The Scouts of the Valley by Joseph A. Altsheler
Chapter VI. The Evil Spirit's Work
Henry slipped forth with the crowd from the Long House, stooping somewhat and shrinking into the smallest possible dimensions. But there was little danger now that any one would notice him, as long as he behaved with prudence, because all grief and solemnity were thrown aside, and a thousand red souls intended to rejoice. A vast banquet was arranged. Great fires leaped up all through the village. At every fire the Indian women, both young and old, were already far forward with the cooking. Deer, bear, squirrel, rabbit, fish, and every other variety of game with which the woods and rivers of western New York and Pennsylvania swarmed were frying or roasting over the coals, and the air was permeated with savory odors. There was a great hum of voices and an incessant chattering. Here in the forest, among themselves, and in complete security, the Indian stoicism was relaxed. According to their customs everybody fell to eating at a prodigious rate, as if they had not tasted anything for a month, and as if they intended to eat enough now to last another month.
It was far into the night, because the ceremonies had lasted a long time, but a brilliant moon shone down upon the feasting crowd, and the flames of the great fires, yellow and blue, leaped and danced. This was an oasis of light and life. Timmendiquas and Thayendanegea sat together before the largest fire, and they ate with more restraint than the others. Even at the banquet they would not relax their dignity as great chiefs. Old Skanawati, the Onondaga, old Atotarho, Onondaga, too, Satekariwate, the Mohawk, Kanokarih, the Seneca, and others, head chiefs though they were of the three senior tribes, did not hesitate to eat as the rich Romans of the Empire ate, swallowing immense quantities of all kinds of meat, and drinking a sort of cider that the women made. Several warriors ate and drank until they fell down in a stupor by the fires. The same warriors on the hunt or the war path would go for days without food, enduring every manner of hardship. Now and then a warrior would leap up and begin a chant telling of some glorious deed of his. Those at his own fire would listen, but elsewhere they took no notice.
In the largest open space a middle-aged Onondaga with a fine face suddenly uttered a sharp cry: " Hehmio!" which he rapidly repeated twice. Two score voices instantly replied, "Heh!" and a rush was made for him. At least a hundred gathered around him, but they stood in a respectful circle, no one nearer than ten feet. He waved his hand, and all sat down on the ground. Then, he, too, sat down, all gazing at him intently and with expectancy.
He was a professional story-teller, an institution great and honored among the tribes of the Iroquois farther back even than Hiawatha. He began at once the story of the warrior who learned to talk with the deer and the bear, carrying it on through many chapters. Now and then a delighted listener would cry " Hah!" but if anyone became bored and fell asleep it was considered an omen of misfortune to the sleeper, and he was chased ignominiously to his tepee. The Iroquois romancer was better protected than the white one is. He could finish some of his stories in one evening, but others were serials. When he arrived at the end of the night's installment he would cry, "Si-ga!" which was equivalent to our "To be continued in our next." Then all would rise, and if tired would seek sleep, but if not they would catch the closing part of some other story-teller's romance.
At three fires Senecas were playing a peculiar little wooden flute of their own invention, that emitted wailing sounds not without a certain sweetness. In a corner a half dozen warriors hurt in battle were bathing their wounds with a soothing lotion made from the sap of the bass wood.
Henry lingered a while in the darkest corners, witnessing the feasting, hearing the flutes and the chants, listening for a space to the story-tellers and the enthusiastic "Hahs!" They were so full of feasting and merrymaking now that one could almost do as he pleased, and he stole toward the southern end of the village, where he had noticed several huts, much more strongly built than the others. Despite all his natural skill and experience his heart beat very fast when he came to the first. He was about to achieve the great exploration upon which he had ventured so much. Whether he would find anything at the end of the risk he ran, he was soon to see.
The hut, about seven feet square and as many feet in height, was built strongly of poles, with a small entrance closed by a clapboard door fastened stoutly on the outside with withes. The hut was well in the shadow of tepees, and all were still at the feasting and merrymaking. He cut the withes with two sweeps of his sharp hunting knife, opened the door, bent his head, stepped in and then closed the door behind him, in order that no Iroquois might see what had happened.
It was not wholly dark in the hut, as there were cracks between the poles, and bars of moonlight entered, falling upon a floor of bark. They revealed also a figure lying full length on one side of the but. A great pulse of joy leaped up in Henry's throat, and with it was a deep pity, also. The figure was that of Shif'less Sol, but be was pale and thin, and his arms and legs were securely bound with thongs of deerskin.
Leaning over, Henry cut the thongs of the shiftless one, but he did not stir. Great forester that Shif'less Sol was, and usually so sensitive to the lightest movement, be perceived nothing now, and, had he not found him bound, Henry would have been afraid that he was looking upon his dead comrade. The hands of the shiftless one, when the hands were cut, had fallen limply by his side, and his face looked all the more pallid by contrast with the yellow hair which fell in length about it. But it was his old-time friend, the dauntless Shif'less Sol, the last of the five to vanish so mysteriously.
Henry bent down and pulled him by the shoulder. The captive yawned, stretched himself a little, and lay still again with closed eyes. Henry shook him a second time and more violently. Shif'less Sol sat up quickly, and Henry knew that indignation prompted the movement. Sol held his arms and legs stiffly and seemed to be totally unconscious that they were unbound. He cast one glance upward, and in the dim light saw the tall warrior bending over him.
"I'll never do it, Timmendiquas or White Lightning, whichever name you like better!" he exclaimed. "I won't show you how to surprise the white settlements. You can burn me at the stake or tear me in pieces first. Now go away and let me sleep."
He sank back on the bark, and started to close his eyes again. It was then that he noticed for the first time that his hands were unbound. He held them up before his face, as if they were strange objects wholly unattached to himself, and gazed at them in amazement. He moved his legs and saw that they, too, were unbound. Then he turned his startled gaze upward at the face of the tall warrior who was looking down at him. Shif'less Sol was wholly awake now. Every faculty in him was alive, and he pierced through the Shawnee disguise. He knew who it was. He knew who had come to save him, and he sprang to his feet, exclaiming the one word:
The hands of the comrades met in the clasp of friendship which only many dangers endured together can give.
"How did you get here?" asked the shiftless one in a whisper.
"I met an Indian in the forest," replied Henry, "and well I am now he."
Shif'less Sol laughed under his breath.
"I see," said he, "but how did you get through the camp? It's a big one, and the Iroquois are watchful. Timmendiquas is here, too, with his Wyandots."
"They are having a great feast," replied Henry, "and I could go about almost unnoticed. Where are the others, Sol?"
"In the cabins close by."
"Then we'll get out of this place. Quick! Tie up your hair! In the darkness you can easily pass for an Indian."
The shiftless one drew his hair into a scalp lock, and the two slipped from the cabin, closing the door behind them and deftly retying the thongs, in order that the discovery of the escape might occur as late as possible. Then they stood a few moments in the shadow of the hut and listened to the sounds of revelry, the monotone of the story-tellers, and the chant of the singers.
"You don't know which huts they are in, do you?" asked Henry, anxiously.
"No, I don't," replied tile shiftless one.
"Get back!" exclaimed Henry softly. "Don't you see who's passing out there?"
"Braxton Wyatt," said Sol. "I'd like to get my hands on that scoundrel. I've had to stand a lot from him."
"The score must wait. But first we'll provide you with weapons. See, the Iroquois have stacked some of their rifles here while they're at the feast."
A dozen good rifles had been left leaning against a hut near by, and Henry, still watching lest he be observed, chose the best, with its ammunition, for his comrade, who, owing to his semi-civilized attire, still remained in the shadow of the other hut.
"Why not take four?" whispered the shiftless one. "We'll need them for the other boys."
Henry took four, giving two to his comrade, and then they hastily slipped back to the other side of the hut. A Wyandot and a Mohawk were passing, and they had eyes of hawks. Henry and Sol waited until the formidable pair were gone, and then began to examine the huts, trying to surmise in which their comrades lay.
"I haven't seen 'em a-tall, a-tall," said Sol, "but I reckon from the talk that they are here. I was s'prised in the woods, Henry. A half dozen reds jumped on me so quick I didn't have time to draw a weepin. Timmendiquas was at the head uv 'em an' he just grinned. Well, he is a great chief, if he did truss me up like a fowl. I reckon the same thing happened to the others."
"Come closer, Sol! Come closer!" whispered Henry. More warriors are walking this way. The feast is breaking up, and they'll spread all through the camp."
A terrible problem was presented to the two. They could no longer search among the strong huts, for their comrades. The opportunity to save had lasted long enough for one only. But border training is stern, and these two had uncommon courage and decision.
"We must go now, Sol," said Henry, "but we'll come back."
"Yes," said the shiftless one, "we'll come back."
Darting between the huts, they gained the southern edge of the forest before the satiated banqueters could suspect the presence of an enemy. Here they felt themselves safe, but they did not pause. Henry led the way, and Shif'less Sol followed at a fair degree of speed.
"You'll have to be patient with me for a little while, Henry," said Sol in a tone of humility. "When I wuz layin' thar in the lodge with my hands an' feet tied I wuz about eighty years old, jest ez stiff ez could be from the long tyin'. When I reached the edge o' the woods the blood wuz flowin' lively enough to make me 'bout sixty. Now I reckon I'm fifty, an' ef things go well I'll be back to my own nateral age in two or three hours."
"You shall have rest before morning," said Henry, "and it will be in a good place, too. I can promise that."
Shif'less Sol looked at him inquiringly, but he did not say anything. Like the rest of the five, Sol had acquired the most implicit confidence in their bold young leader. He had every reason to feel good. That painful soreness was disappearing from his ankles. As they advanced through the woods, weeks dropped from him one by one. Then the months began to roll away, and at last time fell year by year. As they approached the deeps of the forest where the swamp lay, Solomon Hyde, the so called shiftless one, and wholly undeserving of the name, was young again.
"I've got a fine little home for us, Sol," said Henry. "Best we've had since that time we spent a winter on the island in the lake. This is littler, but it's harder to find. It'll be a fine thing to know you're sleeping safe and sound with five hundred Iroquois warriors only a few miles away."
"Then it'll suit me mighty well," said Shif'less Sol, grinning broadly. "That's jest the place fur a lazy man like your humble servant, which is me."
They reached the stepping stones, and Henry paused a moment.
"Do you feel steady enough, Sol, to jump from stone to stone?" he asked.
"I'm feelin' so good I could fly ef I had to," he replied. "Jest you jump on, Henry, an' fur every jump you take you'll find me only one jump behind you!"
Henry, without further ado, sprang from one stone to another, and behind him, stone for stone, came the shiftless one. It was now past midnight, and the moon was obscured. The keenest eyes twenty yards away could not have seen the two dusky figures as they went by leaps into the very heart of the great, black swamp. They reached the solid ground, and then the hut.
"Here, Sol," said Henry, "is my house, and yours, also, and soon, I hope, to be that of Paul, Tom, and Jim, too."
"Henry," said Shif'less Sol, " I'm shorely glad to come."
They went inside, stacked their captured rifles against the wall, and soon were sound asleep.
Meanwhile sleep was laying hold of the Iroquois village, also. They had eaten mightily and they had drunk mightily. Many times had they told the glories of Hode-no-sau-nee, the Great League, and many times had they gladly acknowledged the valor and worth of Timmendiquas and the brave little Wyandot nation. Timmendiquas and Thayendanegea had sat side by side throughout the feast, but often other great chiefs were with them-Skanawati, Atotarho, and Hahiron, the Onondagas; Satekariwate, the Mohawk; Kanokarih and Kanyadoriyo, the Senecas; and many others.
Toward midnight the women and the children left for the lodges, and soon the warriors began to go also, or fell asleep on tile ground, wrapped in their blankets. The fires were allowed to sink low, and at last the older chiefs withdrew, leaving only Timmendiquas and Thayendanegea.
"You have seen the power and spirit of the Iroquois," said Thayendanegea. "We can bring many more warriors than are here into the field, and we will strike the white settlements with you."
"The Wyandots are not so many as the warriors of the Great League," said Timmendiquas proudly, "but no one has ever been before them in battle."
"You speak truth, as I have often heard it," said Thayendanegea thoughtfully. Then be showed Timmendiquas to a lodge of honor, the finest in the village, and retired to his own.
The great feast was over, but the chiefs had come to a momentous decision. Still chafing over their defeat at Oriskany, they would make a new and formidable attack upon the white settlements, and Timmendiquas and his fierce Wyandots would help them. All of them, from the oldest to the youngest, rejoiced in the decision, and, not least, the famous Thayendanegea. He hated the Americans most because they were upon the soil, and were always pressing forward against the Indian. The Englishmen were far away, and if they prevailed in the great war, the march of the American would be less rapid. He would strike once more with the Englishmen, and the Iroquois could deliver mighty blows on the American rearguard. He and his Mohawks, proud Keepers of the Western Gate, would lead in the onset. Thayendanegea considered it a good night's work, and he slept peacefully.
The great camp relapsed into silence. The warriors on the ground breathed perhaps a little heavily after so much feasting, and the fires were permitted to smolder down to coals. Wolves and panthers drawn by the scent of food crept through the thickets toward the faint firelight, but they were afraid to draw near. Morning came, and food and drink were taken to the lodges in which four prisoners were held, prisoners of great value, taken by Timmendiquas and the Wyandots, and held at his urgent insistence as hostages.
Three were found as they had been left, and when their bonds were loosened they ate and drank, but the fourth hut was empty. The one who spoke in a slow, drawling way, and the one who seemed to be the most dangerous of them all, was gone. Henry and Sol had taken the severed thongs with them, and there was nothing to show how the prisoner had disappeared, except that the withes fastening the door had been cut.
The news spread through the village, and there was much excitement. Thayendanegea and Timmendiquas came and looked at the empty hut. Timmendiquas may have suspected how Shif'less Sol had gone, but he said nothing. Others believed that it was the work of Hahgweh-da-et-gah (The Spirit of Evil), or perhaps Ga-oh (The Spirit of the Winds) had taken him away.
"It is well to keep a good watch on the others," said Timmendiquas, and Thayendanegea nodded.
That day the chiefs entered the Long House again, and held a great war council. A string of white wampum about a foot in length was passed to every chief, who held it a moment or two before handing it to his neighbors. It was then laid on a table in the center of the room, the ends touching. This signified harmony among the Six Nations. All the chiefs had been summoned to this place by belts of wampum sent to the different tribes by runners appointed by the Onondagas, to whom this honor belonged. All treaties had to be ratified by the exchange of belts, and now this was done by the assembled chiefs.
Timmendiquas, as an honorary chief of the Mohawks, and as the real head of a brave and allied nation, was present throughout the council. His advice was asked often, and when he gave it the others listened with gravity and deference. The next day the village played a great game of lacrosse, which was invented by the Indians, and which had been played by them for centuries before the arrival of the white man. In this case the match was on a grand scale, Mohawks and Cayugas against Onondagas and Senecas.
The game began about nine o'clock in the morning in a great natural meadow surrounded by forest. The rival sides assembled opposite each other and bet heavily. All the stakes, under the law of the game, were laid upon the ground in heaps here, and they consisted of the articles most precious to the Iroquois. In these heaps were rifles, tomahawks, scalping knives, wampum, strips of colored beads, blankets, swords, belts, moccasins, leggins, and a great many things taken as spoil in forays on the white settlements, such is small mirrors, brushes of various kinds, boots, shoes, and other things, the whole making a vast assortment.
These heaps represented great wealth to the Iroquois, and the older chiefs sat beside them in the capacity of stakeholders and judges.
The combatants, ranged in two long rows, numbered at least five hundred on each side, and already they began to show an excitement approaching that which animated them when they would go into battle. Their eyes glowed, and the muscles on their naked backs and chests were tense for the spring. In order to leave their limbs perfectly free for effort they wore no clothing at all, except a little apron reaching from the waist to the knee.
The extent of the playground was marked off by two pair of "byes" like those used in cricket, planted about thirty rods apart. But the goals of each side were only about thirty feet apart.
At a signal from the oldest of the chiefs the contestants arranged themselves in two parallel lines facing each other, inside the area and about ten rods apart. Every man was armed with a strong stick three and a half to four feet in length, and curving toward the end. Upon this curved end was tightly fastened a network of thongs of untanned deerskin, drawn until they were rigid and taut. The ball with which they were to play was made of closely wrapped elastic skins, and was about the size of an ordinary apple.
At the end of the lines, but about midway between them, sat the chiefs, who, besides being judges and stakeholders, were also score keepers. They kept tally of the game by cutting notches upon sticks. Every time one side put the ball through the other's goal it counted one, but there was an unusual power exercised by the chiefs, practically unknown to the games of white men. If one side got too far ahead, its score was cut down at the discretion of the chiefs in order to keep the game more even, and also to protract it sometimes over three or four days. The warriors of the leading side might grumble among one another at the amount of cutting the chiefs did, but they would not dare to make any protest. However, the chiefs would never cut the leading side down to an absolute parity with the other. It was always allowed to retain a margin of the superiority it had won.
The game was now about to begin, and the excitement became intense. Even the old judges leaned forward in their eagerness, while the brown bodies of the warriors shone in the sun, and the taut muscles leaped up under the skin. Fifty players on each side, sticks in hand, advanced to the center of the ground, and arranged themselves somewhat after the fashion of football players, to intercept the passage of the ball toward their goals. Now they awaited the coming of the ball.
There were several young girls, the daughters of chiefs. The most beautiful of these appeared. She was not more than sixteen or seventeen years of age, as slender and graceful as a young deer, and she was dressed in the finest and most richly embroidered deerskin. Her head was crowned with a red coronet, crested with plumes, made of the feathers of the eagle and heron. She wore silver bracelets and a silver necklace.
The girl, bearing in her hand the ball, sprang into the very center of the arena, where, amid shouts from all the warriors, she placed it upon the ground. Then she sprang back and joined the throng of spectators. Two of the players, one from each side, chosen for strength and dexterity, advanced. They hooked the ball together in their united bats and thus raised it aloft, until the bats were absolutely perpendicular. Then with a quick, jerking motion they shot it upward. Much might be gained by this first shot or stroke, but on this occasion the two players were equal, and it shot almost absolutely straight into the air. The nearest groups made a rush for it, and the fray began.
Not all played at once, as the crowd was so great, but usually twenty or thirty on each side struck for tile ball, and when they became exhausted or disabled were relieved by similar groups. All eventually came into action.
The game was played with the greatest fire and intensity, assuming sometimes the aspect of a battle. Blows with the formidable sticks were given and received. Brown skins were streaked with blood, heads were cracked, and a Cayuga was killed. Such killings were not unusual in these games, and it was always considered the fault of the man who fell, due to his own awkwardness or unwariness. The body of the dead Cayuga was taken away in disgrace.
All day long the contest was waged with undiminished courage and zeal, party relieving party. The meadow and the surrounding forest resounded with the shouts and yells of combatants and spectators. The old squaws were in a perfect frenzy of excitement, and their shrill screams of applause or condemnation rose above every other sound.
On this occasion, as the contest did not last longer than one day, the chiefs never cut down the score of the leading side. The game closed at sunset, with the Senecas and Onondagas triumphant, and richer by far than they were in the morning. The Mohawks and Cayugas retired, stripped of their goods and crestfallen.
Timmendiquas and Thayendanegea, acting as umpires watched the game closely to its finish, but not so the renegades Braxton Wyatt and Blackstaffe. They and Quarles had wandered eastward with some Delawares, and had afterward joined the band of Wyandots, though Timmendiquas gave them no very warm welcome. Quarles had left on some errand a few days before. They had rejoiced greatly at the trapping of the four, one by one, in the deep bush. But they had felt anger and disappointment when the fifth was not taken, also. Now both were concerned and alarmed over the escape of Shif'less Sol in the night, and they drew apart from the Indians to discuss it.
"I think," said Wyatt, "that Hyde did not manage it himself, all alone. How could he? He was bound both hand and foot; and I've learned, too, Blackstaffe, that four of the best Iroquois rifles have been taken. That means one apiece for Hyde and the three prisoners that are left."
The two exchanged looks of meaning and understanding.
"It must have been the boy Ware who helped Hyde to get away," said Blackstaffe, "and their taking of the rifles means that he and Hyde expect to rescue the other three in the same way. You think so, too?"
"Of course," replied Wyatt. "What makes the Indians, who are so wonderfully alert and watchful most of the time, become so careless when they have a great feast?"
Blackstaffe shrugged his shoulders.
"It is their way," he replied. "You cannot change it. Ware must have noticed what they were about, and he took advantage of it. But I don't think any of the others will go that way."
"The boy Cotter is in here," said Braxton Wyatt, tapping the side of a small hut. "Let's go in and see him."
"Good enough," said Blackstaffe. "But we mustn't let him know that Hyde has escaped."
Paul, also bound hand and foot, was lying on an old wolfskin. He, too, was pale and thin-the strict confinement had told upon him heavily-but Paul's spirit could never be daunted. He looked at the two renegades with hatred and contempt.
"Well, you're in a fine fix," said Wyatt sneeringly. "We just came in to tell you that we took Henry Ware last night."
Paul looked him straight and long in the eye, and he knew that the renegade was lying.
"I know better," he said.
"Then we will get him," said Wyatt, abandoning the lie, "and all of you will die at the stake."
"You, will not get him," said Paul defiantly, "and as for the rest of us dying at the stake, that's to be seen. I know this: Timmendiquas considers us of value, to be traded or exchanged, and he's too smart a man to destroy what be regards as his own property. Besides, we may escape. I don't want to boast, Braxton Wyatt, but you know that we're hard to hold."
Then Paul managed to turn over with his face to the wall, as if he were through with them. They went out, and Braxton Wyatt said sulkily:
"Nothing to be got out of him."
"No," said Blackstaffe, "but we must urge that the strictest kind of guard be kept over the others."
The Iroquois were to remain some time at the village, because all their forces were not yet gathered for the great foray they had in mind. The Onondaga runners were still carrying the wampum belts of purple shells, sign of war, to distant villages of the tribes, and parties of warriors were still coming in. A band of Cayugas arrived that night, and with them they brought a half starved and sick, Lenni-Lenape, whom they had picked up near the camp. The Lenni-Lenape, who looked as if he might have been when in health a strong and agile warrior, said that news had reached him through the Wyandots of the great war to be waged by the Iroquois on the white settlements, and the spirits would not let him rest unless he bore his part in it. He prayed therefore to be accepted among them.
Much food was given to the brave Lenni-Lenape, and he was sent to a lodge to rest. To-morrow he would be well, and he would be welcomed to the ranks of the Cayugas, a Younger nation. But when the morning came, the lodge was empty. The sick Lenni-Lenape was gone, and with him the boy, Paul, the youngest of the prisoners. Guards bad been posted all around the camp, but evidently the two had slipped between. Brave and advanced as were the Iroquois, superstition seized upon them. Hah-gweli-da-et-gah was at work among them, coming in the form of the famished Lenni-Lenape. He had steeped them in a deep sleep, and then he had vanished with the prisoner in Se-oh (The Night). Perhaps lie had taken away the boy, who was one of a hated race, for some sacrifice or mystery of his own. The fears of the Iroquois rose. If the Spirit of Evil was among them, greater harm could be expected.
But the two renegades, Blackstaffe and Wyatt, raged. They did not believe in the interference of either good spirits or bad spirits, and just now their special hatred was a famished Lenni-Lenape warrior.
"Why on earth didn't I think of it?" exclaimed Wyatt. "I'm sure now by his size that it was the fellow Hyde. Of Course he slipped to the lodge, let Cotter out, and they dodged about in the darkness until they escaped in the forest. I'll complain to Timmendiquas."
He was as good as his word, speaking of the laxness of both Iroquois and Wyandots. The great White Lightning regarded him with an icy stare.
"You say that the boy, Cotter, escaped through carelessness?" he asked.
"I do," exclaimed Wyatt.
"Then why did you not prevent it?"
Wyatt trembled a little before the stern gaze of the chief.
Since when," continued Timmendiquas, "have you, a deserter front your own people, had the right to hold to account the head chief of the Wyandots?" Braxton Wyatt, brave though he undoubtedly was, trembled yet more. He knew that Timmendiquas did not like him, and that the Wyandot chieftain could make his position among the Indians precarious.
"I did not mean to say that it was the fault of anybody in particular," he exclaimed hastily, "but I've been hearing so much talk about the Spirit of Evil having a hand in this that I couldn't keep front saying something. Of course, it was Henry Ware and Hyde who did it!"
"It may be," said Timmendiquas icily, "but neither the Manitou of the Wyandots, nor the Aieroski of the Iroquois has given to me the eyes to see everything that happens in the dark."
Wyatt withdrew still in a rage, but afraid to say more. He and Blackstaffe held many conferences through the day, and they longed for the presence of Simon Girty, who was farther west.
That night an Onondaga runner arrived from one of the farthest villages of the Mohawks, far east toward Albany. He had been sent from a farther village, and was not known personally to the warriors in the great camp, but he bore a wampum belt of purple shells, the sign of war, and he reported directly to Thayendanegea, to whom he brought stirring and satisfactory words. After ample feasting, as became one who had come so far, he lay upon soft deerskins in one of the bark huts and sought sleep.
But Braxton Wyatt, the renegade, could not sleep. His evil spirit warned him to rise and go to the huts, where the two remaining prisoners were kept. It was then about one o'clock in the morning, and as he passed he saw the Onondaga runner at the door of one of the prison lodges. He was about to cry out, but the Onondaga turned and struck him such a violent blow with the butt of a pistol, snatched from under his deerskin tunic, that he fell senseless. When a Mohawk sentinel found and revived him an hour later, the door of the hut was open, and the oldest of the prisoners, the one called Ross, was gone.
Now, indeed, were the Iroquois certain that the Spirit of Evil was among them. When great chiefs like Timmendiquas and Thayendanegea were deceived, how could a common warrior hope to escape its wicked influence!
But Braxton Wyatt, with a sore and aching head, lay all day on a bed of skins, and his friend, Moses Blackstaffe, could give him no comfort.
The following night the camp was swept by a sudden and tremendous storm of thunder and lightning, wind and rain. Many of the lodges were thrown down, and when the storm finally whirled itself away, it was found that the last of the prisoners, he of the long arms and long legs, had gone on the edge of the blast.
Truly the Evil Spirit had been hovering over the Iroquois village.