Joseph A. Altsheler.

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

. (page 7 of 21)
Online LibraryJoseph A. AltshelerThe Rulers of the Lakes A Story of George and Champlain → online text (page 7 of 21)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


the flats. "I've learned they have sermons twice a week - their ministers
came along with them - prayers every day, and the singing of songs many
times. They often alternate the psalm singing with the military drill,
but I'm not one to decry their observances. Religious fervor is a great
thing in battle. It made the Ironsides of Cromwell invincible."

Five hundred voices, nearly all untrained, were chanting a hymn. They
were the voices of farmers and frontiersmen, but the great chorus had
volume and majesty, and Robert was not one to depreciate them. Instead
he was impressed. He understood the character of both New Englanders and
New Yorkers. Keen for their own, impatient of control, they were
nevertheless capable of powerful collective effort. A group of Mohawks
standing by were also watching with grave and serious attention. When
they raised a chant to Manitou they demanded the utmost respect, and
they gave it also, without the asking, to the white man when he sang in
his own way to his own God.

It was when they turned back to the town that they were hailed in a
joyous voice, and Robert beheld the young English officer, Grosvenor,
whom he had known in New York, Grosvenor, a little thinner than of old,
but more tanned and with an air of experience. His pleasure at meeting
Robert again was great and unaffected. He shook hands with him warmly
and exclaimed:

"When I last saw you, Lennox, it was at the terrible forest fight,
where we learned our bitter lesson. I saw that you escaped, but I did
not know what became of you afterward."

"I've had adventures, and I'll tell you of 'em later," said Robert.
"Glad I am to see you, although I had not heard of your coming to
Albany."

"I arrived but this morning. No British troops are here. I understand
this army is to be composed wholly of Colonials - pardon the word, I use
it for lack of a better - and of Mohawks. But I was able to secure in New
York a detail on the staff of Colonel Johnson. My position perhaps will
be rather that of an observer and representative of the regular troops,
but I hope, nevertheless, to be of some service. I suppose I won't see
as much of you as I would like, as you're likely to be off in the forest
in front of the army with those scouting friends of yours."

"It's what we can do best," said Robert, "but if there's a victory ahead
I hope we'll all be present when it's gained."

Jacobus Huysman insisted that all his old friends be quartered with him,
while they were in Albany, and as there was little at present for
Grosvenor to do, he was added by arrangement with Colonel Johnson to the
group. They sat that evening on the portico in the summer dusk, and
Master Alexander McLean, the schoolmaster, joined them, still regarding
Robert and Tayoga as lads under his care, and soon including Grosvenor
also. But the talk was pleasant, and they were deep in it when a man
passed in the street and a shadow fell upon them all.

It was Adrian Van Zoon, heavy, dressed richly as usual, and carrying a
large cane, with a gold head. To the casual eye he was a man of
importance, aware of his dignity, and resolute in the maintenance of it.
He bowed with formal politeness to the group upon the portico, and
walked majestically on. Mynheer Jacobus watched him until he was out of
sight, going presumably to his inn, and then his eyes began to search
for another figure. Presently it appeared, lank, long and tow-headed,
the boy, Peter, of whom he had spoken. Mynheer Huysman introduced him
briefly to the others, and he responded, in every case, with a pull at a
long lock on his forehead. His superficial appearance was that of a
simpleton, but Robert noticed sharp, observant eyes under the thick
eyebrows. Mynheer Jacobus, Willet and Master Hardy, excusing themselves
for a few minutes, went into an inner room.

"What has Mynheer Van Zoon been doing, Peter?" asked Jacobus.

"He has talked with three contractors for the army," replied the lad.
"He also had a short conversation with Colonel Ephraim Williams of the
Massachusetts militia."

"Williams is a thoroughly honest man," said Mr. Hardy. "His talk with
Van Zoon could only have been on legitimate business. We'll dismiss him.
What more have you seen, Peter?"

"Late in the afternoon he went to his schooner, the _Dirkhoeven_, which
is anchored in the river. I could not follow him there, but I saw him
speaking on the deck to a man who did not look like a sailor. They were
there only a minute, then they went into the cabin, and when Mynheer
Van Zoon came ashore he came alone."

"And the man who did not look like a sailor was left on the ship. It may
mean nothing, or it may mean anything, but my mind tells me it hath an
unpleasant significance. Now, I wish I knew this man who is lying hid in
the _Dirkhoeven_. Perhaps it would be better, Jacobus, to instruct Peter
to follow the lad, Lennox, and give the alarm if any threat or menace
appears."

"I think it is the wiser course, Benjamin, and I will even instruct
Peter in such manner."

He spoke a few sentences to Peter, who listened with eagerness,
apparently delighted with the task set for him. When Mynheer Huysman had
finished the lad slipped out at a back door, and was gone like a shadow.

"An admirable youth for our purpose," said Mynheer Jacobus Huysman. "He
likes not work, but if he is to watch or follow anyone he hangs on like
a hound. In Albany he will become the second self of young Lennox, whose
first self will not know that he has a second self."

They returned to the portico. Robert glanced curiously at them, but not
one of the three offered any explanation. He knew, however, that their
guarded talk with Peter had to do with himself, and he felt a great
emotion of gratitude. If he was surrounded by dangers he was also
surrounded by powerful friends. If chance had put him on the outskirts
of the world it had also given him comrades who were an armor of steel
about him.

Tayoga and he occupied their old bedroom at Mynheer Jacobus Huysman's
that night, and once when Robert glanced out of the window he caught a
glimpse of a dark figure lurking in the shrubbery. It was a man who did
not look like a sailor, but as he did not know of the conversation in
the inner room the shadow attracted little attention from him. It
disappeared in an instant, and he thought no more about it.

Robert and his comrades were back in the camp next day, and now they saw
Colonel Johnson at his best, a man of wonderful understanding and tact.
He was soon able to break through the reserve of the New England citizen
officers who were not wont to give their confidence in a hurry, and
around great bowls of lemon punch they talked of the campaign. The
Mohawks, as of old, told him all their grievances, which he remedied
when just, and persuaded them into forgetting when unjust.

Robert, Tayoga and Willet, in their capacity of scouts and skirmishers,
could go about practically as they pleased. Colonel Johnson trusted them
absolutely and they talked of striking out into the wilderness on a new
expedition to see what lay ahead of the army. Adrian Van Zoon, they
learned definitely, had started for New York on the _Dirkhoeven_, and
Robert felt relief. Yet the lank lad, Peter, still followed him, and, as
had been predicted truly, was his second self, although his first self
did not know it.

He had been at Albany several days when he returned alone from the flats
to the town late one evening. At a dark turn in the road he heard a
report, and a bullet whistled very near him. It was followed quickly by
a second report, but not by the whistling of any bullet. He had a pair
of pistols in his belt, and, taking out one and cocking it, he searched
the woods, though he found nothing. He concluded then that it was a
random bullet fired by some returning hunter, and that the second shot
was doubtless of the same character. But the first hunter had been
uncommonly careless and he hastened his steps from a locality which had
been so dangerous, even accidentally.

Inured, however, as he was to risks, the incident soon passed entirely
out of his mind. Yet an hour or two later the lad, Peter, sat in a back
room with Mynheer Jacobus Huysman, and told him with relish of the
occurrence at the dark turn of the road.

"I was fifty or sixty yards behind in the shadow of the trees," he said.
"I could see Master Lennox very well, though he could not see me. The
figure of a man appeared in the woods near me and aimed a pistol at
Master Lennox. I could not see his face well, but I knew it was the man
on the boat who was talking to Mynheer Van Zoon. I uttered a cry which
did not reach Master Lennox, but which did reach the man with the
pistol. It disturbed his aim, and his bullet flew wide. Then I fired at
him, but if I touched him at all it was but lightly. He made off through
the woods and I followed, but his speed was so great I could not
overtake him."

"You haf done well, Peter. Doubtless you haf saved the life of young
Master Lennox, which was the task set for you to do. But it iss not
enough. You may haf to save it a second und yet a third time."

The pale blue eyes of Peter glistened. Obviously he liked his present
task much better than the doing of chores.

"You can trust me, Mynheer Huysman," he said importantly. "I will guard
him, and I will do more. Is there anybody you want killed?"

"No, no, you young savage! You are to shoot only in self-defense, or in
defense of young Lennox whom you are to protect. Bear that in mind."

"Very well, Mynheer. Your orders are law to me."

Peter went out of the room and slid away in the darkness. Mynheer
Jacobus Huysman watched his departure and sighed. He was a good man,
averse to violence and bloodshed, and he murmured:

"The world iss in a fever. The nations fight among themselves und even
the lads talk lightly of taking life."

Peter reported to him again the next night, when Robert was safely in
bed.

"I followed Master Lennox to the parade ground again," he said. "The
Onondaga, Tayoga, the hunter, Willet, and the Englishman, Grosvenor,
were with him. They watched the drill for a while, and spoke with
Colonel Johnson. Then Master Lennox wandered away alone to the north
edge of the drill ground, where there are some woods. Since I have
received your instructions, Mynheer, I always examine the woods, and I
found in them a man who might have been in hiding, or who might have
been lying there for the sake of the shade, only I am quite sure it was
not the latter. Just when Master Lennox came into his view I spoke to
him, and he seemed quite angry. He asked me impatiently to go away, but
I stood by and talked to him until Master Lennox was far out of sight."

"You saw the man well, then, Peter?"

"I did, Mynheer Huysman, and I cannot be mistaken. It was the same that
talked with Mynheer Van Zoon on the deck of the _Dirkkoeven_."

"I thought so. And what kind of a looking man was he, Peter?"

"About thirty, I should say, Mynheer, well built and strong, and
foreign."

"Foreign! What mean you, Peter?"

"French."

"What? French of France or French of Canada?"

"That I cannot say with certainty, Mynheer, but French he was I do
believe and maintain."

"Then he must be a spy as well as a threat to young Lennox. This goes
deeper than I had thought, but you haf done your work well, Peter.
Continue it."

He held out a gold coin, which Peter pocketed with thanks, and went
forth the next morning to resume with a proud heart the task that he
liked.

Robert, all unconscious that a faithful guardian was always at his
heels, was passing days full of color, variety and pleasure. Admission
into the society of Albany was easy to one of his manner and appearance,
who had also such powerful friends, and there were pleasant evenings in
the solid Dutch houses. But he knew they could not last long. Daganoweda
and a chosen group of his Mohawks came back, reporting the French and
Indian force to be far larger than the one that had defeated Braddock by
Duquesne, and that Baron Dieskau who led it was considered a fine
general. Unless Waraiyageh made up his mind to strike quickly Dieskau
would strike first.

The new French and Indian army, Daganoweda said, numbered eight thousand
men, a great force for the time, and for the New World, and it would be
both preceded and followed by clouds of skirmishers, savages from the
regions of the Great Lakes and even from beyond. They were flushed with
victory, with the mighty taking of scalps, at Braddock's defeat, and
they expected here in the north a victory yet greater. They were already
assuming control of Champlain and George, the two lakes which from time
immemorial, long before the coming of the white man, had formed the line
of march between what had become the French colonies and the British
colonies. It was equally vital now to possess this passage. Whoever
became the rulers of the lakes might determine in their favor the issue
of the war in America, and the youths in Johnson's army were eager to go
forward at once and fight for the coveted positions.

But further delay was necessary. The commander still had the difficult
task of harmonizing the provincial governors and legislatures, and he
also made many presents to the Indians to bind them to the cause. Five
of the Six Nations, alarmed by the French successes and the slowness of
the Americans and English, still held neutral, but the Mohawks were full
of zeal, and the best of their young chiefs and warriors stood by
Johnson, ready to march when he marched, and to cover his van with their
skirmishers and patrols.

Meanwhile the army drilled incessantly. The little troop of
Philadelphians under Colden, Wilton and Carson were an example. They
had seen much hard service already, although they spoke modestly of the
dangers over which they had triumphed in the forest. It was their pride,
too, to keep their uniforms neat, and to be as soldierly in manner as
possible. They had the look of regulars, and Grosvenor, the young
Englishman who had been taken on Colonel Johnson's staff, spoke of them
as such.

New York and the four New England Colonies, whatever their lack of
cooperation, showed energy. The governors issued proclamations, and if
not enough men came, more were drafted from the regiments of militia.
Bounties of six dollars for every soldier were offered by Massachusetts,
and that valiant colony, as usual, led the way in energy.

They were full days for Robert. He listened almost incessantly to the
sound of drum and fife, the drill master's word of command, or to voices
raised in prayer, preaching or the singing of psalms. Recruits were
continually coming in, awkward plowboys, but brave and enduring, waiting
only to be taught. Master Benjamin Hardy was compelled to return to New
York, departing with reluctance and holding an earnest conference with
Mynheer Jacobus Huysman before he went.

"The man, who is most certainly a French spy, is somewhere about," said
Mynheer Jacobus. "Peter haf seen him twice more, but he haf caught only
glimpses. But you can trust Peter even as I do. His whole heart iss in
the task I have set him. He wass born Dutch but hiss soul iss Iroquois!
He iss by nature a taker of scalps."

Master Benjamin laughed.

"Just at present," he said, "'tis the nature that suits us best. Most
urgent business calls me back to New York, and, after all, I can't do
more here than you are doing, old friend."

When they had bidden each other good-by in the undemonstrative manner of
elderly men who have long been friends, Master Jacobus strolled down the
main street of Albany and took a long look at a substantial house
standing in fine grounds. Then he shook his head several times, and,
walking on, met its owner, whom he greeted with marked coolness,
although the manner of the other toward him had been somewhat effusive.

"I gif you good day, Hendrik Martinus," he said, "und I hear that you
are prospering. I am not one to notice fashions myself, but others haf
spoken to me of the beautiful new shawls your daughters are wearing und
of the brooches und necklaces they haf."

The face of Martinus, a man of about fifty, turned a deep red, but the
excessive color passed in a few moments, and he spoke carelessly. In
truth, his whole manner was lighter and more agile than that of the
average man of Dutch blood.

"I am not so sure, Mynheer Jacobus, that you did not take notice
yourself," he said. "Mynheer Jacobus is grave and dignified, but many a
grave and dignified man has a wary eye for the ladies."

Mynheer Jacobus Huysman frowned.

"And as for shawls and brooches and necklaces," continued Martinus, "it
is well known that war brings legitimate profits to many men. It makes
trade in certain commodities brisk. Now I'd willingly wager that your
friend, Master Benjamin Hardy, whom you have just seen on his way to New
York, will be much the richer by this war."

"Master Hardy has ships upon the seas, and important contracts for the
troops."

"I have no ships upon the seas, but I may have contracts, too."

"It may well be so, Hendrik," said Mynheer Jacobus, and without another
word he passed on. When he had gone a hundred yards he shook himself
violently, and when he had gone another hundred yards he gave himself a
second shake of equal vigor. An hour later he was in the back room
talking with the lad, Peter.

"Peter," he said, "you haf learned to take naps in the day und to keep
awake all through the night?"

"Yes, Mynheer," replied Peter, proudly.

"Then, Peter, you vass an owl, a watcher in the dark."

"Yes, Mynheer."

"Und I gif you praise for watching well, Peter, und also gold, which iss
much more solid than praise. Now I gif you by und by more praise und
more gold which iss still more solid than praise. The lad, Robert
Lennox, will be here early tonight to take supper with me, und I will
see that he does not go out again before the morrow. Now, do you, Peter,
watch the house of Hendrik Martinus all night und tell me if anyone
comes out or goes in, und who und what he may be, as nearly as you can."

"Yes, Mynheer," said Peter, and a sudden light flickered in the pale
blue eyes.

No further instructions were needed. He left the house in silence, and
Mynheer Jacobus Huysman trusted him absolutely.




CHAPTER VI

THE DARK STRANGER


Robert arrived at the house of Jacobus Huysman about dark and Tayoga
came with him. Willet was detained at the camp on the flats, where he
had business with Colonel Johnson, who consulted him often. The two lads
were in high good spirits, and Mynheer Jacobus, whatever he may have
been under the surface, appeared to be so, too. Robert believed that the
army would march very soon now. The New York and New England men alike
were full of fire, eager to avenge Braddock's defeat and equally eager
to drive back and punish the terrible clouds of savages which, under the
leadership of the French, were ravaging the border, spreading
devastation and terror on all sides.

"There has been trouble, Mynheer Huysman," said Robert, "between
Governor Shirley of Massachusetts, who has been in camp several days,
and Colonel Johnson. I saw Governor Shirley when he was in the council
at Alexandria, in Virginia, and I know, from what I've heard, that he's
the most active and energetic of all the governors, but they say he's
very vain and pompous."

"Vanity and pomp comport ill with a wilderness campaign," said Mynheer
Jacobus, soberly. "Of all the qualities needed to deal with the French
und Indians I should say that they are needed least. It iss a shame that
a man should demand obeisance from others when they are all in a great
crisis."

"The Governor is eager to push the war," said Robert, "yet he demands
more worship of the manner from Colonel Johnson than the colonel has
time to give him. 'Tis said, too, that the delays he makes cause
dissatisfaction among the Mohawks, who are eager to be on the great war
trail. Daganoweda, I know, fairly burns with impatience."

Mynheer Jacobus sighed.

"We will not haf the advantage of surprise," he said. "Of that I am
certain. I do believe that the French und Indians know of all our
movements und of all we do."

"Spies?" said Robert.

"It may be," replied Mynheer Jacobus.

Robert was silent. His first thought was of St. Luc, who, he knew, would
dare anything, and it was just the sort of adventure that would appeal
to his bold and romantic spirit. But his thought passed on. He had no
real feeling that St. Luc was in the camp. Mynheer Jacobus must be
thinking of another or others. But Huysman volunteered no explanation.
Presently he rose from his chair, went to a window and looked out.
Tayoga observed him keenly.

The Onondaga, trained from his childhood to observe all kinds of
manifestations, was a marvelous reader of the minds of men, and, merely
because Mynheer Jacobus Huysman interrupted a conversation to look out
into the dark, he knew that he expected something. And whatever it was
it was important, as the momentary quiver of the big man's lip
indicated.

The Indian, although he may hide it, has his full share of curiosity,
and Tayoga wondered why Mynheer Jacobus watched. But he asked no
question.

The Dutchman came back from the window, and asked the lads in to supper
with him. His slight air of expectancy had disappeared wholly, but
Tayoga was not deceived. "He has merely been convinced that he was
gazing out too soon," he said to himself. "As surely as Tododaho on his
star watches over the Onondagas, he will come back here after supper and
look from this window, expecting to see something or somebody."

The supper of Mynheer Jacobus was, in reality, a large dinner, and, as
it was probably the last the two lads would take with him before they
went north, he had given to it a splendor and abundance even greater
than usual. Tayoga and Robert, as became two such stout youths, ate
bountifully, and Mynheer Jacobus Huysman, whatever his secret troubles
may have been, wielded knife and fork with them, knife for knife and
fork for fork.

But Tayoga was sure that Mynheer Jacobus was yet expectant, and still,
without making it manifest, he watched him keenly. He noted that the big
man hurried the latter part of the supper, something which the Onondaga
had never known him to do before, and which, to the observant mind of
the red youth, indicated an expectancy far greater than he had supposed
at first.

Clearly Mynheer Jacobus was hastening, clearly he wished to be out of
the room, and it was equally clear to Tayoga that he wanted to go back
to his window, the one from which he could see over the grounds, and
into the street beyond.

"Will you take a little wine?" he said to Robert, as he held up a
bottle, through which the rich dark red color shone.

"Thank you, sir, no," replied Robert.

"Und you, Tayoga?"

"I never touch the firewater of the white man, call they it wine or call
they it whiskey."

"Good. Good for you both. I merely asked you for the sake of politeness,
und I wass glad to hear you decline. But as for me, I am old enough to
be your father, und I will take a little."

He poured a small glass, drank it, and rose.

"Your old room iss ready," he said, "und now, if you two lads will go to
it, you can get a good und long night's sleep."

Robert was somewhat surprised. He felt that they were being dismissed,
which was almost like the return of the old days when they were
schoolboys, but Tayoga touched him on the elbow, and his declaration
that he was not sleepy died on his lips. Instead, he said a polite
good-night and he and Tayoga went away as they were bid.

"Now, what did he mean? Why was he so anxious to get rid of us?" asked
Robert, when they were again in their room.

"Mynheer Jacobus expects something," replied the Onondaga, gravely. "He
expects it to come out of the night, and appear at a window of the room
in which we first sat, the window that looks over the garden, and to the
street behind us."

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

Tayoga explained what he had seen.

"I do not doubt you. It's convincing," said Robert, "but I'd not have
noticed it."

"We of the red nations have had to notice everything in order that we
might live. As surely as we sit here, Dagaeoga, Mynheer Jacobus is at
the window, watching. When I lie down on the bed I shall keep my clothes
on, and I shall not sleep. We may be called."

"I shall do the same, Tayoga."

Nevertheless, as time passed, young Lennox fell asleep, but the Onondaga
did not close his eyes. What was time to him? The red race always had


1 2 3 4 5 7 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21

Online LibraryJoseph A. AltshelerThe Rulers of the Lakes A Story of George and Champlain → online text (page 7 of 21)