Chapter VI. Surrender of Fort Detroit
 

"A good shot!" cried Dave, as all of the party moved forward to inspect the dead elk.

"Couldn't have been better nohow," came from Sam Barringford. He looked the game over carefully. "About as large as I've seen in these parts," he added.

"He has got just the kind of horns I've been wanting to get," said Henry, with pardonable pride. "But I reckon either of you could have hit him in the eye, too," he added candidly.

"It is going to be no easy job getting him home," said Dave. "Shall we put him on a drag?"

"Yes, lad, an' I've a rope we can slip over those horns, an' all can take hold," said Barringford. "We can go as far as possible by the river; for that will be easier."

Barringford carried a sharp hatchet in his belt and with this he cut down a suitable tree branch and fashioned it into such a drag as was desired. Then the elk was lifted upon it and bound fast, and the rope was fastened to the horns.

Getting through the forest to the river was no mean task, but once on the ice progress was rapid, and long before nightfall they were within easy walking distance of home.

"Game here is not near as plentiful as it was three or four years ago," remarked Dave as they pushed on. "Don't you remember how we used to go out, Henry, and bring down all sorts of small animals?"

"Some day there won't be anything left," put in Barringford. "Time was when buffalo were plentiful, but now you've got to go a long distance to spot 'em. How this elk got here is a mystery to me. I thought they stayed up near the lakes."

"The heavy winter made him go a long distance for food, I reckon," answered Henry; and this was probably the correct explanation.

Little Nell was at the window, arranging a row of pegs Rodney had made for her in the form of a company of soldiers. The largest peg went for the captain, and this she called Washington, while another, which would not stand, but insisted upon falling over, she called General Braddock, for she had heard the older folks talk over Braddock's fearful defeat at Fort Duquesne and of what Washington had done to save what was left of the English troops from annihilation.

"Here they come!" shouted the little miss. "And, oh, such a big deer as they have!"

"An elk, as sure as fate!" ejaculated Rodney, looking over her shoulder. "Henry will have the horns he wanted now."

"And we need the meat," said James Morris, as he flung open the door and hurried outside. "Elk is pretty strong, I know, but it is better than no fresh meat at all. And I am tired of rabbit."

The party of hunters soon came up, and all of the others, including Mrs. Morris, surveyed the game with interest, while they listened to how the elk had been tracked and brought low.

"Certainly worth going many miles for," said James Morris. "The pelt is a fine one."

The elk was hung up out of the reach of any wild beasts that might be prowling around, and the next day Henry and Sam Barringford skinned the animal and cut up the meat as Mrs. Morris desired it. The tongue was smoked, a small part of the forequarter pickled, and the remainder kept fresh by being hung up where it was cold. That day they dined on elk steaks and all pronounced the fresh meat very acceptable.

Late in the afternoon Paul Thompson came to the cabin on horseback, bringing his wife with him.

"We were coming sooner," said the husband, "but my wife got a sore throat and I thought I had better wait until she was well again."

"I hope it is all right now," replied Mrs. Morris, as she escorted her visitors into the cabin.

"Quite well, but she mustn't expose herself too much. When I go to Dennett's I am going to get her a mixture from the doctor."

The Thompsons were astonished to see the babies and wanted at once to hear all about them.

"It certainly is a queer mix-up," said the man, later on. "I'll see if I can learn anything about them when I am away. Somebody ought to be able to place them,--although, to be sure, a great number of children have become hopelessly lost during the late war."

"We know that," answered Mrs. Morris with a shudder. "Wasn't little Nell stolen from us by the Indians and then held by that bad French trader, Jean Bevoir?"

"Didn't you say Bevoir was dead?" asked Paul Thompson.

"He is," answered James Morris, "and I must confess I am rather glad of it. He caused me a great deal of trouble, in one way and another."

"I have news that Fort Detroit has surrendered to us," went on Paul Thompson. "The surrender took place on November the twenty-ninth,"

"Is that so," cried Dave, with deep interest. "Was there any fighting?"

"I don't believe there was, but the French commander was very bitter over the surrender, and so was Pontiac, the chief of the Ottawas."

"Pontiac?" repeated Henry. "I don't know that I ever heard of him."

"I have," put in Dave. "Somebody told me he was with the Indians that attacked General Braddock, at the opening of the war."

"Yes, he was thar," came from Barringford. "An' I heard tell at thet hospital I was in up to Canada thet he was with Montcalm when the French fit General Wolfe. Montcalm give him a suit of French officer's clothes and the Injun was tickled to death over 'em."

The news that Fort Detroit had surrendered to the English was true. Immediately after the fall of Montreal, as already described in detail in this series, General Amherst ordered Major Robert Rogers, of Rogers' Rangers fame, to ascend the St. Lawrence and the Great Lakes, and take possession of Detroit, Michillimackinac--now called Mackinaw--and other French strongholds which had not yet been turned over to the British.

The start was made on the twelfth of September, 1760, and the force under Rogers consisted of two hundred men, a mere handful as troops as reckoned to-day, but one which was considered amply large enough to accomplish its purpose. The journey was made in a dozen or more whaleboats, and Fort Niagara was reached on the first of October,--about the time Dave, Henry, and Barringford received their release from the army and prepared to start for the Morris home hundreds of miles away.

Moving up the Niagara River as far as the rapids, Rogers' force carried their boats with their loads around the Falls, and then embarked for the journey up Lake Erie, stopping at the fort at Presqu' Isle, and at several other points.

Winter was now on in all its fury, and a heavy rain made Rogers go into camp in the forest bordering the water. Hardly had this been done when a number of Indians put in an appearance and demanded to know where the English soldiers were going.

"This is French and Indian territory," said they. "You can advance no further."

Rogers tried to explain that the war was now over and that all the land belonged to England. But the Indians would not listen, and said he must wait until they had consulted the great chief Pontiac.

When Pontiac finally came, dressed as became a great warrior, he listened gravely to what Rogers had to say. He was much chagrined to learn that the French had capitulated and said that he must have the night in which to think it over. When he went away Rogers and his soldiers feared treachery, but it did not come.

The next day Pontiac came once more. He now said he was willing to let the English advance, provided they would do what was right by his followers and treat him as his rank deserved. Rogers said he would do the best he could; and both smoked the pipe of peace.

When the mouth of the Detroit River was gained word came in that a large body of Indians was hiding in the forest bordering the stream, waiting to slaughter the whites. At once the rangers were on the alert, but the threatened attack did not come, for Pontiac told the Indians that it would be useless to fight the English at present, that they might rather become friends with them and await the settlement of the war between England and France.

Captain Beletre was in command at Fort Detroit. When the news was first brought to him that the French at Montreal had surrendered he refused to believe it.

"I will fight!" he cried, and did his best to arouse the Indians to aid him in defeating the object of Rogers' mission. But when the Colonial commander sent him a copy of the terms of the capitulation Beletre was forced to submit, and did so with the best grace possible. Soon the fleur de lis of France was lowered and the cross of St. George of England floated proudly from the flagstaff.

This surrender without bloodshed caused great wonder among the red men, and their wonder increased when they saw the French made prisoners with no attempt on the part of the rangers to massacre them. They thought that the English must indeed be powerful, and were glad that they had taken Pontiac's advice and remained, for the time being, friendly.

Detroit taken,--it was at that time but a straggling village with a rude palisade,--a detachment was sent to the south, to occupy Fort Miami and Fort Ouatanon, places of lesser importance. Then Rogers himself set out up Lake Huron to take Michillimackinac. But winter was now on in all its severity, and his boats were driven back by the snow and floating ice, so that he had to abandon this portion of his task. But it may be mentioned here that during the following spring, now so close at hand, a body of Royal Americans journeyed to Michillimackinac and took possession. Thus was the surrender of the French in America made complete so far as it embraced the territory which had been in dispute for so many years. The English imagined that times of peace and plenty were to follow. But they had not reckoned with Pontiac or with the thousands of Indians who stood ready to dig up the war hatchet at the call of this daring and learned chief.