Joseph A. Altsheler.

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

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"We've seen their skirmishers in the woods about two hundred yards
away," replied the hunter. "I believe they suspect danger here merely
because this is a place where danger is likely to be, but 'twill not
keep them from attacking. You can hold your rifle ready, lad, but you'll
have no use for it for a good quarter of an hour. They'll do a lot of
scouting before they try to pass the ravine, but our fellows are happy
in the knowledge that they'll try to pass it."

Robert suppressed as much as he could the excitement one was bound to
feel at such a time, and ate a little venison to stay him for the
combat, imitating the coolness and providence of Tayoga, who was also
strengthening his body for the ordeal.

"About noon, isn't it?" he asked of the Onondaga.

"A little after it," Tayoga replied.

"When did they come up?"

"Just now. I too have slept, although my sleep was shorter than yours."

"Have you seen Tandakora or De Courcelles?"

"I caught one glimpse of Tandakora. My bullet will carry far, but alas!
it will not carry far enough to reach the Ojibway. It is not the will of
Tododaho that he should perish now. As I have said, his day will come,
though it is yet far away."

"What will happen here, Tayoga?"

"The forces of Tandakora and De Courcelles will be burned worse than
before. The man Rogers, whom some of the Mohawks call the Mountain Wolf,
is like a Mohawk warrior himself, always eager to fight. He will want to
push the battle and Great Bear, having so many men now, will be

The words of Tayoga came to pass. After a long delay, accompanied by
much scouting and attempts to feel out the defense, Tandakora and De
Courcelles finally charged the ravine in force and suffered a bitter
repulse. Seventy or eighty rifles, aimed by cool and experienced
sharpshooters, poured in a fire which they could not withstand, and so
many warriors were lost that the Ojibway and the Frenchman retreated.
The Great Bear and the Mountain Wolf would not allow their eager men to
follow, lest in their turn they fall into an ambush.

Later in the day the Indian horde returned a second time to the attack,
with the same result, and when night came Tayoga and several others who
went forward to scout reported that they had withdrawn several miles.
The white leaders then decided in conference that they had done enough
for their purpose, and, after a long rest on their arms, withdrew slowly
in the path of the retreating train, ready for another combat, if
pursued too closely, but feeling sure that Tandakora and De Courcelles
would not risk a battle once more.

They overtook the train late that evening and their welcome was enough
to warm their hearts and to repay them for all the hardships and dangers
endured. Colden was the first to give them thanks, and his fine young
face showed his emotion.

"I'm sorry I couldn't have been back there with you," he said, when he
heard the report Robert made; "you had action, and you faced the enemy,
while we have merely been running over the hills."

"In truth you've made a good run of it," said Robert, "and as I see it,
it was just as necessary for you to run as it was for us to fight. We
had great luck, too, in the coming of Rogers and his men."

That night the train, for the first time since it began its flight, made
a real camp. Willet, Rogers and all the great foresters thought it safe,
as they were coming now so near to the settled regions, and the faces of
the pursuers had been scorched so thoroughly. Scouts and skirmishers
were thrown out on all sides, and then fires were built of the fallen
brushwood that lay everywhere in the forest. The ample supplies in the
wagons were drawn upon freely, and the returning victors feasted at
their leisure.

It was a happy time for Robert. His imaginative mind responded as usual
to time and place. They had won one victory. It was no small triumph to
protect the fugitive train, and so they would win many more. He already
saw them through the flame of his sanguine temperament, and the glow of
the leaping fires helped in the happy effect. All around him were
cheerful faces and he heard the chatter of happy voices, their owners
happy because they believed themselves released from a great and
imminent danger.

"Has anything been heard of Black Rifle?" Robert asked of Tayoga.

"He has not come back," replied the Onondaga, "but they think he will be
here in the morning."

The dawn brought instead fifty dusky figures bare to the waist and
painted in all the terrible imagery of Indians who go to war. Some of
the women cried out in fright, but Tayoga said:

"Have no fear. These be friends. The warriors of our great brother
nation, the Ganeagaono, known to you as the Mohawks, have come to aid

The leader of the Mohawks was none other than the daring young chief,
Daganoweda himself, flushed with pride that he had come to the help of
his white brethren, and eager as always for war. He gravely saluted
Robert, Willet and Tayoga.

"Dagaeoga is a storm bird," he said. "Wherever he goes battle follows."

"Either that," laughed Robert, "or because I follow battle. How could I
keep from following it, when I have Willet on one side of me and Tayoga
on the other, always dragging me to the point where the combat rages

"Did you meet Black Rifle?" asked Willet.

"It was he who told us of your great need," replied Daganoweda. "Then
while we came on at the speed of runners to help you, he continued north
and east in the hope that he would meet Waraiyageh and white troops."

"Do you know if Colonel William Johnson is in this region or near it?"

"He lay to the north with a considerable force, watching for the French
and Indians who have been pouring down from Canada since their great
taking of scalps by Duquesne. Black Rifle will find him and he will
come, because Waraiyageh never deserts his people, but just when he will
arrive I cannot say."

Ample food was given to the Mohawks and then, burning for battle,
Daganoweda at their head, they went on the back trail in search of
Tandakora, De Courcelles and their savage army.

"We could not have a better curtain between us and the enemy," said
Willet. "War is their trade and those fifty Mohawks will sting and sting
like so many hornets."

The train resumed its flight an hour after sunrise, although more slowly
now and with less apprehension, and about the middle of the afternoon
the uniforms of Colonial militia appeared in the forest ahead. All set
up a great shout, because they believed them to be the vanguard of
Johnson. They were not mistaken, as a force of a hundred men, better
equipped and drilled than usual, met them, at their head Colonel William
Johnson himself, with the fierce young Mohawk eagle, Joseph Brant,
otherwise Thayendanegea, at his side. The somber figure of Black Rifle,
who had brought him, stood not far away.

Colonel Johnson was in great good humor, thoroughly delighted to find
the train safe and to meet such warm friends of his again. He was first
presented duly to Captain Colden and his young officers, paid them some
compliments on their fine work, talked with them a while and then
conversed more intimately with Tayoga, Robert and Willet.

"The train is now entirely safe," he said. "Even if Tandakora and De
Courcelles could brush away the screen of the Mohawks, they dare not
risk an encounter with such a force as we have here. They will turn
aside for easier game."

"And there will be no battle!" exclaimed young Brant, in deep
disappointment. "Ah! why did I not have the chance to go forward with my
cousin, Daganoweda?"

Colonel Johnson laughed, half in pride and half in amusement, and patted
his warlike young Mohawk brother-in-law on the shoulder.

"All in good time, Joseph, my lad," he said. "Remember that you are
scarce twelve and you may have fifty years of fighting before you. No
one knows how long this conflagration in America may last. As for you,
Tayoga and Lennox, and you, Willet, your labors with the train are over.
But there is a fierce fire burning in the north, and it is for us to put
it out. You have lost one commander, Braddock, but you may find another.
I can release you from your obligations to Governor Dinwiddie of
Virginia. Will you go with me?"

The three assented gladly, and they saw that their service of danger was
but taking a new form.



The eyes of all the warlike young men now turned northward. The people
whom they had rescued scattered among their relatives and friends,
awaiting the time when they could return to the wilderness, and rebuild
their homes there, but Colden, Wilton, Carson and their troop were eager
for service with Colonel William Johnson. In time orders arrived from
the Governor of Pennsylvania, directing them to join the force that was
being raised in the province of New York to meet the onrush of the
savages and the French, and they rejoiced. Meanwhile Robert, Tayoga and
Willet made a short stay at Mount Johnson, and in the company of its
hospitable owner and his wife refreshed themselves after their great
hardships and dangers.

Colonel Johnson's activities as a host did not make him neglect his
duties as a commander. Without military experience, save that recently
acquired in border war, he nevertheless showed indomitable energy as a
leader, and his bluff, hearty manner endeared him to Colonials and
Mohawks alike. A great camp had been formed on the low grounds by
Albany, and Robert and his comrades in time proceeded there, where a
numerous force of men from New York and New England and many Mohawks
were gathered. It was their plan to march against the great French
fortress of Crown Point on Lake Champlain, which Robert heard would be
defended by a formidable French and Indian army under Baron Dieskau, an
elderly Saxon in the French service.

Robert also heard that St. Luc was with Dieskau, and that he was leading
daring raids against little bands of militia on their way from New
England to the camp near Albany. Two were practically destroyed, half of
their numbers being killed, while the rest were sent as prisoners into
Canada. Two more succeeded in beating off the Frenchman, though with
large loss, but he was recognized by everybody as a great danger, and
Daganoweda and the best of the Mohawks went forth to meet him.

Rogers with his partisan band and Black Rifle also disappeared in the
wilderness, and Robert looked longingly after them, but he and his
friends were still held at the Albany camp, as the march of the army was
delayed, owing to the fact that five provincial governors, practically
independent of one another, had a hand in its management, and they could
not agree upon a plan. Braddock's great defeat had a potent influence in
the north, and now they were all for caution.

While they delayed Robert went into Albany one bright morning to see
Mynheer Jacobus Huysman, who showed much anxiety about him these days.
The little Dutch city looked its best, a comfortable place on its hills,
inhabited by comfortable people, but swarming now with soldiers and even
with Mohawks, all of whom brought much business to the thrifty
burghers. Albany had its profit out of everything, the river commerce,
the fur trade, and war itself.

Robert, as he walked along, watched with interest the crowd which was,
in truth, cosmopolitan, despite the smallness of the place. Some of the
Colonials had uniforms of blue faced with red, of which they were very
proud, but most of them were in the homespun attire of every day. They
were armed with their own rifles. Only the English had bayonets so far.
The Americans instead carried hatchets or tomahawks at their belts, and
the hatchet had many uses. Every man also carried a big jack or clasp
knife which, too, had its many uses.

The New Englanders, who were most numerous in the camp, were of pure
British blood, a race that had become in the American climate tall, thin
and very muscular, enduring of body and tenacious of spirit, religious,
ambitious, thinking much of both worldly gain and the world hereafter.
Among them moved the people of Dutch blood from the province of New
York, generally short and fat like their ancestors, devoted to good
living, cheerful in manner, but hard and unscrupulous in their dealing
with the Indians, and hence a menace to the important alliance with the

There were the Germans, also, most of them descendants of the fugitives
from the Palatinate, after it had been ravaged by the generals of Louis
XIV, a quiet, humble people, industrious, honest, sincerely religious,
low at present in the social scale, and patronized by the older families
of English or Dutch blood, perhaps not dreaming that their race would
become some day the military terror of the world.

The Mohawks, who passed freely through the throng, were its most
picturesque feature. The world bred no more haughty savages than they.
Tall men, with high cheek bones, and fierce eyes, they wore little
clothing in the summer weather, save now and then a blanket of brilliant
color for the sake of adornment. There were also some Onondagas, as
proud as the Mohawks, but not so fierce.

A few Virginians and Marylanders, come to cooperate with the northern
forces, were present, and they, like the New Englanders, were of pure
British blood. Now and then a Swede, broad of face, from the Jersey
settlements could be seen, and there was scarcely a nation in western
Europe that did not have at least one representative in the streets of

It pleased Robert to see the great variety of the throng. It made a deep
impression upon his imaginative mind. Already he foresaw the greatness
of America, when these races were blended in a land of infinite
resources. But such thoughts were driven from his mind by a big figure
that loomed before him and a hearty voice that saluted him.

"Day dreaming, Master Lennox?" said the voice. "One does not have much
time for dreams now, when the world is so full of action."

It was none other than Master Benjamin Hardy, portly, rubicund, richly
but quietly dressed in dark broadcloth, dark silk stockings and shoes of
Spanish leather with large silver buckles. Robert was unaffectedly glad
to see him, and they shook hands with warmth.

"I did not know that you were in Albany," said young Lennox.

"But I knew that you were here," said Master Hardy.

"I haven't your great resources for collecting knowledge."

"A story reached me in New York concerning the gallant conduct of one
Robert Lennox on the retreat from Fort Refuge, and I wished to come here
myself and see if it be true."

"I did no better than a hundred others. How is the wise Master Jonathan

"As wise as ever. He earnestly urged me, when I departed for this town,
not to be deceived by the glamour of the military. 'Bear in mind, Master
Benjamin,' he said, 'that you and I have been associates many years, and
your true path is that of commerce and gain. The march and the
battlefield are not for you any more than they are for me.' Wise words
and true, and it was not for me to gainsay them. So I gave him my
promise that I would not march with this brave expedition to the lakes."

The merchant's words were whimsical, but Robert felt that he was
examining him with critical looks, and he felt, too, that a protecting
influence was once more about him. He could not doubt that Master Hardy
was his sincere friend, deeply interested in him. He had given too many
proofs of it, and a sudden curiosity about his birth, forgotten amid the
excitement of continued action, rose anew. He was about to ask
questions, but he remembered that they would not be answered, and so he
held his peace, while the merchant walked on with him toward the house
of Mynheer Jacobus Huysman.

"You are bent upon going with the army?" said Mr. Hardy. "Haven't you
had enough of battle? There was a time, after the news of Braddock's
defeat came, when I feared that you had fallen, but a message sent by
the young Englishman, Grosvenor, told me you were safe, and I was very
thankful. It is natural for the young to seek what they call adventure,
and to serve their country, but you have done much already, Robert. You
might go with me now to New York, and still feel that you are no

"You are most kind, Mr. Hardy. I believe that next to Willet and Tayoga
you are the greatest and best of my friends. Why, I know not, nor do I
ask now, but the fact is patent, and I thank you many times over,
although I can't accept your offer. I'm committed to this expedition and
there my heart lies, too. Willet and Tayoga go with it. So do Black
Rifle and Rogers, I think, and Colonel Johnson, who is also my good
friend, is to lead it. I couldn't stay behind and consider myself a true

Master Benjamin Hardy sighed.

"Doubtless you are right, Robert," he said, "and perhaps at your age I
should have taken the same view, despite Jonathan's assertion that my
true ways are the ways of commerce and gain. Nevertheless, my interest
in this struggle is great. It is bound to be since it means vast changes
in the colonies, whatever its result."

"What changes do you have in mind, Mr. Hardy?"

"Mental changes more than any other, Robert. The war in its sweep bids
fair to take in almost all the civilized world we know. We are the
outpost of Britain, Canada is the outpost of France, and in a long and
desperate strife such as this promises to be we are sure to achieve
greater mental stature, and to arrive at a more acute consciousness of
our own strength and resources. Beyond that I don't care to predict. But
come, lad, we'll not talk further of such grave matters, you and I.
Instead we'll have a pleasant hour with Mynheer Jacobus Huysman, a man
of no mean quality, as you know."

Mynheer Jacobus was at home, and he gave them a great welcome, glancing
at one and at the other, and then back again, apparently rejoiced to see
them together.

Then he ordered a huge repast, of which they ate bountifully, and upon
which he made heavy inroads himself. When the demands of hospitality
were somewhat satisfied, he put aside knife and fork, and said to Mr.

"And now, old friend, it iss no impertinence on my part to ask what hass
brought you to Albany."

Master Benjamin, who was gravely filling a pipe, lighted it, took one
puff, and replied:

"No, Jacobus, it is no impertinence. No question that you might ask me
could be an impertinence. You and I are old friends, and I think we
understand each other. I have to say in reply that I have come here on a
matter of army contracts, to get a clearer and better view of the war
which is going to mean so much to all of us, and to attend to one or
two matters personal to myself."

Robert, excusing himself, had risen and was looking out of a window at a
passing company of soldiers. Mynheer Jacobus glanced at him and then
glanced back at the merchant.

"It iss a good lad," he said, "und you watch over him as well as you

"Aye, I do my best," replied Hardy in the same subdued tones, "but he is
bold of spirit, full of imagination and adventurous, and, though I would
fain keep him out of the war, I cannot. Yet if I were his age I would go
into it myself."

"It iss the way of youth. He lives in times troubled und full of danger,
yet he hass in the hunter, Willet, and the Onondaga, Tayoga, friends who
are a flaming sword on each side of him. Willet hass a great mind. He
iss as brave as a lion und full of resource."

"Right well do I know it, Jacobus."

"And the young Onondaga, Tayoga, is of the antique mold. Do I not know
it, I who haf taught him so long? Often I could think he was a young
Greek or Roman of the best type, reincarnated und sent to the forest. He
does haf the lofty nature, the noble character und simplicity of a young
Roman of the republic, before it was corrupted by conquest. I tell you,
Benjamin Hardy, that we do not value the red men at their true worth,
especially those of the Hodenosaunee!"

"Right well do I know that, too, Jacobus. I had a fair reading in the
classics, when I was a schoolboy, and I should call the lad, Tayoga,
more Greek in spirit than Roman. I have found in him the spiritual
quality, the love of beauty and the kindliness of soul which the books
say the Greeks had and which the Romans lacked."

"It iss fairly put, Benjamin, und I bethink me you are right. But there
iss one thing which you do not know, but which you ought to know,
because it iss of much importance."

"What is it?" asked Hardy, impressed by the manner of Jacobus.

"It iss the fact that Adrian Van Zoon arrived in Albany this morning."

The merchant started slightly in surprise, and then his face became a

"Adrian Van Zoon is a merchant like myself," he said. "He has a right to
come to Albany. Perhaps he feels the necessity, too, as no doubt he is
interested in large contracts for the army."

"It iss true, Benjamin, but you und I would rather he had not come. He
arrived but this morning on his own sloop, the _Dirkhoeven_, und I feel
that wherever Adrian Van Zoon iss the air becomes noxious, full of
poisonous vapors und dangerous to those about him."

"You're right, Jacobus. I see that your faculties are as keen as ever.
You can see through a mill stone, and you can put together much larger
figures than two and two."

Mynheer Jacobus smiled complacently.

"I haf not yet reached my zenith," he said, "und I am very glad I am not
yet an old man, because I am so full of curiosity."

"I don't take your meaning, Jacobus."

"I would not like to die before this great und long war iss ended
because I wish to see how it does end. Und I want to see the nature of
the mighty changes which I feel are coming in the world."

"What changes, for instance, Jacobus?"

"The action of the New World upon the Old, und the action of the old
monarchies upon one another. All things change, Benjamin. You und I know
that. The veil of majesty that wraps around kings und thrones iss not
visible to us here in der American forest, und maybe for dot reason we
see the changes coming in Europe better than those who are closer by.
France is the oldest of all the old und great monarchies und for dot
reason the French monarchy iss most overripe. Steeped in luxury und
corruption, the day of its decay hass set in."

"But the French people are valiant and great, Jacobus. Think not that we
have in them a weak antagonist."

"I said nothing of the French nation, Benjamin, mein friend. I spoke of
the French throne. The French leaders in Canada are brave und
enterprising. They will inflict on us many defeats, but the French
throne will not give to them the support to which they as Frenchmen are

"You probably see the truth, Jacobus, and it's to our advantage. Perhaps
'tis better that the French throne should decay. But we'll return to
affairs closer by. You've had Van Zoon watched?"

"My stable boy, Peter, hass not let him out of sight, since he landed
from the _Dirkhoeven_. Peter is not a lad of brilliant appearance,
which iss perhaps all the better for our purpose, but he will keep Van
Zoon in sight, if it iss humanly possible, without being himself

"Well done, Jacobus, but I might have known that you would take all
needful precautions."

Robert came back from the window, and they promptly changed the current
of the talk, speaking now of the army, its equipment, and the probable
time of its march to meet Dieskau. Presently they left Mynheer Huysman's
house, and Robert and the merchant went toward the camp on the flats.
Here they beheld a scene of great activity and of enormous interest to

Few stranger armies have ever been gathered than that which Colonel
William Johnson was preparing to lead against Crown Point. The New
Englanders brought with them all their characteristics, their
independence, their love of individualism and their piety. Despite this
piety it was an army that swore hugely, and, despite its huge swearing,
it was an honest army. It survives in written testimony that the
greatest swearers were from the provinces of New York and Rhode Island,
and Colonel Ephraim Williams, an officer among them writing at the time,
said that the language they most used was "the language of Hell." And,
on the other hand, a New York officer testified that not a housewife in
Albany or its suburbs could mourn the loss of a single chicken. Private
property everywhere was absolutely safe, and, despite the oaths and
rough appearance of the men, no woman was ever insulted.

"They're having prayer meeting now," said Mr. Hardy, as they came upon

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Online LibraryJoseph A. AltshelerThe Rulers of the Lakes A Story of George and Champlain → online text (page 6 of 21)