The Masters of the Peaks
Joseph A. Altsheler
Part 3 out of 5
then, after a hearty meal, they wrapped themselves in their blankets
and slept prodigiously.
Tayoga went into the forest the next day and set traps and snares,
while Robert worked in the valley, breaking up fallen wood to be used
for fires, and doing other chores. The Onondaga in the next three or
four days shot a large panther, a little bear, and caught in the traps
and snares a quantity of small game. The big pelts and the little
pelts, after proper treatment, were spread upon the floor or hung
against the walls of the cave, which now began to assume a much more
inviting aspect, and the flesh of the animals that were eatable, cured
after the primitive but effective processes, was stored there also.
Providence granted them a period of good weather, days and nights
alike being clear and cold. The game, evidently not molested for a
long time, fairly walked into their traps, and they were compelled to
draw but little upon their precious supply of ammunition. Food for the
future accumulated rapidly, and the floor and walls of the cave were
soon covered entirely with furs.
Not one of the numerous caves and hollows about them contained an
occupant and Robert wondered if their presence would frighten away the
wild animals, so many of which had hibernated there so often. Yet he
had a belief that the bears would come. His present mode of life and
his isolation from the world gave him a feeling almost of kinship with
them, and in some strange way, and through some medium unknown to him,
they might reciprocate. He and Tayoga had killed several bears, it was
true, but far from the cave, and they made up their minds to molest
nothing in the valley or just about it.
It was a land of many waters and they caught with ease numerous fish,
drying all the surplus and storing it with the other food in the cave.
They also made soft beds for themselves of the little branches of the
evergreen, over which they spread their blankets, and when they rolled
the stone before the doorway at night they never failed to sleep
They did their cooking in front of the cave door, but it was always
a smothered fire. While they felt safe from wandering bands in that
lofty and remote region, they took no unnecessary risks. The valley
itself, though deep, was much broken up into separate little valleys,
and most of the caves were hidden from their own. It was this fact
that made Robert still think the bears would come, despite coals and
flame. In the evenings they would talk of Willet, and both were firm
in the opinion that the hunter had got through to Lake George and that
Johnson and Albany had been warned in time. Each was confirmed in his
opinion by the other and in a few days it became certainty.
"I think Tododaho on his star whispered in my ear while I slept that
Great Bear has passed the hostile lines," said Tayoga with conviction,
"because I know it, just as if the Great Bear himself had told it to
me, though I do not know how I know it."
"It's some sort of mysterious information," said Robert in the same
tone of absolute belief, "and I don't worry any more about Dave and
the letter. The men of the Hodenosaunee seem to have a special gift.
You know the old chief, Hendrik, foretold that he would die on the
shores of Andiatarocte, and it came to pass just as he had said."
"It was a glorious death, Dagaeoga, and it was, perhaps, he who saved
our army, and made the victory possible."
"So it was. There's not a doubt of it, but, here, I don't feel much
like taking part in a war. The great struggle seems to have passed
around us for a while, at least. I appear to myself as a man of peace,
occupied wholly with the struggle for existence and with preparations
for a hard winter. I don't want to harm anything."
"Perhaps it's because nothing we know of wants to harm us. But,
Dagaeoga, if the bears come at all they will come quickly, because in
a few days winter will be roaring down upon us."
"Then, Tayoga, we must hurry our labors, and since the mysterious
message brought in some manner through the air has told us that Dave
has reached the lake, I'm rather anxious for it to rush down. While it
keeps us here it will also hold back the forces of St. Luc."
"That's true, Dagaeoga. It's a poor snow that doesn't help somebody.
Now, I will make a bow and arrow to take the place of my great bow and
quiver, which await me elsewhere, because we must draw but little upon
our powder and bullets."
The Onondaga had hatchet and knife and he worked with great rapidity
and skill, cutting and bending a bow in two or three days, and making
a string of strong sinews, after which he fashioned many arrows and
tipped them with sharp bone. Then he contemplated his handiwork with
"Hasty work is never the best of work," he said, "and these are not as
good as those I left behind me, but I know they will serve. The game
here, hunted but little, is not very wary and I can approach near."
His skill both in construction and use was soon proved, as he slew
with his new weapons a great moose, two ordinary deer, and much
smaller game, while the traps caught beaver, otter, fox, wolf and
other animals, with fine pelts. Many splendid furs were soon drying
in the air and were taken later into the cave, while they accumulated
dried and jerked game enough to last them until the next spring.
Both worked night and day with such application and intensity that
their hands became stiff and sore, and every bone in them ached.
Nevertheless Robert took time now and then to examine the little caves
in the other sections of the valley, only to find them still empty.
He thought, for a while, that the presence of Tayoga and himself and
their operations with the game might have frightened the bears away,
but the feeling that they would come returned and was strong upon him.
As for Tayoga he never doubted. It had been decreed by Tododaho.
"The animals have souls," he said. "Often when great warriors die or
fall in battle their souls go into the bodies of bear, or deer, or
wolf, but oftenest into that of bear. For that reason the bear, saving
only the dog which lives with us, is nearest to man, and now and then,
because of the warrior soul in him, he is a man himself, although
he walks on four legs--and he does not always walk on four legs,
sometimes he stands on two. Doubt not, Dagaeoga, that when the stormy
winter sweeps down the bears will come to their ancient homes, whether
or not we be here."
The winds grew increasingly chill, coming from the vast lakes beyond
the Great Lakes, those that lay in the far Canadian north, and the
skies were invariably leaden in hue and gloomy. But in the cave it
was cozy and warm. Furs and skins were so numerous that there was no
longer room on the floor and walls for them all, many being stored in
glossy heaps in the corners.
"Some day these will bring a good price from the Dutch traders at
Albany," said Robert, "and it may be, Tayoga, that you and I will need
the money. I've been a scout and warrior for a long time, and now
I've suddenly turned fur hunter. Well, that spirit of peace and of a
friendly feeling toward all mankind grows upon me. Why shouldn't I be
full of brotherly love when your patron saint, Tododaho, has been so
kind to us?"
He swept the cave once more with a glance of approval. It furnished
shelter, warmth, food in abundance, and with its furs even a certain
velvety richness for the eye, and Tayoga nodded assent. Meanwhile they
waited for the fierce blasts of the mountain winter.
THE SLEEPING SENTINELS
A singular day came when it seemed to Robert that the wind alternately
blew hot and cold, at least by contrast, and the deep, leaden skies
were suffused with a peculiar mist that made him see all objects in
a distorted fashion. Everything was out of proportion. Some were
too large and some too small. Either the world was awry or his own
faculties had become discolored and disjointed. While his interest in
his daily toil decreased and his thoughts were vague and distant,
his curiosity, nevertheless, was keen and concentrated. He knew that
something unusual was going to happen and nature was preparing him for
The occult quality in the air did not depart with the coming of night,
though the winds no longer alternated, the warm blasts ceasing to
blow, while the cold came steadily and with increasing fierceness. Yet
it was warm and close in the cave, and the two went outside for air,
wandering up the face of the ridge that enclosed the northern side
of their particular valley in the chain of little valleys. Upon the
summit they stood erect, and the face of Tayoga became rapt like
that of a seer. When Robert looked at him his own blood tingled. The
Onondaga shut his eyes, and he spoke not so much to Robert as to the
"O Tododaho," he said, "when mine eyes are open I do not see you
because of the vast clouds that Manitou has heaped between, but when I
close them the inner light makes me behold you sitting upon your star
and looking down with kindness upon this, the humblest and least of
your servants. O Tododaho, you have given my valiant comrade and
myself a safe home in the wilderness in our great need, and I beseech
you that you will always hold your protecting shield between us and
He paused, his eyes still closed, and stood tense and erect, the north
wind blowing on his face. A shiver ran through Robert, not a shiver of
fear, but a shiver caused by the mysterious and the unknown. His own
eyes were open, and he gazed steadily into the northern heavens.
The occult quality in the air deepened, and now his nerves began to
tingle. His soul thrilled with a coming event. Suddenly the deep,
leaden clouds parted for a few moments, and in the clear space between
he could have sworn that he saw a great dancing star, from which a
mighty, benevolent face looked down upon them.
"I saw him! I saw him!" he exclaimed in excitement. "It was Tododaho
"I did not see him with my eyes, but I saw him with my soul," said the
Onondaga, opening his eyes, "and he whispered to me that his favor was
with us. We cannot fail in what we wish to do."
"Look in the next valley, Tayoga. What do you behold now?"
"It is the bears, Dagaeoga. They come to their long winter sleep."
Rolling figures, enlarged and fantastic, emerged from the mist. Robert
saw great, red eyes, sharp teeth and claws, and yet he felt neither
fear nor hostility. Tayoga's statement that they were bears, into
which the souls of great warriors had gone, was strong in his mind,
and he believed. They looked up at him, but they did not pause, moving
on to the little caves.
"They see us," he said.
"So they do," said Tayoga, "but they do not fear us. The spirits of
mighty warriors look out of their eyes at us, and knowing that they
were once as we are they know also that we will not harm them."
"Have you ever seen the like of this before, Tayoga?"
"No! But a few of the old men of the Hodenosaunee have told of their
grandfathers who have seen it. I think it is a mark of favor to us
that we are permitted to behold such a sight. Now I am sure Tododaho
has looked upon us with great approval. Lo, Dagaeoga, more of them
come out of the mist! Before morning every cave, save those in our own
little corner of the valley, will be filled. All of them gaze up at
us, recognize us as friends and pass on. It is a wonderful sight,
Dagaeoga, and we shall never look upon its like again."
"No," said Robert, as the extraordinary thrill ran through him once
more. "Now they have gone into their caves, and I believe with you,
Tayoga, that the souls of great warriors truly inhabit the bodies of
"And since they are snugly in their homes, ready for the long winter
sleep, lo! the great snow comes, Dagaeoga!"
A heavy flake fell on Robert's upturned face, and then another and
another. The circling clouds, thick and leaden, were beginning to pour
down their burden, and the two retreated swiftly to their own dry and
well furnished cave. Then they rolled the great stones before the
door, and Tayoga said:
"Now, we will imitate our friends, the bears, and take a long winter
Both were soon slumbering soundly in their blankets and furs, and all
that night and all the next day the snow fell on the high mountains in
the heart of which they lay. There was no wind, and it came straight
down, making an even depth on ridge, slope and valley. It blotted out
the mouths of the caves, and it clothed all the forest in deep white.
Robert and Tayoga were but two motes, lost in the vast wilderness,
which had returned to its primeval state, and the Indians themselves,
whether hostile or friendly, sought their villages and lodges and were
willing to leave the war trail untrodden until the months of storm and
bitter cold had passed.
Robert slept heavily. His labors in preparation for the winter had
been severe and unremitting, and his nerves had been keyed very high
by the arrival of the bears and the singular quality in the air. Now,
nature claimed her toll, and he did not awake until nearly noon,
Tayoga having preceded him a half hour. The Onondaga stood at the door
of the cave, looking over the stones that closed its lower half. Fresh
air poured in at the upper half, but Robert saw there only a whitish
veil like a foaming waterfall.
"The time o' day, Sir Tayoga, Knight of the Great Forest," he said
lightly and cheerfully.
"There is no sun to tell me," replied the Onondaga. "The face of
Areskoui will be hidden long, but I know that at least half the day is
gone. The flakes make a thick and heavy white veil, through which
I cannot see, and great as are the snows every winter on the high
mountains, this will be the greatest of them all."
"And we've come into our lair. And a mighty fine lair it is, too. I
seem to adapt myself to such a place, Tayoga. In truth, I feel like
a bear myself. You say that the souls of warriors have gone into the
bears about us, and it may be that the soul of a bear has come into
"It may be," said Tayoga, gravely. "It is at least a wise thought,
since, for a while, we must live like bears."
Robert would have chafed, any other time, at a stay that amounted to
imprisonment, but peace and shelter were too welcome now to let him
complain. Moreover, there were many little but important house-hold
duties to do. They made needles of bone, and threads of sinew and
repaired their clothing. Tayoga had stored suitable wood and bone and
he turned out arrow after arrow. He also made another bow, and Robert,
by assiduous practice, acquired sufficient skill to help in these
tasks. They did not drive themselves now, but the hours being filled
with useful and interesting labor, they were content to wait.
For three or four days, while the snow still fell, they ate cold food,
but when the clouds at last floated away, and the air was free from
the flakes, they went outside and by great effort--the snow being four
or five feet deep--cleared a small space near the entrance, where they
cooked a good dinner from their stores and enjoyed it extravagantly.
Meanwhile the days passed. Robert was impatient at times, but never a
long while. If the mental weariness of waiting came to him he plunged
at once into the tasks of the day.
There was plenty to do, although they had prepared themselves so well
before the great snowfall came. They made rude shovels of wood and
enlarged the space they had cleared of snow. Here, they fitted stones
together, until they had a sort of rough furnace which, crude though
it was, helped them greatly with their cooking. They also pulled more
brushwood from under the snow, and by its use saved the store they
had heaped up for impossible days. Then, by continued use of the bone
needles and sinews, they managed to make cloaks for themselves of the
bearskins. They were rather shapeless garments, and they had little of
beauty save in the rich fur itself, but they were wonderfully warm and
that was what they wanted most.
Tayoga, after a while, began slow and painstaking work on a pair of
snowshoes, expecting to devote many days to the task.
"The snow is so deep we cannot pass through it," he said, "but I, at
least, will pass upon it. I cannot get the best materials, but what I
have will serve. I shall not go far, but I want to explore the country
Robert thought it a good plan, and helped as well as he could with the
work. They still stayed outdoors as much as possible, but the cold
became intense, the temperature going almost to forty degrees below
zero, the surface of the snow freezing and the boughs of the big
trees about the valley becoming so brittle that they broke with sharp
crashes beneath the weight of accumulated snow. Then they paused long
enough in the work on the snowshoes to make themselves gloves of
buckskin, which were a wonderful help, as they labored in the fresh
air. Ear muffs and caps of bearskin followed.
"I feel some reluctance about using bearskin so much," said Robert,
"since the bears about us are inhabited by the souls of great warriors
and are our friends."
"But the bears that we killed did not belong here," said Tayoga, "and
were bears and nothing more. It was right for us to slay them because
the bear was sent by Manitou to be a support for the Indian with his
flesh and his pelt."
"But how do you know that the bears we killed were just bears and
"Because, if they had not been we would not have killed them."
Thus were the qualms of young Lennox quieted and he used his bearskin
cap, gloves and cloak without further scruple. The snowshoes were
completed and Tayoga announced that he would start early the next
"I may be gone three or four days, Dagaeoga," he said, "but I will
surely return. I shall avoid danger, and do you be careful also."
"Don't fear for me," said Robert. "I'm not likely to go farther than
the brook, since there's no great sport in breaking your way through
snow that comes to your waist, and which, moreover, is covered with a
thick sheet of ice. Don't trouble your mind about me, Tayoga, I won't
roam from home."
The Onondaga took his weapons, a supply of food, and departed,
skimming over the snow with wonderful, flying strokes, while Robert
settled down to lonely waiting. It was a hard duty, but he again found
solace in work, and at intervals he contemplated the mouths of the
bears' caves, now almost hidden by the snow. Tayoga's belief was
strong upon him, for the time, and he concluded that the warriors
who inhabited the bodies of the bears must be having some long and
wonderful dreams. At least, they had plenty of time to dream in, and
it was an extraordinary provision of nature that gave them such a
Tayoga returned in four days, and Robert, who had more than enough of
being alone, welcomed him with hospitable words to a fire and a feast.
"I must first put away my spoils," said the Onondaga, his dark eyes
"Spoils! What spoils, Tayoga?"
"Powder and lead," he replied, taking a heavy bundle wrapped in
deerskin from beneath his bearskin overcoat. "It weighs a full fifty
pounds, and it made my return journey very wearisome. Catch it,
Robert caught, and he saw that it was, in truth, powder and lead.
"Now, where did you get this?" he exclaimed. "You couldn't have gone
to any settlement!"
"There is no settlement to go to. I made our enemies furnish the
powder and lead we need so much, and that is surely the cheapest way.
Listen, Dagaeoga. I remembered that to the east of us, about two days'
journey, was a long valley sheltered well and warm, in which Indians
who fight the Hodenosaunee often camp. I thought it likely they would
be there in such a winter as this, and that I might take from them in
the night the powder and lead we need so much.
"I was right. The savages were there, and with them a white man, a
Frenchman, that Charles Langlade, called the Owl, from whom we fled.
They had an abundance of all things, and they were waxing fat, until
they could take the war path in the spring. Then, Dagaeoga, I played
the fox. At night, when they dreamed of no danger, I entered their
biggest lodges, passing as one of them, and came away with the powder
"It was a great feat, Tayoga, but are you sure none of them will trail
"The surface of the snow and ice melts a little in the noonday sun,
enough to efface all trace of the snowshoes, and my trail is no more
than that made by a bird in its flight through the air. Nor can we be
followed here while we are guarded by the bears, who sleep, but who,
nevertheless, are sentinels."
Tayoga took off his snowshoes, and sank upon a heap of furs in the
cave, while Robert brought him food and inspected the great prize of
ammunition he had brought. The package contained a dozen huge horns
filled with powder, and many small bars of lead, the latter having
made the weight which had proved such a severe trial to the Onondaga.
"Here's enough of both lead and powder to last us throughout the
winter, whatever may happen," said Robert in a tone of intense
satisfaction. "Tayoga, you're certainly a master freebooter. You
couldn't have made a more useful capture."
Each, after the invariable custom of hunters and scouts, carried
bullet molds, and they were soon at work, melting the lead and casting
bullets for their rifles, then pouring the shining pellets in a stream
into their pouches. They continued at the task from day to day until
all the lead was turned into bullets and then they began work on
another pair of snowshoes, these intended for Robert.
Despite the safety and comfort of their home in the rock, both began
to chafe now, and time grew tremendously long. They had done nearly
everything they could do for themselves, and life had become so easy
that there was leisure to think and be restless, because they were far
away from great affairs.
"When my snowshoes are finished and I perfect myself in the use of
them," said Robert, "I favor an attempt to escape on the ice and snow
to the south. We grow rusty, you and I, here, Tayoga. The war may be
decided in our absence and I want to see Dave, too. I want to hear him
tell how he got through the savage cordon to the lake."
"Have no fear about the war, Dagaeoga," said the Onondaga. "It will
not be ended this winter nor the next. Before there is peace between
the French king and the British king you will have a chance to make
many speeches. Yet, like you, I think we should go. It is not well for
us to lie hidden in the ground through a whole winter."
"But when we leave our good home here I shall leave many regrets
He looked around at the cave and its supplies of skins and furs, its
stores of wood and food. Fortune had helped their own skill and they
had made a marvelous change in the place. Its bleakness and bareness
had disappeared. In the cold and bitter wilderness it offered more
than comfort, it was luxury itself.
"So shall I," said Tayoga, appreciatively, "but we will heap rocks up
to the very top of the door, so that only a little air and nothing
else can enter, and leave it as it is. Some day we may want to use it
Having decided to go, they became very impatient, but they did not
skimp the work on the snowshoes, knowing how much depended on their
strength, but that task too, like all the others, came to an end in
time. Robert practiced a while and they selected a day of departure.
They were to take with them all the powder and bullets, a large supply
of food and their heavy bearskin overcoats. They had also made for
themselves over-moccasins of fur and extra deerskin leggings. They
would be bundled up greatly, but it was absolutely necessary in order
to face the great cold, that hovered continuously around thirty to
forty degrees below zero. The ear muffs, the caps and the gloves, too,
were necessities, but they had the comfort of believing that if the
fierce winter presented great difficulties to them, it would also keep
their savage enemies in their lodges.
"The line that shut us in in the autumn has thinned out and gone!"
exclaimed Robert in sanguine tones, "and we'll have a clear path from
here to the lake!"
Then they rolled stones, as they had planned, before the door to their
home, closing it wholly except a few square inches at the top, and
ascended on their snowshoes to the crest of the ridge.
"Our cave will not be disturbed, at least not this winter," said
Tayoga confidently. "The bears that sleep below are, as I told you,
the silent sentinels, and they will guard it for us until we come
"At least, they brought us good luck," said Robert. Then, with long,
gliding strokes they passed over the ridge, and their happy valley was
lost to sight. They did not speak again for hours, Tayoga leading the
way, and each bending somewhat to his task, which was by no means
a light one, owing to the weight they carried, and the extremely
mountainous nature of the country. The wilderness was still and
intensely cold. The deep snow was covered by a crust of ice, and,
despite vigorous exertion and warm clothing, they were none too warm.
By noon Robert's ankle, not thoroughly hardened to the snowshoes,
began to chafe, and they stopped to rest in a dense grove, where the
searching north wind was turned aside from them. They were traveling
by the sun for the south end of Lake George, but as they were in the
vast plexus of mountains, where their speed could not be great, even
under the best of conditions, they calculated that they would be many
days and nights on the way.
They stayed fully an hour in the shelter of the trees, and an hour
later came to a frozen lake over which the traveling was easy, but
after they had passed it they entered a land of close thickets, in
which their progress was extremely slow. At night, the cold was very
great, but, as they scooped out a deep hollow in the snow, though they
attempted no fire, they were able to keep warm within their bearskins.
A second and a third day passed in like fashion, and their progress to
the south was unimpeded, though slow. They beheld no signs of human
life save their own, but invariably in the night, and often in the
day, they heard distant wolves howling.
On the fourth day the temperature rose rapidly and the surface of
the snow softened, making their southward march much harder. Their
snowshoes clogged so much and the strain upon their ankles grew so
great that they decided to go into camp long before sunset, and give
themselves a thorough rest. They also scraped away the snow and
lighted a fire for the first time, no small task, as the snow was
still very deep, and it required much hunting to find the fallen
wood. But when the cheerful blaze came they felt repaid for all their
trouble. They rejoiced in the glow for an hour or so, and then Tayoga
decided that he would go on a short hunting trip along the course of a
stream that they could see about a quarter of a mile below.
"It may be that I can rouse up a deer," he said. "They are likely to
be in the shelter of the thick bushes along the water's edge, but
whether I find them or not I will return shortly after sundown. Do you
await me here, Dagaeoga."
"I won't stir. I'm too tired," said Robert.
The Onondaga put on his snowshoes again, and strapped to his back his
share of the ammunition and supplies--it had been agreed by the two
that neither should ever go anywhere without his half, lest they
become separated. Then he departed on smooth, easy strokes, almost
like one who skated, and was soon out of sight among the bushes at the
edge of the stream. Robert settled back to the warmth and brightness
of the fire, and awaited in peace the sound of a shot telling that
Tayoga had found the deer.
He had been so weary, and the blaze was so soothing that he sank into
a state, not sleep, but nevertheless full of dreams. He saw Willet
again, and heard him tell the tale how he had reached the lake and
the army with Garay's letter. He saw Colonel Johnson, and the young
English officer, Grosvenor, and Colden and Wilton and Carson and all
his old friends, and then he heard a crunch on the snow near him. Had
Tayoga come back so soon and without his deer? He did not raise his
drooping eyelids until he heard the crunch again, and then when he
opened them he sprang suddenly to his feet, his heart beating fast
A half dozen dark figures rushed upon him. He snatched at his rifle
and tried to meet the first of them with a bullet, but the range was
too close. He nevertheless managed to get the muzzle in the air and
pull the trigger. He remembered even in that terrible moment to do
that much and Tayoga would hear the sharp, lashing report. Then the
horde was upon him. Someone struck him a stunning blow on the side of
the head with the flat of a tomahawk, and he fell unconscious.
When he returned to the world, the twilight had come, the hole in the
snow had been enlarged very much, and so had the fire. Seated around
it were a dozen Indians, wrapped in thick blankets and armed heavily,
and one white man whose attire was a strange compound of savage and
civilized. He wore a three-cornered French military hat with a great,
drooping plume of green, an immense cloak of fine green cloth, lined
with fur, but beneath it he was clothed in buckskin.
The man himself was as picturesque as his attire. He was young, his
face was lean and bold, his nose hooked and fierce like that of a
Roman leader, his skin, originally fair, now tanned almost to a
mahogany color by exposure, his figure of medium height, but obviously
very powerful. Robert saw at once that he was a Frenchman and he felt
instinctively that it was Langlade. But his head was aching from the
blow of the tomahawk, and he waited in a sort of apathy.
"So you've come back to earth," said the Frenchman, who had seen his
eyes open--he spoke in good French, which Robert understood perfectly.
"I never had any intention of staying away," replied young Lennox.
The Frenchman laughed.
"At least you show a proper spirit," he said. "I commend you also for
managing to fire your rifle, although the bullet hit none of us. It
gave the alarm to your comrade and he got clean away. I can make a
guess as to who you are."
"My name is Robert Lennox."
"I thought so, and your comrade was Tayoga, the Onondaga who is not
unknown to us, a great young warrior, I admit freely. I am sorry we
did not take him."
"I don't think you'll get a chance to lay hands on him. He'll be too
clever for you."
"I admit that, too. He's gone like the wind on his snowshoes. It seems
queer that you and he should be here in the mountain wilderness so far
north of your lines, in the very height of a fierce winter."
"It's just as queer that you should be here."
"Perhaps so, from your point of view, though it's lucky that I should
have been present with these dark warriors of mine when you were
taken. They suffered heavily in the battle by Andiatarocte, and but
for me they might now be using you as fuel. Don't wince, you know
their ways and I only tell a fact. In truth, I can't make you any
promise in regard to your ultimate fate, but, at present, I need you
alive more than I need you dead."
"You won't get any military information out of me."
"I don't know. We shall wait and see."
"Do you know the Chevalier de St. Luc?"
"Of course. All Frenchmen and all Canadians know him, or know of him,
but he is far from here, and we shall not tell him that we have a
young American prisoner. The chevalier is a great soldier and the
bravest of men, but he has one fault. He does not hate the English and
the Bostonnais enough."
Robert was not bound, but his arms and snowshoes had been taken and
the Indians were all about him. There was no earthly chance of escape.
With the wisdom of the wise he resigned himself at once to his
situation, awaiting a better moment.
"I'm at your command," he said politely to Langlade.
The French leader laughed, partly in appreciation.
"You show intelligence," he said. "You do not resist, when you see
that resistance is impossible."
Robert settled himself into a more comfortable position by the fire.
His head still ached, but it was growing easier. He knew that it was
best to assume a careless and indifferent tone.
"I'm not ready to leave you now," he said, "but I shall go later."
Langlade laughed again, and then directed two of the Indians to hunt
more wood. They obeyed. Robert saw that they never questioned his
leadership, and he saw anew how the French partisans established
themselves so thoroughly in the Indian confidence. The others threw
away more snow, making a comparatively large area of cleared ground,
and, when the wood was brought, they built a great fire, around which
all of them sat and ate heartily from their packs.
Langlade gave Robert food which he forced himself to eat, although he
was not hungry. He judged that the French partisan, who could be cruel
enough on occasion, had some object in treating him well for the
present, and he was not one to disturb such a welcome frame of mind.
His weapons and the extra rifle of Garay that they had brought with
them, had already been divided among the warriors, who, pleased with
the reward, were content to wait.
The night was spent at the captured camp, and in the morning the
entire party, Robert included, started on snowshoes almost due north.
The young prisoner felt a sinking of the heart, when his face was
turned away from his own people, and he began an unknown captivity. He
had been certain at first of escape, but it did not seem so sure now.
In former wars many prisoners taken on raids into Canada had never
been heard of again, and when he reflected in cold blood he knew that
the odds were heavy against a successful flight. Yet there was Tayoga.
His warning shot had enabled the Onondaga to evade the band, and his
comrade would never desert him. All his surpassing skill and tenacity
would be devoted to his aid. In that lay his hope.
They pressed on toward the north as fast as they could go, and when
night came they were all exhausted, but they ate heavily again and
Robert received his share. Langlade continued to treat him kindly,
though he still had the feeling that the partisan, if it served him,
would be fully as cruel as the Indians. At night, although they built
big fires, Langlade invariably posted a strong watch, and Robert
noticed also that he usually shared it, or a part of it, from which
habit he surmised that the partisan had received the name of the Owl.
He had hoped that Tayoga might have a chance to rescue him in the
dark, but he saw now that the vigilance was too great.
He hid his intense disappointment and kept as cheerful a face as he
could. Langlade, the only white man in the Indian band, was drawn
to him somewhat by the mere fact of racial kinship, and the two
frequently talked together in the evenings in what was a sort of
compulsory friendliness, Robert in this manner picking up scraps of
information which when welded together amounted to considerable, being
thus confirmed in his belief that Willet with the letter had reached
the lake in time. St. Luc with a formidable force had undertaken a
swift march on Albany, but the town had been put in a position of
defense, and St. Luc's vanguard had been forced to retreat by a
large body of rangers after a severe conflict. As the success of the
chevalier's daring enterprise had depended wholly on surprise, he had
then withdrawn northward.
But Robert could not find out by any kind of questions where St. Luc
was, although he learned that Garay had never returned to Albany and
that Hendrik Martinus had made an opportune flight. Langlade, who was
thoroughly a wilderness rover, talked freely and quite boastfully
of the French power, which he deemed all pervading and invincible.
Despite the battle at Lake George the fortunes of war had gone so far
in favor of France and Canada and against Britain and the Bostonnais.
When the great campaign was renewed in the spring more and bigger
victories would crown French valor. The Owl grew expansive as he
talked to the youth, his prisoner.
"The Marquis de Montcalm is coming to lead all our armies," he said,
"and he is a far abler soldier than Dieskau. You really did us a great
service when you captured the Saxon. Only a Frenchman is fit to
lead Frenchmen, and under a mighty captain we will crush you. The
Bostonnais are not the equal of the French in the forest. Save a few
like Willet, and Rogers, the English and Americans do not learn the
ways of woods warfare, nor do you make friends with the Indians as we
"That is true in the main," responded Robert, "but we shall win
despite it. Both the English and the English Colonials have the power
to survive defeat. Can the French and the Canadians do as well?"
Langlade could not be shaken in his faith. He saw nothing but the most
brilliant victories, and not only did he boast of French power, but he
gloried even more in the strength of the Indian hordes, that had come
and that were coming in ever increasing numbers to the help of France.
Only the Hodenosaunee stood aloof from Quebec, and he believed the
Great League even yet would be brought over to his side.
Robert argued with the Owl, but he made no impression upon him.
Meanwhile they continued to march north by west.
The Owl, with his warriors and captive, descended in time into the low
country in the northwest. They, too, had been on snowshoes, but now they
discarded them, since they were entering a region in which little snow had
fallen, the severity of the weather abating greatly. Robert was still
treated well, though guarded with the utmost care. The Indians, who seemed
to be from some tribe about the Great Lakes, did not speak any dialect he
knew, and, if they understood English, they did not use it. He was
compelled to do all his talking with the Owl who, however, was not at all
taciturn. Robert saw early that while a wonderful woodsman and a born
partisan leader, he was also a Gascon, vain, boastful and full of words. He
tried to learn from him something about his possible fate, but he could
obtain no hint, until they had been traveling more than three weeks, and
Langlade had been mellowed by an uncommonly good supper of tender game,
which the Indians had cooked for him.
"You've been trying to draw that information out of me ever since you were
captured," he said. "You were indirect and clever about it, but I noticed
it. I, Charles Langlade, have perceptions, you must understand. If I do
live in the woods I can read the minds of white men."
"I know you can," said Robert, smilingly. "I observed from the first that
you had an acute intellect."
"Your judgment does you credit, my young friend. I did not tell you what I
was going to do with you, because I did not know myself. I know more about
you than you think I do. One of my warriors was with Tandakora in several
of his battles with you and Willet, that mighty hunter whom the Indians
call the Great Bear, and Tayoga, the Onondaga, who is probably following on
our trail in the hope of rescuing you. I have also heard of you from
others. Oh, as I tell you, I, Charles Langlade, take note of all things.
You are a prisoner of importance. I would not give you to Tandakora,
because he would burn you, and a man does not burn valuable goods. I would
not send you to St. Luc, because, being a generous man, he might take some
foolish notion to exchange you, or even parole you. I would not give you to
the Marquis Duquesne at Quebec, because then I might lose my pawn in the
game, and, in any event, the Marquis Duquesne is retiring as Governor
General of New France."
"Is that true? I have met him. He seemed to me to be a great man."
"Perhaps he is, but he was too haughty and proud for the powerful men who
dwelt at Quebec, and who control New France. I have heard something of your
appearance at the capital with the Great Bear and the Onondaga, and of what
chanced at Bigot's ball, and elsewhere. Ah, you see, as I told you, I,
Charles Langlade, know all things! But to return, the Marquis Duquesne
gives way to the Marquis de Vaudreuil. Oh, that was accomplished some time
ago, and perhaps you know of it. So, I do not wish to give you to the
Marquis de Vaudreuil. I might wait and present you to the Marquis de
Montcalm when he comes, but that does not please me, either, and thus I
have about decided to present you to the Dove."
"The Dove! Who is the Dove?"
Langlade laughed with intense enjoyment.
"The Dove," he replied, "is a woman, none other than Madame de Langlade
herself, a Huron. You English do not marry Indian women often--and yet
Colonel William Johnson has taken a Mohawk to wife--but we French know them
and value them. Do not think to have an easy and careless jailer when you
are put in the hands of the Dove. She will guard you even more zealously
than I, Charles Langlade, and you will notice that I have neither given you
any opportunity to escape nor your friend, Tayoga, the slightest chance to
"It is true, Monsieur Langlade. I've abandoned any such hope on the march,
although I may elude you later."
"The Dove, as I told you, will attend to that. But it will be a pretty play
of wits, and I don't mind the test. I'm aware that you have intelligence
and skill, but the Dove, though a woman, possesses the wit of a great
chief, and I'll match her against you."
There was a further abatement of the weather, and they reached a region
where there was no snow at all. Warm winds blew from the direction of the
Great Lakes and the band traveled fast through a land in which the game
almost walked up to their rifles to be killed, such plenty causing the
Indians, as usual, now that they were not on the war path, to feast
prodigiously before huge fires, Langlade often joining them, and showing
that he was an adept in Indian customs.
One evening, just as they were about to light the fire, the warrior who had
been posted as sentinel at the edge of the forest gave a signal and a few
moments later a tall, spare figure in a black robe with a belt about the
waist appeared. Robert's heart gave a great leap. The wearer of the black
robe was an elderly man with a thin face, ascetic and high. The captive
recognized him at once. It was Father Philibert Drouillard, the priest,
whose life had already crossed his more than once, and it was not strange
to see him there, as the French priests roamed far through the great
wilderness of North America, seeking to save the souls of the savages.
Langlade, when he beheld Father Drouillard, sprang at once to his feet, and
Robert also arose quickly. The priest saw young Lennox, but he did not
speak to him just yet, accepting the food that the Owl offered him, and
sitting down with his weary feet to the fire that had now been lighted.
"You have traveled far, Father?" said Langlade, solicitously.
"From the shores of Lake Huron. I have converts there, and I must see that
they do not grow weak in the faith."
"All men, red and white, respect Philibert Drouillard. Why are you alone,
"A runner from the Christian village came with me until yesterday. Then I
sent him back, because I would not keep him too long from his people. I can
go the rest of the way alone, as it will be but a few days before I meet a
Then he turned to Robert for the first time.
"And you, my son," he said, "I am sorry it has fared thus with you."
"It has not gone badly, Father," said Robert. "Monsieur de Langlade has
treated me well. I have naught to complain of save that I'm a prisoner."
"It is a good lad, Charles Langlade," said the priest to the partisan, "and
I am glad he has suffered no harm at your hands. What do you purpose to do
"It is my present plan to take him to the village in which Madame Langlade,
otherwise the Dove, abides. He will be her prisoner until a further plan
develops, and you know how well she watches."
A faint smile passed over the thin face of the priest.
"It is true, Charles Langlade," he said. "That which escapes the eyes of
the Dove is very small, but I would take the lad with me to Montreal."
"Nay, Father, that cannot be. I am second to nobody in respect for Holy
Church, and for you, Father Drouillard, whose good deeds are known to all,
and whose bad deeds are none, but those who fight the war must use their
judgment in fighting it, and the prisoners are theirs."
Father Drouillard sighed.
"It is so, Charles Langlade," he said, "but, as I have said, the prisoner
is a good youth. I have met him before, as I told you, and I would save
him. You know not what may happen in the Indian village, if you chance to
"The Dove will have charge of him. She can be trusted."
"And yet I would take him with me to Montreal. He will give his parole that
he will not attempt to escape on the way. It is the custom for prisoners to
be ransomed. I will send to you from Montreal five golden louis for him."
Langlade shook his head.
"Ten golden louis," said Father Drouillard.
"Nay, Father, it is no use," said the partisan. "I cannot be tempted to
exchange him for money."
"Fifteen golden louis, Charles Langlade, though I may have to borrow from
the funds of the Church to send them to you."
"I respect your motive, Father, but 'tis impossible. This is a prisoner of
great value and I must use him as a pawn in the game of war. He was taken
fairly and I cannot give him up."
Again Father Drouillard sighed, and this time heavily.
"I would save you from captivity, Mr. Lennox," he said, "but, as you see, I
Robert was much moved.
"I thank you, Father Drouillard, for your kind intentions," he said. "It
may be that some day I shall have a chance to repay them. Meanwhile, I do
not dread the coming hospitality of Madame Langlade."
The priest shook his head sadly.
"It is a great and terrible war," he said, "though I cannot doubt that
France will prevail, but I fear for you, my son, a captive in the vast
wilderness. Although you are an enemy and a heretic I have only good
feeling for you, and I know that the great Chevalier, St. Luc, also regards
you with favor."
"Know you anything of St. Luc?" asked Robert eagerly.
"Only that the expedition he was to lead against Albany has turned back and
that he has gone to Canada to fight under the banner of Montcalm, when he
comes with the great leaders, De Levis, Bourlamaque and the others."
"I thought I might meet him."
"Not here, with Charles Langlade."
The priest spent the night with them and in the morning, after giving them
his blessing, captors and captive alike, he departed on his long and
solitary journey to Montreal.
"A good man," said Robert, as he watched his tall, thin figure disappear in
the surrounding forest.
"Truly spoken," said the Owl. "I am little of a churchman myself, the
forest and the war trail please me better, but the priests are a great prop
to France in the New World. They carry with them the authority of His
Majesty, King Louis."
A week later they reached a small Indian village on Lake Ontario where the
Owl at present made his abode, and in the largest lodge of which his
patient spouse, the Dove, was awaiting him. She was young, much taller than
the average Indian woman, and, in her barbaric fashion, quite handsome. But
her face was one of the keenest and most alert Robert had ever seen. All
the trained observation of countless ancestors seemed stored in her and now
he understood why Langlade had boasted so often and so warmly of her skill
as a guard. She regarded him with a cold eye as she listened attentively to
her husband's instructions, and, for the remainder of that winter and
afterward, she obeyed them with a thoroughness beyond criticism.
The village included perhaps four hundred souls, of whom about a hundred
were warriors. Langlade was king and Madame Langlade, otherwise the Dove,
was queen, the two ruling with absolute sovereignty, their authority due to
their superior intelligence and will and to the service they rendered to
the little state, because a state it was, organized completely in all its
parts, although composed of only a few hundred human beings. In the bitter
weather that came again, Langlade directed the hunting in the adjacent
forest and the fishing conducted on the great lake. He also made presents
from time to time of gorgeous beads or of huge red or yellow blankets that
had been sent from Montreal. Robert could not keep from admiring his
diplomacy and tact, and now he understood more thoroughly than ever how the
French partisans made themselves such favorites with the wild Indians.
His own position in the village was tentative. Langlade still seemed
uncertain what to do with him, and held him meanwhile for a possible reward
of great value. He was never allowed to leave the cluster of tepees for the
forest, except with the warriors, but he took part in the fishing on the
lake, being a willing worker there, because idleness grew terribly irksome,
and, when he had nothing to do, he chafed over his long captivity. He slept
in a small tepee built against that of Monsieur and Madame Langlade, and
from which there was no egress save through theirs.
He was enclosed only within walls of skin, and he believed that he might
have broken a way through them, but he felt that the eyes of the Dove were
always on him. He even had the impression that she was watching him while
he slept, and sometimes he dreamed that she was fanged and clawed like a
Langlade went away once, being gone a long time, and while he was absent
the Dove redoubled her watchfulness. Robert's singular impression that her
eyes were always on him was strengthened, and these eyes were increased to
the hundred of Argus and more. It became so oppressive that he was always
eager to go out with the warriors in their canoes for the fishing. On Lake
Ontario he was sure the eyes of the Dove could not reach him, but the work
was arduous and often perilous. The great lake was not to be treated
lightly. Often it took toll of the Indians who lived around its shores.
Winter storms came up suddenly, the waves rolled like those of the sea,
freezing spray dashed over them, and it required a supreme exertion of
both skill and strength to keep the light canoes from being swamped.
Yet Robert was always happier on water than on land. On shore, confined
closely and guarded zealously, his imaginative temperament suffered and he
became moody and depressed, but on the lakes, although still a captive, he
felt the winds of freedom. When the storms came and the icy blasts swept
down upon them he responded, body and soul. Relief and freedom were to be
found in the struggle with the elements and he always went back to shore
refreshed and stronger of spirit and flesh. He also had a feeling that
Tayoga might come by way of the lake, and when he was with the little
Indian fleet he invariably watched the watery horizon for a lone canoe, but
he never saw any.
The absence of news from his friends, and from the world to which they
belonged, was the most terrible burden of all. If the Indians had news they
told him none. He seemed to have vanished completely. But, however numerous
may have been his moments of despondency, he was not made of the stuff that
yields. The flexible steel always rebounded. He took thorough care of his
health and strength. In his close little tepee he flexed and tensed his
muscles and went through physical exercises every night and morning, but it
was on the lake in the fishing, where the Indians grew to recognize his
help, that he achieved most. Fighting the winds, the water and the cold, he
felt his muscles harden and his chest enlarge, and he would say to himself
that when the spring came and he escaped he would be more fit for the life
of a free forest runner than he had ever been before. Langlade, when he
returned, took notice of his increased size and strength and did not
"I like any prisoner of mine to flourish," he laughed. "The more superior
you become the greater will be the reward for me when I dispose of you. You
have found the Dove all I promised you she should be, haven't you, Monsieur
"All and more," replied Robert. "Although she may be out of sight I feel
that her eyes are always on me, and this is true of the night as well as
"A great woman, the Dove, and a wife to whom I give all credit. If it
should come into the king's mind to call me to Versailles and bestow upon
me some kind of an accolade perhaps Madame Langlade would not feel at home
in the great palace nor at the Grand Trianon, nor even at the Little
Trianon, and maybe I wouldn't either. But since no such idea will enter His
Majesty's mind, and I have no desire to leave the great forests, the Dove
is a perfect wife for me. She is the true wilderness helpmate, accomplished
in all the arts of the life I live and love, and with the eye and soul of a
warrior. I repeat, young Monsieur Lennox, where could I find a wife more
"Nowhere, Monsieur Langlade. The more I see you two together the more
nearly I think you are perfectly matched."
The Owl seemed pleased with the recognition of his marital felicity, and
grew gracious, dropping some crumbs of information for Robert. He had been
to Montreal and the arrival of the great soldier, the Marquis de Montcalm,
with fresh generals and fresh troops from France, was expected daily at
Quebec. The English, although their fleets were larger, could not intercept
them, and it was now a certainty that the spring campaign would sweep over
Albany and almost to New York. He spoke with so much confidence, in truth
with such an absolute certainty, that Robert's heart sank and then came
back again with a quick rebound.
After a winter that had seemed to the young captive an age, spring came
with a glorious blossoming and blooming. The wilderness burst into green
and the great lake shining in the sun became peaceful and friendly. Warm
winds blew out of the west and the blood flowed more swiftly in human
veins. But spring passed and summer came. Then Langlade announced that he
would depart with the best of the warriors, and that Robert would go with
him, although he refused absolutely to say where or for what purpose.
Robert's joy was dimmed in nowise by his ignorance of his destination. He
had not found the remotest chance to escape while in the village, but it
might come on the march, and there was also a relief and pleasant
excitement in entering the wilderness again. He joyously made ready, the
Dove gave her lord and equal, not her master, a Spartan farewell, and the
formidable band, Robert in the center, plunged into the forest.
When the great mass of green enclosed them he felt a mighty surge of hope.
His imaginative temperament was on fire. A chance for him would surely
come. Tayoga might be hidden in the thickets. Action brought renewed
courage. Langlade, who was watching him, smiled.
"I read your mind, young Monsieur Lennox," he said. "Have I not told you
that I, Charles Langlade, have the perceptions? Do I not see and interpret
"Then what do you see and interpret now?"
"A great hope in your heart that you will soon bid us farewell. You think
that when we are deep in the forest it will not be difficult to elude our
watch. And yet you could not escape when we were going through this same
forest to the village. Now why do you think it will be easier when you are
going through it again, but away?"
"The Dove is not at the end of the march. Her eyes will no longer be upon
The Owl laughed deeply and heartily.
"You're a lad of sense," he said, "when you lay such a tribute at the feet
of that incomparable woman, that model wife, that true helpmate in every
sense of the word. Why should you be anxious to leave us? I could have you
adopted into the tribe, and you know the ceremony of adoption is sacred
with the Indians. And let me whisper another little fact in your ear which
will surely move you. The Dove has a younger sister, so much like her that
they are twins in character if not in years. She will soon be of
marriageable age, and she shall be reserved for you. Think! Then you will
be my brother-in-law and the brother-in-law of the incomparable Dove."
"No! No!" exclaimed Robert hastily.
Now the laughter of the Owl was uncontrollable. His face writhed and his
"A lad does not recognize his own good!" he exclaimed, "or is it
bashfulness? Nay, don't be afraid, young Monsieur Lennox! Perhaps I could
get the Dove to intercede for you!"
Robert was forced to smile.
"I thank you," he said, "but I am far from the marriageable age myself."
"Then the Dove and I are not to have you for a brother-in-law?" said
Langlade. "You show little appreciation, young Monsieur Lennox, when it is
so easy for you to become a member of such an interesting family."
Robert was confirmed in his belief that there was much of the wild man in
the Owl, who in many respects had become more Indian than the Indians. He
was a splendid trailer, a great hunter, and the hardships of the forest
were nothing to him. He read every sign of the wilderness and yet he
retained all that was French also, lightness of manner, gayety, quick wit
and a politeness that never failed. It is likely that the courage and
tenacity of the French leaders were never shown to better advantage than in
the long fight they made for dominion in North America. Despite the fact
that he was an enemy, and his belief that Langlade could be ruthless, on
occasion, Robert was compelled to like him.
The journey, the destination yet unknown to him, was long, but it was not
tedious to the young prisoner. He watched the summer progress and the
colors deepen and he was cheered continually by the hope of escape, a fact
that Langlade recognized and upon which he commented in a detached manner,
from time to time. Now and then the leader himself went ahead with a scout
or two and one morning he said to Robert:
"I saw something in the forest last night."
"The forest contains much," said Robert.
"But this was of especial interest to you. It was the trace of a footstep,
and I am convinced it was made by your friend Tayoga, the Onondaga.
Doubtless he is seeking to effect your escape."
Robert's heart gave a leap, and there was a new light in his eyes, of which
the shrewd Owl took notice.
"I have heard of the surpassing skill of the Onondaga," he continued, "but
I, Charles Langlade, have skill of my own. It will be some time before we
arrive at the place to which we are going, and I lay you a wager that
Tayoga does not rescue you."
"I have no money, Monsieur Langlade," said Robert, "and if I had I could
not accept a wager upon such a subject."
"Then we'll let it be mental, wholly. My skill is matched against the
combined knowledge of Tayoga and yourself. He'll never be able, no matter
how dark the night, to get near our camp and communicate with you."
Although Robert hoped and listened often in the dusk for the sound of a
signal from Tayoga, Langlade made good his boast. The two were able to
establish no communication. It was soon proved that he was in the forest
near them, one of the warriors even catching a sufficient glimpse of his
form for a shot, which, however, went wild. The Onondaga did not reply,
and, despite the impossibility of reaching him, Robert was cheered by the
knowledge that he was near. He had a faithful and powerful friend who would
help him some day, be it soon or late.
The summer was well advanced when Langlade announced that their journey was
"Before night," he said triumphantly, "we will be in the camp of the
Marquis de Montcalm, and we will meet the great soldier himself. I, Charles
Langlade, told you that it would be so, and it is so."
"What, Montcalm near?" exclaimed Robert, aflame with interest.
"Look at the sky above the tops of those trees in the east and you will see
a smudge of smoke, beneath which stand the tents of the French army."
"The French army here! And what is it doing in the wilderness?"
"That, young Monsieur Lennox, rests on the knees of the gods. I have some
curiosity on the subject myself."
An hour or two later they came within sight of the French camp, and Robert
saw that it was a numerous and powerful force for time and place. The tents
stood in rows, and soldiers, both French and Canadian, were everywhere,
while many Indian warriors were on the outskirts. A large white marquee
near the center he was sure was that of the commander-in-chief, and he was
eager to see at once the famous Montcalm, of whom he was hearing so much.
But to his intense disappointment, Langlade went into camp with the
"The Marquis de Montcalm is a great man," he said, "the commander-in-chief
of all the forces of His Majesty, King Louis, in North America, and even I,
Charles Langlade, will not approach him without ceremony. We will rest in
the edge of the forest, and when he hears that I have come he will send for
me, because he will want to know many things which none other can tell him.
And it may be, young Monsieur Lennox, that, in time, he will wish to see
So Robert waited with as much patience as he could muster, although he
slept but little that night, the noises in the great French camp and his
own curiosity keeping him awake. What was Montcalm doing so far from the
chief seats of the French power in Canada, and did the English and
Americans know that he was here?
Curiously enough he had little apprehension for himself, it was rather a
feeling of joy that he had returned to the world of great affairs. Soon he
would know what had been occurring during the long winter when he was
buried in an Indian village, and he might even hear of Willet. Toward dawn
he slept a little, and after daylight he was awakened by Langlade who was
as assured and talkative as usual.
"It may be, my gallant young prisoner," he said, ruffling and strutting,
"that I am about to lose you, but if it is so it will be for value
received. I, Charles Langlade, have seen the great Marquis de Montcalm, but
it was an equal speaking to an equal. It was last night in his grand
marquee, where he sat surrounded by his trusted lieutenants, De Levis, St.
Luc, Bourlamaque, Coulon de Villiers and the others. But I was not daunted
at all. I repeat that it was an equal speaking to an equal, and the Marquis
was pleased to commend me for the work I have already done for France."
"And St. Luc was there?"
"He was. The finest figure of them all. A brave and generous man and a
great leader. He stood at the right hand of the Marquis de Montcalm, while
I talked and he listened with attention, because the Chevalier de St. Luc
is always willing to learn from others. No false pride about him! And the
Marquis de Montcalm is like him. I gave the commander-in-chief much
excellent advice which he accepted with gratitude, and in return for you,
whom he expects to put to use, he has raised me in rank, and has extended
my authority over the western tribes. Ah, I knew that you were a prize when
I captured you, and I was wise to save you as a pawn."
"How can I be of any value to the Marquis de Montcalm?"
"That is to be seen. He knows his own plans best. You are to come with me
at once into his presence."
Robert was immediately in a great stir. He straightened out, and, with his
hands, brushed his own clothing, smoothed his hair, intending, with his
usual desire for neatness, to make the best possible appearance before the
After breakfast Langlade took him to the great marquee in which Montcalm
sat, as the morning was cool, and when their names had been taken in a
young officer announced that they might enter, the officer, to Robert's
great surprise, being none other than De Galissonniere, who showed equal
amazement at meeting him there. The Frenchman gave him a hearty grasp of
the hand in English fashion, but they did not have time to say anything.
Robert, walking by the side of Langlade, entered the great tent with some
trepidation, and beheld a swarthy man of middle years, in the uniform of a
general of France, giving orders to two officers who stood respectfully at
attention. Neither of the officers was St. Luc, nor were they among those
whom Robert had seen at Quebec. He surmised, however, that they were De
Levis and Bourlamaque, and he learned soon that he was right. Langlade
paused until Montcalm was ready to speak to him, and Robert stood in
silence at his side. Montcalm finished what he had to say and turned his
eyes upon the young prisoner. His countenance was mild, but Robert felt
that his gaze was searching.
"And this, Captain Langlade," he said, "is the youth of whom you were
So the Owl had been made a captain, and the promotion had been one of his
rewards. Robert was not sorry.
"It is the one, sir," replied Langlade, "young Monsieur Robert Lennox. He
has been a prisoner in my village all the winter, and he has as friends
some of the most powerful people in the British Colonies."
Montcalm continued to gaze at Robert as if he would read his soul.
"Sit down, Mr. Lennox," he said, not unkindly, motioning him to a little
stool. Robert took the indicated seat and so quick is youth to warm to
courtesy that he felt respect and even liking for the Marquis, official and
able enemy though he knew him to be. De Levis and Bourlamaque also were
watching him with alert gaze, but they said nothing.
"I hear," continued Montcalm, with a slight smile, "that you have not
suffered in Captain Langlade's village, and that you have adapted yourself
well to wild life."
"I've had much experience with the wilderness," said Robert. "Most of my
years have been passed there, and it was easy for me to live as Captain
Langlade lived. I've no complaint to make of his treatment, though I will
say that he has guarded me well."
"It agrees with Captain Langlade's own account," he said. "I suppose that
one must be born, or at least pass his youth in it, to get the way of this
vast wilderness. We of old Europe, where everything has been ruled and
measured for many centuries, can have no conception of it until we see it,
and even then we do not understand it. Although with an army about me I
feel lost in so much forest. But enough of that. It is of yourself and not
of myself that I wish to speak. I have heard good reports of you from one
of my own officers, who, though he has been opposed to you many times,
nevertheless likes you."
"The Chevalier de St. Luc!"
"Aye, the Chevalier de St. Luc. I know, also, that you have been in the
councils of some of the Colonial leaders. You are a friend of Sir William
"Colonel William Johnson?"
"No, Sir William Johnson. In reward for the affair at Lake George, in which
our Dieskau was unfortunate, he has been made a baronet by the British
"I am glad."
"And doubtless Sir William is also. You know him well, I understand, and he
was still at the lake when you left on the journey that led to your
Robert was silent.
"I have not asked you to answer," continued Montcalm, "but I assume that it
is so. His army, although it was victorious in the battle there, did not
advance. There was much disagreement among the governors of the British
Colonies. The provinces could not be induced to act together?"
Robert was still silent.
"Again I say I am not asking you to answer, but your silence confirms the
truth of our reports."
Robert flushed, and a warm reply trembled on his lips, but he restrained
the words. A swift smile passed over the dark face of Montcalm.
"You see, Mr. Lennox," he continued, "I am not asking you to say anything,
but there was great disappointment among the British Colonials because
there was no advance after the battle at the lake. It has also cooled the
enthusiasm of the Iroquois, many of whom have gone home and who perhaps
will take no further part in the war as the allies of the English."
Again Robert flushed and again he bit back the hot reply. He looked
uneasily at De Levis and Bourlamaque, but their faces expressed nothing.
Then Montcalm suddenly changed the subject.
"I am going to make you a very remarkable offer," he said, "and do not
think for a moment it is going to imply any change of colors on your part,
or the least suspicion of treason, which I could not ask of the gentleman
you obviously are. I request of you your parole, your word of honor that
you will not take any further part in this war."
"I can't do it! As I have often told Captain Langlade, I intend to escape."
"That is impossible. If you could not do so when you were in Captain
Langlade's village, you have no chance at all now that you are surrounded
by an army. But since you will not give me your parole it will become
necessary to keep you as a prisoner of war, and to send you to a safe
"Many of our people in this and former wars with the French have been held
prisoners in the Province of Quebec. I know somewhat of the city of Quebec,
and it is not wholly an unpleasant place."
"I did not have Quebec, either the province or the city, in mind so far as
concerns you, Mr. Lennox. Three of our ships are to return shortly to
France, and, not wishing to give us your parole, you are to go to France."
"Yes, to France. Where else? And you should rejoice. It is a fair and
glorious land. And I have heard there is a spirit in you, Mr. Lennox, which
is almost French, a kindred touch, a Gallic salt and savor, so to speak."
"I'm wholly American and British."
"Perhaps there are others who know you better than you know yourself. I
repeat, there is about you a French finish. Why should you deny it? You
should be proud of it. We are the oldest of the great civilized nations,
and the first in culture. Your stay in France should be very pleasant. You
can drink there at the fountain of ancient culture and glory. The
wilderness is magnificent in its way, but high civilization is magnificent
also in its own and another way. You can see Paris, the city of light, the
center of the world, and you can behold the splendid court of His Majesty,
King Louis. That should appeal to a young man of taste and discernment."
Robert felt a thrill and his pulses leaped, but the thrill lasted only a
moment. It was clearly impossible that he should go even as a prisoner,
though a willing one, to France, and he did not see any reason why the
Marquis de Montcalm should take any personal interest in his future. But
responding invariably to the temperature about him his manner was now as
polite as that of the French general.
"You have my thanks, sir," he said, "for the kindly way in which you offer
to treat a prisoner, but it is impossible for me to go to France, unless
you should choose to send me there by sheer force."
The slight smile passed again over the face of the Marquis de Montcalm.
"I fancied, young sir," he said, "that this would be your answer, and,
being what it is, I cannot say that it has lowered you aught in my esteem.
For the present, you abide with us."
Robert bowed. Montcalm inspired in him a certain liking, and a decided
respect. Then, still under the escort of Langlade, he withdrew.
THE SIGN OF THE BEAR
Robert returned with Langlade to the partisan's camp at the edge of the
forest adjoining that of the main French army, where the Indian warriors
had lighted fires and were cooking steaks of the deer. He was disposed to
be silent, but Langlade as usual chattered volubly, discoursing of French
might and glory, but saying nothing that would indicate to his prisoner the
meaning of the present military array in the forest.
Robert did not hear more than half of the Owl's words, because he was
absorbed in those of Montcalm, which still lingered in his mind. Why should
the Marquis wish to send him to France, and to have him treated, when he
was there, more as a guest than as a prisoner? Think as he would he could
find no answer to the question, but the Owl evidently had been impressed by
his reception from Montcalm, as he treated him now with distinguished
courtesy. He also seemed particularly anxious to have the good opinion of
the lad who had been so long his prisoner.
"Have I been harsh to you?" he asked with a trace of anxiety in his tone.
"Have I not always borne myself toward you as if you were an important
prisoner of war? It is true I set the Dove as an invincible sentinel over
you, but as a good soldier and loyal son of France I could do no less. Now,
I ask you, Monsieur Robert Lennox, have not I, Charles Langlade, conducted
myself as a fair and considerate enemy?"
"If I were to escape and be captured again, Captain Langlade, it is my
sincere wish that you should be my captor the second time, even as you were
The Owl was gratified, visibly and much, and then he announced a visitor.
Robert sprang to his feet as he saw St. Luc approaching, and his heart
throbbed as always when he was in the presence of this man. The chevalier
was in a splendid uniform of white and silver unstained by the forest. His
thick, fair hair was clubbed in a queue and powdered neatly, and a small
sword, gold hilted, hung at his belt. He was the finest and most gallant
figure that Robert had yet seen in the wilderness, the very spirit and
essence of that brave and romantic France with which England and her
colonies were fighting a duel to the death. And yet St. Luc always seemed
to him too the soul of knightly chivalry, one to whom it was impossible for
him to bear any hostility that was not merely official. His own hand went
forward to meet the extended hand of the chevalier.
"We seem destined to meet many times, Mr. Lennox," said St. Luc, "in
battle, and even under more pleasant conditions. I had heard that you were
the prisoner of our great forest ranger, Captain Langlade, and that you
would be received by our commander-in-chief, the Marquis de Montcalm."
"He made me a most extraordinary offer, that I go as a prisoner of war to
Paris, but almost in the state of a guest."
"And you thought fit to decline, which was unwise in you, though to be
expected of a lad of spirit. Sit down, Mr. Lennox, and we can have our
little talk in ease and comfort. It may be that I have something to do with
the proposition of the Marquis de Montcalm. Why not reconsider it and go to
France? England is bound to lose the war in America. We have the energy and
the knowledge. The Indian tribes are on our side. Even the powerful
Hodenosaunee may come over to us in time, and at the worst it will become
neutral. As a prisoner in France you will have no share in defeat, but
perhaps that does not appeal to you."
"It does not, but I thank you, Chevalier de St. Luc, for your many
kindnesses to me, although I don't understand them. Your solicitude for my
welfare cannot but awake my gratitude, but it has been more than once a
source of wonderment in my mind."
"Because you are a young and gallant enemy whom I would not see come to
Robert felt, however, that the chevalier was not stating the true reason,
and he felt also with equal force that he would keep secret in the face of
all questions, direct or indirect, the motives impelling him. St. Luc asked
him about his life in the Indian village with Langlade, and then came back
presently to Paris and France, which he described more vividly than even
Montcalm had done. He seemed to know the very qualities that would appeal
most to Robert, and, despite himself, the lad felt his heart leap more than
once. Paris appeared in deeper and more glowing colors than ever as the
city of light and soul, but he was firm in his resolution not to go there
as a prisoner, if choice should be left to him. St. Luc himself became
enamored of his own words as he spoke. His eyes glowed, and his tone took
on great warmth and enthusiasm. But presently he ceased and when he laughed
a little his laugh showed a slight tone of disappointment.
"I do not move you, Mr. Lennox," he said. "I can see by your eye that your
will is hardening against my words, and yet I could wish that you would
listen to me. You will believe me when I say I mean you only good."
"I am wholly sure of it, Monsieur de St. Luc," said Robert, trying to speak
lightly, "but a long while ago I formed a plan to escape, and if I should
go to France it would interfere with it seriously. It would not be so easy
to leave Paris, and come back to the province of New York, and while I am
in North America it is always possible. I informed Captain Langlade that I
meant to escape, and now I repeat it to you."
The chevalier laughed.
"Time will tell," he said. "Your ambition to leave is a proper and
patriotic motive on your part, and I should be the last to accuse it. But
'tis not easy of accomplishment. I betray no military secret when I say
our army marches quickly and you will, of necessity, march with us. Captain
Langlade will still keep a vigilant watch over you, and you may be in
readiness to depart tomorrow morning."
Robert slept that night in Langlade's little section of the camp, but,
before he went to sleep, he spent much time wondering which way they would
go when the dawn came. Evidently no attack upon Albany was meant, as they
were too far west for such a venture, and he had reason to believe, also,
that with the coming of spring the Colonials would be in such posture of
defense that Montcalm himself would hesitate at such a task. He made
another attempt to draw the information from Langlade, but failed utterly.
Garrulous as he was otherwise, the French partisan would give no hint of
his general's plans. Yet he and his warriors made obvious preparations for
battle, and, before Robert went to sleep, a gigantic figure stalked into
the firelight and regarded him with a grim gaze. The young prisoner's back
was turned at the moment, but he seemed to feel that fierce look, beating
like a wind upon his head, and, turning around, he looked full into the
eyes of Tandakora.
The huge Ojibway was more huge than ever. Robert was convinced that he was
the largest man he had ever seen, not only the tallest, but the broadest,
and the heaviest, and his very lack of clothing--he wore only a belt,
breech cloth, leggings and moccasins--seemed to increase his size. His vast
shoulders, chest and arms were covered with paint, and the scars of old
wounds, the whole giving to him the appearance of some primeval giant,
sinister and monstrous. He carried a fine, new rifle of French make and two
double barreled pistols; a tomahawk and knife swung from his belt.
Robert, nevertheless, met that full gaze firmly. He shut from his mind what
he might have had to suffer from Tandakora had the Ojibway held him a
captive in the forest, but here he was not Tandakora's prisoner, and he was
in the midst of the French army. Centering all his will and soul into the
effort he stared straight into the evil eyes of the Indian, until those of
his antagonist were turned away.
"The Owl has a prisoner whom I know," said Tandakora to Langlade.
"Aye, a sprightly lad," replied the partisan. "I took him before the winter
came, and I've been holding him at our village on Lake Ontario."
"It was he who, with the Onondaga, Tayoga, and the hunter, Willet, whom we
call the Great Bear, carried the letters from Corlear at New York to
Onontio at Quebec. The nations of the Hodenosaunee call him Dagaeoga, and
he is a danger to us. I would buy him from you. I will send to you for him
fifty of the finest buffalo robes taken from the great western plains."
"Not for fifty buffalo robes, Tandakora, no matter how fine they are."
"Ten packs of the finest beaver skins, fifty in each pack."
"It's no use to bid for him, Tandakora. I don't sell captives. Moreover, he
has passed out of my hands. I have had my reward for him. His fate rests
now with the Chevalier de St. Luc and the Marquis de Montcalm."
The Ojibway's face showed foiled malice. "It is a snake that the Owl warms
in his bosom," he said, and strode away. The partisan followed him with
"It is evident that the Ojibway chief bears you no love, young Monsieur
Lennox," he said. "Now that you have served the purposes for which I held
you I wish you no harm, and so I bid you beware of Tandakora."
"Your advice is good and well meant, and for it I thank you," said Robert;
"but I've known Tandakora a long time. My friends and I have met him in
several encounters and we've not had the worst of them."
"I judged so by his manner. All the more reason then why you should beware
of him. I repeat the warning."
Robert was not bound, and he was permitted to roll himself in a blanket and
sleep with his feet to the fire, an Indian on either side of him. Save
where a space had been cleared for the French army, the primeval forest,
heavy in the foliage of early spring, was all about them, and the wind that
sang through the leaves united with the murmuring of a creek, beside which
Langlade had pitched his camp.
Slumber was slow in coming to Robert. Too much had occurred for his
faculties to slip away at once into oblivion. His interview with Montcalm,
his meeting with St. Luc, and the appearance of Tandakora at the camp
fire, stirred him mightily. Events were certainly marching, and, while he
tried to coax slumber to come, he listened to the noises of the camp and
the forest. Where the French tents were spread, men were softly singing
songs of their ancient land, and beyond them sentinels in neat uniforms
were walking back and forth among trees that had never beheld uniforms
The sounds sank gradually, but Robert did not yet sleep. He found a
peculiar sort of interest in detaching these murmurs from one another, the
stamp of impatient horses, the moving of arms, the last dying, notes of a
song, the whisper of the creek's waters, and then, plainly separate from
the others, he heard a faint, unmistakable swish, a noise that he knew,
that of an arrow flying through the air. Langlade knew it too, and sprang
up with an angry cry.
"Now, has some warrior got hold of whiskey to indulge in this madness?" he
The faint swish came a second time, and Robert, who had risen to his feet,
saw two arrows standing upright in the earth not twenty feet away. Langlade
saw them also and swore.
"They must have come in a wide curve overhead," he said, "or they would not
be standing almost straight up in the earth, and that does not seem like
the madness of liquor."
He looked suspiciously at the forest, in which Indian sentinels had been
posted, but which, nevertheless, was so dark that a cunning form might
pass there unseen.
"There is more in this than meets the eye," muttered the partisan, and
drawing the arrows from the earth he examined them by the light of the
fire. Robert stood by, silent, but his eyes fell on fresh marks with a
knife, near the barb on each weapon, and the great pulse in his throat
leaped. The yellow flame threw out in distinct relief what the knife had
cut there, and he saw on each arrow the rude but unmistakable outline of a
The Owl might not determine the meaning of the picture, but the captive
comprehended it at once. It was the pride of Tayoga that he was of the clan
of the Bear, of the nation Onondaga, of the great League of the
Hodenosaunee, and here upon the arrows was his totem or sign of the Bear.
It was a message and Robert knew that it was meant for him. Had ever a man
a more faithful comrade? The Onondaga was still following in the hope of
making a rescue, and he would follow as long as Robert was living. Once
more the young prisoner's hopes of escape rose to the zenith.
"Now what do these marks mean?" said the partisan, looking at the arrows
"It was merely an intoxicated warrior shooting at the moon," replied
Robert, innocently, "and the cuts signify nothing."
"I'm not so sure of that. I've lived long enough among the Indians to know
they don't fire away good arrows merely for bravado, and these are planted
so close together it must be some sort of a signal. It may have been
intended for you."
Robert was silent, and the partisan did not ask him any further questions,
but, being much disturbed, sent into the forest scouts, who returned
presently, unable to find anything.
"It may or it may not have been a message," he said, speaking to Robert, in
his usual garrulous fashion, "but I still incline to the opinion that it
was, though I may never know what the message meant, but I, Charles
Langlade, have not been called the Owl for nothing. If it refers to you
then your chance of escape has not increased. I hold you merely for
tonight, but I hold you tight and fast. Tomorrow my responsibility ceases,
and you march in the middle of Montcalm's army."
Robert made no reply, but he was in wonderful spirits, and his elation
endured. His senses, in truth, were so soothed by the visible evidence that
his comrade was near that he fell asleep very soon and had no dreams. The
French and Indian army began its march early the next morning, and Robert
found himself with about a dozen other prisoners, settlers who had been
swept up in its advance. They had been surprised in their cabins, or their
fields, newly cleared, and could tell him nothing, but he noticed that the
march was west.
He believed they were not far from Lake Ontario, and he had no doubt that
Montcalm had prepared some fell stroke. His mind settled at last upon
Oswego, where the Anglo-American forces had a post supposed to be strong,
and he was smitten with a fierce and commanding desire to escape and take a
warning. But he was compelled to eat his heart out without result. With
French and Indians all about him he had not the remotest chance and,
helpless, he was compelled to watch the Marquis de Montcalm march to what
he felt was going to be a French triumph.
Swarms of Indian scouts and skirmishers preceded the army and Canadian
axmen cut a way for the artillery, but to Robert's great amazement these
operations lasted only a short time. Almost before he could realize it they
had emerged from the deep woods and he looked again upon the vast, shining
reaches of Lake Ontario. Then he learned for the first time that Montcalm's
army had come mostly in boats and in detachments, and was now united for
attack. As he had surmised, Oswego, which the English and Americans had
intended to be a great stronghold and rallying place in the west, was the
Robert from a hill saw three forts before the French force, the largest
standing upon a plateau of considerable elevation on the east bank of the
river, which there flowed into the lake. It was shaped like a star, and the
fortifications consisted of trunks of trees, sharpened at the ends, driven
deep into the ground, and set as close together as possible. On the west
side of the river was another fort of stone and clay, and four hundred
yards beyond it was an unfinished stockade, so weak that its own garrison
had named it in derision Rascal Fort. Some flat boats and canoes lay in the
lake, and it was a man in one of these canoes who had been the first to
learn of the approach of Montcalm's army, so slender had been the
precautions taken by the officers in command of the forts.
"We have come upon them almost as if we had dropped from the clouds," said
Langlade, exultingly, to Robert. "When they thought the Marquis de Montcalm
was in Montreal, lo! he was here! It is the French who are the great
leaders, the great soldiers and the great nation! Think you we would allow
ourselves to be surprised as Oswego has been?"
Robert made no reply. His heart sank like a plummet in a pool. Already he
heard the crackling fire of musketry from the Indians who, sheltered in the
edge of the forest, were sending bullets against the stout logs of Fort
Ontario, but which could offer small resistance to cannon. And while the
sharpshooting went on, the French officers were planting the batteries, one
of four guns directly on the strand. The work was continued at a great pace
all through the night, and when Robert awoke from an uneasy sleep, in the
morning, he saw that the French had mounted twenty heavy cannon, which soon
poured showers of balls and grape and canister upon the log fort. He also
saw St. Luc among the guns directing their fire, while Tandakora's Indians
kept up an incessant and joyous yelling.
The defenders of the stockade maintained a fire from rifles and several
small cannon, but it did little harm in the attacking army and Robert was
soldier enough to know that the log walls could not hold. While St. Luc
sent in the fire from the batteries faster and faster, a formidable force
of Canadians and Indians led by Rigaud, one of the best of Montcalm's
lieutenants, crossed the river, the men wading in the water up to their
waists, but holding their rifles over their heads.
Tandakora was in this band, shouting savagely, and so was Langlade, but
Robert and the other prisoners, left under guard on the hill, saw
everything distinctly. They had no hope whatever that the chief fort, or
any of the forts, could hold out. Fragments of the logs were already flying
in the air as the stream of cannon balls beat upon them. The garrison made
a desperate resistance, but the cramped place was crowded with
women--settlers' wives--as well as men, the commander was killed, and at
last the white flag was hoisted on all the forts.
Then the Indians, intoxicated with triumph and the strong liquors they had
seized, rushed in and began to ply the tomahawk. Montcalm, horrified, used
every effort to stop the incipient butchery, and St. Luc, Bourlamaque and,
in truth, all of his lieutenants, seconded him gallantly. Tandakora and his
men were compelled to return their tomahawks to their belts, and then the
French army was drawn around the captives, who numbered hundreds and
It was another French and Indian victory like that over Braddock, though it
was not marked by the destruction of an army, and Robert's heart sank lower
and lower. He knew that it would be appalling news to Boston, to Albany and
to New York. The Marquis de Montcalm had justified the reputation that
preceded him. He had struck suddenly with lightning swiftness and with
terrible effect. Not only this blow, but its guarantee of others to come,
filled Robert's heart with fear for the future.
The sun sank upon a rejoicing army. The Indians were still yelling and
dancing, and, though they were no longer allowed to sink their tomahawks in
the heads of their defenseless foes, they made imaginary strokes with them,
and shouted ferociously as they leaped and capered.
Robert was on the strand near the shore of the lake, and wearied by his
long day of watching that which he wished least in the world to see, he sat
down on a sand heap, and put his head in his hands. Peculiarly sensitive to
atmosphere and surroundings, he was, for the moment, almost without hope.
But he knew, even when he was in despair, that his courage would come back.
It was one of the qualities of a temperament such as his that while he
might be in the depths at one hour he would be on the heights at the next.
Several of the Indians, apparently those who had got at the liquor, were
careering up and down the sands, showing every sign of the blood madness
that often comes in the moment of triumph upon savage minds. Robert raised
his face from his hands and looked to see if Tandakora was among them, but
he caught no glimpse of the gigantic Ojibway. The French soldiers who were
guarding the prisoners gazed curiously at the demoniac figures. They were
of the battalions Bearn and Guienne and they had come newly from France.
Plunged suddenly into the wilderness, such sights as they now beheld
filled them with amazement, and often created a certain apprehension. They
were not so sure that their wild allies were just the kind of allies they
The sun set lower upon the savage scene, casting a dark glow over the
ruined forts, the troops, the leaping savages and the huddled prisoners.
One of the Indians danced and bounded more wildly than all the rest. He was
tall, but slim, apparently youthful, and he wore nothing except breech
cloth, leggings and moccasins, his naked body a miracle of savage painting.
Robert by and by watched him alone, fascinated by his extraordinary agility
and untiring enthusiasm. His figure seemed to shoot up in the air on
springs, and, with a glittering tomahawk, he slew and scalped an imaginary
foe over and over again, and every time the blade struck in the air he let
forth a shout that would have done credit to old Stentor himself. He ranged
up and down the beach, and presently, when he was close to Robert, he grew
more violent than ever, as if he were worked by some powerful mechanism
that would not let him rest. He had all the appearance of one who had gone
quite mad, and as he bounded near them, his tomahawk circling about his
head, the French guards shrank back, awed, and, at the same time, not
wishing to have any conflict with their red allies, who must be handled
with the greatest care.
The man paused a moment before the young prisoner, whirled his tomahawk
about his head and uttered a ferocious shout. Robert looked straight into
the burning eyes, started violently and then became outwardly calm, though
every nerve and muscle in him was keyed to the utmost tension. "To the
lake!" exclaimed the Indian under his breath and then he danced toward the
Robert did not know at first what the words meant, and he waited in
indecision, but he saw that the care of the guards, owing to the confusion,
the fact that the battle was over, and the rejoicing for victory, was
relaxed. It would seem, too, that escape at such a time and place was
impossible, and that circumstance increased their inattention.
The youth watched the dancing warrior, who was now moving toward the water,
over which the darkness of night had spread. But the lake was groaning with
a wind from the north, and several canoes near the beach were bobbing up
and down. The dancer paused a moment at the very edge of the water, and
looked back at Robert. Then he advanced into the waves themselves.
All the young prisoner's indecision departed in a flash. The signal was
complete and he understood. He sprang violently against the French soldier
who stood nearest him and knocked him to the ground. Then with three or
four bounds he was at the water's edge, leaping into the canoe, just as
Tayoga settled himself into place there, and, seizing a paddle, pushed away
with powerful shoves.
Robert nearly upset the canoe, but the Onondaga quickly made it regain its
balance, and then they were out on the lake under the kindly veil of the
night. The fugitive said nothing, he knew it was no time to speak, because
Tayoga's powerful back was bending with his mighty efforts and the bullets
were pattering in the water behind them. It was luck that the canoe was a
large one, partaking more of the nature of a boat, as Robert could remain
concealed on the bottom without tipping it over, while the Onondaga
continued to put all his nervous power and skill into his strokes. It was
equally fortunate, also, that the night had come and that the dusk was
thick, as it distracted yet further the hasty aim of the French and Indians
on shore. One bullet from a French rifle grazed Robert's shoulder, another
was deflected from Tayoga's paddle without striking it from his hand, but
in a few minutes they were beyond the range of those who stood on the bank,
although lead continued to fall in the water behind them.
"Now you can rise, Dagaeoga," said the Onondaga, "and use the extra paddle
that I took the precaution to stow in the boat. Do not think because you
are an escaped prisoner that you are to rest in idleness and luxury, doing
no work while I do it all."
"God bless you, Tayoga!" exclaimed Robert, in the fullness of his emotion.
"I'll work a week without stopping if you say so. I'm so glad to see you
that I'll do anything you say, and ask no questions. But I want to tell you
you're the most wonderful dancer and jumper in America!"
"I danced and jumped so well, Dagaeoga, because your need made me do so.
Necessity gives a wonderful spring to the muscles. Behold how long and
strong you sweep with the paddle because the bullets of the enemy impel
"Which way are we going, Tayoga? What is your plan?"
"Our aim at this moment, Dagaeoga, is the middle of the lake, because the
sons of Onontio and the warriors of Tandakora are all along the beach, and
would be waiting for us with rifle and tomahawk should we seek to land.
This is but a small boat in which we sit and it could not resist the waves
of a great storm, but at present it is far safer for us than any land near
"Of course you're right, Tayoga, you always are, but we're in the thick of
the darkness now, so you rest awhile and let me do the paddling alone."
"It is a good thought, Dagaeoga, but keep straight in the direction we are
going. See that you do not paddle unconsciously in a curve. We shall
certainly be pursued, and although our foes cannot see us well in the dark,
some out of their number are likely to blunder upon us. If it comes to a
battle you will notice that I have an extra rifle and pistol for you lying
in the bottom of the canoe, and that I am something more than a supple
dancer and leaper."
"You not only think of everything, Tayoga, but you also do it, which is
better. I shall take care to keep dead ahead."
Robert in his turn bent forward and plied the paddle. He was not only
fresh, but the wonderful thrill of escape gave him a strength far beyond
the normal, and the great canoe fairly danced over the waters toward the
dusky deeps of the lake, while the Onondaga crouched at the other end of
the canoe, rifle in hand, intently watching the heavy pall of dusk behind
Their situation was still dangerous in the extreme, but the soul of Tayoga
swelled with triumph. Tandakora, the Ojibway, had rejoiced because he had
expected a great taking of scalps, but the purer spirit of the Onondaga
soared into the heights because he had saved his comrade of a thousand
dangers. He still saw faintly through the darkness the campfires of the
victorious French and Indian army, and he heard the swish of paddles, but
he did not yet discern any pursuing canoe. He detached his eyes for a
moment from the bank of dusk in front of him, and looked up at the skies.
The clouds and vapors kept him from seeing the great star upon which his
patron saint, Tododaho, sat, but he knew that he was there, and that he was
watching over him. He could not have achieved so much in the face of
uttermost peril and then fail in the lesser danger.
The canoe glided swiftly on toward the wider reaches of the lake, and the
Onondaga never relaxed his watchfulness, for an instant. He was poised in
the canoe, every nerve and muscle ready to leap in a second into activity,
while his ears were strained for the sounds of paddles or oars. Now he
relied, as often before, more upon hearing than sight. Presently a sound
came, and it was that of oars. A boat parted the wall of dusk and he saw
that it contained both French and Indians, eight in all, the warriors
uttering a shout as they beheld the fugitive canoe.
"Keep steadily on, Dagaeoga," said the Onondaga. "I have my long barreled
rifle, and it will carry much farther than those of the foe. In another
minute it will tell them they had best stop, and if they will not obey its
voice then I will repeat the command with your rifle."
Robert heard the sharp report of Tayoga's weapon, and then a cry from the
pursuing boat, saying the bullet had found its mark.
"They still come, though in a hesitating manner," said Tayoga, "and I must
even give them a second notice."
Now Robert heard the crack of the other rifle, and the answering cry,
signifying that its bullet, too, had sped home.
"They stop now," said Tayoga. "They heed the double command." He rapidly
reloaded the rifles, and Robert, who saw an uncommonly thick bank of dusk
ahead, paddled directly into the heart of it. They paused there a few
moments and neither saw nor heard any pursuers. Tayoga put down the rifles,
now ready again for his deadly aim, and the two kept for a long time a
straight course toward the center of the lake.
THE FLIGHT OF THE TWO
Tayoga, into whose hands Robert had entrusted himself with the uttermost
faith, at last said stop, and drawing the paddles into the canoe they took
long, deep breaths of relief. Around them was a world of waters, silver
under the moon and stars now piercing the dusk, and the Onondaga could see
the vast star on which sat the mighty chieftain who had gone away four
hundred years ago to eternal life.
"O Tododaho," he murmured, "thou hast guarded us well."
"Where do you think we are, Tayoga?" asked Robert.
"Perhaps twenty miles from land," replied the Onondaga, "and the farther
"True, Tayoga. Never before did I see a big lake look so kindly. If it
didn't require so much effort I'd like to go to the very center of it and
stay there for a week."
"Even as it is, Dagaeoga, we will wait here a while and take the long rest
"And while we're doing nothing but swing in our great canoe, Tayoga, I want
to thank you for all you've done for me. I'd been a prisoner much longer
than I wished."
"It but repays my debt, Dagaeoga. You will recall that you helped to save
me from the hands of Tandakora when he was going to burn me at the stake.
My imprisonment was short, but I have been in the forest the whole winter
and spring seeking to take you from Langlade."
"All of which goes to show, Tayoga, that we must allow only one of us to be
captured at a time. The other must go free in order to rescue the one
Although Robert's tone was light, his feeling was far from frivolous, but
he had been at extreme tension so long that he was compelled to seek
"How did you manage it, Tayoga?" he asked.
"In the confusion of the attack on the forts and the rejoicing that
followed it was easy," replied the Onondaga. "When so many others were
dancing and leaping it attracted no attention for me to dance and leap
also, and I selected, without interference, the boat, the extra paddle,
weapons and ammunition that I wished. Areskoui and Tododaho did the rest.
Do you feel stronger now, Dagaeoga?"
"Aye, I'm still able to handle the paddle. I suppose we'd better seek a
landing. We can't stay out in the lake forever. Tayoga, you've taken the
part of Providence itself. Now did it occur to you in your infinite wisdom,
while you were storing paddles, weapons and ammunition in this boat, to
store food also?"
The Onondaga's smile was wide and satisfying.
"I thought of that, too, Dagaeoga," he replied, "because I knew our
journey, if we should be so fortunate as to have a journey, would take us
out on the lake, and I knew, also, that no matter how many hardships and
dangers Dagaeoga might pass through, the time would come when he would be
hungry. It is always so with Dagaeoga."
He took a heavy knapsack from the bottom of the canoe and opened it.
"It is a French knapsack," he said, "and it contains both bread and meat,
which we will enjoy."
They ate in great content, and their spirits rose to an extraordinary
degree, though Tayoga regretted the absence of clothing which his disguise
had made necessary. Having been educated with white lads, and having
associated with white people so much, he was usually clad as completely as
they, either in their fashion or in his own full Indian costume.
"My infinite wisdom was not so infinite that it told me to take a blanket,"
he said, "and the wind coming down from the Canadian shore is growing
"I'm surprised to hear you speak of such trifles as that, Tayoga, when
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