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valley were much higher on the right than elsewhere, and touching Tayoga
on the arm, he said:

"Walk with me to the crest there."

Tayoga, without a word, walked with him, while the other warriors stood
watching, musket or rifle in hand.

The Onondaga, wrists bound behind him, knew that he did not have the
slightest chance of escape, even if he made a sudden dash into the
woods. He would be shot down before he went a dozen steps, and his pride
and will restrained the body that was eager for the trial.

They reached the crest, and Tayoga saw then that the hill itself rose
from a high plateau. When he gazed toward the east he saw a vast expanse
of green wilderness, beyond it a ribbon of silver, and beyond the silver
high green mountains, outlined sharply against a sky of clear blue.

"Oneadatote," said Tandakora.

"Yes, it is the great lake," said Tayoga.

"And if you will turn and look in the other direction you will see where
Andiatarocte lies," said Tandakora. "There are greater lakes to the
west, some so vast that they are as big as the white man's ocean, but
there is none more beautiful than these. Think, Tayoga, that when you
stand here upon this hill you have Oneadatote on one side of you and
Andiatarocte on the other, and all the country between is splendid,
every inch of it. Look! Look your fill, Tayoga! I have brought you here
that you might see, that this might be your last sight before you go to
your Tododaho on his star."

The Onondaga knew that the Ojibway was taunting him, that the torture
had begun, that Tandakora intended to contrast the magnificent world
from which he intended to send him with the black death that awaited him
so soon. But the dauntless youth appeared not to know.

"The lakes I have seen many times," he said. "They are, as you truly
call them, grand and beautiful, and they are the rightful property of
the Hodenosaunee, the great League to which my nation belongs. I shall
come to see them many more times all through my life, and when I am an
old, old man of ninety summers and winters I shall lay myself down on a
high shore of Andiatarocte, and close my eyes while Tododaho bears my
spirit away to his star."

It is possible that Tandakora's eyes expressed a fleeting admiration.
Savage and treacherous as he was, he respected courage, and the Onondaga
had not shown the slightest trace of fear. Instead, he spoke calmly of a
long life to come, as if the shadow of death were not hovering near at
that moment.

"Look again," he said. "Look around all the circle of the world as far
as your eyes can reach. It may help you a half hour from now, when you
are in the flames, to remember the cool, green forest. And I tell you,
too, Tayoga, that your white friend Lennox, the one whom you call
Dagaeoga, shall soon follow you into the other world and by the same
flaming path. When you are but ashes, which will be by the setting of
the sun, my warriors will take up his trail, and he cannot escape us."

"Dagaeoga will live long, even as I do," said Tayoga calmly. "His
summers and winters will be ninety each, even as mine. Tododaho has
whispered that to me also, and the whispers of Tododaho are never
false."

Tandakora turned back toward the valley, motioning to his captive to
descend, and Tayoga obeyed without resistance. The glen was secluded,
just suited to his purpose, which required time, and he did not wish the
Frenchman, St. Luc, to come upon him suddenly, and interfere with the
pleasure that he anticipated.

He was quite sure that the forest was empty of everything save
themselves, though he heard again and for the third time the note of the
bird, piercing and sweet, trilling among the bushes.

The warriors, knowing what was to be done, were doing it already, having
piled many pieces of dead wood around the trunk of the lone tree in the
center of the opening. Two had cut shavings with their hunting knives,
and one stood ready with flint and steel.

"Do you not tremble, Tayoga?" asked the Ojibway. "Many an old and
seasoned warrior has not been able to endure the fire without a groan."

"You shall not hear any groan from me," replied Tayoga, "because I shall
not stand among the flames."

"There is no way to escape them. Even now the pile is built, and the
warrior is ready with flint and steel to make the sparks."

High, thrillingly sweet, came the voice of the bird in the bushes, and
Tayoga suddenly leaped with all his might against the great chest of
Tandakora. Vast as was the strength of the Ojibway he was thrown from
his feet by the violent and unexpected impact, and as he fell Tayoga,
leaping lightly away, ran like a deer through the bushes.

The warriors in the valley uttered a shout, but the reply was a
shattering volley, before which half of them fell. Tandakora understood
at once. If he had the mind and heart of a savage he had also all the
craft and cunning of one whose life was incessantly in danger. Instead
of springing up, he rolled from the crest of the hill, then, rising to a
stooping position, darted away at incredible speed through the forest.

Rangers and Mohawks, Robert, Daganoweda, Willet, Black Rifle and Rogers
at their head, burst into the glen and the Mohawks began the pursuit of
Tandakora's surviving warriors, who had followed their leader in his
flight. But Robert turned back to meet Tayoga and cut the thongs from
his wrists.

"I thank you, Dagaeoga," said the Onondaga. "You came in time."

"Yes, they were making ready. A half hour more and we should have been
too late. But you knew that we were coming, Tayoga?"

"Yes. I heard the bird sing thrice, but I knew the bird was in the
throat of the Great Bear. I will say this, though, to you, Dagaeoga,
that I have heard many birds sing and sing sweetly, but never any so
sweetly as the one that sang thrice in the throat of the Great Bear."

"It is not hard for me to believe you," said Robert, smiling, "and I can
tell you in turn, Tayoga, that your patron saint, Tododaho, must in very
truth have watched over you, because when I heard your warning cry and
took to flight, hoping for a chance later on to rescue you, I ran
within two hours straight into the camp of the rangers and the Mohawks.
You can easily surmise how glad I was to see them, and how quickly we
followed Tandakora."

"And we'd have attacked sooner," said Willet, "but we could not get up
all our force in time. We've annihilated this band, but I'm sure we did
not get Tandakora. He fled like the wind, and we'll have to settle
accounts with him some other day."

"It was not possible for Tandakora to fall before your arms today," said
Tayoga.

"Why not?" asked Willet, curiously.

"It is reserved for him to die by my hand, though the time is yet far
off. I know it, because Tododaho whispered it to me more than once
today. Let him go now, but his hour will surely come."

"You may be right, Tayoga. I'm not one to question your prophecies, but
it's not wise for us to continue the pursuit of him, as we've other
things to do. We destroyed the forces of St. Luc in the battle, but he
escaped with some of his men to Crown Point, and there are still Indian
warriors in the forest, though we mean to continue skirmishing and
scouting up to the walls of Crown Point, or until we meet Dieskau's army
on the march."

Words of approval came from the fierce Daganoweda, who stood by,
listening. The young Mohawk chieftain, in the midst of a great and
terrible war, was living the life he loved. The Keepers of the Eastern
Gate were taking revenge for Quebec, their lost Stadacona, and he and
his warriors could boast already of more than one victory. Around him,
too, stood the white allies whom he respected and admired most, Black
Rifle, Willet, Rogers and Dagaeoga, the youth of golden speech. Willet,
looking at him, read his mind.

"What do you say, Daganoweda?" he asked. "Now that Tayoga and Dagaeoga
have been recovered, shall we go back and join the army of Waraiyageh,
or shall we knock on the walls of Crown Point?"

"The time to turn back has not yet come," replied the Mohawk. "We must
know all about the army of Dieskau before we return to Waraiyageh."

Willet laughed.

"I knew that would be your reply," he said. "I merely asked in order to
hear you speak the words. As I've said already, it's in my mind to go on
toward Crown Point, and I know Rogers feels that way too. But I think
we'd first better rest and refresh ourselves a bit. Although Tayoga
won't admit it, food and an hour or two of ease here in the very valley
where they meant to burn him alive, will do him a power of good."

After throwing out competent sentinels, they lighted a fire by the very
tree to which Tandakora meant to bind Tayoga for the flames, and broiled
venison over the coals. They also had bread and samp, which were most
welcome, and the whole force ate with great zest. The warriors, in their
flight, had dropped Tayoga's bow and quiver of arrows, and their
recovery gave him keen delight, though he said little as he strapped
them over his shoulder.

They spent two hours in the valley, and for the Onondaga the air was
full of the good spirits that watched over him. The dramatic and
extraordinary change, occurring in a few minutes, made an ineffaceable
impression upon a mind that saw meaning in everything. Here was the glen
in which he had been held by Tandakora and his most deadly enemies, and
there was the lone tree against which they had already heaped the fuel
for burning him alive. Such a sudden and marvelous change could not have
come if he were not in the special favor of both Tododaho and Areskoui.
Secure in his belief that he was protected by the mighty on their stars,
he awaited the future with supreme confidence.




CHAPTER XIV

SHARP SWORD


The rangers and Mohawks had suffered a further thinning in the last
conflict with St. Luc, but they were still a formidable body, not so
much through numbers as through skill, experience, courage and quality
of leadership. There was not one among them who was not eager to advance
toward Crown Point and hazard every peril. But they were too wise in
wilderness ways not to have a long and anxious council before they
started, as there was nothing to be gained and much to be lost by
throwing away lives in reckless attempts.

They decided at last on a wide curve to the west, in order that they
might approach Crown Point from the north, where they would be least
suspected, and they decided also that they would make most of the
journey by night, when they would be better hidden from wandering
warriors. So concluding, they remained in the glen much longer than they
had intended, and the delay was welcome to Robert, whose nervous system
needed much restoration, after the tremendous exertions, the hopes and
fears of recent days.

But he was able to imitate the Onondaga calm. He spread his blanket on
the turf, lay down upon it, and lowered his eyelids. He had no intention
of going to sleep, but he put himself into that drowsy state of calm
akin to the Hindoo's Nirvana. By an effort of the will he calmed every
nerve and refused to think of the future. He merely breathed, and saw in
a dim way the things about him, compelling his soul to stay a while in
peace.

Most of the rangers and Mohawks were lying in the same stillness. Stern
experience had taught them to take rest, and make the most of it when
they could find it. Only the watchful sentinels at the rim of the valley
and beyond stirred, and their moccasins made no sound as they slid among
the bushes, looking and listening with all their eyes and ears for
whatever might come.

The sun was sunk far in the western heavens, tinting with gold the
surface of both lakes, for the rulership of which the nations fought,
and outlining the mountains, crests and ridges, sharp and clear against
a sky of amazing blue. Yet so vast was the wilderness and so little had
it been touched by man, that the armies were completely hidden in it,
and neither Dieskau nor Johnson yet knew what movement the other
intended.

The east was already dim with the coming twilight when the three leaders
stood up, and, as if by preconcerted signal, beckoned to their men.
Scarcely a word was spoken, but everyone looked to his arms, the
sentinels came in, and the whole force, now in double file, marched
swiftly toward the north, but inclining also to the east. Robert and
Tayoga were side by side.

"I owe thee many thanks, Dagaeoga," said the Onondaga.

"You owe me nothing," said Robert. "I but paid an installment on a
debt."

Then they spoke no more for a long time, because there was nothing to
say, and because the band was now moving so fast that all their breath
was needed for muscular effort. The sun went down in a sea of golden
clouds, then red fire burned for a little while at the rim of the world,
and, when it was gone, a luminous twilight, which by and by faded into
darkness, came in its place.

But the band in double file sped on through the dusk. Daganoweda, who
knew the way, was at the head, and so skillful were they that no stick
crackled and no leaf rustled as they passed. Mile after mile they
flitted on, over hill and valley and through the deep woods. Far in the
night they stopped to drink at a clear little brook that ran down to
Lake Champlain, but no other halt was made until the dawn broke over a
vast silver sheet of water, and high green mountains beyond.

"Oneadatote," said Tayoga.

"And a great lake it is," said Robert. "We had a naval encounter on it
once, and now we've had a battle, too, on George."

"But the French and their allies hold all of Oneadatote, while we only
dispute the possession of Andiatarocte. They will march against us from
Crown Point on the shores of this lake."

"We'll take George from 'em, all of it, and then we'll come and drive
'em from Champlain, too."

The eyes of the Onondaga sparkled.

"Dagaeoga has a brave heart," he said, "and we will do all that he
predicts, but, as I have said before, it will be a long and terrible
war."

They descended to a point nearer the lake, but, still remaining hidden
in the dense forest, ate their breakfast of venison, bread and samp, and
drank again from a clear brook. They were now several miles north of
Crown Point, and the leaders talked together again about the best manner
of approach. They not only wished to see what the army of Dieskau was
doing, but they thought it possible to strike some blow that would
inflict severe loss, and delay his advance. Rogers used his glasses
again, and was able to discern many Indian canoes on the lake, both
north and south of the point where they lay, although they were mostly
scattered, indicating no certain movement.

"Those canoes ought to be ours," he said. "'Tis a great pity that we've
let the French take control of Champlain. It's easier to hold a thing in
the beginning than it is, having let your enemy seize it without a
fight, to win it back again."

"It's better to do that than to be rash," said Willet. "I was with
Braddock when we marched headlong into the wilderness. If we had been
slower then we'd have now a good army that we've lost. Still, it's hard
to see the French take the lead from us. We dance to their tune."

"Dave," said Rogers, "I see a whole fleet of Indian canoes far down the
lake below Crown Point. One can see many miles in such a clear air as
this, and I'm sure they're canoes, though they look like black dots
crawling on the water. Take the glasses and have a look."

Willet held the glasses to his eyes a long time, and when he took them
down he said with confidence:

"They're canoes, a hundred of 'em at least, and while they hold
complete command of the lake, it don't seem natural that so many of 'em
should be in a fleet away down there below the French fort. It means
something unusual. What do you think, Tayoga?"

"Perhaps Dieskau is already on the march," said the Onondaga. "The
glories that St. Luc, Dumas, Ligneris and the others won at Duquesne
will not let him sleep. He would surpass them. He would repeat on the
shores of Andiatarocte what they did so triumphantly by the ford of the
Monongahela."

"Thunderation!" exclaimed Rogers. "The boy may be right! They may be
even now stealing a march on us! If our army down below should be wiped
out as Braddock's was, then we might never recover!"

Robert, who could not keep from hearing all the talk, listened to it
with dismay. He had visions of Johnson's army of untrained militia
attacked suddenly by French veterans and a huge force of Indians. It
would be like the spring of a monstrous beast out of the dark, and
defeat, perhaps complete destruction for his own, would be the result.
But his courage came back in an instant. The surprise could not be
carried out so long as the band to which he belonged was in existence.

"I think," said Willet, "that we'd better go south along the shore of
the lake, and approach as near to the fort as we dare. Then Daganoweda
and a half dozen of his best warriors will scout under its very walls.
Do you care for the task, Daganoweda?"

The eyes of the young Mohawk chieftain glittered. Willet had judged him
aright. It would be no task for him, it would be instead a labor of
pleasure. In fifteen minutes he was off with his warriors, disappearing
like shadows in the undergrowth, and Robert knew that whatever report
Daganoweda might bring back it would not only be true but full.

The main band followed, though far more slowly, keeping well back from
the lake, that no Indian eye might catch their presence in the woods,
but able, nevertheless, to observe for immense distances everything that
passed on the vast silver sheet of water. Rogers observed once more the
fleet of Indian canoes rowing southward, and he and Willet were firmer
than ever in their belief that it indicated some measure of importance.

Their own march through the woods was peaceful. They frightened no game
from their path, indicating that the entire region had been hunted over
thoroughly by the great force that had lain at Crown Point, and, after a
while, they passed a point parallel to the fort, though several miles to
the westward. Willet, Tayoga and Robert looked for trails or traces of
bands or hunters, but found none. Apparently the forest had been
deserted by the enemy for some days, and their alarming belief was
strengthened anew.

Four miles farther on they were to meet Daganoweda and his warriors, at
a tiny silver pond among the hills, and now they hurried their march.

"I'm thinking," said Robert, "that Daganoweda will be there first,
waiting with a tale to tell."

"All signs point to it," said Tayoga. "It is well that we came north on
this scouting expedition, because we, too, may have something to say
when we return to Waraiyageh."

"You know this pond at which we are to meet?"

"Yes, it is in the hills, and the forest is thick all about it. Often
Onondaga and Mohawk have met there to take council, the one with the
other."

In another hour they were at the pond, and they found the Mohawk
chieftain and his men sitting at its edge.

"Well, Daganoweda," said Willet, "is it as we thought?" Daganoweda rose
and waved his hand significantly toward the south.

"Dieskau with his army has gone to fall upon Waraiyageh," he said. "We
went close up to the walls, and we even heard talk. The French and the
warriors were eager to advance, and so were their leaders. It was said
that St. Luc, whom we call Sharp Sword, urged them most, and the larger
part of his great force soon started in canoes. A portion of it he left
at Ticonderoga, and the rest is going on. They intend to take the fort
called Lyman, that the English and Americans have built, and then to
fall upon Waraiyageh."

"It is for us to reach Waraiyageh first," said Willet, quietly, "and we
will. God knows there is great need of our doing it. If Johnson's army
is swept away, then Albany will fall, the Hodenosaunee, under terrific
pressure, might be induced to turn against us, and the Province of New
York would be ravaged with fire and the scalping knife."

"But we will reach Waraiyageh and tell him," said Tayoga, firmly. "He
will not be swept away. Albany will not fall, and nothing can induce the
Hodenosaunee to join the French."

The eyes of the Great Bear glistened as he looked at the tall young
warrior.

"That's brave talk, and it's true, too!" he exclaimed. "You shame us,
Tayoga! If it's for us to save our army by carrying the news of
Dieskau's sudden march, then we'll save it."

Daganoweda had told the exact truth. Dieskau had reached Crown Point
with a force mighty then for the wilderness, and, after a short rest, he
issued orders to his troops to be prepared for advance at a moment's
notice. He especially directed the officers to keep themselves in light
marching order, every one of them to take only a bearskin, a blanket,
one extra pair of shoes, one extra shirt, and no luxuries at all.

His orders to the Indians showed a savagery which, unfortunately, was
not peculiar then to him. In the heat of battle they were not to scalp
those they slew, because time then was so valuable. While they were
taking a scalp they could kill ten men. But when the enemy was routed
completely they could go back on the field and scalp as they wished.

The Indian horde was commanded by Legardeur de St. Pierre, who had with
him De Courcelles and Jumonville, and St. Luc with his faithful Dubois
immediately organized a daring band of French Canadians and warriors to
take the place of the one he had lost. So great was his reputation as a
forest fighter, and so well deserved was it, that his fame suffered no
diminution, because of his defeat by the rangers and Mohawks, and the
young French officers were eager to serve under him.

It was this powerful army, ably led and flushed with the general
triumph of the French arms, that Daganoweda and his warriors had seen
advancing, though perhaps no one in all the force dreamed that he was
advancing to a battle that in reality would prove one of the most
decisive in the world's history, heavy with consequences to which time
set scarcely any limit. Nor did Robert himself, vivid as was his
imagination, foresee it. His thoughts and energies were bounded for the
time, at least, by the present, and, with the others, he was eager to
save Johnson's army, which now lay somewhere near Lake George, and which
he was sure had been occupied in building forts, as Waraiyageh, having
spent most of his life in the wilderness, knew that it was well when he
had finished a march forward to make it secure before he undertook
another.

The rangers and Mohawks now picked up the trail of Dieskau's army, which
was moving forward with the utmost speed. Yet the obstinacy of his
Indian allies compelled the German baron to abandon the first step in
his plan. They would not attack Fort Lyman, as it was defended by
artillery, of which the savages had a great dread, but they were willing
to go on, and fall suddenly upon Johnson, who, they heard, though
falsely, had no cannon. Dieskau and his French aides, compelled to hide
any chagrin they may have felt, pushed on for Lake George with the pick
of their army, consisting of the battalions of Languedoc, and La Reine,
a strong Canadian force, and a much larger body of Indian warriors,
among whom the redoubtable Tandakora, escaped from rangers and Mohawks,
was predominant.

Willet, Rogers, Black Rifle, Daganoweda and their small but formidable
band read the trail plainly, and they knew the greatness of the danger.
Dieskau was not young, and he was a soldier of fortune, not belonging to
the race that he led, but he was full of ardor, and the daring French
partisans were urging him on. Robert felt certain that St. Luc himself
was in the very van and that he would probably strike the first blow.

After they had made sure that Dieskau would not attack Fort Lyman, but
was marching straight against Johnson, the little force turned aside,
and prepared to make a circuit with all the speed it could command.

As Willet put it tersely:

"It's not enough for us to know what Dieskau means to do, but to keep
him from doing it. It's muscle and lungs now that count."

So they deserved to the full the name of forest runners, speeding on
their great curve, using the long, running walk with which both Indians
and frontiersmen devoured space, and apparently never grew weary. In the
night they passed Dieskau's army, and, from the crest of a lofty hill,
saw his fires burning in a valley below. Tayoga and some of the Mohawks
slipped down through the undergrowth and reported that the camp had been


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Online LibraryJoseph A. AltshelerThe Rulers of the Lakes A Story of George and Champlain → online text (page 18 of 21)