Chapter IV. The Perilous Path
 

After a long night of sleep and rest, the little troop resumed its march the next morning. The wounded fortunately were not hurt so badly that they could not limp along with the others, and, while the surgery of the soldiers was rude, it was effective nevertheless. Daganoweda, as they had expected, prepared to leave them for a raid toward the St. Lawrence. But he said rather grimly that he might return, in a month perhaps. He knew where they were going to build their fort, and unless Corlear and all the other British governors awoke much earlier in the morning it was more than likely that the young captain from Philadelphia would need the help of the Mohawks again.

Then Daganoweda said farewell to Robert, Tayoga, Willet and Black Rifle, addressing each according to his quality. Them he trusted. He knew them to be great warriors and daring rovers of the wilderness. He had no advice for them, because he knew they did not need it, but he expected them to be his comrades often in the great war, and he wished them well. To Tayoga he said:

"You and I, oh, young chief of the Onondagas, have hearts that beat alike. The Onondagas do well to keep aloof from the white man's quarrels for the present, and to sit at peace, though watchful, in the vale of Onondaga, but your hopes are with our friends the English and you in person fight for them. We Mohawks know whom to hate. We know that the French have robbed us more than any others. We know, that their Quebec is our Stadacona. So we have dug up the tomahawk and last night we showed to Sharp Sword and his men and Tandakora the Ojibway how we could use it."

Sharp Sword was the Iroquois name for St. Luc, who had already proved his great ability and daring as a forest leader.

"The Ganeagaono are now the chief barrier against the French and their tribes," said Tayoga.

The brilliant eyes of Daganoweda glittered in his dark face. He knew that Tayoga would not pay the Mohawks so high a compliment unless he meant it.

"Tayoga," he said, "we belong to the leading nations of the great League of the Hodenosaunee, you to the Onundahgaono and I to the Ganeagaono. You are first in the council and we are first on the warpath. It was Tododaho, the Onondaga, who first formed the great League and it was Hayowentha, the Mohawk, who combed the snakes out of his hair and who strengthened it and who helped him to build it so firmly that it shall last forever. Brothers are we, and always shall be."

He touched his forehead in salute, and the Onondaga touched his in reply.

"Aye, brothers are we," he said, "Mohawk and Onondaga, Onondaga and Mohawk. The great war of the white kings which draws us in it has come, but I know that Hayowentha watches over his people, and Tododaho over his. In the spring when I went forth in the night to fight the Hurons I gazed off there in the west where shines the great star on which Tododaho makes his home, and I saw him looking down upon me, and casting about me the veil of his protection."

Daganoweda looked up at the gleaming blue of the heavens, and his eyes glittered again. He believed every word that Tayoga said.

"As Tododaho watches over you, so Hayowentha watches over me," he said, "and he will bring me back in safety and victory from the St. Lawrence. Farewell again, my brother."

"Farewell once more, Daganoweda!"

The Mohawk chief plunged into the forest, and his fifty warriors followed him. Like a shadow they were gone, and the waving bushes gave back no sign that they had ever been. Captain Colden rubbed his eyes and then laughed.

"I never knew men to vanish so swiftly before," he said, "but last night was good proof that they were here, and that they came in time. I suppose it's about the only victory of which we can make boast."

He spoke the full truth. From the St. Lawrence to the Ohio the border was already ravaged with fire and sword. Appeals for help were pouring in from the distant settlements, and the governors of New York, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts scarcely knew what to do. France had struck the first blow, and she had struck hard. Young Washington, defeated by overwhelming numbers, was going back to Virginia, and Duquesne, the fort of the French at the junction of the Monongahela and Allegheny, was a powerful rallying place for their own forces and the swarming Indian bands, pouring out of the wilderness, drawn by the tales of unlimited scalps and plunder.

The task before Captain Colden's slender force was full of danger. His numbers might have been five times as great and then they would not have been too many to build and hold the fort he was sent to build and hold. But he had no thought of turning back, and, as soon as Daganoweda and the Mohawks were gone, they started, bending their course somewhat farther toward the south. At the ford of a river twenty men with horses carrying food, ammunition and other supplies were to meet them, and they reckoned that they could reach it by midnight.

The men with the horses had been sent from another point, and it was not thought then that there was any danger of French and Indian attack before the junction was made, but the colonial authorities had reckoned without the vigor and daring of St. Luc. Now the most cruel fears assailed young Captain Colden, and Robert and the hunter could not find much argument to remove them. It was possible that the second force had been ambushed also, and, if so, it had certainly been destroyed, being capable of no such resistance as that made by Colden's men, and without the aid of the three friends and the Mohawks. And if the supplies were gone the expedition would be useless.

"Don't be downhearted about it, captain," said Willet. "You say there's not a man in the party who knows anything about the wilderness, and that they've got just enough woods sense to take them to the ford. Well, that has its saving grace, because now and then, the Lord seems to watch over fool men. The best of hunters are trapped sometimes in the forest, when fellows who don't know a deer from a beaver, go through 'em without harm."

"Then if there's any virtue in what you say we'll pray that these men are the biggest fools who ever lived."

"Smoke! smoke again!" called Robert cheerily, pointing straight ahead.

Sure enough, that long dark thread appeared once more, now against the western sky. Willet laughed.

"They're the biggest fools in the forest, just as you hoped, Captain," he said, "and they've taken no more harm than if they had built their fires in a Philadelphia street. They've set themselves down for the night, as peaceful and happy as you please. If that isn't the campfire of your men with the pack horses then I'll eat my cap."

Captain Colden laughed, but it was the slightly hysterical laugh of relief. He was bent upon doing his task, and, since the Lord had carried him so far through a mighty danger, the disappointment of losing the supplies would have been almost too much to bear.

"You're sure it's they, Mr. Willet?" he said.

"Of course. Didn't I tell you it wasn't possible for another such party of fools to be here in the wilderness, and that the God of the white man and the Manitou of the red man taking pity on their simplicity and innocence have protected them?"

"I like to think what you say is true, Mr. Willet."

"It's true. Be not afraid that it isn't. Now, I think we'd better stop here, and let Robert and Tayoga go ahead, spy 'em out and make signals. It would be just like 'em to blaze away at us the moment they saw the bushes move with our coming."

Captain Colden was glad to take his advice, and the white youth and the red went forward silently through the forest, hearing the sound of cheerful voices, as they drew near to the campfire which was a large one blazing brightly. They also heard the sound of horses moving and they knew that the detachment had taken no harm. Tayoga parted the bushes and peered forth.

"Look!" he said. "Surely they are watched over by Manitou!"

About twenty men, or rather boys, for all of them were very young, were standing or lying about a fire. A tall, very ruddy youth in the uniform of a colonial lieutenant was speaking to them.

"Didn't I tell you, lads," he said, "there wasn't an Indian nearer than Fort Duquesne, and that's a long way from here! We've come a great distance and not a foe has appeared anywhere. It may be that the French vanish when they hear this valiant Quaker troop is coming, but it's my own personal opinion they'll stay pretty well back in the west with their red allies."

The youth, although he called himself so, did not look much like a Quaker to Robert. He had a frank face and merry eyes, and manner and voice indicated a tendency to gayety. Judging from his words he had no cares and Indians and ambush were far from his thoughts. Proof of this was the absence of sentinels. The men, scattered about the fire, were eating their suppers and the horses, forty in number, were grazing in an open space. It all looked like a great picnic, and the effect was heightened by the youth of the soldiers.

"As the Great Bear truly said," whispered Tayoga, "Manitou has watched over them. The forest does not hold easier game for the taking, and had Tandakora known that they were here he would have come seeking revenge for his loss in the attack upon Captain Colden's troop."

"You're right as usual, Tayoga, and now we'd better hail them. But don't you come forward just yet. They don't know the difference between Indians and likely your welcome would be a bullet."

"I will wait," said Tayoga.

"I tell you, Carson," the young lieutenant was saying in an oratorical manner, "that they magnify the dangers of the wilderness. The ford at which we were to meet Colden is just ahead, and we've come straight to it without the slightest mishap. Colden is no sluggard, and he should be here in the morning at the latest. Do you find anything wrong with my reasoning, Hugh?"

"Naught, William," replied the other, who seemed to be second in command. "Your logic is both precise and beautiful. The dangers of the border are greatly exaggerated, and as soon as we get together a good force all these French and Indians will flee back to Canada. Ah, who is this?"

Both he and his chief turned and faced the woods in astonishment. A youth had stepped forth, and stood in full view. He was taller than either, but younger, dressed completely in deerskin, although superior in cut and quality to that of the ordinary borderer, his complexion fair beneath his tan, and his hair light. He gazed at them steadily with bright blue eyes, and both the first lieutenant and the second lieutenant of the Quaker troop saw that he was no common person.

"Who are you?" repeated William Wilton, who was the first lieutenant.

"Who are you?" repeated Hugh Carson, who was the second lieutenant.

"My name is Robert Lennox," replied the young stranger in a mellow voice of amazing quality, "and you, I suppose, are Lieutenant William Wilton, the commander of this little troop."

He spoke directly to the first lieutenant, who replied, impressed as much by the youth's voice as he was by his appearance:

"Yes, such is my name. But how did you know it? I don't recall ever having met you before, which doubtless is my loss."

"I heard it from an associate of yours, your chief in command, Captain James Colden, and I am here with a message from him."

"And so Colden is coming up? Well, we beat him to the place of meeting. We've triumphed with ease over the hardships of the wilderness." "Yes, you arrived first, but he was delayed by a matter of importance, a problem that had to be solved before he could resume his march."

"You speak in riddles, sir."

"Perhaps I do for the present, but I shall soon make full explanations. I wish to call first a friend of mine, an Indian--although you say there are no Indians in the forest--a most excellent friend of ours. Tayoga, come!"

The Onondaga appeared silently in the circle of light, a splendid primeval figure, drawn to the uttermost of his great height, his lofty gaze meeting that of Wilton, half in challenge and half in greeting. Robert had been an impressive figure, but Tayoga, owing to the difference in race, was even more so. The hands of several of the soldiers moved towards their weapons.

"Did I not tell you that he was a friend, a most excellent friend of ours?" said Robert sharply. "Who raises a hand against him raises a hand against me also, and above all raises a hand against our cause. Lieutenant Wilton, this is Tayoga, of the Clan of the Bear, of the nation Onondaga, of the great League of the Hodenosaunee. He is a prince, as much a prince as any in Europe. His mind and his valor have both been expended freely in our service, and they will be expended with equal freedom again."

Robert's tone was so sharp and commanding that Wilton, impressed by it, saluted the Onondaga with the greatest courtesy, and Tayoga bowed gravely in reply.

"You're correct in assuming that my name is Wilton," said the young lieutenant. "I'm William Wilton, of Philadelphia, and I beg to present my second in command, Hugh Carson, of the same city."

He looked questioningly at Robert, who promptly responded:

"My name is Lennox, Robert Lennox, and I can claim either Albany or New York as a home."

"I think I've heard of you," said Wilton. "A rumor came to Philadelphia about a man of that name going to Quebec on an errand for the governor of New York."

"I was the messenger," said Robert, "but since the mission was a failure it may as well be forgotten."

"But it will not be forgotten. I've heard that you bore yourself with great judgment and address. Nevertheless, if your modesty forbids the subject we'll come back to another more pressing. What did you mean when you said Captain Colden's delay was due to the solution of a vexing problem?"

"It had to do with Indians, who you say are not to be found in these forests. I could not help overhearing you, as I approached your camp."

Wilton reddened and then his generous impulse and sense of truth came to his aid.

"I'll admit that I'm careless and that my knowledge may be small!" he exclaimed. "But tell me the facts, Mr. Lennox. I judge by your face that events of grave importance have occurred."

"Captain Colden, far east of this point, was attacked by a strong force of French and Indians under the renowned partisan leader, St. Luc. Tayoga, David Willet, the hunter, the famous ranger Black Rifle and I were able to warn him and give him some help, but even then we should have been overborne and destroyed had not a Mohawk chief, Daganoweda, and a formidable band come to our aid. United, we defeated St. Luc and drove him northward. Captain Colden lost several of his men, but with the rest he is now marching to the junction with you."

Wilton's face turned gray, but in a moment or two his eyes brightened.

"Then a special Providence has been watching over us," he said. "We haven't seen or heard of an Indian."

His tone was one of mingled relief and humor, and Robert could not keep from laughing.

"At all events," he said, "you are safe for the present. I'll remain with you while Tayoga goes back for Captain Colden."

"If you'll be so good," said Wilton, who did not forget his manners, despite the circumstances. "I've begun to feel that we have more eyes, or at least better ones, with you among us. Where is that Indian? You don't mean to say he's gone?"

Robert laughed again. Tayoga, after his fashion, had vanished in silence.

"He's well on his way to Captain Colden now," he said, exaggerating a little for the sake of effect. "He'll be a great chief some day, and meanwhile he's the fastest runner in the whole Six Nations."

Colden and his troop arrived soon, and the two little commands were united, to the great joy of all. Lieutenant Wilton had passed from the extreme of confidence to the utmost distrust. Where it had not been possible for an Indian to exist he now saw a scalplock in every bush.

"On my honor," he said to Colden, "James, I was never before in my life so happy to see you. I'm glad you have the entire command now. As Mr. Lennox said, Providence saved me so far, but perhaps it wouldn't lend a helping hand any longer."

The pack horses carried surgical supplies for the wounded, and Willet and Black Rifle were skillful in using them. All of the hurt, they were sure would be well again within a week, and there was little to mar the general feeling of high spirits that prevailed in the camp. Wilton and Carson were lads of mettle, full of talk of Philadelphia, then the greatest city in the British Colonies, and related to most of its leading families, as was Colden too, his family being a branch of the New York family of that name. Robert was at home with them at once, and they were eager to hear from him about Quebec and the latest fashions of the French, already the arbiters of fashion, and recognized as such, despite the war between them, by English and Americans.

"I had hoped to go to Quebec myself," said Wilton reflectively, "but I suppose it's a visit that's delayed for a long time now."

"How does it happen that you, a Quaker, are second in command here?" asked Robert.

"It must be the belligerency repressed through three or four generations and breaking out at last in me," replied Wilton, his eyes twinkling. "I suppose there's just so much fighting in every family, and if three or four generations in succession are peaceful the next that follows is likely to be full of warlike fury. So, as soon as the war began I started for it. It's not inherent in me. As I said, it's the confined ardor of generations bursting forth suddenly in my person. I'm not an active agent. I'm merely an instrument."

"It was the same warlike fury that caused you to come here, build your fire and set no watch, expecting the woods to be as peaceful as Philadelphia?" said Colden.

Wilton colored.

"I didn't dream the French and Indians were so near," he replied apologetically.

"If comparisons are valuable you needn't feel any mortification about it, Will," said Colden. "I was just about as careless myself, and all of us would have lost our scalps, if Willet, Lennox and Tayoga hadn't come along."

Wilton was consoled. But both he and Colden after the severe lesson the latter had received were now all for vigilance. Many sentinels had been posted, and since Colden was glad to follow the advice of Willet and Tayoga they were put in the best places. They let the fire die early, as the weather had now become very warm, and all of them, save the watch soon slept. The night brought little coolness with it, and the wind that blew was warm and drying. Under its touch the leaves began to crinkle up at the edge and turn brown, the grass showed signs of withering and Willet, who had taken charge of the guard that night, noticed that summer was passing into the brown leaf. It caused him a pang of disappointment.

Great Britain and the Colonies had not yet begun to move. The Provincial legislatures still wrangled, and the government at London was provokingly slow. There was still no plan of campaign, the great resources of the Anglo-Saxons had not yet been brought together for use against the quick and daring French, and while their slow, patient courage might win in the end, Willet foresaw a long and terrible war with many disasters at the beginning.

He was depressed for the moment. He knew what an impression the early French successes would make on the Indian tribes, and he knew, too, as he heard the wind rustling through the dry leaves, that there would be no English campaign that year. One might lead an army in winter on the good roads and through the open fields of Europe, but then only borderers could make way through the vast North American wilderness in the deep snows and bitter cold, where Indian trails alone existed. The hunter foresaw a long delay before the British and Colonial forces moved, and meanwhile the French and Indians would be more strongly planted in the territory claimed by the rival nations, and, while in law possession was often nine points, it seemed in war to be ten points and all.

As he walked back and forth Black Rifle touched him on the arm.

"I'm going, Dave," he said. "They don't need me here any longer. Daganoweda and his Mohawks, likely enough, will follow the French and Indians, and have another brush with 'em. At any rate, it's sure that St. Luc and Tandakora won't come back, and these young men can go on without being attacked again and build their fort. But they'll be threatened there later on, and I'll come again with a warning."

"I know you will," said Willet. "Wherever danger appears on the border, Black Rifle, there you are. I see great and terrible days ahead for us all."

"And so do I," said Black Rifle. "This continent is on fire."

The two shook hands, and the somber figure of Black Rifle disappeared in the forest. Willet looked after him thoughtfully, and then resumed his pacing to and fro.

They made an early start at dawn of a bright hot day, crossed the ford, and resumed their long march through the forest which under the light wind now rustled continually with the increasing dryness.

But the company was joyous. The wounded were put upon the pack horses, and the others, young, strong and refreshed by abundant rest, went forward with springing steps. Robert and Tayoga walked with the three Philadelphians. Colden already knew the quality of the Onondaga, and respected and admired him, and Wilton and Carson, surprised at first at his excellent English education, soon saw that he was no ordinary youth. The five, each a type of his own, were fast friends before the day's march was over. Wilton, the Quaker, was the greatest talker of them all, which he declared was due to suppression in childhood.

"It's something like the battle fever which will come out along about the fourth or fifth generation," he said. "I suppose there's a certain amount of talk that every man must do in his lifetime, and, having been kept in a state of silence by my parents all through my youth, I'm now letting myself loose in the woods."

"Don't apologize, Will," said Colden. "Your chatter is harmless, and it lightens the spirits of us all."

"The talker has his uses," said Tayoga gravely. "My friend Lennox, known to the Hodenosaunee as Dagaeoga, is golden-mouthed. The gift of great speech descends upon him when time and place are fitting."

"And so you're an orator, are you?" said Carson, looking at Robert.

Young Lennox blushed.

"Tayoga is my very good friend," he replied, "and he gives me praise I don't deserve."

"When one has a gift direct from Manitou," said the Onondaga, gravely, "it is not well to deny it. It is a sign of great favor, and you must not show ingratitude, Dagaeoga."

"He has you, Lennox," laughed Wilton, "but you needn't say more. I know that Tayoga is right, and I'm waiting to hear you talk in a crisis."

Robert blushed once more, but was silent. He knew that if he protested again the young Philadelphians would chaff him without mercy, and he knew at heart also that Tayoga's statement about him was true. He remembered with pride his defeat of St. Luc in the great test of words in the vale of Onondaga. But Wilton's mind quickly turned to another subject. He seemed to exemplify the truth of his own declaration that all the impulses bottled up in four or five generations of Quaker ancestors were at last bursting out in him. He talked more than all the others combined, and he rejoiced in the freedom of the wilderness.

"I'm a spirit released," he said. "That's why I chatter so."

"Perhaps it's just as well, Will, that while you have the chance you should chatter to your heart's content, because at any time an Indian arrow may cut short your chance for chattering," said Carson.

"I can't believe it, Hugh," said Wilton, "because if Providence was willing to preserve us, when we camped squarely among the Indians, put out no guards, and fairly asked them to come and shoot at us, then it was for a purpose and we'll be preserved through greater and continuous dangers."

"There may be something in it, Will. I notice that those who deserve it least are often the chosen favorites of fortune."

"Which seems to be a hit at your superior officer, but I'll pass it over, Hugh, as you're always right at heart though often wrong in the head."

Although the young officers talked much and with apparent lightness, the troop marched with vigilance now. Willet and Tayoga, and Colden, who had profited by bitter experience, saw to it. The hunter and the Onondaga, often assisted by Robert, scouted on the flanks, and three or four soldiers, who developed rapid skill in the woods, were soon able to help. But Tayoga and Willet were the main reliance, and they found no further trace of Indians. Nevertheless the guard was never relaxed for an instant.

Robert found the march not only pleasant but exhilarating. It appealed to his imaginative and sensitive mind, which magnified everything, and made the tints more vivid and brilliant. To him the forests were larger and grander than they were to the others, and the rivers were wider and deeper. The hours were more intense, he lived every second of them, and the future had a scope and brilliancy that few others would foresee. In company with youths of his own age coming from the largest city of the British colonies, the one that had the richest social traditions, his whole nature expanded, and he cast away much of his reserve. Around the campfires in the evening he became one of the most industrious talkers, and now and then he was carried away so much by his own impulse that all the rest would cease and listen to the mellow, golden voice merely for the pleasure of hearing. Then Tayoga and Willet would look at each other and smile, knowing that Dagaeoga, though all unconsciously, held the center of the stage, and the others were more than willing for him to hold it.

The friendships of the young ripen fast, and under such circumstances they ripen faster than ever. Robert soon felt that he had known the three young Philadelphians for years, and a warm friendship, destined to last all their lives, in which Tayoga was included, was soon formed. Robert saw that his new comrades, although they did not know much of the forest, were intelligent, staunch and brave, and they saw in him all that Tayoga and Willet saw, which was a great deal.

The heat and dryness increased, and the brown of leaf and grass deepened. Nearly all the green was gone now, and autumn would soon come. The forest was full of game, and Willet and Tayoga kept them well supplied, yet their progress became slower. Those who had been wounded severely approached the critical stage, and once they stopped two days until all danger had passed.

Three days later a fierce summer storm burst upon them. Tayoga had foreseen it, and the whole troop was gathered in the lee of a hill, with all their ammunition protected by blankets, canvas and the skins of deer that they had killed. But the young Philadelphians, unaccustomed to the fury of the elements in the wilderness, looked upon it with awe.

In the west the lightning blazed and the thunder crashed for a long time. Often the forest seemed to swim in a red glare, and Robert himself was forced to shut his eyes before the rapid flashes of dazzling brightness. Then came a great rushing of wind with a mighty rain on its edge, and, when the wind died, the rain fell straight down in torrents more than an hour.

Although they kept their ammunition and other supplies dry the men themselves were drenched to the bone, but the storm passed more suddenly than it had come. The clouds parted on the horizon, then all fled away. The last raindrop fell and a shining sun came out in a hot blue sky. As the men resumed a drooping march their clothes dried fast in the fiery rays and their spirits revived.

When night came they were dry again, and youth had taken no harm. The next day they struck an Indian trail, but both Willet and Tayoga said it had been made by less than a dozen warriors, and that they were going north.

"It's my belief," said Willet, "that they were warriors from the Ohio country on their way to join the French along the Canadian border."

"And they're not staying to meet us," said Colden. "I'm afraid, Will, it'll be some time before you have a chance to show your unbottled Quaker valor."

"Perhaps not so long as you think," replied Wilton, who had plenty of penetration. "I don't claim to be any great forest rover, although I do think I've learned something since I left Philadelphia, but I imagine that our building of a fort in the woods will draw 'em. The Indian runners will soon be carrying the news of it, and then they'll cluster around us like flies seeking sugar."

"You're right, Mr. Wilton," said Willet. "After we build this fort it's as sure as the sun is in the heavens that we'll have to fight for it."

Two days later they reached the site for their little fortress which they named Fort Refuge, because they intended it as a place in which harried settlers might find shelter. It was a hill near a large creek, and the source of a small brook lay within the grounds they intended to occupy, securing to them an unfailing supply of good water in case of siege.

Now, the young soldiers entered upon one of the most arduous tasks of the war, to build a fort, which was even more trying to them than battle. Arms and backs ached as Colden, Wilton and Carson, advised by Willet, drove them hard. A strong log blockhouse was erected, and then a stout palisade, enclosing the house and about an acre of ground, including the precious spring which spouted from under a ledge of stone at the very wall of the blockhouse itself. Behind the building they raised a shed in which the horses could be sheltered, as all of them foresaw a long stay, dragging into winter with its sleet and snow, and it was important to save the animals.

Robert, Willet and Tayoga had a roving commission, and, as they could stay with Colden and his command as long as they chose, they chose accordingly to remain where they thought they could do the most good. Robert took little part in the hunting, but labored with the soldiers on the building, although it was not the kind of work to which his mind turned.

The blockhouse itself, was divided into a number of rooms, in which the soldiers who were not on guard could sleep, and they had blankets and the skins of the larger animals the hunters killed for beds. Venison jerked in great quantities was stored away in case of siege, and the whole forest was made to contribute to their larder. The work was hard, but it toughened the sinews of the young soldiers, and gave them an occupation in which they were interested. Before it was finished they were joined by another small detachment with loaded pack horses, which by the same kind of miracle had come safely through the wilderness. Colden now had a hundred men, fifty horses and powder and lead for all the needs of which one could think.

"If we only had a cannon!" he said, looking proudly at their new blockhouse, "I think I'd build a platform for it there on the roof, and then we could sweep the forest in every direction. Eh, Will, my lad?"

"But as we haven't," said Wilton, "we'll have to do the sweeping with our rifles."

"And our men are good marksmen, as they showed in that fight with St. Luc. But it seems a world away from Philadelphia, doesn't it, Will? I wonder what they're doing there!"

"Counting their gains in the West India trade, looking at the latest fashions from England that have come on the ships up the Delaware, building new houses out Germantown way, none of them thinking much of the war, except old Ben Franklin, who pegs forever at the governor of the Province, the Legislature, and every influential man to take action before the French and Indians seize the whole border."

"I hope Franklin will stir 'em up, and that they won't forget us out here in the woods. For us at least the French and Indians are a reality."

Meanwhile summer had turned into autumn, and autumn itself was passing.