Joseph A. Altsheler.

The Rulers of the Lakes A Story of George and Champlain online

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Proofreading Team.

The French and Indian War just after Braddock's defeat is again the
background for an Altsheler triumph.

Young Robert Lennox and his friend Tayoga, an Onondaga Indian, undertake
to make a dangerous journey through the northern wilderness to warn the
garrison and settlers gathered at Fort Refuge of the hostile forces.
Afterwards they join the army as scouts, preceding it on an expedition
to Lake George and Lake Champlain, where they engage in many fierce
encounters. The story concludes with the battle of Lake George, in which
the Colonists win their first great success of the war.

The story takes place almost wholly in the wilderness, and gives a
picture of Iroquois life and warfare, historically true. The description
of life in the wilderness, of the intrigue and cunning necessary in
dealing with the French and Indians, of repeated encounters where
ultimate success depends on quick wit and wily cleverness, makes
fascinating reading for boys and girls.








Printed in the United States of America


"The Rulers of the Lakes" is a complete story, but it is also the third
volume of the French and Indian War Series, following "The Hunters of
the Hills" and "The Shadow of the North." Robert Lennox, Tayoga, Willet,
and all the important characters in the earlier romances reappear.


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






















The three, the white youth, the red youth, and the white man, lay deep
in the forest, watching the fire that burned on a low hill to the west,
where black figures flitted now and then before the flame. They did not
stir or speak for a long time, because a great horror was upon them.
They had seen an army destroyed a few days before by a savage but
invisible foe. They had heard continually for hours the fierce
triumphant yells of the warriors and they had seen the soldiers dropping
by hundreds, but the woods and thickets had hid the foe who sent forth
such a rain of death.

Robert Lennox could not yet stop the quiver of his nerves when he
recalled the spectacle, and Willet, the hunter, hardened though he was
to war, shuddered in spite of himself at the memory of that terrible
battle in the leafy wilderness. Nor was Tayoga, the young Onondaga,
free from emotion when he thought of Braddock's defeat, and the blazing
triumph it meant for the western tribes, the enemies of his people.

They had turned back, availing themselves of their roving commission,
when they saw that the victors were not pursuing the remains of the
beaten army, and now they were watching the French and Indians. Fort
Duquesne was not many miles away, but the fire on the hill had been
built by a party of Indians led by a Frenchman, his uniform showing when
he passed between eye and flame, the warriors being naked save for the
breech cloth.

"I hope it's not St. Luc," said Robert.

"Why?" asked Willet. "He was in the battle. We saw him leading on the
Indian hosts."

"I know. That was fair combat, I suppose, and the French used the tools
they had. The Chevalier could scarcely have been a loyal son of France
if he had not fought us then, but I don't like to think of him over
there by the fire, leading a band of Indians who will kill and scalp
women and children as well as men along the border."

"Nor I, either, though I'm not worried about it. I can't tell who the
man is, but I know it's not St. Luc. Now I see him black against the
blaze, and it's not the Chevalier's figure."

Robert suddenly drew a long breath, as if he had made a surprising

"I'm not sure," he said, "but I notice a trick of movement now and then
reminding me of someone. I'm thinking it's the same Auguste de
Courcelles, Colonel of France, whom we met first in the northern woods
and again in Quebec. There was one memorable night, as you know, Dave,
when we had occasion to mark him well."

"I think you're right, Robert," said the hunter. "It looks like De

"I know he is right," said Tayoga, speaking for the first time. "I have
been watching him whenever he passed before the fire, and I cannot
mistake him."

"I wonder what he's doing here," said Robert. "He may have been in the
battle, or he may have come to Duquesne a day or two later."

"I think," said Willet, "that he's getting ready to lead a band against
the border, now almost defenseless."

"He is a bad man," said Tayoga. "His soul is full of wickedness and
cruelty, and it should be sent to the dwelling place of the evil minded.
If Great Bear and Dagaeoga say the word I will creep through the
thickets and kill him."

Robert glanced at him. The Onondaga had spoken in the gentle tones of
one who felt grief rather than anger. Robert knew that his heart was
soft, that in ordinary life none was kinder than Tayoga. And yet he was
and always would be an Indian. De Courcelles had a bad mind, and he was
also a danger that should be removed. Then why not remove him?

"No, Tayoga," said Willet. "We can't let you risk yourself that way. But
we might go a little closer without any great danger. Ah, do you see
that new figure passing before the blaze?"

"Tandakora!" exclaimed the white youth and the red youth together.

"Nobody who knows him could mistake him, even at this distance. I think
he must be the biggest Indian in all the world."

"But a bullet would bring him crashing to earth as quickly as any
other," said the Onondaga.

"Aye, so it would, Tayoga, but his time hasn't come yet, though it will
come, and may we be present when your Manitou deals with him as he
deserves. Suppose we curve to the right through these thick bushes, and
from the slope there I think we can get a much better view of the band."

They advanced softly upon rising ground, and being able to approach two
or three hundred yards, saw quite clearly all those around the fire. The
white man was in truth De Courcelles, and the gigantic Indian, although
there could have been no mistake about him, was Tandakora, the Ojibway.
The warriors, about thirty in number, were, Willet thought, a mingling
of Ojibways, Pottawattomies and Ottawas. All were in war paint and were
heavily armed, many of them carrying big muskets with bayonets on the
end, taken from Braddock's fallen soldiers. Three had small swords
belted to their naked waists, not as weapons, but rather as the visible
emblems of triumph.

As he looked, Robert's head grew hot with the blood pumped up from his
angry heart. It seemed to him that they swaggered and boasted, although
they were but true to savage nature.

"Easy, lad," said Willet, putting a restraining hand upon his shoulder.
"It's their hour. You can't deny that, and we'll have to bide a while."

"But will our hour ever come, Dave? Our army has been beaten,
destroyed. The colonies and mother country alike are sluggish, and now
have no plans, the whole border lies at the mercy of the tomahawk and
the French power in Canada not only grows all the time, but is directed
by able and daring men."

"Patience, lad, patience! Our strength is greater than that of the foe,
although we may be slower in using it. But I tell you we'll see our day
of triumph yet."

"They are getting ready to move," whispered the Onondaga. "The Frenchman
and the band will march northward."

"And not back to Duquesne?" said Willet. "What makes you think so,

"What is left for them to do at Duquesne? It will be many a day before
the English and Americans come against it again."

"That, alas, is true, Tayoga. They're not needed longer here, nor are
we. They've put out their fire, and now they're off toward the north,
just as you said they would be. Tandakora and De Courcelles lead,
marching side by side. A pretty pair, well met here in the forest. Now,
I wish I knew where they were going!"

"Can't the Great Bear guess?" said the Onondaga.

"No, Tayoga. How should I?"

"Doesn't Great Bear remember the fort in the forest, the one called

"Of course I do, Tayoga! And the brave lads, Colden and Wilton and
Carson and their comrades who defended it so long and so well. That's
the most likely point of attack, and now, since Braddock's army is
destroyed it's too far in the wilderness, too exposed, and should be
abandoned. Suppose we carry a warning!"

Robert's eyes glistened. The idea made a strong appeal to him. He had
mellow memories of those Philadelphia lads, and it would be pleasant to
see them again. The three, in bearing the alarm, might achieve, too, a
task that would lighten, in a measure, the terror along the border. It
would be a relief at least to do something while the government
disagreed and delayed.

"Let's start at once for Fort Refuge," he said, "and help them to get
away before the storm breaks. What do you say, Tayoga?"

"It is what we ought to do," replied the Onondaga, in his precise
English of the schools.

"Come," said Willet, leading the way, and the three, leaving the fire
behind them, marched rapidly into the north and east. Two miles gone,
and they stopped to study the sun, by which they meant to take their

"The fort lies there," said Willet, pointing a long finger, "and by my
calculations it will take us about five days and nights to reach it,
that is, if nothing gets in our way."

"You think, then," asked Robert, "that the French and Indians are
already spreading a net?"

"The Indians might stop, Robert, my lad, to exult over their victory and
to celebrate it with songs and dances, but the French leaders, whose
influence with them is now overwhelming, will push them on. They will
want to reap all the fruits of their great triumph by the river. I've
often told you about the quality of the French and you've seen for
yourself. Ligneris, Contrecoeur, De Courcelles, St. Luc and the others
will flame like torches along the border."

"And St. Luc will be the most daring, skillful and energetic of them

"It's a fact that all three of us know, Robert, and now, having fixed
our course, we must push ahead with all speed. De Courcelles, Tandakora
and the warriors are on the march, too, and we may see them again before
we see Fort Refuge."

"The forest will be full of warriors," said Tayoga, speaking with great
gravity. "The fort will be the first thought of the western barbarians,
and of the tribes from Canada, and they will wish to avenge the defeat
they suffered before it."

It was not long until they had ample proof that the Onondaga's words
were true. They saw three trails in the course of the day, and all of
them led toward the fort. Willet and Tayoga, with their wonderful
knowledge of the forest, estimated that about thirty warriors made one
trail, about twenty another, and fifteen the smallest.

"They're going fast, too," said the hunter, "but we must go faster."

"They will see our traces," said Tayoga, "and by signaling to one
another they will tell all that we are in the woods. Then they will set
a force to destroy us, while the greater bands go on to take the fort."

"But we'll pass 'em," said Robert confidently. "They can't stop us!"

Tayoga and the hunter glanced at him. Then they looked at each other
and smiled. They knew Robert thoroughly, they understood his vivid and
enthusiastic nature which, looking forward with so much confidence to
success, was apt to consider it already won, a fact that perhaps
contributed in no small measure to the triumph wished so ardently. At
last, the horror of the great defeat in the forest and the slaughter of
an army was passing. It was Robert's hopeful temperament and brilliant
mind that gave him such a great charm for all who met him, a charm to
which even the fifty wise old sachems in the vale of Onondaga had not
been insensible.

"No, Robert," said the Great Bear gravely, "I don't think anything can
stop us. I've a prevision that De Courcelles and Tandakora will stand in
our way, but we'll just brush 'em out of it."

They had not ceased to march at speed, while they talked, and now Tayoga
announced the presence of a river, an obstacle that might prove
formidable to foresters less expert than they. It was lined on both
sides with dense forest, and they walked along its bank about a mile
until they came to a comparatively shallow place where they forded it in
water above their knees. However, their leggings and moccasins dried
fast in the midsummer sun, and, experiencing no discomfort, they pressed
forward with unabated speed.

All the afternoon they continued their great journey to save those at
the fort, fording another river and a half dozen creeks and leaping
across many brooks. Twice they crossed trails leading to the east and
twice other trails leading to the west, but they felt that all of them
would presently turn and join in the general march converging upon Fort
Refuge. They were sure, too, that De Courcelles, Tandakora and their
band were marching on a line almost parallel with them, and that they
would offer the greatest danger.

Night came, a beautiful, bright summer night with a silky blue sky in
which multitudes of silver stars danced, and they sought a covert in a
dense thicket where they lay on their blankets, ate venison, and talked
a little before they slept.

Robert's brilliant and enthusiastic mood lasted. He could see nothing
but success. With the fading of the great slaughter by the river came
other pictures, deep of hue, intense and charged with pleasant memories.
Life recently had been a great panorama to him, bright and full of
changes. He could not keep from contrasting his present position, hid in
a thicket to save himself from cruel savages, with those vivid days at
Quebec, his gorgeous period in New York, and the gay time with sporting
youth in the cozy little capital of Williamsburg.

But the contrast, so far from making him unhappy, merely expanded his
spirit. He rejoiced in the pleasures that he had known and adapted
himself to present conditions. Always influenced greatly by what lay
just around him, he considered their thicket the best thicket in which
he had ever been hidden. The leaves of last year, drifted into little
heaps on which they lay, were uncommonly large and soft. The light
breeze rustling the boughs over his head whispered only of peace and
ease, and the two comrades, who lay on either side of him, were the
finest comrades any lad ever had.

"Tayoga," he asked, and his voice was sincerely earnest, "can you see on
his star Tododaho, the founder and protector of the great league of the

The young Onondaga, his face mystic and reverential, gazed toward the
west where a star of great size and beauty quivered and blazed.

"I behold him," he replied. "His face is turned toward us, and the wise
serpents lie, coil on coil, in his hair. There are wreaths of vapor
about his eyes, but I can see them shining through, shining with
kindness, as the mighty chief, who went away four hundred years ago,
watches over us. His eyes say that so long as our deeds are just, so
long as we walk in the path that Manitou wishes, we shall be victorious.
Now a cloud passes before the star, and I cannot see the face of
Tododaho, but he has spoken, and it will be well for us to remember his

He sank back on his blanket and closed his eyes as if he, too, in
thought, had shot through space to some great star. Robert and Willet
were silent, sharing perhaps in his emotion. The religion and beliefs of
the Indian were real and vital to them, and if Tododaho promised success
to Tayoga then the promise would be fulfilled.

"I think, Robert," said Willet, "that you'd better keep the first watch.
Wake me a little while before midnight, and I'll take the second."

"Good enough," said Robert. "I think I can hear any footfall Tandakora
may make, if he approaches."

"It is not enough to hear the footfall of the Ojibway," said Tayoga,
opening his eyes and sitting up. "To be a great sentinel and forester
worthy to be compared with the greatest, Dagaeoga must hear the whisper
of the grass as it bends under the lightest wind, he must hear the sound
made by the little leaf as it falls, he must hear the ripple in the
brook that is flowing a hundred yards from us, and he must hear the wild
flowers talking together in the night. Only then can Dagaeoga call
himself a sentinel fit to watch over two such sleeping foresters as the
Great Bear and myself."

"Close your eyes and go to sleep without fear," said Robert in the same
vein. "I shall hear Tandakora breathing if he comes within a mile of us,
at the same distance I shall hear the moccasin of De Courcelles, when it
brushes against last year's fallen leaf, and at half a mile I shall see
the look of revenge and cruelty upon the face of the Ojibway seeking for

Willet laughed softly, but with evident satisfaction.

"You two boys are surely the greatest talkers I've heard for a long
time," he said. "You have happy thoughts and you put 'em into words. If
I didn't know that you had a lot of deeds, too, to your credit, I'd call
you boasters, but knowing it, I don't. Go ahead and spout language,
because you're only lads and I can see that you enjoy it."

"I'm going to sleep now," said Tayoga, "but Dagaeoga can keep on talking
and be happy, because he will talk to himself long after we have gone to
the land of dreams."

"If I do talk to myself," said Robert, "it's because I like to talk to
a bright fellow, and I like to have a bright fellow talk to me. Sleep as
soundly as you please, you two, because while you're sleeping I can
carry on an intellectual conversation."

The hunter laughed again.

"It's no use, Tayoga," he said. "You can't put him down. The fifty wise
old sachems in the vale of Onondaga proclaimed him a great orator, and
great orators must always have their way."

"It is so," said the Onondaga. "The voice of Dagaeoga is like a river.
It flows on forever, and like the murmur of the stream it will soothe me
to deeper slumbers. Now I sleep."

"And so do I," said the hunter.

It seemed marvelous that such formal announcements should be followed by
fact, but within three minutes both went to that pleasant land of dreams
of which they had been talking so lightly. Their breathing was long and
regular and, beyond a doubt, they had put absolute faith in their
sentinel. Robert's mind, so quick to respond to obvious confidence,
glowed with resolve. There was no danger now that he would relax the
needed vigilance a particle, and, rifle in the hollow of his arm, he
began softly to patrol the bushes.

He was convinced that De Courcelles and Tandakora were not many miles
away - they might even be within a mile - and memory of a former occasion,
somewhat similar, when Tayoga had detected the presence of the Ojibway,
roused his emulation. He was determined that, while he was on watch, no
creeping savage should come near enough to strike.

Hand on the hammer and trigger of his rifle he walked in an ever
widening circle about his sleeping comrades, searching the thickets with
eyes, good naturally and trained highly, and stopping now and then to
listen. Two or three times he put his ear to the earth that he might
hear, as Tayoga had bade him, the rustle of leaves a mile away.

His eager spirit, always impatient for action, found relief in the
continuous walking, and the steady enlargement of the circle in which he
traveled, acquiring soon a radius of several hundred yards. On the
western perimeter he was beyond the deep thicket, and within a
magnificent wood, unchoked by undergrowth. Here the trees stood up in
great, regular rows, ordered by nature, and the brilliant moonlight
clothed every one of them in a veil of silver. On such a bright night in
summer the wilderness always had for him an elusive though powerful
beauty, but he felt its danger. Among the mighty trunks, with no
concealing thickets, he could be seen easily, if prowling savages were
near, and, as he made his circles, he always hastened through what he
called to himself his park, until he came to the bushes, in the density
of which he was well hidden from any eye fifty feet away.

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Online LibraryJoseph A. AltshelerThe Rulers of the Lakes A Story of George and Champlain → online text (page 1 of 21)