Joseph A. Altsheler.

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

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wound was clean and his blood absolutely pure. The fever was due and it
would run its course. He could do nothing more for his comrade at
present, and lying down on his own spread of leaves, he soon fell
asleep.

Robert's slumber was not sound. Although the Onondaga might be watched
over by Tododaho, Areskoui and even Manitou himself, he had felt the
weight of responsibility. The gods protected those who protected
themselves, and, even while he slept, the thought was nestling somewhere
in his brain and awoke him now and then. Upon every such occasion he sat
up and looked out at the entrance of the cave, to see, as he had hoped,
only the darkness and black sheets of driving rain, and also upon every
occasion devout thanks rose up in his throat. Tayoga had not prayed to
his patron saint and to the great Areskoui and Manitou in vain, else in
all that wilderness, given over to night and storm, they would not have
found so good a refuge and shelter.

Tayoga's fever increased, and when morning came, with the rain still
falling, though not in such a deluge as by night, it seemed to Robert,
who had seen many gunshot wounds, that it was about at the zenith. The
Onondaga came out of his sleep, but he was delirious for a little while,
Robert sitting by him, covering him with his blanket and seeing that his
hurt was kept away from the air.

The rain ceased by and by, but heavy fogs and vapors floated over the
mountains, so dense that Robert could not see more than fifteen or
twenty feet beyond the mouth of the cave, in front of which a stream of
water from the rain a foot deep was flowing. He was thankful. He knew
that fog and flood together would hide them in absolute security for
another day and night at least.

He ate a little venison and regretted that he did not have a small
skillet in which he could make soup for Tayoga later on, but since he
did not have it he resolved to pound venison into shreds between stones,
when the time came. Examining Tayoga again, he found, to his great joy,
that the fever was decreasing, and he washed the wound anew. Then he sat
by him a long time while the morning passed. Tayoga, who had been
muttering in his fever, sank into silence, and about noon, opening his
eyes, he said in a weak voice:

"How long have we been here, Dagaeoga?"

"About half of the second day is now gone," replied Robert, "and your
fever has gone with it. You're as limp as a towel, but you're started
fairly on the road to recovery."

"I know it," said Tayoga gratefully, "and I am thankful to Tododaho, to
Areskoui, to Manitou, greatest of all, and to you, Dagaeoga, without
whom the great spirits of earth and air would have let me perish."

"You don't owe me anything, Tayoga. It's what one comrade has a right to
expect of another. Did you exert your will, as you said, when you were
delirious, and help along nature with your cure?"

"I did, Dagaeoga. Before I lapsed into the unconsciousness of which you
speak, I resolved that today, when my fever should have passed, my soul
should lift me up. I concentrated my mind upon it, I attuned every nerve
to that end, and while I could not prevent the fever and the weakness,
yet the resolution to get well fast helps me to do so. By so much does
my mind rule over my body."

"I've no doubt you're right about it. Courage and optimism can lift us
up a lot, as I've seen often for myself, and you're certainly out of
danger now, Tayoga. All you have to do is to lie quiet, if the French
and Indians will let us. In a week you'll be able to travel and fight,
and in a few weeks you'll never know that a musket ball passed through
your shoulder. When do you think you can eat? I'll pound some of the
venison very fine."

"Not before night, and then but little. That little, though, I should
have. Tomorrow I will eat much more, and a few days later it will be all
Dagaeoga can do to find enough food for me. Be sure that you wait on me
well. It is the first rest that I have had in a long time, and it is my
purpose to enjoy it. If I should be fretful, humor me; if I should be
hungry, feed me; if I should be sleepy, let me sleep, and see that I am
not disturbed while I do sleep; if my bed is hard, make me a better, and
through it all, O Dagaeoga, be thou the finest medicine man that ever
breathed in these woods."

"Come, now, Tayoga, you lay too great a burden upon me. I'm not all the
excellencies melted into one, and I've never pretended to be. But I can
see that you're getting well, because the spirit of rulership is upon
you as strong as ever, and, since you're so much improved, I may take
it into my mind to obey your commands, though only when I feel like it."

The two lads looked at each other and laughed, and there was immense
relief in Robert's laugh. Only now did he admit to himself that he had
been terribly alarmed about Tayoga, and he recognized the enormous
relief he felt when the Onondaga had passed his crisis.

"In truth, you pick up fast, Tayoga," he said whimsically. "Suppose we
go forth now and hunt the enemy. We might finish up what Rogers, Willet
and Daganoweda have left of St. Luc's force."

"I would go," replied Tayoga in the same tone, "but Tododaho and
Areskoui have told me to bide here awhile. Only a fear that my
disobedience might cause me to lose their favor keeps me in the cave.
But I wish you to bear in mind, Dagaeoga, that I still exert my will as
the medicine men of my nation bid the sick and the hurt to do, and that
I feel the fevered blood cooling in my veins, strength flowing back into
my weak muscles, and my nerves, that were all so loose and unattuned,
becoming steady."

"I'll admit that your will may help, Tayoga, but it's chiefly the long
sleep you've had, the good home you enjoy, and the superb care of Dr.
Robert Lennox of Albany, New York, and the Vale of Onondaga. On the
whole, weighing the question carefully, I should say that the
ministrations of Dr. Lennox constitute at least eighty per cent of the
whole."

"You are still the great talker, Dagaeoga, that you were when you
defeated St. Luc in the test of words in the Vale of Onondaga, and it is
well. The world needs good talkers, those who can make speech flow in a
golden stream, else we should all grow dull and gloomy, though I will
say for you, O Lennox, that you act as well as talk. If I did not, I,
whose life you have saved and who have seen you great in battle, should
have little gratitude and less perception."

"I've always told you, Tayoga, that when you speak English you speak out
of a book, because you learned it out of a book and you take delight in
long words. Now I think that 'gratitude' and 'perception' are enough for
you and you can rest."

"I will rest, but it is not because you think my words are long and I am
exhausted, Dagaeoga. It is because you wish to have all the time
yourself for talking. You are cunning, but you need not be so now. I
give my time to you."

Robert laughed. The old Tayoga with all his keenness and sense of humor
was back again, and it was a sure sign that a rapid recovery had set in.

"Maybe you can go to sleep again," he said. "I think it was a stupor
rather than sleep that you passed through last night, but now you ought
to find sleep sweet, sound and healthy."

"You speak words of truth, O great white medicine man, and it being so
my mind will make my body obey your instructions."

He turned a little on his side, away from his wounded shoulder, and
either his will was very powerful or his body was willing, as he soon
slept again, and now Tarenyawagon sent him no troubled and disordered
dreams. Instead his breathing was deep and regular, and when Robert felt
his pulse he found it was almost normal. The fever was gone and the
bronze of Tayoga's face assumed a healthful tint.

Then Robert took a piece of venison, and pounded it well between two
stones. He would have been glad to light a fire of dry leaves and
sticks, that he might warm the meat, but he knew that it was yet too
dangerous, and so strong was Tayoga's constitution that he might take
the food cold, and yet find it nutritious.

It was late in the afternoon when the Onondaga awoke, yawned in human
fashion, and raised himself a little on his unwounded shoulder.

"Here is your dinner, Tayoga," said Robert, presenting the shredded
venison. "I'm sorry it's not better, but it's the best the lodge
affords, and I, as chief medicine man and also as first assistant
medicine man and second assistant medicine man, bid you eat and find no
fault."

"I obey, O physician, wise and stern, despite your youth," said Tayoga.
"I am hungry, which is a most excellent sign, and I will say, too, that
I begin to feel like a warrior again."

He ate as much as Robert would let him have, and then, with a great sigh
of content, sank back on his bed of leaves.

"I can feel my wound healing," he said. "Already the clean flesh is
spreading over the hurt and the million tiny strands are knitting
closely together. Some day it shall be said in the Vale of Onondaga that
the wound of Tayoga healed more quickly than the wound of any other
warrior of our nation."

"Good enough as a prophecy, but for the present we'll bathe and bind it
anew. A little good doctoring is a wonderful help to will and
prediction."

Robert once more cleansed the hurt very thoroughly, and he was surprised
to find its extremely healthy condition. It had already begun to heal, a
proof of amazing vitality on the part of Tayoga, and unless the
unforeseen occurred he would set a record in recovery. Robert heaped the
leaves under his head to form a pillow, and the young warrior's eyes
sparkled as he looked around at their snug abode.

"I can hear the water running by the mouth of the cave," he said. "It
comes from last night's rain and flood, but what of tonight, Dagaeoga?
The skies and what they have to say mean much to us."

"It will rain again. I've been looking out. All the west is heavy with
clouds and the light winds come, soaked with damp. I don't claim to be
any prophet like you, Tayoga, because I'm a modest man, I am, but the
night will be wet and dark."

"Then we are still under the protection of Tododaho, of Areskoui and of
Manitou, greatest of all. Let the dark come quickly and the rain fall
heavily, because they will be a veil about us to hide us from Tandakora
and his savages."

All that the Onondaga wished came to pass. The clouds, circling about
the horizon, soon spread to the zenith, and covered the heavens, hiding
the moon and the last star. The rain came, not in a flood, but in a cold
and steady pour lasting all night. The night was not only dark and wet
outside, but it was very chill also, though in the cave the two young
warriors, the white and the red, were warm and dry on their blankets
and beds of leaves.

Robert pounded more of the venison the next morning and gave Tayoga
twice as much as he had eaten the day before. The Onondaga clamored for
an additional supply, but Robert would not let him have it.

"Epicure! Gourmand! Gorger!" said young Lennox. "Would you do nothing
but eat? Do you think it your chief duty in this world to be a glutton?"

"No, Dagaeoga," replied Tayoga, "I am not a glutton, but I am yet
hungry, and I warn thee, O grudging medicine man, that I am growing
strong fast. I feel upon my arm muscles that were not there yesterday
and tomorrow or the next day my strength will be so great that I shall
take from you all the food of us both and eat it."

"By that time we won't have any left, and I shall have to take measures
to secure a new supply. I must go forth in search of game."

"Not today, nor yet tomorrow. It is too dangerous. You must wait until
the last moment. It is barely possible that the Great Bear or Black
Rifle may find us."

"I don't think so. We'll have to rely on ourselves. But at any rate,
I'll stay in the cave today, though I think the rain is about over.
Don't you see the sun shining in at the entrance? It's going to be a
fine day in the woods, Tayoga, but it won't be a fine day for us."

"That is true, Dagaeoga. It is hard to stay here in a hole in the rocks,
when the sun is shining and the earth is drying. The sun has brought
back the green to the leaves and the light now must be wonderful on
Andiatarocte and Oneadatote. Their waters shift and change with all the
colors of the rainbow. It fills me with longing when I think of these
things. Go now, Dagaeoga, and find the Great Bear, the Mountain Wolf and
Daganoweda. I am well past all danger from my wound, and I can take care
of myself."

"Tayoga, you talk like a foolish child. If I hear any more such words I
shall have to gag you, for two reasons, because they make a weariness in
my ear, and because if anyone else were to hear you he would think you
were weak of mind. It's your reputation for sanity that I'm thinking
about most. You and I stay here together, and when we leave we leave
together."

Tayoga said no more on the subject. He had known all the while that
Robert would not leave him, but he had wished to give him the chance. He
lay very quiet now for many hours, and Robert sitting at the door of the
cave, with his rifle across his knees, was also quiet. While a great
talker upon occasion, he had learned from the Iroquois the habit of
silence, when silence was needed, and it required no effort from him.

Though he did not speak he saw much. The stream, caused by the flood,
still flowed before the mouth of the cave, but it was diminishing
steadily. By the time night came it would sink to a thin thread and
vanish. The world itself, bathed and cleansed anew, was wonderfully
sweet and fresh. The light wind brought the pleasant odors of flower and
leaf and grass. Birds began to sing on the overhanging boughs, and a
rabbit or two appeared in the valley. These unconscious sentinels made
him feel quite sure that no savages were near.

Curiosity about the battle between the forces of St. Luc and those of
the rangers and Mohawks, smothered hitherto by his anxiety and care for
Tayoga, was now strong in his breast. It was barely possible that St.
Luc had spread a successful ambush and that all of his friends had
fallen. He shuddered at the thought, and then dismissed it as too
unlikely. Tayoga fell asleep again, and when he awoke he was not only
able to sit up, but to walk across the cave.

"Tomorrow," he said, "I shall be able to sit near the entrance and load
and fire a rifle as well as ever. If an enemy should come I think I
could hold the refuge alone."

"That being the case," said Robert, "and you being full of pride and
haughtiness, I may let you have the chance. Not many shreds of our
venison are left, and as I shall have in you a raging wolf to feed, I'll
go forth and seek game. It seems to me I ought to find it soon. You
don't think it's all been driven away by marching rangers and warriors,
do you, Tayoga?"

"No, the rangers and warriors have been seeking one another, not the
game, and perhaps the deer and the moose know it. Why does man think
that Manitou watches over him alone? Perhaps He has told the big animals
that they are safer when the men fight. On our way here I twice saw the
tracks of a moose, and it may be your fortune to find one tomorrow,
Dagaeoga."

"Not fortune, at all, Tayoga. If I bring down one it will be due to my
surpassing skill in trailing and to my deadly sharpshooting, for which
I am renowned the world over. Anyhow, I think we can sleep another night
without a guard and then we'll see what tomorrow will bring forth."




CHAPTER XII

THE SINISTER SIEGE


Dawn came, very clear and beautiful, with the air crisp and cool. Robert
divided the last of the venison between Tayoga and himself, and when he
had eaten his portion he was still hungry. He was quite certain that the
Onondaga also craved more, but a stoic like Tayoga would never admit it.
His belief the day before that this was the time for him to go forth and
hunt was confirmed. The game would be out, and so might be the savages,
but he must take the chance.

Tayoga had kept his bow and quiver of arrows strapped to his back during
their retreat, and now they lay on a shelf in the cave. Robert looked at
them doubtfully and the eyes of the Onondaga followed him.

"Perhaps it would be best," he said.

"I can't bend the bow of Ulysses," said Robert, "but I may be able to
send in a useful arrow or two nevertheless."

"You can try."

"But I don't want any shot to go amiss."

"Strap your rifle on your back, and take the bow and arrows also. If the
arrows fail you, or rather if you should fail the arrows, which always
go where they are sent, you can take the rifle, with which you are
almost as good as the Great Bear himself. And if you should encounter
hostile warriors prowling through the woods the rifle will be your best
defense."

"I'll do as you advise, Tayoga, and do you keep a good watch at the
entrance. You're feeling a lot stronger today, are you not?"

"So much so that I am almost tempted to take the bow and arrows myself,
while I leave you on guard."

"Don't be too proud and boastful. Let's see you walk across the cave."

Tayoga rose from the bed of leaves, on which he had been sitting, and
strode firmly back and forth two or three times. He was much thinner
than he had been a week before, but his eyes were sparkling now and the
bronze of his skin was clear and beautiful. All his nerves and muscles
were under complete control.

"You're a great warrior again, Tayoga, thanks to my protecting care,"
said Robert, "but I don't think you're yet quite the equal of Tododaho
and Hayowentha when they walked the earth, and, for that reason, I shall
not let you go out hunting. Now, take your rifle, which I saved along
with you, and sit on that ledge of stone, where you can see everything
approaching the cave and not be seen yourself."

"I obey, O Dagaeoga. I obey you always when the words you speak are
worth being obeyed. See, I take the seat you direct, and I hold my rifle
ready."

"Very good. Be prepared to fire on an instant's notice, but be sure you
don't fire at me when I come striding down the valley bearing on my
shoulders a fat young deer that I have just killed."

"Have no fear, Dagaeoga. I shall be too glad to see you and the deer to
fire."

With the rifle so adjusted across his back that, if need be, he could
disengage it at once, the quiver fastened also and Tayoga's bow in his
hand, Robert made ready.

"Now, Tayoga," he said, "exert that famous will of yours like a true
medicine man of the Hodenosaunee. While I am absent, so direct me with
the concentrated power of your mind that I shall soon find a fat young
deer, and that my arrow shall not miss. I'll gratefully receive all the
help you can give me in this way, though I won't neglect, if I see the
deer, to take the best aim I can with bow and arrow."

"Do not scoff, O Dagaeoga. The lore and belief of my nation and of the
whole Hodenosaunee are based upon the experience of many centuries. And
do you not say in your religion that the prayer of the righteous
availeth? Do you think your God, who is the same as my Manitou, intended
that only the prayers of the white men should have weight, and that
those of the red men should vanish into nothingness like a snowflake
melting in the air? I may not be righteous, - who knows whether he is
righteous or not? - but, at least, I shall pray in a righteous cause."

"I don't mock, Tayoga, and maybe the power of your wish, poured in a
flood upon me, will help. Yes, I know it will, and I go now, sure that I
will soon find what I seek."

He left the cave and passed up the valley, full of confidence. The
earnestness of Tayoga had made a great impression upon him, clothing him
about with an atmosphere that was surcharged with belief, and, as he
breathed in this air, it made his veins fairly sparkle, not alone with
hope, but with certainty.

He walked up a deep defile which gradually grew shallower, and then
ascended rapidly. Finally he came out on a crest, crowned with splendid
trees, and he drew a great breath of pleasure as he looked upon a vast
green wilderness, deepened in color by the long and recent rains, and
upon the far western horizon a dim but splendid band of silver which he
knew was Andiatarocte. A lover of beauty, and with the soul of a poet,
he could have stood, gazing a long time, but there was a sterner task
forward than the contemplation of nature in the wild.

He must sink the poet in the hunter, and he began to look for tracks of
game, which he felt sure would be plentiful in the forest, since men had
long been hunting one another instead of the deer. He had an abundance
of will of his own, but he felt also, despite a certain incredulity of
the reason, that the concentrated will of his distant comrade was
driving him on.

He walked about a mile, remaining well under cover, having a double
object, to keep himself hidden from foes and also to find traces of
game. His confidence that he would find it, and very quickly, was not
abated, and, at the end of a mile, he saw a broad footprint on the turf
that made him utter a low exclamation of delight. It was larger than
that of a cow, and more pointed. He knew at once that it had been made
by a moose, the great animal which was then still to be found in the
forests of Northern New York.

The tracks led northward and he studied them with care. The wind had
risen and was blowing toward him, which was favorable for his pursuit,
as the sound of his own footsteps rustling the grass or breaking a
little stick would not be likely to reach the ear of the moose. He was
convinced, too, that the tracks were not much more than two hours old,
and since the big animal was likely to be rambling along, nibbling at
the twigs, the chance was in favor of the hunter overtaking him very
soon.

It was easy to follow the trail, the hoof prints were so large, and he
soon saw, too, the broken ends of twigs that had been nibbled by the
moose, and also exposed places on the trunks of trees where the bark had
been peeled off by the animal's teeth. He was sure that the game could
not be much more than a mile ahead, and his soul was filled with the
ardor of the chase. He was confident that he was pursuing a big bull, as
the fact was indicated by the size of the prints, the length of the
stride, and the height at which the moose had browsed on the twigs.
There were other facts he had learned among the Iroquois, indicating to
him it was a bull. While the tracks were pointed, they were less pointed
than those the cow generally makes, and the twigs that had been nibbled
were those of the fir, while the cow usually prefers the birch.

The tracks now seemed to Robert to grow much fresher. Tayoga, with his
infallible eye and his wonderful gifts, both inherited and improved,
would have known just how fresh they were, but Robert was compelled to
confine his surmise to the region of the comparative. Nevertheless, he
knew that he was gaining upon the moose and that was enough. But as it
was evident by his frequent browsing that the animal was going slowly,
he controlled his eagerness sufficiently to exercise great wariness on
his own part. It might be that while he was hunting he could also become
the hunted. It was not at all impossible that the warriors of Tandakora
would fall upon his own track and follow.

He looked back apprehensively, and once he returned and retraced his
steps for a little distance, but he could discern no evidence of an
enemy and he resumed his pursuit of the moose, going faster now, and
seeing twigs which apparently had been broken off only a few minutes
before. Then, as he topped a little rise, he saw the animal itself,
browsing lazily on the succulent bushes. It was a large moose, but to
Robert, although an experienced hunter, it loomed up at the moment like
an elephant. He had staked so much upon securing the game, and the issue
was so important that his heart beat hard with excitement.

The wind was still in his favor, and, creeping as near as he dared, he
fitted an arrow to Tayoga's bow and pulled the string. The arrow struck
well in behind the shoulder and the moose leaped high. Another arrow
sang from the bow and found its heart, after which it ran a few steps
and fell. Robert's laborious task began, to remove at least a part of
the skin, and then great portions of the meat, as much as he could
carry, wrapped in the folds of the skin, portions from which he intended
to make steaks.

He secured at least fifty pounds, and then he looked with regret at the
great body. He was not one to slay animals for sport's sake, and he


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