The Lords of the Wild by Joseph A. Altsheler
Chapter IX. The Masked Attack
Light clouds floated before the moon, and the surface of the lake was ruffled by a southern wind. As no attack was anticipated from the south, the guard in that quarter was comparatively small, but it was composed, nevertheless, of good men, the boat builders mostly, but all experienced with the rifle and under the direct command of Carson. But the main force was always kept facing the forest, and, there, behind the logs, Colden stood with the four--Black Rifle again being outside. The hooting of the owls had not been repeated and the long wait had become hard upon the nerves of the young Philadelphia captain.
"Do you feel sure that they will attack to-night?" he asked Willet. "Perhaps St. Luc, seeing the strength of our position, will draw off or send to Montcalm for cannon, which doubtless would take a week."
The hunter shook his head.
"St. Luc will not go away," he said, "nor will he send for cannon, which would take too long. He will not use his strength alone, he will depend also upon wile and stratagem, against which we must guard every minute. I think I'll take my own men and go outside. We can be of more service there."
"I suppose you're right, but don't walk into danger. I depend a lot on you."
Willet climbed over the logs. Tayoga, Robert and Grosvenor followed.
"Red Coat buckled on a sword, and I did not think he would go on a trail again," said Tayoga.
"One instance in which you didn't read my mind right," rejoined the Englishman. "I know that swords don't belong on the trail, but this is only a little blade, and you fellows can't leave me behind."
"I did read your mind right," said Tayoga, laughing softly. "I merely spoke of your sword to see what you would say. I knew all the time that you would come with us."
The stumps, where the forest had been cut away, stretched for a distance of several hundred yards up the slope, and, a little distance from the breastwork, the dark shadow of Black Rifle came forward to meet them.
"Nothing yet?" asked the hunter.
"Nothing so far. Three or four good men are with me among the stumps, but not a warrior has yet appeared. I suppose they know we'll be on watch here, and it's not worth while taking so great a risk."
They advanced to the far edge of the stump region and crouched there. The night was now quite dark, the moon almost hidden, the stars but few, and the forest a solid black line before them.
"Why can't Tayoga use his ears?" said Grosvenor. "He'll hear them, though a mile away."
"A little farther on and he will," replied Willet, "but we, in our turn, don't dare to go deep into the forest."
A hundred yards more and the Onondaga put ear to earth, but it was a long time before he announced anything.
"I hear footsteps fairly near to us," he said at last, "and I think they are those of warriors. They would be more cautious, but they do not believe we are outside the line of logs. Yes, they are warriors, all warriors, there is no jingle of metal such as the French have on their coats or belts, and they are going to take a look at our position. They are about to pass now to our right. I also hear steps, but farther away, on our left, and I think they are those of Frenchmen."
"Likely De Courcelles and Jumonville wanting also to look us over," said Willet.
"There is another and larger force coming directly toward us," continued the Onondaga, "and I think it includes both French and warriors. This may be the attack and perhaps it would be better for us to fall back."
They withdrew a little, but remained among the stumps, though hidden carefully. Robert himself could now hear the advance of the large force in front of them, and he wondered what could be St. Luc's plan of battle. Surely he would not try to take the sawmill by storm in face of so many deadly rifles!
Black Rifle suddenly left the others and crept toward the right. Robert's eyes followed him, and his mind was held by a curious sort of fascination. He knew that the scout had heard something and he almost divined what was about to occur. Black Rifle stopped a moment or two at a stump, and then curved swiftly about it. A dusky figure sprang up, but the war cry was choked in the throat of the Huron, and then the knife, wielded by a powerful arm, flashed. Robert quickly turned his eyes away, because he did not wish to see the fall of the blade, and he knew that the end was certain. Black Rifle came back in a few moments. His dark eyes glittered, but he had wiped the knife, and it was in his belt again.
"His comrades will find him in a few minutes," said Willet, "and we'd better not linger here."
"They went back toward the sawmill and presently they heard a terrible cry of rage, a cry given for the fallen warrior.
"I don't think I shall ever grow used to such yells," said Grosvenor, shuddering.
"I've never grown used to 'em yet," said Robert.
The shout was followed by a half dozen shots, and a bullet or two whistled overhead, but it was clear that all of them had been fired at random. The warriors, aware that the chance of surprise had passed, were venting their wrath in noise. Willet suddenly raised his own rifle and pulled the trigger. Another dusky figure sprang up and then fell prone.
"They were coming too close," he said. "That'll be a warning. Now back, lads, to the breastwork!"
As they retreated the shots and yells increased, the forest ringing with the whoops, while bullets pattered on the stumps. Both Grosvenor and Robert were glad when they were inside the logs once more, and Colden was glad to see them.
"For all I knew you had fallen," he said, "and I can't spare you."
"We left our mark on 'em," said the saturnine Black Rifle. "They know we're waiting for 'em."
The demonstration increased in volume, the whole forest ringing with the fierce whoops. Stout nerves even had good excuse for being shaken, and Colden paled a little, but his soul was high.
"Sound and fury but no attack," he said.
Willet looked at him approvingly.
"You've become a true forest leader, Captain Colden," he said. "You've learned to tell the real rush from the pretended one. They won't try anything yet a while, but they're madder than hornets, and they're sure to move on us later. You just watch."
Yet Colden, Wilton and the others were compelled to argue with the men, especially with the boat builders and wood choppers. Stern military discipline was unknown then in the forest; the private often considered himself a better man than his officer, and frequently told him so. Troops from the towns or the older settled regions seemed never to grow used to Indian methods of warfare. They walked again and again into the same sort of ambush. Now, they felt sure, because the Indian fire had evaporated in scattered shots, that the French and the warriors had gone away, and that they might as well be asleep, save for the guards. But Colden repressed them with a stern hand.
"If it hadn't been for our experience at Fort Refuge I might feel that way myself," he said. "The silence is certainly consoling, and makes one feel that all danger has passed."
"The silence is what I dread most," said Robert. "Is anything stirring on the lake?"
"Not a thing," replied Wilton, who had been watching in that quarter. "I never saw George look more peaceful."
Robert suggested that they go down to the shore again, and Wilton, Grosvenor and he walked through the camp, not stopping until they stood at the water's edge.
"You surely don't anticipate anything here," said Wilton.
"I don't know," replied Robert, thoughtfully, "but our enemies, both French and Indians, are full of craft. We must guard against wile and stratagem."
Wilton looked out over the lake, where the gentle wind still blew and the rippling waters made a slight sighing sound almost like a lullaby. The opposite cliffs rose steep and lofty, showing dimly through the dusk, but there was no threat in their dark wall. To south and north the surface melted in the darkness, but it too seemed friendly and protecting. Wilton shook his head. No peril could come by that road, but he held his peace. He had his opinion, but he would not utter it aloud against those who had so much more experience than he.
The darkness made a further gain. The pallid moon went wholly out, and the last of the stars left. But they had ample wood inside the camp and they built the fires higher, the flames lighting up the tanned eager faces of the men and gleaming along the polished barrels of their long rifles. Willet had inspected the supply of ammunition and he considered it ample. That fear was removed from his mind.
Tayoga went to the edge of the forest again, and reported no apparent movement in the force of St. Luc. But they had built a great fire of their own, and did not mean to go away. The attack would come some time or other, but when or how no man could tell.
Robert, who could do as he pleased, concluded to stay with Wilton on the shore of the lake, where the darkness was continually creeping closer to the shore. The high cliffs on the far side were lost to sight and only a little of Andiatarocte's surface could now be seen. The wind began to moan. Wilton shivered.
"The lake don't look as friendly as it did an hour ago," he said.
A crash of shots from the slope followed his words. The war whoop rose and fell and rose again. Bullets rattled among the stumps and on the crude stockade.
"The real attack!" said Wilton.
"Perhaps," said Robert.
He was about to turn away and join in the defense, but an impulse from some unknown source made him stay. Wilton's duty kept him there, though he chafed to be on the active side of the camp. The sharp crack of rifles showed that the defenders were replying and they sent forth a defiant cheer.
"They may creep down to the edge of the stumps and try to pick off our men," said Robert, "but they won't make a rush. St. Luc would never allow it. I don't understand this demonstration. It must be a cover for something else."
He looked thoughtfully into the darkness, and listened to the moan of the lake. Had the foe a fleet he might have expected an attack that way, but he knew that for the present the British and Americans controlled Andiatarocte.
The darkness was still gathering on the water. He could not see twenty yards from the land, but behind him everything was brightness. The fires had been replenished, the men lined the stockade and were firing fast. Cheers replied to whoops. Smoke of battle overhung the camp, and drifted off into the forest. Robert looked toward the stockade. Again it was his impulse to go, and again he stayed. There was a slight gurgling in the water almost at his feet, and a dark figure rose from the waves, followed in an instant by another, and then by many more. Robert, his imagination up and leaping, thrilled with horror. He understood at once. They were attacked by swimming savages. While the great shouting and turmoil in their front was going on a line of warriors had reached the lake somewhere in the darkness, and were now in the camp itself.
He was palsied only for a moment. Then his faculties were alive and he saw the imminent need. Leaping back, he uttered a piercing shout, and, drawing his pistol, he fired point blank at the first of the warriors. Wilton, who had felt the same horror at sight of the dark faces, fired also, and there was a rush of feet as men came to their help.
The warriors were armed only with tomahawk and knife, and they had expected a surprise which they might have effected if it had not been for Robert's keenness, but more of them came continually and they made a formidable attack. Sending forth yell after yell as a signal to their comrades in front that they had landed, they rushed forward.
Neither Robert nor Wilton ever had any clear idea of that fierce combat in the dark. The defenders fired their rifles and pistols, if they had time, and then closed in with cold steel. Meanwhile the attack on the front redoubled. But here at the water's edge it was fiercest. Borderer met warrior, and now and then, locked in the arms of one another, they fell and rolled together into the lake. Grosvenor came too, and, after firing his pistols, he drew his small sword, plunging into the thick of the combat, thrusting with deadly effect.
The savages were hurled back, but more swimming warriors came to their aid. Dark heads were continually rising from the lake, and stalwart figures, almost naked, sprang to the shore. Tomahawks and knives gleamed, and the air echoed with fierce whoop of Indian and shout of borderer. And on the other side of the camp, too, the attack was now pressed with unrelenting vigor. The shrill call of a whistle showed that St. Luc himself was near, and Frenchmen, Canadians and Indians, at the edge of the cleared ground and in the first line of stumps, poured a storm of bullets against the breastwork and into the camp.
Many of the defenders were hit, some mortally. The gallant Colden had his fine three cornered hat, of which he was very proud, shot away, but, bare-headed, calm and resolute, he strode about among his men, handling his forces like the veteran that he had become, strengthening the weak points, applauding the daring and encouraging the faltering. Willet, who was crouched behind the logs, firing his rifle with deadly effect, glanced at him more than once with approval.
"Do you think we can hold 'em off, Tayoga?" the hunter said to the Onondaga, who was by his side.
"Aye, Great Bear, we can," replied Tayoga. "They will not be able to enter our camp here, but this is not their spearhead. They expect to thrust through on the side of the water, where they have come swimming. Hark to the shouts behind us!"
"And the two lads, Robert and the young Englishman, have gone there. I think you judge aright about that being their spearhead. We'll go there too!"
Choosing a moment when they were not observed by the others, lest it might be construed as a withdrawal in the face of force, they slipped away from the logs. It was easy to find such an opportunity as the camp was now full of smoke from the firing, drifting over everything and often hiding the faces of the combatants from their comrades only a few yards away.
But the battle raged most fiercely along the water's edge. There it was hand to hand, and for a while it looked as if the dusky warriors would make good their footing. To the defenders it seemed that the lake spewed them forth continually, and that they would overwhelm with weight of numbers. Yet the gallant borderers would not give back, and encouraging one another with resounding cheers they held the doubtful shore. Into this confused and terrible struggle Willet and Tayoga hurled themselves, and their arrival was most opportune.
"Push 'em back, lads! Push 'em back! Into the water with 'em!" shouted the stalwart hunter, and emptying rifle and pistol he clubbed the former, striking terrific blows. Tayoga, tomahawk in hand, went up and down like a deadly flame. Soldiers and borderers came to the danger point, and the savages were borne back. Not one of them coming from the water was able to enter the camp. The terrible line of lead and steel that faced them was impassable, and all the time the tremendous shouts of Willet poured fresh courage and zeal into the young troops and the borderers.
"At 'em, lads! At 'em!" he cried. "Push 'em back! Throw 'em into the water! Show 'em they can't enter our camp, that the back door, like the front door, is closed! That's the way! Good for you, Grosvenor! A sword is a deadly weapon when one knows how to use it! A wonderful blow for you, Tayoga! But you always deal wonderful ones! Careful, Robert! 'Ware the tomahawk! Now, lads, drive 'em! Drive 'em hard!"
The men united in one mighty rush that the warriors could not withstand. They were hurled back from the land, and, after their fashion when a blow had failed, they quit in sudden and utter fashion. Springing into the water, and swimming with all their power, they disappeared in the heavy darkness which now hovered close to shore. Many of the young soldiers, carried away by the heat of combat, were about to leap into the lake and follow them, but Willet, running up and down, restrained their eager spirits.
"No! No!" he cried. "Don't do that. They'll be more'n a match for you in the water. We've won, and we'll keep what we've won!"
All the warriors who had landed, save the dead, were now gone, evidently swimming for some point near by, and the battle in front, as if by a preconcerted signal, also sank down suddenly. Then St. Luc's silver whistle was heard, and French and Indians alike drew off.
Robert stood dazed by the abrupt end of the combat. His blood was hot, and millions of black specks danced before his eyes. The sudden silence, after so much shouting and firing, made his pulses beat like the sound of drums in his ears. He held an empty pistol in his right hand, but he passed his left palm over his hot face, and wiped away the mingled reek of perspiration and burned gunpowder. Grosvenor stood near him, staring at the red edge of his own sword.
"Put up your weapon, Red Coat," said Tayoga, calmly. "The battle is over--for the time."
"And we've won!" exclaimed Grosvenor. "I could hardly believe it was real when I saw all those dark figures coming out of the water!"
Then he shuddered violently, and in sudden excess of emotion flung his sword from him. But he went a moment later and picked it up again.
The attack had been repulsed on every side, but the price paid was large. Fifteen men were dead and many others were wounded. The bodies of seventeen Indians who had fallen in the water attack were found and were consigned to the waves. Others, with their French allies, had gone down on the side of the forest, but most of the fallen had been taken away by their comrades.
It was a victory for Colden and his men, but it left serious alarm for the future. St. Luc was still in the forest, and he might attack again in yet greater force. Besides, they would have to guard against many a cunning and dangerous device from that master of forest warfare. Colden called a council, at which Willet and Black Rifle were central figures, and they agreed that there was nothing to be done but to strengthen their log outworks and to practice eternal vigilance. Then they began to toil anew on the breastworks, strengthening them with fresh timber, of which, fortunately, they had a vast supply, as so much had been cut to be turned into boats. A double guard was placed at the water's edge, lest the warriors come back for a new attack, and the wounded were made as comfortable as the circumstances would admit. Luckily Willet and many others were well acquainted with the rude but effective border surgery, much of it learned from the Indians, and they were able to give timely help.
The hurt endured in silence. Their frontier stoicism did not allow them to give voice to pain. Blankets were spread for them under the sheds or in the sawmill, and some, despite their injuries, fell asleep from exhaustion. Soldiers and borderers walked behind the palisades, others continually molded bullets, while some were deep in slumber, waiting their turn to be called for the watch.
It began to rain by and by, not heavily, but a slow, dull, seeping fall that was inexpressibly dreary, and the thick, clammy darkness, shot with mists and vapors from the lake, rolled up to the very edge of the fires. Robert might have joined the sleepers, as he was detached from immediate duty, but his brain was still too much heated to admit it. Despite his experience and his knowledge that it could not be so, his vivid fancy filled forest and water with enemies coming forward to a new attack. He saw St. Luc, sword in hand, leading them, and, shaking his body violently, he laughed at himself. This would never do.
"What does Dagaeoga see that is so amusing?" asked Tayoga.
"Nothing, Tayoga. I was merely ridiculing myself for looking into the blackness and seeing foes who are not there."
"And yet we all do it. If our enemies are not there they are at least not far away. I have been outside with Black Rifle, and we have been into the edge of the forest. Sharp Sword makes a big camp, and shows all the signs of intending to stay long. We may yet lose the sawmill. It is best to understand the full danger. What does Dagaeoga mean to do now?"
"I think I'll go back to the water's edge, and help keep the watch there. That seems to be my place."
He found Wilton still in command of the lake guard, and Grosvenor with him. The young Quaker had been shocked by the grim battle, but he showed a brave front nevertheless. He had put on his military cloak to protect himself from the rain, and Robert and Grosvenor had borrowed others for the same purpose.
"We've won a victory," said Wilton, "but, as I gather, it's not final. That St. Luc, whose name seems to inspire so much terror, will come again. Am I not right, Lennox?"
"You're right, Wilton. St. Luc will come not a second time only, but a third, and a fourth, if necessary."
"And can't we expect any help? We're supposed to have command of this lake for the present."
"I know of none."
The three walked up and down, listening to the mournful lapping of the waves on the beach, and the sigh of the dripping rain. The stimulus of excited action had passed and they felt heavy and depressed. They could see only a few yards over the lake, and must depend there upon ear to warn them of a new attack that way. The fact added to their worries, but luckily Tayoga, with his amazing powers of hearing, joined them, establishing at once what was in effect a listening post, although it was not called then by that name. Wilton drew much strength from the presence of the Onondaga, while it made the confidence of Grosvenor supreme.
"Now we'll surely know if they come," he said.
A long while passed without a sign, but they did not relax their vigilance a particle, and Tayoga interpreted the darkness for them.
"There was a little wind," he said, after a while, "but it is almost dead now. The waves are running no longer. I hear a slight sound to the south which was not there before."
"I hear nothing, Tayoga," said Robert.
"Perhaps not, Dagaeoga, but I hear it, which is enough. The sound is quite faint, but it is regular like the beating of a pulse. Now I can tell what it is. It is the stroke of a paddle. There is a canoe upon the lake, passing in front of us. It is not the canoe of a friend, or it would come at once to the land. It contains only one man. How do I know, Red Coat? Because the canoe is so small. The stroke of the paddle is light and yet the canoe moves swiftly. A canoe heavy enough to hold two men could not be moved so fast without a stroke also heavy. How do I know it is going fast, Dagaeoga? Do not ask such simple questions. Because the sound of the paddle stroke moving rapidly toward the north shows it. Doubtless some of Sharp Sword's warriors brought with them a canoe overland, and they are now using it to spy upon us."
"What can we do about it, Tayoga?"
"Nothing, Red Coat. Ah, the canoe has turned and is now going back toward the south, but more slowly. The man in it could locate our camp easily by the glow of the fires through the mist and vapors. Perhaps he can see a dim outline of our figures."
"And one of us may get a bullet while we stand here watching."
"No, Red Coat, it is not at all likely. His aim would be extremely uncertain in the darkness. The warrior is not usually a good marksman, nor is it his purpose here to shoot. He would rather spy upon us, without giving an alarm. Ah, the man has now stopped his southward journey, and is veering about uncertainly! He dips in the paddle only now and then. That is strange. All his actions express doubt, uncertainty and even alarm."
"What do you think has happened, Tayoga?"
"Manitou yet has the secret in his keeping, Dagaeoga, but if we wait in patience a little it may be revealed to me. The canoe is barely moving and the man in it watches. Now his paddle makes a little splash as he turns slightly to the right. It is certain that he has been alarmed. The spy thinks he is being spied upon, and doubtless he is right. He grows more and more uneasy. He moves again, he moves twice in an aimless fashion. Although we do not see him in the flesh, it is easy to tell that he is trying to pierce the darkness with his eyes, not to make out us, but to discern something very near the canoe. His alarm grows and probably with good cause. Ah, he has made a sudden powerful stroke, with the paddle, shooting the canoe many feet to the left, but it is too late!"
"Too late for what, Tayoga?" exclaimed Robert.
The Onondaga did not reply for a moment or two, but stood tense and strained. His eyes, his whole attitude showed excitement, a rare thing with him.
"It was too late," he repeated. "Whatever threatened the man in the canoe, whatever the danger was, it has struck. I heard a little splash. It was made by the man falling into the water. He has gone. Now, what has become of the canoe? Perhaps the warrior when he fell dropped the paddle into the water, and the canoe is drifting slowly away. No, I think some one is swimming to it. Ah, he is in the canoe now, and he has recovered the paddle! I hear the strokes, which are different from those made by the man who was in it before. They have a longer sweep. The new man is stronger. He is very powerful, and he does not take the canoe back and forth. He is coming toward the land. Stand here, and we will welcome Daganoweda of the Ganeagaono. It might be some other, but I do not think it possible. It is surely Daganoweda."
A canoe shot from the mists and vapors. The fierce young Mohawk chief put down the paddle, and, stepping from the light craft into the shallow water, raised his hand in a proud salute. He was truly a striking figure. The dusk enlarged him until he appeared gigantic. He was naked except for belt and breech cloth, and water ran from his shining bronze body. A tomahawk and knife in the belt were his only weapons, but Robert knew instinctively that one of them had been wielded well.
"Welcome, Daganoweda," he said. "We were not looking for you, but if we had taken thought about it we might have known that you would come."
The dark eyes of the Mohawk flashed and his figure seemed to grow in stature.
"There has been a battle," he said, "and Sharp Sword with a great force is pressing hard upon the white brothers of the Ganeagaono. It was not possible for Daganoweda to stay away."
"That is true. You are a great chief. You scent the conflict afar, and you always come to it. Our people could have no truer, no braver ally. The arrival of Daganoweda alone is as the coming of ten men."
The nostrils of the chief dilated. Obviously he was pleased at Robert's round and swelling sentences.
"I come in the canoe of a foe," he said. "The warrior who was in it has gone into the lake."
"We know that. Tayoga, who is a wonder for hearing, and a still greater wonder at interpreting what he hears, followed your marvelous achievement and told us every step in its progress. He even knew that it was you, and announced your coming through the mists and vapors."
"Tayoga of the clan of the Bear, of the nation Onondaga, of the great League of the Hodenosaunee, is a great warrior, and the greatest trailer in the world, even though he be so young."
Tayoga said nothing, and his face did not move, but his eyes gleamed.
"Do you come alone?" asked Robert.
"The warriors who were with me when you met us in the woods are at hand," replied the chief, "and they await my signal. They have crept past the line of Sharp Sword, though Tandakora and many men watched, and are not far away. I will call them."
He sent forth twice the harsh cry of a water fowl. There was no answer, but he did not seem to expect any, standing at attention, every line of his figure expressing supreme confidence. The others shared his belief.
"I hear them. They come," said Tayoga at length.
Presently a slight sound as of long, easy strokes reached them all, and in a few moments a line of dark heads appeared through the mists and vapors. Then the Mohawks swam to land, carrying their rifles and ammunition, Daganoweda's too, on their heads, and stood up in a silent and dripping line before their chief.
"It is well," said Daganoweda, looking them over with an approving eye. "You are all here, and we fight in the next battle beside our white brothers."
"A battle that you would be loath to miss and right glad we are to welcome such sturdy help," said the voice of Willet behind them. "I'll tell Captain Colden that you're here."
The young captain came at once, and welcomed Daganoweda in proper dignified fashion. Blankets and food were given to the Mohawks, and they ate and warmed themselves by the fire. They were not many, but Robert knew they were a great addition. The fiery spirit of Daganoweda alone was worth twenty men.
"I think that we'd better seek sleep now," said young Lennox to Grosvenor. "I admit one is tempted to stay awake that he may see and hear everything, but sooner or later you've got to rest."
They found a good place under one of the sheds, and, wrapped in blankets, soon sank to slumber. The day after such a momentous night came dark and gloomy, with the rain still dripping. A north wind had arisen, and high waves chased one another over the lake. There was still much fog on the land side, and, under its cover, the French and Indians were stalking the camp, firing at every incautious head.
"Most of those bullets are French," said Tayoga, "because the warriors are not good sharpshooters, and they are aimed well. I think that Sharp Sword has selected all the best French and Canadian marksmen and has sent them down to the edge of the woods to harass us. As long as the fog hangs there we may expect their bullets."
The fire of these hidden sharpshooters soon became terribly harassing. From points of vantage they sent their bullets even into the very heart of the camp. Not a head or a shoulder, not an arm could be exposed. Three men were killed, a dozen more were wounded, and the spirit of the garrison was visibly affected. At the suggestion of Willet, Colden selected thirty sharpshooters of his own and sent them among the stumps to meet the French and Canadian riflemen.
Robert and Tayoga were in this band, and Willet himself led it. Daganoweda and three of his warriors who were good shots also went along. Black Rifle was already outside on one of his usual solitary but fierce man-hunts. All the men as soon as they left the breastworks lay almost flat on the wet ground, and crept forward with the utmost care. It was a service of extreme danger, none could be more so, and it was certain that not all of them would come back.