The Scouts of the Valley by Joseph A. Altsheler
Chapter XX. A Gloomy Council
The next night after Henry Ware and his comrades lay in the brushwood and saw Braxton Wyatt and his band pass, a number of men, famous or infamous in their day, were gathered around a low camp fire on the crest of a small hill. The most distinguished of them all in looks was a young Indian chief of great height and magnificent build, with a noble and impressive countenance. He wore nothing of civilized attire, the nearest approach to it being the rich dark-blue blanket that was flung gracefully over his right shoulder. It was none other than the great Wyandot chief, Timmendiquas, saying little, and listening without expression to the words of the others.
Near Timmendiquas sat Thayendanegea, dressed as usual in his mixture of savage and civilized costume, and about him were other famous Indian chiefs, The Corn Planter, Red jacket, Hiokatoo, Sangerachte, Little Beard, a young Seneca renowned for ferocity, and others.
On the other side of the fire sat the white men: the young Sir John Johnson, who, a prisoner to the Colonials, had broken his oath of neutrality, the condition of his release, and then, fleeing to Canada, had returned to wage bloody war on the settlements; his brother-in-law, Colonel Guy Johnson; the swart and squat John Butler of Wyoming infamy; his son, Walter Butler, of the pallid face, thin lips, and cruel heart; the Canadian Captain MacDonald; Braxton Wyatt; his lieutenant, the dark Tory, Coleman; and some others who had helped to ravage their former land.
Sir John Johnson, a tall man with blue eyes set close together, wore the handsome uniform of his Royal Greens; he had committed many dark deeds or permitted them to be done by men under his command, and he had secured the opportunity only through his broken oath, but he had lost greatly. The vast estates of his father, Sir William Johnson, were being torn from him, and perhaps he saw, even then, that in return for what he had done he would lose all and become an exile from the country in which he was born.
It was not a cheerful council. There was no exultation as after Wyoming and Cherry Valley and the Minisink and other places. Sir John bit his lip uneasily, and his brother-in-law, resting his hand on his knee, stared gloomily at the fire. The two Butlers were silent, and the dark face of Thayendanegea was overcast.
A little distance before these men was a breastwork about half a mile long, connecting with a bend of the river in such a manner that an enemy could attack only in front and on one flank, that flank itself being approached only by the ascent of a steep ridge which ran parallel to the river. The ground about the camp was covered with pine and scrub oaks. Many others had been cut down and added to the breastwork. A deep brook ran at the foot of the hill on which the leaders sat. About the slopes of this hill and another, a little distance away, sat hundreds of Indian warriors, all in their war paint, and other hundreds of their white allies, conspicuous among them Johnson's Royal Greens and Butler's Rangers. These men made but little noise now. They were resting and waiting.
Thayendanegea was the first to break the silence in the group at the fire. He turned his dark face to Sir John Johnson and said in his excellent English: "The king promised us that if we would take up arms for him against the Yankees, he would send a great army, many thousands, to help us. We believed him, and we took up the hatchet for him. We fought in the dark and the storm with Herkimer at the Oriskany, and many of our warriors fell. But we did not sulk in our lodges. We have ravaged and driven in the whole American border along a line of hundreds of miles. Now the Congress sends an army to attack us, to avenge what we have done, and the great forces of the king are not here. I have been across the sea; I have seen the mighty city of London and its people as numerous as the blades of grass. Why has not the king kept his promise and sent men enough to save the Iroquois ?"
Sir John Johnson and Thayendanegea were good friends, but the soul of the great Mohawk chief was deeply stirred. His penetrating mind saw the uplifted hand about to strike-and the target was his own people. His tone became bitterly sarcastic as he spoke, and when he ceased he looked directly at the baronet in a manner that showed a reply must be given. Sir John moved uneasily, but he spoke at last.
"Much that you say is true, Thayendanegea," he admitted, "but the king has many things to do. The war is spread over a vast area, and he must keep his largest armies in the East. But the Royal Greens, the Rangers, and all others whom we can raise, even in Canada, are here to help you. In the coming battle your fortunes are our fortunes."
Thayendanegea nodded, but he was not yet appeased. His glance fell upon the two Butlers, father and son, and he frowned.
"There are many in England itself," he said, "who wish us harm, and who perhaps have kept us from receiving some of the help that we ought to have. They speak of Wyoming and Cherry Valley, of the torture and of the slaughter of women and children, and they say that war must not be carried on in such a way. But there are some among us who are more savage than the savages themselves, as they call us. It was you, John Butler, who led at Wyoming, and it was you, Walter Butler, who allowed the women and children to be killed at Cherry Valley, and more would have been slain there had I not, come up in time."
The dark face of "Indian" Butler grew darker, and the pallid face of his son grew more pallid. Both were angry, and at the same time a little afraid.
"We won at Wyoming in fair battle," said the elder Butler.
"But afterwards?" said Thayendanegea.
The man was silent.
"It is these two places that have so aroused the Bostonians against us," continued Thayendanegea. "It is because of them that the commander of the Bostonians has sent a great army, and the Long House is threatened with destruction."
"My son and I have fought for our common cause," said "Indian" Butler, the blood flushing through his swarthy face.
Sir John Johnson interfered.
"We have admitted, Joseph, the danger to the Iroquois," he said, calling the chieftain familiarly by his first Christian name, "but I and my brother-in-law and Colonel Butler and Captain Butler have already lost though we may regain. And with this strong position and the aid of ambush it is likely that we can defeat the rebels."
The eyes of Thayendanegea brightened as he looked at the long embankment, the trees, and the dark forms of the warriors scattered numerously here and there.
"You may be right, Sir John," he said; "yes, I think you are right, and by all the gods, red and white, we shall see. I wish to fight here, because this is the best place in which to meet the Bostonians. What say you, Timmendiquas, sworn brother of mine, great warrior and great chief of the Wyandots, the bravest of all the western nations?"
The eye of Timmendiquas expressed little, but his voice was sonorous, and his words were such as Thayendanegea wished to hear.
"If we fight-and we must fight-this is the place in which to meet the, white army," he said. "The Wyandots are here to help the Iroquois, as the Iroquois would go to help them. The Manitou of the Wyandots, the Aieroski of the Iroquois, alone knows the end."
He spoke with the utmost gravity, and after his brief reply he said no more. All regarded him with respect and admiration. Even Braxton Wyatt felt that it was a noble deed to remain and face destruction for the sake of tribes not his own.
Sir John Johnson turned to Braxton Wyatt, who had sat all the while in silence.
"You have examined the evening's advance, Wyatt," he said. "What further information can you give us?"
"We shall certainly be attacked to-morrow," replied Wyatt, "and the American army is advancing cautiously. It has out strong flanking parties, and it is preceded by the scouts, those Kentuckians whom I know and have met often, Murphy, Elerson, Heemskerk, and the others."
"If we could only lead them into an ambush," said Sir John. "Any kind of troops, even the best of regulars, will give way before an unseen foe pouring a deadly fire upon them from the deep woods. Then they magnify the enemy tenfold."
"It is so," said the fierce old Seneca chief, Hiokatoo. "When we killed Braddock and all his men, they thought that ten warriors stood in the moccasins of only one."
Sir John frowned. He did not like this allusion to the time when the Iroquois fought against the English, and inflicted on them a great defeat. But he feared to rebuke the old chief. Hiokatoo and the Senecas were too important.
"There ought to be a chance yet for an ambuscade," he said. "The foliage is still thick and heavy, and Sullivan, their general, is not used to forest warfare. What say you to this, Wyatt?"
Wyatt shook his head. He knew the caliber of the five from Kentucky, and he had little hope of such good fortune.
"They have learned from many lessons," he replied, and their scouts are the best. Moreover, they will attempt anything."
They relapsed into silence again, and the sharp eyes of the renegade roved about the dark circle of trees and warriors that inclosed them. Presently he saw something that caused him to rise and walk a little distance from the fire. Although his eye suspected and his mind confirmed, Braxton Wyatt could not believe that it was true. It was incredible. No one, be he ever so daring, would dare such a thing. But the figure down there among the trees, passing about among the warriors, many of whom did not know one another, certainly looked familiar, despite the Indian paint and garb. Only that of Timmendiquas could rival it in height and nobility. These were facts that could not be hidden by any disguise.
"What is it, Wyatt?" asked Sir John. "What do you see? Why do you look so startled?"
Wyatt sought to reply calmly.
"There is a warrior among those trees over there whom I have not seen here before," he replied. "he is as tall and as powerful as Timmendiquas, and there is only one such. There is a spy among us, and it is Henry Ware."
He snatched a pistol from his belt, ran forward, and fired at the flitting figure, which was gone in an instant among the trees and the warriors.
"What do you say?" exclaimed Thayendanegea, as he ran forward, "a spy, and you know him to be such!"
"Yes, he is the worst of them all," replied Wyatt. "I know him. I could not mistake him. But he has dared too much. He cannot get away."
The great camp was now in an uproar. The tall figure was seen here and there, always to vanish quickly. Twenty shots were fired at it. None hit. Many more would have been fired, but the camp was too much crowded to take such a risk. Every moment the tumult and confusion increased, but Thayendanegea quickly posted warriors on the embankment and the flanks, to prevent the escape of the fugitive in any of those directions.
But the tall figure did not appear at either embankment or flank. It was next seen near the river, when a young warrior, striving to strike with a tomahawk, was dashed to the earth with great force. The next instant the figure leaped far out into the stream. The moonlight glimmered an instant on the bare head, while bullets the next moment pattered on the water where it had been. Then, with a few powerful strokes, the stranger reclaimed the land, sprang upon the shore, and darted into the woods with more vain bullets flying about him. But he sent back a shout of irony and triumph that made the chiefs and Tories standing on the bank bite their lips in anger.