The Masters of the Peaks
Joseph A. Altsheler
Part 2 out of 5
"Maybe, though I don't understand it. But there are lots of things one
doesn't understand. We must keep our eyes on the slope, and let Tayoga
solve his own problem, whatever it is."
There was no wind at all, but once Robert thought he saw the shrubs
halfway down the steep move, though he was not sure and nothing
followed. But, intently watching the place where the motion had
occurred, he caught a gleam of metal which he was quite sure came from
a rifle barrel.
"Did you see it?" he whispered to the hunter.
"Aye, lad," replied Willet. "They're there in that dense clump, hoping
we've relaxed the watch and that they can surprise us. But it may be
two or three hours before they come any farther. Always remember in
your dealings with Indians that they have more time than anything
else, and so they know how to be patient. Now, I wonder what Tayoga is
doing! That boy certainly had something unusual on his mind!"
"Here he is, ready to speak for himself, and back inside his promised
Tayoga parted the bushes without noise, and sat down between them
behind the big rocks. He offered no explanation, but seemed very
content with himself.
"Well, Tayoga," said Willet, "did you go down the side of the
"As far as I wished."
"What do you mean by that?"
"I have been engaged in a very pleasant task, Great Bear."
"What pleasure can you find in scaling a steep and rocky slope?"
"I have been drinking, Great Bear, drinking the fresh, pure water of
the mountains, and it was wonderfully cool and good to my dry throat."
The two gazed at him in astonishment, and he laughed low, but with
"I took one drink, two drinks, three drinks," he said, "and when the
time comes I shall take more. The fountain also awaits the lips of the
Great Bear and of Dagaeoga."
"Tell it all," said Robert.
"When I looked down the steep side a long time I thought I caught a
gleam as of falling water in the bushes. It was only twenty or thirty
yards below us, and, when I descended to it, I found a little fountain
bursting from a crevice in the rock. It was but a thread, making
a tiny pool a few inches across, before it dropped away among the
bushes, but it is very cool, very clear, and there is always plenty of
it for many men."
"Is the descent hard?" asked Willet.
"Not for one who is strong and cautious. There are thick vines and
bushes to which to hold, and remember that the splendid water is at
the end of the journey."
"Then, Robert, you go," said the hunter, "and mind, too, that you get
back soon, because my throat is parching. I'd like to have one deep
drink before the warriors attack."
Robert followed Tayoga, and, obeying his instructions, was soon at the
fountain, where he drank once, twice, thrice, and then once more
of the finest water he could recall. Then, deeply grateful for the
Onondaga's observation, he climbed back, and the hunter took his turn.
"It was certainly good, Tayoga," he said, when he was back in
position. "Some men don't think much of water, but none of us can live
without it. You've saved our lives."
"Perhaps, O Great Bear," responded the Onondaga, "but if the bushes
below continue to shake as they are doing we shall have to save them
The exclamation, long drawn but low, was followed by the leap of his
rifle to the shoulder, and the pressing of his finger on the trigger.
A stream of fire sprang from the muzzle of the long barrel to be
followed by a yell in one of the thickets clustering on the slope. A
savage rose to his feet, threw up his arms and fell headlong, his body
crashing far below on the rocks. Robert shut his eyes and shivered.
"He was dead before he touched earth, lad," said the hunter. "Now the
others are ready to scramble back. Look how the bushes are shaking
Robert had shut his eyes only for a moment, and now he saw the scrub
shaking more violently than ever. Then he had a fleeting glimpse of
brown bodies as all the warriors descended rapidly. Anyone of the
three might have fired with good aim, but they did not raise their
rifles. Since their enemies were retreating they would let them
"They're all back in the valley now," said the hunter after a little
while, "and they'll think a lot before they try the steep ascent a
second time. Now it's a question of patience, and they hope we'll
become so weak from thirst that we'll fall into their hands."
"Tandakora and his warriors would be consumed with anger if they knew
of our spring," said Tayoga.
"They'll find out about it soon," said Robert.
"I think not," said Tayoga. "I noticed when I was at the fountain that
the rivulet ran back into the cliff about a hundred feet below, and
one can see the water only from the crest. If Areskoui has allowed us
to be besieged here, he at least has created much in our favor."
He looked toward the east, where the great red sun was shining, and
worshiped silently. It seemed to Robert that his young comrade stared
unwinking for a long time into the eye of the Sun God, though perhaps
it was only a few seconds. But his form expanded and his face was
illumined. Robert knew that the Onondaga's confidence had become
supreme, and he shared in it.
The hunter and Tayoga kept the watch after a while, and young Lennox
was free to wander about the crest as he wished. He examined carefully
the three sides they had left unguarded, but was convinced that no
warrior, no matter how skillful and tenacious, could climb up there.
Then he wandered back toward the sentinels, and, sitting down under a
tree, began to study the distant slopes across the gorge.
He saw the warriors gather by-and-by in a deep recess out of rifle
shot, light a fire and begin to cook great quantities of game, as
if they meant to stay there and keep the siege until doomsday, if
necessary. He saw the gigantic figure of Tandakora approach the fire,
eat voraciously for a while and then go away. After him came a white
man in French uniform. He thought at first it was St. Luc and his
heart beat hard, but he was able to discern presently that it was an
officer not much older than himself, in a uniform of white faced with
violet and a black, three-cornered hat. Finally he recognized young De
Galissonniere, whom he had met in Quebec, and whom he had seen a few
days since in the French camp.
As he looked De Galissonniere left the recess, descended into the
valley and then began to climb their slope, a white handkerchief held
aloft on the point of his small sword. Young Lennox immediately joined
the two watchers at the brink.
"A flag of truce! Now what can he want!" he exclaimed.
"We'll soon see," replied Willet. "He's within good hearing now, and
I'll hail him."
He shouted in powerful tones that echoed in the gorge:
"Below there! What is it?"
"I have something to say that will be of great importance to you,"
replied De Galissonniere.
"Then come forward, while we remain here. We don't trust your allies."
Robert saw the face of the young Frenchman flush, but De
Galissonniere, as if knowing the truth, and resolved not to quibble
over it, climbed steadily. When he was within twenty feet of the
crest the hunter called to him to halt, and he did so, leaning easily
against a strong bush, while the three waited eagerly to hear what he
had to say.
THE GODS AT PLAY
De Galissonniere gazed at the three faces, peering at him over the
brink, and then drew himself together jauntily. His position, perched
on the face of the cliff, was picturesque, and he made the most of it.
"I am glad to see you again Mr. Willet, Mr. Lennox and Tayoga, the
brave Onondaga," he said. "It's been a long time since we met in
Quebec and much water has flowed under that bridge of Avignon, of
which we French sing, but I can't see that any one of you has changed
"Nor you," said Robert, catching his tone and acting as spokesman
for the three. "The circumstances are unusual, Captain Louis de
Galissonniere, and I'm sorry I can't invite you to come up on our
crest, but it wouldn't be military to let you have a look at our
"I understand, and I do very well where I am. I wish to say first that
I am sorry to see you in such a plight."
"And we, Captain, regret to find you allied with such a savage as
A quick flush passed over the young Frenchman's face, but he made no
"In war one cannot always choose," he replied. "I have come to receive
your surrender, and I warn you very earnestly that it will be wise for
you to tender it. The Indians have lost one man already and they are
inflamed. If they lose more I might not be able to control them."
"And if we yield ourselves you pledge us our lives, a transfer in
safety to Canada where we are to remain as prisoners of war, until
such time as we may be exchanged?"
"All that I promise, and gladly."
"You're sure, Captain de Galissonniere, that you can carry out the
"Absolutely sure. You are surrounded here on the peak, and you cannot
get away. All we have to do is to keep the siege."
"That is true, but while you can wait so can we."
"But we have plenty of water, and you have none."
"You would urge us again to surrender on the ground that it would be
the utmost wisdom for us to do so?"
"It goes without saying, Mr. Lennox."
"Then, that being the case, we decline."
De Galissonniere looked up in astonishment at the young face that
gazed down at him. The answer he had expected was quite the reverse.
"You mean that you refuse?" he exclaimed.
"It is just what I meant."
"May I ask why, when you are in such a hopeless position?"
"Tayoga, Mr. Willet and I wish to see how long we can endure the pangs
of thirst without total collapse. We've had quite a difference on the
subject. Tayoga says ten days, Mr. Willet twelve days, but I think we
can stand it a full two weeks."
De Galissonniere frowned.
"You are frivolous, Mr. Lennox," he said, "and this is not a time for
light talk. I don't know what you mean, but it seems to me you don't
appreciate the dire nature of your peril. I liked you and your
comrades when I met you in Quebec and I do not wish to see you perish
at the hands of the savages. That is why I have climbed up here to
make you this offer, which I have wrung from the reluctant Tandakora.
It was he who assured me that the besieged were you. It pains me that
you see fit to reject it."
"I know it was made out of a good heart," said Robert, seriously, "and
we thank you for the impulse that brought you here. Some day we may be
able to repay it, but we decline because there are always chances. You
know, Captain, that while we have life we always have hope. We may yet
"I do not see wherein it is possible," said the young Frenchman, with
actual reluctance in his tone. "But it is for you to decide what you
wish to do. Farewell."
"Farewell, Captain de Galissonniere," said Robert, with the utmost
sincerity. "I hope no bullet of ours will touch you."
The captain made a courteous gesture of good-by and slowly descended
the slope, disappearing among the bushes in the gorge, whence came a
fierce and joyous shout.
"That was the cry of the savages when he told them our answer," said
Willet. "They don't want us to surrender. They think that by-and-by
we'll fall into their hands through exhaustion, and then they can work
their will upon us."
"They don't know about that fountain, that pure, blessed fountain,"
said Robert, "the finest fountain that gushes out anywhere in this
northern wilderness, the fountain that Tayoga's Areskoui has put here
for our especial benefit."
His heart had become very light and, as usual when his optimism was
at its height, words gushed forth. Water, and their ability to get it
whenever they wanted it, was the key to everything, and he painted
their situation in such bright colors that his two comrades could not
keep from sharing his enthusiasm.
"Truly, Dagaeoga did not receive the gift of words in vain," said
Tayoga. "Golden speech flows from him, and it lifts up the minds
of those who hear. Manitou finds a use for everybody, even for the
"Though it was a hard task, even for Manitou," laughed Robert.
They watched the whole afternoon without any demonstration from the
enemy--they expected none--and toward evening the Onondaga, who was
gazing into the north, announced a dark shadow on the horizon.
"What is it?" asked Robert. "A cloud? I hope we won't have another
"It is no cloud," replied Tayoga. "It is something else that moves
very fast, and it comes in our direction. A little longer and I can
tell what it is. Now I see; it is a flight of wild pigeons, a great
flock, hundreds of thousands, and millions, going south to escape the
"We've seen such flights often."
"So we have, but this is coming straight toward us, and I have a great
thought, Dagaeoga. Areskoui has not only forgiven us for our unknown
sin--perhaps of omission--but he has also decided to put help in our
way, if we will use it. You see many dwarf trees at the southern edge
of the crest, and I believe that by dark they will be covered with
pigeons, stopping for the night."
"And some of them will stop for our benefit, though we have bear meat
too! I see, Tayoga."
Robert watched the flying cloud, which had grown larger and blacker,
and then he saw that Tayoga was right. It was an immense flock of wild
pigeons, and, as the twilight fell, they covered the trees upon their
crest so thickly that the boughs bent beneath them. Young Lennox and
the Onondaga killed as many as they wished with sticks, and soon, fat
and juicy, they were broiling over the coals.
"Tandakora will guess that the pigeons have fed us," said Robert, "and
he will not like it, but he will yet know nothing about the water."
They climbed down in turn in the darkness and took a drink, and
Robert, who explored a little, found many vines loaded with wild
grapes, ripe and rich, which made a splendid dessert. Then he took
a number of the smaller but very tough stems, and knotting them
together, with the assistance of Tayoga ran a strong rope from the
crest down to the fountain, thus greatly easing the descent for water
and the return.
"Now we can take two drinks where we took one before," he said
triumphantly when the task was finished. "If you have your water there
is nothing like making it easy to be reached. Moreover, while it was
safe for an agile fellow like me, you and Dave, Tayoga, being stiff
and clumsy, might have tumbled down the mountain and then I should
have been lonesome."
Willet, who had been keeping the watch alone, was inclined to the
belief that they might expect an attack in the night, if it should
prove to be very dark. He felt able, however, should such an attempt
come, to detect the advance of the savages, either by sight or
hearing, especially the latter, ear in such cases generally informing
him earlier than eye. But as neither Robert nor Tayoga was busy they
joined him, and all three sat near the brink with their rifles across
their knees, and their pistols loosened in their belts, ready for
their foes should they come in numbers.
They talked a while in low tones, and then fell silent. The night had
come, starless and moonless, favorable to the designs of Tandakora,
but they felt intense satisfaction, nevertheless. It was partly
physical. Robert's making of an easy road to the water, the coming of
the pigeons, to be eaten, apparently sent by Areskoui, and the ease
with which they believed they could hold their lofty fortress,
combined to produce a victorious state of mind. Robert looked over the
brink once or twice at the steep slope, and he felt that the warriors
would, in truth, be taking a mighty risk, if they came up that steep
path against the three.
He and Tayoga, in the heavy darkness, depended, like Willet, chiefly
on ear. It was impossible to see to the bottom of the valley, where
the dusk had rolled up like a sea, but, as the night was still, they
felt sure they could hear anyone climbing up the peak. In order to
make themselves more comfortable they spread their blankets at the
very brink, and lay down upon them, thus being able to repose, and at
the same time watch without the risk of inviting a shot.
Young Lennox knew that the attack, if it came at all, would not come
until late, and restraining his naturally eager and impatient temper,
he used all the patience that his strong will could summon, never
ceasing meanwhile to lend an attentive ear to every sound of the
night. He heard the wind rise, moan a little while in the gorge and
then die; he heard a fitful breeze rustle the boughs on the slopes and
then grow still, and he heard his comrades move once or twice to ease
their positions, but no other sound came to him until nearly midnight,
and then he heard the fall of a pebble on the slope, absolute proof
to one experienced as he that it had been displaced by the incautious
foot of a climbing enemy.
The rattling of the pebble was succeeded by a long interval of
silence, and the lad understood that too. The warriors, to whom time
was nothing, fearing that suspicion had been aroused by the fall of
the pebble, would wait until it had been lulled before resuming their
advance. They would flatten themselves like lizards against the slope,
not stirring an inch. But the three were as patient as they, and while
a full hour passed after the slip of the stone before the slightest
sound came from the slope, they did not relax their vigilance a
particle. Then all three heard a slight rustle among the bushes and
they peered cautiously over.
They were able to discern the dim outline of figures among the bushes
about twenty feet below, and Wilier, who directed the defense,
whispered that Tayoga and he would take aim, while Robert held his
fire in reserve. Then the Onondaga and he picked their targets in
the darkness and pulled trigger. Shouts, the fall of bodies and the
crackling of rifles came back. A half dozen bullets, fired almost at
random, whistled over their heads and then Robert sent his own lead at
a shadow which appeared very clearly among the bushes, a crashing fall
following at once.
Then the three, not waiting to reload, snatched out their pistols and
held themselves ready for a further attack, if it should come. But it
did not come. Even the rage of Tandakora had had enough. His second
repulse had been bloodier than the first, and it had been proved with
the lives of his warriors that they could not storm that terrible
steep, in the face of three such redoubtable marksmen.
Robert heard a number of pebbles rolling now, but they were made by
men descending, and the three, certain of abundant leisure, reloaded
their rifles. Their eyes told them nothing, but they were as sure as
if they had seen them that the warriors had disappeared in the sea of
darkness with which the gulf was filled. The lad breathed a long sigh
"You're justified in your satisfaction," said Willet. "I think it's
the last direct attack they'll make upon us. Now they'll try the slow
methods of siege and our exhaustion by thirst, and how it would make
their venom rise if they knew anything about that glorious fountain
of ours! Since it's to be a test of patience, we'd better make things
easy for ourselves. I'll sit here and watch the slope, and, as the
night is turning cold, you and Tayoga, Robert, can build a fire."
There was a dip in the center of the crest, and in this they heaped
the fallen wood, which here as elsewhere in the wilderness was
abundant. Wood and water, two great requisites of primitive man, they
had in plenty, and had it not been for their eagerness to go forward
with their work they would have been content to stay indefinitely on
The fire was soon blazing cheerfully. Warriors on the opposing peaks
or crest might see it, but they did not care. No bullets from rival
heights could reach them and the light would appear to their enemies
as a beacon of defiance, a sort of challenge that was very pleasing to
Robert's soul. He basked in the glow and heat of the coals, ate bear
meat and wild pigeon for a late supper, and discoursed on the strength
of their natural fortress.
"The peak was reared here by Areskoui for our especial benefit," he
said. "It is in every sense a tower of strength, water even being
placed in its side that we might not die of thirst."
"And yet we cannot stay here always," said the Onondaga. "Tomorrow we
must think of a way of escape."
"Let tomorrow take care of itself. Tayoga, you're too serious! You're
missing the pleasure of the night."
"Dagaeoga loves to talk and he talks well. His voice is pleasant in my
ear like to the murmur of a silver brook. Perhaps he is right. Lo! the
clouds have gone, and I can see Tododaho on his star. Areskoui watches
over us by day and Tododaho by night. We are once more the favorites
of the Sun God and of the great Onondaga who went away to his
everlasting star more than four centuries ago. Again I say Dagaeoga is
right; I will enjoy the night, and let the morrow care for itself."
He drew the folds of his blanket to his chin and stretched his length
before the fire. Having made up his mind to be satisfied, Tayoga would
let nothing interfere with such a laudable purpose. Soon he slept
"You might follow him," said Willet.
"I don't think I can do it now," said Robert. "I've a restless
"Then wander about the peak, and I'll take up my old place at the edge
of the slope."
Robert went back to the far side, where he had stretched his rope of
grape vines down to the spring, and, craving their cool, fresh taste,
he ate more of the grapes. He noticed then that they were uncommonly
plentiful. All along the cliff they trailed in great, rich clusters,
black and glossy, fairly asking to be eaten. In places the vines
hung in perfect mazes, and he looked at them questioningly. Then
the thought came to him and he wondered why it had been so slow of
arrival. He returned to Willet and said:
"I don't think you need watch any longer here, Dave."
"Why?" was the hunter's astonished reply.
"Because we're going to leave the mountain."
"Leave the mountain! It's more likely, Robert, that your prudence has
left you. If we went down the slope we'd go squarely into the horde,
and then it would be a painful and lingering end for us."
"I don't mean the slope. We're to go down the other side of the
"Except here and near the bottom the mountain is as steep everywhere
as the side of a house. The only way for us to get down is to fall
down and then we'd stop too quick."
"We don't have to fall down, we'll climb down."
"Can't be done, Robert, my boy. There's not enough bushes."
"We don't need bushes, there are miles of grape vines as strong as
leather. All we have to do is to knot them together securely and our
rope is ready. If we eased our way to the spring with vines then we
can finish the journey to the bottom of the cliff with them."
The hunter's gaze met that of the lad, and it was full of approval.
"I believe you've found the way, Robert," said Willet. "Wake Tayoga
and see what he thinks."
The Onondaga received the proposal with enthusiasm, and he made the
further suggestion that they build high the fire for the sake of
deceiving the besiegers.
"And suppose we prop up two or three pieces of fallen tree trunk
before it," added Robert. "Warriors watching on the opposite slopes
will take them for our figures and will not dream that we're
attempting to escape."
That idea, too, was adopted, and in a few minutes the fire was blazing
and roaring, while a stream of sparks drifted up merrily from it to be
lost in the dusk. Near it the fragments of tree trunks set erect would
pass easily, at a great distance and in the dark, for human beings.
Then, while Willet watched, Robert and Tayoga knotted the vines with
quick and dextrous hands, throwing the cable over a bough, and trying
every knot with their double weight. A full two hours they toiled and
then they exulted.
"It will reach from the clump of bushes about the fountain to the next
clump below, which is low down," said Robert, "and from there we can
descend without help."
They called Willet, and the three, leaving the crest which had been
such a refuge for them and which they had defended so well, descended
to the fountain. At that point they secured their cable with infinite
care to the largest of the dwarf trees and let it drop over across a
bare space to the next clump of bushes below, a distance that seemed
very great, it was so steep. Robert claimed the honor of the first
descent, but it was finally conceded to Tayoga, who was a trifle
The Onondaga fastened securely upon his back his rifle and his pack
containing food, and then, grasping the cable firmly with both hands,
he began to go down, while his friends watched with great anxiety. He
was not obliged to swing clear his whole weight, but was able to brace
his feet against the cliff. Thus he steadied the vines, but Robert and
Willet nevertheless breathed great sighs of relief, when he reached
the bushes below, and detached himself from the cable.
"It is safe," he called back.
Robert went next and Willet followed. When the three were in the
bushes, clinging to their tough and wiry strength, they found that the
difficulties, as they invariably do, had decreased. Below them the
slope was not so steep by any means, and, by holding to the rocky
outcrops and scant bushes, they could make the full descent of the
mountain. While they rested for a little space where they were, Robert
suddenly began to laugh.
"Is Dagaeoga rejoicing so soon?" asked Tayoga
"Why shouldn't I laugh," replied Robert, "when we have such a good
"What jest? I see none."
"Why, to think of Tandakora sitting at the foot of our peak and
watching there three or four days, waiting all the time for us to die
of hunger and thirst, and we far to the south. At least he'll see that
the mountain doesn't get away, and Tandakora, I take it, has small
sense of humor. When he penetrates the full measure of the joke he'll
love us none the less. Perhaps, though, De Galissonniere will not
mourn, because he knows that if we were taken after a siege he could
not save us from the cruelty of the savages."
The hunter and the Onondaga were forced to laugh a little with him,
and then, rested thoroughly, they resumed the descent, leaving their
cable to tell its own tale, later on. The rest of the slope, although
possible, was slow and painful, testing their strength and skill to
the utmost, but they triumphed over everything and before day were in
a gorge, with the entire height of the peak towering above them and
directly between them and their enemies. Here they flung themselves
on the ground and rested until day, when they began a rapid flight
southward, curving about among the peaks, as the easiest way led them.
The air rapidly grew warmer, showing that the sudden winter had come
only on the high mountains, and that autumn yet lingered on the lower
levels. The gorgeous reds and yellows and browns and vivid shades
between returned, but there was a haze in the air and the west was
"Storm will come again before night," said Tayoga.
"I think so too," said Willet, "and as I've no mind to be beaten about
by it, suppose we build a spruce shelter in the gorge here and wait
until it passes."
The two lads were more than willing, feeling that the chance of
pursuit had passed for a long time at least, and they set to work with
their sharp hatchets, rapidly making a crude but secure wickiup, as
usual against the rocky side of a hill. Before the task was done the
sky darkened much more, and far in the west thunder muttered.
"It's rolling down a gorge," said Robert, "and hark! you can hear it
also in the south."
From a point, far distant from the first, came a like rumble, and,
after a few moments of silence, a third rumble was heard to the east.
Silence again and then the far rumble came from the south.
"That's odd," said Robert. "It isn't often that you hear thunder on
all sides of you."
"Listen!" exclaimed Tayoga, whose face bore a rapt and extraordinary
look. The four rumbles again went around the horizon, coming from one
point after the other in turn.
"It is no ordinary thunder," said the Onondaga in a tone of deep
"What is it, then?" asked Robert.
"It is Manitou, Areskoui, Tododaho and Hayowentha talking together.
That is why we have the thunder north, east, south and west. Hear
their voices carrying all through the heavens!"
"Which is Manitou?"
"That I cannot tell. But the great gods talk, one with another, though
what they say is not for us to know. It is not right that mere mortals
like ourselves should understand them, when they speak across infinite
"It may be that you're right, Tayoga," said Willet.
The three did not yet go into the spruce shelter, because, contrary to
the signs, there was no rain. The wind moaned heavily and thick black
clouds swept up in an almost continuous procession from the western
horizon, but they did not let a drop fall. The thunder at the four
points of the horizon went on, the reports moving from north to east,
and thence to south and west, and then around and around, always in
the same direction. After every crash there was a long rumble in the
gorges until the next crash came again. Now and then lightning flared.
"It is not a storm after all," said the Onondaga, "or, at least, if a
storm should come it will not be until after night is at hand, when
the great gods are through talking. Listen to the heavy booming,
always like the sound of a thousand big guns at one time. Now the
lightning grows and burns until it is at a white heat. The great gods
not only talk, but they are at play. They hurl thunderbolts through
infinite space, and watch them fall. Then they send thunder rumbling
through our mountains, and the sound is as soft to them as a whisper
"Your idea is pretty sound, Tayoga," said Willet, who had imbibed more
than a little of the Iroquois philosophy, "and it does look as if the
gods were at play because there is so much thunder and lightning and
no rain. Look at that flash on the mountain toward the east! I think
it struck. Yes, there goes a tree! When the gods play among the peaks
it's just as well for us to stay down here in the gorge."
"But the crashes still run regularly from north to east and on
around," said Robert. "I suppose that when they finish talking, the
rain will come, and we'll have plenty of need for our spruce shelter."
The deep rumbling continued all through the rest of the afternoon.
A dusk as of twilight arrived long before sunset, but it was of an
unusually dull, grayish hue, and it affected Robert as if he were
breathing an air surcharged with gunpowder. It colored and intensified
everything. The peaks and ridges rose to greater heights, the gorges
and valleys were deeper, the reports of the thunder, extremely heavy,
in fact, were doubled and tripled in fancy; all that Tayoga had said
about the play of the gods was true. Tododaho, the great Onondaga,
spoke across the void to Hayowentha, the great Mohawk, and Areskoui,
the Sun God, conversed with Manitou, the All Powerful, Himself.
The imaginative lad felt awe but no fear. The gods at play in the
heavens would not condescend to harm a humble mortal like himself and
it was an actual pleasure because he was there to hear them. Just
before the invisible sun went over the rim of the horizon, a brilliant
red light shot for a minute or two from the west through the gray
haze, and fell on the faces of the three, sitting in silence before
their spruce shelter.
"It is Areskoui throwing off his most brilliant beams before he goes,"
said Tayoga. "Now I think the play will soon be over, and we may look
for the rain."
The crashes of thunder increased swiftly and greatly in violence, and
then, as the Onondaga had predicted, ceased abruptly. The silence that
followed was so heavy that it was oppressive. No current of air was
moving anywhere. Not a leaf stirred. The grayish haze became thicker
and every ridge and peak was hidden. Presently a sound like a sigh
came down the gorge, but it soon grew.
"We'll go inside," said Tayoga, "because the deluge is at hand."
They crowded themselves into their crude little hut, and in five
minutes the flood was upon them, pouring with such violence that some
of it forced its way through the hasty thatch, but they were able
to protect themselves with their blankets, and they slept the night
through in a fair degree of comfort.
In the morning they saw a world washed clean, bright and shining, and
they breathed an autumnal air wonderful in its purity. Feeling safe
now from pursuit, they were no longer eager to flee. A brief council
of three decided that they would hang once more on the French and
Indian flank. It had been their purpose to discover what was intended
by the formidable array they had seen, and it was their purpose yet.
They did not go back on their path, but they turned eastward into a
land of little and beautiful lakes, through which one of the great
Indian trails from the northwest passed, and made a hidden camp
near the shore of a sheet of water about a mile square, set in the
mountains like a gem. They had method in locating here, as the trail
ran through a gorge less than half a mile to the east of their camp,
and they had an idea that the spy, Garay, might pass that way, two of
them always abiding by the trail, while the third remained in their
secluded camp or hunted game. Willet shot a deer and Tayoga brought
down a rare wild turkey, while Robert caught some wonderful lake
trout. So they had plenty of food, and they were content to wait.
They were sure that Garay had not yet gone, as the storms that had
threatened them would certainly have delayed his departure, and
neither the hunter nor the Onondaga could discover any traces of
footsteps. Fortunately the air continued to turn warmer and the lower
country in which they now were had all the aspects of Indian summer.
Robert, shaken a little perhaps by the great hardships and dangers
through which he had passed, though he may not have realized at the
time the weight upon his nerves, recovered quickly, and, as usual,
passed, with the rebound, to the heights of optimism.
"What do you expect to get from Garay?" he asked Willet as he changed
places with him on the trail.
"I'm not sure," replied the hunter, "but if we catch him we'll find
something. We've got to take our bird first, and then we'll see. He
went north and west with a message, and that being the case he's bound
to take one back. I don't think Garay is a first-class woodsman and we
may be able to seize him."
Robert was pleased with the idea of the hunted turning into the
hunters, and he and Tayoga now did most of the watching along the
trail, a watch that was not relaxed either by day or by night. On
the sixth night the two youths were together, and Tayoga thought he
discerned a faint light to the north.
"It may be a low star shining over a hill," said Robert.
"I think it is the glow from a small camp fire," said the Onondaga.
"It's a question that's decided easily."
"You mean we'll stalk it, star or fire, whichever it may be?"
"That is what we're here for, Tayoga."
They began an exceedingly cautious advance toward the light, and it
soon became evident that it was a fire, though, as Tayoga had said, a
small one, set in a little valley and almost hidden by the surrounding
foliage. Now they redoubled their caution, using every forest art to
make a silent approach, as they might find a band of warriors around
the blaze, and they did not wish to walk with open eyes into any
such deadly trap. Their delight was great when they saw only one man
crouched over the coals in a sitting posture, his head bent over his
knees; so that, in effect, only his back was visible, but they knew
him at once. It was Garay.
The heart of young Lennox flamed with anger and triumph. Here was the
fellow who had tried to take his life in Albany, and, if he wished
revenge, the moment was full of opportunity. Yet he could never fire
at a man's back, and it was their cue, moreover, to take him alive.
Garay's rifle was leaning against a log, six or eight feet from him,
and his attitude indicated that he might be asleep. His clothing was
stained and torn, and he bore all the signs of a long journey and
"See what it is to come into the forest and not be master of all its
secrets," whispered Tayoga. "Garay is the messenger of Onontio (the
Governor General of Canada) and Tandakora, and yet he sleeps, when
those who oppose him are abroad."
"A man has to sleep some time or other," said Robert, "or at least a
white man must. We're not all like an Iroquois; we can't stay awake
forever if need be."
"If one goes to the land of Tarenyawagon when his enemies are at hand
he must pay the price, Dagaeoga, and now the price that Garay is going
to pay will be a high one. Surely Manitou has delivered him, helpless,
into our hands. Come, we will go closer."
They crept through the bushes until they could have reached out and
touched the spy with the muzzles of their rifles, and still he did not
stir. Into that heavy and weary brain, plunged into dulled slumbers,
entered no thought of a stalking foe. The fire sank and the bent
back sagged a little lower. Garay had traveled hard and long. He was
anxious to get back to Albany with what he knew, and he felt sure that
the northern forests contained only friends. He had built his fire
without apprehension, and sleep had overtaken him quickly.
A fox stirred in the thicket beyond the fire and looked suspiciously
at the coals and the still figure beyond them. He did not see the
other two figures in the bushes but his animosity as well as his
suspicion was aroused. He edged a little nearer, and then a slight
sound in the thicket caused him to creep back. But he was an inquiring
fox, and, although he buried himself under a bush, he still looked,
staring with sharp, intent eyes.
He saw a shadow glide from the thicket, pick up the rifle of Garay
which leaned against the fallen log, and then glide back, soundless.
The curiosity of the fox now prevailed over his suspicion. The shadow
had not menaced him, and his vulpine intelligence told him that he was
not concerned in the drama now about to unfold itself. He was merely a
spectator, and, as he looked, he saw the shadow glide back and crouch
beside the sleeping man. Then a second shadow came and crouched on the
What the fox saw was the approach of Robert and Tayoga, whom some
whimsical humor had seized. They intended to make the surprise
complete and Robert, with a memory of the treacherous shot in Albany,
was willing also to fill the soul of the spy with terror. Tayoga
adroitly removed the pistol and knife from the belt of Garay, and
Robert touched him lightly on the shoulder. Still he did not stir, and
then the youth brought his hand down heavily.
Garay uttered the sigh of one who comes reluctantly from the land of
sleep and who would have gone back through the portals which were only
half opened, but Robert brought his hand down again, good and hard.
Then his eyes flew open and he saw the calm face beside him, and the
calm eyes less than a foot away, staring straight into his own.
It must be an evil dream, he thought at first, but it had all the
semblance of reality, and, when he turned his head in fear, he saw
another face on the other side of him, carved in red bronze, it too
only a foot away and staring at him in stern accusation.
Then all the faculties of Garay, spy and attempted assassin, leaped
into life, and he uttered a yell of terror, springing to his feet, as
if he had been propelled by a galvanic battery. Strong hands, seizing
him on either side, pulled him down again and the voice of Tayoga, of
the clan of the Bear, of the nation Onondaga, of the great League of
the Hodenosaunee said insinuatingly in his ear:
"Sit down, Achille Garay! Here are two who wish to talk with you!"
He fell back heavily and his soul froze within him, as he recognized
the faces. His figure sagged, his eyes puffed out, and he waited in
"I see that you recognize us, Achille Garay," said Robert, whose
whimsical humor was still upon him. "You'll recall that shot in
Albany. Perhaps you did not expect to meet my friend and me here in
the heart of the northern forests, but here we are. What have you to
say for yourself?"
Garay strove to speak, but the half formed words died on his lips.
"We wish explanations about that little affair in Albany," continued
his merciless interlocutor, "and perhaps there is no better time than
the present. Again I repeat, what have you to say? And you have also
been in the French and Indian camp. You bore a message to St. Luc and
Tandakora and beyond a doubt you bear another back to somebody. We
want to know about that too. Oh, we want to know about many things!"
"I have no message," stammered Garay.
"Your word is not good. We shall find methods of making you talk. You
have been among the Indians and you ought to know something about
these methods. But first I must lecture you on your lack of woodcraft.
It is exceedingly unwise to build a fire in the wilderness and go
to sleep beside it, unless there is someone with you to watch. I'm
ashamed of you, Monsieur Garay, to have neglected such an elementary
lesson. It made your capture easy, so ridiculously easy that it
lacked piquancy and interest. Tayoga and I were not able to give our
faculties and strength the healthy exercise they need. Come now, are
you ready to walk?"
"What are you going to do with me?" asked Garay in French, which both
of his captors understood and spoke.
"We haven't decided upon that," replied Robert maliciously, "but
whatever it is we'll make it varied and lively. It may please you
to know that we've been waiting several days for you, but we scarce
thought you'd go to sleep squarely in the trail, just where we'd be
sure to see you. Stand up now and march like a man, ready to meet any
fate. Fortune has turned against you, but you still have the chance to
show your Spartan courage and endurance."
"The warrior taken by his enemies meets torture and death with a
heroic soul," said Tayoga solemnly.
"You'll save me from torture?" he said to Robert.
Young Lennox shook his head.
"I'd do so if it were left to me," he said, "but my friend, Tayoga,
has a hard heart. In such matters as these he will not let me have my
way. He insists upon the ancient practices of his nation. Also, David
Willet, the hunter, is waiting for us, and he too is strong for
extreme measures. You'll soon face him. Now, march straight to the
Garay with a groan raised himself to his feet and walked unsteadily in
the direction indicated. Close behind him came the avenging two.
TAMING A SPY
Young Lennox undeniably felt exultation. It fairly permeated his
system. The taking of Garay had been so easy that it seemed as if the
greater powers had put him squarely in their path, and had deprived
him of all vigilance, in order that he might fall like a ripe plum
into their hands. Surely the face of Areskoui was still turned
toward them, and the gods, having had their play, were benevolent of
mood--that is, so far as Robert and Tayoga were concerned, although
the spy might take a different view of the matter. The triumph, and
the whimsical humor that yet possessed him, moved him to flowery
"Monsieur Garay, Achille, my friend," he said. "You are surprised that
we know you so well, but remember that you left a visiting card with
us in Albany, the time you sent an evil bullet past my head, and then
proved too swift for Tayoga. That's a little matter we must look into
some time soon. I don't understand why you wished me to leave the
world prematurely. It must surely have been in the interest of someone
else, because I had never heard of you before in my life. But we'll
pass over the incident now as something of greater importance is to
the fore. It was really kind of you, Achille, to sit down there in the
middle of the trail, beside a fire that was sure to serve as a beacon,
and wait for us to come. It reflects little credit, however, on your
skill as a woodsman, and, from sheer kindness of heart, we're not
going to let you stay out in the forest after dark."
Garay turned a frightened look upon him. It was mention of the
bullet in Albany that struck renewed terror to his soul. But Robert,
ordinarily gentle and sympathetic, was not inclined to spare him.
"As I told you," he continued, "Tayoga and I are disposed to be easy
with you, but Willet has a heart as cold as a stone. We saw you going
to the French and Indian camp, and we laid an ambush for you on your
way back. We were expecting to take you, and Willet has talked of you
in merciless fashion. What he intends to do with you is more than I've
been able to determine. Ah, he comes now!"
The parting bushes disclosed a tall figure, rifle ready, and Robert
"Here we are, Dave, back again, and we bring with us a welcome guest.
Monsieur Achille Garay was lost in the forest, and, taking pity on
him, we've brought him in to share our hospitality. Mr. David Willet,
Monsieur Achille Garay of everywhere."
Willet smiled grimly and led the way back to the spruce shelter. To
Garay's frightened eyes he bore out fully Robert's description.
"You lads seem to have taken him without trouble," he said. "You've
done well. Sit down, Garay, on that log; we've business with you."
"Now," said the hunter, "what message did you take to St. Luc and the
French and Indian force?"
The man was silent. Evidently he was gathering together the shreds of
his courage, as his back stiffened. Willet observed him shrewdly.
"You don't choose to answer," he said. "Well, we'll find a way to make
you later on. But the message you carried was not so important as the
message you're taking back. It's about you, somewhere. Hand over the
"I've no dispatch," said Garay sullenly.
"Oh, yes, you have! A man like you wouldn't be making such a long and
dangerous journey into the high mountains and back again for nothing.
Come, Garay, your letter!"
The spy was silent.
"Search him, lads!" said Willet.
Garay recoiled, but when the hunter threatened him with his pistol
he submitted to the dextrous hands of Robert and Tayoga. They went
through all his pockets, and then they made him remove his clothing
piece by piece, while they thrust the points of their knives through
the lining for concealed documents. But the steel touched nothing.
Then they searched his heavy moccasins, and even pulled the soles
loose, but no papers were disclosed. There was nowhere else to look
and the capture had brought no reward.
"He doesn't seem to have anything," said Robert.
"He must have! He is bound to have!" said the hunter.
"You have had your look," said Garay, a note of triumph showing in
his voice, "and you have failed. I bear no message because I am no
messenger. I am a Frenchman, it is true, but I have no part in this
war. I am not a soldier or a scout. You should let me go."
"But that bullet in Albany."
"I did not fire it. It was someone else. You have made a mistake."
"We've made no mistake," said the hunter. "We know what you are. We
know, too, that a dispatch of great importance is about you somewhere.
It is foolish to think otherwise, and we mean to have it."
"I carry no dispatch," repeated Garay in his sullen, obstinate tones.
"We mean that you shall give it to us," said the hunter, "and soon you
will be glad to do so."
Robert glanced at him, but Willet did not reveal his meaning. It was
impossible to tell what course he meant to take, and the two lads were
willing to let the event disclose itself. The same sardonic humor that
had taken possession of Robert seemed to lay hold of the older man
"Since you're to be our guest for a while, Monsieur Garay," he said,
"we'll give you our finest room. You'll sleep in the spruce shelter,
while we spread our blankets outside. But lest you do harm to
yourself, lest you take into your head some foolish notion to commit
suicide, we'll have to bind you. Tayoga can do it in such a manner
that the thongs will cause you no pain. You'll really admire his
The Onondaga bound Garay securely with strips, cut from the prisoner's
own clothing, and they left him lying within the spruce shelter. At
dawn the next day Willet awoke the captive, who had fallen into a
"Your letter," he said. "We want it."
"I have no letter," replied Garay stubbornly.
"We shall ask you for it once every two hours, and the time will come
when you'll be glad to give it to us."
Then he turned to the lads and said they would have the finest
breakfast in months to celebrate the good progress of their work.
Robert built up a splendid fire, and, taking their time about it, they
broiled bear meat, strips of the deer they had killed and portions of
wild pigeon and the rare wild turkey. Varied odors, all appetizing,
and the keen, autumnal air gave them an appetite equal to anything.
Yet Willet lingered long, seeing that everything was exactly right
before he gave the word to partake, and then they remained yet
another good while over the feast, getting the utmost relish out of
everything. When they finally rose from their seats on the logs, two
hours had passed since Willet had awakened Garay and he went back to
"Your letter?" he said.
"I have no letter," replied Garay, "but I'm very hungry. Let me have
"I've told you again and again that I've no letter."
"It's now about 8:30 o'clock; at half past ten I'll ask you for it
He went back to the two lads and helped them to put out the fire.
Garay set up a cry for food, and then began to threaten them with the
vengeance of the Indians, but they paid no attention to him. At half
past ten as indicated by the sun, Willet returned to him.
"The letter?" he said.
"How many times am I to tell you that I have no letter?"
"Very well. At half past twelve I shall ask for it again."
At half past twelve Garay returned the same answer, and then the
three ate their noonday meal, which, like the breakfast, was rich and
luscious. Once more the savory odors of bear, deer, wild turkey and
wild pigeon filled the forest, and Garay, lying in the doorway of the
hut, where he could see, and where the splendid aroma reached his
nostrils, writhed in his bonds, but still held fast to his resolution.
Robert said nothing, but the sardonic humor of both the Onondaga and
the hunter was well to the fore. Holding a juicy bear steak in
his hand, Tayoga walked over to the helpless spy and examined him
"Too fat," he said judicially, "much too fat for those who would roam
the forest. Woodsmen, scouts and runners should be lean. It burdens
them to carry weight. And you, Achille Garay, will be much better off,
if you drop twenty pounds."
"Twenty pounds, Tayoga!" exclaimed Willet, who had joined him, a whole
roasted pigeon in his hands. "How can you make such an underestimate!
Our rotund Monsieur would be far more graceful and far more healthy
if he dropped forty pounds! And it behooves us, his trainers and
physicians, to see that he drops 'em. Then he will go back to Albany
and to his good friend, Mynheer Hendrik Martinus, a far handsomer man
than he was when he left. It may be that he'll be so much improved
that Mynheer Hendrik will not know him. Truly, Tayoga, this wild
pigeon has a most savory taste! When wild pigeon is well cooked and
the air of the forest has sharpened your appetite to a knife edge
nothing is finer."
"But it is no better than the tender steak of young bear," said
Tayoga, with all the inflections of a gourmand. "The people of my
nation and of all the Indian nations have always loved bear. It is
tenderer even than venison and it contains more juices. For the hungry
man nothing is superior to the taste or for the building up of sinews
and muscles than the steak of fat young bear."
Garay writhed again in his bonds, and closed his eyes that he might
shut away the vision of the two. Robert was forced to smile. At half
past two, as he judged it to be by the sun, Willet said to Garay once
"The papers, Monsieur Achille."
But Garay, sullen and obstinate, refused to reply. The hunter did not
repeat the question then, but went back to the fire, whistling gayly a
light tune. The three were spending the day in homely toil, polishing
their weapons, cleaning their clothing, and making the numerous little
repairs, necessary after a prolonged and arduous campaign. They were
very cheerful about it, too. Why shouldn't they be? Both Tayoga and
the hunter had scouted in wide circles about the camp, and had seen
that there was no danger. For a vast distance they and their prisoner
were alone in the forest. So, they luxuriated and with abundance of
appetizing food made up for their long period of short commons.
At half past four Willet repeated his question, but the lips of the
spy remained tightly closed.
"Remember that I'm not urging you," said the hunter, politely. "I'm a
believer in personal independence and I like people to do what they
want to do, as long as it doesn't interfere with anybody else. So I
tell you to think it over. We've plenty of time. We can stay here a
week, two weeks, if need be. We'd rather you felt sure you were right
before you made up your mind. Then you wouldn't be remorseful about
"A wise man meditates long before he speaks," said Tayoga, "and it
follows then that our Achille Garay is very wise. He knows, too, that
his figure is improving already. He has lost at least five pounds."
"Nearer eight I sum it up, Tayoga," said Willet. "The improvement is
"I think you are right, Great Bear. Eight it is and you also speak
truly about the improvement. If our Monsieur Garay were able to stand
up and walk he would be much more graceful than he was, when he so
kindly marched into our guiding hands."
"Don't pay him too many compliments, Tayoga. They'll prove trying to
a modest man. Come away, now. Monsieur Garay wishes to spend the next
two hours with his own wise thoughts and who are we to break in upon
such a communion?"
"The words of wisdom fall like precious beads from your lips, Great
Bear. For two hours we will leave our guest to his great thoughts."
At half past six came the question, "Your papers?" once more, and
Garay burst forth with an angry refusal, though his voice trembled.
Willet shrugged his shoulders, turned away, and helped the lads
prepare a most luxurious and abundant evening meal, Tayoga adding wild
grapes and Robert nuts to their varied course of meats, the grapes
being served on blazing red autumn leaves, the whole very pleasing to
the eye as well as to the taste.
"I think," said Willet, in tones heard easily by Garay, "that I have
in me just a trace of the epicure. I find, despite my years in the
wilderness, that I enjoy a well spread board, and that bits of
decoration appeal to me; in truth, give an added savor to the viands."
"In the vale of Onondaga when the fifty old and wise sachems make a
banquet," said Tayoga, "the maidens bring fruit and wild flowers to
it that the eye also may have its feast. It is not a weakness, but an
excellence in Great Bear to like the decorations."
They lingered long over the board, protracting the feast far after the
fall of night and interspersing it with pleasant conversation. The
ruddy flames shone on their contented faces, and their light laughter
came frequently to the ears of Garay. At half past eight the question,
grown deadly by repetition, was asked, and, when only a curse came,
"As it is night I'll ask you, Achille Garay, for your papers only
once every four hours. That is the interval at which we'll change our
guard, and we don't wish, either, to disturb you many times in your
pleasant slumbers. It would not be right to call a man back too often
from the land of Tarenyawagon, who, you may know, is the Iroquois
sender of dreams."
Garay, whom they had now laid tenderly upon the floor of the hut,
turned his face away, and Willet went back to the fire, humming in a
pleased fashion to himself. At half past twelve he awoke Garay from
his uneasy sleep and propounded to him his dreadful query, grown
terrifying by its continual iteration. At half past four Tayoga asked
it, and it was not necessary then to awake Garay. He had not slept
since half past twelve. He snarled at the Iroquois, and then sank back
on the blanket that they had kindly placed for him. Tayoga, his bronze
face expressing nothing, went back to his watch by the fire.
Breakfast was cooked by Robert and Willet, and again it was luscious
and varied. Robert had risen early and he caught several of the fine
lake trout that he broiled delicately over the coals. He had
also gathered grapes fresh with the morning dew, and wonderfully
appetizing, and some of the best of the nuts were left over. Bear,
deer, venison and turkey they still had in abundance.
The morning itself was the finest they had encountered so far. Much
snow had fallen in the high mountains, but winter had not touched the
earth here. The deep colors of the leaves, moved by the light wind,
shifted and changed like a prism. The glorious haze of Indian summer
hung over everything like a veil of finest gauze. The air was
surcharged with vitality and life. It was pleasant merely to sit and
breathe at such a time.
"I've always claimed," said Robert, as he passed a beautifully broiled
trout to Tayoga and another to the hunter, "that I can cook fish
better than either of you. Dave, I freely admit, can surpass me in the
matter of venison and Tayoga is a finer hand with bear than I am, but
I'm a specialist with fish, be it salmon, or trout, or salmon trout,
or perch or pickerel or what not."
"Your boast is justified, in very truth, Robert," said Willet. "I've
known none other who can prepare a fish with as much tenderness and
perfection as you. I suppose 'tis born in you, but you have a way of
preserving the juices and savors which defies description and which is
beyond praise. 'Tis worth going hungry a long while to put one's tooth
into so delicate a morsel as this salmon trout, and 'tis a great pity,
too, that our guest, Monsieur Achille Garay, will not join us, when
we've an abundance so great and a variety so rich."
The wretched spy and intermediary could hear every word they said, and
Robert fell silent, but the hunter and the Onondaga talked freely and
with abounding zest.
"'Tis a painful thing," said Willet, "to offer hospitality and to
have it refused. Monsieur Garay knows that he would be welcome at our
board, and yet he will not come. I fear, Robert, that you have cooked
too many of these superlative fish, and that they must even go to
waste, which is a sin. They would make an admirable beginning for our
guest's breakfast, if he would but consent to join us."
"It is told by the wise old sachems of the great League," said Tayoga,
"that warriors have gone many days without food, when plenty of it
was ready for their taking, merely to test their strength of body and
will. Their sufferings were acute and terrible. Their flesh wasted
away, their muscles became limp and weak, their sight failed, pain
stabbed them with a thousand needles, but they would not yield and
touch sustenance before the time appointed."
"I've heard of many such cases, Tayoga, and I've seen some, but it was
always warriors who were doing the fasting. I doubt whether white men
could stand it so long, and 'tis quite sure they would suffer more.
About the third day 'twould be as bad as being tied to the stake in the
middle of the flames."
"Great Bear speaks the truth, as he always does. No white man can
stand it. If he tried it his sufferings would be beyond anything of
which he might dream."
A groan burst suddenly from the wretched Garay. The hunter and the
Onondaga looked at each other and their eyes expressed astonishment.
"Did you hear a sound in the thicket?" asked Willet.
"I think it came from the boughs overhead," said Tayoga.
"I could have sworn 'twas the growl of a bear."
"To me it sounded like the croak of a crow."
"After all, we may have heard nothing. Imagination plays strange
tricks with us."
"It is true, Great Bear. We hear queer sounds when there are no sounds
at all. The air is full of spirits, and now and then they have sport
A second groan burst from Garay, now more wretched than ever.
"I heard it again!" exclaimed the hunter. "'Tis surely the growl of
a bear in the bush! The sound was like that of an angry wild animal!
But, we'll let it go. The sun tells meet's half past eight o'clock and
I go to ask our guest the usual question."
"Enough!" exclaimed Garay. "I yield! I cannot bear this any longer!"
"Your papers, please!"
"Unbind me and give me food!"
"Your papers first, our fish next."
As he spoke the hunter leaned over, and with his keen hunting knife
severed Garay's bonds. The man sat up, rubbed his wrists and ankles
and breathed deeply.
"Your papers!" repeated Willet.
"Bring me my pistol, the one that the Indian filched from me while I
slept," said Garay.
"Your pistol!" exclaimed the hunter, in surprise. "Now I'd certainly
be foolish to hand you a deadly and loaded weapon!"
But Robert's quick intellect comprehended at once. He snatched the
heavy pistol from the Onondaga's belt, drew forth the bullet and then
drew the charge behind it, not powder at all, but a small, tightly
folded paper of tough tissue, which he held aloft triumphantly.
"Very clever! very clever!" said Willet in admiration. "The pistol was
loaded, but 'twould never be fired, and nobody would have thought of
searching its barrel. Tayoga, give Monsieur Garay the two spare fish
and anything else he wants, but see that he eats sparingly because a
gorge will go ill with a famished man, and then we'll have a look at
his precious document."
The Onondaga treated Garay as the honored guest they had been calling
him, giving him the whole variety of their breakfast, but, at guarded
intervals, which allowed him to relish to the full all the savors and
juices that had been taunting him so long. Willet opened the letter,
smoothed it out carefully on his knee, and holding it up to the light
until the words stood out clearly, read:
"To Hendrik Martinus At Albany.
"The intermediary of whom you know, the bearer of this letter, has
brought me word from you that the English Colonial troops, after the
unfortunate battle at Lake George, have not pushed their victory. He
also informs us that the governors of the English colonies do not
agree, and that there is much ill feeling among the different Colonial
forces. He says that Johnson still suffering from his wound, does not
move, and that the spirit has gone out of our enemies. All of which is
welcome news to us at this juncture, since it has given to us the time
that we need.
"Our defeat but incites us to greater efforts. The Indian tribes who
have cast their lot with us are loyal to our arms. All the forces of
France and New France are being assembled to crush our foes. We have
lost Dieskau, but a great soldier, Louis Joseph de Saint Veran, the
Marquis de Montcalm-Gozon, is coming from France to lead our armies.
He will be assisted by the incomparable chieftains, the Chevalier de
Levis, the Chevalier Bourlamaque and others who understand the warfare
of the wilderness. Even now we are preparing to move with a great
power on Albany and we may surprise the town.
"Tell those of whom you know in Albany and New York to be ready with
rifles and ammunition and other presents for the Indian warriors. Much
depends upon their skill and promptness in delivering these valuable
goods to the tribes. It seals them to our standard. They can be landed
at the places of which we know, and then be carried swiftly across the
wilderness. But I bid you once more to exercise exceeding caution. Let
no name of those associated with us ever be entrusted to writing, as a
single slip might bring our whole fabric crashing to the ground, and
send to death those who serve us. After you have perused this letter
destroy it. Do not tear it in pieces and throw them away but burn it
to the last and least little fragment. In conclusion I say yet again,
caution, caution, caution.
Raymond Louis de St. Luc."
The three looked at one another. Garay was in the third course of his
breakfast, and no longer took notice of anything else.
"Those associated with us in Albany and New York," quoted Willet. "Now
I wonder who they are. I might make a shrewd guess at one, but no
names are given and as we have no proof we must keep silent about him
for the present. Yet this paper is of vast importance and it must be
put in hands that know how to value it."
"Then the hands must be those of Colonel William Johnson," said
"I fancy you're right, lad. Yet 'tis hard just now to decide upon the
"The colonel is the real leader of our forces," persisted the lad.
"It's to him that we must go."
"It looks so, Robert, but for a few days we've got to consider
ourselves. Now that we have his letter I wish we didn't have Garay."
"You wouldn't really have starved him, would you, Dave? Somehow it
seemed pretty hard."
The hunter laughed heartily.
"Bless your heart, lad," he replied. "Don't you be troubled about the
way we dealt with Garay. I knew all the while that he would never get
to the starving point, or I wouldn't have tried it with him. I knew by
looking at him that his isn't the fiber of which martyrs are made. I
calculated that he would give up last night or this morning."
"Are we going to take him back with us a prisoner?"
"That's the trouble. As a spy, which he undoubtedly is, his life is
forfeit, but we are not executioners. For scouts and messengers such
as we are he'd be a tremendous burden to take along with us. Moreover,
I think that after his long fast he'd eat all the game we could kill,
and we don't propose to spend our whole time feeding one of our
"Call Tayoga," said Robert.
The Onondaga came and then young Lennox said to his two comrades:
"Are you willing to trust me in the matter of Garay, our prisoner?"
"Yes," they replied together.
Robert went to the man, who was still immersed in his gross feeding,
and tapped him on the shoulder.
"Listen, Garay," he said. "You're the bearer of secret and treacherous
dispatches, and you're a spy. You must know that under all the rules
of war your life is forfeit to your captors."
Garay's face became gray and ghastly.
"You--you wouldn't murder me?" he said.
"There could be no such thing as murder in your case, and we won't
take your life, either."
The face of the intermediary recovered its lost color.
"You will spare me, then?" he exclaimed joyfully.
"In a way, yes, but we're not going to carry you back in luxury to
Albany, nor are we thinking of making you an honored member of our
band. You've quite a time before you."
"I don't understand you."
"You will soon. You're going back to the Chevalier de St. Luc who has
little patience with failure, and you'll find that the road to him
abounds in hard traveling. It may be, too, that the savage Tandakora
will ask you some difficult questions, but if so, Monsieur Achille
Garay, it will be your task to answer them, and I take it that you
have a fertile mind. In any event, you will be equipped to meet him by
your journey, which will be full of variety and effort and which will
strengthen and harden your mind."
The face of Garay paled again, and he gazed at Robert in a sort of
dazed fashion. The imagination of young Lennox was alive and leaping.
He had found what seemed to him a happy solution of a knotty problem,
and, as usual in such cases, his speech became fluent and golden.
"Oh, you'll enjoy it, Monsieur Achille Garay," he said in his mellow,
persuasive voice. "The forest is beautiful at this time of the year
and the mountains are so magnificent always that they must appeal to
anyone who has in his soul the strain of poetry that I know you have.
The snow, too, I think has gone from the higher peaks and ridges and
you will not be troubled by extreme cold. If you should wander from
the path back to St. Luc you will have abundant leisure in which to
find it again, because for quite a while to come time will be of no
importance to you. And as you'll go unarmed, you'll be in no danger of
shooting your friends by mistake."
"You're not going to turn me into the wilderness to starve?"
"Not at all. We'll give you plenty of food. Tayoga and I will see you
well on your way. Now, since you've eaten enough, you start at once."
Tayoga and the hunter fell in readily with Robert's plan. The captive
received enough food to last four days, which he carried in a pack
fastened on his back, and then Robert and Tayoga accompanied him
northward and back on the trail.
Much of Garay's courage returned as they marched steadily on through
the forest. When he summed it up he found that he had fared well. His
captors had really been soft-hearted. It was not usual for one serving
as an intermediary and spy like himself to escape, when taken, with
his life and even with freedom. Life! How precious it was! Young
Lennox had said that the forest was beautiful, and it was! It was
splendid, grand, glorious to one who had just come out of the jaws of
death, and the air of late autumn was instinct with vitality. He drew
himself up jauntily, and his step became strong and springy.
They walked on many miles and Robert, whose speech had been so fluent
before, was silent now. Nor did the Onondaga speak either. Garay
himself hazarded a few words, but meeting with no response his spirits
fell a little. The trail led over a low ridge, and at its crest his
two guards stopped.
"Here we bid you farewell, Monsieur Achille Garay," said Robert.
"Doubtless you will wish to commune with your own thoughts and our
presence will no longer disturb you. Our parting advice to you is to
give up the trade in which you have been engaged. It is full perilous,
and it may be cut short at any time by sudden death. Moreover, it is
somewhat bare of honor, and even if it should be crowned by continued
success 'tis success of a kind that's of little value. Farewell."
"Farewell," said Garay, and almost before he could realize it, the two
figures had melted into the forest behind him. A weight was lifted
from him with their going, and once more his spirits bounded upward.
He was Achille Garay, bold and venturesome, and although he was
without weapons he did not fear two lads.
Three miles farther on he turned. He did not care to face St. Luc, his
letter lost, and the curious, dogged obstinacy that lay at the back of
his character prevailed. He would go back. He would reach those for
whom his letter had been intended, Martinus and the others, and he
would win the rich rewards that had been promised to him. He had
plenty of food, he would make a wide curve, advance at high speed and
get to Albany ahead of the foolish three.
He turned his face southward and walked swiftly through the thickets.
A rifle cracked and a twig overhead severed by a bullet fell upon his
face. Garay shivered and stood still for a long time. Courage trickled
back, and he resumed his advance, though it was slow. A second rifle
cracked, and a bullet passed so close to his cheek that he felt its
wind. He could not restrain a cry of terror, and turning again he fled
northward to St. Luc.
PUPILS OF THE BEAR
When Robert and Tayoga returned to the camp and told Willet what they
had done the hunter laughed a little.
"Garay doesn't want to face St. Luc," he said, "but he will do it
anyhow. He won't dare to come back on the trail in face of bullets,
and now we're sure to deliver his letter in ample time."
"Should we go direct to Albany?" asked Robert.
The hunter cupped his chin in his hand and meditated.
"I'm all for Colonel Johnson," he replied at last. "He understands the
French and Indians and has more vigor than the authorities at Albany.
It seems likely to me that he will still be at the head of Lake George
where we left him, perhaps building the fort of which they were
talking before we left there."
"His wound did not give promise of getting well so very early," said
Robert, "and he would not move while he was in a weakened condition."
"Then it's almost sure that he's at the head of the lake and we'll
turn our course toward that point. What do you say, Tayoga?"
"Waraiyageh is the man to have the letter, Great Bear. If it becomes
necessary for him to march to the defense of Albany he will do it."
"Then the three of us are in unanimity and Lake George it is instead
They started in an hour, and changing their course somewhat, began a
journey across the maze of mountains toward Andiatarocte, the lake
that men now call George, and Robert's heart throbbed at the thought
that he would soon see it again in all its splendor and beauty. He had
passed so much of his life near them that his fortunes seemed to him
to be interwoven inseparably with George and Champlain.
They thought they would reach the lake in a few days, but in a
wilderness and in war the plans of men often come to naught. Before
the close of the day they came upon traces of a numerous band
traveling on the great trail between east and west, and they also
found among them footprints that turned out. These Willet and Tayoga
examined with the greatest care and interest and they lingered longest
over a pair uncommonly long and slender.
"I think they're his," the hunter finally said.
"So do I," said the Onondaga.
"Those long, slim feet could belong to nobody but the Owl."
"It can be only the Owl."
"Now, who under the sun is the Owl?" asked Robert, mystified.
"The Owl is, in truth, a most dangerous man," replied the hunter. "His
name, which the Indians have given him, indicates he works by night,
though he's no sloth in the day, either. But he has another name,
also, the one by which he was christened. It's Charles Langlade, a
young Frenchman who was a trader before the war. I've seen him more
than once. He's mighty shrewd and alert, uncommon popular among the
western Indians, who consider him as one of them because he married a
good looking young Indian woman at Green Bay, and a great forester and
wilderness fighter. It's wonderful how the French adapt themselves to
the ways of the Indians and how they take wives among them. I suppose
the marriage tie is one of their greatest sources of strength with the
tribes. Now, Tayoga, why do you think the Owl is here so far to the
eastward of his usual range?"
"He and his warriors are looking for scalps, Great Bear, and it may be
that they have seen St. Luc. They were traveling fast and they are now
between us and Andiatarocte. I like it but little."
"Not any less than I do. It upsets our plans. We must leave the trail,
or like as not we'll run squarely into a big band. What a pity our
troops didn't press on after the victory at the lake. Instead of
driving the French and Indians out of the whole northern wilderness
we've left it entirely to them."
They turned from the trail with reluctance, because, strong and
enduring as they were, incessant hardships, long traveling and battle
were beginning to tell upon all three, and they were unwilling to be
climbing again among the high mountains. But there was no choice and
night found them on a lofty ridge in a dense thicket. The hunter and
the Onondaga were disturbed visibly over the advent of Langlade, and
their uneasiness was soon communicated to the sympathetic mind of
The night being very clear, sown with shining stars, they saw rings of
smoke rising toward the east, and outlined sharply against the dusky
"That's Langlade sending up signals," said the hunter, anxiously, "and
he wouldn't do it unless he had something to talk about."
"When one man speaks another man answers," said Tayoga. "Now from what
point will come the reply?"
Robert felt excitement. These rings of smoke in the blue were full
of significance for them, and the reply to the first signal would be
vital. "Ah!" he exclaimed suddenly. The answer came from the west,
directly behind them.
"I think they've discovered our trail," said Willet. "They didn't
learn it from Garay, because Langlade passed before we sent him back,
but they might have heard from St. Luc or Tandakora that we were
somewhere in the forest. It's bad. If it weren't for the letter we
could turn sharply to the north and stay in the woods till Christmas,
if need be."
"We may have to do so, whether we wish it or not," said Tayoga. "The
shortest way is not always the best."
Before morning they saw other smoke signals in the south, and it
became quite evident then that the passage could not be tried, except
at a risk perhaps too great to take.
"There's nothing for it but the north," said Willet, "and we'll trust
to luck to get the letter to Waraiyageh in time. Perhaps we can find
Rogers. He must be roaming with his rangers somewhere near Champlain."
At dawn they were up and away, but all through the forenoon they
saw rings of smoke rising from the peaks and ridges, and the last
lingering hope that they were not followed disappeared. It became
quite evident to their trained observation and the powers of inference
from circumstances which had become almost a sixth sense with them
that there was a vigorous pursuit, closing in from three points of the
compass, south, east and west. They slept again the next night in the
forest without fire and arose the following morning cold, stiff and
out of temper. While they eased their muscles and prepared for the
day's flight they resolved upon a desperate expedient.
It was vital now to carry the letter to Johnson and then to Albany,
which they considered more important than their own escape, and they
could not afford to be driven farther and farther into the recesses of
the north, while St. Luc might be marching with a formidable force on
"With us it's unite to fight and divide for flight," said Robert,
divining what was in the mind of the others.
"The decision is forced upon us," said Willet, regretfully.
"We'll read the letter again several times, until all of us know it by
heart," said the hunter.
The precious document was produced, and they went over it until each
could repeat it from memory. Then Willet said:
"I'm the oldest and I'll take the letter and go south past their
bands. One can slip through where three can't."
He spoke with such decision that the others, although Tayoga wanted
the task of risk and honor, said nothing.
"And do you, Robert and Tayoga," resumed the hunter, "continue your
flight to the northward. You can keep ahead of these bands, and, when
you discover the chase has stopped, curve back for Lake George. If by
any chance I should fall by the way, though it's not likely, you can
repeat the letter to Colonel Johnson, and let's hope you'll be in
time. Now good-by, and God bless you both."
Willet never displayed emotion, but his feeling was very deep as he
wrung the outstretched hand of each. Then he turned at an angle to the
east and south and disappeared in the undergrowth.
"He has been more than a father to me," said Robert.
"The Great Bear is a man, a man who is pleasing to Areskoui himself,"
said Tayoga with emphasis.
"Do you think he will get safely through?"
"There is no warrior, not even of the Clan of the Bear, of the Nation
Onondaga, of the great League of the Hodenosaunee, who can surpass the
Great Bear in forest skill and cunning. In the night he will creep by
Tandakora himself, with such stealth, that not a leaf will stir, and
there will be not the slightest whisper in the grass. His step, too,
will be so light that his trail will be no more than a bird's in the
Robert laughed and felt better.
"You don't stint the praise of a friend, Tayoga," he said, "but I know
that at least three-fourths of what you say is true. Now, I take it
that you and I are to play the hare to Langlade's hounds, and that in
doing so we'll be of great help to Dave."
"Aye," agreed the Onondaga, and they swung into their gait. Robert had
received Garay's pistol which, being of the same bore as his own, was
now loaded with bullet and powder, instead of bullet and paper, and it
swung at his belt, while Tayoga carried the intermediary's rifle, a
fine piece. It made an extra burden, but they had been unwilling
to throw it away--a rifle was far too valuable on the border to be
They maintained a good pace until noon, and, as they heard no sound
behind them, less experienced foresters than they might have thought
the pursuit had ceased, but they knew better. It had merely settled
into that tenacious kind which was a characteristic of the Indian
mind, and unless they could hide their trail it would continue in the
same determined manner for days. At noon, they paused a half hour in a
dense grove and ate bear and deer meat, sauced with some fine, black
wild grapes, the vines hanging thick on one of the trees.
"Think of those splendid banquets we enjoyed when Garay was sitting
looking at us, though not sharing with us," said Robert.
Tayoga smiled at the memory and said:
"If he had been able to hold out a little longer he would have had
plenty of food, and we would not have had the letter. The Great Bear
would never have starved him."
"I know that now, Tayoga, and I learn from it that we're to hold out
too, long after we think we're lost, if we're to be the victors."
They came in the afternoon to a creek, flowing in their chosen course,
and despite the coldness of its waters, which rose almost to their
knees, they waded a long time in its bed. When they went out on the
bank they took off their leggings and moccasins, wrung or beat out of
them as much of the water as they could, and then let them dry for a
space in the sun, while they rubbed vigorously their ankles and feet
to create warmth. They knew that Langlade's men would follow on either
side of the creek until they picked up the trail again, but their
maneuver would create a long delay, and give them a rest needed badly.
"Have you anything in mind, Tayoga?" asked Robert. "You know that the
farther north and higher we go the colder it will become, and our
flight may take us again into the very heart of a great snow storm."
"It is so, Dagaeoga, but it is also so that I do have a plan. I think
I know the country into which we are coming, and that tells me what to
do. The people of my race, living from the beginning of the world in
the great forest, have not been too proud to learn from the animals,
and of all the animals we know perhaps the wisest is the bear."
"The bear is scarcely an animal, Tayoga. He is almost a human being.
He has as good a sense of humor as we have, and he is more careful
about minding his own business, and letting alone that of other
"Dagaeoga is not without wisdom. We will even learn from the bear.
A hundred miles to the north of us there is a vast rocky region
containing many caves, where the bears go in great numbers to sleep
the long winters through. It is not much disturbed, because it is
a dangerous country, lying between the Hodenosaunee and the Indian
nations to the north, with which we have been at war for centuries.
There we will go."
"And hole up until our peril passes! Your plan appeals to me, Tayoga!
I will imitate the bear! I will even be a bear!"
"We will take the home of one of them before he comes for it himself,
and we will do him no injustice, because the wise bear can always find
another somewhere else."
"They're fine caves, of course!" exclaimed Robert, buoyantly, his
imagination, which was such a powerful asset with him, flaming up as
usual. "Dry and clean, with plenty of leaves for beds, and with nice
little natural shelves for food, and a pleasant little brook just
outside the door. It will be pleasant to lie in our own cave, the best
one of course, and hear the snow and sleet storms whistle by, while
we're warm and comfortable. If we only had complete assurance that
Dave was through with the letter I'd be willing to stay there until
Tayoga smiled indulgently.
"Dagaeoga is always dreaming," he said, "but bright dreams hurt
When night came, they were many more miles on their way, but it was
a very cold darkness that fell upon them and they shivered in their
blankets. Robert made no complaint, but he longed for the caves, of
which he was making such splendid pictures. Shortly before morning, a
light snow fell and the dawn was chill and discouraging, so much so
that Tayoga risked a fire for the sake of brightness and warmth.
"Langlade's men will come upon the coals we leave," he said, "but
since we have not shaken them off it will make no difference. How much
food have we left, Dagaeoga?"
"Not more than enough for three days."
"Then it is for us to find more soon. It is another risk that we must
take. I wish I had with me now my bow and arrows which I left at the
lake, instead of Garay's rifle. But Areskoui will provide."
The day turned much colder, and the streams to which they came were
frozen over. By night, the ice was thick enough to sustain their
weight and they traveled on it for a long time, their thick moosehide
moccasins keeping their feet warm, and saving them from falling.
Before they returned to the land it began to snow again, and Tayoga
"Now a white blanket will lie over the trail we have left on the ice,"
he said, "hiding it from the keenest eyes that ever were in a man's
Then they crossed a ridge and came upon a lake, by the side of which
they saw through the snow and darkness a large fire burning. Creeping
nearer, they discerned dusky forms before the flames and made out a
band of at least twenty warriors, many of them sound asleep, wrapped
to the eyes in their blankets.
"Have they passed ahead of us and are they here meaning to guard the
way against us?" whispered Robert.
"No, it is not one of the bands that has been following us," replied
the Onondaga. "This is a war party going south, and not much stained
as yet by time and travel. They are Montagnais, come from Montreal.
They seek scalps, but not ours, because they do not know of us."
Robert shuddered. These savages, like as not, would fall at midnight
upon some lone settlement, and his intense imagination depicted the
hideous scenes to follow.
"Come away," he whispered. "Since they don't know anything about us
we'll keep them in ignorance. I'm longing more than ever for my warm
They disappeared in the falling snow, which would soon hide their
trail here, as it had hidden it elsewhere, and left the lake behind
them, not stopping until they came to a deep and narrow gorge in the
mountains, so well sheltered by overhanging bushes that no snow fell
there. They raked up great quantities of dry leaves, after the usual
fashion, and spread their blankets upon them, poor enough quarters
save for the hardiest, but made endurable for them by custom and
intense weariness. Both fell asleep almost at once, and both awoke
about the same time far after dawn.
Robert moved his stiff fingers in his blanket and sat up, feeling cold
and dismal. Tayoga was sitting up also, and the two looked at each
"In very truth those bear caves never seemed more inviting to me,"
said young Lennox, solemnly, "and yet I only see them from afar."
"Dagaeoga has fallen in love with bear caves," said the Onondaga, in
a whimsical tone. "The time is not so far back when he never talked
about them at all, and now words in their praise fall from his lips in
"It's because I've experienced enlightenment, Tayoga. It is only in
the last two or three days that I've learned the vast superiority of a
cave to any other form of human habitation. Our remote ancestors lived
in them two or three hundred thousand years, and we've been living in
houses of wood or brick or stone only six or seven thousand years, I
suppose, and so the cave, if you judge by the length of time, is our
true home. Hence I'm filled with a just enthusiasm at the thought of
going back speedily to the good old ways and the good old days. It's
possible, Tayoga, that our remote grandfathers knew best."
"When Dagaeoga comes to his death bed, seventy or eighty years from
now, and the medicine man tells him but little more breath is left in
his body, what then do you think he will do?"
"What will I do, Tayoga?"
"You will say to the medicine man, 'Tell me exactly how long I have
to live,' and the medicine man will reply: 'Ten minutes, O Dagaeoga,
venerable chief and great orator.' Then you will say: 'Let all the
people be summoned and let them crowd into the wigwam in which I lie,'
and when they have all come and stand thick about your bed, you will
say, 'Now raise me into a sitting position and put the pillows thick
behind my back and head that I may lean against them.' Then you
will speak to the people. The words will flow from your lips in a
continuous and golden stream. It will be the finest speech of your
life. It will be filled with magnificent words, many of them, eight or
ten syllables long. It will be mellow like the call of a trumpet. It
will be armed with force, and it will be beautiful with imagery; it
will be suffused and charged with color, it will be the very essence
of poetry and power, and as the aged Dagaeoga draws his very last
breath so he will speak his very last word, and thus, in a golden
cloud, his soul will go away into infinite space, to dwell forever
in the bosom of Manitou, with the immortal sachems, Tododaho and
"Do you know, Tayoga, I think that would be a happy death," said
The Onondaga laughed heartily.
"Thus does Dagaeoga show his true nature," he said. "He was born with
the spirit and soul of the orator, and the fact is disclosed often. It
is well. The orator, be he white or red, will lose himself sometimes
in his own words, but he is a gift from the gods, sent to lift up the
souls, and cheer the rest of us. He is the bugle that calls us to the
chase and we must not forget that his value is great."
"And having said a whole cargo of words yourself Tayoga, now what do
you propose that we do?"
"Push on with all our strength for the caves. I know now we are on the
right path, because I recall the country through which we are passing.
At noon we will reach a small lake, in which the fish are so numerous
that there is not room for them all at the same time in the water.
They have to take turns in getting the air above the surface on top of
the others. For that reason the fish of this lake are different from
all other fish. They will live a full hour on the bank after they are
"Tayoga, in very truth, you've learned our ways well. You've become a
prince of romancers yourself."
At the appointed time they reached the lake. There were no fish above
its surface, but the Onondaga claimed it was due to the fact that the
lake was covered with ice which of course kept them down, and which
crowded them excessively, and very uncomfortably. They broke two big
holes in the ice, let down the lines which they always carried, the
hooks baited with fragments of meat, and were soon rewarded with
splendid fish, as much as they needed.
Tayoga with his usual skill lighted a fire, despite the driving snow,
and they had a banquet, taking with them afterward a supply of the
cooked fish, though they knew they could not rely upon fish alone in
the winter days that were coming. But fortune was with them. Before
dark, Robert shot a deer, a great buck, fine and fat. They had so
little fear of pursuit now that they cut up the body, saving the skin
whole for tanning, and hung the pieces in the trees, there to
freeze. Although it would make quite a burden they intended to carry
practically all of it with them.
Many mountain wolves were drawn that night by the odor of the spoils,
but they lay between twin fires and had no fear of an attack. Yet the
time might come when they would be assailed by fierce wild animals,
and now they were glad that Tayoga had kept Garay's rifle, and also
his ammunition, a good supply of powder and bullets. It was possible
that the question of ammunition might become vital with them, but they
did not yet talk of it.
On the second day thereafter, bearing their burdens of what had been
the deer, they reached the stony valley Tayoga had in mind, and Robert
saw at once that its formation indicated many caves.
"Now, I wonder if the bears have come," he said, putting down his pack
and resting. "The cold has been premature and perhaps they're still
roaming through the forest. I shouldn't want to put an interloper out
of my own particular cave, but, if I have to do it, I will."
"The bears haven't arrived yet," said Tayoga, "and we can choose. I do
not know, but I do not think a bear always occupies the same winter
home, so we will not have to fight over our place."
It was a really wonderful valley, where the decaying stone had made a
rich assortment of small caves, many of them showing signs of former
occupancy by large wild animals, and, after long searching, they found
one that they could make habitable for themselves. Its entrance was
several feet above the floor of the valley, so that neither storm nor
winter flood could send water into it, and its own floor was fairly
smooth, with a roof eight or ten feet high. It could be easily
defended with their three rifles, the aperture being narrow, and they
expected, with skins and pelts, to make it warm.
It was but a cold and bleak refuge for all save the hardiest, and
for a little while Robert had to use his last ounce of will to save
himself from discouragement. But vigorous exertion and keen interest
in the future brought back his optimism. The hide of the deer they had
slain was spread at once upon the cave floor and made a serviceable
rug. They spoke hopefully of soon adding to it.
A brook flowed less than a hundred yards away, and they would have
no trouble about their water supply, while the country about seemed
highly favorable for game. But on their first day there they did not
do any hunting. They rolled several large stones before the door of
their new home, making it secure against any prying wild animals, and
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