The Masters of the Peaks
Joseph A. Altsheler

Part 5 out of 5

willing to leave Montcalm for a while if he thought that by doing so he
could achieve his purpose. His gaze wandered from the warriors to the
stacked rifles and muskets, and he saw that many of them were of English
or American make, undoubtedly spoil taken at the capture of Oswego. His
heart swelled with anger that the border should have its own weapons turned
against it by the foe.

It did not take him long to see enough. It was a powerful force, equipped
to strike, and now he was more anxious than ever to overtake Willet. The
fog was still thick and wet, distilling the fine rain, but he had forgotten
discomfort, and, turning back on his path, he sought the dip in which he
had left Tayoga sleeping. He felt a certain pride that it had been his
fortune to discover the band, and, as he had marked carefully the way by
which he had come, it was not a difficult task to retrace his steps.

The Onondaga was still sleeping, his back against the log, but he awoke
instantly when Robert touched him gently on the shoulder.

"What is it, Dagaeoga?" he whispered. "You have seen something! Your face
tells me so!"

"My face tells you the truth," replied Robert. "There is a valley only a
few hundred yards from us, and, in it, are about four hundred warriors,
armed for battle. All the signs indicate that they are going eastward in
search of our friends."

"You have done well, Dagaeoga. You have used both eye and mind. Was
Tandakora there?"

"No, but I'm convinced he soon will be."

"It appears likely. They think, perhaps, they are strong enough to
annihilate the rangers."

"Maybe they are, unless the rangers are warned. We ought to move at once."

"But the fog is too thick. We could not tell which way we were going. We
must not lose the trail of the Great Bear and Black Rifle, and, if the fog
lifts, we can regain it in the morning, going ahead of the war band."

"And then the warriors may pursue us."

"What does it matter, if we keep well ahead of them and overtake the Great
Bear and Black Rifle, who are surely going toward the rangers? We will put
out the fire, Dagaeoga, and stay here. The fog protects us. Now, you sleep
and I will watch."

His calmness was reassuring, and it was true that the fog was an almost
certain protection, while it lasted. They smothered the fire carefully, and
then, Robert was sufficient master of his nerves, to go to sleep, wrapped
in the invaluable buffalo robe. The Onondaga kept vigilant watch. His own
ear, too, heard the occasional sound made by human beings in the valley
below, but he did not stir from his place. He had absolute confidence in
Robert's report, and he would not take any unnecessary risk.

An hour or two before dawn a wind began to rise, and Tayoga knew by feeling
rather than sight that the fog was beginning to thin. If the wind held, it
would all blow away by sunrise, and the rain with it. He awakened Robert at

"I think we would better move now," he said. "We shall soon be able to see
our way, and a good start ahead of the war band is important."

They made a northward curve, passing around the valley, in which the camp
of the warriors lay, and, when the sun showed its first luminous edge over
the horizon, they were several miles ahead. The steady wind had carried all
the fog and rain to the southward, but the forest was still wet and

"And now," said Tayoga, "we must pick up anew the trail of the Great Bear
and Black Rifle. We are sure they were continuing east, and by ranging back
and forth from north to south and from south to north we can find it."

It was a full two hours before they discovered it, leading up a narrow
gorge, and Robert grew anxious lest the war band was already on their own
traces, which the warriors were sure to see in time. So they hastened their
own pursuit and very soon came to a thicket in which the two redoubtable
scouts had passed the night. The trail leading from it was comparatively
fresh and Tayoga was hopeful that they might overtake them before the next

"They do not hurry," he said. "The Great Bear has been telling Black Rifle
of us, and now and then it was their thought to go back into the west to
make another hunt for us. My certainty about it is based on nothing in the
trail. It is just mind once more. It is exactly the idea that a valiant and
patient man like the Great Bear would have, and it would appeal too, to the
soul of such a great warrior as Black Rifle. But after thinking well upon
it, they have decided that the search would be vain for the present, and
once more they go on, though the wish to find us puts weights on their

Before noon they came to a place where Black Rifle shot a deer. The
useless portions of the body that the two had left behind spoke a language
none could fail to understand, and they were sure it was Black Rifle who
had fired the shot, because his broader footprints led to the place where
the body had fallen.

"It proves," said Tayoga, "that the rangers are still well ahead, else two
such wise men as the Great Bear and Black Rifle would not take the trouble
to kill a deer here and carry so much weight with them. It is likely that
the Mountain Wolf and his men are on the shores of Oneadatote itself."

All that afternoon the trail went upward higher and higher among the ranges
and peaks, but the infallible eye of Tayoga never lost it for a moment.

"We will not overtake them today, as I had hoped," he said, "but we shall
certainly do so tomorrow before noon."

"And the coming night is going to offer a striking contrast to the one just
passed," said Robert. "It will be crystal clear."

"So it will, Dagaeoga, and we will seek a camp among the rocks. It is best
to leave no traces for the warriors."

They traveled a long distance on the stony uplift before they stopped for
the night, and they did not build any fire, dividing the time into two
watches, each kept with great vigilance. But the pursuit which they were so
sure was now on did not overtake them, and early in the morning they were
once more on the traces of the two hunters.

"It is now sure we shall reach them before noon," said Tayoga, "but in
what manner we shall first see them I do not know. The trail has become
wonderfully fresh. Ah, they turned suddenly from their course here, and
soon they came back to it, at a point not more than ten feet away. We need
not follow them on their loop to see where they went. We know without
going. They climbed the steep little peak we see on the right, from the
crest of which they had a splendid view over an immense stretch of country
behind us. They looked in that direction because that was the point from
which pursuit or danger would come. The band behind us built a fire, and
the Great Bear and Black Rifle saw its smoke. They saw the smoke because
they could see nothing else so far behind them. After a good look, they
went on at their leisure. They had no fear. It was easy for such as they to
leave the band well in the rear, if they wished."

"If they haven't changed greatly since we last saw 'em," said Robert,
"they'll go all the more slowly because of the pursuit, and we may catch
'em in a couple of hours. Won't Dave be surprised when he sees us?"

"It will be a pleasant surprise for him. Here, they have stopped again, and
one of them climbed the tall elm for another view, while the other stood
guard by the trunk. I think, Dagaeoga, that the Great Bear and Black Rifle
were beginning to think less of flight than of battle."

"You don't mean that knowing the presence of the band behind us they
intended to meet it?"

"Not to stop it, of course, but spirits such as theirs might have a desire
to harm it a little, and impede its advance. In any event, Dagaeoga, we
shall soon see. Here is where the climber came down, and then the two went
on, walking slowly. They walked slowly, because the traces indicate that
they turned back often, and looked toward the point at which they had seen
the smoke rising. My mind tells me that the Great Bear thought it better to
continue straight ahead, but that Black Rifle was anxious to linger, and
get a few shots at the enemy. It is so, because the Great Bear, as we know,
is naturally cautious and would wish to do what is of the most service in
the campaign, while it is always the desire of Black Rifle to injure the
enemy as much as he can."

"Your reasoning seems conclusive to me."

"Did I not tell you, Dagaeoga, that you had the beginnings of a mind? Use
it sedulously, and it will grow yet more."

"And the time may come when I can talk out of a dictionary as you do,

"Which merely proves, Dagaeoga, that those who learn a language always talk
it better than those who are born to it. Ah, they have turned once more,
and the trail leads again to the crest of a hill, where they will take
another long look backward. It seems that the wishes of Black Rifle are
about to prevail. Now we are at the top of the hill, and they stood here
several minutes talking and moving about, as the traces show very clearly.
But look, Dagaeoga, they saw something very much closer at hand than smoke.
Their talk was interrupted with great suddenness, and they took to ambush.
They crouched among these bushes, and you and I know they were a very
dangerous pair with their rifles ready. Still, Dagaeoga, instead of their
taking the battle to the warriors the battle was brought to them."

"You think, then, an encounter occurred?"

"I know it. They did not stay crouched here until the enemy went away, but
moved off down the hill, their course on the whole leading away from the
lake. The enemy was before them, because they kept among the bushes, always
in the densest part of them. Here they knelt. The bent grass stems indicate
the pressure of knees. The warriors must have been very close.

"Now the trail divides. Look, Dagaeoga! Black Rifle went to the right and
the Great Bear to the left. They formed a plan to flank the enemy and to
assail him from two sides. I should judge then that the warriors did not
number more than five or six. We will follow the Great Bear, who made the
slender traces, and if necessary we will come back and follow also those of
Black Rifle. But I think we can read the full account of the contest which
most certainly occurred from the evidence that the Great Bear left."

"You feel quite sure then that there was fighting?"

"Yes. It is not an opinion formed from the signs yet seen, but it is drawn
from the characters of the Great Bear and Black Rifle. They would not have
taken so much care unless there was the certainty of conflict. Here the
Great Bear knelt again, and took a long look at his enemy or at least at
the place where his enemy was lying. They were coming to close quarters or
he would not have knelt and waited. Perhaps he held his fire because Black
Rifle was making the wider circuit, and they meant to use their rifles at
the same time."

The Onondaga was on his own knees now, examining the faint trail intently,
his eyes alight with interest.

"The event will not be delayed long," he said, "because the Great Bear
stopped continually, seeking an opportunity for a shot. Here he pulled the

He picked up a minute piece of the burned wadding of the muzzle-loading

"The warrior at whom he fired was bound to have been in the thicket beyond
the open space," he said, "and it was there that he fell. He fell because
at such a critical time the Great Bear would not have fired unless he was
sure of his aim. We will look into the thicket"

They found several spots of blood among the bushes and at another point
about twenty feet away they saw more.

"Here is where the warrior fell before Black Rifle's bullet," said Tayoga.
"He and the Great Bear must have fired almost at the same time. Undoubtedly
the warriors retreated at once, carrying their dead with them. Let us see
if they did not unite, and leave the thicket at the farthest point from our
two friends."

The trail was very clear at the place the Onondaga had indicated, and also
many more red spots were there leading away toward the east.

"We will not follow them." said Tayoga, "because they do not interest us
any more. They have retreated and they do not longer enter into your
campaign and mine, Dagaeoga. We will go back and see where the left wing of
our army, that was the Great Bear, reunited with the right wing, that was
Black Rifle."

They found the point of junction not far away, and then the deliberate
trail led once more toward Champlain, the two pursuing it several hours in
silence and both noticing that it was rapidly growing fresher. At length
Tayoga stopped on the crest of a ridge and said:

"We no longer need to seek their trail, Dagaeoga, because I will now talk
with the Great Bear and Black Rifle."

"Very good, Tayoga. I am anxious to hear what you will say and how you will
say it."

A bird sang at Robert's side. It was Tayoga trilling forth a melody,
wonderfully clear and penetrating, a melody that carried far up the still
valley beyond.

"You will remember, Dagaeoga," he said, "that we have often used this call
with the Great Bear. The reply will soon come."

The two listened and Robert's heart beat hard. He owed much to Willet.
Their relationship was almost that of son and father, and the two were
about to meet after a long parting. He never doubted for a moment that the
Onondaga had always read the trail aright, and that Willet was with Black
Rifle in the valley below them.

Full and clear rose the song of a bird out of the dense bushes that filled
the valley. When it was finished Tayoga sang again, and the reply came as
before. The two went rapidly down the slope and the stalwart figures of
the hunter and Black Rifle rose to meet them. The four did not say much,
but in every case the grasp of the hand was strong and long.

"I went west in search of you, Robert," said the hunter, "but I was
compelled to come back, because of the great events that are forward here.
I felt, however, that Tayoga was there looking for you and would do all any
number of human beings could do."

"He found me and rescued me," said Robert, "and what of yourself, Dave?"

"I'm attached, for the present, to the rangers under Rogers. He's on the
shores of Champlain, and he's trying to hold back a big Indian army that
means to march south and join Montcalm for an attack on Fort William Henry
or Fort Edward."

"And there's a great Indian war band behind you, too, Dave."

"We know it. We saw their smoke. We also had an encounter with some
scouting warriors."

"We know that, too, Dave. You ambushed 'em and divided your force, one of
you going to the right and the other to the left. Two of their warriors
fell before your bullets, and then they fled, carrying their slain with

"Correct to every detail. I suppose Tayoga read the signs."

"He did, and he also told me when he rescued me that you had carried the
text of the letter we took from Garay to Colonel Johnson in time, and that
the force of St. Luc was turned back."

"Yes, the preparations for defense made an attack by him hopeless, and
when his vanguard was defeated in the forest he gave up the plan."

They did not stop long, as they knew the great war band behind them was
pressing forward, but they felt little fear of it, as they were able to
make high speed of their own, despite the weight of their packs, and for
several days and nights they traveled over peaks and ridges, stopping only
at short intervals for sleep. They had no sign from the band behind them,
but they knew it was always there, and that it would probably unite at the
lake with the force the rangers were facing.

It was about noon of a gleaming summer day when Robert, from the crest of a
ridge, saw once more the vast sheet of water extending a hundred and
twenty-five miles north and south, that the Indians called Oneadatote and
the white men Champlain, and around which and upon which an adventurous
part of his own life had passed. His heart beat high, he felt now that the
stage was set again for great events, and that his comrades and he would,
as before, have a part in the war that was shaking the Old World as well as
the New.

In the afternoon they met rangers and before night they were in the camp of
Rogers, which included about three hundred men, and which was pitched in a
strong position at the edge of the lake. The Mountain Wolf greeted them
with great warmth.

"You're a redoubtable four," he said, "and I could wish that instead of
only four I was receiving four hundred like you."

He showed intense anxiety, and soon confided his reasons to Willet.

"You've brought me news," he said, "that a big war band is coming from the
west, and my scouts had told me already that a heavy force is to the
northward, and what is worst of all, the northern force is commanded by St.
Luc. It seems that he did not go south with Montcalm, but drew off an army
of both French and Indians for our destruction. He remembers his naval and
land defeat by us and naturally he wants revenge. He is helped, too, by the
complete command of the lake, that the French now hold. Since we've been
pressed southward we've lost Champlain."

"And of course St. Luc is eager to strike," said Willet. "He can recover
his lost laurels and serve France at the same time. If we're swept away
here, both the French and the Indians will pour down in a flood from Canada
upon the Province of New York."

Robert did not hear this talk, as he was seeking in the ranger camp the
repose that he needed so badly. He had brought with him some remnants of
food and the great buffalo robe that Tayoga had secured for him with so
much danger from the Indian village. Now he put down the robe, heaved a
mighty sigh of relief and said to the Onondaga:

"I'm proud of myself as a carrier, Tayoga, but I think I've had enough. I'm
glad the trail has ended squarely against the deep waters of Lake

"And yet, Dagaeoga, it is a fine robe."

"So it is. I should be the last to deny it, but now that we're with the
rangers I mean to carry nothing but my arms and ammunition. To appreciate
what it is to be without burdens you must have borne them."

The hospitable rangers would not let the two youths do any work for the
present, and so they took a luxurious bath in the lake, which they
commanded as far as the bullets from their rifles could reach. They
rejoiced in the cool waters, after their long flight through the

"It's almost worth so many days and nights of danger to have this," said
Robert, swimming with strong strokes.

"Aye, Dagaeoga, it is splendid," said the Onondaga, "but see that you do
not swim too far. Remember that for the time Oneadatote belongs to Onontio.
We had it, but we have lost it."

"Then we'll get it back again," said Robert courageously. "Champlain is too
fine a lake to lose forever. Wait until I've had a big sleep. Then my brain
will be clear, and I'll tell how it ought to be done."

The two returned to land, dressed, and slept by the campfire.



When Robert awoke from a long and deep sleep he became aware, at once, that
the anxious feeling in the camp still prevailed. Rogers was in close
conference with Willet, Black Rifle and several of his own leaders beside a
small fire, and, at times, they looked apprehensively toward the north or
west, a fact indicating to the lad very clearly whence the danger was
expected. Most of the scouts had come in, and, although Robert did not know
it, they had reported that the force of St. Luc, advancing in a wide curve,
and now including the western band, was very near. It was the burden of
their testimony, too, that he now had at least a thousand men, of whom
one-third were French or Canadians.

Tayoga was sitting on a high point of the cliff, watching the lake, and
Robert joined him. The face of the young Onondaga was very grave.

"You look for an early battle, I suppose," said Robert.

"Yes, Dagaeoga," replied his comrade, "and it will be fought with the odds
heavily against us. I think the Mountain Wolf should not have awaited Sharp
Sword here, but who am I to give advice to a leader, so able and with so
much experience?"

"But we beat St. Luc once in a battle by a lake!"

"Then we had a fleet, and, for the time, at least, we won command of the
lake. Now the enemy is supreme on Oneadatote. If we have any canoes on its
hundred and twenty-five miles of length they are lone and scattered, and
they stay in hiding near its shores."

"Why are you watching its waters now so intently, Tayoga?"

"To see the sentinels of the foe, when they come down from the north. Sharp
Sword is too great a general not to use all of his advantages in battle. He
will advance by water as well as by land, but, first he will use his eyes,
before he permits his hand to strike. Do you see anything far up the lake,

"Only the sunlight on the waters."

"Yes, that is all. I believed, for a moment or two, that I saw a black dot
there, but it was only my fancy creating what I expected my sight to
behold. Let us look again all around the horizon, where it touches the
water, following it as we would a line. Ah, I think I see a dark speck,
just a black mote at this distance, and I am still unable to separate fancy
from fact, but it may be fact. What do you think, Dagaeoga?"

"My thought has not taken shape yet, Tayoga, but if 'tis fancy then 'tis
singularly persistent. I see the black mote too, to the left, toward the
western shore of the lake, is it not?"

"Aye, Dagaeoga, that is where it is. If we are both the victims of fancy
then our illusions are wonderfully alike. Think you that we would imagine
exactly the same thing at exactly the same place?"

"No, I don't! And as I live, Tayoga, the mote is growing larger! It takes
on the semblance of reality, and, although very far from us, it's my belief
that it's moving this way!"

"Again my fancy is the same as yours and it is not possible that they
should continue exactly alike through all changes. That which may have been
fancy in the beginning has most certainly turned into fact, and the black
mote that we see upon the waters is in all probability a hostile canoe
coming to spy upon us."

They watched the dark dot detach itself from the horizon and grow
continuously until their eyes told them, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that
it was a canoe containing two warriors. It was moving swiftly and presently
Rogers and Willet came to look at it. The two warriors brought their light
craft on steadily, but stopped well out of rifle shot, where they let their
paddles rest and gazed long at the shore.

"It is like being without a right arm to have no force upon the lake," said

"It cripples us sorely," said Willet. "Perhaps we'd better swallow our
pride, bitter though the medicine may be, and retreat at speed."

"I can't do it," said Rogers. "I'm here to hold back St. Luc, if I can, and
moreover, 'tis too late. We'd be surrounded in the forest and probably

"I suppose you're right. We'll meet him where we stand, and when the
battle is over, whatever may be its fortunes, he'll know that he had a real

They walked away from the lake, and began to arrange their forces to the
most advantage, but Robert and Tayoga remained on the cliff. They saw the
canoe go back toward the north, melt into the horizon line, and then
reappear, but with a whole brood of canoes. All of them advanced rapidly,
and they stretched into a line half way across the lake. Many were great
war canoes, containing eight or ten men apiece.

"Now the attack by land is at hand," said Tayoga. "Sharp Sword is sure to
see that his two forces move forward at the same time. Hark!"

They heard the report of a rifle shot in the forest, then another and
another. Willet joined them and said it was the wish of Rogers that they
remain where they were, as a small force was needed at that point to
prevent a landing by the Indians. A fire from the lake would undoubtedly be
opened upon their flank, but if the warriors could be kept in their canoes
it could not become very deadly. Black Rifle came also, and he, Willet,
Robert, Tayoga and ten of the rangers lying down behind some trees at the
edge of the cliff, watched the water.

The Indian fleet hovered a little while out of rifle shot. Meanwhile the
firing in the forest grew. Bullets from both sides pattered on leaves and
bark, and the shouts of besieged and besiegers mingled, but the members of
the force on the cliff kept their eyes resolutely on the water.

"The canoes are moving again," said Tayoga. "They are coming a little
nearer. I see Frenchmen in some of them and presently they will try to
sweep the bank with their rifles."

"Our bullets will carry as far as theirs," said the hunter.

"True, O, Great Bear, and perhaps with surer aim."

In another moment puffs of white smoke appeared in the fleet, which was
swinging forward in a crescent shape, and Robert heard the whine of lead
over his head. Then Willet pulled the trigger and a warrior fell from his
canoe. Black Rifle's bullet sped as true, and several of the rangers also
found their targets. Yet the fleet pressed the attack. Despite their
losses, the Indians did not give back, the canoes came closer and closer,
many of the warriors dropped into the water behind their vessels and fired
from hiding, bullets rained around the little band on the cliff, and
presently struck among them. Two of the rangers were slain and two more
were wounded. Robert saw the Frenchmen in the fleet encouraging the
Indians, and he knew that their enemies were firing at the smoke made by
the rifles of the defenders. Although he and his comrades were invisible to
the French and Indians in the fleet, the bullets sought them out
nevertheless. Wounds were increasing and another of the rangers was killed.
Theirs was quickly becoming an extremely hot corner.

But Willet, who commanded at that point, gave no order to retreat. He and
all of his men continued to fire as fast as they could reload and take aim.
Yet to choose a target became more difficult, as the firing from the fleet
made a great cloud of smoke about it, in which the French and Indians were
hidden, or, at best, were but wavering phantoms. Robert's excited
imagination magnified them fivefold, but he had no thought of shirking the
battle, and he crept to the very brink, seeking something at which to fire
in the clouds of smoke that were steadily growing larger and blacker.

The foes upon the lake fought mostly in silence, save for the crackle of
their rifles, but Robert became conscious presently of a great shouting
behind him. In his concentration upon their own combat he had forgotten the
main battle; but now he realized that it was being pressed with great fury
and upon a half circle from the north and west. He looked back and saw that
the forest was filled with smoke pierced by innumerable red flashes; the
rattle of the rifles there made a continuous crash, and then he heard a
tremendous report, followed by a shout of dismay from the rangers.

"What is it?" he cried. "What is it?"

Willet, who was crouched near him, turned pale, but he replied in a steady

"St. Luc has brought a field piece, a twelve-pounder, I think, and they've
opened fire with grape-shot. They'll sweep the whole forest. Who'd have
thought it?"

The battle sank for a moment, and then a tremendous yell of triumph came
from the Indians. Presently, the cannon crashed again, and its deadly
charge of grape took heavy toll of the rangers. Then the lake and the
mountains gave back the heavy boom of the gun in many echoes, and it was
like the toll of doom. The Indians on both water and shore began to shout
in the utmost fury, and Robert detected the note of triumph in the
tremendous volume of sound. His heart went down like lead. Rogers crept
back to Willet and the two talked together earnestly.

"The cannon changes everything," said the leader of the rangers. "More than
twenty of my men are dead, and nearly twice as many are wounded. 'Tis
apparent they have plenty of grape, and they are sending it like hail
through the forest. The bushes are no shelter, as it cuts through 'em.
Dave, old comrade, what do you think?"

"That St. Luc is about to have his revenge for the defeat we gave him at
Andiatarocte. The cannon with its grape turns the scale. They come on with
uncommon fury! It seems to me I hear a thousand rifles all together."

St. Luc now pressed the attack from every side save the south. The French
and Indians in the fleet redoubled their fire. The twelve-pounder was
pushed forward, and, as fast as the expert French gunners could reload it,
the terrible charges of grape-shot were sent among the rangers. More were
slain or wounded. The little band of defenders on the high cliff
overlooking the lake at last found their corner too hot for them and were
compelled to join the main force. Then the French and Indians in the fleet
landed with shouts of triumph and rushed upon the Americans.

Robert caught glimpses of other Frenchmen as he faced the forest. Once an
epaulet showed behind a bush and then a breadth of tanned face which he was
sure belonged to De Courcelles. And so this man who had sought to make him
the victim of a deadly trick was here! And perhaps Jumonville also! A
furious rage seized him and he sought eagerly for a shot at the epaulet,
but it disappeared. He crept a little farther forward, hoping for another
view, and Tayoga noticed his eager, questing gaze.

"What is it, Dagaeoga?" he asked. "Whom do you hate so much?"

"I saw the French Colonel, De Courcelles, and I was seeking to draw a bead
on him, but he has gone."

"Perhaps he has, but another takes his place. Look at the clump of bushes
directly in front of us and you will see a pale blue sleeve which beyond a
doubt holds the arm of a French officer. The arm cannot be far away from
the head and body, which I think we will see in time, if we keep on

Both watched the bushes with a concentrated gaze and presently the head and
shoulders, following the arm, disclosed themselves. Robert raised his rifle
and took aim, but as he looked down the sights he saw the face among the
leaves, and a shudder shook him. He lowered his rifle.

"What is it, Dagaeoga?" whispered the Onondaga.

"The man I chose for my target," replied Robert, "was not De Courcelles,
nor yet Junonville, but that young De Galissonniere, who was so kind to us
in Quebec, and whom we met later among the peaks. I was about to pull
trigger, and, if I had done so, I should be sorry all my life."

"Is he still there?"

Robert looked again and De Galissonniere was gone. He felt immense relief.
He thought it was war's worst cruelty that it often brought friends face to
face in battle.

The French and Indian horde from the lake landed and drove against the
rangers on the eastern flank with great violence, firing their rifles and
muskets, and then coming on with the tomahawk. The little force of Rogers
was in danger of being enveloped on all sides, and would have been
exterminated had it not been for his valor and presence of mind, seconded
so ably by Willet, Black Rifle and their comrades.

They formed a barrier of living fire, facing in three directions and
holding back the shouting horde until the main body of the surviving
rangers could gather for retreat. Robert and Tayoga were near Willet, all
the best sharpshooters were there, and never had they fought more valiantly
than on that day.

Robert crouched among the bushes, peering for the faces of his foes, and
firing whenever he could secure a good aim.

"Have you seen Tandakora?" he asked Tayoga.

"No," replied the Onondaga.

"He must be here. He would not miss such a chance."

"He is here."

"But you said you hadn't seen him."

"I have not seen him, but O, Dagaeoga, I have heard him. Did not we
observe when we were in the forest that ear was often to be trusted more
than eye? Listen to the greatest war shout of them all! You can hear it
every minute or two, rising over all the others, superior in volume as it
is in ferocity. The voice of the Ojibway is huge, like his figure."

Now, in very truth, Robert did notice the fierce triumphant shout of
Tandakora, over and above the yelling of the horde, and it made him shudder
again and again. It was the cry of the man-hunting wolf, enlarged many
times, and instinct with exultation and ferocity. That terrible cry, rising
at regular intervals, dominated the battle in Robert's mind, and he looked
eagerly for the colossal form of the chief that he might send his bullet
through it, but in vain; the voice was there though his eyes saw nothing at
which to aim.

Farther and farther back went the rangers, and the youth's heart was filled
with anger and grief. Had they endured so much, had they escaped so many
dangers, merely to take part in such a disaster? Unconsciously he began to
shout in an effort to encourage those with him, and although he did not
know it, it was a reply to the war cries of Tandakora. The smoke and the
odors of the burned gunpowder filled his nostrils and throat, and heated
his brain. Now and then he would stop his own shouting and listen for the
reply of Tandakora. Always it came, the ferocious note of the Ojibway
swelling and rising above the warwhoop of the other Indians.

"Dagaeoga looks for Tandakora," said the Onondaga.

"Truly, yes," replied Robert. "Just now it's my greatest wish in life to
find him with a bullet. I hear his voice almost continuously, but I can't
see him! I think the smoke hides him."

"No, Dagaeoga, it is not the smoke, it is Areskoui. I know it, because the
Sun God has whispered it in my ear. You will hear the voice of Tandakora
all through the battle, but you will not see him once."

"Why should your Areskoui protect a man like Tandakora, who deserves death,
if anyone ever did?"

"He protects him, today merely, not always. It is understood that I shall
meet Tandakora in the final reckoning. I told him so, when I was his
captive, and he struck me in the face. It was no will of mine that made me
say the words, but it was Areskoui directing me to utter them. So, I know,
O, my comrade, that Tandakora cannot fall to your rifle now. His time is
not today, but it will come as surely as the sun sets behind the peaks."

Tayoga spoke with such intense earnestness that Robert looked at him, and
his face, seen through the battle smoke, had all the rapt expression of a
prophet's. The white youth felt, for the moment at least, with all the
depth of conviction, the words of the red youth would come true. Then the
tremendous voice of Tandakora boomed above the firing and yelling, but, as
before, his body remained invisible. Tandakora's Indians, many of whom had
come with him from the far shores of the Great Lakes, showed all the
cunning and courage that made them so redoubtable in forest warfare. Armed
with good French muskets and rifles they crept forward among the thickets,
and poured in an unceasing fire. Encouraged by the success at Oswego, and
by the knowledge that the great St. Luc, the best of all the French
leaders, was commanding the whole force, their ferocity rose to the highest
pitch and it was fed also by the hope that they would destroy all the hated
and dreaded rangers whom they now held in a trap.

Robert had never before seen them attack with so much disregard of wounds,
and death. Usually the Indian was a wary fighter, always preferring ambush,
and securing every possible advantage for himself, but now they rushed
boldly across open spaces, seeking new and nearer coverts. Many fell before
the bullets of the rangers but the swarms came on, with undiminished zeal,
always pushing the battle, and keeping up a fire so heavy that, despite the
bullets that went wild, the rangers steadily diminished in numbers.

"It's a powerful attack," said Robert.

"It's because they feel so sure of victory," said Tayoga, "and it's because
they know it's the Mountain Wolf and his men whom they have surrounded.
They would rather destroy a hundred rangers than three hundred troops."

"That's so," said Willet, who overheard them in all the crash of the
battle. "They won't let the opportunity escape. Back a little, lads! This
place is becoming too much exposed."

They withdrew into deeper shelter, but they still fired as fast, as they
could reload and pull the trigger. Their bullets, although they rarely
missed, seemed to make no impression on the red horde, which always pressed
closer, and there was a deadly ring of fire around the rangers, made by
hundreds of rifles and muskets.

Robert and Tayoga were still without wounds. Leaves and twigs rained around
them, and they heard often the song of the bullets, they saw many of the
rangers fall, but happy fortune kept their own bodies untouched. Robert
knew that the battle was a losing one, but he was resolved to hold his
place with his comrades. Rogers, who had been fighting with undaunted valor
and desperation, marshaling his men in vain against numbers greatly
superior, made his way once more to the side of Willet and crouched with
him in the bushes.

"Dave, my friend," he said, "the battle goes against us."

"So it does," replied the hunter, "but it is no fault of yours or your men.
St. Luc, the best of all the French leaders, has forced us into a trap.
There is nothing left for us to do now but burst the trap."

"I hate to yield the field."

"But it must be done. It's better to lose a part of the rangers than to
lose all. You've had many a narrow escape before. Men will come to your
standard and you'll have a new band bigger than ever."

The dark face of the ranger captain brightened a little. But he looked
sadly upon his fallen men. He was bleeding himself from two slight wounds,
but he paid no attention to them. The need to flee pierced his soul, but
he saw that it must be done, else all the rangers would be destroyed, and,
while he still hesitated a moment or two, the silver whistle of St. Luc,
urging on a fresh and greater attack, rose above all the sounds of combat.
Then he knew that he must wait no longer, and he gave the command for
ordered flight.

Not more than half of the rangers escaped from that terrible converging
attack. St. Luc's triumph was complete. He had won full revenge for his
defeat by Andiatarocte, and he pushed the pursuit with so much energy and
skill that Rogers bade the surviving rangers scatter in the wilderness to
reassemble again, after their fashion, far to the south.

Black Rifle remained with the leader, but Robert, Tayoga and Willet
continued their flight together, not stopping until night, when they were
safe from pursuit. As the three went southward through the deep forest,
they saw many trails that they knew to be those of hostile Indians, and
nowhere did they find a sign of a friend. All the wilderness seemed to have
become the country of the enemy. When they looked once more from the lofty
shores upon the vivid waters of George, they beheld canoes, but as they
watched they discovered that they were those of the foe. A terrible fear
clutched at their hearts, a fear that Montcalm, like St. Luc, had struck

"The tide of battle has flowed south of us," said Tayoga. "All that we find
in the forest proclaims it."

"I would you were not right, Tayoga," said the hunter, "but I fear you

They came the next day to the trail of a great army, soldiers and cannon.
Night overtook them while they were still near the shores of Lake George,
following the road, left by the French and Indian host as it had advanced
south, and the three, wearied by their long flight, drew back into the
dense thickets for rest. The darkness had come on thicker and heavier than
usual, and they were glad of it, as they were well hidden in its dusky
folds, and they wished to rest without apprehension.

They had food with them which they ate, and then they wrapped their
blankets about their bodies, because a wind was coming from the lake, and
its touch was damp. Clouds also covered all the skies, and, before long, a
thin, drizzling rain fell. They would have been cold, and, in time, wet to
the bone, but the blankets were sufficient to protect them.

"Areskoui, after smiling upon us for so long, has now turned his face from
us," said Tayoga.

"What else can you expect?" said the valiant Willet. "It is always so in
war. You're up and then you're down. We were masters of the peaks for a
while, and by our capture of Garay's letter we kept St. Luc from attacking
Albany, but the stars never fight for you all the time. We couldn't do
anything that would save the rangers from defeat."

The Onondaga looked up. The others could not see his face, but it was
reverential, and the cold rain that fell upon it had then no chill for
him. Instead it was soothing.

"Tododaho is on his great star beyond the clouds," he said, "and he is
looking down on us. We have done wrong or he and Areskoui would not have
withdrawn their favor from us, but we have done it unknowingly, and, in
time, they will forgive us. As long as the Onondagas are true to him
Tododaho will watch over them, although at times he may punish them."

That Tododaho was protecting them even then was proved conclusively to
Tayoga before the night was over. A great war party passed within a hundred
yards of them, going swiftly southward, but the three, swathed in their
blankets, and, hidden in the dark thickets, had no fear. They were merely
three motes in the wilderness and the warriors did not dream that they were
near. When the last sound of their marching had sunk into nothingness,
Tayoga said:

"It was not the will of Tododaho that they should suspect our presence, but
I fear that they go to a triumph."

They rose from the thicket early the following morning, and resumed their
flight, but it soon came to a halt, when the Onondaga pointed to a trail in
the forest, made apparently by about twenty warriors. The hawk eye of
Tayoga, however, picked out one trace among them which all three knew was
made by a white man.

"I know, too," said the red youth, "the white man who made it."

"Tell us his name," said the hunter, who had full confidence in the
wonderful powers of the Onondaga.

"It is the Frenchman, Langlade, who held Dagaeoga a prisoner in his village
so long. I know his traces, because I followed them before. His foot is
very small, and it has been less than an hour since he passed here. They
are ahead of us, directly in our path."

"What do you think we ought to do, Dave?" asked Robert, anxiously. "You
know we want to go south as fast as we can."

"We must try to go around Langlade," replied Willet. "It's true, we'll lose
time, but it's better to lose time and be late a little than to lose our
lives and never get there at all."

"The Great Bear is a very wise man," said Tayoga.

They made at once a sharp curve toward the east, but just when they thought
they were passing parallel with Langlade's band, they were fired upon from
a thicket, the bullet singing by Robert's ear. The three took cover in the
bushes, and a long and trying combat of sharpshooters took place. Two
warriors were slain and both Willet and Tayoga were grazed by the Indian
fire, but they were not hurt. Robert once caught sight of Langlade, and he
might have dropped the partisan with his bullet, but his heart held his
hand. Langlade had shown him many a kindness, during his long captivity
and, although he was a fierce enemy now, the lad was not one to forget. As
he had spared De Galissonniere, so would he spare Langlade, and, in a
moment or two, the Frenchman was gone from his sight.

Another dark and rainy night came, and, protected by it, they crept in
silence past the partisan's band soon leaving this new danger far behind
them. Tayoga was very grateful, and accepted their escape as a sign.

"While Manitou, who rules all things, has decreed that we must suffer much
before victory," he said, "yet, as I see it, he has decreed also that we
three shall not fall, else why does he spread so many dangers before us,
and then take us safely through them?"

"It looks the same way to me," said Willet. "The dark and rainy night that
he sent enabled us to pass by Langlade and his band."

"A second black night following a first," said Tayoga, devoutly. "I do not
doubt that it was sent for our benefit by Manitou, who is lord even over
Tododaho and Areskoui."

They made good speed near the shores of Andiatarocte and now and then they
caught glimpses once more through the heavy green foliage of the lake's
glittering waters. But they saw anew the canoes of the French and Indians
upon its surface, and they realized with increasing force that
Andiatarocte, so vital in the great struggle, belonged, for the time at
least, to their enemies. Yet the three themselves were favored. The rain
ceased, a warm wind out of the south dried the forest, and their flight
became easy. A fat deer stood in their path and fairly asked to be shot,
furnishing them all the food they might need for days to come, and they
were able to dress and prepare it at their leisure.

"It is clear, as I have already surmised and stated," said Tayoga in his
precise language, "that the frown of Manitou is not for us three. The way
opens before us, and we shall rejoin our friends."

"If we have any friends left," said the hunter. "I fear greatly, Tayoga,
that Montcalm will have struck before we arrive. He has a powerful force
with plenty of cannon, and we know he acts with decision and speed."

"He has struck already and he has struck terribly," said Tayoga with great

"How do you know that?" asked Robert, startled.

"I do not know it because of anything that has been told to me in words,"
replied the Onondaga, "but O, Dagaeoga, the mind, which is often more
potent than eye or ear, as I have told you so many times, is now warning
me. We know that our people farther south have been in disagreement. The
governors of the provinces have not acted together. Everyone is of his own
mind, and no two minds are alike. No effort was made to profit by the great
victory last year on the shores of Andiatarocte. Waraiyageh, sore in body
and mind, rests at home, so it is not possible that our people have been
ready and vigorous."

"While the French and Indians are all that we are not?"

"Even so. Montcalm advances with great speed, and knows precisely what he
intends to do. He has had plenty of time to reach our forts below. His
force is overwhelming, though more so in preparation and decision, than in
numbers. He has had time to strike, and being Montcalm, therefore he has
struck. There is no chance of error, O, Dagaeoga and Great Bear, when I
tell you a heavy blow has fallen upon us."

"I don't want to believe you, Tayoga," said the hunter, "but I do. The
conclusion seems inevitable to me."

"I'm hoping when hope's but faint," said Robert.

They swung again into the great trail, left by the army of Montcalm, or at
least a part of it, and the Onondaga and the hunter told its tale with

"Here passed the cannon," said Tayoga. "I judge by the size of the ruts the
wheels made that a battery of twelve pounders went this way. What do you
say, Great Bear?"

"You're right, of course, Tayoga, and there were eight guns in the battery;
a child could tell their number. They had other batteries too."

"And the wooden walls of our forts wouldn't stand much chance against a
continuous fire of twelve and eighteen pounders," said Robert.

"No," said Willet. "The forts could be saved only by enterprising and
skillful commanders who would drive away the batteries."

"Here went the warriors," said Tayoga. "They were on the outer edges of the
great trail, walking lightly, according to their custom. See the traces of
the moccasins, scores and scores of them. We will come very soon to a place
where the whole army camped for the night. How do I know, O, Dagaeoga?
Because numerous trails are coming in from the forest and converging upon
one point. They do that because it is time to gather for food and the
night's rest. Some of the warriors went into the forest to hunt game, and
they found it, too. Look at the drops of blood, still faintly showing on
the grass, leading here, and here, and here into the main trail, drops that
fell from the deer they had slain. Also they shot birds. Behold feathers
hanging on the bushes, blown there by the wind, which proves that the site
of their camp is very near, as I said."

"It's just over the hill in that wide, shallow valley," said Willet.

They entered the valley which had been marked by the departed army with
signs as clear as the print of a book for the Onondaga and the hunter to

"Here at the northern end of the valley is where the warriors cooked and
ate the deer they had slain," said Tayoga. "The bones are scattered all
about, and we see the ashes of their fires, but they kept mostly to
themselves, because few footprints of white men lead to the place they set
aside as their own. Just beyond them the cannon were parked. All this is
very simple. An Onondaga child eight years old could read what is written
in this camp. Here are the impressions made by the cannon wheels, and just
beside them the artillery horses were tethered, as the numerous hoofprints

"And here, I imagine," said Robert, who had walked on, "the Marquis de
Montcalm and his lieutenants spent the night. Tents were pitched for them.
You can see the holes left by the pegs."

"Spoken truly, O, Dagaeoga. You are using eye and mind, and lo! you are
showing once more the beginnings of wisdom. Four tents were pitched. The
rest of the army slept in the open. Montcalm and his lieutenants
themselves would have done so, but the setting up of the tents inspired
respect in the warriors and even in the troops. The French leaders have
mind and they profit by it. They neglect no precaution, no detail to
increase their prestige and maintain their authority."

"It is so, Tayoga," said Willet, "and I can wish that our own officers
would do the same. The French are marvelously expert in dealing with
Indians. They can handle them all, except the Hodenosaunee. But don't you
think they held a short council here by this log, after they had eaten
their suppers?"

"It cannot be doubted, Great Bear. Montcalm and his captains sat on the
log. The Indian chiefs sat in a half circle before it, and they smoked a
pipe. See, the traces of the ashes on the grass. They were planning the
attack upon the fort. It is bound to be William Henry, because the trail
leads in that direction."

"And these marks on the log, Tayoga, show that there was some indecision,
at first, and much talking. Two or three of the French officers had their
hunting knives in their hands, and they carved nervously at the log, just
as a man will often whittle as he argues."

"Well stated, O, Great Bear. After the conference, the chiefs went back in
single file to their own part of the camp. Here goes their trail, and you
can nearly fancy that all stepped exactly in the footprints of the first."

"The straight, decisive line proves too, Tayoga, that the plan was
completed and everything ready for the attack. The chiefs would not have
gone away in such a manner if they had not been satisfied."

"Well stated again, Great Bear. The Marquis de Montcalm also went directly
back to his tent. See, where the boot heels pressed."

"But you have no way of knowing," said Robert, "that the traces of boot
heels indicate the Marquis."

"O, Dagaeoga, after all my teaching, you forget again that mind can see
where the eye cannot. Train the mind! Train the mind, and you will get much
profit from it. The traces of these boot heels lead directly to the place
where the largest tent stood. We know it was the largest, because the holes
left by the tent pegs are farthest apart. And we know it belonged to the
Marquis de Montcalm, because, always having that keen eye for effect, the
French Commander-in-Chief would have no tent but the largest."

"True as Gospel, Tayoga," said the hunter, "and the French officers
themselves had a little conference in the tent of the Marquis, after they
had finished with the Indian chiefs. Here, within the square made by the
pegs, are the prints of many boot heels and they were not all made by the
Marquis, since they are of different sizes. Probably they were completing
some plans in regard to the artillery, since the warriors would have
nothing to do with the big guns. Here are ashes, too, in the corner near
one of the pegs. I think it likely that the Marquis smoked a thoughtful
pipe after all the others had gone."

"Aye, Dave," said Robert, "and he had much to think about. The officers
from Europe find things tremendously changed when they come from their
open fields into this mighty wilderness. We know what happened to Braddock,
because we saw it, and we had a part in it. I can understand his mistake.
How could a soldier from Europe read the signs of the forest, signs that he
had never seen before, and foresee the ambush?"

"He couldn't, Robert, lad, but while countries change in character men
themselves don't. Braddock was brave, but he should have remembered that he
was not in Europe. The Marquis de Montcalm remembers it. He made no mistake
at Oswego and he is making none here. He took the Indian chiefs into
council, as we have just seen. He placates them, he humors their whims, and
he draws out of them their full fighting power to be used for the French

Tayoga ranged about the shallow valley a little, and announced that the
whole force had gone on together the morning after the encampment.

"The artillery and the infantry were in close ranks," he said, "and the
warriors were on either flank, scouting in the forest, forming a fringe
which kept off possible scouts of the English and Americans. There was no
chance of a surprise attack which would cut up the forces of Montcalm and
impede his advance."

Willet sighed.

"The Marquis, although he may not have known it," he said, "was in no
danger from such an enterprise. We have read the signs too well, Tayoga.
Our own people have been lying in their forts, weak of will, waiting to
defend themselves, while the French and their allies have had all the
wilderness to range over, and in which they might do as they pleased. It is
easy to see where the advantage lies."

"And we shall soon learn what has happened," said Tayoga, gravely.

The next morning they met an American scout who told them the terrible news
of the capture of Fort William Henry, with its entire garrison, by
Montcalm, and the slaughter afterward of many of the prisoners by the

Robert was appalled.

"Is Lake George to remain our only victory?" he exclaimed.

"It's better to have a bad beginning and a good ending than a good
beginning and a bad ending," said the scout.

"Remember," said Tayoga, "how Areskoui watched over us, when we were among
the peaks. As he watched over us then so later on he will watch over our

"It was only for a moment that I felt despair," said Robert. "It is certain
that victory always comes to those who know how to work and wait."

Courage rose anew in their hearts, and once more they sped southward,
resolved to make greater efforts than any that had gone before.


Back to Full Books