derelict upon a solitary lake.

Robert scarcely breathed when the canoe was sent their way. He was
wholly unconscious of the water in which he was sunk to the shoulders,
but every imaginative nerve was alive to the immense peril.

"If they return and come much nearer we must immerse to the eyes,"
whispered Willet. "Then they would have to be almost upon us before
they saw us. It will make it much harder for us to get at our weapons,
but we must take that risk too."

"They have turned," said Robert, "and here they come!"

It looked this time as if the savages had decided to make a close and
careful inspection of the tree, bearing directly toward it, and coming
so close that Robert could see their fierce, painted faces well and
the muscles rising and falling on their powerful arms as they swept
their paddles through the water. Now, he prayed that the foliage of
the tree would hide them well and he sank his body so deep in the lake
that a little water trickled into his mouth, while only the tips of
his fingers rested on the trunk. The hunter and the Onondaga were
submerged as deeply as he, the upper parts of their faces and their
hair blending with the water. When he saw how little they were
disclosed in the dusk his confidence returned.

The four savages brought the canoe within thirty feet, but the
floating tree kept its secret. Its lazy drift was that of complete
innocence and their eyes could not see the dark heads that merged so
well with the dark trunk. They gazed for a half minute or so, then
brought their canoe about in a half circle and paddled swiftly away
toward the second tree.

"Now Tododaho on his star surely put it in their minds to go away,"
whispered the Onondaga, "and I do not think they will come back
again."

"Even so, we can't yet make haste," said the hunter cautiously. "If
this tree seems to act wrong they'll see it though at a long distance
and come flying down on us."

"The Great Bear is right, as always, but the wind is blowing again,
and we can begin to edge in toward the shore."

"So we can. Now we'll push the tree slowly toward the right. All
together, but be very gentle. Robert, don't let your enthusiasm run
away with you. If we depart much from the course of the wind they'll
be after us again no matter how far away they are now."

"They have finished their examination of the second tree," said Tayoga
in his precise school English, "and now they are going to the third,
which will take them a yet greater distance from us."

"So they are. Fortune is with us."

They no longer felt it necessary to keep submerged to the mouth, but
drew themselves up, resting their elbows on the trunk, floating easily
in the buoyant water. They had carefully avoided turning the tree in
any manner, and their arms, ammunition and packs were dry and safe.
But they had been submerged so long that they were growing cold, and
now that the immediate danger seemed to have been passed they realized
it.

"I like Lake George," said Robert. "It's a glorious lake, a beautiful
lake, a majestic lake, the finest lake I know; but that is no reason
why I should want to live in its waters."

"Dagaeoga is never satisfied," said Tayoga. "He might have been sunk
in some shallow, muddy lake in a flat country, but instead he is
put in this noble one with its beautiful cool waters, and the grand
mountains are all about him."

"But this is the second time I've been immersed in a very short space,
Tayoga, and just now I crave dry land. I can't recall a single hour or
a single moment when I ever wanted it more than I do this instant."

"I'm of a mind with you in that matter, Robert," said the hunter, "and
if all continues to go as well as it's now going, we'll set foot on it
in fifteen minutes. That canoe is close to the third tree, and they've
stopped to look at it. I think we can push a little faster toward the
land. They can't notice our slant at that distance. Aye, that's
right, lads! Now the cliffs are coming much nearer, and they look real
friendly. I see a little cove in there where our good tree can land,
and it won't be hard for us to find our way up the banks, though they
do rise so high. Now, steady! In we go! It's a snug little cove, put
here to receive us. Be cautious how you rise out of the water, lads!
Those fellows see like owls in the dark, and they'd trace us outlined
here against the shore. That's it, Tayoga, you always do the right
thing. We'll crawl out of the lake behind this little screen of
bushes. Now, have you lads got all your baggage loose from the tree?"

"Yes," replied Robert.

"Then we'll let it go."

"It's been a fine tree, a kind tree," said Robert, "and I've no doubt
Tayoga is right when he thinks a good spirit friendly to us has gone
into it."

They pushed it off and saw it float again on the lake, borne on by
the wind. Then they dried their bodies as well as they could in their
haste, and resumed their clothing. The hunter shook his gigantic
frame, and he felt the strength pour back into his muscles and veins,
when he grasped his rifle. It had been his powerful comrade for many
years, and he now stood where he could use it with deadly effect, if
the savages should come.

They rested several minutes, before beginning the climb of the cliff,
and saw a second and then a third canoe coming out of the south,
evidently seeking them.

"They're pretty sure now that we haven't escaped in that direction,"
said Willet, "and they'll be back in full force, looking for us. We
got off the lake just in time."

The cliffs towered over them to a height of nearly two thousand feet,
but they began the ascent up a slanting depression that they had seen
from the lake, well covered with bushes, and they took it at ease,
looking back occasionally to watch the futile hunt of the canoes for
them.

"We're not out of their ring yet," said Willet. "They'll be carrying
on another search for us on top of the cliffs."

"Don't discourage us, Dave," said Robert. "We feel happy now having
escaped one danger, and we won't escape the other until we come to
it."

"Perhaps you're right, lad. We'll enjoy our few minutes of safety
while we can and the sight of those canoes scurrying around the lake,
looking for their lost prey, will help along our merriment."

"That's true," said Robert, "and I think I'll take a glance at them
now just to soothe my soul."

They were about three quarters of the way up the cliff, and the three,
turning at the same time, gazed down at a great height upon the vast
expanse of Lake George. The night had lightened again, a full moon
coming out and hosts of stars sparkling in the heavens. The surface of
the lake gleamed in silver and they distinctly saw the canoes cruising
about in their search for the three. They also saw far in the south
a part of the fleet returning, and Robert breathed a sigh of
thankfulness that they had escaped at last from the water.

They turned back to the top, but the white lad felt a sudden faintness
and had he not clung tightly to a stout young bush he would have gone
crashing down the slope. He quickly recovered himself and sought to
hide his momentary weakness, but the hunter had noticed his stumbling
step and gave him a keen, questing glance. Then he too stopped.

"We've climbed enough," he said. "Robert, you've come to the end of
your rope, for the present. It's a wonder your strength didn't give
out long ago, after all you've been through."

"Oh, I can go on! I'm not tired at all!" exclaimed the youth
valiantly.

"The Great Bear tells the truth, Dagaeoga," said the Onondaga, looking
at him with sympathy, "and you cannot hide it from us. We will seek a
covert here."

Robert knew that any further effort to conceal his sudden exhaustion
would be in vain. The collapse was too complete, but he had nothing to
be ashamed of, as he had gone through far more than Willet and Tayoga,
and he had reached the limit of human endurance.

"Well, yes, I am tired," he admitted. "But as we're hanging on the
side of a cliff about fifteen hundred feet above the water I don't see
any nice comfortable inn, with big white beds in it, waiting for us."

"Stay where you are, Dagaeoga," said the Onondaga. "We will not try
the summit to-night, but I may find some sort of an alcove in the
cliff, a few feet of fairly level space, where we can rest."

Robert sank down by the friendly bush, with his back against a great
uplift of stone, while Willet stood on a narrow shelf, supporting
himself against a young evergreen. Tayoga disappeared silently upward.

The painful contraction in the chest of the lad grew easier, and black
specks that had come before his eyes floated away. He returned to
a firm land of reality, but he knew that his strength was not yet
sufficient to permit of their going on. Tayoga came back in about ten
minutes.

"I have found it," he said in his precise school English. "It is not
much, but about three hundred feet from the top of the cliff is a
slight hollow that will give support for our bodies. There we may lie
down and Dagaeoga can sleep his weariness away."

"Camping securely between our enemies above and our enemies below,"
said Robert, his vivid imagination leaping up again. "It appeals to
me to be so near them and yet well hidden, especially as we've left no
trail on this rocky precipice that they can follow."

"It would help me a lot if they were not so close," laughed the
hunter. "I don't need your contrasts, Robert, to make me rest. I'd
like it better if they were a hundred miles away instead of only a
few hundred yards. But lead on, Tayoga, and we'll say what we think of
this inn of yours when we see it."

The hollow was not so bad, an indentation in the stone, extending
back perhaps three feet, and almost hidden by dwarfed evergreens and
climbing vines. It was not visible twenty feet above or below, and it
would have escaped any eye less keen than that of the Onondaga.

"You've done well, Tayoga," said Willet. "There are better inns in
Albany and New York, but it's a pretty good place to be found in the
side of a cliff fifteen hundred feet above the water."

"We'll be snug enough here."

They crawled into the hollow, matted the vines carefully in front of
them to guard against a slip or an incautious step, and then the three
lay back against the wall, feeling an immense relief. While not so
worn as Robert, the bones and muscles of Willet and Tayoga also were
calling out for rest.

"I'm glad I'm here," said the hunter, and the others were forced to
laugh at his intense earnestness.

Robert sank against the wall of the cliff, and he felt an immense
peace. The arching stone over his head, and the dwarfed evergreens
pushing themselves up where the least bit of soil was to be found,
shut out the view before them, but it was as truly an inn to him at
that moment as any he had ever entered. He closed his eyes in content
and every nerve and muscle relaxed.

"Since you've shut down your lids, lad, keep 'em down," said the
hunter. "Sleep will do you more good now than anything else."

But Robert quickly opened his eyes again.

"No," he said, "I think I'll eat first."

Willet laughed.

"I might have known that you would remember your appetite," he said.
"But it's not a bad idea. We'll all have a late supper."

They had venison and cold hominy from their knapsacks, and they ate
with sharp appetites.

Then Robert let his lids fall again and in a few minutes was off to
slumberland.

"Now you follow him, Tayoga," said Willet, "and I'll watch."

"But remember to awake me for my turn," said the Onondaga.

"You can rely upon me," said the hunter.

The disciplined mind of Tayoga knew how to compel sleep, and on this
occasion it was needful for him to exert his will. In an incredibly
brief time he was pursuing Robert through the gates of sleep to the
blessed land of slumber that lay beyond, and the hunter was left alone
on watch.

Willet, despite his long life in the woods, was a man of cultivation
and refinement. He knew and liked the culture of the cities in its
highest sense. His youth had not been spent in the North American
wilderness. He had tasted the life of London and Paris, and long use
and practice had not blunted his mind to the extraordinary contrasts
between forest and town.

He appreciated now to the full their singular situation, practically
hanging on the side of a mighty cliff, with cruel enemies seeking them
below and equally cruel enemies waiting for them above.

The crevice in which they lay was little more than a dent in the stone
wall. If either of the lads moved a foot and the evergreens failed to
hold him he would go spinning a quarter of a mile straight down to the
lake. The hunter looked anxiously in the dusk at the slender barrier,
but he judged that it would be sufficient to stop any unconscious
movement. Then he glanced at Robert and Tayoga and he was reassured.
They were so tired and sleep had claimed them so completely that they
lay like the dead. Neither stirred a particle, but in the silence the
hunter heard their regular breathing.

The years had not made Willet a skeptic. While he did not accept
unquestioningly all the beliefs of Tayoga, neither did he wholly
reject them. It might well be true that earth, air, trees and other
objects were inhabited by spirits good or bad. At least it was a
pleasing belief and he had no proof that it was not true. Certainly,
it seemed as if some great protection had been given to his comrades
and himself in the last day or two. He looked up through the evergreen
veil at the peaceful stars, and gave thanks and gratitude.

The night continued to lighten. New constellations swam into the
heavenly blue, and the surface of the lake as far as eye could range
was a waving mass of molten silver. The portion of the Indian fleet
that had come back from the south was passing. It was almost precisely
opposite the covert now and not more than three hundred yards from the
base of the cliff. The light was so good that Willet distinctly saw
the paddlers at work and the other warriors sitting upright. It was
not possible to read eyes at such a distance, but he imagined what
they expressed and the thought pleased him. As Robert had predicted,
the snugness of their hiding place with savages above and savages
below heightened his feeling of comfort and safety. He was in sight
and yet unseen. They would never think of the three hanging there in
the side of the cliff. He laughed softly, under his breath, and he had
never laughed with more satisfaction.

He tried to pick out Tandakora, judging that his immense size would
disclose him, but the chief was not there. Evidently he was with the
other part of the fleet and was continuing the vain search in the
south. He laughed again and with the same satisfaction when he thought
of the Ojibway's rage because the hated three had slipped once more
through his fingers.

"An Ojibway has no business here in the province of New York, anyway,"
he murmured. "His place is out by the Great Lakes."

The canoes passed on, and, after a while, nothing was to be seen on
the waves of Lake George. Even the drifting trees, including the one
that had served them so well, had gone out of sight. The lake only
expressed peace. It was as it might have been in the dawn of time with
the passings of no human beings to vex its surface.

Something stirred in the bushes near the hunter. An eagle, with great
spread of wing, rose from a nest and sailed far out over the silvery
waters. Willet surmised that the nearness of the three had disturbed
it, and he was sorry. He had a kindly feeling toward birds and beasts
just then, and he did not wish to drive even an eagle from his home.
He hoped that it would come back, and, after a while, it did so,
settling upon its nest, which could not have been more than fifty
yards away, where its mate had remained unmoving while the other went
abroad to hunt.

There was no further sign of life from the people of the wilderness,
and Willet sat silent a long time. Dawn came, intense and brilliant.
He had hoped the day would be cloudy, and he would have welcomed rain,
despite its discomfort, but the sun was in its greatest splendor, and
the air was absolutely translucent. The lake and the mountains sprang
out, sharp and clear. Far to the south the hunter saw a smudge upon
the water which he knew to be Indian canoes. They were miles away, but
it was evident that the French and Indians still held the lake, and
there was no escape for the three by water. There had been some idea
in Willet's mind of returning along the foot of the cliffs to their
own little boat, but the brilliant day and the Indian presence
compelled him to put it away.

The sun, huge, red and scintillating, swung clear of the mighty
mountains, and the waters that had been silver in the first morning
light turned to burning gold. In the shining day far came near and
objects close by grew to twice their size. To attempt to pass the
warriors in such a light would be like walking on an open plain,
thought the hunter, and, always quick to decide, he took his
resolution.

It was characteristic of David Willet that no matter what the
situation he always made the best of it. His mind was a remarkable
mingling of vigor, penetration and adaptability. If one had to wait,
well, one had to wait and there was nothing else in it. He sank down
in the little cove in the cliff and rested his back against the stony
wall. He, Robert and Tayoga filled it, and his moccasined feet touched
the dwarfed shrubs which made the thin green curtain before the
opening. He realized more fully now in the intense light of a
brilliant day what a slender shelf it was. Any one of them might have
pitched from it to a sure death below. He was glad that the white lad
and the red lad had been so tired that they lay like the dead. Their
positions were exactly the same as when they sank to sleep. They had
not stirred an inch in the night, and there was no sign now that
they intended to awake any time soon. If they had gone to the land of
dreams, they were finding it a pleasant country and they were in no
hurry to return from it.

The giant hunter smiled. He had promised the Onondaga to awaken him at
dawn, and he knew that Robert expected as much, but he would not keep
his promise. He would let nature hold sway; when it chose to awaken
them it could, and meanwhile he would do nothing. He moved just a
little to make himself more comfortable and reclined patiently.

Willet was intensely grateful for the little curtain of evergreens.
Without it the sharp eyes of the warriors could detect them even in
the side of the lofty cliff. Only a few bushes stood between them and
torture and death, but they stood there just the same. Time passed
slowly, and the morning remained as brilliant as ever. He paid little
attention to what was passing on the lake, but he listened with all
the power of his hearing for anything that might happen on the cliff
above them. He knew that the warriors were far from giving up the
chase, and he expected a sign there. About two hours after sunrise it
came. He heard the cry of a wolf, and then a like cry replying, but
he knew that the sounds came from the throats of warriors. He pressed
himself a little harder against the stony wall, and looked at his two
young comrades. Their souls still wandered in the pleasant land of
dreams and their bodies took no interest in what was occurring here.
They did not stir.

In four or five minutes the two cries were repeated much nearer
and the hunter fairly concentrated all his powers into the organ of
hearing. Faint voices, only whispers, floated down to him, and he
knew that the warriors were ranging along the cliff just above them.
Leaning forward cautiously, he peeped above the veil of evergreens,
and saw two dark faces gazing over the edge of the precipice. A brief
look was enough, then he drew back and waited.




CHAPTER IV

THE DARING ATTEMPT


Willet knew from their paint that the faces looking down were those of
Huron warriors, but he was quite sure they had not seen anything,
and that the men would soon pass on. It was impossible even for the
sharpest eyes to pick out the three behind the evergreen screen.
Nevertheless he put his rifle forward, ready for an instant shot, if
needed, but remained absolutely still, waiting for them to make the
next move.

His sensitive hearing brought down the faint voices again and once
or twice the light crush of footsteps. Evidently, the warriors were
moving slowly along the edge of the cliff, talking as they went,
and the hunter surmised that the three were the subject of their
attention. He imagined their chagrin at the way in which the chase had
vanished, and he laughed softly to think that he and the lads lay so
near their enemies, but invisible and so well hidden.

The voices became fainter and died away, the soft crush of footsteps
came no more, and the world returned to all the seeming of peace,
without any trace of cruelty in it; but Willet was not lured by such
an easy promise into any rash act. He knew the savages would come
again, and that unbroken vigilance was the price of life. Once more he
settled himself into the easiest position and watched. He had all the
patience of the Indians themselves, to whom time mattered little, and
since sitting there was the best thing to be done he was content to
sit there.

Robert and Tayoga slept on. The morning was far gone, but they still
rambled happily in the land of dreams, and showed no signs of a wish
to return to earth. Willet thought it better that they should sleep
on, because youthful bodies demanded it, and because the delay which
would be hard for Robert especially would thus pass more easily. He
was willing for them to stay longer in the far, happy land that they
were visiting.

The sun slowly climbed the eastern arch of the heavens. The day lost
none of its intense, vivid quality. The waters of the lake glowed in
wonderful changing colors, now gold, now silver, and then purple or
blue. Willet even in those hours of anxiety did not forget to steep
his soul in the beauty of Lake George. His life was cast amid great
and continuous dangers, and he had no family that he could call his
own. Yet he had those whom he loved, and if he were to choose over
again the land in which to live he would choose this very majestic
land in which he now sat. As human life went, the great hunter was
happy.

The sound of a shot, and then of a second, came from the cliff
above. He heard no cry following them, no note of the war whoop, and,
thinking it over, he concluded that the shots were fired by Indians
hunting. Since the war, game about the lake had increased greatly, and
the warriors, whether attached to the French army or roving at their
own will, relied chiefly upon the forest for food. But the reports
were significant. The Indian ring about them was not broken, and he
measured their own supplies of venison and hominy.

A little after noon Tayoga awoke, and he awoke in the Indian fashion,
without the noise of incautious movements or sudden words, but
stepping at once from complete sleep to complete consciousness. Every
faculty in him was alive.

"I have slept long, Great Bear, and it is late," he said.

"But not too late, Tayoga. There's nothing for us to do."

"Then the warriors are still above!"

"I heard two shots a little while ago. I think they came from
hunters."

"It is almost certainly so, Great Bear, since there is nothing in this
region for them to shoot at save ourselves, and no bullets have landed
near us."

"Yours has been a peaceful sleep. Robert too is now coming out of his
great slumber."

The white lad stirred and murmured a little as he awoke. His reentry
into the world of fact was not quite as frictionless as that of his
Indian comrade.

"Do not fall down the cliff while you stretch yourself, Dagaeoga,"
said the Onondaga.

"I won't, Tayoga. I've no wish to reach the lake in such fashion. I
see by the sun that it's late. What happened while I slept?"

"Two great attacks by Tandakora and his men were beaten off by the
Great Bear and myself. As we felt ourselves a match for them we did
not consider it necessary to awaken you."

"But of course if you had been pushed a bit harder you would have
called upon me. I'm glad you've concluded to use me for tipping the
scales of a doubtful combat. To enter at the most strenuous moment is
what I'm fitted for best."

"And if your weapons are not sufficient, Dagaeoga, you can make a
speech to them and talk them to death."

The hunter smiled. He hoped the boys would always be willing to jest
with each other in this manner. It was good to have high spirits in a
crisis.

"Take a little venison and hominy, lads," he said, "because I think
we're going to spend some time in this most spacious and hospitable
inn of ours."

They ate and then were thirsty, but they had no water, although it
floated peacefully in millions of gallons below.

"We're dry, but I think we're going to be much dryer," said Willet.

"We must go down one by one in the night for water," said Tayoga.

"We are to reckon on a long stay, then!" said Robert.

"Yes," said Willet, "and we might as well make ourselves at home. It's
a great climb down, but we'll have to do it."

"If I could get up and walk about it would be easier," said Robert. "I
think my muscles are growing a bit stiff from disuse."

"The descent for water to-night will loosen them up," said Willet
philosophically.

It was a tremendously long afternoon, one of the longest that Robert
ever spent, and his position grew cramped and difficult. He found some
relief now and then in stretching his muscles, but there was nothing
to assuage the intense thirst that assailed all three. Robert's throat
and mouth were dry and burning, and he looked longingly at the lake
that shimmered and gleamed below them. The waters, sparkling in their
brilliant and changing colors, were cool and inviting. They bade him
come, and his throat grew hotter and hotter, but he would make no
complaint. He must endure it in silence all the afternoon, and all the
next day too, if they should be held there.

Late in the afternoon they heard shots again, but they were quite sure
that the reports, as before, were due to Indian hunters. Rogers with
rangers might be somewhere in the region of the lakes, but they did
not think he was anywhere near them. If a skirmish was occurring on
the cliff they would hear the shouts of the combatants.

"The warriors will have a feast to-night," said Tayoga.

"And they will have plenty of water to drink," said Robert ruefully.
"You remember that time when we were on the peak, and we found the
spring in the slope?"

"But there is no spring here," said Tayoga. "We know that because we
came up the cliff. There is no water for us this side of the lake."

The afternoon, long as it was, ended at last. The intense burning
sunlight faded, and the cool, grateful shadows came. The three stirred
in the niche, and Robert felt a little relief. But his throat and
mouth were still dry and hard, and they pained him whenever he talked.
Yet they forced themselves to eat a scant supper, although the food
increased their thirst, but they knew that without it their strength
would decrease, and they expected to obtain water in the dark.

The twilight passed, night came, but they waited with infinite
patience refusing to move too soon, despite their great thirst.
Instead, Tayoga suggested that he go to the crest of the cliff and
see if there was a possible way out for them in that direction. Willet
agreed, and the Onondaga crept up, without sound, disappearing in a
few seconds among the short bushes that hung in the face of the cliff.

Tayoga was a trailer of surpassing skill, and he reached the top
without rustling a bush or sending a single pebble rolling. Then he
peered cautiously over the rim and beheld a great fire burning not
more than a hundred yards away. Thirty or forty warriors were sitting
around it, eating. He did not see Tandakora among them, but he
surmised, that it was an allied band and that the Ojibway was not far
off.

The feast that the three had expected was in full progress. The hunt
had been successful, and the Indians, with their usual appetites, were
enjoying the results. They broiled or roasted great pieces of deer
over the coals, and then devoured them to the last shred. But Tayoga
saw that while the majority were absorbed in their pleasant task, a
half dozen sentinels, their line extending on either side of the camp,
kept vigilant watch. It would be impossible for the three to pass
there. They would have to go down to the lake for water, and then hide
in their niche.

Tayoga was about to turn back from the cliff, when he heard a shout
that he knew was full of significance. He understood the meaning of
every cry and he translated it at once into a note of triumph. It
sounded like the whoop over the taking of a scalp or the capture of a
prisoner, and his curiosity was aroused. Something had happened, and
he was resolved to see what it was.

Several of the warriors by the fire replied to the whoop, and then it
came again, nearer but with exactly the same note, that of triumph.
The Onondaga flattened his body against the earth, and drew himself a
little higher. In the dusk, his black eyes glowed with interest, but
he knew that his curiosity would soon be gratified. Those who had sent
forth the cry were swiftly approaching the camp.

Four warriors came through the undergrowth and they were pushing a
figure before them. It was that of a man in a bedraggled and torn red
uniform, his hands tied behind him, and all the color gone from his
face. Powerful as was his self-control, Tayoga uttered a low cry of
surprise. It was the young Englishman, Grosvenor, a prisoner of the
hostile warriors, and in a most desperate case.

The Onondaga wondered how he had been taken, but whatever the way, he
was in the hands of enemies who knew little mercy.

The warriors around the fire uttered a universal yell of triumph when
they saw the captain, and many of them ran forward to meet Grosvenor,
whirling their tomahawks and knives in his face, and dancing about as
if mad with joy. It was a truly ferocious scene, the like of which was
witnessed thousands of times in the great North American forests, and
Tayoga, softened by long contact with high types of white men, felt
pity. The light from the great fire fell directly on Grosvenor's face
and showed its pallor. It was evident that he was weary through and
through, but he tried to hold himself erect and he did not flinch when
the sharp blades flashed close to his face. But Tayoga knew that his
feelings had become blunted. Only the trained forest runner could keep
steady in the face of such threats.

When they came near the fire, one of the warriors gave Grosvenor a
push, and he fell amid cruel laughter. But he struggled to his feet
again, stood a few minutes, and then sank down on a little hillock,
where his captors left him alone for the present. Tayoga watched him
thoughtfully. He knew that his presence in the Indian camp complicated
their own situation. Robert would never hear of going away without an
attempt at rescue and Tayoga's own good heart moved him to the same
course. Yet it would be almost impossible to take the young Englishman
from the center of the Indian camp.

Tayoga knew too what grief his news would cause to young Lennox,
between whom and Grosvenor a great friendship had been formed. For
the matter of that, both the Onondaga and the hunter also were very
partial to the Englishman.

The warriors presently untied Grosvenor's hands and gave him some
food. The captive ate a little--he had no appetite for more--and then
tried to smooth out his hair and his clothing and to make himself more
presentable. He also straightened his worn figure, and sat more erect.
Tayoga gave silent approval. Here was a man! He might be a prisoner,
and be in a most desperate plight, but he would present the best
possible face to his foes. It was exactly what an Onondaga or a Mohawk
warrior would do, and the young Englishman, though he knew little of
the forest, was living up to its traditions.

"If he has to die," reflected Tayoga, "he will die well. If his people
hear that he has gone they will have no cause to be ashamed of the way
in which he went. Here is the making of a great white warrior."

The Onondaga knew that Robert and Willet were now expecting him back,
but his interest in Grosvenor kept him a while longer, watching at the
cliff's rim. He thought it likely that Tandakora might come, and
he had not long to wait. The huge Ojibway came striding through the
bushes and into the circle of the firelight, his body bare as usual
save for breech cloth, leggins and moccasins, and painted with the
hideous devices so dear to the savage heart.

The warriors received him with deference, indicating clearly to Tayoga
that they were under his authority, but without making any reply to
their salutation he strode up to the prisoner, and, folding his arms
across his mighty breast, regarded him, smiling cruelly. The Onondaga
did not see the smile, but he knew it was there. The man would not be
Tandakora if it were not. In that savage heart, the chivalry that so
often marked the Indians of the higher type found no place.

Grosvenor, worn to the bone and dazed by the extraordinary and fearful
situation in which he found himself, nevertheless straightened up
anew, and gave back defiantly the stare of the gigantic and sinister
figure that confronted him. Then Tayoga saw Tandakora raise his hand
and strike the young Englishman a heavy blow in the face. Grosvenor
fell, but sprang up instantly and rushed at the Ojibway, only to find
himself before the point of a knife.

The young officer stood still a few minutes, then turned with dignity
and sat down once more. Tayoga knew and appreciated his feelings. He
had suffered exactly the same humiliation from Tandakora himself, and
he meant, with all his soul, that some day the debt should be paid
in full. Now in a vicarious way he took upon himself Grosvenor's debt
also. The prisoner did not have experience in the woods, his great
merits lay elsewhere, but he was the friend of Robert, therefore of
Tayoga, and the Onondaga felt it only right that he should pay for
both.

Tandakora sat down, a warrior handed him a huge piece of deer meat,
and he began to eat. All the others, interrupted for a few minutes by
the arrival of the chief, resumed the same pleasant occupation. Tayoga
deciding that he had seen enough, began to climb down with great care.
The descent was harder than the ascent, but he reached the niche,
without noise, and the sight of him was very welcome to Robert and the
hunter who had begun to worry over his absence, which was much longer
than they had expected.

"Did you see the warriors, Tayoga?" asked young Lennox.

"I saw them, Dagaeoga. They are at the top of the cliff, only two or
three hundred yards away; they have a good fire, and they are eating
the game they killed in the day."

"And there is no chance for us to pass?"

"None to-night, Dagaeoga. Nor would we pass if we could."

"Why not? I see no reason for our staying here save that we have to do
it."

"One is there, Dagaeoga, whom we cannot leave a prisoner in their
hands."

"Who? It's not Black Rifle! Nor Rogers, the ranger! They would never
let themselves be taken!"

"No, Dagaeoga, it is neither of those. But while I watched at the
cliff's rim I saw the warriors bring in that young Englishman,
Grosvenor, whom you know and like so well."

"What! Grosvenor! What could he have been doing in this forest!"

"That, I know not, Dagaeoga, save that he has been getting himself
captured; how, I know not either, but I saw him brought in a prisoner.
Tandakora came, while I watched, and smote the captive heavily in the
face with his hand. That debt I take upon myself, in addition to my
own."

"You will pay both, Tayoga, and with interest," said the hunter with
conviction. "But you were right when you assumed that we could not
go away and leave Grosvenor a prisoner in their hands. Because we're
here, and because you saw him, your Manitou has laid upon us the duty
of saving him."

Robert's face glowed in the dusk.

"We're bound to see it that way," he said. "We'd be disgraced forever
with ourselves, if we went away and left him. Now, how are we to do
it?"

"I don't know how yet," replied the Onondaga, "but we must first go
down to the water. We've forgotten our thirst in the news I bring, but
it will soon be on us again, fiercer and more burning than ever. And
we must have all our strength for the great task before us."

"I think it's better for all three of us to go down to the lake at
once," said Willet. "If anything happens we'll be together, and we are
stronger against danger, united than separated. I'll lead the way."

It was a long and slow descent, every step taken with minute care, and
as they approached the lake Robert found that his thirst was up and
leaping.

"I feel that I could drink the whole lake dry," he said.

"Do not do that, Dagaeoga," said Tayoga in his precise way. "Lake
George is too beautiful to be lost."

"We might swim across it," said Willet, looking at the silvery surface
of the water unbroken by the dark line of any canoe. "A way has opened
to us here, but we can't follow it now."

Robert knelt at the margin, and took a little drink first, letting the
cool water moisten his mouth and throat before he swallowed it. How
grateful it was! How wonderfully refreshing! One must almost perish
with thirst before he knew the enormous value of water. And when it
was found, one must know how to drink it right. He took a second and
somewhat larger drink. Then, waiting a while, he drank freely and as
much as he wanted. Strength, courage, optimism flowed back into his
veins. As they came down the cliff he had not seen any way to rescue
Grosvenor, nor did he see it now, but he knew that they would do it.
His restored body and mind would not admit the possibility of failure.

They remained nearly an hour in the shadow of the bushes at the
water's edge, and then began the slow and painful ascent to the niche,
which they reached without mishap. Another half hour there, and,
having examined well their arms, they climbed to the cliff's rim,
where they looked over, and Robert obtained his first view of the
Indian camp.

The feasting was over, the fires had sunk far down, and most of the
warriors were asleep, but Tandakora himself sat with his arms across
his chest, glowering into the coals, and a line of sentinels was set.
A red gleam from his uniform showed where Grosvenor, leaning against
a log, had fallen at last into a happy slumber, in which his desperate
case was forgotten for the time.

"I confess that I don't know how to do it, still it must be done,"
whispered the hunter.

"Yes, it must be done," the Onondaga whispered back. "We must steal
our friend out of the hands of his enemies. Neither do I know how to
do it, but perhaps Tododaho will tell me. See, there is his star!"

He pointed to a great star dancing in the sky, a star with a light
mist across its face, which he knew to be the wise snakes that lay
coil on coil in the hair of the Onondaga sage who had gone away
four hundred years ago to his place in the heavens, and prayed for a
thought, a happy thought that would tell him the way. In a moment, his
mind was in a state of high spiritual exaltation. An electric current
seemed to pass from the remote star to him. He shut his eyes, and
his face became rapt. In a few minutes, he opened them again and said
quietly:

"I think, Great Bear, that Tododaho has told us how to proceed. You
and Dagaeoga must draw off the warriors, and then I will take Red Coat
from those that may be left behind."

"It's mighty risky."

"Since when, Great Bear, have we been turned aside by risks! Besides,
there is no other way."

"It seems that I can't think of any other."

Tayoga unfolded his plan. Robert and Willet must steal along the edge
of the cliff and seek to pass to the north of the line of sentinels.
If not detected, they would purposely cause an alarm, and, as a
consequence, draw off the main portion of the band. Then it was their
duty to see to it that they were not taken. Meanwhile Tayoga in the
excitement and confusion was to secure the release of Grosvenor, and
they would flee southward to the mouth of a small creek, in the lake,
where Robert and Willet, after making a great turn, were to join them.

"It's complicated and it's a desperate chance," said Willet
thoughtfully, "but I don't see anything else to do. Besides, we have
got to act quickly. Being on the war-path, they won't hold him long,
and you know the kind of death Tandakora will serve out to him."

Robert shuddered. He knew too well, and knowing so well he was ready
to risk his life to save his friend.

"I think," said Tayoga, "that we had better wait until it is about two
hours after midnight. Then the minds and bodies of the warriors will
be at their dullest, and we will have the best chance."

"Right, Tayoga," said the hunter. "We'll have to use every trifle
that's in our favor. Can you see Tandakora from here?"

"He is leaning against the big tree, asleep."

"I'm glad of that. He may be a bit confused when he awakes suddenly
and rushes off after us, full tilt, with nearly all the warriors. If
only two guards are left with the prisoner, Tayoga, you can dispose of
'em."

"Fortune may favor us."

"Provided we use our wits and strength to the utmost."

"That provision must always be made, Great Bear."

Using what patience they could, they remained at the edge of the
cliff, crouched there, until they judged it was about two o'clock
in the morning, the night being then at its darkest. Tandakora still
slept against his tree, and the fires were almost out. The red gleam
from the uniform of Grosvenor could no longer be seen, but Robert
had marked well the place where he sat, and he knew that the young
Englishman was there, sleeping the sleep of utter exhaustion.
Everything was still and peaceful.

"After all, we could escape through their lines, now," whispered
Robert.

"So it turns out," said the hunter.

"But it looks as if we were held back in order that we might save
Grosvenor."

"That too may be true."

"It is time to go," said Tayoga. "Farewell, Great Bear! Farewell,
Dagaeoga! May we meet at the mouth of the creek as we have planned,
and may we be four who meet there and not three!"

"May all the stars fight for us," said Robert with emotion, and then
he and Willet moved away among the bushes, leaving Tayoga alone at
the cliff's rim. Young Lennox knew that theirs was a most perilous
venture. Had he given himself time to think about it he would have
seen that the chances were about ten to one against its success, but
he resolutely closed his mind against that phase of it and insisted
upon hope. His was the spirit that leads to success in the face of
overwhelming odds.

Willet was first, and Robert was close behind.

Neither looked back, but they knew that Tayoga would not move, until
the alarm was given, and they could flee away with the pursuit hot
upon their heels. Young Lennox saw again that they could now have
slipped through the Indian lines, but the thought of deserting
Grosvenor never entered his mind. It seemed though as if all the
elements of nature were conspiring to facilitate the flight of the
hunter and himself. The sentinels, whose dusky figures they were yet
able to see, moved sleepily up and down. No dead wood that would break
with a snap thrust itself before their feet. The wilderness opened a
way for them.

"I think a warrior or two may be watching in the forest to the north
of us," whispered Willet, "but we'll go through the line there. See
that fellow standing under the tree, about a hundred yards to the
south. He's the one to give the alarm."

But circumstances still favored them. Nature was peaceful. When they
wished for the first time in their lives that their flight should
be detected, nothing happened, and the vigilance of the warriors who
usually watched so well seemed to be relaxed. Robert was conscious
that they were passing unseen and unheard between the sentinel on the
north and the sentinel on the south.

Two hundred yards farther on, and the hunter brought his moccasin
sharply down upon a dead stick which broke with a sharp snap, a sound
that penetrated far in the still night. Robert, glancing back, saw
the sentinel on the south stiffen to attention and then utter a cry of
alarm, a shout sufficient to awaken any one of the sleeping Indians.
It was given back in an instant by several voices from the camp, and
then the hunter and the youth sprang to their task.

"Now we're to run as we've never run before," exclaimed Willet. "But
we must let 'em think they're going to catch us."

First, sending back a tremendous shout of defiance that he knew would
enrage Tandakora's men to the utmost, he raced with long swift steps
through the forest, and Robert was always close on his heels. The
yells of the Indians behind them, who pushed forward in pursuit, were
succeeded by silence, and Robert knew they now were running for their
lives. Luckily, they were coming into a country with which the hunter
had some acquaintance, and, turning a little to the south, he led the
way into a ravine down which they took a swift course. After a mile or
so he stopped, and the two rested their lungs and muscles.

"They can't see our trail to-night," said the hunter, "and they'll
have to depend on eye and ear, but they'll stick to the chase for a
long time. I've no doubt they think all three of us are here, and that
they may take us in one haul. Ready to start on again, Robert?"

"My breath is all right now, and I'll run a race with anybody. You
don't think they've lost us, do you?"

"Not likely, but in case they have I'll tell 'em where we are."

He uttered a shout so piercing that it made Robert jump. Then he led
again at a great pace down the ravine, and a single cry behind
them showed that the pursuit was coming. As nearly as Robert could
calculate, the warriors were about three hundred yards away. He
could not see them, but he was sure they would hang on as long as the
slightest chance was left to overtake Willet and himself.

They fled in silence at least another mile, and then, feeling their
breath grow difficult again, they stopped a second time, still in the
ravine and among thick bushes.

"Our flight may be a joke on them, as we intend to draw them after
us," said Robert, "but constant running turns it into a joke on us
too. I've done so much of this sort of thing in the last few days that
I feel as if I were spending my life, dodging here and there in the
forest, trying to escape warriors."

Willet laughed dryly.

"It's not the sort of life for a growing youth," he said, "but you'll
have to live it for a while. Remember our task. If they lose our trail
it's our business to make 'em find it again. Here's another challenge
to 'em."

He shouted once more, a long, defiant war cry, much like that of the
warriors themselves, and then he and Robert resumed their flight,
leaving the ravine presently, and taking a sharper course toward the
south.

"I think we'd have lost 'em back there if it hadn't been for that
whoop of mine," said Willet.

"Perhaps it's about time to lose them," said Robert hopefully. "The
sooner we do it the happier I'll feel."

"Not yet, Robert, my lad. We must give Tayoga all the time he needs
for the work he's trying to do. After all, his task is the main one,
and the most dangerous. I think we can slow up a bit here. We have to
save our breath."

They dropped down to a walk, and took another deep curve toward the
south, and now also to the east. Their present course, if persisted
in, would bring them back to the lake. The night was still dark, but
their trained eyes had grown so used to it that they could see very
well in the dusk. Both were looking back and at the same time they saw
a shadowy figure appear in the forest behind them. Robert knew that it
was the vanguard of the pursuit which was drawing uncomfortably close,
at least for him. A shout from the warriors was followed by a shot,
and a bullet cut its way through the leaves near them.

"I think we ought to give 'em a hint that they come too close, at
their peril," said Willet, and raising his own rifle he sent back an
answering shot which did not go astray. The first warrior fell, and
others who had come forward in the undergrowth gave back for the time.

"They'll take the hint," said the hunter, "and now we'll increase our
speed."

He reloaded, as they ran, and a little later Robert sent a bullet that
struck the mark. Once more the warriors shrank back for the time,
and the hunter and lad, using their utmost speed, fled toward the
southwest at such a great rate that the pursuit, at length, was left
behind and finally was lost. Day found their foes out of sight, and
two or three hours later they came to the mouth of the creek, where
they were to meet Tayoga, in case he succeeded.

"And now the rest is in other hands than ours," said Willet.

Forcing themselves to assume a patience they could scarcely feel, they
sat down to wait.




CHAPTER V

TAYOGA'S SKILL


They still had food left in their knapsacks, and they ate a portion,
drinking afterward from the creek. Then they resumed their places
in the dense undergrowth, where they could watch well and yet remain
hidden. They could also see from where they lay the shimmering waters
of Andiatarocte, and the lake seemed to be once more at peace. They
felt satisfaction that they had completed their part of the great
enterprise, but their anxiety nevertheless was intense. As Willet had
truly said, Tayoga's share was the more dangerous and delicate by far.

"Do you think he will come?" Robert asked after a long silence.

"If any human being could come under such circumstances and bring
Grosvenor with him, it is Tayoga," replied the hunter. "I think
sometimes that the Onondaga is superhuman in the forest."

"Then he will come," said Robert hopefully.

"Best not place our hopes too high. The hours alone will tell. It's
hard work waiting, but that's our task."

The morning drew on. Another beautiful day had dawned, but Robert
scarcely noticed its character. He was thinking with all his soul of
Tayoga and Grosvenor. Would they come? Willet was able to read his
mind. He was intensely anxious himself, but he knew that the strain
of waiting upon Robert, with his youthful and imaginative mind, was
greater. He was bound to be suffering cruelly.

"We must give them time," he said. "Remember that Grosvenor is not
used to the woods, and can't go through them as fast as we can. We
must have confidence too. We both know what a wonder Tayoga is."

Robert sprang suddenly to his feet.

"What was that!" he exclaimed.

A sound had come out of the north, just a breath, but it was not the
wind among the leaves, nor yet the distant song of a bird. It was the
faint howl of a wolf, and yet Robert believed that it was not a wolf
that made it.

"Did you hear it?" he repeated.

"Aye, lad, I heard it," replied the hunter. "'Tis a signal, and 'tis
Tayoga too who comes. But whether he comes alone, or with a friend, I
know not. To tell that we must bide here and see."

"Should not we send our answer?"

"Nay, lad. He knows where we are. This is the appointed place, and the
fewer signals we give the less likely the enemy is to get a hint we're
here. I don't think we will hear from Tayoga again until he shows in
person."

Robert said no more, knowing full well the truth of the hunter's
words, but his heart was beating hard, and he stirred nervously. He
had been drawn strongly to Grosvenor, and he knew what a horrible fate
awaited him at the hands of Tandakora, unless the Onondaga saved
him. Nor would there be another chance for interruption by Tayoga or
anybody else. But the minutes passed and he took courage. Tayoga
had not yet come. If alone he would have arrived by this time. His
slowness must be due to the fact that he had Grosvenor with him. More
minutes passed and he heard steps in the undergrowth. Now he was sure.
Tayoga was not alone. His moccasins never left any sound. He stood
up expectant, and two figures appeared among the bushes. They were
Tayoga, calm, his breath unhurried, a faint smile in his dark eyes,
and Grosvenor, exhausted, reeling, his clothing worse torn than ever,
but the light of hope on his face. Robert uttered a cry of joy and
grasped the young Englishman's hand.

"Thank God, you are here!" he exclaimed.

"I thank God and I thank this wonderful young Indian too," panted
Grosvenor. "It was a miracle! I had given up hope when he dropped from
the skies and saved me!"

"Sit down and get your breath, man," said Willet. "Then you can tell
us about it."

Grosvenor sank upon the ground, and did not speak again until the
pain in his laboring chest was gone. Tayoga leaned against a tree, and
Robert noticed then that he carried an extra rifle and ammunition. The
Onondaga thought of everything. Willet filled his cap with water at
the creek, and brought it to Grosvenor, who drank long and deeply.

"Tastes good!" said the hunter, smiling.

"Like nectar," said the Englishman, "but it's nectar to me too to see
both of you, Mr. Willet and Mr. Lennox. I don't understand yet how it
happened. It's really and truly a miracle."

"A miracle mostly of Tayoga's working," said the hunter.

"I thought the end of everything for me had come," said Grosvenor,
"and I was only praying that it might not be harder for me than I
could stand, when the alarm was heard in the forest, and nearly all
the Indians ran off in pursuit of something or other. Only two were
left with me. There was a shot from the woods, one of them fell, this
wonderful friend of yours appeared from the forest, wounded the other,
who took to his heels, then we started running in the other direction,
and here we are. It's a marvel and I don't yet see how it was done."

"Tayoga's marvelous knowledge of the woods, his skill and his
quickness made the greater part of the miracle," said the hunter, "and
you see too, Lieutenant Grosvenor, that he even had the forethought
to bring away with him the rifle and ammunition of the fallen warrior,
that you might have arms now that you are strong enough to bear them
again."

Tayoga without a word handed him the rifle and ammunition, and
Grosvenor felt strength flowing back into his body when he took them.

"Could you eat a bite?" asked Willet.

"I think I could now," replied the Englishman, "although I'll confess
I've had no appetite up to the present. My situation didn't permit
hunger."

Willet handed him a piece of venison and he ate. Meanwhile Tayoga, who
seemed to feel no weariness, and the others were watching. In a short
time the hunter announced that it was time to go.

"We can't afford to delay here any longer and have 'em overtake us!"
he said. "We're out of the ring now, and it's our affair to keep out.
Lieutenant Grosvenor, you can tell us as we go along how you happened
to be the prisoner of Tandakora."

"It needs only a few words," said the Englishman as they took their
way southward through the woods. "I was at Albany with a body of
troops, a vanguard for the force that we mean to march against the
French at Ticonderoga. I was sent northward with ten men to scour
the country, and in the woods we were set upon suddenly by savage
warriors. My troopers were either killed or scattered, and I was
taken. That was yesterday morning. Since then I have been hurried
through the forest, I know not where, and I have had a most appalling
experience. As I have said before, I'd long since given up hope for a
miracle like the one that has saved me. What a horrible creature that
giant Indian was!"

"Tandakora is all that you think him and more. He's been hunting us
too, and when he comes back to his camp he'll be after us all four
again. So, that's why we hurry."

"You're in no bigger hurry than I am," said Grosvenor with attempt at
a smile. "If I could find the seven-league boots I'd put them on."

Tayoga once more led the way, and he examined the forest on all sides
with eyes that saw everything.

Robert and Willet were greatly refreshed by their rest at the creek,
and the promise of life that had been made again so wonderfully put
new strength in Grosvenor's frame. So they were able to travel at a
good pace, though the three listened continually for any sound that
might indicate pursuit.

Yet as the morning progressed there was no hostile sign and their
confidence rose.

Robert hoped most devoutly that they would soon come within the region
of friends. While the French and Indians held the whole length of Lake
Champlain and it was believed Montcalm would fortify somewhere
near Ticonderoga, yet Lake George was debatable. It was generally
considered within the British and American sphere, although they were
having ample proof that fierce bands of the enemy roved about it at
will.

Aside from the danger there was another reason why he wished so
earnestly for escape from this tenacious pursuit. They were seeing
the bottoms of their knapsacks. One could not live on air and mountain
lakes alone, however splendid they might be, and, although the
wilderness usually furnished food to three such capable hunters,
they could not seek game while Tandakora and his savage warriors were
seeking them. So, their problem was, in a sense, economic, and could
not be fought with weapons only.

At a signal from Willet, who observed that Grosvenor was somewhat
tired, they sank their pace to a slow walk, and in about three hours
stopped entirely, sitting down on fallen timber which had been heaped
in a windrow by a passing hurricane. They were still in dense forest
and had borne away somewhat from Andiatarocte, but, through the
foliage, they caught glimpses of the lake rippling peacefully in
silver and blue and purple.

"Once more I want to thank you fellows for saving me," said Grosvenor.

"Don't mention it again," said the hunter. "In the wilderness we have
to save one another now and then, or none of us would live. Your turn
to rescue us may come before you think."

"I know nothing of the forest. I feel helpless here."

"Just the same, you don't know what weapon Tayoga's Manitou may place
in your hands. The border brings strange and unexpected chances. But
our present crisis is not over. We're not saved yet, and we can't
afford to relax our efforts a particle. What is it, Tayoga?"

The Onondaga, rising from the fallen tree, had gone about twenty yards
into the forest, where he was examining the ground, obviously with
great concentration of both eye and mind. He waited at least a minute
before replying. Then he said:

"Our friend, the lone ranger, Black Rifle, has passed here."

"How can you know that?" asked Grosvenor in surprise.

"Come and look at his traces," said Tayoga. "See where he has written
his name in the earth; that is, he has left what you would call in
Europe his visiting card."

Grosvenor looked attentively at the ground, but he saw only a very
faint impression, and he never would have noticed that had not the
Onondaga pointed it out to him.

"It might have been left by a deer," he objected.

"Impossible," said Tayoga. "The entire imprint is not made, but there
is enough to indicate very clearly that a human foot and nothing
else pressed there. Here is another trace, although lighter, and here
another and another. The trail leads southward."

"But granting it to be that of a man," Grosvenor again objected, "it
might be that of any one of the thousands who roam the wilderness."

The great red trailer who had inherited the forest lore of countless
generations smiled.

"It is not any one of the thousands and it could not be," he said. "It
is easy to tell that. The footsteps are those of a white man, because
they turn out, and not in, as do ours of the red race. That is very
easy; even Dagaeoga here, the great talker, knows it. The footsteps
are far apart, so we are sure that they are those of a tall man; the
imprints are deep, proving them to have been made by a heavy man, and
at the outer edge of the heel the impression is deeper than on the
inner edge. I noticed, when we last saw Black Rifle, which was not
long ago, that he wore moccasins of moose hide, that he had turned
them outward a little, through wear, and that a small strip of the
hardest moose hide had been sewed on the right edge of each heel in
order to keep them level. Those strips have made their marks here."

"Somebody else might have put strips of hide on his moccasin heels!"

"It is so, but Black Rifle is tall and large and heavy, and we know
that the man who made this trail is tall, large and heavy. The chances
are a hundred to one against the fact that any other man tall, large
and heavy with moose hide strips to even the wear of his moccasin
heels has passed here, especially as this is within the range of Black
Rifle. I know that it is he as truly as I know that I am standing
here."

"Of course," said Robert, who had never felt the slightest doubt of
Tayoga's knowledge. "What was Black Rifle doing?"

"He was looking for St. Luc or Tandakora, because his trail does not
lead straight on. See! here it comes, and here again. If Black Rifle
had been on a journey he would have gone straight, but he is seeking
something and so he turns about. Ah, he wishes to see if there are
any canoes visible on the lake, for lo! the trail now leads toward
the water! Here he found that none was to be seen and here he rested.
Black Rifle had been long on his feet, two days and two nights
perhaps, because it takes much to make him weary. He sat on this log.
He left a strand from the fringe of his buckskin hunting shirt, caught
on a splinter. Do you not see it, Lieutenant Grosvenor?"

"Now that you hold it up before my eyes I notice it But I should never
have found it in the wilderness." "Minute observation is what every
trailer has to learn," said Willet, "else you are no trailer at all,
and you'll learn, Lieutenant, while you are with us, that Tayoga is
probably the greatest trailer the world has ever produced."

"Peace, Great Bear! Peace!" protested the Onondaga.

"It's so, just the same. Now, what did Black Rifle do after he rested
himself on the log?"

"He went back farther into the woods, turning away from the lake,"
replied Tayoga, "and he sat down again on another fallen log. Black
Rifle was hungry, and he ate. Here is the small bone of a deer,
picked quite clean, lying on the ground by the log. Black Rifle was a
fortunate man. He had bread, too. See, here is a crumb in this crack
in the log too deep down for any bird to reach with his bill. Black
Rifle sat here quite a long time. He was thinking hard. He did not
need so much time for resting. He remained sitting on the log while he
was trying to decide what he would do. It is likely that Black Rifle
thought a great force was behind him, and he turned back to see. Had
he kept straight on toward the south, as he was going at first, he
would not have needed so much time for thinking over his plans. Ah, he
has turned! Lo! his trail goes almost directly back on his own course.
It will lead to the top of the hillock there, because he wants to see
far, and I think that after seeing he will turn again, and follow his
original course."

"Why do you think that?" asked Grosvenor.

"Because, O Red Coat, it is likely that Black Rifle knew from the
first which way he wanted to go and went that way. He has merely
turned back, like a wise general, to scout a little, and see that no
danger comes from the rear. Yes, he stood here on the hillock from
which we can get a good view over the country, and walked to every
side of the crest to find where the best view could be obtained. That,
Red Coat, is the simplest of all things. Behold the traces of his
moccasins as he walked from side to side. Nothing else could have made
Black Rifle move about so much in the space of a few square yards. Now
he leaves the hillock and goes down its side toward a low valley in
which runs a brook. Black Rifle is thirsty and will drink deep."

"That you can't possibly know, Tayoga."

"But I do know it, Red Coat."

"You don't even know a brook is near."

"I know it, because I have seen it. My eyes are trained to the forest,
and I caught the gleam of running water through the leaves to the
west. Running water, of course, means a brook. Black Rifle's trail now
leads toward it, and I assume that he was thirsty because he had just
eaten well. We are nearly always thirsty after eating. But we shall
see whether I am right. Here is the brook, and there are the faint
traces made by Black Rifle's knees, when he knelt to reach the water.
He started away, but found that he was still thirsty, so he came back
and drank again. Here are his footprints about a yard from the others.
This time, he will go back toward the south, and I think it is sure
that he is looking for St. Luc, who must have gone in that direction
with a strong force, Tandakora having stayed behind to take us. It is
likely that Black Rifle went on, because a great British and American
army is gathering below, which fact he knows well, and it is probable
that Black Rifle follows St. Luc, because he will hunt the biggest
game."

Grosvenor's eyes sparkled.

"I understand," he said. "It is a great art, that of trailing through
the wilderness, and I can see how circumstances compel you to learn
it."

"We have to learn it to live," said the hunter gravely, "but with
Tayoga it is an art carried to the highest degree of perfection. He
was born with a gift for it, a very great gift. He inherited all the
learning accumulated by a thousand years of ancestors, and then he
added to it by his own supreme efforts."

"Do not believe all that Great Bear tells you," said Tayoga modestly.
"For unknown reasons he is partial to me, and enlarges my small
merits."

"I think this would be a good place for all of you to wait, while
I went back on the trail a piece," said the hunter. "If Black Rifle
found it necessary to cover the rear, it's a much more urgent duty for
us who know that we've been followed by Tandakora to do the same."

"The Great Bear is always wise," said Tayoga. "We will take our ease
while we await him."

He flung himself down on the turf and relaxed his figure completely.
He had learned long since to make the most of every passing minute,
and, seeing Robert imitate him exactly, Grosvenor did likewise. The
hunter had disappeared already in the bushes and the three lay in
silence.

Grosvenor felt an immense peace. Brave as a young lion, he had been
overwhelmed nevertheless by his appalling experiences, and his sudden
rescue where rescue seemed impossible had taken him back to the
heights. Now, it seemed to him that the three, and especially the
Onondaga, could do everything. Tayoga's skill as a trailer and scout
was so marvelous that no enemy could come anywhere near without
his knowledge. The young Englishman felt that he was defended by
impassable walls, and he was so free from apprehension that his nerves
became absolutely quiet. Then worn nature took its toll, and his
eyelids drooped. Before he was aware that he was sleepy he was asleep.

"You might do as Red Coat has done, Dagaeoga," said Tayoga. "I can
watch for us all, and it is wise in the forest to take sleep when we
can."

"I'll try," said Robert, and he tried so successfully that in a few
minutes he too slumbered, with his figure outstretched, and his head
on his arm. Tayoga made a circle about three hundred yards in diameter
about them, but finding no hostile sign came back and lay on the turf
near them. He relaxed his figure again and closed his eyes, which may
have seemed strange but which was not so in the case of Tayoga. His
hearing was extraordinarily acute, and, when his eyes were shut, it
grew much stronger than ever. Now he knew that no warrior could come
within rifle shot of them without his ears telling him of the savage
approach. Every creeping footstep would be registered upon that
delicate drum.

With eyes shut and brain rested, Tayoga nevertheless knew all that was
going on near him. That eardrum of infinite delicacy told him that a
woodpecker was tapping on a tree, well toward the north; that a little
gray bird almost as far to the south was singing with great vigor and
sweetness; that a rabbit was hopping about in the undergrowth,
curious and yet fearful; that an eagle with a faint whirr of wings
had alighted on a bough, and was looking at the three; that the eagle
thinking they might be dangerous had unfolded his wings again and was
flying away; that a deer passing to the west had caught a whiff
of them on the wind and was running with all speed in the other
direction; that a lynx had climbed a tree, and, after staring at them,
had climbed down again, and had fled, his coward heart filled with
terror.

Thus Tayoga, with his ears, watched his world. He too, his eyelids
lowered, felt a peace that was soothing and almost dreamy, but, though
his body relaxed, those wonderfully sensitive drums of his ears caught
and registered everything. The record showed that for nearly two hours
the life of the wilderness went on as usual, the ordinary work and
play of animal and bird, and then the drums told him that man was
coming. A footstep was registered very clearly, and then another and
another, but Tayoga did not open his eyes. He knew who was coming as
well as if he had seen him. The drums of his ears made signals that
his mind recognized at once. He had long known the faint sound of
those footsteps. Willet was coming back.

Tayoga, through the faculty of hearing, was aware of much more than
the mere fact that the hunter was returning. He knew that Willet had
found nothing, that the pursuit was still far away and that they were
in no immediate danger. He knew it by his easy, regular walk, free
from either haste or lagging delay. He knew it by the straight, direct
line he took for the three young men, devoid of any stops or turnings
aside to watch and listen. Willet's course was without care.

Tayoga opened his eyes, and lazily regarded the giant figure of his
friend now in full view. Robert and Grosvenor slept on. "I am glad,"
said the Onondaga.

It was significant of the way in which they understood each other and
the way they could read the signs of the forest that they could talk
almost without words.

"So am I," said the hunter, "but I had hoped for it."

"Since it is so, we need not awaken them just yet."

"No, let them sleep another hour."

Tayoga meant that he was glad the enemy had not approached and Willet
replied that he had hoped for such good luck. No further explanation
was needed.

"You had the heaviest part of the burden to carry, last night," said
the hunter, "so it would be wise for you to join them if you can, in
the hour that's left. See if you can't follow them, at once."

"I think I can," said Tayoga. "At least I will try."

In five minutes he too had gone to the land of dreams and the hunter
watched alone. Willet, although weary, was in high spirits. They had
come marvelously through many perils, and Tayoga's achievement in
rescuing Grosvenor, he repeated to himself, was well nigh miraculous.
After such startling luck they could not fail, and an omen of
continued good fortune was the fact they had encountered the trail of
Black Rifle. He would be a powerful addition to their little force,
when found, and Willet did not doubt that they would overtake him. The
only problem that really worried him now was that of food. Small
as was their army of four, it had to be provisioned, and, for the
present, he did not see the way to do it.

He let the three sleep overtime, and when they awoke they were
grateful to him for it.

"I am quite made over," said Grosvenor, "and I think that if I stay in
the wilderness long enough I may learn to be a scout too. But as all
my life has been spent in quite different kinds of country, I suppose
it will take a hundred years to give me a good start."

Tayoga smiled.

"Not a hundred years," he said. "Red Coat has begun very well."

"And now with a lot of good solid food I'll feel equal to any march,"
continued Grosvenor. "Most Englishmen, you know, eat well."

Tayoga looked at Robert, who looked at Willet, who in his turn looked
at the Onondaga.

"That's just what we'll have to do without," said the hunter gravely.
"The bottoms of our knapsacks are looking up at us. We'll have a
splendid chance to see how long we can do without food. One needs such
a test now and then."

Grosvenor's face fell, but his was the true mettle. In an instant his
countenance became cheerful again.

"I'm not hungry!" he exclaimed. "It was the delusion of a moment, and
it passed as quickly as it came. I suffer from such brief spells."

The others laughed.

"That's the right spirit," said Willet, "and while we have nothing to
eat we have lots of hope. I've been hungrier than this often, and,
as you see, I've never starved to death a single time. There's always
lots of food somewhere in the wilderness, if you only know how to put
your hand on it."

"I think it is now best for us to follow on the trail of Black Rifle,"
said Tayoga.

"That's so," responded the hunter. "It's grown a lot colder, while
you lads slept, though I think you can follow it without any trouble,
Tayoga."

The red lad said nothing, but at once picked up the traces, which now
led south, slanting back a little toward the lake.

"Black Rifle was going fast," he said. "His stride lengthens. He must
have divined where St. Luc with his force lay, and he took a direct
course for it. Ah, he turns suddenly aside and walks to and fro."

"That's curious," said the hunter. "I see the footprints all about.
What did Black Rifle mean by moving about in such a manner?"

"It is not odd at all," said Tayoga. "Doubtless Black Rifle was
suffering from the same lack that we are, and it was necessary for him
to provision his army of one at once. He suddenly saw a chance to do
so and he turned aside from his direct journey toward the south. So we
shall soon see where Black Rifle shot his bear."

"And why not a deer?" said Grosvenor.

"Because his trail now leads toward that deep thicket on our right, a
thicket made up of bushes and vines and briars. A deer could not have
gone into it, but a bear could, and we know now it was a bear, because
here are its tracks. Black Rifle killed the bear in the thicket."

"Are you sure of that, Tayoga?" asked Robert.

"Absolutely sure, Dagaeoga. It is in this case a matter of mind and
not of eye. Black Rifle is too good a hunter to fire a useless shot,
and too experienced to miss his game, when he needs it so badly. He
would take every precaution for success. My mind tells me that it was
impossible for him to miss."

"And he didn't miss," said Robert, as they entered the thicket. "See
where the vines and briars were threshed about by the bear as he fell.
Here are spots of blood, and here goes the path along which he dragged
the body. All this is as plain as day."

"It was a fat bear too," said Tayoga. "Although it is early spring he
had found so many good roots and berries that he had more than made
up for the loss of weight in his long winter fast. We will soon find
where Black Rifle cleaned his prize. A bear is too heavy to carry far.
Ah, he did his work just beyond us in the little valley!"

"How do you know that?" asked Grosvenor. "We can't yet see into the
valley."

The great red trailer smiled.

"This time, O Red Coat," he replied, "it is a combination of mind and
eye. Mind tells me that Black Rifle could not clean and dress his bear
unless he got it to water. Mind tells me that a brook is flowing in
the valley just ahead of us, because there is scarcely a valley in the
country that does not have its brook. Eye tells me that Black Rifle
finished his task by the great oak there. Do you not see the huge
buzzards flying above the tree? They are conclusive. Ah, the forest
people gathered fast in numbers! They expected that Black Rifle would
leave them a great feast."

They found a little brook of clear, cold water and, beside it, the
place where Black Rifle had cleaned his bear, reserving afterward the
choice portion for himself.

"When he went on," said Tayoga, "the forest people made a rush for
what he did not want, which was much. Great birds came. We cannot see
their trail through the air, but we can see where they hopped about
here on the ground, tore at the flesh, and fought with one another for
the spoil. A lynx came, and then another, and then wolves. The weasel
and the mink too hung on the outskirts, waiting for what the bigger
animals might leave. Among them they left nothing and they were not
long in the task."

Only shining bones lay on the ground. They had been picked clean and
all the forest people had gone after their brief banquet. The trails
led away in different directions, but that of Black Rifle went on
toward the south. The traces, however, were more distinct than they
had been before he stopped for the bear.

"It is because he is carrying much weight," said Tayoga. "Black Rifle
no longer skips along like a youth, as Red Coat here does."

"You can have all the sport with me you wish," said Grosvenor. "I
don't forget that you saved my life, when by all the rules of logic it
was lost beyond the hope of recovery."

"Black Rifle would not eat so much bear meat himself," said Tayoga,
"nor would he carry such a burden, without good cause. It may be that
he expects us. He has perhaps heard that we are in this region."

"It's possible," said the hunter.

Full of eagerness, they pressed forward on the trail.




CHAPTER VI

BLACK RIFLE


They had been following the trail about half an hour, when Tayoga
noticed that it was growing deeper.

"Ah," he said, "Black Rifle now walks much more slowly, so slow that
he barely creeps, and his feet press down harder. I think he is going
to make another stop."

"Maybe he intends to cook a part of that fat bear," said Grosvenor,
struggling hard, though, to keep all trace of envy out of his voice.
"You said a while back that he was going to kill the bear, because he
was hungry, and it seems to me that he would be a very foolish man, if
having got his bear, he didn't make use of any portion of it."

Tayoga laughed with sincere enjoyment.

"Red Coat reasons well," he said. "If a man is eager to eat, and he
has that which he can eat, then he would be a silly man if he did not
eat. Red Coat has all the makings of a trailer. In a few more yards,
Black Rifle will stop and cook himself a splendid dinner. Here he put
his bear meat upon this log. The red stains show it. Then he picked up
dead and fallen wood, and broke it into the right length over the log.
You can see where he broke places in the bark at the same time. Then
he heaped them all in the little hollow, where he has left the pile
of ashes. But, before he lighted a fire, with his flint and steel,
he made a wide circle all about to see if any enemy might be near. We
knew he would do that because Black Rifle is a very cautious man, but
his trail proves it to any one who wishes to look. Then, satisfied, he
came back, and started the flame. But he kept the blaze very low lest
a prowling foe see it. When the bed of coals was fanned he cooked
large portions of the bear and ate, because Black Rifle was hungry,
ah, so hungry! and the bear was very savory and pleasing to his
palate!"

"Stop, Tayoga, stop!" exclaimed Grosvenor, "I can't stand such
torture! You'll make me starve to death where I stand."

"But as you are about to become a warrior of the woods, Red Coat,"
said the Onondaga gravely, "you must learn to endure. Among us a
warrior will purposely put the fire to his hand or his breast and hold
it there until the flesh smokes. Nor will he utter a groan or even
wince. And all his people will applaud him and call him brave."

Grosvenor shuddered. He did not see the lurking gleam of humor in the
eye of Tayoga.

"I don't need to pretend for the sake of practice that I am starving,"
he said. "I'm starving in fact and I do it without the need of
applause."

"But Black Rifle was enjoying himself greatly," continued the
Onondaga, "and we can rejoice in the joys of a friend. If we have not
a thing ourselves it is pleasant to know that somebody else had it.
He used his opportunities to the utmost. Here are more bones which
he threw away, with shreds of flesh yet on them, and which the forest
people came to pick clean. Lo, their tracks are everywhere about Black
Rifle's little camp. One of them became so persistent and bold--a wolf
it was--that Black Rifle, not willing to shoot, seized a large stone,
and threw it at him with great violence. There lies the stone at the
edge of the wood, and as there is fresh earth on its under surface it
was partly imbedded in the ground where Black Rifle snatched it up.
There, just beyond your right foot, Red Coat, is a little depression,
the place in the earth, from which he tore it. Black Rifle's aim was
good too. He struck the wolf. At the foot of the bank there are
red stains where several drops of blood fell. The wolf was full of
mortification, pain and anger, when he ran away. He would never have
been so bold and venturesome, if his hunger had not made him forget
his prudence. He was as hungry as you are this minute, Red Coat."

"I suppose you are giving me preliminary practice in torture, Tayoga.
Well, go on with it, old fellow. I'll try to stand it."

"No, that is enough as a beginning. We will follow the trail of Black
Rifle again. After he had eaten so well he was so much refreshed that
he will start again with a vigorous and strong step. Lo, it is as I
said! He is taking a long stride, but I do not think he is walking
fast. His pace is very slow. It may be that there is something in what
Dagaeoga says. It is possible that Black Rifle is waiting for those
who will not be unwelcome to him."

Robert was quite able to fathom what was passing in the brain of
the Onondaga. He saw that the trail was growing quite fresh, and his
spirits became buoyant.

"And Red Coat is hungry," said Tayoga, that lurking gleam of humor in
his eye growing larger. "Let him remember that however he may suffer
from lack of food he can suffer yet more. It is wonderful what the
body can endure and yet live. Here Black Rifle stopped and rested on
these stones, perhaps an hour. No, Red Coat, there are no signs to
show it, but the trail on the other side is much fresher, which proves
it. It is quite clear now that Black Rifle is waiting. He is not
running away from anybody or anything. Ah! Red Coat, if we only had
some of his precious bear steaks how welcome to us they would be!"

"Go on, Tayoga. As I told you, I'd try to stand it."

"That is well, Red Coat. But it is not enough merely to wish for Black
Rifle's bear steaks. We will have a portion of them ourselves."

"Now, Tayoga, your talk sounds a little wild to me."

"But listen, Red Coat."

The Onondaga suddenly put his fingers to his lips, and blew a shrill
whistle that penetrated far in the forest. In a few instants, the
answer, another whistle, came back from a point a few hundred yards
ahead, and Tayoga said quietly:

"Red Coat, Black Rifle is waiting for us. We will now go forward and
he will give us our dinner."

They advanced without hesitation and the figure of the dark hunter
rose up to meet them. His face showed pleasure, as he extended his
hand first to Willet.

"Dave, old comrade," he said, "the sight of you in the forest is
always a pleasure to the eye. I thought you'd be coming with the lads,
and I've been making ready for you. I knew that Tayoga, the greatest
trailer the world has ever known, would be sure to strike my traces,
and that he'd read them like print. And here's Robert too, a fine boy,
if I do say it to his face, and Lieutenant Grosvenor. You mayn't know
me, Lieutenant, though I recall you, and I can tell you you're mighty
lucky to fall into the hands of these three."

"I think so too," said Grosvenor earnestly.

"Red Coat is happy to see you," said Tayoga, "but he will be happier
to see your bear."

"The Lieutenant is hungry," said Black Rifle. "Then come; there is
enough for all."

"What made you wait for us?" asked Robert.

"You know how I roam the woods, doing as I please and under nobody's
command. I found that Tandakora was by the lake with warriors and
that St. Luc was not far away. Tandakora's men seemed to be trailing
somebody, and hiding in the bushes, I spied on them. I was near enough
to hear two warriors talking and I learned that it was you they were
following. Then, coming on ahead, I left a trail for you to see. And
I've got plenty of bear steaks already cooked for you."

"God bless you, Mr. Black Rifle," said Grosvenor fervently.

"Amen!" said Robert.

Black Rifle showed them his lair among dense bushes, and, after they
had satisfied their hunger, the bear, divided in equal portions among
all, was stored away in their knapsacks, Grosvenor luckily having
retained his own as the Indians had not deprived him of it. They now
had food enough for several days, and one great source of anxiety was
removed.

"What had you found, Black Rifle?" asked Willet.

"St. Luc has a big force. He's throwing a sort of veil before
Montcalm, while the Marquis fortifies to meet the attack of the
British and Americans that all know is coming. Perhaps the Lieutenant
can tell us most about that force!"

"It's to be a great one," said Grosvenor.

"And we'll go through to Quebec!" said Robert, his eyes flashing,
his imagination at once alive. "We'll put out forever the fire that's
always burning in the north and give our border peace."

"Easy, lads, easy!" said Willet. "A thing's never done until it's
done. I feel pretty sure we'll do it, but we'll reckon with present
difficulties first. It seems to me it's our duty now to follow St.
Luc, and see what he means to do with his force. It's hard on you,
Lieutenant, because you'll have to stay with us. You can't go back to
Albany just yet."

Grosvenor glanced around at the unbroken forest. "I'm resigned," he
said. "After that wonderful escape I'm ready for anything. I see that
this is my great chance to become a scout, and I'll do the best I
can."

"I take it," said Black Rifle, "that the main object of St. Luc is to
clear the forest of all our scouts and skirmishers in order that we
may be kept in complete ignorance of Montcalm's movements. We'll show
him that he can't do it. You have not forgotten any of your skill,
have you, Tayoga?"

"So far from forgetting any of it he's acquired more," said Willet,
answering for the Onondaga. "When it comes to trailing that boy just
breathes it in. He adds some new tricks every day. But I think we'd
better lie by, the rest of to-day, and to-night, don't you, Black
Rifle? We don't want to wear out our lads at the start."

"Well spoken, Dave," responded Black Rifle. "It's a camp in the
enemy's country we'll have to make with the warriors all about us, but
we must take the risk. We'd better go to the next brook and walk up it
a long distance. It's the oldest of all tricks to hide your trail, but
it is still the best."

They found the brook only a few hundred yards farther on, and
extended their walk along its pebbly bed fully a mile and a half as a
precaution, keeping to their wading until they could emerge on rocky
ground, where they left no trail.

"It will be only chance now that will bring them down on us," said
Willet. "Do you think, Lieutenant, that after such a long walk you
could manage another bear steak?"

"If the company will join me!" replied Grosvenor. "I don't wish to
show bad manners."

"I'll join you," said Willet, speaking for the others, "and I think
we'll make a brief camp on that wooded hill there."

"Why on a hill, Mr. Willet? Why not in a hollow where it seems to me
we would be better hidden?"

"Because, besides hiding ourselves, we want to see, and you can see
better from a height than from a valley. In the bushes there we'll
have a view all about us, and I don't think our enemies can come
too near, unseen by us. When we get into the thicket on the hill,
Lieutenant, you can resume that pleasant nap that you did not finish.
Eight or ten hours more of sleep will be just the thing for you."

"All of you sleep a while," said Black Rifle. "I'll guard. I'm fresh.
But be sure you walk on the stones. We must leave no trace."

They found a fairly comfortable place in the thicket and soon all were
asleep except Black Rifle, who sat with his rifle between his knees,
and from his covert scanned the forest on all sides.

Black Rifle felt satisfaction. He was pleased to be with the friends
for whom he cared most. An historical figure, solitary, aloof, he was
a vivid personality, yet scarcely anything was known about him. His
right name even had disappeared, and, to the border, far and near he
was just Black Rifle, or Black Jack, a great scout and a terror to the
Indians. In his way, he was fond of Willet, Tayoga and young Lennox,
and he felt also that he would like Grosvenor when he knew him better.
So, while they slept, he watched with a vigilance that nobody save
Tayoga could surpass.

Black Rifle saw the life of the forest go on undisturbed. The birds on
the boughs went about their business, and the little animals worked
or played as usual in the bushes. Everything said to him that no enemy
was near, and his own five senses confirmed it. The afternoon passed,
and, about twilight, Tayoga awoke, but the others slept on.

"Sleep now, Black Rifle," said the Onondaga. "I will take up the
watch."

"I don't feel like closing my eyes just yet, Tayoga," replied the
scout, "and I'll sit a while with you. Nothing has happened. Tandakora
has not been able to find our trail."

"But he will hunt long for it, Black Rifle. When my race hates it
hates well. Tandakora feels his grudge against us. He has tried to do
us much harm and he is grieved because we have not fallen before him.
He blames us for it."

"I know he does. Did you hear something walking in the thicket at the
bottom of the hill?"

"It is only a bear. Perhaps he is looking for a good place in which to
pass the night, but he will go much farther away."

"Why, Tayoga?"

"Because the wind is shifting about a little, and, in another minute,
it will take him a whiff of the human odor. Then he will run away, and
run fast. Now he is running."

"I don't hear him, Tayoga, but I take it that you know what you are
saying is true."

"My ears are uncommonly keen, Black Rifle. It is no merit of mine that
they are so. Why should a man talk about a gift from Manitou, when it
really is the work of Manitou? Ah, the bear is going toward the south
and he is well frightened because he never stops to look back, nor
does he hesitate! Now he is gone and he will not come back again!"

Black Rifle glanced at the Onondaga in the dusk, and his eyes were
full of admiration.

"You have wonderful gifts, Tayoga," he said. "I don't believe such
eyes and ears as yours are to be found in the head of any other man."

"But, as I have just told you, Black Rifle, however good they may
be the credit belongs to Manitou and not to me. I am but a poor
instrument."

"Still you find 'em useful, and the exercise of such powers must yield
a certain pleasure. They're particularly valuable just now, as I'm
thinking we'll have an eventful night."

"I think so too, Black Rifle. With the warriors and the French so near
us it is not likely that it could pass in peace."

"At any rate, Dave and the lads are not worrying about it. I never saw
anybody sleep more soundly. I reckon they were pretty well worn out."

"So they were, and, unless danger comes very close, we will not awaken
them. That it will be near us soon I do not doubt because Tododaho
warns me that peril is at hand."

He was looking up at the star on which his patron saint sat and his
face had that rapt expression which it always wore when his spirit
leaped into the void to meet that of the great Onondaga chief who
had gone away four hundred years ago. Black Rifle regarded him with
respect. He too was steeped in Indian lore and belief, and, if Tayoga
said he saw and heard what others could not hear or see, then he saw
and heard them and that was all there was to it.

"What do you see, Tayoga?" he asked.

"Tododaho sits on his star with the wise snakes, coil on coil in
his hair, and the great Mohawk, Hayowentha, who is inferior only to
Tododaho, speaks to him from his own star across infinite space. They
are talking of us, but it comes only as a whisper, like the dying
voice of a distant wind, and I cannot understand their words. But both
the great warriors look down warningly at us. They tell us to beware,
that we are threatened by a great peril. I can read their faces. But
a mist is passing in the heavens. The star of the Mohawk fades. Lo,
it is gone! And now the vapors gather before the face of Tododaho too.
Lo, he also has gone, and there are only clouds and mists in the far
heavens! But the great chiefs, from their stars, have told us to watch
and to watch well."

"I believe you! I believe every word you say, Tayoga," exclaimed Black
Rifle, in a tone of awe. "The mist is coming down here too. I think
it's floating in from the lake. It will be all over the thickets soon.
I reckon that the danger threatening us is from the warriors, and
if we are in a veil of fog we'll have to rely on our ears. I'm not
bragging when I say that mine are pretty good, but yours are better."

Tayoga did not reply. He knew that the compliment was true, but, as
before, he ascribed the credit to Manitou because he had made the gift
and not to himself who was merely an involuntary agent. The mist and
vapors were increasing, drifting toward them in clouds from the lake,
a vanguard of shreds and patches, already floating over the bushes in
which they lay. It was evident that soon they would not be able to see
five yards from there.

In ten minutes the mist became a fog, white and thick. The sleeping
three were almost hidden, although they were at the feet of the
watchers, and the two saw each other but dimly. They seemed to be in
a tiny island with a white ocean circling about them. The Onondaga lay
flat and put his ear to the earth.

"What do you hear, Tayoga?" whispered the scout.

"Nothing yet, Black Rifle, but the usual whispers of the wilderness, a
little wind among the trees and a distant and uneasy deer walking."

"Why should a deer be walking about at this time, and why should he be
uneasy, Tayoga? Any deer in his right mind ought to be taking his rest
now in the forest."

"That is true, Black Rifle, but this deer is worried and when a deer
is worried there is a cause. A deer is not like a man, full of fancies
and creating danger when danger there is none. He is troubled because
there are strange presences in the woods, presences that he dreads."

"Maybe he scents us."

"No, the wind does not blow from us toward him. Do not move! Do not
stir in the least, Black Rifle! I think I catch another sound, almost
as light as that made by a leaf when it falls! Ah, Manitou is good to
me! He makes me hear to-night better than I ever heard before, because
it is his purpose, I know not why, to make me do so! There comes the
little sound again and it is real! It was a footstep far away, and
then another and another and now many! It is the tread of marching men
and they are white men!"

"How do you know they are white men, Tayoga?"

"Mingled with the sound of their footsteps is a little clank made
by the hilts of swords and the butts of pistols striking against the
metal on their belts. There is a slight creaking of leather, too,
which could not possibly come from a band of warriors. I hear the echo
of a voice! I think it is a command, a short, sharp word or two such
as white officers give. The sounds of the footsteps merge now, Black
Rifle, because the men are marching to the same step. I think there
must be at least fifty of them. They are sure to be French, because
we are certain our troops are not yet in this region, and because only
the French are so active that they make these swift marches at night."

"Unfortunately that's so, Tayoga. Will they pass near us?"

"Very near us, but I do not think they will see us, as the fog is so
thick."

"Should we wake the others and move?"

"No, at least not yet. Now they are going very slowly. It is not
because they do not know the way, but because the fog troubles them.
It is St. Luc who leads them."

"I don't see how your ear can tell you that, Tayoga."

"It is not my ear, it is my mind that tells me, Black Rifle. The
French would not go through the forest to-night, unless they had
warriors with them as guides, flankers and skirmishers. Only St. Luc
could make them come, because we know that even the French have great
trouble in inducing them to enter big battles. They like better ambush
and foray. De Courcelles could not make them march on this journey nor
could Jumonville. My reason tells me it could be only St. Luc. It must
be!"

"Yes, I'm sure now it's St. Luc up to some trick that we ought to
meet."

"But we do not know what the trick is, Black Rifle. Ah, they have
stopped! All of them have stopped!"

"It is not possible that they have seen any traces of us, Tayoga! We
left no trail. Besides, this fog is so thick and heavy; it's like a
blanket hiding everything!"

"No, it is not that. We left no trail. They are so near that we could
see them if there were no fog. Now I hear some one walking alone in
front of the company. His step is quick, sharp and positive. It is St.
Luc, because, being the leader, he is the only one who would walk that
way at such a time. I think he wants to see for himself or rather feel
just where they are. Now he too stops, and some one walks forward to
join him. It is a Frenchman, because he has on boots. I can hear just
the faintest creak of the leather. It must be De Courcelles."

"It may be his comrade Jumonville."

"No, it is De Courcelles, because he is tall while Jumonville is not,
and the stride of this man who is going forward to join St. Luc is
long. It is surely De Courcelles. St. Luc does not like him, but he
has to use him, because the Frenchmen are not many, and a leader can
only lead those who are at hand to be led. Now they talk together.
Perhaps they are puzzled about the direction."

"Well, so would I be if I had to go anywhere in such a fog."

"They walk back together to the soldiers, and now there is no noise of
footsteps."

"I take it that they're waiting for something."

"Aye, Black Rifle. They are waiting in the hope that the fog will
rise. You know how suddenly a fog can lift and leave everything bright
and clear."

"And they would see us at once. They'll be fairly on top of us."

"So they would be, if the fog should go quickly away."

"And do you think it will?" asked Black Rifle in alarm.

Tayoga laughed under his breath.

"I do not," he replied confidently. "There is no wind to take it away.
The great bank of mist and vapor will be heavy upon the ground and
will increase in thickness. It would not be wise for us to move,
because there may be ears among them as keen as ours, and they might
hear us. Then blinded by the fog we might walk directly into the hands
of prowling warriors. Although we are not many yards from them we are
safest where we are, motionless and still."

Black Rifle also lay down and put his ear to the earth.

"I hear very well myself, although not as well as you, Tayoga," he
whispered, "and I want to notice what they're doing as far as I can.
I make out the sound of a lot of footsteps, but I can't tell what they
mean."

"They are sending groups in different directions, Black Rifle, looking
for a way through the forest rather than for us. They are still
uncertain where they are. Five or six men are going southward, about
as many have turned toward the west, and two warriors and a Frenchman
are coming toward us, the rest stay where they are."

"It's the three coming in our direction who are bothering me."

"But remember, Black Rifle, that we are hidden in the deep fog as a
fish is hidden in the water, and it will be almost as hard to find us.
They must step nearly upon us before they could see us."

Black Rifle, in his eventful life upon the border, had passed through
many a crisis, but never any that tested his nerves more thoroughly
than the one he now faced. He too heard the steps of the three
warriors coming in their direction, cautiously feeling a way through
the great bank of mist. It was true that they could pass near without
seeing, but chance might bring them straight to the little group. He
shifted his fingers to the lock and trigger of his rifle, and looked
at the sleeping three whose figures were almost hidden, although they
were not a yard away. He felt that they should be awake and ready but
in waking, Grosvenor, at least, might make enough noise to draw the
warriors upon them at once.

"They have shifted their course a little," whispered Tayoga, "and
it leads to our right. Now they change back again, and now they keep
turning toward the left. I think they will pass eight or ten yards
from us, which will be as good as five hundred or a thousand."

The white man slowly raised his rifle, but did not cock it. That
action would have made a clicking sound, sharp and clear in the fog,
but the quick hands were ready for instant use. He knew, as Tayoga
had said, that the chance of the warriors walking upon them in the
blinding fog was small, but if the chance came it would have to be met
with all their power and resource.

"I think they will come within about ten feet of us," continued
Tayoga, in his soft whisper. "There are two tall warriors and one
quite short. The tall ones take about three steps to the short one's
four and even then the short man is always behind. They do not walk
in single file as usual, but spread out that they may cover as much
ground as possible. Now they are coming very near and I think it best,
Black Rifle, that I talk no more for the present, but I will hold my
rifle ready as you are doing, if unlucky chance should bring them upon
us."

The footsteps approached and passed a little to the left, but came so
near that Black Rifle almost fancied he could see the dim figures
in the fog. When they went on he drew a mighty breath and wiped the
perspiration from his face.

"We fairly grazed the edge of death," he whispered. "I'll sit up now
and you can do the rest of the listening all by yourself, Tayoga."

"The three have rejoined the main body," said the Onondaga, "and the
other parties that went out have also gone back. I think the one that
went south probably found the way in which they wanted to go, and they
will now move on, leaving us safe for the while. Yes, I can hear them
marching and the clank of the French weapons and equipment."

He listened a few minutes longer, and then announced that they were
quite beyond hearing.

"They are gone," he said, "and Great Bear, Dagaeoga, and Red Coat have
not even known that they were here."

"In which they were lucky," said Black Rifle.

The scout awoke the three, who were much astonished to learn that such
danger had passed so near them. Then they considered what was best for
them to do next.




CHAPTER VII

THE FOREST BATTLE


"It is quite evident," said Robert, as they talked, "that we must
follow on the trail of St. Luc. We've settled in our minds that
he wants to keep our people busy along Lake George, while Montcalm
fortifies higher up. Then it's our duty to find out what he's doing
and stop it if we can."

All were in agreement upon the point, even Grosvenor, who did not yet
feel at home in the woods.

"But we must wait until the fog lifts," said Willet. "If we moved now
we might walk directly into the arms of the enemy, and we can afford
to wait the night through, anyhow. Tayoga, we have got to keep you
fresh, because your senses and faculties must be at their finest and
most delicate pitch for trailing, so now you go to sleep. All the rest
of you do the same, and I'll watch."

Soon four slumbered, and only the hunter was awake and on guard. But
he was enough. His sight and hearing were almost as good as those of
Tayoga himself and he too began to believe that the Onondaga's Manitou
was a shield before them. Danger had come often and very near, but
it had always passed, and, for the present, at least, he was not
apprehensive. The fog might hang on all night if it chose. They
could easily make up lost ground in the morning. Meanwhile they were
accumulating fresh strength. The four were sleeping very placidly, and
it was not likely that they would awake before dawn. Willet looked at
their relaxed figures with genuine benevolence. There were the friends
for whom he cared most, and he felt sure the young Englishman also
would become an addition. Grosvenor was full of courage and he had
already proved that he was adaptable. He would learn fast. The hunter
had every reason to be satisfied with himself and the situation.

The fog did not go away. Instead, it thickened perceptibly, rolling
up in new waves from the lake. The figures of the sleeping four were
wrapped in it as in a white blanket, but Willet knew they were there.
No air stirred, and, as he sat silent, he listened for sounds that
might come through the white veil, hearing only the occasional
stirring of some animal. Toward morning the inevitable change
occurred. A wind arose in the south, gentle puffs in the beginning,
then blowing steady and strong. The fog was torn away first at the
top, where it was thinnest, floating off in shreds and patches, and
then the whole wall of it yielded before the insistent breeze, driven
toward the north like a mist, and leaving the woods and thickets free.
Willet made a careful circle about the camp, at a range of several
hundred yards, and found no sign of hostile presence. Then he resumed
his silent vigil, and, an hour later, the sun rose in a shower of
gold. Tayoga opened his eyes and Willet awakened the others.

"The fog is gone," said the hunter, "and eyes are useful once more.
I've been around the camp and there is no immediate threat hanging
over us. We can enjoy a good breakfast on Black Rifle's cold bear, and
then we'll start on St. Luc's trail."

The path of the force that had marched past in the night was quite
plain. Even Grosvenor, with his inexperience, could tell that many
men had walked there. Most of the Frenchmen as well as the Indians
had worn moccasins, but the imprints made by the boot heels of De
Courcelles and Jumonville were clearly visible among the fainter
traces.

"How many men would you say were in this force, Tayoga?" asked Willet.

"About fifty Frenchmen and maybe as many warriors," replied the
Onondaga. "The Frenchmen stay together, but the warriors leave now
and then in little parties, and the trail also shows where some of the
parties came back. See, Red Coat, here is where two warriors returned.
The French stay with St. Luc, not because they are not good scouts and
trailers, but because the division of the work now allots this task to
the Indians."

"You're right when you call the French good scouts and trailers," said
Willet. "They seem to take naturally to forest life, and I know the
Indians like them better than they do any other white people. As I
often tell Robert, here, the French are enemies of whom anybody can be
proud. There isn't a braver race in the world."

"I don't underrate 'em," said Grosvenor.

"It won't be long until we reach their camp," said Tayoga. "Sharp
Sword is too great a leader to have carried his men very far in a
blind fog. I do not think he went on more than a mile. It is likely
that he stopped at the first brook, and the slope of the ground shows
that we will come soon to a stream. More of the scouts that he sent
out are returning to the main trail. They could not have gone far in
the fog and of course they found nothing."

"We'll have, then, to beware lest we run into their camp before
they've left it," said Willet.

"I don't think Sharp Sword would stay there after dawn," continued the
Onondaga. "The fact that he marched at night in the fog shows that he
is eager to get on, and I am quite sure we will find a cold camp. Here
go the footsteps of St. Luc. I know they are his, because his foot
is small and he wears moccasins. All the French soldiers have larger
feet, and the other two Frenchmen, De Courcelles and De Jumonville,
wear boots. Sharp Sword does not regard the two officers with favor.
He does not associate with them more than is necessary. He keeps
on the right side of the trail and they on the left. Here go his
moccasins and there go their boots."

"And straight ahead is the brook by the side of which we'll find their
camp," said Robert, who had caught the silver flash of water through
the green foliage.

The trail, as he had said, led to the brook where the signs of an
encampment were numerous.

"The fog was dense with them as it was with us," said Tayoga. "It is
shown by the fact that they moved about a great deal, walking over all
the ground, before they finally chose a place. If there had been no
fog or even only a little they could have chosen at once what they
wanted. Knowing that they had no enemy strong enough to be feared they
kindled a fire here by this log, more for the sake of light than for
warmth. Sharp Sword did not talk over anything with his lieutenants,
De Courcelles and Jumonville. His trail leads to the north side of the
camp, where he wrapped himself in his blanket and lay down. I imagine
that the Canadian, Dubois, who goes with him, as an attendant, watched
over him. De Courcelles and Jumonville slept on the other side of the
camp. There go their boots. All the French soldiers but Dubois lay
down to sleep, and only the warriors watched. They left at dawn, not
stopping to eat breakfast. If they had eaten, birds would be here
hunting shreds of flesh in the grass, but we do not see a single bird,
nor has any wolf or other prowling animal been drawn by the odor of
food. We were right in our surmise that Sharp Sword did not wish to
delay. Perhaps there is some force of ours that he can catch in a
trap, and he wishes to repeat his success against the Mountain Wolf."

"And it is our business to stop him," said Willet.

"If so, we must act promptly, Great Bear. When Sharp Sword makes up
his mind to strike he strikes, quick and hard. After his brief camp
here he continued his march toward the south. He threw out warriors as
scouts and skirmishers. You can see their trail, leading off into the
woods, and then his main force marched in a close and compact group.
Just beyond the camp a little while after they made the new start he
called De Courcelles and De Jumonville to him, and talked with them
a little. Here is where his moccasins stood, and here is where their
boots stood, facing him, while they received his orders. Then the
boots walked back to the end of the line and St. Luc must have spoken
to them very sharply."

"Why do you say that, Tayoga?" asked Grosvenor.

"You will notice that here where the trails of boots turn back the
stems of grass in two or three places are broken off, not crushed
down. De Courcelles and Jumonville kicked them in anger with the sharp
toes of their boots, and they could have been angry only because Sharp
Sword rebuked them."

"You must be right, Tayoga."

"It does not admit of any doubt, Red Coat. They took their places at
the rear of the marching line, and Sharp Sword went on ahead. At no
time does he permit them to walk beside him. He still regards the two
Frenchmen with much disfavor, and he will continue to do so though he
must use them in his expedition."

Tayoga spoke in his precise school English, in which he never omitted
or abbreviated a word, but he was very positive. It did not occur to
any of the others to doubt him. They had seen too many evidences of
his surpassing skill on the trail. They swung along and Grosvenor
noticed that many birds now appeared, hopping about in the path, as if
searching among the bushes and in the grass for something.

"It looks as if they were seeking food dropped by our foes," he said.

"Did we not say that Red Coat would learn and learn fast!" exclaimed
Tayoga. "He has in him the spirit of the forester, and, in time, he
will make a great trailer. I have observed the birds, Red Coat, and
your conclusion is correct. Sharp Sword's force did not pause to cook
breakfast or even to eat it at the camp, but they took it as they
walked along swiftly, dropping shreds of flesh or grains of hominy
or bones picked clean as they walked. The birds have come to feast on
their leavings. Doubtless, they have eaten all already and are merely
hunting for more that does not exist. It is strange that no prowling
wolf has come. Ah, I see the nose of one now in the thicket! Sharp
Sword and his force cannot be very far ahead, and we shall have to be
very cautious how we proceed."

"I think it likely," said Willet, "that Tandakora and his band will
join him soon. If he is intending an attack upon us somewhere he will
want to mass his full strength for it."

"Tandakora will join him before he makes his next camp," said Tayoga,
in the most positive manner. "Great Bear reasons well. I expect to see
the trail of the Ojibway chief, within an hour."

They went forward slowly, lest they walk into an ambush set by the
foe, and, before they had gone two miles, the Onondaga pointed to a
new trail coming out of the forest and merging into that of St. Luc.

"Dagaeoga knows who has walked here!" he said.

"Yes," replied Robert. "It's easy to tell where the great feet of
Tandakora have passed. I suppose he leaves bigger footprints than any
other man now in the province of New York. His warriors were with him
too when he joined St. Luc. We were right in supposing that the French
leader meditates an attack upon us somewhere."

"Tandakora talked a while with St. Luc," said Tayoga, when they
had gone a hundred yards farther. "The big moccasins and the small
moccasins stood together beside the trail. The earth was dampened much
by the fog last night and it leaves the impressions. I think he talked
longer with the Ojibway than he did with De Courcelles and Jumonville.
Tandakora is an evil man but perhaps St. Luc feels less dislike for
him than he does for the two white men. The Ojibway is only a savage
from the region of the Great Lakes, but the Frenchmen should know
that the straight way of life is the right way. You do not forget,
Dagaeoga, how De Courcelles planned with the others that time we were
in Quebec, to have you killed by the bully, Boucher!"

"I don't forget it," said Robert. "I can never forget it, nor do I
forget how Dave took my place and sent the bully to a land where he
can never more do murder. Much as I hate Tandakora, I don't blame St.
Luc for hating him less than he does De Courcelles and Jumonville."

"After the talk they went on together to the head of the line,"
said Tayoga. "Now they increase their speed. The stride of St. Luc
lengthens and as it lengthens so must those of all the rest. We are
not now in any danger of running into them, but we may incur it before
night."

They did not abate their own speed, but continued in the path without
pause, until nearly noon. The broad trail led straight on, over hills,
across valleys and always through deep forest, cut here and there
by clear streams. The sun came out, and it was warm under the trees.
Grosvenor, unused to such severe exertion of this kind, began to
breathe with difficulty. But Tayoga called a halt in time at the edge
of a brook, and all knelt to drink.

"St. Luc's men were tired and thirsty too, Red Coat," said the
Onondaga. "All of them drank. You can see the prints of their knees
and feet as they bent over the water. It is a good brook. Manitou
has filled the wilderness with its like, that man and beast may enjoy
them. We will rest here a while, if Great Bear and Black Rifle say
so."

"We do," said the two men together.

They remained fully an hour by the little stream. Robert himself,
used as he was to the wilderness, was glad of the rest, and Grosvenor
fairly reveled in it, feeling that his nerves and muscles were
being created anew. They also made further inroads on their bear
and Grosvenor was glad to see the birds coming for the shreds
they dropped. He had quite a kindly feeling for the little winged
creatures.

"I don't want to think that everything in the woods is an enemy," he
said.

When they resumed the pursuit they found another new trail merging
into that of the main force. It was a mixed band, red and white as the
character of the footprints showed, and numbered about twenty men.

"It is clear," said Tayoga, "that as we supposed, Sharp Sword is
planning a heavy stroke. All the detached forces are coming in, under
instructions, to join him. We know that Montcalm drew back into the
north after his great blow at Fort William Henry, and we think he is
going to fortify on Champlain or between the two lakes. Some of our
people must be along the shores of Andiatarocte and Sharp Sword does
not want them to find out too much about Montcalm."

"At any rate I think our own enterprise will culminate before night,"
said Willet. "We should overtake them by dusk if we try."

"Sharp Sword's men will make a new camp before long," said Tayoga,
"and from that they will launch their attack upon whatever point or
force of ours they intend to attack. They are not going so fast now,
and the trail is growing very warm. Sharp Sword's stride is shortening
and so, of course, is the stride of all the others. I think he now
feels that the need of hurrying is over, and he is likely to become
much more deliberate."

"And the ground is beginning to slope down toward a deep valley," said
Willet. "Water and wood will be plentiful there, and I think that's
where St. Luc will make his camp to-night."

"I think so too," said Tayoga. "And since the dusk is not far away
maybe they have lighted the fire already. Suppose, Great Bear, we
climb the hill on our right and see if our eyes can reach their
smoke."

The crest of the hill was about three hundred feet above them, but
when they reached it they could see a great distance on all sides,
the lake a vast glittering bowl on their left and the mighty green
wilderness of hills, mountains and woods on their right. Directly
ahead of them was a faint dark line against the dazzling blue of the
sky.

"Smoke!" said Tayoga.

"St. Luc's smoke," said Willet.

"The very smoke of the camp for which we were looking and which we
were expecting!" said Black Rifle.

Robert's pulses beat hard, as they always did when he knew the great
French Chevalier to be near. But that emotion soon passed and in
its place came the thought of the enemy's presence. However much
he admired St. Luc he was an official foe, to be met upon the
battlefield.

"We must look into their camp," he said.

"So we must," said Willet, "and to do that we shall have to go much
nearer. The risk is too great now, but it will soon be night, and then
we can approach. We can see them well, then, because they'll build all
the fires they like, since they think they have nothing to fear."

Then the five waited in silence among the thick woods on the crest of
the hill, and Grosvenor prepared his mind for his first stalk. Full of
courage, ambitious, eager to excel, he resolved to acquit himself with
credit. But this was war, far different from that on the open fields
of Europe for which his early training had fitted him. One must lie
in the deep forest and depend upon the delicacy of eye and ear and an
exceeding quickness of hand. It had not been long since he would
have considered his present situation incredible, and, even now, it
required some effort to convince himself that it was true.

But there beside him were the comrades whom he liked so well, Robert,
Tayoga and the hunter whom he had known before and the strange dark
figure of Black Rifle, that man of mystery and terror. Around him was
the wilderness now in the glow of advancing twilight, and before him
he knew well lay St. Luc and the formidable French and Indian force.
Time and place were enough to try the soul of an inexperienced youth
and yet Grosvenor was not afraid. His own spirit and willingness
to dare peril made a shield for him. His comrades were only four in
number, but Grosvenor felt that, in fact, they were twenty. He did
not know what strange pass into which they would lead him, but he felt
sure they would succeed.

He saw the red rim of the sun sink behind the western crests, and then
the last twilight died into the night. Heavy darkness trailed over the
forest, but soon moon and stars sprang out, and the sky became silver,
the spire of smoke reappearing across its southern face. But Willet,
who was in reality the leader of the little party, gave no sign.
Grosvenor knew that they were waiting for the majority of St.
Luc's force to go to sleep, leaving only the sentinels before they
approached, but it was hard to sit there so long. His nerves were on
edge and his muscles ached, but his spirit put a powerful rein over
the flesh and he said never a word, until far in the night Willet gave
the order to advance.

"Be careful, lads," he said, "and now is your chance, Lieutenant, to
show how well you can keep up the start you've made as a trailer. That
smoke over there which merges from several camp fires is our beacon."

They crept through the thickets. Grosvenor saw the dark gray tower
against the sky grow larger and larger, and at last a luminous glow
that came from the camp fires, rose under the horizon.

"To the edge of this last hill," whispered Willet, "and I think we can
see them."

They redoubled their care as they advanced, and then, thrusting their
heads through the bushes, looked down into the little valley in which
the camp of St. Luc was pitched.

Several fires were burning, and Robert distinctly saw the French
leader standing before one of them, not in forest green, but in his
splendid officer's uniform of white and silver. A gallant and romantic
figure he looked, outlined by the blaze, young, lithe and strong.
Again the heart of the lad throbbed, and he was drawn powerfully
toward St. Luc. What was it that caused this feeling and why had the
Chevalier on more than one occasion and at risk shown himself to be
his friend?

Not as many in the camp as they had expected had yet gone to sleep.
Tandakora, somber and gigantic, gnawed the flesh from the big bone of
a deer and then, throwing the bone into the fire, approached St. Luc.
Robert saw them talking and presently De Courcelles and Jumonville
came also. The four talked a little while and now and then the
Chevalier pointed toward the south.

"That is where they intend their blow to fall," whispered Tayoga.

"Beyond a doubt, lad," the hunter whispered back, "but we may be able
to anticipate 'em."

The wild scene, the like of which he had never looked upon before,
cast a strange spell over Grosvenor. He too recognized, even at the
distance, the power of St. Luc's personality, and Tandakora, looming,
immense, in the firelight, was like some monster out of an earlier,
primordial world. Warriors and soldiers asleep were scattered before
the fires, and, at the edge of the forest, walked the sentinels. It
was an alert and formidable camp, and the young Englishman felt that
he and his comrades were grazing the extreme edge of danger.

De Courcelles and Jumonville presently left St. Luc and went to
another fire, where they lay down and fell asleep, their military
cloaks spread over them. Then the short, dark Canadian Dubois appeared
and St. Luc spoke to him also. Dubois bowed respectfully and brought a
blanket, which he spread before the fire. St. Luc lay down on it, and
he too was soon asleep.

"It's time for us to go," whispered Willet, "but I'd feel safer
if Tandakora also went to sleep. That savage is likely to send out
scouts."

"Tandakora does not mean to sleep to-night," said Tayoga. "He suspects
that we are somewhere near and he is troubled. If he were not uneasy
he would take his rest, which is what a chief always does when the
opportunity presents itself. But he has thrown his second bone into
the fire, and he walks about, looking now at the sleepers and now at
the forest. I think he will soon send two or three runners toward the
south. See, he is speaking to them now, and two are starting."

Two Indians left the camp and glided silently into the woods. Then
Tandakora stopped his restless pacing, and lay down on the ground. His
face was in the shadow, but he seemed to be asleep.

The four on the hill crept away as cautiously as they had come,
and they agreed that they would make a curve around St. Luc's camp,
traveling all night toward the south. Willet was anxious about the
two warriors whom Tandakora had sent out, and he felt that they might
possibly encounter them on the way. He led his little group first
toward the lake and then bore south, being quite sure that before noon
the next day they would reach a British or American detachment of some
kind. Everything indicated such proximity and they were agreed that
they would find their friends on the shores of the lake. It was not
likely that either colonials or regulars would leave the open water
and go far into woods which furnished so many perils.

They were refreshed by sleep and plenty of food and they made good
time. They walked in single file, Willet leading with Tayoga last and
Grosvenor in front of him. The young Englishman's ambition, encouraged
by success, was rising higher than ever, and he was resolved that this
night trail which he was treading should be a good one, so far as he
was concerned. Robert walked in front of him and he was careful to
step exactly where young Lennox did, knowing that if he did so he
would break no sticks and make no undue noise. The test was severe,
but he succeeded. By and by his breath grew short once more.
Nevertheless he was glad when Willet halted, and asked Tayoga if he
heard any unusual sound in the forest. Before replying the Onondaga
lay down and put his ear to the ground.

"I do hear a sound which is not that of the trees nor of an animal,"
he replied. "It is made by men walking, and I think they are the two
warriors whom Tandakora sent out from the camp."

"And if you can hear them walking they must be very near. That is
sure."

"It is true, Great Bear. These two warriors are sent south to spy upon
whatever force of ours St. Luc means to attack, and it may be that
they will strike our trail, although they are not looking for it.
There is light enough now to show our traces to good trailers."

"Aye, Tayoga, you speak truly. Lie down, lads, we must not show
ourselves. It's possible that they'll pass on and not dream of our
presence here."

"It is in the hands of Manitou," said the Onondaga gravely. "They are
still walking toward the south at an even pace, which shows that they
have seen nothing. I can hear their footfalls, only a whisper against
the earth, but unmistakable. Now, they are just behind us, and
their course is the same as ours. Ah, the footfalls cease! They have
stopped. They have seen our trail, Great Bear. Manitou has given his
decree against us, and who are we to complain? He has done so much for
us that now he would put us to the test, and see whether we are worthy
of his favor. We shall have to fight the messengers."

"It should be easy enough for us who are five to beat two warriors,"
said Robert.

"We can surely beat two," said Tayoga, "but they will try to hold us
while they call help. It will not be long before you hear the cry of a
night bird, doubtless an owl."

"Have they begun to move again?" asked Robert.

"I cannot hear a sound. Perhaps they are stirring, but they creep so
cautiously that they make no noise at all. It would be their object
to make their own position uncertain and then we would go on at great
peril from their bullets. It will be best for us to stay a while where
we are."

Tayoga's words were accepted at once as wise by the others. It was
impossible to tell where the two warriors now lay, and, if they
undertook to go on, their figures would be disclosed at once by the
brilliant moonshine. So they flattened themselves against the ground
in the shadow of the bushes and waited patiently. The time seemed to
Grosvenor to be forever, but he thrilled with the belief in coming
combat. He still felt that he was in the best of all company for
forest and midnight battle, and he did not fear the issue.

Willet was hopeful that the skies would darken, but they did not do
so. The persistent moon and a host of stars continued to shine down,
flooding the forest with light, and he knew that if any one of them
stood up a bullet would be his instant welcome. At last came the
cry of the night bird, the note of the owl, as Tayoga had predicted,
rising from a point to their right and somewhat behind them, but too
far away for rifle shot. It was a singular note, wild, desolate and
full of menace.

"There may have been another band of warriors in this direction,"
whispered Tayoga, "perhaps a group of hunters who had not yet returned
to St. Luc, and he is calling to them."

"No earthly doubt of it," said Black Rifle. "Can you hear the reply,
Tayoga?"

"Now I hear it, though it is very faint. It is from the south and the
warriors will soon be here. We shall have a band to fight."

"Then we'd better bear off toward the west," said Willet. "Come, lads,
we have to creep for it."

They made their way very slowly on hands and knees away from the
lake, Willet leading and Tayoga bringing up the rear. It was hard
and painful work for Grosvenor, but again he succeeded in advancing
without noise, and he began to think they would elude the vigilance of
the savage scouts, when a sibilant whisper from Willet warned them to
fall flat again. His command was just in time as a rifle cracked in
the bushes ahead of them, and Grosvenor distinctly heard the bullet as
it hissed over their heads. Willet threw his rifle to his shoulder but
quickly took it down again. The Indian who had fired was gone and a
little puff of smoke rising above the bushes told where he had been.
Then the five crept away toward the right and drew into a slight
hollow, rimmed around with bushes, where they lay hugging the earth.

"Our course took us almost directly into the path of that fellow,"
said Willet, "and of course he saw us. I'm sorry I didn't get a shot
at him."

"Do not worry, Great Bear," said Tayoga. "You will find plenty of use
for your bullets. The band has come. Hark to the war whoop!"

The long, piercing yell, so full of menace and most sinister in its
dying note, swelled through the forest. Grosvenor, despite his courage
and confidence in his comrades, shivered. He had heard that same yell
many a time, when Braddock's army was cut down in the deep forest by
an invisible foe. He could never forget its import. But he grasped
his rifle firmly, and strove to see the enemy, who, he knew, was
approaching. His four comrades lay in silence, but the muzzle of every
weapon was thrust forward.

"It's fortunate we found this little hollow," said Willet. "It will
give us shelter for a while."

"And we'll need it," said Black Rifle. "They know where we are, of
course, but they'll take their time about attacking."

"Keep your heads down, lads," said Willet. "Don't be too eager to see.
If they're too far away for us to shoot at we are too far away for
them too."

Five minutes later and a flash came from a thicket on their left.
Willet pulled trigger at the flash and a death cry came back.

"That's one out of the way," said Black Rifle calmly, "and they're mad
clean through. Hear 'em yell!"

The fierce war whoop died in many echoes, and bullets spattered the
rocks about them. The five made no further reply as yet, but the
forest battle was now on.




CHAPTER VIII

THE BOAT BUILDERS


Robert and Grosvenor lay, side by side, propped up partly on their
elbows, their rifles thrust well forward, and watching toward the
north. They were not able to see anything, save the dark outline of
the forest, and a little puff of smoke rising where an Indian had
fired. The wilderness itself was absolutely still but Robert's vivid
imagination as usual peopled it thickly. Although his eye did not
reach any human figure his mind pictured them everywhere, waiting
patiently for a chance at his comrades and himself. He, more than
any other of the five, realized the full extent of the danger. His
extraordinary fancy pictured to him every possibility, and so his
courage was all the greater, because he had the strength to face them
with a tranquil mind.

A flash in the thicket and a bullet struck on a rock near Robert,
glanced off and buried itself in a tree beyond them. He shivered a
little. Fancy pictured the bullet not as missing, but as hitting him.
Then he steadied himself, and was as ready as Willet or Black Rifle
for whatever might come.

"I think that shot was fired by a sharpshooter who has crept forward
ahead of the others," whispered the hunter. "He's lying behind that
low bush to the west."

"I'm of your mind about it," said Black Rifle. "As soon as he reloads
he'll chance another shot at where he thinks we're lying, and that
will be his last."

Robert heard the low words, and he shivered again a little. He could
never grow used to the taking of human life, even in dire necessity.
He knew that Willet had spoken the truth, and that the red
sharpshooter would fire only one more shot. Soon he had the proof. The
second flash came from the same point. Again the bullet glanced among
the rocks, but, before the report of the rifle died, another answered.
It was that of the hunter and he found his mark. A cry came from the
bush, followed by a fierce yell of anger from those farther back, and
then the sinister stillness settled again over the wilderness.

"The Indian has gone!" whispered Grosvenor in an awed tone to Robert.

"Yes, Dave fired at the flash, and he never misses. The cry showed it.
But it will make the warriors all the more eager to take us."

The silence lasted about a quarter of an hour, and then fire was
opened upon them from three sides, bullets singing over their heads,
or spattering upon the rocks.

"Lie flat, lads," commanded Willet. "This is random lead, and if we
keep close to the earth 'twill all pass us by. The warriors are seldom
good marksmen."

But one of the bullets, glancing from a rock, nipped Black Rifle in
the shoulder. It was a very slight wound, though, and its only effect
was to make him more eager to reach his enemy. In a few minutes his
chance came as he caught a glimpse of a dusky but incautious figure
among the trees, and, quick as a flash, drew trigger on it. There was
no cry, but he saw the shadowy figure go down, not to rise again, and
the fierce soul of Black Rifle was satisfied.

Scattered shots were fired, after another silence, and a bullet grazed
the back of Grosvenor's hand, drawing a drop or two of blood. It stung
for a few moments, but, on the whole, he was proud of the little hurt.
It was a badge of honor, and made him truly a member of this great
forest band. It also stimulated his zeal, and he became eager for a
shot of his own. He watched intently and when the warriors fired again
he sent his bullet at the flash, as he had seen Willet and Black Rifle
do. He did not know whether he had hit anything, but he hoped. Tayoga,
who fired for the first time presently brought down a warrior, and
Robert wounded another. But Willet and Black Rifle talked together in
whispers and they were anxious.

"They won't try to rush us so long as we keep among the rocks," said
the hunter. "They know now that we're good shots, but they'll hold us
here until day when their main force will come up and then we'll be
finished."

"It seems pretty certain that's their plan now," said the scout, "and
between you and me, Dave, we've got to get away from here somehow.
The moon has faded a bit, and that will help us a little. What do you
think, Tayoga?"

"We did not escape other traps to remain here in this," replied the
Onondaga. "We must take the chance and go."

"In half an hour, perhaps. When the clouds floating up there get well
before the moon."

Robert heard them distinctly and he glanced at the moon which was
steadily growing paler, while the shadows were deepening over the
forest. Yet it was obvious that it would not become very dark, and the
half hour of which Willet had spoken would probably measure the limit
of the increase.

"Can you hear them moving in the bush, Tayoga?" asked Willet.

The Onondaga put his ear to the ground.

"Only a light sound toward the north reaches me," he replied.
"Warriors there seem to be moving about. It may be that they have
received more help. I think, Great Bear, that the time for us to go,
if we go at all, is coming fast."

Willet decided in a few minutes that it would not be any darker than
it was then; and, choosing a southern direction, he crept from the
rocks, the others following him in line, Tayoga as usual bringing up
the rear. They made a hundred yards in silence, and, then, at a
low signal from the hunter, they sank down, almost flat, every one
listening for a sound from the besiegers. Only Tayoga was able to hear
faint noises to right and left.

"They do not know yet that we have left the rocks," he whispered, "and
they are still watching that point. Manitou may carry us in safety
between them."

They were about to resume their painful creeping, when a half dozen
rifles on their right flashed, and they dropped down again. But the
bullets did not come their way, instead they rang among the rocks
which they had just left. Tayoga laughed softly.

"They think we are still there," he whispered, "and they send much
lead against the inoffensive stone. The more the better for us."

"I'm devoutly glad the rocks catch what is intended for us," said
Grosvenor, feeling intense relief. "How long do you think it will be,
Tayoga, before I can stand up and walk like a man again?"

"No one can answer that question," replied the Onondaga. "But
remember, Red Coat, that you are getting splendid practice in the
art of going silently along a trail on a dark night. It is what every
forest runner must learn."

Grosvenor in the dusk could not see the twinkle in Tayoga's eye,
but, drawing upon fresh founts of courage and resolution, he settled
himself anew to his task. His elbows and knees ached and it was
difficult to carry his rifle as he crawled along, but his ambition was
as high as ever, and he would not complain. The lone hoot of an owl
came from the point on the right, where one of the Indian groups
lay, and it was promptly answered by a like sound from the left where
another group was hidden.

"I think they're beginning to suspect that we may have slipped away,"
said Willet, "and they're talking to one another about it. Now they'll
stalk the rocks to see, but that will take time, which we can use
handily. Come on, lads, we'll go as fast as possible."

Curving around a small hill, Willet rose to his feet and the others,
with intense relief, did likewise. Robert's and Grosvenor's joints
were young and elastic, and the stiffness quickly left them, but
both had done enough creeping and crawling for one night. All stood
listening for a minute or two. They heard no more shots fired at the
rocks, but the two owls began to call again to each other.

"Do you understand them, Tayoga?" asked Willet.

"They talk the Huron language," replied the Onondaga, in his precise
fashion, "that is, their signals are those used by the Hurons. They
are asking each other what has happened at the rocks, and neither can
tell. Their expression is that of doubt, impatience and worry. They
say to each other: 'Those whom we believed we held in a trap may have
broken out of it. It will take time to see and also much peril if they
are still in the trap, because they can use their rifles well.' We
annoy them much, Great Bear."

The big hunter chuckled.

"I don't mind that," he said. "Their worries are not my worries. Ah,
there they go again! What are they saying now, Tayoga?"

"Their tone grows more anxious. You can tell what they feel by the
expression of the owl. Their fear that we may have stolen out of the
trap is increasing, but they cannot know unless they go and see, and
then they may be creeping into the muzzles of our rifles. It is a
difficult problem that we have given them to solve, Great Bear."

"We'll leave it for 'em, lads. Now that we're on our feet we'll go at
speed."

They walked very rapidly, but they stopped when they heard once more
the faint cries of the owls, now almost lost in the distance. Tayoga
interpreted them.

"They are cries of anger," he said. "They have discovered that we are
not in the rocks, and now they will look around for our trail, which
will be hard to find in the darkness of the night."

"And the thing for us to do is to keep on toward the south as hard as
we can."

"So it would be, Great Bear, but others are coming up from the south,
and we would go directly into their arms."

"What do you mean, Tayoga?"

"A number of men are advancing, and I think they are warriors."

"Then we have merely slipped out of one trap to fall into another."

"It is possible, Great Bear. It is also possible that those who come
are friends. Let me put my ear to the earth, which is the bringer of
sound. It is clear to me that those who walk toward us are warriors.
White men would not tread so lightly. I do not think, Great Bear,
that any force of the Indians who are allied with the French would be
coming up from the south, and the chances are that these be friends."

He sent forth the call of a bird, a beautiful, clear note, and it was
answered instantly with a note as clear and as beautiful.

"They are friends!" said Tayoga joyfully. "These be the Ganeagaono!"

"Ganeagaono?" exclaimed Grosvenor.

"Mohawks," explained Robert. "The Keepers of the Eastern Gate. The
leading warriors of the Six Nations and friends of ours. We are, in
truth, in luck."

Ten dusky figures came forward to meet them, and with great joy Robert
recognized in the leader the fierce young Mohawk chief, Daganoweda,
who once before had come to their help in a crisis. But it was Tayoga
who welcomed him first.

"Daganoweda, of the clan of the Turtle, of the nation, Ganeagaono,
of the great League of the Hodenosaunee, the sight of you is very
pleasant to our eyes," he said.

"Tayoga, of the clan of the Bear, of the Nation, Onondaga, of the
great League of the Hodenosaunee, you are my brother and we are well
met," the chief rejoined.

They saluted each other and then Daganoweda greeted the others, all
of whom were known to him of old save Grosvenor, but who was presented
duly in the ceremonious style loved by the Iroquois.

"We are pursued by men of Tandakora," said Willet. "They are not far
away now. We do not wish to fight them because we would hasten below
with a warning."

The black eyes of the fierce Mohawk flashed.

"Will the Great Bear give us his battle?" he said.

He asked for it as if for a favor.

"We usually fight our own quarrels through," replied Willet, "but as
I said, duty calls us from here in haste. Then, since you wish it,
Daganoweda, we pass the fight to you. But have you enough men?"

"Ten Mohawks are enough to meet any wandering band of our enemies that
may be in the woods," replied the young chief, proudly. "Let Great
Bear and his friends go in peace. This fight is ours."

Despite the dusk, Robert saw Daganoweda's eyes glisten. He thoroughly
understood the fierce soul of the young Mohawk chief, who would not
let such a brilliant opportunity for battle pass him.

"Then farewell, Daganoweda," said Willet. "You have been a friend at
the right moment."

He led again in the flight toward the south and the five saw the chief
and his warriors passing the other way sink into the dusk. Soon they
heard shots behind them and they knew that the Mohawks were engaged
in battle with the Hurons and their friends. They sped on for a long
time, and when they stopped they were close to the shores of the lake,
the water showing dimly through the trees.

"I think we may rest easy for a while now," said Willet. "I'm certain
not one of those warriors was able to get by the Mohawks, and it's
not likely that an enemy is within several miles of us. Can you hear
anything, Tayoga?"

"Nothing," replied the Onondaga. "Tododaho, on his star, tells me that
we have this part of the forest to ourselves."

"That being so, we'll stay here a long time. Lads, you might unroll
your blankets and make the best of things."

Grosvenor's blanket had not been taken from him when he was a
prisoner, and it was still strapped on his back. He and Robert found
the rest most welcome and they were not slow in wrapping the blankets
around their bodies and making themselves comfortable. Without willing
it, they fell asleep, but were awakened shortly after dawn.

"See!" said Willet, pointing toward the south.

A filmy trail of blue smoke rose across the clear, blue sky.

"That, whatever it is," said the hunter, "is what St. Luc is advancing
against, but in spite of all the risks we've run we'll be there in
time to give warning."

Robert looked with the deepest interest at the smoke, which was a long
way off, but it seemed to rise from the lake's edge and he thought
it must be a British or American post. It was at a most exposed and
dangerous point, but his heart thrilled at Willet's words. Yes, in
spite of every danger that had been thrown across their path, they
would be able to carry word in time.

"We'll be there in half an hour, and we'll know what's going forward,"
said Willet.

"We'll know before then," said Grosvenor confidently. "Our marvelous
Indian friend here will tell us when we're half way."

Tayoga smiled, but said nothing, and they started again, Willet, as
usual, leading, and the Onondaga bringing up the rear. The spire of
smoke thickened and darkened, and, to Robert and Grosvenor, it seemed
most friendly and alluring. It appeared to rise from a little point of
land thrust into the lake but they could not yet see its base, owing
to an intervening hill. Just before they reached the crest of the hill
Tayoga said:

"Wait a moment, Great Bear. I think I hear a sound from the place
where the smoke rises, and we may be able to tell what it means."

They stopped promptly, and the Onondaga put his ear to the earth.

"I hear the sounds very distinctly now," he said. "They are of a kind
not often occurring on these shores."

"What are they?" asked Robert eagerly.

"They are made by axes biting into wood. Many men are cutting down
trees."

"They're building a fort, and they're in a hurry about it or they
would not be felling trees so early in the morning."

"Your reasoning about the hurry is good, Dagaeoga. The white man will
not go into the forest with his ax at daybreak, unless the need of
haste is great, but it is not a fort they build. Mingled with the fall
of the axes I hear another note. It is a humming and a buzzing. It is
heard in these forests much less often than the thud of the ax. Ah!
I was in doubt at first, but I know it now! It is the sound made by a
great saw as it eats into the wood."

"A saw mill, Tayoga!"

"Yes, Dagaeoga, that is what it is, and now mind will tell us why it
is here. The logs that the axes cut down are sawed in the mill. The
saw would not be needed if the logs were to be used for building a
fort. The ax would do it all. The logs are being turned into planks
and boards."

"Which shows that they're being used for some purpose requiring much
finer finish than the mere building of a fort."

"Now the mind of Dagaeoga is working well. Great Bear and I have been
on the point where the new saw mill stands."

"And the timber there is fine," interrupted Willet.

"Just the kind that white men use when they build long boats for
traveling on the lakes, boats that will carry many men and armband
supplies. We know that a great army of red coats is advancing. It
expects to come up George and then probably to Champlain to meet
Montcalm and to invade Canada. It is an army that will need hundreds
of boats for such a purpose, and they must be built."

"And they're building some of 'em right here on this point, before
us!" exclaimed Robert.

Tayoga smiled.

"It is so," he said precisely. "There cannot be any doubt of it. A saw
mill could not be here for any other purpose. But if we had not come
it would be destroyed or captured before night by St. Luc."

"Come on, lads, and we'll soon be among 'em," said Willet.

From the crest of a hill they looked down upon a scene of great
activity. The sun was scarcely risen but more than fifty men were at
work on the forest with axes, and, at the very edge of the water, a
saw mill was in active operation. Along the shore, where as many more
toiled, were boats finished and others in all stages of progress.
Soldiers in uniform, rifles on shoulder, walked about.

It was a pleasant sight, refreshing to the eyes of Robert and
Grosvenor. Here were many men of their own race, and here were many
activities, telling of great energy in the war. After so much peril
in the forest they would be glad to be in the open and with their own
kind again.

"Look, Robert," said Willet, "don't you know them?"

"Know whom?" asked young Lennox.

"The officers of this camp. The lads in the brave uniforms. If my eyes
make no mistake, and they don't make any, the fine, tall young fellow
standing at the edge of the water is our Philadelphia friend, Captain
Colden."

"Beyond a doubt it is, Dave, and right glad am I to see him, and there
too is Wilton, the fighting Quaker, and Carson also. Why this is to
be, in truth, a reunion!"

Willet put his hands to his mouth trumpet fashion, and uttered a long,
piercing shout. Then the five advanced and marched into the camp
of their friends, where they received a welcome, amazed but full of
warmth, Grosvenor, too, being made to feel at home.

"Have you dropped from the skies?" asked Colden.

"Scarcely that," replied Robert, laughing with pleasure, "but we've
been shot out of the forest, and very glad we are to be here. We've
come to tell you also that we've been pursued by a strong French and
Indian force, led by St. Luc himself, and that it will be upon you
before nightfall."

"And I, trained in my boyhood not to fight, will have to fight again,"
said Wilton.

"I know that none will do it better," said Robert.

"But we will give you breakfast," said Colden, "and while you are
eating I will put the camp in a posture of defense. We are here
building boats to be used by the army in its advance against Montcalm,
and we didn't know that the enemy in force was south of Crown Point."

There were several sheds and in one of these a most abundant breakfast
was served to them, including coffee and white bread, neither of which
they had seen in a long time, and which were most welcome. While they
ate, they saw the young Pennsylvania officers arranging their forces
with skill and rapidity.

"They've learned a lot since we were with 'em that time at Fort
Refuge," said Robert.

"They've had to learn," said Willet. "The forests in these times are a
hard teacher, but they're bright and good boys, just the same. Nobody
would learn faster."

"Even as Red Coat has learned to be a scout and to know the trail,"
said Tayoga, "but he is not sorry to come among white men and to have
good food once more."

"No, I'm not," said Grosvenor emphatically. "My ambition to be a fine
trailer was high last night, and it's still with me, but I had enough
of creeping and crawling to last me a long time, and if we have to
fight again I think I can fight better standing up."

"We will have to fight again. Be sure of that," said Tayoga
decisively.

Before breakfast was over Colden came to them, and Robert told,
in detail and with great vividness, all they had seen. The young
Philadelphia captain's face became very grave.

"It was you who warned us before Fort Refuge," he said, "and now you
come again. You helped us to success then, and you'll help us now.
Even if your coming does bring news of danger I'll consider it a good
omen."

"We'll be proud to stand in line with you once more," said Robert,
although he felt that, with St. Luc in command, the attack of the
French and Indians would be formidable. Colden would have available
for battle between one hundred and fifty and two hundred men, about
fifty of whom were soldiers. But all the others, the boat builders
and the rest, were capable fighters too. They could certainly make a
powerful resistance even to the daring and skillful French Chevalier,
and, with a certain number of boats finished, the lake also was open
to them, in case retreat became necessary. Luckily, too, St. Luc had
no cannon. Courageous Captain Colden considered their situation far
from desperate. There was hope too that Daganoweda and his Mohawks
might come, not only those he had with him in the night battle, but
others as well. The Mohawks, loving a combat, would not let go by such
a one as that now threatening.

Willet rose from his breakfast and surveyed the position. There were
no real buildings, only sheds, the largest covering the saw mill, and
the others used for the protection of tools and of the men, when they
slept, against the weather. All the trees for a distance well beyond
rifle shot had been cut away for timber, a lucky fact, as the hostile
Indians could not now use them for ambush. Stout arms were throwing
the fallen trees into a long line of breastworks, and the place
already began to look like a fortified point. Willet's eyes glistened.

"Although St. Luc beat us when we were with Rogers," he said, "I
think we'll hold him here. We've certain advantages that will help us
mightily."

"Thanks to you and your comrades for bringing us such timely warning,"
repeated Colden. "I'll confess that I did not suspect any enemy was
nearer than Champlain, and neither we nor our superiors at Albany have
feared an attack here."

"It's sure to come," said Willet.

Grosvenor, refreshed and reinvigorated, was taking an active share
in the preparations. He had smoothed and brushed his uniform with
scrupulous care, and despite the great hardships through which he
had passed, looked once more neat and trim. He had returned to his
incarnation as a trim young British officer. Adaptable and liking the
Americans, equipped moreover with a certain experience of the border,
he was at once on the best of terms with Colden, Wilton, Carson and
the others, and was, in truth, one of them. Wilton found him a belt
and a small sword, which he buckled on, and which as a badge of office
gave him a certain moral strength, making him in fact a thoroughly
happy man that morning.

Black Rifle, after food, had slid quietly into the forest to spy out
the enemy. Robert, flexible, vivid, his imagination always alive, was
with Tayoga, helping him with the breastworks, and keeping an eye at
the same time on the forest. The lake behind him stretched away, vast,
peaceful and beautiful, but he seldom looked at it now. He did not
anticipate danger that way. It would come through the woods.

A gradual slope, hemmed in on either side by high cliffs and only a
few hundred yards wide, led to the point on which the saw mill stood.
St. Luc must approach by the slope. The cliffs were impossible, and,
the longer he looked at it, the better Robert liked the position.
Daring men such as Colden had could hold it against a much larger
force. Let St. Luc come, he would find a brave and ready defense.

"Dagaeoga thinks we can hold the saw mill even against Sharp Sword,"
said Tayoga.

"How do you know I think it?"

"Because it is printed on Dagaeoga's face. When Dagaeoga's fancy is
alive, which is nearly all the time, his eyes speak and they tell one
very clearly what he thinks. His eyes say that the slope is narrow;
St. Luc can come that way only; we have here more than one hundred and
fifty good rifles; and in face of the storm of lead that we can send
against him he cannot rush us. That is what the eyes and face of
Dagaeoga say."

"You're right, Tayoga, that is what my brain thinks, though I didn't
know it was printed on my face. But it's all the easier for you to
read it, because you're probably thinking the same that I do."

"I do, Dagaeoga. Since St. Luc is not able to effect a surprise, he
has a great task before him, though he will persist in it, because he
wants to destroy our force and our boats also."

But the morning passed without any demonstration from the forest.
Many of the boat builders began to believe it was a false alarm, and
murmured at the continuous and hard labor on the breastworks, but
Colden, knowing that Willet and his friends were to be trusted
implicitly, held them to their tasks. The hunter also looked into the
question of food supply and found it ample. They had brought much food
with them from Albany and the forest had furnished much more. There
was no occasion for alarm on that point, since the siege could not be
a long one. Noon came and no sign of the enemy. Willet began to think
the attack would be postponed until night, as St. Luc doubtless had
learned already that he could not carry the place by surprise. But he
relied most upon the word of Black Rifle who had not yet returned
from the forest. The dark scout came back about the middle of the
afternoon, and he told Colden and Willet that he had seen nothing
of Daganoweda and his Mohawks, though there were indications in the
forest that they had defeated the Hurons the night before. But St. Luc
Was at hand, not much more than a mile away, where he had pitched a
camp. More French and Canadians had arrived and he now led a force of
at least five hundred men, the great majority of whom were warriors.
He thought an attack would be made after dark, but in what form it was
impossible to say.

"Which means," said Colden, "that I must have sentinels who will never
relax their vigilance."

"Particularly as the night is going to be dark," said Willet. "There's
a haze over the lake now, and the sun will set in a mist."

The twilight was heavy as he had predicted, and it was soon black on
the mountains and the lake. But within the camp fires were burning,
throwing a cheerful light, and many guards were posted. Crude but
effective fortifications stretched all along the forest side of the
camp, and Willet, Black Rifle and Tayoga were among the stumps in
front of them. No enemy would be able to hide there even in the night.
Wagons in which they had brought their supplies were drawn up in
a circle, and would form an inner line of defense. Robert was with
Grosvenor and Wilton near the center of the camp.

"Knowing the French and Indians as I now do," said Wilton, "I never
doubt for an instant that an attack will come before morning. My
experience at Fort Refuge is sufficient indication. It is strange that
I, who was reared not to believe in fighting, should now be compelled
to do it all the time."

"And while my profession is fighting," said Grosvenor, "I always
expected to fight in the open fields of Europe and now I'm learning my
trade in the deep forests of North America, where it's quite another
sort of business. How long do you think it will be, Lennox, before we
hear the owls hoot and the wolves bark?"

Robert laughed.

"We've had a lot of such signals in the last few days," he replied,
"but in this country battles are not always opened with 'em. Still, I
dare say we'll hear 'em."

Out of the forest in front of them came a long, lonely hoot.

"Speak of the owl and you hear his voice," said Wilton.

"If Tayoga were here he could tell us exactly what that owl, who is
no owl but an Indian, meant," said Grosvenor, "also the tribe of the
Indian, his age, his complexion, what he had for supper, how he is
feeling and whether he is married or single. Oh, I assure you,
Wilton, you needn't smile! I've seen the Onondaga do things much more
marvelous. Nothing short of trailing a bird through the air would
really test his wilderness powers."

"I wasn't smiling at your belief, Grosvenor," said the young Quaker,
"I was merely smiling at your earnestness. When you tell me anything
about Tayoga's skill on the trail I shall believe it, I don't care
what it is. I saw him do marvelous things when we were at Fort
Refuge."

The owl ceased its melancholy cry, and no other sound came from the
forest, while the camp waited, with as much patience as it could
muster, for the attack.




CHAPTER IX

THE MASKED ATTACK


Light clouds floated before the moon, and the surface of the lake
was ruffled by a southern wind. As no attack was anticipated from the
south, the guard in that quarter was comparatively small, but it was
composed, nevertheless, of good men, the boat builders mostly, but all
experienced with the rifle and under the direct command of Carson. But
the main force was always kept facing the forest, and, there, behind
the logs, Colden stood with the four--Black Rifle again being outside.
The hooting of the owls had not been repeated and the long wait had
become hard upon the nerves of the young Philadelphia captain.

"Do you feel sure that they will attack to-night?" he asked Willet.
"Perhaps St. Luc, seeing the strength of our position, will draw off
or send to Montcalm for cannon, which doubtless would take a week."

The hunter shook his head.

"St. Luc will not go away," he said, "nor will he send for cannon,
which would take too long. He will not use his strength alone, he will
depend also upon wile and stratagem, against which we must guard every
minute. I think I'll take my own men and go outside. We can be of more
service there."

"I suppose you're right, but don't walk into danger. I depend a lot on
you."

Willet climbed over the logs. Tayoga, Robert and Grosvenor followed.

"Red Coat buckled on a sword, and I did not think he would go on a
trail again," said Tayoga.

"One instance in which you didn't read my mind right," rejoined the
Englishman. "I know that swords don't belong on the trail, but this is
only a little blade, and you fellows can't leave me behind."

"I did read your mind right," said Tayoga, laughing softly. "I merely
spoke of your sword to see what you would say. I knew all the time
that you would come with us."

The stumps, where the forest had been cut away, stretched for a
distance of several hundred yards up the slope, and, a little distance
from the breastwork, the dark shadow of Black Rifle came forward to
meet them.

"Nothing yet?" asked the hunter.

"Nothing so far. Three or four good men are with me among the stumps,
but not a warrior has yet appeared. I suppose they know we'll be on
watch here, and it's not worth while taking so great a risk."

They advanced to the far edge of the stump region and crouched there.
The night was now quite dark, the moon almost hidden, the stars but
few, and the forest a solid black line before them.

"Why can't Tayoga use his ears?" said Grosvenor. "He'll hear them,
though a mile away."

"A little farther on and he will," replied Willet, "but we, in our
turn, don't dare to go deep into the forest."

A hundred yards more and the Onondaga put ear to earth, but it was a
long time before he announced anything.

"I hear footsteps fairly near to us," he said at last, "and I think
they are those of warriors. They would be more cautious, but they do
not believe we are outside the line of logs. Yes, they are warriors,
all warriors, there is no jingle of metal such as the French have
on their coats or belts, and they are going to take a look at our
position. They are about to pass now to our right. I also hear
steps, but farther away, on our left, and I think they are those of
Frenchmen."

"Likely De Courcelles and Jumonville wanting also to look us over,"
said Willet.

"There is another and larger force coming directly toward us,"
continued the Onondaga, "and I think it includes both French and
warriors. This may be the attack and perhaps it would be better for us
to fall back."

They withdrew a little, but remained among the stumps, though hidden
carefully. Robert himself could now hear the advance of the large
force in front of them, and he wondered what could be St. Luc's plan
of battle. Surely he would not try to take the sawmill by storm in
face of so many deadly rifles!

Black Rifle suddenly left the others and crept toward the right.
Robert's eyes followed him, and his mind was held by a curious sort of
fascination. He knew that the scout had heard something and he almost
divined what was about to occur. Black Rifle stopped a moment or two
at a stump, and then curved swiftly about it. A dusky figure sprang
up, but the war cry was choked in the throat of the Huron, and then
the knife, wielded by a powerful arm, flashed. Robert quickly turned
his eyes away, because he did not wish to see the fall of the blade,
and he knew that the end was certain. Black Rifle came back in a few
moments. His dark eyes glittered, but he had wiped the knife, and it
was in his belt again.

"His comrades will find him in a few minutes," said Willet, "and we'd
better not linger here."

"They went back toward the sawmill and presently they heard a terrible
cry of rage, a cry given for the fallen warrior.

"I don't think I shall ever grow used to such yells," said Grosvenor,
shuddering.

"I've never grown used to 'em yet," said Robert.

The shout was followed by a half dozen shots, and a bullet or two
whistled overhead, but it was clear that all of them had been fired
at random. The warriors, aware that the chance of surprise had passed,
were venting their wrath in noise. Willet suddenly raised his own
rifle and pulled the trigger. Another dusky figure sprang up and then
fell prone.

"They were coming too close," he said. "That'll be a warning. Now
back, lads, to the breastwork!"

As they retreated the shots and yells increased, the forest ringing
with the whoops, while bullets pattered on the stumps. Both Grosvenor
and Robert were glad when they were inside the logs once more, and
Colden was glad to see them.

"For all I knew you had fallen," he said, "and I can't spare you."

"We left our mark on 'em," said the saturnine Black Rifle. "They know
we're waiting for 'em."

The demonstration increased in volume, the whole forest ringing with
the fierce whoops. Stout nerves even had good excuse for being shaken,
and Colden paled a little, but his soul was high.

"Sound and fury but no attack," he said.

Willet looked at him approvingly.

"You've become a true forest leader, Captain Colden," he said. "You've
learned to tell the real rush from the pretended one. They won't try
anything yet a while, but they're madder than hornets, and they're
sure to move on us later. You just watch."

Yet Colden, Wilton and the others were compelled to argue with the
men, especially with the boat builders and wood choppers. Stern
military discipline was unknown then in the forest; the private often
considered himself a better man than his officer, and frequently told
him so. Troops from the towns or the older settled regions seemed
never to grow used to Indian methods of warfare. They walked again and
again into the same sort of ambush. Now, they felt sure, because the
Indian fire had evaporated in scattered shots, that the French and the
warriors had gone away, and that they might as well be asleep, save
for the guards. But Colden repressed them with a stern hand.

"If it hadn't been for our experience at Fort Refuge I might feel that
way myself," he said. "The silence is certainly consoling, and makes
one feel that all danger has passed."

"The silence is what I dread most," said Robert. "Is anything stirring
on the lake?"

"Not a thing," replied Wilton, who had been watching in that quarter.
"I never saw George look more peaceful."

Robert suggested that they go down to the shore again, and Wilton,
Grosvenor and he walked through the camp, not stopping until they
stood at the water's edge.

"You surely don't anticipate anything here," said Wilton.

"I don't know," replied Robert, thoughtfully, "but our enemies, both
French and Indians, are full of craft. We must guard against wile and
stratagem."

Wilton looked out over the lake, where the gentle wind still blew and
the rippling waters made a slight sighing sound almost like a lullaby.
The opposite cliffs rose steep and lofty, showing dimly through the
dusk, but there was no threat in their dark wall. To south and north
the surface melted in the darkness, but it too seemed friendly and
protecting. Wilton shook his head. No peril could come by that road,
but he held his peace. He had his opinion, but he would not utter it
aloud against those who had so much more experience than he.

The darkness made a further gain. The pallid moon went wholly out, and
the last of the stars left. But they had ample wood inside the camp
and they built the fires higher, the flames lighting up the tanned
eager faces of the men and gleaming along the polished barrels of
their long rifles. Willet had inspected the supply of ammunition and
he considered it ample. That fear was removed from his mind.

Tayoga went to the edge of the forest again, and reported no apparent
movement in the force of St. Luc. But they had built a great fire of
their own, and did not mean to go away. The attack would come some
time or other, but when or how no man could tell.

Robert, who could do as he pleased, concluded to stay with Wilton on
the shore of the lake, where the darkness was continually creeping
closer to the shore. The high cliffs on the far side were lost to
sight and only a little of Andiatarocte's surface could now be seen.
The wind began to moan. Wilton shivered.

"The lake don't look as friendly as it did an hour ago," he said.

A crash of shots from the slope followed his words. The war whoop rose
and fell and rose again. Bullets rattled among the stumps and on the
crude stockade.

"The real attack!" said Wilton.

"Perhaps," said Robert.

He was about to turn away and join in the defense, but an impulse
from some unknown source made him stay. Wilton's duty kept him there,
though he chafed to be on the active side of the camp. The sharp crack
of rifles showed that the defenders were replying and they sent forth
a defiant cheer.

"They may creep down to the edge of the stumps and try to pick off our
men," said Robert, "but they won't make a rush. St. Luc would never
allow it. I don't understand this demonstration. It must be a cover
for something else."

He looked thoughtfully into the darkness, and listened to the moan of
the lake. Had the foe a fleet he might have expected an attack that
way, but he knew that for the present the British and Americans
controlled Andiatarocte.

The darkness was still gathering on the water. He could not see twenty
yards from the land, but behind him everything was brightness. The
fires had been replenished, the men lined the stockade and were firing
fast. Cheers replied to whoops. Smoke of battle overhung the camp, and
drifted off into the forest. Robert looked toward the stockade. Again
it was his impulse to go, and again he stayed. There was a slight
gurgling in the water almost at his feet, and a dark figure rose from
the waves, followed in an instant by another, and then by many more.
Robert, his imagination up and leaping, thrilled with horror. He
understood at once. They were attacked by swimming savages. While
the great shouting and turmoil in their front was going on a line of
warriors had reached the lake somewhere in the darkness, and were now
in the camp itself.

He was palsied only for a moment. Then his faculties were alive and he
saw the imminent need. Leaping back, he uttered a piercing shout, and,
drawing his pistol, he fired point blank at the first of the warriors.
Wilton, who had felt the same horror at sight of the dark faces, fired
also, and there was a rush of feet as men came to their help.

The warriors were armed only with tomahawk and knife, and they had
expected a surprise which they might have effected if it had not been
for Robert's keenness, but more of them came continually and they
made a formidable attack. Sending forth yell after yell as a signal to
their comrades in front that they had landed, they rushed forward.

Neither Robert nor Wilton ever had any clear idea of that fierce
combat in the dark. The defenders fired their rifles and pistols,
if they had time, and then closed in with cold steel. Meanwhile the
attack on the front redoubled. But here at the water's edge it was
fiercest. Borderer met warrior, and now and then, locked in the arms
of one another, they fell and rolled together into the lake. Grosvenor
came too, and, after firing his pistols, he drew his small sword,
plunging into the thick of the combat, thrusting with deadly effect.

The savages were hurled back, but more swimming warriors came to their
aid. Dark heads were continually rising from the lake, and stalwart
figures, almost naked, sprang to the shore. Tomahawks and knives
gleamed, and the air echoed with fierce whoop of Indian and shout of
borderer. And on the other side of the camp, too, the attack was now
pressed with unrelenting vigor. The shrill call of a whistle showed
that St. Luc himself was near, and Frenchmen, Canadians and Indians,
at the edge of the cleared ground and in the first line of stumps,
poured a storm of bullets against the breastwork and into the camp.

Many of the defenders were hit, some mortally. The gallant Colden had
his fine three cornered hat, of which he was very proud, shot away,
but, bare-headed, calm and resolute, he strode about among his men,
handling his forces like the veteran that he had become, strengthening
the weak points, applauding the daring and encouraging the faltering.
Willet, who was crouched behind the logs, firing his rifle with deadly
effect, glanced at him more than once with approval.

"Do you think we can hold 'em off, Tayoga?" the hunter said to the
Onondaga, who was by his side.

"Aye, Great Bear, we can," replied Tayoga. "They will not be able to
enter our camp here, but this is not their spearhead. They expect
to thrust through on the side of the water, where they have come
swimming. Hark to the shouts behind us!"

"And the two lads, Robert and the young Englishman, have gone there.
I think you judge aright about that being their spearhead. We'll go
there too!"

Choosing a moment when they were not observed by the others, lest it
might be construed as a withdrawal in the face of force, they slipped
away from the logs. It was easy to find such an opportunity as the
camp was now full of smoke from the firing, drifting over everything
and often hiding the faces of the combatants from their comrades only
a few yards away.

But the battle raged most fiercely along the water's edge. There it
was hand to hand, and for a while it looked as if the dusky warriors
would make good their footing. To the defenders it seemed that the
lake spewed them forth continually, and that they would overwhelm with
weight of numbers. Yet the gallant borderers would not give back, and
encouraging one another with resounding cheers they held the doubtful
shore. Into this confused and terrible struggle Willet and Tayoga
hurled themselves, and their arrival was most opportune.

"Push 'em back, lads! Push 'em back! Into the water with 'em!" shouted
the stalwart hunter, and emptying rifle and pistol he clubbed the
former, striking terrific blows. Tayoga, tomahawk in hand, went up and
down like a deadly flame. Soldiers and borderers came to the danger
point, and the savages were borne back. Not one of them coming from
the water was able to enter the camp. The terrible line of lead and
steel that faced them was impassable, and all the time the tremendous
shouts of Willet poured fresh courage and zeal into the young troops
and the borderers.

"At 'em, lads! At 'em!" he cried. "Push 'em back! Throw 'em into the
water! Show 'em they can't enter our camp, that the back door, like
the front door, is closed! That's the way! Good for you, Grosvenor!
A sword is a deadly weapon when one knows how to use it! A wonderful
blow for you, Tayoga! But you always deal wonderful ones! Careful,
Robert! 'Ware the tomahawk! Now, lads, drive 'em! Drive 'em hard!"

The men united in one mighty rush that the warriors could not
withstand. They were hurled back from the land, and, after their
fashion when a blow had failed, they quit in sudden and utter fashion.
Springing into the water, and swimming with all their power, they
disappeared in the heavy darkness which now hovered close to shore.
Many of the young soldiers, carried away by the heat of combat, were
about to leap into the lake and follow them, but Willet, running up
and down, restrained their eager spirits.

"No! No!" he cried. "Don't do that. They'll be more'n a match for you
in the water. We've won, and we'll keep what we've won!"

All the warriors who had landed, save the dead, were now gone,
evidently swimming for some point near by, and the battle in front, as
if by a preconcerted signal, also sank down suddenly. Then St. Luc's
silver whistle was heard, and French and Indians alike drew off.

Robert stood dazed by the abrupt end of the combat. His blood was
hot, and millions of black specks danced before his eyes. The sudden
silence, after so much shouting and firing, made his pulses beat like
the sound of drums in his ears. He held an empty pistol in his right
hand, but he passed his left palm over his hot face, and wiped away
the mingled reek of perspiration and burned gunpowder. Grosvenor stood
near him, staring at the red edge of his own sword.

"Put up your weapon, Red Coat," said Tayoga, calmly. "The battle is
over--for the time."

"And we've won!" exclaimed Grosvenor. "I could hardly believe it was
real when I saw all those dark figures coming out of the water!"

Then he shuddered violently, and in sudden excess of emotion flung his
sword from him. But he went a moment later and picked it up again.

The attack had been repulsed on every side, but the price paid was
large. Fifteen men were dead and many others were wounded. The bodies
of seventeen Indians who had fallen in the water attack were found
and were consigned to the waves. Others, with their French allies, had
gone down on the side of the forest, but most of the fallen had been
taken away by their comrades.

It was a victory for Colden and his men, but it left serious alarm for
the future. St. Luc was still in the forest, and he might attack again
in yet greater force. Besides, they would have to guard against many
a cunning and dangerous device from that master of forest warfare.
Colden called a council, at which Willet and Black Rifle were central
figures, and they agreed that there was nothing to be done but to
strengthen their log outworks and to practice eternal vigilance. Then
they began to toil anew on the breastworks, strengthening them with
fresh timber, of which, fortunately, they had a vast supply, as so
much had been cut to be turned into boats. A double guard was placed
at the water's edge, lest the warriors come back for a new attack, and
the wounded were made as comfortable as the circumstances would admit.
Luckily Willet and many others were well acquainted with the rude but
effective border surgery, much of it learned from the Indians, and
they were able to give timely help.

The hurt endured in silence. Their frontier stoicism did not allow
them to give voice to pain. Blankets were spread for them under the
sheds or in the sawmill, and some, despite their injuries, fell asleep
from exhaustion. Soldiers and borderers walked behind the palisades,
others continually molded bullets, while some were deep in slumber,
waiting their turn to be called for the watch.

It began to rain by and by, not heavily, but a slow, dull, seeping
fall that was inexpressibly dreary, and the thick, clammy darkness,
shot with mists and vapors from the lake, rolled up to the very
edge of the fires. Robert might have joined the sleepers, as he was
detached from immediate duty, but his brain was still too much heated
to admit it. Despite his experience and his knowledge that it could
not be so, his vivid fancy filled forest and water with enemies coming
forward to a new attack. He saw St. Luc, sword in hand, leading them,
and, shaking his body violently, he laughed at himself. This would
never do.

"What does Dagaeoga see that is so amusing?" asked Tayoga.

"Nothing, Tayoga. I was merely ridiculing myself for looking into the
blackness and seeing foes who are not there."

"And yet we all do it. If our enemies are not there they are at least
not far away. I have been outside with Black Rifle, and we have been
into the edge of the forest. Sharp Sword makes a big camp, and shows
all the signs of intending to stay long. We may yet lose the sawmill.
It is best to understand the full danger. What does Dagaeoga mean to
do now?"

"I think I'll go back to the water's edge, and help keep the watch
there. That seems to be my place."

He found Wilton still in command of the lake guard, and Grosvenor
with him. The young Quaker had been shocked by the grim battle, but he
showed a brave front nevertheless. He had put on his military cloak to
protect himself from the rain, and Robert and Grosvenor had borrowed
others for the same purpose.

"We've won a victory," said Wilton, "but, as I gather, it's not final.
That St. Luc, whose name seems to inspire so much terror, will come
again. Am I not right, Lennox?"

"You're right, Wilton. St. Luc will come not a second time only, but a
third, and a fourth, if necessary."

"And can't we expect any help? We're supposed to have command of this
lake for the present."

"I know of none."

The three walked up and down, listening to the mournful lapping of the
waves on the beach, and the sigh of the dripping rain. The stimulus
of excited action had passed and they felt heavy and depressed. They
could see only a few yards over the lake, and must depend there upon
ear to warn them of a new attack that way. The fact added to their
worries, but luckily Tayoga, with his amazing powers of hearing,
joined them, establishing at once what was in effect a listening
post, although it was not called then by that name. Wilton drew
much strength from the presence of the Onondaga, while it made the
confidence of Grosvenor supreme.

"Now we'll surely know if they come," he said.

A long while passed without a sign, but they did not relax their
vigilance a particle, and Tayoga interpreted the darkness for them.

"There was a little wind," he said, after a while, "but it is almost
dead now. The waves are running no longer. I hear a slight sound to
the south which was not there before."

"I hear nothing, Tayoga," said Robert.

"Perhaps not, Dagaeoga, but I hear it, which is enough. The sound is
quite faint, but it is regular like the beating of a pulse. Now I can
tell what it is. It is the stroke of a paddle. There is a canoe upon
the lake, passing in front of us. It is not the canoe of a friend, or
it would come at once to the land. It contains only one man. How do
I know, Red Coat? Because the canoe is so small. The stroke of the
paddle is light and yet the canoe moves swiftly. A canoe heavy enough
to hold two men could not be moved so fast without a stroke also
heavy. How do I know it is going fast, Dagaeoga? Do not ask such
simple questions. Because the sound of the paddle stroke moving
rapidly toward the north shows it. Doubtless some of Sharp Sword's
warriors brought with them a canoe overland, and they are now using it
to spy upon us."

"What can we do about it, Tayoga?"

"Nothing, Red Coat. Ah, the canoe has turned and is now going back
toward the south, but more slowly. The man in it could locate our camp
easily by the glow of the fires through the mist and vapors. Perhaps
he can see a dim outline of our figures."

"And one of us may get a bullet while we stand here watching."

"No, Red Coat, it is not at all likely. His aim would be extremely
uncertain in the darkness. The warrior is not usually a good marksman,
nor is it his purpose here to shoot. He would rather spy upon us,
without giving an alarm. Ah, the man has now stopped his southward
journey, and is veering about uncertainly! He dips in the paddle
only now and then. That is strange. All his actions express doubt,
uncertainty and even alarm."

"What do you think has happened, Tayoga?"

"Manitou yet has the secret in his keeping, Dagaeoga, but if we wait
in patience a little it may be revealed to me. The canoe is barely
moving and the man in it watches. Now his paddle makes a little splash
as he turns slightly to the right. It is certain that he has been
alarmed. The spy thinks he is being spied upon, and doubtless he is
right. He grows more and more uneasy. He moves again, he moves twice
in an aimless fashion. Although we do not see him in the flesh, it is
easy to tell that he is trying to pierce the darkness with his eyes,
not to make out us, but to discern something very near the canoe. His
alarm grows and probably with good cause. Ah, he has made a sudden
powerful stroke, with the paddle, shooting the canoe many feet to the
left, but it is too late!"

"Too late for what, Tayoga?" exclaimed Robert.

The Onondaga did not reply for a moment or two, but stood tense and
strained. His eyes, his whole attitude showed excitement, a rare thing
with him.

"It was too late," he repeated. "Whatever threatened the man in
the canoe, whatever the danger was, it has struck. I heard a little
splash. It was made by the man falling into the water. He has gone.
Now, what has become of the canoe? Perhaps the warrior when he fell
dropped the paddle into the water, and the canoe is drifting slowly
away. No, I think some one is swimming to it. Ah, he is in the canoe
now, and he has recovered the paddle! I hear the strokes, which are
different from those made by the man who was in it before. They have
a longer sweep. The new man is stronger. He is very powerful, and he
does not take the canoe back and forth. He is coming toward the land.
Stand here, and we will welcome Daganoweda of the Ganeagaono. It
might be some other, but I do not think it possible. It is surely
Daganoweda."

A canoe shot from the mists and vapors. The fierce young Mohawk chief
put down the paddle, and, stepping from the light craft into the
shallow water, raised his hand in a proud salute. He was truly a
striking figure. The dusk enlarged him until he appeared gigantic.
He was naked except for belt and breech cloth, and water ran from his
shining bronze body. A tomahawk and knife in the belt were his only
weapons, but Robert knew instinctively that one of them had been
wielded well.

"Welcome, Daganoweda," he said. "We were not looking for you, but
if we had taken thought about it we might have known that you would
come."

The dark eyes of the Mohawk flashed and his figure seemed to grow in
stature.

"There has been a battle," he said, "and Sharp Sword with a great
force is pressing hard upon the white brothers of the Ganeagaono. It
was not possible for Daganoweda to stay away."

"That is true. You are a great chief. You scent the conflict afar, and
you always come to it. Our people could have no truer, no braver ally.
The arrival of Daganoweda alone is as the coming of ten men."

The nostrils of the chief dilated. Obviously he was pleased at
Robert's round and swelling sentences.

"I come in the canoe of a foe," he said. "The warrior who was in it
has gone into the lake."

"We know that. Tayoga, who is a wonder for hearing, and a still
greater wonder at interpreting what he hears, followed your marvelous
achievement and told us every step in its progress. He even knew that
it was you, and announced your coming through the mists and vapors."

"Tayoga of the clan of the Bear, of the nation Onondaga, of the great
League of the Hodenosaunee, is a great warrior, and the greatest
trailer in the world, even though he be so young."

Tayoga said nothing, and his face did not move, but his eyes gleamed.

"Do you come alone?" asked Robert.

"The warriors who were with me when you met us in the woods are at
hand," replied the chief, "and they await my signal. They have crept
past the line of Sharp Sword, though Tandakora and many men watched,
and are not far away. I will call them."

He sent forth twice the harsh cry of a water fowl. There was no
answer, but he did not seem to expect any, standing at attention,
every line of his figure expressing supreme confidence. The others
shared his belief.

"I hear them. They come," said Tayoga at length.

Presently a slight sound as of long, easy strokes reached them all,
and in a few moments a line of dark heads appeared through the mists
and vapors. Then the Mohawks swam to land, carrying their rifles and
ammunition, Daganoweda's too, on their heads, and stood up in a silent
and dripping line before their chief.

"It is well," said Daganoweda, looking them over with an approving
eye. "You are all here, and we fight in the next battle beside our
white brothers."

"A battle that you would be loath to miss and right glad we are to
welcome such sturdy help," said the voice of Willet behind them. "I'll
tell Captain Colden that you're here."

The young captain came at once, and welcomed Daganoweda in proper
dignified fashion. Blankets and food were given to the Mohawks, and
they ate and warmed themselves by the fire. They were not many, but
Robert knew they were a great addition. The fiery spirit of Daganoweda
alone was worth twenty men.

"I think that we'd better seek sleep now," said young Lennox to
Grosvenor. "I admit one is tempted to stay awake that he may see and
hear everything, but sooner or later you've got to rest."

They found a good place under one of the sheds, and, wrapped in
blankets, soon sank to slumber. The day after such a momentous night
came dark and gloomy, with the rain still dripping. A north wind had
arisen, and high waves chased one another over the lake. There was
still much fog on the land side, and, under its cover, the French and
Indians were stalking the camp, firing at every incautious head.

"Most of those bullets are French," said Tayoga, "because the warriors
are not good sharpshooters, and they are aimed well. I think that
Sharp Sword has selected all the best French and Canadian marksmen and
has sent them down to the edge of the woods to harass us. As long as
the fog hangs there we may expect their bullets."

The fire of these hidden sharpshooters soon became terribly harassing.
From points of vantage they sent their bullets even into the very
heart of the camp. Not a head or a shoulder, not an arm could be
exposed. Three men were killed, a dozen more were wounded, and the
spirit of the garrison was visibly affected. At the suggestion of
Willet, Colden selected thirty sharpshooters of his own and sent them
among the stumps to meet the French and Canadian riflemen.

Robert and Tayoga were in this band, and Willet himself led it.
Daganoweda and three of his warriors who were good shots also went
along. Black Rifle was already outside on one of his usual solitary
but fierce man-hunts. All the men as soon as they left the breastworks
lay almost flat on the wet ground, and crept forward with the utmost
care. It was a service of extreme danger, none could be more so, and
it was certain that not all of them would come back.




CHAPTER X

IN THE FOG


When Robert went into the fog and began to creep from stump to stump,
his imagination leaped up at once and put a foe at every point in
front of him. Perhaps he deserved more credit for courage and daring
than any of the others, because his vivid fancy foresaw all the
dangers and more. Tayoga was on his right and Willet on his left.
Daganoweda, who had all the eagerness of Black Rifle himself, was
farther down the line. Flashes of fire appeared now and then in the
fog ahead of them, and bullets hummed over their heads.

Robert, essentially humane, began to share, nevertheless, the zeal of
these hunters of men around him. The French and Canadians were seeking
their lives and they must strike back. He peered through the fog,
looking for a chance to fire, forgetting the wet ground, and the rain
which was fast soaking him through and through. He was concerned only
to keep his rifle and powder dry. Two flashes on his right showed that
the defenders were already replying.

"We cannot go much farther, Dagaeoga," whispered Tayoga, "or we will
be among them. I shall take this stump just ahead."

"And I the one beside it. I don't mind admitting that a thick stump
between you and your enemy is a good thing."

He sank down behind his chosen bulwark, and stared through the fog.
The flashes of fire continued, but they were on his right and left,
and nothing appeared directly in front of him. A cry came from a point
farther down the line. One of the defenders had been hit and presently
another fell. Robert again saw all the dangers and more, but his mind
was in complete command of his body and he watched with unfailing
vigilance. He saw Willet suddenly level his rifle across his
protecting stump and fire. No cry came in response, but he believed
that the hunter's bullet had found its target. Tayoga also pulled
trigger, but Robert did not yet see anything at which to aim,
although the sound of shots from the two hostile fronts was now almost
continuous.

The combat in the dim mists had a certain weird quality and Robert's
imaginative mind heightened its effect. It was almost like the blind
shooting at the blind. A pink dot would appear in the fog, expand a
little, and then go out. There would be a sharp report, the whistling
of a bullet, perhaps, and that was all. The white men fought in
silence, and, if there were any Indians with the French and Canadians
they imitated them.

Robert, at last, caught a glimpse of a dusky figure about thirty yards
in front of him, and, aiming his rifle, quickly fired. He had no
way of knowing that he had hit, save that no shot came in reply, but
Tayoga, who was once again ear to the ground, said that their foes
were drawing back a little.

"They find our fire hotter than they had expected," he said. "If they
can shoot in the fog so can we, and the Great Bear is more than a
match for them in such a contest."

The whole line crept forward and paused again behind another row of
stumps. A general volley met them and they found protection none too
soon. Bullets chipped little pieces off the stumps or struck in the
ground about them. But Robert knew that they had been fired largely
at random, or had been drawn perhaps by a slight noise. There was a
strong temptation to return the fire in a like manner, but he had the
strength of mind to withhold his aim for the present, and not shoot
until he had a sure target.

Yet the dim battle in the fog increased in volume. More skirmishers
from the forces of St. Luc came up, and the line of fire spread to
both left and right. A yell was heard now and then, and it was
evident that the Indians in large numbers were coming into the combat.
Willet's band was reenforced also from the camp, and his line extended
to meet that of the foe. Rifles cracked incessantly, the white fog
was sprinkled with pink dots, and, above the heads of the men, it was
darkened by the smoke that rose from the firing. At rare intervals a
deep cheer from a borderer replied to the savage war whoop.

A man four stumps from Robert was hit in the head and died without
a sound, but Willet, firing at the flash of the rifle that slew him,
avenged his loss. A bullet grazed Robert's head, cutting off two locks
of hair very neatly. Its passage took his breath for a moment or two,
and gave him a shock, but he recovered quickly, and, still controlling
his impulse to pull trigger in haste, looked for something at which to
aim.

The fog had not lifted at all, but by gazing into its heart a long
time, Robert was able to see a little distance. Now and then the
figure of an enemy, as he leaped from the shelter of one stump to
another, was outlined dimly, but invariably there was not enough time
for a shot. Soon he made out a large stump not very far ahead of him,
and he saw the flash of a rifle from it. He caught a glimpse only of
the hands that held the weapon, but he believed them to be a white
man's hands and he believed also that the man behind the stump was one
of the best French sharpshooters.

Robert resolved to bring down the Frenchman, who presently, when
firing once more, might then expose enough of himself for a target. He
waited patiently and the second shot came. He saw the hands again, the
arms, part of one shoulder and the side of the head, and taking quick
aim he pulled the trigger, though he was satisfied that his bullet had
missed.

But the flame of battle was lighted in Robert's soul. Hating nobody
and wishing good to all, he nevertheless sought to kill, because some
one was seeking to kill him, and because killing was the business of
those about him. What came to be known later as mass psychology took
hold of him. All his mental and physical powers were concentrated on
the single task of slaying an enemy. The affair now resolved itself
into a duel between single foes.

Deciding to await a third shot from his enemy, he made his position
behind the stump a little easier, poised, as it were, ready to throw
every faculty, physical and mental, into his reply to that expected
third shot. He was quite sure, too, that he would have a chance,
because the man had exposed so much more of himself at the second
shot than at the first, and his escape from the bullets would make him
expose yet more at the third. His heart began to throb hard, and his
pulses were beating fast. The battle was still going on about him, but
he forgot all the rest of it, the shots, the shouts, the flashes, and
remembered only his own part. He judged that in another minute the man
would show himself. So believing, he laid his rifle across his stump,
cocked it, and was ready to take aim and fire in a few seconds.

His foe's head appeared, after just about the delay that he had
expected, and Robert's hand sprang to the trigger at the very moment
the man pulled his own. The bullet hummed by his cheek. His finger
contracted and then it loosened. A sudden acuteness of vision, or a
chance thinning of the fog at that point, enabled him to see the man's
face, and he recognized the French partisan, Charles Langlade, known
also to the Indians as the Owl, who, with his wife, the Dove, had once
held him in a captivity by no means unkind.

His humane instincts, his gratitude, his feeling for another flared
up even in that moment of battle and passion, when the man-hunting
impulse was so strong. His aim, quick as it was, had been sure and
deadly, but, deflecting the muzzle of the rifle a shade, his finger
contracted again. The spurt of fire leaped forth and the bullet sang
by the ear of Langlade, singing to him a little song of caution as it
passed, telling such a wary partisan as he that his stump was a very
exposed stump, dangerous to the last degree, and that it would be
better for him to find one somewhere else.

Robert did not see the Owl go away, but he was quite sure that he had
gone, because it was just the sort of thing that such a skilled forest
fighter would do. The fog thickened again, and, in a few more minutes,
both lines shifted somewhat. Then he had to watch new stumps at new
points, and his thoughts were once more in tune with those about him,
concentrated on the battle and the man-hunt.

A bullet tipped his ear, and he saw that it came from a stump hardly
visible in the fog. The sharpshooter was not likely to be Langlade
again, and, at once, it became Robert's ambition to put him out of
action. No consideration of mercy or humanity would restrain him now,
if he obtained a chance of a good shot, and he waited patiently for
it. Evidently this new sharpshooter had detected his presence also,
and the second duel was on.

The man fired again in a minute or two, and the bullet chipped very
close. He was so quick, too, that Robert did not get an opportunity to
return his fire, but he recognized the face and to his great surprise
saw that it was De Courcelles who had taken a place in line with the
skirmishers. Rage seized him at once. This was the man who had tried
to trick him to his death in that affair with the bully, Boucher, at
Quebec. He was shaken with righteous anger. All the kindliness and
mercy that he had felt toward Langlade disappeared. He was sure, too,
that De Courcelles knew him and was trying his best to kill him.

Robert peered over his stump and sought eagerly for a shot. He
could play at that game as well as De Courcelles, but his enemy was
cautious. It was some time before he risked another bullet, and then
Robert's, in reply, missed, though he also had been untouched. His
anger increased. Although he had little hate in his composition he
could not forget that this man De Courcelles had been a party to an
infamous attempt upon his life, and even now, in what amounted to a
duel, was seeking to kill him. His own impulses, under such a spur,
and for the moment, were those of the slayer. He used all the skill
that he had learned in the forest to secure an opportunity for the
taking of his foe's life.

Robert sought to draw De Courcelles' fire again, meanwhile having
reloaded his own rifle, and he raised his cap a little above the edge
of the stump. But the trick was too old for the Frenchman and he did
not yield to it. Taking the chance, he thrust up his face, dropping
back immediately as De Courcelles' bullet sang over his head. Then he
sprang up and was in time to pull trigger at his enemy, who fell back.

Robert was able to tell in the single glimpse through the fog that De
Courcelles was not killed. The bullet had struck him in the shoulder,
inflicting a wound, certainly painful but probably not dangerous,
although it was likely to feed the man's hate of Robert. Even so,
young Lennox was glad now that he had not killed him, that his death
was not upon his hands; it was enough to disable him and to drive him
out of the battle.

The fighting grew once more in volume and fury. Rifles cracked
continuously up and down the line. The war whoop of the Indians was
incessant, and the deep cheer of the borderers replied to it. But
Robert saw that the end of the combat was near; not that the rage of
man was abated, but because nature, as if tired of so much strife, was
putting in between a veil that would hide the hostile forces from each
other. The fog suddenly began to thicken rapidly, rolling up from the
lake in great, white waves that made figures dim and shadowy, even a
few paces away.

If the fighting went on it would be impossible to tell friend from
foe, and Willet at once sent forth a sharp call which was repeated up
and down the line. The French leaders took like action, and, by mutual
consent, the two forces fell apart. The firing and the shouts ceased
abruptly and a slow withdrawal was begun. The fog had conquered.

"Is Dagaeoga hurt?" asked Tayoga.

"Untouched," replied Robert.

"I saw that you and the Frenchman, De Courcelles, were engaged in a
battle of your own. I might have helped you, but if I know you, you
did not wish my aid."

"No, Tayoga. It was man to man. I confess that while our duel was on
I was filled with rage against him, and tried my best to kill, but now
I'm glad I gave him only a wound."

"Your hate flows away as De Courcelles' blood flows out."

"If you want to put it that way. But do you hear anything of the
enemy, Tayoga? Fog seems to be a conductor of sound now and then."

"Nothing except the light noises of withdrawal. The retreating
footsteps become fainter and fainter, and I think we shall have peace
for to-day. They might fire bullets at random against the camp, but
St. Luc will not let them waste lead in such a manner. No, Dagaeoga,
we will lie quiet now and dress our wounds."

He was right, as the firing was not renewed, though the pickets,
stationed at short intervals, kept as sharp a watch as they could in
the fog, while the others lay by the fires which were now built higher
than usual. Colden was hopeful that St. Luc would draw off, but Tayoga
and Black Rifle, who went out again into the fog, reported no sign of
it. Beyond a doubt, he was prepared to maintain a long siege.

"We must get help," said Willet. "We're supposed to control Lake
George and we know that forces of ours are at the south end, where
they've advanced since the taking of Fort William Henry. We'll have to
send messengers."

"Who are they to be?" asked Colden.

"Robert and Tayoga are most fit. You have plenty of boats. They can
take a light one and leave at once, while the fog holds."

Colden agreed. Young Lennox and the Onondaga were more than willing,
and, in a half hour, everything was ready for the start. A strong
canoe with paddles for two was chosen and they put in it their rifles,
plenty of ammunition and some food.

"A year from now, if the war is still going on, I'll be going with you
on such errands," said Grosvenor confidently.

"Red Coat speaks the truth. He learns fast," said Tayoga.

"I won't tell you lads to be careful, because you don't need any
advice," said Willet.

Many were at the water's edge, when they pushed off, and Robert knew
that they were followed by the best of wishes, not only for their
success but for themselves also. A few strokes of the paddles and the
whole camp, save a luminous glow through the fog, was gone. A few more
strokes and the luminous glow too departed. The two were alone once
more in the wilderness, and they had little but instinct to guide them
in their perilous journey upon the waters. But they were not afraid.
Robert, instead, felt a curious exaltation of the spirit. He was
supremely confident that he and Tayoga would carry out their mission,
in spite of everything.

"It is odd how quickly the camp sank from sight," he said.

"It is because we are in the heart of a great fog," said Tayoga.
"Since it was thick enough to hide the battle it is thick enough
also to hide the camp and us from each other. But, Dagaeoga, it is a
friendly fog, as it conceals us from our enemies also."

"That's so, Tayoga, but I'm thinking this fog will hold dangers for us
too. St. Luc is not likely to neglect the lake, and he'll surmise that
we'll send for help. We've had experience on the water in fogs before,
and you'll have to use your ears as you did then."

"So I will, Dagaeoga. Suppose we stop now, and listen."

But nothing of a hostile nature came to them through the mists and
vapors, and, resuming the paddles again, they bore more toward the
center of the lake, where they thought they would be likely to escape
the cruising canoes of the enemy, if any should be sent out by St.
Luc. They expected too that the fog would thin there, but it did not
do so, seeming to spread over the full extent of Andiatarocte.

"How long do you think the fog will last?" asked Robert.

"All day, I fear," replied Tayoga.

"That's bad. If any of our friends should be on the shore we won't be
able to see 'em."

"But we have to make the best of it, Dagaeoga. We may be able to hear
them."

The fog was the greatest they had ever seen on Andiatarocte,
seeming to ooze up from the depths of the waters, and to spread over
everything. The keenest eyes, like those of Robert and Tayoga, could
penetrate it only a few yards, and it hung in heavy, wet folds over
their faces. It was difficult even to tell direction and they paddled
very slowly in a direction that they surmised led to the south. After
a while they stopped again that Tayoga might establish a new listening
post upon the water, though nothing alarming yet came to those
marvelous ears of his. But it was evident that he expected peril, and
Robert also anticipated it.

"A force as large as St. Luc's is sure to have brought canoes
overland," said young Lennox, "and in a fog like this he'll have them
launched on the lake."

"It is so," said Tayoga, using his favorite expression, "and I think
they will come soon."

They moved on once more a few hundred yards, and then, when the
Onondaga listened a long time, he announced that the hostile canoes
were on the lake, cruising about in the fog.

"I hear one to the right of us, another to the left, and several
directly ahead," he said. "Sharp Sword brought plenty of canoes with
him and he is using them. I think they have formed a line across the
lake, surmising that we would send a message to the south. Sharp Sword
is a great leader, and he forgets nothing."

"They can't draw a line that we won't pass."

Now they began to use their paddles very slowly and gently, the canoe
barely creeping along, and Tayoga listening with all his powers. But
the Onondaga was aware that his were not the only keen ears on the
lake, and that, gentle as was the movement of the paddies that he and
Robert held, it might be heard.

"The canoe on our right is coming in a little closer to us," he
whispered. "It is a very large canoe, because it holds four paddles.
I can trace the four separate sounds. They try to soften their strokes
lest the hidden messenger whom they want to catch may hear them, but
they cannot destroy the sound altogether. Now, the one on the left is
bearing in toward us also. I think they have made a chain across the
lake, and hope to keep anything from passing."

"Can you hear those ahead of us?"

"Very slightly, and only now and then, but it is enough to tell us
that they are still there. But, Dagaeoga, we must go ahead even if
they are before us; we cannot think of turning back."

"No such thought entered my head, Tayoga. We'll run this gauntlet."

"That was what I knew you would say. The canoes from both right and
left still approach. I think they carry on a patrol in the fog, and
move back and forth, always keeping in touch. Now, we must go forward
a little, or they will be upon us, but be ever so gentle with the
paddle, Dagaeoga. That is it! We make so little sound that it is no
sound at all, and they cannot hear us. Now, we are well beyond them,
and the two canoes are meeting in the fog. The men in them talk
together. You hear them very well yourself, Dagaeoga. Their exact
words do not come to our ears, but we know they are telling one
another that no messenger from the beleaguered camp has yet passed.
Now, they part and go back on their beat. We can afford to forget
them, Dagaeoga, and think of those ahead. We still have the real
gauntlet to run. Be very gentle with the paddle again.

"I hear the canoes ahead of us very clearly now. One of them is large
also with four paddles in it, and two of the men are Frenchmen. I
cannot understand what they say, but I hear the French accent; the
sound is not at all like that the warriors make. One of the Frenchmen
is giving instructions, as I can tell by his tone of command, and I
think the canoes are going to spread out more. Yes, they are moving
away to both right and left. They must feel sure that we are here
somewhere in the fog, trying to get by them, but the big canoe with
the Frenchmen in it keeps its place. Bear a little to the left,
Dagaeoga, and we can pass it unseen."

It was the most delicate of tasks to paddle the canoe, and cause
scarcely a ripple in the water, but they were so skillful they were
able to do it, and make no sound that Robert himself could hear.
Although his nerves were steady his excitement was intense. A
situation so extraordinary put every power of his imagination into
play. His fancy fairly peopled the water with hostile canoes; they
were in a triple ring about him and Tayoga. All his pulses were
beating hard, yet his will, as usual, was master of his nerves, and
the hand that held the paddle never shook.

"A canoe on the outer line, and from the left, is now bearing in
toward us," whispered Tayoga.

"There are two men in it, as the strokes of the paddles show. They are
coming toward us. Some evil spirit must have whispered to them that we
are here. Ah, they have stopped! What does it mean, Dagaeoga? Listen!
Did you not hear a little splash? They think to surprise us! They keep
the paddles silent and try a new trick! Hold the canoe here, Dagaeoga,
and I will meet the warrior who comes!"

The Onondaga dropped his rifle, hunting shirt and belt with his pistol
in it, into the bottom of the canoe, and then, his knife in his teeth,
he was over the side so quickly that Robert did not have time to
protest. In an instant he was gone in the fog, and the youth in
the canoe could do nothing but wait, a prey to the most terrible
apprehensions.

Robert, with an occasional motion of the paddle, held the canoe steady
on the water, and tried to pierce the fog with his eyes. He knew that
he must stay just where he was, or Tayoga, when he came back, might
never find him. If he came back! If--He listened with all his ears for
some sound, however slight, that might tell him what was happening.

Out of the fog came a faint splash, and then a sigh that was almost
a groan. Young Lennox shuddered, and the hair on his head stood up a
little. He knew that sound was made by a soul passing, but whose soul?
Once more he realized to the full that his lot was cast in wild and
perilous places.

A swimming face appeared in the fog, close to the canoe, and then his
heart fell from his throat to its usual place. Tayoga climbed lightly
into the canoe, no easy feat in such a situation, put on his belt and
replaced the knife in the sheath. Robert asked him nothing, he had
no need to do so. The sigh that was almost a groan had told the full
tale.

"Now we will bear to the right again, Dagaeoga," said Tayoga, calmly,
as the water dripped from him. Robert shivered once more. His fertile
fancy reproduced that brief, fierce struggle in the water, but he said
nothing, promptly following the suggestion of Tayoga, and sending the
canoe to the right. The position was too perilous, though, for them
to continue on one course long, and at the end of forty or fifty yards
they stopped, both listening intently.

"Some of them are talking with one another now," whispered Tayoga.
"The warrior who swam does not come back to his canoe, and they wonder
why he stays in the water so long. Soon they will know that he is
never coming out of the water. Now I hear a voice raised somewhat
above the others. It is a French voice. It is not that of St. Luc,
because he must remain on shore to direct his army. It is not that of
De Courcelles, because you wounded him, and he must be lying in camp
nursing his hurts. So I conclude that it is Jumonville, who is next
in rank and who therefore would be likely to command on this important
service. I am sure it is Jumonville, and his raised voice indicates
that he is giving orders. He realizes that the swimmer will not
return and that we must be near. Perhaps he knows or guesses that the
messengers are you and I, because he has learned long since that we
are fitted for just such service, and that we have done such deeds.
For instance, our journey to Quebec, on which we first met him."

"Then he'll think Dave is here too, because he was with us then."

"No, he will be quite sure the Great Bear is not here. He knows that
he is too important in the defense of the camp, that, while Captain
Colden commands, it is the Great Bear who suggests and really directs
everything. His sharp orders signify some sudden, new plan. They have
a fleet of canoes, and I think they are making a chain, with the links
connected so closely that we cannot pass. It is a real gauntlet for us
to run, Dagaeoga."

"And how are we to run it?"

"We must pass as warriors, as men of their own."

"I do not look like a warrior."

"But you can make yourself look like one, in the fog at least, enough,
perhaps, to go by. Your hair is a little long; take off your hunting
shirt, and the other shirt beneath it, bare yourself to the waist, and
in such a fog as this it would take the keenest of eyes, only a few
yards away, to tell that you are white. Quick, Dagaeoga! Lay the
garments on the bottom of the canoe. Bend well upon your paddle and
appear to be searching the water everywhere for the messengers who try
to escape. I will do the same. Ah, that is well. You look and act so
much like a warrior of the woods, Dagaeoga, that even I, in the same
canoe, could well take you for a Huron. Now we will whisper no more
for a while, because they come, and they will soon be upon us."

Robert bent over his paddle. His upper clothing lay in the bottom of
the canoe, with his rifle and Tayoga's upon the garments, ready to be
snatched up in an instant, if need should come. The cold, wet fog beat
upon his bare shoulders and chest, but he did not feel it. Instead his
blood was hot in every vein, and the great pulses in his temples beat
so hard that they made a roaring in his ears.

Distinct sounds now came from both left and right, the swish of
paddles, the ripple of water against the side of a canoe, men talking.
They were coming to the chain that had been stretched in front of
them, and their fate would soon be decided. Now, they must be not only
brave to the uttermost, but they must be consummate actors too.

Figures began to form themselves in the fog, the outline of a canoe
with two men in it appeared on their right, another showed just ahead,
and two more on the left. Robert from his lowered eyes, bent over the
paddle, caught a glimpse of the one ahead, a great canoe, or rather
boat, containing five men, one of whom wielded no paddle, but who sat
in its center, issuing orders. Through the fog came a slight gleam
of metal from his epaulets and belt, and, although the face was
indistinct, Robert knew that it was Jumonville.

The officer was telling the canoes to keep close watch, not to let
the chain be broken, that the messengers were close at hand, that
they would soon be taken, and that their comrade who did not come
back would be avenged. Robert bent a little lower over his paddle. His
whole body prickled, and the roaring in his ears increased.

Tayoga suddenly struck him a smart blow across his bowed back,
and spoke to him fiercely in harsh, guttural Huron. Robert did not
understand the words, but they sounded like a stern rebuke for poor
work with the paddle. The blow and the words stimulated him, keyed him
to a supreme effort as an actor. All his histrionic temperament flared
up at once. He made a poor stroke with the paddle, threw up much
surplus water, and, as he cowered away from Tayoga, he corrected
himself hastily. Tayoga uttered a sharp rebuke again, but did not
strike a second time. That would have been too much. Robert's next
stroke was fine and sweeping, and he heard Jumonville say in French
which many of the Indians understood:

"Go more toward the center of the lake and take a place in the line."

Tayoga and Robert obeyed dumbly, passing Jumonville's boat at a range
of five or six yards, going a little beyond the line, and, turning
about as if to make a curve that would keep them from striking any
other canoe. Again Robert made a false stroke with the paddle, causing
the canoe to rock dangerously, and now, Tayoga, fully justified by
the fierce code of the forest in striking him again, snatched his own
paddle out of the water and gave him a smart rap with the flat of it
across the back, at the same time upbraiding him fiercely in Huron.

"Dolt! Fool!" he exclaimed. "Will you never learn how to hold your
paddle? Will you never know the stroke? Will you tip us both into the
water at such a time, when the messengers of the enemy are seeking
to steal through? Do better with the paddle or you shall stay at home
with the old women, and work for the warriors!"

Robert snarled in reply, but he did not repay the blow. He made
another awkward sweep that sent them farther on the outward curve, and
he heard Jumonville's harsh laugh. He was still the superb actor. His
excitement was real, and he counterfeited a nervousness and jerkiness
that appeared real also. One more wild stroke, and they shot farther
out. Jumonville angrily ordered them to return, but Robert seemed to
be possessed by a spell of awkwardness, and Tayoga craftily aided him.

"Come back!" roared Jumonville.

Robert and Tayoga were fifteen yards away, and the great blanket of
fog was enclosing them.

"Now! Now, Dagaeoga!" whispered the Onondaga tensely. "We paddle with
all our might straight toward the south!"

Two paddles wielded by skillful and powerful arms flashed in the
water, and the canoe sped on its way. A shout of anger rose behind
them, and Robert distinctly heard Jumonville say in French:

"After them! After them! It was the messengers who stole by! They have
tricked us!"

Those words were sweet in the ears of young Lennox. He had played the
actor, and the reward, the saving of their lives, had been paid. It
was one of their greatest triumphs and the savor of it would endure
long. The very thought gave fresh power to his arm and back, and he
swept his paddle with a strength that he had never known before. The
canoe skimmed the water like a bird and fairly flew in their chosen
course.

Robert's own faculties became marvelously acute. He heard behind them
the repeated and angry orders of Jumonville, the hurried strokes of
many paddles, the splashing of canoes turned quickly about, a hum
of excited voices, and then he felt a great swell of confidence. The
roaring in his ears was gone, his nerves became amazingly steady, and
every stroke with his paddle was long and finished, a work of art.

Four or five minutes of such toil, and Tayoga rested on his paddle.
Robert imitated him.

"Now we will take our ease and listen," said the Onondaga. "The fog
is still our friend, and they will think we have turned to one side in
it, because that is the natural thing to do. But you and I, Dagaeoga,
will not turn just yet."

"I can't hear anything, Tayoga, can you?"

"I cannot, Dagaeoga, but we will not have long to wait. Now, I catch
the light swish of a paddle. They are feeling about in the fog. There
goes another paddle--and more. They come closer, but we still bide
here a little. I hear the voice of Jumonville. He is very angry. But
why should he be more angry at any other than at himself? He saw us
with his own eyes. He shouts many sharp orders, and some of them are
foolish. They must be so, because no man could shout orders so fast,
and in such a confused way, and have them all good. He sends more
canoes to both right and left to seek us. You and I can afford to
laugh, Dagaeoga."

Sitting at rest in their canoe they laughed. With Robert it was not so
much a laugh of amusement as a laugh of relief after such tremendous
tension. He felt that they were now sure to escape, and with Tayoga he
waited calmly.




CHAPTER XI

THE HAPPY ESCAPE


The spirits of young Lennox rose to the zenith. Although they were
still grazing the edge of peril, he had supreme confidence in Tayoga
and also in the fog. It was a great fog, a thick fog, a kindly fog,
and it had made possible their escape and the achievement of their
mission. Having held so long it would hold until they needed it no
longer.

"Have they come any nearer, Tayoga?" he asked.

"Jumonville is still giving orders, and sending the canoes somewhat at
random. He is not the leader Sharp Sword would be in an emergency, nor
anything like it. He is having his own boat paddled about uncertainly.
I can hear the paddles of the four men in it. Now and then he speaks
angrily, too. He is upbraiding those who are not to blame. How are
you feeling now, Dagaeoga? Has Manitou already filled you with new
strength?"

"I'm feeling as well as I ever did in my life. I'm ready to swing the
paddle again."

"Then we go. The fog will not wait for us forever. We must use it
while we have it."

They swept their paddles through the water in long and vigorous
strokes, and the canoe shot forward once more. They were confident now
that no enemy was ahead of them, and that none of those behind could
overtake them. The wet, cold fog still enclosed them like a heavy,
damp blanket, but their vigorous exercise and their high spirits kept
them warm. After ten minutes they made another stop, but as Tayoga
could hear nothing of Jumonville's party they pushed on again at
speed. By and by the Onondaga said:

"I feel the fog thinning, Dagaeoga. A wind out of the west has risen,
and soon it will take it all away."

"But it has served its purpose. I shall always feel well toward fogs.
Yes, here it goes! The wind is rising fast, and it is taking away the
mists and vapors in great folds."

The water began to roughen under the stiff breeze. The fog was split
asunder, the pieces were torn to fragments and shreds, and then
everything was swept away, leaving the surface of the lake a silver
mirror, and the mountains high and green on either shore. Far behind
them hovered the Indian canoes, and four or five miles ahead a tower
of smoke rose from the west bank.

"Certainly our people," said Robert, looking at the smoke.

"There is no doubt of it," said the Onondaga, "and that is where we
will go."

"And those behind us know now that we tricked them in the fog and have
escaped. They give forth a shout of anger and disappointment. Now they
turn back."

They eased their strokes a little as the pursuit had been abandoned,
but curved more toward the center of the lake, lest some hidden
sharpshooter on shore might reach them, and made fair speed toward the
smoke, which Robert surmised might be made by a vanguard of troops.

"We ought to have help for Colden and Willet very soon," he said.

"It will not be long," said Tayoga; "but Dagaeoga has forgotten
something. Can he not think what it is?"

"No, Tayoga, I can't recall anything."

"Dagaeoga's body is bare from the waist up. It is well for an Indian
to go thus into a white camp, but it is not the custom of the people
to whom Lennox belongs."

"You're right. I've had so much excitement that I'd forgotten all
about my clothes. I must be true to my race, when I meet my brethren."

He reclothed himself, resumed his paddle, and they pushed on steadily
for the smoke. No trace of the fog was left. The lake glistened in
the sun, the ranges showed green from base to summit, and the tower of
smoke deepened and broadened.

"Can you make out what lies at the foot of it, Tayoga?" asked Robert.

"I think I can see a gleam of the sun on an epaulet. It is certainly
a camp of your people. The lake is supposed to be under their command,
and if the French should make a new incursion here upon its shores
they would not build their fires so boldly. Now, I see another gleam,
and I hear the ring of axes. They are not boat builders, because no
boats, either finished or unfinished, show at the water's edge. They
are probably cutting wood for their fires. I hear, too, the crack of
a whip, which means that they have wagons, and the presence of wagons
indicates a large force. They may be coming ahead with supplies for
our great army when it advances. I can now see men in uniform, and
there are some red coats among them. Hold your paddle as high as you
can, Dagaeoga, as a sign that we are friends, and I will send the
canoe in toward the shore. Ah, they see us now, and men are coming
down to the lake's edge to meet us! It is a large camp, and it should
hold enough men to make St. Luc give up the siege of Colden."

The two sent the canoe swiftly toward the land, where soldiers and
others in hunter's dress were already gathered to meet them. Robert
saw a tall, thin officer in a Colonial uniform, standing on the narrow
beach, and, assuming him to be in command, he said as the canoe swept
in:

"We are messengers, sir, from the force of Captain Colden, which is
besieged at the sawmill ten or twelve miles farther north."

"Besieged, did you say?" said the officer, speaking in a sharp, dry
voice. "It's one of those French tricks they're always playing on us,
rushing in under our very noses, and trying to cut out our forces."

"That's it, sir. The French and Indian host, in this case, is led
by St. Luc, the ablest and most daring of all their partisans, and,
unless you give help, they'll have to escape as best they can in what
boats they have."

"As I'm a good Massachusetts man, I expected something of this kind. I
sent word to Pownall, our Governor, that we must be extremely
cautious in respect to the French, but he thinks the army of General
Abercrombie will overwhelm everything. Forest fighting is very
different from that of the open fields, a fact which the French seem
to have mastered better than we have. My name, young sir, is Elihu
Strong. I'm a colonel of the Massachusetts militia, and I command the
force that you see posted here."

"And mine, sir, is Robert Lennox, a free lance, and this is Tayoga, of
the clan of the Bear, of the great Onondaga nation, a devoted friend
of ours and the finest trailer the world has ever produced."

"Ah, I heard something of you both when I was at Albany from one
Jacobus Huysman, a stout and worthy burgher, who spoke well of you,
and who hazarded a surmise that I might meet you somewhere in the
neighborhood of the lakes."

"We lived in the house of Mynheer Jacobus when we went to school in
Albany. We owe him much."

"There was a third who was generally with you, a famous hunter, David
Willet, was there not?"

"He is with Captain Colden, sir, assisting in the defense."

"I'm glad he's there. Judging from what I've heard of him, he's a
tower of strength. But come into the camp. Doubtless, both of you
need food and rest. The times be dark, and we must get out of each day
whatever it has to offer."

Robert looked at him with interest. He was the forerunner of a type
that was to develop markedly in New England, tall, thin, dry-lipped,
critical, shrewd and tenacious to the last degree. He and his kind
were destined to make a great impress upon the New World. He gave to
the two the best the camp had, and ordered that they be treated with
every courtesy.

"I've a strong force here," he said, "although it might have been
stronger if our Governor and Legislature had done their full duty.
Still, we must make the best of everything. My men reported Indians in
the forest to the north of us, and that, perhaps, is the reason why we
have not come into contact with Captain Colden, but I did not suspect
that he was besieged."

Robert, as he ate the good food set before him, looked over the camp,
which had been pitched well, with far-flung pickets to guard against
ambush, and his eyes glistened, as they fell upon two brass cannon,
standing side by side upon a slight rise in the center of the camp.
The big guns, when well handled, were always effective against forest
warriors. Colonel Strong's eyes followed his.

"I see that you are taking notice of my cannon," he said. "They're
good pieces, but if our governor and legislature had done their duty
they'd be four instead of two. Still, we have to make the best of what
we have. I told Shirley that we must prepare for a great war, and I
tell Pownall the same. Those who don't know him always underrate our
French foe."

"I never do, sir," said Robert. "I've seen too much of him to do
that."

"Well, well, we'll do the best we can. I've four hundred men here,
though if the Governor and the Legislature of Massachusetts had done
their full duty they'd be eight hundred, not to say a thousand. I'll
advance as soon as possible to the relief of Colden. He can surely
hold out until the morrow."

"Not a doubt of it, sir, and, if you'll pardon me for making a
suggestion, I wouldn't begin any advance until the morning. Not much
of the day is left. If we started this afternoon, night would overtake
us in the woods and the Chevalier de St. Luc is sure to plant an
ambush for us."

"Sensibly spoken, young sir. We're an eternally rash people. We're
always walking into traps. I've in my force about twenty good scouts,
though if the Governor and Legislature of Massachusetts had done their
full duty they'd be forty, not to say fifty, and I don't want to risk
their loss in night fighting in the forest."

He went away and Robert saw him moving among his men, giving orders.
Elihu Strong, a merchant, nevertheless had made himself a strenuous
soldier at his province's call, and he was not unwilling to learn even
from those not more than half his age.

"Open Eyes will do well," said Tayoga.

"Open Eyes?"

"Aye, Dagaeoga. The colonel who is named Strong I will call Open Eyes,
because he is willing to look and see. He will look when you tell
him to look, and many who come from the cities will not do that. And
because his eyes are open he will not stick his head into an ambush.
Yet he will always complain of others."

"And sometimes of himself, too," laughed Robert. "I think he'll be
fair in that respect. Now, Tayoga, we'll rest here, and be easy with
ourselves until to-morrow morning, when we advance."

"We will stay, Dagaeoga, but I do not know whether it will be so easy.
Since Jumonville saw us escape he will tell St. Luc of it, and Sharp
Sword will send a force here to harry Open Eyes, and to make him think
the forest is full of warriors. But Open Eyes, though he may complain,
will not be afraid."

It was even as the Onondaga predicted. The foe came with the twilight.
The dark wilderness about them gave back whoops and yells, and furtive
bands skirmished with Strong's scouts. Then the shouts of the warriors
increased greatly in number, and seemed to come from all points about
the camp. It was obvious to Robert that the enemy was trying to make
Strong's men believe that a great force was confronting them, and some
of them, unused to the woods, showed apprehension lest such an unseen
and elusive danger overwhelm them. But Elihu Strong never flinched.
The forest was almost as much of a mystery to him as it was to his
troops, but he was there to dare its perils and he dared them.

"I shall keep my men in camp and await attack, if they make it," he
said to Robert, to whom he seemed to have taken a great fancy, "and
whatever happens I shall move forward in the morning to the relief of
Colden."

He shut his thin lips tightly together and his pale blue eyes flashed.
The merchant, turned soldier, had the stoutest of hearts, and a stout
heart was what was needed in his camp that night. The warriors gave
his men no rest. They circled about continually, firing and whooping,
and trying to create panic, or at least a fear that would hold Strong
where he was.

Robert went to sleep early, and, when he awakened far in the night,
the turmoil was still going on. But he saw Elihu Strong walking back
and forth near one of the fires, and in the glow his thin face still
reflected an iron resolution. Satisfied that the camp was in no danger
of being frightened, young Lennox went back to sleep.

A gray, chilly morning came, and soon after dawn Elihu Strong began
to prepare his men for their perilous progress, serving first an ample
hot breakfast with plenty of tea and coffee.

"Open Eyes not only watches but he knows much," said Tayoga. "He has
learned that an army marches better on a full stomach."

Strong then asked Robert and Tayoga to serve in a way as guides, and
he made his dispositions, sending his scouts in advance, putting his
most experienced soldiers on the flanks and heading his main column
with the two brass cannon. The strictest injunctions that nobody
straggle were given, and then the force took up its march.

They had not been molested while at breakfast, and when making the
preparations, but as soon as they left the fire and entered the
deep forest, the terrifying turmoil burst forth again, fierce whoops
resounding on every side and bullets pattering on the leaves or bark.
Colonel Strong left his scouts and flankers to deal with the ambushed
warriors, and the main column, face to the front, marched steadily
toward Colden's camp. It was to be a trial of nerves, and Robert was
quite confident that the stern New England leader would win.

"The savages make a tremendous tumult," he said to young Lennox, "but
their bullets are not reaching us. We're not to be shaken by mere
noise."

"When they find that out, as they soon will," said Robert, "they'll
make an attack. Some French officers and troops must be with them.
Perhaps Jumonville came in the night to lead them."

He and Tayoga then went a short distance into the forest ahead of the
scouts, and Tayoga saw ample evidence that the French were present
with the Indians.

"You are right in your surmise that Jumonville came in the night," he
said. "He wore boots, and here are the imprints of his heels. I think
he is not far away now. Watch well, Dagaeoga, while I lie on the earth
and listen."

Ear to the ground, the Onondaga announced that he could hear men on
both sides of them moving.

"There is the light step of the warriors," he said, "and also the
heavier tread of the French. I think I can hear Jumonville himself. It
sounds like the crush of boots. Perhaps they are now seeking to lay an
ambush."

"Then it's time for us to fall back, Tayoga, both for our own sakes
and for the sake of Colonel Strong's force."

The two retreated quickly lest they be caught in an ambush, and gave
warning to Elihu Strong that an attack was now probable, a belief
in which they were confirmed by the report the scouts brought in
presently that a creek was just ahead, a crossing always being a
favorite place for an Indian trap.

"So be it," said Colonel Strong, calmly. "We are ready. If the
Governor and Legislature of Massachusetts had done their full duty,
we'd be twice as strong, but even as we are we'll force the passage of
the creek."

"You will find a body of the warriors on this side of the stream,"
said Tayoga. "They will give way after a little firing, tempting you
to think you have won an easy victory. Then when about half of your
men are across they will attack with all their might, hoping to cut
you down."

"I thank you for telling me," said Colonel Strong. "I've no doubt you
know what you're talking about. Your manner indicates it. We might be
much better equipped than we are if those in authority in my province
had done their full duty, but we will make way, nevertheless. I'll
cover the passage of the creek with the guns."

The firing in front already showed that Tayoga's prediction was coming
true, and it was accompanied by a tremendous volume of yelling, as if
the whole Indian force were gathered on the near side of the creek.

Robert from the crest of a hill saw the stream, narrow and deep,
though not too deep for fording as he was to learn later, fringed on
either side with a dense growth of low bushes, from the shelter of
which warriors were sending their bullets toward the white force. The
men were eager to go against them at once, but the scouts were sent
forward through the undergrowth to open up a flanking fire, and then
the main column marched on at a steady pace.

The crash of the rifles grew fast. The warriors on the near side of
the creek leaped from the bushes as Strong's men drew near, waded the
stream and disappeared in the forest on the other bank, giving forth
howls of disappointment as they fled. The soldiers, uttering a
shout of triumph, undertook to rush forward in pursuit, but Strong
restrained them.

"It's the ambush against which the Onondaga warned us," he said to his
lieutenants, "and we won't run into it. Bring forward the cannon."

The two brass guns, fine twelve pounders, were moved up within close
range of the creek, and they swept the forest on the other side with
balls and grape shot. It was probably the first time cannon were ever
heard in those woods, and the reports came back in many echoes. Boughs
and twigs rained down.

"It is a great sound," said Tayoga admiringly, "and the warriors who
are trying to plant an ambush will not like it."

"But you'll remember Braddock's fate," said Robert. "The cannon didn't
do much then."

"But this is different, Dagaeoga. Open Eyes has his eyes open. He
is merely using the cannon as a cover for his advance. They will be
backed up by the rifles. You will see."

The soldiers approached the creek cautiously, and, when the first
ranks were in the water, the cannon raked the woods ahead to right and
left, and to left and right. The best of the riflemen were also pushed
forward, and, when the warriors opened fire, they were quickly driven
away. Then the whole force, carrying the cannon with them, crossed,
and stood in triumph on the other side.

"Did I not tell you that Open Eyes knew what he was doing?" said
Tayoga.

"It seems that he does," Robert replied, "but we haven't yet arrived
at Colden's station. An attack in force is sure to come."

"Dagaeoga speaks truth. I think it will occur a mile or two farther
on. They will make it before Captain Colden's men can learn that we
are on the march."

"Then they won't wait long. Anywhere will do, as the forest is dense
everywhere."

Since they had carried the ford with but little loss, the cannon
that had blazed the way ceased to fire, but the gunners regarded them
proudly and Robert did not withhold admiration. They were pioneers,
fine brass creatures, and when handled right they were a wonderful
help in the forest. He did not blame the gunners for patting the
barrels, for scraping the mud of the creek's crossing from the wheels,
and for speaking to them affectionately. Massive and polished they
gleamed in the sun and inspired confidence.

Tayoga went ahead in the forest, but came back soon and reported a
low ridge not more than half a mile farther on, a likely place for
an attack, which he judged would come there. It would be made by the
united force of the French and Indians and would be severe.

"So be it," said Elihu Strong, whose iron calm nothing disturbed. "We
are ready for the foe, though St. Luc himself should come. It is true
that instead of two cannon we might have had four or even six, or
twice as many men, if the Governor and Legislature of Massachusetts
had done their full duty, but we'll let that pass. Will you, Lennox,
and you, Tayoga, advance with the scouts and be my eyes?"

Robert appreciated the compliment to the full, and promptly replied in
the affirmative for them both. Then he and Tayoga at once plunged
into the forest with the borderers who were there to provide against
ambush, all of them approaching the menacing ridge with great care. It
was a long projection, rising about a hundred feet, and grown densely
with trees and bushes. It looked very quiet and peaceful and birds
even were singing there among the boughs. The leader of the scouts, a
bronzed man of middle age named Adams, turned to Tayoga.

"I see nothing there," he said, "but I've heard of you and your power
to find things where others can't. Do you think they're on that ridge
waiting for us?"

"It is certain," replied the Onondaga. "It is the place best fitted
for them, and they will not neglect it. Let me go forward a little,
with my friend, Dagaeoga, and we will unveil them."

"We'll wait here, and if they're on it I believe you'll soon know it,"
said Adams confidently.

Tayoga slid forward among the bushes and Robert followed. Neither made
the slightest noise, and they drew much nearer to the ridge, which
still basked in the sun, peaceful and innocent in looks. Not a warrior
or a Frenchman appeared there, the bushes gave back no glint of
weapons, nothing was disclosed.

"They may be hidden in that jungle, but they won't stir until we're
under the muzzles of their rifles. What do you propose to do?" asked
Robert.

"I will tempt them, Dagaeoga."

"Tempt them? I don't understand you."

"Tododaho on his great star which we cannot see in the day, but which,
nevertheless, is there, whispers to me that Tandakora himself is among
the bushes on the ridge. It is just such an ambush as he loves. As you
know, Dagaeoga, he hates us all, but he hates me most. If he sees a
good opportunity for a shot at me he will not be able to forego it."

"For Heaven's sake, Tayoga, don't make a martyr of yourself merely to
draw the enemy's fire!"

"No such thought was in my mind. I am not yet ready to leave the
world, which I find bright and full of interest. Moreover, I wish to
see the end of this war and what will happen afterward. Risks are a
part of our life, Dagaeoga, but I will take none that is undue."

Tayoga spoke in his usual precise, book English, explaining everything
fully, and Robert said nothing more. But he awaited the actions of the
Onondaga with intense interest. Tayoga crept forward five or six yards
more, and then he stumbled, striking against a bush and shaking it
violently. Robert was amazed. It was incredible that the Onondaga
should be so awkward, and then he remembered. Tayoga was going to draw
the enemy's fire.

Tayoga struck against another bush, and then stood upright and
visible. Those hidden on the ridge, if such there were, could see him
clearly. The response was immediate. A gigantic figure stood up among
the bushes, leveled a rifle and fired at him point blank. But the
Onondaga, quick as lightning, dropped back and the bullet whistled
over his head. Robert fired at the great painted figure of Tandakora,
but he too missed, and in a moment the Ojibway chief sank down in the
undergrowth. A shout came from the hidden Indians about him.

"They are there," said Tayoga, "and we know just where many of them
lie. We will suggest to Open Eyes that he fire the cannon at that
point."

They rejoined Adams.

"You were right, as I knew you'd be," said the scout. "You've located
'em."

"Yes, because Tandakora could not resist his hate of me," said the
Onondaga.

They withdrew to the main force, and once more the brave brass guns
were brought up, sending solid shot and grape into the bushes on the
ridge, then moving forward and repeating the fire. Many rifles opened
upon them from the thickets, and several men fell, but Elihu Strong
held his people in hand, and the scouts drove back the sharpshooters.
Meanwhile the whole force advanced and began to climb the ridge, the
cannon being turned on the flanks, where the attack was now heaviest.
A fierce battle ensued, and the guns, served with great skill and
effectiveness, kept the Indians at bay. More of Strong's men were
slain and many were hit, but their own rifles backed up the guns with
a deadly fire. Thus the combat was waged in the thickets a full two
hours, when they heard a great shout toward the north, and Willet, at
the head of a hundred men, broke his way through to their relief. Then
French and Indians drew off, and the united forces proceeded to the
point, where Colden, Wilton, Carson and Grosvenor gave them a great
welcome.

"We are here," said Elihu Strong. "If the Governor and Legislature of
Massachusetts had done their full duty we might have been here sooner,
but here we are."

"I knew that you would come back and bring help with you," said
Grosvenor to Robert. "I felt sure that Tayoga would guide the canoe
through every peril."

"Your confidence was not misplaced," said Robert. "He did some
wonderful work. He was as great a trailer on the water as he is on
land. Now that we are so much stronger, I wonder what St. Luc is going
to do."

But Black Rifle came in the next morning with the news that the
Chevalier and his whole force were gone.

They had stolen away silently in the night, and were now marching
northward, probably to join Montcalm.

"I'm not surprised," said Willet. "We're now too strong for him
and St. Luc is not the man to waste his time and strength in vain
endeavors. I suspect that we will next hear of him near Champlain,
somewhere in the neighborhood of Ticonderoga. I think we'd better
follow his trail a little distance."

Willet himself led the band that pursued St. Luc, and it included
Tayoga, Robert, Grosvenor, Black Rifle and Adams, Daganoweda and his
Mohawks having left shortly before on an expedition of their own. It
was an easy enough task, as the trail necessarily was wide and deep,
and the Onondaga could read it almost with his eyes shut.

"Here went Sharp Sword," he said after looking about a while. "I find
traces of his moccasins, which I would know anywhere because I have
seen them so many times before. Here another Frenchman joined him and
walked beside him for a while. It was Jumonville, whose imprints I
also know. They talked together. Perhaps Jumonville was narrating the
details of his encounter with us. Now he leaves St. Luc, who is joined
by another Frenchman wearing moccasins. But the man is heavy and
walked with a heavy step. It is the Canadian, Dubois, who attends upon
Sharp Sword, and who is devoted to him. Perhaps Sharp Sword is giving
him instructions about the camp that they will make when the day
is over. Now Dubois also goes, and here come the great moccasins of
Tandakora. I have seen none other so large in the woods, and a child
would know them. He too talks with Sharp Sword, but Sharp Sword does
not stop for him. They walk on together, because the stride continues
steady and even, just the length that a man of Sharp Sword's height
would make when walking. Tandakora is very angry, not at Sharp
Sword--he would not dare to show anger against him--but at the will
of Manitou who would not let him win a victory over us. He did not get
much satisfaction from Sharp Sword, because he stayed with him only a
very short time. Here his trail leads away again, and Sharp Sword once
more walks on alone.

"Perhaps Sharp Sword prefers to be alone. Most men do after a
disappointment, and he knows that his attack upon the boat builders
has been a failure. Sharp Sword does not like failures any more than
other people do, and he wants to think. He is planning how to win
a great success, and to atone for his failure here. I do not see
anything of De Courcelles. I do not find his trail anywhere, which
shows that the wound you gave him, Dagaeoga, was severe. He is being
carried either by warriors or French soldiers on a litter. It is far
more likely to be soldiers, and here I find them, the trail of four
men who walk exactly even, two by two all the time. The rage of De
Courcelles will mount very high against you, Dagaeoga, and you will
have to beware of him."

"I am ready for him," said Robert, proudly.

The broad trail led steadily on toward the north, but Willet, after a
while, spread out his own little force, taking no chances with forest
ambush. He considered it highly probable that before long Tandakora
would curve aside with some of his warriors, hoping to trap the
unwary. He was confirmed in his opinion by the Onondaga's reading of
the trail.

"I find the footprints of the Ojibway chief again," said Tayoga. "Here
they go at the edge of the trail. Now he has stopped. His stride
has ceased, and he stands with his moccasins close together. He is
probably talking with his warriors and he meditates something. The
rage of Tandakora is as great as that of De Courcelles, but Tandakora
is not hurt, and he is able to strike. He moves on again, and, ah!
here he goes into the woods. Beyond question he is now engaged in
planting an ambush for those who would follow St. Luc. Shall we go
back, Great Bear, or shall we meet the Ojibway's ambush with an ambush
of our own?"

The black eyes of the Onondaga sparkled.

"We ought to turn back," replied Willet, "but I can't resist playing
Tandakora's own game with him. It may give us a chance to rid the
border of that scourge. We'll leave the trail, and go into the deep
bush."

Led by the hunter the little band plunged into the forest and began
a careful circle, intending to come back to the trail some distance
ahead, and to post themselves behind Tandakora in case that wily
savage was planning an ambush, as they felt sure he was. They
redoubled their precautions, ceasing all talk for the while, and
allowing no bushes to rustle as they passed. Willet led the line, and
Tayoga brought up the rear. Grosvenor was just behind Robert. He, too,
was now able to bring down his feet in soundless fashion, and to avoid
every stick or twig that might break with a crack beneath his weight.
While he was aware of the perils before them, his heart beat high. He
felt that he was making further progress, and that he was becoming a
worthy forest runner.

After two careful hours of travel, they came back again to the broad
trail which showed that St. Luc was still maintaining steady progress
toward the north. But both the hunter and the Onondaga felt sure that
Tandakora and a chosen band were now to the south, waiting in ambush
for those who would come in pursuit.

"We'd better draw 'em if we can," said Willet. "Let 'em know we're
here, but make 'em believe we're friends."

"I think I can do it," said Tayoga. "I know Huron and St. Regis
signals. It is likely that some of the warriors with Tandakora are
Hurons, and, in any event, the Ojibway will understand the signals."

He imitated the cawing of a crow, and presently the answer came
from the forest about a quarter of a mile to the south. The cry was
repeated, and the answer came duly a second time. No one in the little
band now doubted that Tandakora and his men were there.

"Shall we attack?" asked Robert.

"I think we can sting them a little," replied Willet. "Our numbers are
few, but the force of the Ojibway is not likely to be large. It was
his purpose to strike and get away, and that's what we'll do. Now,
Tayoga, we're relying upon you to get us into a good position on his
flank."

The Onondaga led them in another but much smaller circle toward the
forest, from which the answering caws of the crow had come. The way
went through dense thickets but, before he reached his chosen spot, he
stopped.

"Look," he said, pointing to the earth, where there were faint traces
that Robert could scarcely see and over which he would have passed,
unnoticing. "Here is where Tandakora went on his way to the ambush. It
is a little trail, and it was to be only a little ambush. He has only
about ten warriors with him. The Ojibway has come back for revenge. He
could not bear to leave without striking at least one blow. Perhaps he
slipped away from Sharp Sword to try the ambush on his own account."

"They can't be far ahead," said the hunter.

"No," said the Onondaga. "They will be coming back in response to my
call, and I think we would better await them here."

They disposed themselves in good order for battle, and then sank to
the earth. Light waves of air registered delicately but clearly on
those wonderful eardrums of Tayoga's. Faint though the sound was,
he understood it. It was the careful tread of men. Tandakora and his
warriors were on the way, called by the crow. He knew when they came
within a hundred yards of where he and his companions lay, and he
knew when they spread out in cautious fashion, to see what manner of
friends these were who came. He knew, too, that Tandakora would not
walk into a trap, and he had not expected at any time that he would,
it having been merely his purpose when he cawed like a crow to call
him back to fair and honorable combat, ambush against ambush. He noted
when the thin line of detached warriors began to advance again, he was
even able to trace the step of Tandakora, heavier than the others,
and to discern when the Ojibway chief stopped a second time, trying to
pierce the thickets with his eyes.

"Tandakora is in doubt," he whispered to Robert. "The call of the crow
which at first seemed so friendly has another meaning now. He is not
so sure that friends are here after all, but he does not understand
how an enemy happens to be behind him. He is angry, too, that his own
pretty ambush, in which he was sitting so cunningly waiting for us,
is broken up. Tandakora's humor is far from good, but, because of it,
mine is excellent."

"You certainly learned the dictionary well when you were in our
schools," Robert whispered back, but as full as ever of admiration for
Tayoga's powers. "Has all sound ceased now?"

"They are not stirring. They have become quite sure that we are
enemies and they wait for us to act first."

"Then I'll give 'em a lead," said Willet, who lay on Tayoga's right.

He thrust out a foot, bringing it down on a dead stick so hard that
it broke with a sharp snap, but instantly drew away to the shelter of
another bush. A rifle cracked in front of them and a bullet cut the
air over the broken stick. Before the warrior who fired the bullet
could sink back Black Rifle pulled the trigger at a certain target,
and the man fell without a sound.

"A fine shot, Captain Jack," said Willet, and a few minutes later the
hunter himself made another just as good. For a half hour the combat
was waged in the deep thickets, mere glimpses serving for aim, but the
combatants were as fierce and tenacious as if the issue were joined
by great armies. Four warriors fell, Willet's band suffered only a few
scratches, and then, at a signal from him, they melted away into the
woods, curved about again, and took up the return journey toward their
own force.

"We did enough," said Willet, when he was sure they were not pursued
by Tandakora. "All we wanted to do was to sting the Ojibway and not to
let him forget that those who ambush may be ambushed. He'll be fairly
burning with anger."

"How are you feeling, Red Coat?" asked Tayoga.

"As well as could be expected after such an experience," replied
Grosvenor with pride. But the young Englishman was very sober, too.
A warrior had fallen before his rifle, and, with the heat of battle
over, he was very thoughtful.




CHAPTER XII

THE FRENCH CAMP


They returned to the camp without further event. Colden and Strong
were gratified to learn that the retreat of St. Luc was real, and that
he was certainly going toward Champlain, with the obvious intention of
joining Montcalm.

"We owe you a great debt of gratitude, Colonel," said the young
officer, frankly, to Elihu Strong. "If you had not come I don't think
we could have held out against St. Luc."

"We did the best we could," replied Elihu Strong. "If the Governor and
Legislature of Massachusetts had done their full duty we'd have been
here earlier, with twice as many men and guns, but as it is we did our
best, and man can do no more."

They decided that they would hold the point and await the coming of
the great army under Abercrombie which was to crush Montcalm. The
outworks were built higher and stronger and the brass cannon were
mounted upon them at points, where they could sweep the forest. These
fine twelve-pounders were sources of much moral courage and added
greatly to the spirits of the troops. They had shown their power at
the forcing of the ford and at the taking of the ridge, and their
brazen mouths, menacing the forest, looked well.

Willet and his comrades considered it their duty to stay there also,
and wait for Abercrombie, and, the third day after the retreat of St.
Luc, Robert and Tayoga went into the woods to see whether Tandakora
had turned back again with his warriors. They reckoned that the
Ojibway chief's anger was so strong that he would make another attempt
at revenge upon those who had defeated him. There was a rumor that
the Indians with the French were becoming much dissatisfied, that
they were awed by the reports of the mighty British and American force
advancing under Abercrombie, and might leave the French to meet it
alone.

"Do you think there is much in these rumors?" asked Robert, as he and
the Onondaga went into the forest.

"I do," replied Tayoga. "The warriors with the French do not like the
cannon, and they say the force that is coming against Montcalm is very
vast. A great battle may be fought, but Tandakora and his men are not
likely to be there. They will go away and await a better day."

"Then I'm glad they'll desert for a while. They're the eyes and ears
of the French. That will leave our own scouts and forest runners the
lords of the wild, though it seems to me, Tayoga, that you're the true
and veritable lord of the wild."

"Then if that were so, though you praise my skill too much, Dagaeoga,
you and the Great Bear and Black Rifle also are lords of the wild."

"Lords of the wild! I like the term. It is something to be that
at this time and in this region. We're mainly a wilderness people,
Tayoga, and our wars are waged in the woods. We're not more than two
miles from the camp now, and yet we're completely lost in the forest.
There's not a trace of man. I don't even see any smoke soiling the
sky."

"It is so, Dagaeoga, and we are again in the shadow of peril. Dangers
in the forest are as thick as leaves on the trees. Here is an old
trail of our enemies."

"I'm not interested in old trails. What we're looking for is new
ones."

"If we keep going toward the north it may be that we will find them,
Dagaeoga."

Several miles farther on they came to other trails which the Onondaga
examined with great interest and care. Two or three he pronounced
quite recent, but he did not read any particular purpose in them.

"It is likely that they were made by hunters," he said. "While the
armies are gathering, the warriors are sure to seek game. Here two of
them passed, and here they stood behind a tree. It is sure now that
those two were hunting. I think they stood behind a tree to ambush a
deer. The deer was to the west of them. The traces they left in
the soft earth under the tree show that the toes of their moccasins
pointed toward the west and so they were looking that way, at the
deer, which probably stood in the thicket over there nibbling at its
food. They must have had an easy shot. Now, we'll enter the thicket.
Lo, Dagaeoga, here is where the deer fell! Look at the little bushes
broken and at the dark stain on the ground where its life flowed out.
They dragged the body to the other side of the thicket, and cut it up
there. Nothing could be plainer, the traces are so numerous. They were
casual hunters, and it is not worth our while to follow them."

Northward they still pursued their course, and struck another and
larger trail which made Tayoga look grave.

"This is the path of seven or eight warriors," he said, "and it is
likely that they are a scouting party. They have come back, as we
expected, to spy upon us and to cut off stragglers from our camp. We
will follow it a little while."

It led south by west and seemed to go on with a definite purpose, but,
after a mile or so, it divided, four warriors, as Tayoga said, going
in one direction and three in the other.

"Suppose I follow those on the north a short distance while you take
those on the south," suggested Robert.

"We will do so," said Tayoga, "and in an hour come back to this
point."

The three warriors were on the north, and, as the earth was soft,
Robert saw their trail quite clearly leading steadily west by north.
His own ambition to excel as a trailer was aroused and he followed it
with great energy. Two or three times when the ground became hard and
rocky he lost it, but a little search always disclosed it again, and
he renewed the pursuit with increased zeal. He went on over a hill
and then into a wide valley, well grown with thickets. Pushing his way
through the bushes he sought the traces and was startled by a sound
almost at his shoulder. Keyed to the dangers of the forest he whirled
instantly, but it was too late. A powerful warrior threw himself upon
him, and though Robert, by a great effort, threw him off he sprang
back and another on the other side also seized him. He was borne to
the earth and a third Indian coming up, he was quickly secured.

Robert at first was so sick with chagrin that he did not think about
his life. In nine cases out of ten the warriors would have tomahawked
him, and this he soon realized, thankful at the same time that he had
been spared, for the present, at least. Yet his mortification endured.
What would Tayoga say when he saw by the trail that he had been
caught so easily? He had fairly walked into the trap, and he was now
a prisoner the second time. Yet he showed the stoicism that he had
learned in a forest life. While the Indians bound his wrists tightly
with rawhide thongs he stood up and looked them squarely in the face.

One of the warriors took his rifle and examined it with a pleased
eye. Another appropriated his pistol and a third helped himself to his
knife and hatchet.

"I've four shillings in an inside pocket," said Robert. "If you want
'em, take 'em."

But the warriors did not understand English and shook their heads.
Evidently they were satisfied with the spoil they had taken already.

"Which way?" asked Robert.

They replied by leading him to the northwest. He was hopeful at first
that Tayoga might rescue him as he had done once before, but the
warriors were wary and powerful, and three, too, were too many for the
Onondaga alone to attack. The thought passed and by an effort of the
will he resigned himself to his immediate captivity. They did not mean
to take his life, and while there was no hope for the present there
was plenty of it for the future. He could be in a far worse case. His
unfailing optimism broke through the shell of mortification, and he
became resolutely cheerful.

"Which way, my friends?" he said to the warriors.

But again they understood no English and shook their heads.

"Don't plume yourself too much on that rifle," he said, speaking to
the warrior who had taken his favorite weapon. "You have it for the
present, but when I escape for the second time I mean to take it with
me. I give you fair warning."

The warrior, who seemed to be good natured, shook his head once more,
and grinned, not abating at all his air of proprietorship so far as
the rifle was concerned.

"And you with the pistol," continued the prisoner, "I beg to tell
you it's mine, not yours, and I shall claim it again. What, you don't
understand? Well, I'll have to find some way to make you comprehend
later on."

The three warriors walked briskly and Robert, of course, had no choice
but to keep pace with them. They indicated very conclusively that they
knew where they meant to go, and so he assumed that a hostile camp was
not very far away. Resolved to show no sign of discouragement, he held
his head erect and stepped springily.

About three miles, and he saw a gleam of uniforms through the trees,
a few steps more and his heart gave a leap. He beheld a group
of Indians, and several Frenchmen, and one of them, tall, young,
distinguished, was St. Luc.

The Chevalier was in a white uniform, trimmed with silver, a silver
hilted small sword by his side, and his smile was not unpleasant when
he said to Robert:

"I sent out these three warriors to find me a prisoner and bring him
in, but I little suspected that it would be you."

"I suspected as little that it was you to whom I was being taken,"
said Robert. "But since I had to be a prisoner I'm glad I'm yours
instead of De Courcelles' or Jumonville's, as those two soldiers of
France have as little cause to love me as I have to love them."

"Monsieur De Courcelles is suffering from a bullet wound."

"It was my bullet."

"You say that rather proudly, but perhaps I'd better not tell it to
him. It seems, Mr. Lennox, that you have a certain facility in getting
yourself captured, as this is the second time within a year."

"I was treated so well by the French that I thought I could risk it
again," said Robert jauntily.

The Chevalier smiled. Robert felt again that current of understanding
and sympathy, that, so it seemed to him, had passed so often between
them.

"I see," said St. Luc, "that you are willing to give credit to France,
the evergreen nation, the nation of light and eternal life. We may
lose at times, we may be defeated at times, but we always rise anew.
You British and Americans will realize that some day."

"I do not hate France."

"I don't think you do. But this is scarcely a time for me to give you
a lecture on French qualities. Sit down on this log. I trust that my
warriors did not treat you with undue harshness."

"I've nothing to complain of. They took my weapons, but that is
the law of war. I'd have done the same in their place. As I see it,
they're not particularly bad Indians. But if you don't mind, I'd like
you to cut these rawhide thongs that bind my wrists. They're beginning
to sting."

The Chevalier drew a knife and with one sweep of its keen edge severed
the rawhide. Robert's wrists flew apart and the blood once more flowed
freely through his veins. Though the stinging did not cease he felt
great relief.

"I thank you," he said politely, "but, as I told you before, I do not
hold it against your warriors, because they bound me. I'd have escaped
had they given me any chance at all, and I warn you now, as I warned
them, that I intend to escape later on."

St. Luc smiled.

"I'll accept the challenge," he said, "and I'll see that you don't
make good your boast. I can assure you, too, if by any possibility you
should escape, it certainly will not be before the great battle."

"Great battle! What great battle? You don't mean that Montcalm will
dare to meet Abercrombie?"

"Such an idea was in my mind."

"Why, we'll come with four or five to one! The Marquis de Montcalm
cannot stand against such a powerful force as ours. We've definite
information that he won't be able to muster more than three or four
thousand men. We hear, too, that the Indians, frightened by our power,
are leaving him, for the time, at least."

"Some of your surmises may be correct, but your facts don't follow
from them. The Marquis de Montcalm, our great leader, will await your
Abercrombie, no matter what your force may be. I violate no military
secret when I tell you that, and I tell you also that you are very far
from being assured of any victory."

The Chevalier suddenly dropped his light manner, and became intensely
earnest. His eyes gleamed for an instant with blue fire, but it was
only a passing moment of emotion. He was in an instant his old, easy
self again.

"We talk like the debaters of the schools," he said, "when we are
at war. I am to march in a few minutes. I suggest that in return for
certain liberties you give me your pledge to attempt no escape until
we arrive at the camp of the Marquis de Montcalm."

"I can't do it. Since I've promised you that I will escape I must
neglect no chance."

"So be it. Then I must guard you well, but I will not have your wrists
bound again. Here comes an expert rover of the forest who will be your
immediate jailer."

A white man at the head of several warriors was approaching through
the woods. He was young, lean, with a fierce, hooked Roman nose, and
a bold, aggressive face, tanned to the color of mahogany. Robert
recognized him at once, and since he had to be a prisoner a second
time, he took a certain pleasure in the meeting.

"How do you do, Monsieur Langlade?" he said. "You see, I've come back.
I forgot to tell you good-by, and I'm here to make amends for my lack
of politeness. And how is the patient and watchful spouse, the Dove?"

Robert spoke in good French and the partisan stared in astonishment.
Then a pleased look of recognition came into his eyes.

"Ah, it's young Mr. Lennox," he exclaimed. "Young Mr. Lennox come back
to us. It's not mere politeness that makes me tell you I'm glad to
see you. You did make a very clever escape with the aid of that Indian
friend of yours. I hope to capture Tayoga some day, and, if I do, it
will be an achievement of which I shall boast all the rest of my life.
But we'll take good care that you don't leave us again."

"He has just warned me that he intends to escape a second time," said
St. Luc.

"Then it will be a pretty test of mettle," said the Owl, appreciation
showing in his tone, "and we welcome it. Have you any commands for me,
sir?"

He spoke with great respect when he addressed the query to St. Luc,
and the Chevalier replied that they would march in a half hour. Then
Langlade gave Robert food, and took a little himself, sitting with the
prisoner and informing him that the Dove had worried greatly over his
escape. Although she was not to blame, she considered that in some
indirect manner it was a reflection upon her vigilance, and it was
many months before she was fully consoled.

"I must send word to her by one of our runners that you have been
retaken," said the Owl, "and I wish to tell you, Mr. Lennox, that the
Dove's younger sister, who is so much like her in looks and character,
is still unmarried and perhaps it may come into the mind of the
Chevalier de St. Luc or the Marquis de Montcalm to send you back to
our village."

"You're once more most polite," laughed Robert, "but I'm far too
young, yet, to think of marriage."

"It's not an offer that I'd make to many young men," said Langlade
regretfully. "In truth, I know of none other to whom I'd have
mentioned it."

When they took up the march the force numbered about fifty men, and
Robert walked between Langlade and a stalwart Indian. St. Luc
was further on. They did not seem to fear any ambush and Langlade
chattered after his fashion. He made the most of the French resources.
He spoke as if the Marquis de Montcalm had ten or fifteen thousand
veteran French regulars, and half as many Indian warriors.

"Don't consider me contentious, Monsieur Langlade," said Robert, at
last, "but I know full well that your general has not half that many
troops, no, not a third, and that nearly all his Indians are about to
leave him."

"And how do you know that?" exclaimed the Owl. "Well, one Frenchman
equals two of the English or the Bostonnais, and that doubles our
numbers. You don't see any chance to escape, do you?"

"Not at present," laughed Robert.

"Not now, nor at any other time. No man ever escapes twice from the
French."

The talk of Langlade, his frank egotism and boastfulness for himself
personally and for the French collectively, beguiled the journey which
soon became strenuous, the force advancing at a great pace through
the forest. At night a fire was built in the deep woods, the knapsacks
furnished plenty of food, and Robert slept soundly on a blanket until
dawn. He had seen before closing his eyes that a strict guard was set,
and he knew that it was not worth while to keep awake in the hope of
escape. Like a wise man he dismissed the hope of the impossible at
once, and waited calmly for another time. He knew too that St. Luc had
originally sent out his warriors to capture a prisoner from whom
they might drag information, but that the Chevalier would not try to
cross-examine him, knowing its futility.

They traveled northward by east all the next day, through very rough
country, slept another night in the forest, and on the third day
approached a great camp, which held the main French force. Robert's
heart thrilled. Here was the center of the French power in North
America. Vaudreuil and Bigot at Quebec might plan and plot and weave
their webs, but in the end the mighty struggle between French and
English and their colonies must be decided by the armies.

He knew that this was the outlet of Lake George and he knew also that
the army of Abercrombie was gathering at the head of the same lake.
His interest grew keener as they drew nearer. He saw clusters of
tents, cannon parked, and many fires. There were no earthworks or
other fortifications, and he inferred from their absence that Montcalm
was undecided whether to go or stay. But Robert thought proudly that
he would surely go, when the invincible Anglo-American army advanced
from its base at the head of the lake. The whole camp lay under his
eye, and he had enough military experience now to judge the French
numbers by its size. He did not think they were much in excess of
three thousand, and as Abercrombie would come four or five to one,
Montcalm must surely retreat.

"I take it that this is Ticonderoga," he said to St. Luc.

"Aye," replied the Chevalier.

"And in effect you have Champlain on one side of you and George on the
other. But you can't hold the place against our great force. I'm here
in time to join you in your retreat."

"We don't seem to be retreating, as you'll notice, Mr. Lennox, and I
don't know that we will. Still, that rests on the knees of the gods.
I think you'll find here some old friends and enemies of yours, and
though your people have made a great outcry against the Marquis de
Montcalm because of the affair at Fort William Henry, I am sure you
will find that the French know how to treat a prisoner. I shall put
you for the present in the care of Monsieur Langlade, with whom you
appear to have no quarrel. He has his instructions."

It was the second time that Robert had entered the camp of Montcalm
and his keen interest drove away for the present all thought of
himself. He noted anew the uniforms, mostly white faced with blue or
violet or red or yellow, and with black, three-cornered hats. There
were the battalions of Guienne, La Reine, Bearn, La Sarre, Languedoc,
Berry and Royal Roussillon. The Canadians, swarthy, thick and strong,
wore white with black facings. Some Indians were about, but fewer than
Robert had expected. It was true then that they had become alarmed at
Abercrombie's advancing might, and were leaving the French to their
fate.

"You are to stay in a tent with me," said Langlade, "and you will be
so thoroughly surrounded by the army, that you will have no earthly
chance of escape. So I think it better that you pledge your word not
to attempt it for a while, and I can make things easier for you."

"No, I decline again to give such a pledge," said Robert firmly. "I
warn you, as I've warned the Chevalier de St. Luc, that I'm going to
escape."

Langlade looked at him searchingly, and then the face of the partisan
kindled.

"I believe you mean it!" he exclaimed. "You rely on yourself and you
think, too, that clever Onondaga, Tayoga, will come again to your
aid. I acknowledge that he's a great trailer, that he's master of some
things that even I, Charles Langlade, the Owl, do not know, but he
cannot steal you away a second time."

"I admit that I've been thinking of Tayoga. He may be here now close
to us."

The Owl gave a startled look at the empty air, as if he expected
Tayoga to be hovering there, formidable but invisible.

"I see you do fear him," laughed Robert.

"I do, but we shall be a match for him this time, though I never
underrate his powers."

A young officer in a captain's uniform stopped suddenly and looked at
Robert. Then he advanced and extended his hand.

"It is evident that you like the French," he said, "since you are
continually coming back to them."

"De Galissonniere!" exclaimed Robert, as he warmly shook the extended
hand. "Yes, here I am, and I do like many of the French. I'm sorry
we're official enemies."

"I know that our people will treat you well," jested De Galissonniere,
"and then, when we take New York, you can tell the inhabitants of that
city what good masters we are and teach them to be reconciled."

Young Lennox made a reply in like spirit, and De Galissonniere passed
on. But a man walking near with his shoulder well bound greeted him in
no such friendly manner. Instead a heavy frown came over his face
and his eyes flashed cruelly. It was De Courcelles, nursing the wound
Robert had given him, and at the same time increasing his anger. The
youth returned his gaze defiantly.

"Colonel De Courcelles does not like you," said Langlade, who had
noticed the brief exchange.

"He does not," replied Robert. "It was my bullet that hurt his
shoulder, but I gave him the wound in fair combat."

"And he hates you because of it?"

"That and other things."

"What a strange man! A wound received in fair and honorable battle
should be a tie that binds. If you had given it to me in a combat on
equal terms I'd have considered it an honor conferred upon me by you.
It would have wiped away all grievance and have made us friends."

"Then, Monsieur Langlade, I'm afraid I missed my opportunity to make
our friendship warmer than it is."

"How is that?"

"I held you also under the muzzle of my rifle in that battle in the
forest, but when I recognized you I could not send the bullet. I
turned the weapon aside."

"Ah, that was in truth a most worthy and chivalrous act! Embrace me,
my friend!"

"No! No! We American men never embrace or kiss one another!"

"I should have remembered. A cold people! But never mind! You are my
brother, and I esteem you so highly that I shall let nothing on earth
take you away from us. Can you not reconsider your decision about
the sister of the Dove? She would make you a most admirable wife, and
after the war we could become the greatest rangers, you and I, that
the forest has ever known. And the life in the woods is marvelous in
its freedom and variety!"

But Robert plead extreme youth once more, and the Owl was forced to be
resigned. The small tent in which guard and prisoner were to sleep was
almost in the center of the camp and Robert truly would have needed
wings and the power of invisibility to escape then. Instead of it he
let the thought pass for a while and went to sleep on a blanket.

       *       *       *       *       *

While young Lennox slept St. Luc was in the tent of Montcalm talking
with his leader. The Marquis was in much perplexity. His spies had
brought him word of the great force that was mustering in the south,
and he did not know whether to await the attack at Ticonderoga or
to retreat to the powerful fortifications at Crown Point on Lake
Champlain. His own ardent soul, flushed by the successes he had
already won, told him to stay, but prudence bade him go. Now he wanted
to hear what St. Luc had to say and wanting it he knew also that the
Chevalier was the most valiant and daring of his captains. He wished
to hear from the dauntless leader just what he wished to hear and
nothing else.

"Your observations, then, confirm what the spies have reported?" he
said. "The enemy can easily control Lake George!"

"He has only to make an effort to do so, my general," replied St.
Luc. "I could have captured the boat builders on the point or have
compelled their retirement, but large forces came to their relief. The
numbers of the foe are even greater than we had feared."

"How many men do you think General Abercrombie will have when he
advances against us?"

"Not less than fifteen thousand, sir, perhaps more."

The face of Montcalm fell.

"As many as that!" he exclaimed. "It is more than four to one!"

"He cannot have less, sir," repeated St. Luc positively.

Montcalm's brow clouded and he paced back and forth.

"And the Indians who have been so powerful an ally," he said at last.
"They are frightened by the reports concerning the Anglo-American
army. After their fashion they wish to run away before superior force,
and fight when the odds are not so great. It is most embarrassing to
lose their help, at such a critical time. Can you do nothing with this
sullen giant, Tandakora, who has such influence over them?"

"I fear not, sir. He was with me on the expedition from which I have
just returned, and he fared ill. He is in a most savage humor. He is
like a bear that will hide in the woods and lick its hurts until the
sting has passed. I think we may consider it certain, sir, that they
will desert us, for the time."

"And we shall have but little more than three thousand French and
Canadians to defend the honor of France and His Majesty's great colony
in North America. We might retreat to the fortifications at Crown
Point, and make an advantageous stand there, but it goes ill with me
to withdraw. Still, prudence cries upon me to do so. I have talked
with Bourlamaque, Trepezec, Lotbiniere, the engineer, Langy, the
partisan, and other of my lieutenants whom you know. They express
varying opinions. Now, Colonel de St. Luc, I want yours, an opinion
that is absolutely your own."

St. Luc drew himself up and his warrior soul flashed through his blue
eyes.

"Sir," he said, "it goes as ill with me as it does with you to
retreat. My heart is here at Ticonderoga. Nor does prudence suggest to
me that we retreat to Crown Point. My head agreeing with my heart says
that we should stand here."

"And that is your conviction?"

"It is, sir. Ticonderoga is ours and we can keep it."

"Upon what do you base this opinion? In such a crisis as this we must
be influenced by sound military reasons and not by sentiment."

"My reasons, sir, are military. That is why my heart goes with
my head. It is true that the Anglo-American army will come in
overwhelming numbers, but they may be overwhelming numbers that will
not overwhelm. As we know, the British commanders have not adapted
themselves as well as the French to wilderness, campaigning. Their
tactics and strategy are the same as those they practice in the open
fields of Europe, and it puts them at a great disadvantage. We have
been willing to learn from the Indians, who have practiced forest
warfare for centuries. And the British Colonials, the Bostonnais,
fall into the faults of the parent country. In spite of all experience
they, continue to despise wilderness wile and stratagem, and in a
manner that is amazing. They walk continually into ambush, and are cut
up before they can get out of it. I am not one to cheapen the valor
of British and British Colonials. It has been proved too often on
desperate fields, but in the kind of war we must wage here deep in the
wilds of North America, valor is often unavailing, and I think, sir,
that we can rely upon one fact. The enemy will take us too lightly. He
is sure to do something that will keep him from using his whole force
at the right moment against us. Our forest knowledge will work all
the time in our behalf. I entreat you, sir, to keep the army here at
Ticonderoga and await the attack."

St. Luc spoke with intense earnestness, and his words had all the ring
of conviction. Montcalm's dark face was illumined. Again he walked
back and forth, in deep thought.

"The engineer, Lotbiniere, a man whose opinion I respect, is of
your mind," he said at last. "He says that whether Crown Point or
Ticonderoga, it's merely either horn of the dilemma, and naturally, if
the dangers of the two places are even, we prefer Ticonderoga and no
retreat. The Marquis de Vaudreuil had a plan to save Ticonderoga by
means of a diversion with a heavy force under Bourlamaque, De Levis
and Longueuil into the Mohawk Valley. But some American rangers taken
near Lake George by Langy told him that Abercrombie already had thirty
thousand men at the head of George and the Marquis at once abandoned
the scheme. It was lucky for us the rangers exaggerated so much that
the plan was destined to failure, as we needed here the men who were
sent on it. We save or lose Ticonderoga by fighting at Ticonderoga
itself and by nothing else. I thank you, Colonel de St. Luc, for your
gallant and timely words, I have been wavering and they have decided
me. We stay here and await the Anglo-American army."

"And the star of France will not fail us," said St Luc, with intense
conviction.

"I trust not. I feel more confidence since I have decided, and I
do know this: the young men who are my lieutenants are as brave and
skillful leaders as any chief could desire. And the troops will fight
even ten to one, if I ask it of them. It is a pleasure and a glory to
command troops of such incomparable bravery as the French. But we must
try to keep the Indians with us. I confess that I know little about
dealing with them. Has this savage chief, Tandakora, come back to
Ticonderoga?"

"I think he is here, sir. Do you wish me to talk with him?"

"I do. I wish it very much."

"He is very sullen, sir. He holds that the Indians have received no
rewards for their services."

"We have given them blankets and food and muskets and ammunition."

"He takes those as a matter of course. But he means something else.
To tell you the truth, sir, the savages want us to give prisoners to
them."

Montcalm's face clouded again.

"To burn at the stake, or to torture to death otherwise!" he
exclaimed. "My reputation and what is more, the reputation of France,
suffers already from the massacre at William Henry, though God knows
I would have prevented it if I could. It happened so suddenly and so
unexpectedly that I could not stop it, until the harm was done. But
never, St. Luc, never will I give up a prisoner to them for their
tortures, though every savage in our armies desert us!"

"I hold with you, sir, that we cannot surrender prisoners to them,
even though the cause of France should suffer."

"Then talk to this savage chief. Make him see reason. Promise him and
his people what you wish in muskets, ammunition, blankets and such
things, but no prisoners, not one."

St. Luc, with a respectful salute, left the tent. He was torn by
conflicting emotions. He was depressed over the smallness of the
French numbers, and yet he was elated by Montcalm's decision to stay
at Ticonderoga and await Abercrombie. He was confident, as he had
said, that some lucky chance would happen, and that the overwhelming
superiority of the Anglo-American army would be nullified.

The Chevalier cast a discriminating eye over the French position. The
staunch battalion of Berry lay near the foot of Lake George, but the
greater part of the army under the direct command of Montcalm was in
camp near a saw mill. The valiant Bourlamaque was at the head of
the portage, and another force held the point of embarkation on Lake
George. But he knew that Montcalm would change these dispositions when
the day of battle came.

On the westward side of the camp several fires burned and dark
figures lay near them. St. Luc marked one of these, a gigantic savage,
stretched at his ease, and he walked toward him. He pretended, at
first, that his errand had nothing to do with Tandakora, but stood
thoughtfully by the fire, for a minute or two. Nor did the Ojibway
chief take any notice. He lay at ease, and it was impossible to tell
what thoughts were hidden behind his sullen face.

"Does Tandakora know what the commander of the French army has decided
to do?" said St. Luc, at last.

"Tandakora is not thinking much about it," replied the chief.

"Montcalm is a brave general. He shows that he is not afraid of the
great army the English and the Bostonnais have gathered. He will not
retreat to Crown Point or anywhere else, but will stay at Ticonderoga
and defeat his foes."

The black eyes of the Ojibway flickered.

"Tandakora does not undertake to tell Montcalm what he must do," he
said, "nor must Montcalm undertake to tell Tandakora what he should
do. What Montcalm may do will not now keep Tandakora awake."

St. Luc's heart filled with hot anger, but he was used to dealing
with Indians. He understood their minds from the inside, and he had a
superb self-control of his own.

"We know that Tandakora is a great chief," he said evenly. "We know
too that he and his men are as free as the winds. As they blow where
they please so the warriors of Tandakora go where they wish. But
Onontio [The Governor-General of Canada.] and Tandakora have long been
friends. They have been allies, they have fought side by side in many
a battle. If Onontio falls, Tandakora falls with him. If the British
and Bostonnais are victorious, there will be room for none of the
tribes save the League of the Hodenosaunee, and them Tandakora hates.
Onontio will not be able to protect them any more, and they will be
driven from all their hunting grounds."

He paused to watch his words take effect and they obviously stirred
the soul of the savage chief who moved uneasily.

"It is true," he said. "Sharp Sword never tells a falsehood. If
Onontio is struck down then the British, the Bostonnais and the
Hodenosaunee triumph, but my warriors bring me word that our enemies
have gathered the greatest force the world has ever seen at the head
of Andiatarocte. They come thicker than the leaves of the forest. They
have more guns than we can count. They will trample Montcalm and his
soldiers under their feet. So, according to our custom, Tandakora and
his warriors would go away into the forest, until the British and
the Bostonnais scatter, unable to find us. Then, when they are not
looking, we will strike them and take many scalps."

Tandakora spoke in his most impressive manner, and, when he ceased,
his eyes met St. Luc's defiantly. Again the blood of the Chevalier
burned with wrath, but as before he restrained himself, and his smooth
voice gave no hint of anger as he replied:

"Odds are of no avail against Montcalm. The children of Onontio are
used to dealing with them. Remember, Tandakora, the great victories
Montcalm won at Oswego and William Henry. He has the soul of a mighty
chief. He has decided to stay here at Ticonderoga and await the enemy,
confident that he will win the victory. Tandakora is a great warrior,
is he willing to have no share in such a triumph?"

The cruel eyes of the Ojibway glistened.

"The heart of Tandakora is heavy within him," he said. "He and his
warriors are not afraid of the British and the Bostonnais. They
have fought by the side of Montcalm, but they do not receive all the
rewards that Onontio owes them."

"Onontio has given to them freely of his muskets and powder and
bullets, and of his blankets and food."

"But he takes from them the prisoners. We have no scalps to carry
home."

"It is against the custom of the French to put prisoners to death or
torture. Moreover, we have no prisoners here. The rangers taken by
Langy have already been sent to Canada."

"There is one in the camp now. He was captured by three of my
warriors, those you sent out, and by the law of war he belongs to me.
Yet Sharp Sword and Montcalm hold him. I speak of the youth Lennox,
the comrade of the Onondaga, Tayoga, who is my bitterest enemy. I hate
Lennox too because he has stood so often in my way and I demand him,
to do with as I please, because it is my right."

The Ojibway moved close to St. Luc and the fierce black eyes glared
into those of stern blue. The Chevalier did not change his smooth,
placatory tone as he replied:

"I cannot give up Lennox. It is true that he was taken by your
warriors, but they were then in my service, so he is my prisoner. But
he is only a single captive, a lad. Ask for some other and greater
reward, Tandakora, and it shall be yours."

"Give me the prisoner, Lennox, and I and my warriors stay and fight
with you at Ticonderoga. Refuse him and we go."

The chief's words were sharp and decisive and St. Luc understood him.
He knew that the savage Ojibway hated young Lennox intensely, and
would put him to the torture. He never hesitated an instant.

"I cannot yield the prisoner to you," he said. "The custom of the
French will not permit it."

"The warriors are a great help in battle, and the reward I ask is but
small. St. Luc knows that Montcalm needs men here. What is this boy to
St. Luc that he refuses so great a price for him?"

"It cannot be done, Tandakora. I keep the prisoner, Lennox, and later
I will send him to Canada to be held there until the war is over."

"Then the forest to-morrow will swallow up Tandakora and his
warriors."

The chief returned to the fire and lay at ease in his blanket. St. Luc
walked thoughtfully back toward the tent of Montcalm. He knew that it
was his duty to report the offer of Tandakora to his chief, but he did
so reluctantly.

"You have refused it already?" said the Marquis.

"I have, sir," replied St. Luc.

"Then you have done well. I confirm you in the refusal."

St. Luc saluted with great respect, and again retired from the tent.




CHAPTER XIII

EVE OF BATTLE


Robert awoke the next morning, well physically, but depressed
mentally. He believed that a great battle--and a great victory for the
Anglo-American army--was coming, and he would have no part in it. The
losses of Braddock's defeat and the taking of Fort William Henry by
Montcalm would be repaired, once more the flag of his native land and
of his ancestral land, would be triumphant, but he would be merely
a spectator, even if he were as much as that. It was a bitter
reflection, and again he thought of escape. But no plan seemed
possible. He was held as firmly in the center of an army, as if he
were in the jaws of a powerful vise. Nor was it possible for Tayoga,
however great his skill and daring, to reach him there. He strove
to be philosophical, but it is hard for youth to reconcile itself at
first, though it may soon forget.

Breakfast was given to him, and he was permitted to go outside the
tent into a small open space, though not beyond. On all sides of him
stretched the impassable lines of the French army. There were several
other prisoners within the enclosure, a ranger, a hunter, and three or
four farmers who had been taken in forays farther south.

The fresh air and the brilliant sunshine revived Robert's spirits. He
looked eagerly about him, striving to divine the French intentions,
but he could make nothing of them. He knew, however, upon reflection,
that this would be so. The French would not put any prisoners in a
position to obtain information that would be of great value in the
possible event of escape.

He undertook to talk with the other prisoners, but they were a
melancholy lot, not to be cheered. They were all thinking of a long,
in truth, an indefinite, imprisonment in Canada, and they mourned.
Many people had been taken into Canada by French and Indians in former
forays and had been lost forever.

Robert turned away from his comrades and sat down on a stone, where
he speculated idly on what was passing about him. He believed that the
French would withdraw to Crown Point, at least, and might retreat all
the way to Canada, leaving Lake Champlain, as well as Lake George, to
the complete control of the Anglo-American forces. He expected to see
preparations to that effect, and, when he saw none, he concluded that
they were merely postponed for a day or two. So far as he could judge,
the aspect of the French army was leisurely. He did not observe any
signs of trepidation, but then, withdrawal was always easy in the
great North American wilderness. There was yet plenty of time for it.

He noticed a complete absence of Indians, and the fact struck him with
great surprise. While he was advancing various theories to account
for it, young Captain Louis de Galissonniere came, and greeted him
cordially.

"I hope you understand that we French know how to treat a prisoner,"
he said.

"I've nothing of which to complain," replied Robert. "This is the
second time that I've been with you, and on this occasion, as on the
first, I seem to be more of a guest than a captive."

"You're the special prisoner of Colonel de St. Luc, who stands
extremely high with the Marquis de Montcalm. The colonel wishes you to
be treated well and seems to favor you. Why is it?"

"Frankly, I don't know, but I learned long since that he was a most
chivalrous foe. I suppose I am to be sent into Canada along with the
other prisoners?"

"I suppose so, but there is no way for you to go just now."

"Why can't I go with your army?"

"With our army?"

"It retreats, of course, before our overwhelming force."

De Galissonniere laughed.

"You are disposed to be facetious," he said. "You will observe that we
are not retreating. You see no preparations to do so, but that's all
I will tell you. More would be valuable information for the enemy,
should you escape."

"I've warned Colonel de St. Luc that I mean to escape in due time. I
don't like to reject such noble hospitality as you're showing me, but
my duty to my country demands it."

Robert was now in a most excellent humor. His sanguine temperament
was asserting itself to the full. What he wished to see he saw. He was
slipping away from the French; and he was advancing with the English
and Americans to a great and brilliant victory. His face was flushed
and his eyes sparkled. De Galissonniere looked at him curiously, but
said nothing.

"I observe one very significant fact," continued Robert.

"What is that?"

"I see no Indians, who are usually so numerous about your camps. You
needn't tell me what has happened, but I've been among Indians a great
deal. I know their ways, and I'll tell you. They see that yours is a
lost cause, and they've deserted you. Now, isn't that so?"

The young Frenchman was silent, but it was the turn of his face to
flush.

"I didn't expect you to answer me in words," continued Robert,
triumphantly, "but I can see. The Indians never fight in a battle that
they consider lost before it's joined, and you know as well as I do,
Captain de Galissonniere, that if the Marquis de Montcalm awaits our
attack his army will be destroyed."

"I do not know it at all."

Then Robert felt ashamed because he had been led away by his
enthusiasm, and apologized for a speech that might have seemed
boastful to the young Frenchman, who had been so kind to him. But De
Galissonniere, with his accustomed courtesy, said it was nothing, and
when he left, presently, both were in the best of humors.

Robert, convinced that he had been right about the Indians, watched
for them as the morning went on, but he never saw a single warrior.
There could be no doubt now that they had gone, and while he could not
consider them chivalric they were at least wise.

The next familiar face that he beheld was one far from welcome to him.
It was that of a man who happened to pass near the enclosure and who
stopped suddenly when he caught sight of Robert. He was in civilian
dress, but he was none other than Achille Garay, that spy whose secret
message had been wrested from him in the forest by Robert and Tayoga.

The gaze that Garay bent upon Robert was baleful. His capture by the
three and the manner in which he had been compelled to disclose the
letter had been humiliating, and Robert did not doubt that the man
would seek revenge. He shivered a little, feeling that as a prisoner
he was in a measure helpless. Then his back stiffened.

"I'm glad to see, Garay, that you're where you belong--with the
French," he called out. "I hope you didn't suffer any more from hunger
in the woods when Willet, the Onondaga and I let you go."

The spy came closer, and his look was so full of venom that young
Lennox, despite himself, shuddered.

"Time makes all things even," he said. "I don't forget how you and
your friends held me in your power in the forest, but here you are a
prisoner. I have a good chance to make the score even."

Robert remembered also how this man had attempted his life in Albany,
for some reason that he could not yet fathom, and he felt that he
was now, and, in very truth, a most dangerous enemy. Nevertheless, he
replied, quietly:

"That was an act of war. You were carrying a message for the enemy.
We were wholly within our rights when we forced you to disclose the
paper."

"It makes no difference," said Garay. "I owe you and your comrades a
debt and I shall pay it."

Robert turned his back on him and walked to the other side of the
enclosure. When he turned around, five minutes later, Garay was gone.
But Robert felt uncomfortable. Here was a man who did not have the
gallantry and chivalry that marked so many of the French. If he could
he would strike some great blow.

He strove to dismiss Garay from his mind, and, in his interest in what
was going on about him, he finally succeeded. He saw Frenchmen and
Canadians leaving the camp and others returning. His knowledge of war
made him believe that those coming had been messengers sent forth to
watch the Anglo-American army, and those going were dispatched on the
same service. Their alarm must be great, he reflected pleasantly,
and none could bring to Montcalm any reassuring news. Once he saw
Montcalm, and once St. Luc, but neither spoke to him.

He and his comrades, the other prisoners, slept that night in the
open, the weather being warm. A blanket was allotted to every one by
their captors, and Robert, long used to unlimited fresh air, preferred
the outside to the inside of a tent. Nothing disturbed his slumbers,
but he expected that the French retreat would begin the next day. On
the contrary, Montcalm stayed in his camp, nor was there any sign of
withdrawal on the second and third days, or on others that came. He
inferred then that the advance of Abercrombie had been delayed,
and the French were merely hanging on until their retreat became
compulsory.

He had been in the camp about a week, and as he saw no more of Garay
he concluded that the man had been sent away on some errand. It
was highly probable that he was now in the south spying upon the
Anglo-American army. It was for just such duties that he was fitted.
Then he began to think of him less and less.

His old impatience and keen disappointment because he was a prisoner
when such great days were coming, returned with doubled vigor. He
chafed greatly and looked around again for an opportunity to escape,
but did not see the remotest possibility of it. After all, he must
reconcile himself. His situation could be far worse. He was well
treated, and some of the French leaders, while official enemies, were
personal friends.

His mind also dwelled upon the singular fact that the French army did
not retreat. He tried to glean something from De Galissonniere, who
talked with him several times, but the young captain would not depart
from generalities. He invariably shut up, tight, when they approached
any detail of the present military situation.

A dark night came with much wind and threat of rain. Robert thought
that he and his fellow captives would have to ask the shelter of
tents, but the rain passed farther to the west, though the heavy
darkness remained. He was glad, as the weather was now oppressively
warm, and he greatly preferred to sleep on a blanket in the open air.

The night was somewhat advanced when he lay down. The other prisoners
were asleep already. He had not found any kindred minds among them,
and, as they were apathetic, he had not talked with them much. Now,
he did not miss them at all as he lay on his blanket and watched the
wavering lights of the camp. It was still quite dark, with a moaning
wind, but his experience of weather told him that the chance of
rain was gone. Far in the west, lightning flickered and low thunder
grumbled there now and then, but in the camp everything was dry. Owing
to the warmth, the fires used for cooking had been permitted to burn
out, and the whole army seemed at peace.

Robert himself shared this feeling of rest. The storm, passing so far
away, soothed and lulled him. It was pleasant to lie there, unharmed,
and witness its course at a far point. He dozed a while, fell asleep,
and awoke again in half an hour. Nothing had changed. There was still
an occasional flicker of lightning and mutter of thunder and the
darkness remained heavy. He could dimly see the forms of his comrades
lying on their blankets. Not one of them stirred. They slept heavily
and he rather envied them. They had little imagination, and, when one
was in bad case, he was lucky to be without it.

The figure lying nearest him he took to be that of the hunter, a
taciturn man who talked least of them all, and again Robert felt envy
because he could lose all care so thoroughly and so easily in sleep.
The man was as still and unconcerned as one of the mountain peaks that
looked down upon them. He would imitate him, and although sleep might
be unwilling, he would conquer it. A resolute mind could triumph over
anything.

He shut his eyes and his will was so strong that he held them shut
a full ten minutes, although sleep did not come. When he opened them
again he thought that the hunter had moved a little. After all, the
man was mortal, and had human emotions. He was not an absolute log.

"Tilden!" he called--Tilden was the hunter's name.

But Tilden did not stir, nor did he respond in any way when he called
a second time. He had been mistaken. He had given the man too much
credit. He was really a log, a dull, apathetic fellow to whom the
extraordinary conditions around them made no appeal. He would not
speak to him again as long as they were prisoners together, and,
closing his eyes anew, he resolutely wooed slumber once more.

Robert's hearing was not so wonderfully keen as Tayoga's, but it was
very keen, nevertheless, and as he lay, eyes shut, something impinged
upon the drums of his ears. It was faint, but it did not seem to be a
part of the usual sounds of the night. His ear at once registered an
alarm on his brain.

His eyes opened. The man whom he had taken to be the hunter was
bending over him, and, dark though it was, he distinctly saw the gleam
of a knife in his hand. His first feeling, passing in a flash, was one
of vague wonderment that anybody should menace him in such a manner,
and then he saw the lowering face of Garay. He had been a fool to
forget him. With a convulsive and powerful effort he threw his body to
one side, and, when the knife fell, the blade missed him by an inch.

Then Robert sprang to his feet, but Garay, uttering an angry
exclamation at his missed stroke, did not attempt another. Instead,
agile as a cat, he ran lightly away, and disappeared in the darkness
of the camp. Robert sat down, somewhat dazed. It had all been an
affair of a minute, and it was hard for him to persuade himself that
it was real. His comrades still slept soundly, and the camp seemed as
peaceful as ever.

For a time Robert could not decide what to do. He knew that he had
been threatened by a formidable danger, and that instinct, more than
anything else, had saved him. He was almost prepared to believe that
Tayoga's Tododaho, looking down from his remote star, had intervened
in his behalf.

The question solved itself. Although he knew that Garay had made
a foul attempt upon his life he had no proof. His story would seem
highly improbable. Moreover, he was a prisoner, while Garay was one
of the French. Nobody would believe his tale. He must keep quiet and
watch. He was glad to see that the night was now lightening. Garay
would not come back then, at least. But Robert was sure that he would
repeat the attack some time or other. Revenge was a powerful motive,
and he undoubtedly had another as strong. He must guard against Garay
with all his five senses.

The night continued to brighten. The lightning ceased to flicker,
the storm had blown itself out in the distance, and a fine moon and a
myriad of stars came out. Things in the camp became clearly visible,
and, feeling that Garay would attempt nothing more at such a time,
Robert closed his eyes again. He soon slept, and did not awaken until
all the other prisoners were up.

"Mr. Tilden," he said to the hunter, "I offer you my sincere
apologies."

"Apologies," said the hunter in surprise. "What for?"

"Because I mistook a much worse man for you. You didn't know anything
about it at the time, but I did it, and I'm sorry I wronged you so
much, even in thought."

The hunter touched his forehead. Clearly the misfortunes of the young
prisoner were weighing too heavily upon him. One must endure captivity
better than that.

"Don't take it so hard, Mr. Lennox," he said. "It's not like being in
the hands of the Indians, and there is always the chance of escape."

De Galissonniere visited him again that morning, and Robert, true to
his resolution, said nothing of Garay. The captain did not speak of
the Anglo-American army, but Robert judged from his manner that he was
highly expectant. Surely, Abercrombie was about to advance, and
the retreat of Montcalm could not be more than a day away. De
Galissonniere stayed only ten minutes, and then Robert was left to his
own devices. He tried to talk to Tilden, but the hunter lapsed again
into an apathetic state, and, having little success, he fell back on
his own thoughts and what his eyes might behold.

In the afternoon he saw Montcalm at some distance, talking with St.
Luc and Bourlamaque, and then he saw a man whose appearance betokened
haste and anxiety approach them. Robert did not know it then, but it
was the able and daring French partisan, Langy, and he came out of the
forest with vital news.

       *       *       *       *       *

Meanwhile Langy saluted Montcalm with the great respect that his
successes had won from all the French. When the Marquis turned his
keen eye upon him he knew at once that his message, whatever it might
be, was of supreme importance.

"What is it, Monsieur Langy?"

"A report on the movements of the enemy."

"Come to my tent and tell me of it fully, and do you, St. Luc and
Bourlamaque, come with me also. You should hear everything."

They went into the tent and all sat down. St. Luc's eyes never left
the partisan, Langy. He saw that the man was full of his news, eager
to tell it, and was impressed with its importance. He knew Langy even
better than Montcalm did. Few were more skillful in the forest, and he
had a true sense of proportion that did not desert him under stress.
His eyes traveled over the partisan's attire, and there his own great
skill as a ranger told him much. His garments were disarranged. Burrs
and one or two little twigs were clinging to them. Obviously he had
come far and in haste. The thoughts of St. Luc, and, in truth, the
thoughts of all of them, went to the Anglo-American army.

"Speak, Monsieur Langy," said Montcalm. "I can see that you have come
swiftly, and you would not come so without due cause."

"I wish to report to you, sir," said Langy, "that the entire army of
the enemy is now embarked on the Lake of the Holy Sacrament, and is
advancing against us."

Montcalm's eyes sparkled. His warlike soul leaped up at the thought of
speedy battle that was being offered. A flame was lighted also in
St. Luc's blood, and Bourlamaque was no less eager. It was no lack of
valor and enterprise that caused the French to lose their colonies in
North America.

"You know this positively?" asked the commander-in-chief.

"I have seen it with my own eyes."

"Tell it as you saw it."

"I lay in the woods above the lake with my men, and I saw the British
and Americans go into their boats, a vast flock of them. They are all
afloat on the lake at this moment, and are coming against us."

"Could you make a fair estimate of their numbers?"

"I obtained the figures with much exactitude from one or two
stragglers that we captured on the land. My eyes confirm these
figures. There are about seven thousand of the English regulars, and
about nine thousand of the American colonials."

"So many as that! Five to one!"

"You tell us they are all in boats," said St. Luc. "How many of these
boats contain their artillery?"

"They have not yet embarked the cannon. As nearly as we can gather,
the guns will not come until the army is at Ticonderoga."

"What?"

"It is as I tell you," replied Langy to St. Luc. "The guns cannot come
up the lake until a day or two after the army is landed. Their
force is so great that they do not seem to think they will need the
artillery."

St. Luc, his face glowing, turned to Montcalm.

"Sir," he said, "I made to you the prophecy that some chance, some
glorious chance, would yet help us, and that chance has come. Their
very strength has betrayed them into an error that may prove fatal.
Despising us, they give us our opportunity. No matter how great the
odds, we can hold earthworks and abattis against them, unless they
bring cannon, or, at least we may make a great attempt at it."

The swarthy face of Montcalm was illumined by the light from his eyes.

"I verily believe that your gallant soul speaks truth, Chevalier de
St. Luc!" he exclaimed. "I said once that we would stand and I say it
again. We'll put all to the hazard. Since they come without cannon
we do have our chance. Go, Langy, and take your needed rest. You have
served us well. And now we'll have the others here and talk over our
preparations."

The engineers Lotbiniere and Le Mercier were, as before, zealous
for battle at Ticonderoga, and their opinion counted for much with
Montcalm. De Levis, held back by the vacillating Vaudreuil, had not
yet come from Montreal, and the swiftest of the Canadian paddlers was
sent down Lake Ticonderoga in a canoe to hurry him on. Then the entire
battalion of Berry went to work at once with spade and pick and ax
to prepare a breastwork and abattis, stretching a line of defense in
front of the fort, and not using the fort itself.

       *       *       *       *       *

Robert saw the Frenchmen attack the trees with their axes and the
earth with their spades, and he divined at once the news that
Langy had brought. The Anglo-American army was advancing. His heart
throbbed. Victory and rescue were at hand.

"Mr. Tilden," he said to the hunter, "listen to the ring of the ax and
the thud of the spade!"

"Aye, I hear 'em," was the apathetic reply; "but they don't interest
me. I'm a prisoner."

"But it may mean that you won't be a prisoner much longer. The French
are fortifying, and they've gone to work with so much haste and energy
that it shows an imminent need. There's only one conclusion to be
drawn from it. They're expecting our army and a prompt attack."

Tilden began to show interest.

"On my life, I think you're right," he said.

And yet Montcalm changed his mind again at the last moment. Two
veteran officers, Montguy and Bernes, pointed out to him that his
present position was dominated by the adjacent heights, and in order
to escape that danger he resolved to retreat a little. He broke up his
camp late in the afternoon of the next day, part of the army fell back
through the woods more than a mile, and the rest of it withdrew in
boats on the lake to the same point.

Robert and his comrades were carried with the army on land to the
fort. There he became separated from the others, and remained in the
rear, but luckily for his wishes, on a mount where he could see most
that was passing, though his chance of escape was as remote as ever.

He stood on the rocky peninsula of Ticonderoga. Behind him the great
lake, Champlain, stretched far into north and south. To the west the
ground sloped gently upward a half mile and then sank again. On each
side of the ridge formed thus was low ground, and the ridge presented
itself at once to the military eye as a line of defense. Hugues, one
of his officers, had already recommended it to Montcalm, and men under
two of his engineers, Desandrouin and Pontleroy, were now at work
there.

The final line of defense was begun at dawn, and Robert, whom no one
disturbed, witnessed a scene of prodigious energy. The whole French
army threw itself heart and soul into the task. The men, hot under the
July sun, threw aside their coats, and the officers, putting their own
hands to the work, did likewise. There was a continuous ring of axes,
and the air resounded with the crash of trees falling in hundreds and
thousands.

The tops and ends of the boughs were cut off the trees, the ends left
thus were sharpened and the trees were piled upon one another with the
sharp ends facing the enemy who was to come.

Robert watched as these bristling rows grew to a height of at least
nine feet, and then he saw the men build on the inner side platforms
on which they could stand and fire over the crest, without exposing
anything except their heads. In front of the abattis more trees with
sharpened boughs were spread for a wide space, the whole field with
its stumps and trees, looking as if a mighty hurricane had swept over
it.

Robert was soldier enough to see what a formidable obstruction was
being raised, but he thought the powerful artillery of the attacking
army would sweep it away or level it. He did not know that the big
guns were being left behind. In truth, Langy's first news that the
cannon would not be embarked upon the lake was partly wrong. The
loading of the cannon was delayed, but after the British and Americans
reached their landing and began the march across country for the
attack, the guns, although brought down the lake, were left behind as
not needed. But the French knew all these movements, and whether the
cannon were left at one point or another, it was just the same to
them, so long as they were not used in the assault.

Robert's intense mortification that he should be compelled to lie idle
and witness the efforts of his enemies returned, but no matter how he
chafed he could see no way out of it. Then his absorption in what was
going on about him made him forget his personal fortunes.

The setting for the great drama was wild and picturesque in the
extreme. On one side stretched the long, gleaming lake, a lake of
wildness and beauty associated with so much of romance and peril in
American story. Over them towered the crest of the peak later known
as Defiance. To the south and west was Lake George, the Iroquois
Andiatarocte, that gem of the east, and, on all sides, save Champlain,
circled the forest, just beginning to wither under the fierce summer
sun.

The energy of the French did not diminish. Stronger and stronger grew
abattis and breastwork, the whole becoming a formidable field over
which men might charge to death. But Robert only smiled to himself.
Abercrombie's mighty array of cannon would smash everything and then
the brave infantry, charging through the gaps, would destroy the
French army. The French, he knew, were brave and skillful, but their
doom was sure. Once St. Luc spoke to him. The chevalier had thrown off
his coat also, and he had swung an ax with the best.

"I am sorry, Mr. Lennox," he said, "that we have not had time to send
you away, but as you can see, our operations are somewhat hurried.
Chance put you here, and here you will have to stay until all is
over."

"I see that you are expecting an army," said Robert, "and I infer from
all these preparations that it will soon be upon you."

"It is betraying no military secret to admit that it is even so.
Abercrombie will soon be at hand."

"And I am surprised that you should await him. I judge that he has
sufficient force to overwhelm you."

"We are never beaten before battle. The Marquis de Montcalm would not
stay, unless he had a fair chance of success."

Robert was silent and St. Luc quickly went back to his work. All day
the men toiled, and when the sun went down, they were still at their
task. The ring of axes and the crash of falling trees resounded
through the dark. Part of the soldiers put their kettles and pots on
the fires, but the others labored on. In the night came the valiant
De Levis with his men, and Montcalm gave him a heartfelt welcome. De
Levis was a host in himself, and Montcalm felt that he was just in
time. He expected the battle on the morrow. His scouts told him that
Abercrombie would be at hand, but without his artillery. The Marquis
looked at the formidable abattis, the rows and rows of trees,
presenting their myriad of spiked ends, and hope was alive in his
heart. He regretted once more the absence of the Indians who had been
led away by the sulky Tandakora, but victory, won with their help,
demanded a fearful price, as he had learned at William Henry.

Montcalm, St. Luc, De Levis, Bourlamaque, Lotbiniere and other trusted
officers held a consultation far in the night. An important event
had occurred already. A scouting force of French and Canadians under
Trepezec and Langy had been trapped by rangers under Rogers and troops
under Fitch and Lyman. The French and Canadians were cut to pieces,
but in the battle the gallant young Lord Howe, the real leader of the
Anglo-American army, had been killed. He had gone forward with the
vanguard, exposing himself rashly, perhaps, and his life was the
forfeit. Immediate confusion in the Anglo-American councils followed,
and Montcalm and his lieutenants had noticed the lack of precision and
directness.

Robert did not see the French officers going to the council, but
he knew that the French army meant to stay. Even while the men were
cutting down the trees he could not persuade himself wholly that
Montcalm would fight there at Ticonderoga, but as the night advanced
his last faint doubt disappeared. He would certainly witness a great
battle on the morrow.

He could not sleep. Every nerve in him seemed to be alive. One vivid
picture after another floated before his mind. The lake behind him
grew dim. Before him were the camp fires of the French, the wooden
wall, the dark line of the forest and hills, and the crest of Defiance
looking solemnly down on them. Although held firmly there, within
lines which one could not pass, nobody seemed to take any notice of
him. He could rest or watch as he chose, and he had no choice but to
watch.

He saw the French lie down on their arms, save for the numerous
sentinels posted everywhere, and after a while, though most of the
night was gone, the ring of axes and the fall of trees ceased.
There was a hum of voices but that too died in time, and long after
midnight, with his back against a tree, he dozed a little while.

He was awakened by a premonition, a warning out of the dark, and
opening his eyes he saw Garay slinking near. He did not know whether
the spy meant another attempt upon his life, but, standing up, he
stared at him intently. Garay shrank away and disappeared in the
further ranges of the camp. Robert somehow was not afraid. The man
would not make such a trial again at so great a risk, and his mind
turned back to its preoccupation, the great battle that was coming.

Near morning he dozed again for an hour or so, but he awoke before the
summer dawn. All his faculties were alive, and his body attuned when
he saw the sun rise, bringing with it the momentous day.




CHAPTER XIV

TICONDEROGA


The French army rose with the sun, the drums beating the call to
battle. Montcalm stationed the battalions of Languedoc and La Sarre on
the left with Bourlamaque to command them, on the right De Levis led
the battalions of Bearn, Guienne and La Reine. Montcalm himself stood
with the battalion of Royal Roussillon in the center, and St. Luc was
by his side. Volunteers held the sunken ground between the breastwork
and the outlet of Lake George, a strong force of regulars and
Canadians was on the side of Lake Champlain under the guns of the fort
there. Then, having taken their places, all the parts of the army went
to work again, strengthening the defenses with ax and spade, improving
every moment that might be left.

All thought of escape left Robert's mind in the mighty and thrilling
drama that was about to be played before him. Once more he stared at
the long line of the lake, and then his whole attention was for the
circling forest, and the hills. That was where the army of his country
lay. Nothing was to be expected from the lake. Victory would come
from the woods, and he looked so long at the trees that they blurred
together into one mass. He knew that the English and Americans were
near, but just how near he could not gather from those around him.

He brushed his eyes to clear them, and continued to study the forest.
The sun, great and brilliant, was flooding it with light, gilding the
slopes and crests of Defiance, and tinging the green of the leaves
with gold. Nothing stirred there. The wilderness seemed silent, as if
men never fought in its depths. Time went slowly on. After all,
the army might not advance to the attack that day. If so, his
disappointment would be bitter. He wanted a great victory, and he
wanted it at once.

His eyes suddenly caught a gleam on the crest of Defiance. A bit
of red flashed among the trees. He thought it was the uniform of
a British soldier, and his heart beat hard. The army was surely
advancing, the attack would be made, and the victory would be won that
day, not on the morrow nor next week, but before the sun set.

The blood pounded in his temples. He looked at the French. They,
too, had seen the scarlet gleam on Defiance and they were watching.
Montcalm and St. Luc began to talk together earnestly. De Levis and
Bourlamaque walked back and forth among their troops, but their gaze
was upon the crest. The men lay down ax and spade for the time, and
reached for their arms. Robert saw the sunlight glittering on musket
and bayonet, and once more he thrilled at the thought of the great
drama on which the curtain was now rising.

Another scarlet patch appeared on the crest and then more. He knew
that the scouts and skirmishers were there, doubtless in strong force.
It was likely that the rangers, who would be in forest green, were
more numerous than the English, and the attack could not now be far
away. A sharp crack, a puff of white smoke on the hill, and the first
shot of Ticonderoga was fired. Then came a volley, but the French made
no reply. None of the bullets had reached them. Robert did not know
it then, but the gleam came from the red blankets of Iroquois Indians,
the allies of the English, and not from English uniforms. They kept up
a vigorous but harmless fire for a short while, and then drew off.

Silence descended once more on the forest, and Robert was puzzled. It
could not be possible that this was to be the only attack. The smoke
of the rifles was already drifting away from the crest, gone like
summer vapor. The French were returning to their work with ax and
spade. The forest covered and enclosed everything. No sound came from
it. Montcalm and St. Luc, walking up and down, began to talk together
again. They looked no longer toward the crest of Defiance, but watched
the southern wilderness.

The work with the ax increased. Montcalm had no mind to lose the
precious hours. More trees fell fast, and they were added to the
formidable works. The sun grew hotter and poured down sheaves of fiery
rays, but the toilers disregarded it, swinging the axes with muscles
that took no note of weariness. Robert thought the morning would
last forever. An hour before noon De Galissonniere was passing, and,
noticing him sitting on a low mound, he said:

"I did not know what had become of you, Mr. Lennox, but I see that
you, like ourselves, await the battle."

"So I do," said Robert as lightly as he could, "but it seems to me
that it's somewhat delayed."

"Not our fault, I assure you. Perhaps you didn't think so earlier, but
you see we're willing to fight, no matter how great the odds."

"I admit it. The Marquis de Montcalm has his courage--perhaps too
much."

De Galissonniere glanced at the strong works, and his smile was
confident, but he merely said:

"It is for the future to tell."

Then he went on, and Robert hoped that whatever happened the battle
would spare the young Frenchman.

Up went the sun toward the zenith. A light wind rustled the foliage.
Noon was near, and he began to wonder anew what had become of the
advancing army. Suddenly, the echo of a crash came out of the forest
in front. He stood erect, listening intently, and the sound rose
again, but it was not an echo now. It was real, and he knew that the
battle was at hand.

The crashes became continuous. Mingled with them were shouts, and
a cloud of smoke began to float above the trees. The French fired a
cannon as a signal, and, before the echoes of its report rolled away,
every man dropped ax or spade, and was in his place, weapon in hand.
The noise of the firing in front grew fast. Montcalm's scouts and
pickets were driven in, and the soldiers of the advancing army began
to show among the trees. The French batteries opened. The roar in
Robert's ear was terrific, but he stood at his utmost height in order
that he might see the assault. His eyes caught the gleam of uniforms
and the flash of sunlight on bayonet and rifle. He knew now that his
own people, dauntless and tenacious, were coming. He did not know
that they had left their artillery behind, and that they expected to
destroy the French army with bayonet and rifle and musket.

The fire from the French barrier increased in volume. Its crash beat
heavily and continuously on the drums of Robert's ears. A deadly sleet
was beating upon the advancing English and Americans. Already their
dead were heaping up in rows. Montcalm's men showed their heads only
above their works, their bodies were sheltered by the logs and they
fired and fired into the charging masses until the barrels of rifles
and muskets grew too hot for them to hold. Meanwhile they shouted with
all their might: "Vive la France! Vive notre General! Vive le Roi!"
and St. Luc, who stood always with Montcalm, hummed softly and under
his breath: "Hier, sur le pont d'Avignon, j'ai oui chanter la belle."

"It goes well," he said to Montcalm.

"Aye, a fair beginning," replied the Marquis.

Fire ran through French veins. No cannon balls were coming from the
enemy to sweep down their defenses. Bullets from rifle and musket were
beating in vain on their wooden wall, and before them came the foe, a
vast, converging mass, a target that no one could miss. They were far
from their own land, deep in the great North American wilderness, but
as they saw it, they fought for the honor and glory of France, and to
keep what was hers. They redoubled their shouts and fired faster and
faster. A great cloud of smoke rose over the clearing and the forest,
but through it the attacking army always advanced, a hedge of bayonets
leading.

Robert saw everything clearly. His heart sank for a moment, and then
leaped up again. Many of his own had fallen, but a great red curve was
advancing. It was the British regulars, the best troops in the charge
that Europe could furnish, and they would surely carry the wooden
wall. As far as he could see, in front and to left and right, their
bayonets flashed in the sun, and a cry of admiration sprang to his
lips. Forward they came, their line even and beautiful, and then the
tempest beat upon them. The entire French fire was concentrated upon
the concave red lines. The batteries poured grape shot upon them and
a sleet of lead cut through flesh and bone. Gaps were torn in their
ranks, but the others closed up, and came on, the American Colonials
on their flanks charging as bravely.

Robert suddenly remembered a vision of his, vague and fleeting then,
but very real now. He was standing here at Ticonderoga, looking at
the battle as it passed before him, and now it was no vision, but the
truth. Had Tayoga's Manitou opened the future to him for a moment?
Then the memory was gone and the terrific drama of the present claimed
his whole mind.

The red lines were not stopped. In the face of awful losses they were
still coming. They were among the trees where the men were entangled
with the boughs or ran upon the wooden spikes. Often they tripped and
fell, but rising they returned to the charge, offering their breasts
to the deadly storm that never diminished for an instant.

Robert walked back and forth in his little space. Every nerve was on
edge. The smoke of the firing was in eye, throat and nostril, and
his brain was hot. But confidence was again supreme. "They'll come!
They'll come! Nothing can stop them!" he kept repeating to himself.

Now the Colonials on the flank pressed forward, and they also advanced
through the lines of the regulars in front and charged with them.
Together British and Americans climbed over the mass of fallen trees
in face of the terrible fire, and reached the wooden wall itself,
where the sleet beat directly upon their faces. For a long distance
behind them, their dead and wounded lay in hundreds and hundreds.

Many of them tried to scale the barrier, but were beaten back. Now
Montcalm, St. Luc, De Levis, Bourlamaque and all the French leaders
made their mightiest efforts. The eye of the French commander swept
the field. He neglected nothing. Never was a man better served by his
lieutenants. St. Luc was at every threatened point, encouraging with
voice and example. Bourlamaque received a dangerous wound, but refused
to quit the field. Bougainville was hit, but his hurt was less severe,
and he took no notice of it, two bullets pierced the hat of De Levis,
St. Luc took a half dozen through his clothes and his body was grazed
three times, but his gay and warlike spirit mounted steadily, and he
hummed his little French air over and over again.

More British and Americans pressed to the wooden wall. The new Black
Watch, stalwart Scotchmen, bagpipes playing, charged over everything.
Two British columns made a powerful and tremendous attack upon the
French right, where stood the valiant battalions of Bearn and Guienne.
It seemed, for a while, that they might overwhelm everything. They
were against the barrier itself, and were firing into the defense.
Montcalm rushed to the spot with all the reserves he could muster. St.
Luc sprang among the men and shouted to them to increase their fire.
This point became the center of the battle, and its full fury was
concentrated there. A mass of Highlanders, tearing at the wooden wall,
refused to give back. Though they fell fast, a captain climbed up the
barrier. Officers and men followed him. They stood a moment on the
crest as if to poise themselves, and then leaped down among the
French, where they were killed. Those who stood on the other side were
swept by a hurricane of fire, and at last they yielded slowly.

Robert saw all, and he was seized with a great horror. The army was
not crashing over everything. Those who entered the French works died
there. The wooden wall held. Nowhere was the line of defense broken.
Boats loaded with troops coming down the outlet of Lake George to
turn the French left were repelled by the muskets of the Canadian
volunteers. Some of the boats were sunk, and the soldiers struggled in
the water, as cannon balls and bullets beat upon them.

His view of the field was blurred, for a while, by the smoke from
so much firing, which floated in thickening clouds over all the
open spaces and the edges of the forest. It produced curious optical
illusions. The French loomed through it, increased fourfold in
numbers, every individual man magnified in size. He saw them lurid and
gigantic, pulling the triggers of their rifles or muskets, or
working the batteries. The cannon also grew from twelve-pounders or
eighteen-pounders into guns three or four times as large, and many
stood where none had stood before.

The smoke continued to inflame his brain also, and it made him pass
through great alternations of hope and fear. Now the army was going to
sweep over the wooden wall in spite of everything. With sheer weight
and bravery it would crush the French and take Ticonderoga. It must
be. Because he wanted it to be, it was going to be. Then he passed
to the other extreme. When one of the charges spent itself at the
barrier, sending perhaps a few men over it, like foam from a wave that
has reached its crest, his heart sank to the depths, and he was sure
the British and Americans could not come again. Mortal men would
not offer themselves so often to slaughter. If the firing died for a
little space he was in deep despair, but his soul leaped up again as
the charge came anew. It was certainly victory this time. Hope
could not be crushed in him. His vivid fancy made him hear above the
triumphant shouts of the French the deep cheers of the advancing army,
the beating of drums and the playing of invisible bands.

All the time, whether in attack or retreat, the smoke continued to
increase and to inflame and excite. It was like a gas, its taste was
acrid and bitter as death. Robert coughed and tried to blow it away,
but it returned in waves heavier than ever, and then he ceased to
fight against it.

The British and American troops came again and again to the attack,
their officers leading them on. Never had they shown greater courage
or more willingness to die. When the first lines were cut down at the
barrier, others took their places. They charged into the vast mass of
fallen trees and against the spikes. Blinded by the smoke of so much
firing, they nevertheless kept their faces toward the enemy and sought
to see him. The fierce cheering of the French merely encouraged them
to new attempts.

The battle went on for hours. It seemed days to Robert. Mass after
mass of British and Colonials continued to charge upon the wooden
wall, always to be broken down by the French fire, leaving heaps of
their dead among those logs and boughs and on that bristling array of
spikes. At last they advanced no more, twilight came over the field,
the terrible fire that had raged since noon died, and the sun set upon
the greatest military triumph ever won by France in the New World.

Twilight gathered over the most sanguinary field America had yet seen.
In the east the dark was already at hand, but in the west the light
from the sunken sun yet lingered, casting a scarlet glow alike over
the fallen and the triumphant faces of the victors. Within the works
where the French had stood fires were lighted, and everything there
was brilliant, but outside, where so much valor had been wasted,
the shadows that seemed to creep out of the illimitable forest grew
thicker and thicker.

The wind moaned incessantly among the leaves, and the persistent smoke
that had been so bitter in the throat and nostrils of Robert still
hung in great clouds that the wind moved but little. From the woods
came long, fierce howls. The wolves, no longer frightened by the crash
of cannon and muskets, were coming, and under cover of bushes and
floating smoke, they crept nearer and nearer.

Robert sat a long time, bewildered, stunned. The incredible had
happened. He had seen it with his own eyes, and yet it was hard to
believe that it was true. The great Anglo-American army had been
beaten by a French force far less in numbers. Rather, it had beaten
itself. That neglect to bring up the cannon had proved fatal, and the
finest force yet gathered on the soil of North America had been cut
to pieces. A prodigious opportunity had been lost by a commander who
stayed a mile and a half in the rear, while his valiant men charged to
certain death.

Young Lennox walked stiffly a few steps. No one paid any attention to
him. In the dark, and amid the joyous excitement of the defenders, he
might have been taken for a Frenchman. But he made no attempt,
then, to escape. No such thought was in his mind for the moment. His
amazement gave way to horror. He wanted to see what was beyond the
wooden wall where he knew the dead and wounded lay, piled deep among
the logs and sharpened boughs. Unbelievable it was, but it was true.
His own eyes had seen and his own ears had heard. He listened to the
triumphant shouts of the French, and his soul sank within him.

A few shots came from the forest now and then, but the great army had
vanished, save for its fallen. Montcalm, still cautious, relaxing no
vigilance, fearing that the enemy would yet come back with his cannon,
walked among his troops and gave them thanks in person. Beer and wine
in abundance, and food were served to them. Fires were lighted and the
field that they had defended was to be their camp. Many scouts were
sent into the forest to see what had become of the opposing army. Most
of the soldiers, after eating and drinking, threw themselves upon the
ground and slept, but it was long before the leader and any of his
lieutenants closed their eyes. Although he felt a mighty joy over his
great victory of the day, Montcalm was still a prey to anxieties. His
own force, triumphant though it might be, was small. The enemy might
come again on the morrow with nearly four to one, and, if he brought
his cannon with him, he could take Ticonderoga, despite the great
losses he had suffered already. Once more he talked with St. Luc, whom
he trusted implicitly.

The Chevalier did not believe a second attack would be made, and his
belief was so strong it amounted to a conviction.

"The same mind," he said, "that sent their army against us without
artillery, will now go to the other extreme. Having deemed us
negligible it will think us invincible."

St. Luc's logic was correct. The French passed the night in peace, and
the next morning, when De Levis went out with a strong party to look
for the enemy he found that he was gone, and that in his haste he
had left behind vast quantities of food and other supplies which the
French eagerly seized. Montcalm that day, full of pride, caused a
great cross to be erected on his victorious field of battle and upon
it he wrote in Latin:

  "Quid dux? quid miles? quid strata ingentia ligna?
  En Signum! en victor! Deus hic, Deus ipse triumphat."

Which a great American writer has translated into:

  "Soldier and chief and ramparts' strength are nought;
  Behold the conquering cross! 'Tis God the triumph wrought."

But for Robert the night that closed down was the blackest he had ever
known. It had never occurred to him that Abercrombie's army could be
defeated. Confident in its overwhelming numbers, he had believed that
it would easily sweep away the French and take Ticonderoga. The skill
and valor of Montcalm, St. Luc, De Levis and the others, no matter how
skillful and valiant they might be, could avail nothing, and, after
Ticonderoga, it would be a mere question of time until Crown Point
fell too. And after that would come Quebec and the conquest of Canada.

Now, when his spirits had soared so high, the fall was correspondingly
low. His sensitive mind, upon which events always painted themselves
with such vividness, reflected only the darkest pictures. He saw the
triumphant advance of the French, the Indians laying waste the whole
of New York Province, and the enemy at the gates of New York itself.

The night itself was a perfect reproduction of his own mind. He saw
through his spirits as through a glass. The dusk was thick, heavy,
it was noisome, it had a quality that was almost ponderable, it was
unpleasant to eye and nostril, he tasted and breathed the smoke that
was shot through it, and he felt a sickening of the soul. He heard a
wind moaning through the forest, and it was to him a dirge, the lament
of those who had fallen.

He knew there had been no lack of bravery on the part of his own.
After a while he took some consolation in that fact. British and
Americans had come to the attack long after hope of success was gone.
They had not known how to win, but never had men known better how to
die. Such valor would march to triumph in the end.

He lay awake almost the whole night, and he did not expect Abercrombie
to advance again. Somehow he had the feeling that the play, so far as
this particular drama was concerned, was played out. The blow was
so heavy that he was in a dull and apathetic state from which he was
stirred only once in the evening, and that was when two Frenchmen
passed near him, escorting a prisoner of whose face he caught a
glimpse in the firelight. He started forward, exclaiming:

"Charteris!"[1]

The young man, tall, handsome and firm of feature, although a
captive, turned.

"Who called me?" he asked.

"It is I, Robert Lennox," said Robert. "I knew you in New York!"

"Aye, Mr. Lennox. I recognize you now. We meet again, after so long
a time. I could have preferred the meeting to be elsewhere and under
other circumstances, but it is something to know that you are alive."

They shook hands with great friendliness and the Frenchmen, who were
guarding Charteris, waited patiently.

"May our next meeting be under brighter omens," said Robert.

"I think it will be," said Charteris confidently.

Then he went on. It was a long time before they were to see each other
again, and the drama that was to bring them face to face once more was
destined to be as thrilling as that at Ticonderoga.

The next night came heavy and dark, and Robert, who continued to be
treated with singular forbearance, wandered toward Lake Champlain,
which lay pale and shadowy under the thick dusk. No one stopped him.
The sentinels seemed to have business elsewhere, and suddenly he
remembered his old threat to escape. Hope returned to a mind that had
been stunned for a time, and it came back vivid and strong. Then hope
sank down again, when a figure issued from the dusk, and stood before
him. It was St. Luc.

"Mr. Lennox," said the Chevalier, "what are you doing here?"

"Merely wandering about," replied Robert. "I'm a prisoner, as you
know, but no one is bothering about me, which I take to be natural
when the echoes of so great a battle have scarcely yet died."

St. Luc looked at him keenly and Robert met his gaze. He could not
read the eye of the Chevalier.

"You have been a prisoner of ours once before, but you escaped," said
the Chevalier. "It seems that you are a hard lad to hold."

"But then I had the help of the greatest trailer and forest runner in
the world, my staunch friend, Tayoga, the Onondaga."

"If he rescued you once he will probably try to do it again, and the
great hunter, Willet, is likely to be with him. I suppose you were
planning a few moments ago to escape along the shore of the lake."

"I might have been, but I see now that it is too late."

"Too late is a phrase that should be seldom used by youth."

Robert tried once again to read the Chevalier's eye, but St. Luc's
look contained the old enigma.

"I admit," said young Lennox, "that I thought I might find an open
place in your line. It was only a possible chance."

St. Luc shrugged his shoulders, and looked at the darkness that lay
before them like a great black blanket.

"There is much yet to be done by us at Ticonderoga," he said. "Perhaps
it is true that a possible chance for you to escape does exist, but
my duties are too important for me to concern myself about guarding a
single prisoner."

His figure vanished. He was gone without noise, and Robert stared at
the place where he had been. Then the hope of escape came back, more
vivid and more powerful than ever. "Too late," was a phrase that
should not be known to youth. St. Luc was right. He walked straight
ahead. No sentinel barred the way. Presently the lake, still and
luminous, stretched across his path, and, darting into the bushes
along its edge, he ran for a long time. Then he sank down and looked
back. He saw dimly the lights of the camp, but he heard no sound of
pursuit.

Rising, he began a great curve about Ticonderoga, intending to seek
his own army, which he knew could not yet be far away. Once he heard
light footsteps and hid deep in the bush. From his covert he saw a
band of warriors at least twenty in number go by, their lean, sinewy
figures showing faintly in the dusk. Their faces were turned toward
the south and he shuddered. Already they were beginning to raid the
border. He knew that they had taken little or no part in the battle at
Ticonderoga, but now the great success of the French would bring them
flocking back to Montcalm's banner, and they would rush like wolves
upon those whom they thought defenseless, hoping for more slaughters
like that of William Henry.

Tandakora would not neglect such a glowing opportunity for scalps. His
savage spirit would incite the warriors to attempts yet greater, and
Robert looked closely at the dusky line, thinking for a moment that
he might be there. But he did not see his gigantic figure and the
warriors flitted on, gone like shadows in the darkness. Then the
fugitive youth resumed his own flight.

Far in the night Robert sank down in a state of exhaustion. It was
a physical and mental collapse, coming with great suddenness, but he
recognized it for what it was, the natural consequence flowing from
a period of such excessive strain. His emotions throughout the great
battle had been tense and violent, and they had been hardly less so in
the time that followed and in the course of the events that led to his
escape. And knowing, he forced himself to do what was necessary.

He lay down in the shelter of dense bushes, and kept himself perfectly
quiet for a long time. He would not allow hand or foot to move. His
weary heart at last began to beat with regularity, the blood ceased to
pound in his temples, and his nerves grew steadier. He dozed a little,
or at least passed into a state that was midway between wakefulness
and oblivion. Then the terrible battle was fought once more before
him. Again he heard the crash and roar of the French fire, again
he saw British and Americans coming forward in indomitable masses,
offering themselves to death, once again he saw them tangled among the
logs and sharpened boughs, and then mowed down at the wooden wall.

He roused himself and passed his hands over his eyes to shut away that
vision of the stricken field and the vivid reminder of his terrible
disappointment. The picture was still as fresh as the reality and it
sent shudders through him every time he saw it. He would keep it from
his sight whenever he could, lest he grow too morbid.

He rose and started once more toward the south, but the forest became
more dense and tangled and the country rougher. In his weakened state
he was not able to think with his usual clearness and precision, and
he lost the sense of direction. He began to wander about aimlessly,
and at last he stopped almost in despair.

He was in a desperate plight. He was unarmed, and a man alone and
without weapons in the wilderness was usually as good as lost. He
looked around, trying to study the points of the compass. The night
was not dark. Trees and bushes stood up distinctly, and on a bough not
far away, his eyes suddenly caught a flash of blue.

The flash was made by a small, glossy bird that wavered on a bough,
and he was about to turn away, taking no further notice of it, when
the bird flew slowly before him and in a direction which he now knew
led straight toward the south. He remembered. Back to his mind rushed
an earlier escape, and how he had followed the flight of a bird to
safety. Had Tayoga's Manitou intervened again in his favor? Was it
chance? Or did he in a dazed state imagine that he saw what he did not
see?

The bird, an azure flash, flew on before him, and hope flowing in an
invincible tide in his veins, he followed. He was in continual fear
lest the blue flame fade away, but on he went, over hills and across
valleys and brooks, and it was always just before him. He had been
worn and weary before, but now he felt strong and active. Courage
rose steadily in his veins, and he had no doubt that he would reach
friends.

Near dawn the bird suddenly disappeared among the leaves. Robert
stopped and heard a light foot-step in the bushes. Being apprehensive
lest he be re-taken, he shrank away and then stopped. He listened a
while, and the sound not being repeated, he hoped that he had been
mistaken, but a voice called suddenly from a bush not ten feet away:

"Come, Dagaeoga! The Great Bear and I await you. Tododaho, watching on
his star, has sent us into your path."

Robert, uttering a joyful cry, sprang forward, and the Onondaga and
Willet, rising from the thicket, greeted him with the utmost warmth.

"I knew we'd find you again," said Willet "How did you manage to
escape?"

"A way seemed to open for me," replied Robert. "The last man I saw in
the French camp was St. Luc. After that I met no sentinel, although I
passed where a sentinel would stand."

"Ah!" said Willet.

They gave him food, and after sunrise they started toward the south.
Robert told how he had seen the great battle and the French victory.

"Tayoga, Black Rifle, Grosvenor and I were in the attack," said
Willet, "but we went through it without a scratch. No troops ever
fought more bravely than ours. The defeat was the fault of the
commander, not theirs. But we'll put behind us the battle lost and
think of the battle yet to be won."

"So we will," said Robert, as he looked around at the great curving
forest, its deep green tinted with the light brown of summer. It was a
friendly forest now. It no longer had the aspect of the night before,
when the wolves, their jaws slavering in anticipation, howled in its
thickets. Rabbits sprang up as they passed, but the little creatures
of the wild did not seem to be afraid. They did not run away. Instead,
they crouched under the bushes, and gazed with mild eyes at the human
beings who made no threats. A deer, drinking at the edge of a brook,
raised its head a little and then continued to drink. Birds sang in
the dewy dawn with uncommon freshness and sweetness. The whole world
was renewed.

Creature, as he was, of his moods, Robert's spirits soared again at
his meeting with Tayoga and Willet, those staunch friends of his,
bound to him by such strong ties and so many dangers shared. The past
was the past, Ticonderoga was a defeat, a great defeat, when a victory
had been expected, but it was not irreparable. Hope sang in his
heart and his face flushed in the dawn. The Onondaga, looking at him,
smiled.

"Dagaeoga already looks to the future," he said.

"So I do," replied Robert with enthusiasm. "Why shouldn't I? The night
just passed has favored me. I escaped. I met you and Dave, and it's a
glorious morning."

The sun was rising in a splendid sea of color, tinting the woods with
red and gold. Never had the wilderness looked more beautiful to him.
He turned his face in the direction of Ticonderoga.

"We'll come back," he said, his heart full of courage, "and we'll yet
win the victory, even to the taking of Quebec."

"So we will," said the hunter.

"Aye, Stadacona itself will fall," said Tayoga.

Refreshed and strong, they plunged anew into the forest, traveling
swiftly toward the south.


[Footnote 1: The story of Edward Charteris and his adventures at
Ticonderoga and Quebec is told in the author's novel, "A Soldier of
Manhattan."]


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