The Rulers of the Lakes by Joseph A. Altsheler
Chapter X. The Naval Combat
Robert and Tayoga went into a long boat with Willet, a boat that held eight men, all carrying paddles, while their rifles were laid on the bottom, ready to be substituted for the paddles when the time came. Daganoweda was in another of the large boats, and Rogers commanded a third, the whole fleet advancing slowly and in almost a straight line toward St. Luc's stronghold.
Doubtless many a combat between Indians had taken place on Andiatarocte in the forgotten ages, but Robert believed the coming encounter would be the first in which white men had a part, and, for the moment, he forgot his danger in the thrilling spectacle that opened before him.
St. Luc, when he saw the enemy approaching, quickly launched his own fleet, and filled it with men, although he kept it well in the lee of the land, and behind it posted a formidable row of marksmen, French, Canadians and Indians. Rogers, who had the general command, paddled his boat a little in front of the others and examined the defense cautiously through his glasses. Tayoga could see well enough with the naked eye.
"St. Luc is leaning on the stump of a wind-blown tree near the water," he said, "and he holds in his hand his small sword with which he will direct the battle. But there is a canoe almost at his feet, and if need be he will go into it. De Courcelles is in a large boat on the right, and Tandakora is in another on the left. On the land, standing behind St. Luc, is the Canadian, Dubois."
"A very good arrangement to meet us," said Willet. "St. Luc will stay on the island, but if he finds we're pressing him too hard, he'll have himself paddled squarely into the center of his fleet, and do or die. Now, it's a lucky thing for us that our rangers are such fine marksmen, and that they have the good, long-barreled rifles."
The boats containing the Mohawks were held back under the instructions of Rogers, despite the eagerness of Daganoweda, who, however, was compelled to yield to the knowledge that red men were never equal to the finest white sharpshooters, and it was important to use the advantage given to them by the long rifles. Willet's boat swung in by the side of that of Rogers, and several more boats and canoes, containing rangers, drew level with them. Rogers measured the distance anxiously.
"Do you think you can reach them with your rifle, Dave?" he asked.
"A few yards more and a bullet will count," replied the hunter.
"We'll go ahead, then, and tell me as soon as you think we're near enough. All our best riflemen are in front, and we should singe them a bit."
The boats glided slowly on, and, at the island, the enemy was attentive and waiting, with the advantage wholly on his side, had it not been for the rifles of great range, surpassing anything the French and Indians carried. St. Luc did not move from his position, and he was a heroic figure magnified in the dazzling sunlight.
Willet held up his hand.
"This will do," he said.
At a sign from Rogers the entire fleet stopped, and, at another sign from Willet, twenty rangers, picked marksmen, raised their rifles and fired. Several of the French and Indians fell, and their comrades gave forth a great shout of rage. Those in the canoes and boats fired, but all their bullets fell short, merely pattering in vain on the water. Daganoweda and his warriors, when they saw the result, uttered an exultant war whoop that came back in echoes from the mountains. Rogers himself rejoiced openly.
"That's the way to do it, Dave!" he cried. "Reload and give 'em another volley. Unless they come out and attack us we can decimate 'em."
Although it was hard to restrain the rangers, who wished to crowd closer, Rogers and Willet nevertheless were able to make them keep their distance, and they maintained a deadly fire that picked off warrior after warrior and that threatened the enemy with destruction. St. Luc's Indians uttered shouts of rage and fired many shots, all of which fell short. Then Robert saw St. Luc leave the stump and enter his waiting canoe.
"They'll come to meet us now," he said. "We've smoked 'em out."
"Truly they will," said Tayoga. "They must advance or die at the land's edge."
The portion of his fleet which St. Luc and his men had managed to save was almost as large as that of the Americans and Mohawks, and seeing that they must do it, they put out boldly from the land, St. Luc in the center in his canoe, paddled by a single Indian. As they approached, the rifles of Daganoweda's men came into action also, and St. Luc's force replied with a heavy fire. The naval battle was on, and it was fought with all the fury of a great encounter by fleets on the high seas. Robert saw St. Luc in his canoe, giving orders both with his voice and the waving of his sword, while the single Indian in the light craft paddled him to and fro as he wished, stoically careless of the bullets.
In the heat and fury of the combat the fleet of Rogers came under the fire of the French and Indians on the island, many being wounded and some slain. These reserves of St. Luc in their eagerness waded waist deep into the water, and pulled trigger as fast as they could load and reload.
A ranger in Willet's boat was killed and two more received hurts, but the hunter kept his little command in the very thick of the battle, and despite the great cloud of smoke that covered the fleets of both sides Robert soon saw that the rangers and Mohawks were winning. One of the larger boats belonging to St. Luc, riddled with bullets, went down, and the warriors who had been in it were forced to swim for their lives. Several canoes were rammed and shattered. Willet and Tayoga meanwhile were calmly picking their targets through the smoke, and when they fired they never missed.
The rangers, too, were showing their superiority as sharpshooters to the French and Indians, and were doing deadly execution with their long rifles. St. Luc, in spite of the great courage shown by his men, was compelled to sound the recall, and, hurriedly taking on board all the French and Indians who were on land, he fled eastward across the lake with the remnant of his force. Rogers pursued, but St. Luc was still able to send back such a deadly fire and his French and Indians worked so desperately with the paddles that they reached the eastern rim, abandoned the fragments of their fleet, climbed the lofty shore and disappeared in the forest, leaving Rogers, Willet, Daganoweda and their men in triumphant command of Andiatarocte, for a little while, at least.
But the victors bore many scars. More men had been lost, and their force suffered a sharp reduction in numbers. The three leaders, still in their boats, conferred. Daganoweda was in favor of landing and of pushing the pursuit to the utmost, even to the walls of Crown Point on Champlain, where the fugitives would probably go.
"There's much in favor of it," said Willet. "There's nothing like following a beaten enemy and destroying him, and there is also much to be said against it. We might run into an ambush and be destroyed ourselves. Although we've paid a price for it, we've a fine victory and we hold command of the lake for the time being. By pushing on we risk all we've won in order to obtain more."
But Daganoweda was still eager to advance, and urged it in a spirited Mohawk speech. Rogers himself favored it. The famous leader of rangers had a bold and adventurous mind. No risk was too great for him, and dangers, instead of repelling, invited him.
Robert, as became him, listened to them in silence. Prudence told him that they ought to stay on the lake, but his was the soul of youth, and the fiery eloquence of Daganoweda found an answer in his heart. It was decided at last to leave a small guard with the fleet, while rangers and Mohawks to the number of fifty should pursue toward Oneadatote. All three of the leaders, with Black Rifle, Tayoga and Robert, were to share in the pursuit, while a trusty man named White was left in command of the guard over the boats.
The fifty--the force had been so much reduced by the fighting that no more could be mustered--climbed the lofty shore, making their way up a ravine, thick with brush, until they came out on a crest more than a thousand feet above the lake. Nor did they forget, as they climbed, to exercise the utmost caution, looking everywhere for an ambush. They knew that St. Luc, while defeated, would never be dismayed, and it would be like him to turn on the rangers and Mohawks in the very moment of their victory and snatch it from them. But there was no sign of a foe's presence, although Daganoweda's men soon struck the trail of the fleeing enemy.
They paused at the summit a minute or two for breath, and Robert looked back with mixed emotions at Andiatarocte, a vast sheet of blue, then of green under the changing sky, the scene of a naval victory of which he had not dreamed a few days ago. But the lake bore no sign of strife now. The islands were all in peaceful green and the warlike boats were gone, save at the foot of the cliff they had just climbed. There they, too, looked peaceful enough, as if they were the boats of fishermen, and the guards, some of whom were aboard the fleet and some of whom lay at ease near the edge of the water, seemed to be men engaged in pursuits that had nothing to do with violence and war.
Tayoga's eyes followed Robert's.
"Andiatarocte is worth fighting for," he said. "It is well for us to be the rulers of it, even for a day. Where will you find a more splendid lake, a lake set deep in high green mountains, a lake whose waters may take on a dozen colors within a day, and every color beautiful?"
"I don't believe the world can show its superior, Tayoga," replied Robert, "and I, like you, am full of pride, because we are lords of it for a day. I hope the time will soon come when we shall be permanent rulers of both lakes, Andiatarocte and Oneadatote."
"We shall have to be mighty warriors before that hour arrives," said Tayoga, gravely. "Even if we gain Andiatarocte we have yet to secure a footing on the shores of Oneadatote. The French and their allies are not only in great force at Crown Point, but we hear that they mean to fortify also at the place called Ticonderoga by the Hodenosaunee and Carillon by the French."
The order to resume the march came, and they pressed forward on the trail through the deep woods. Usually at this time of the year it was hot in the forest, but after the great storm and rain of the night before a brisk, cool wind moved in waves among the trees, shaking the leaves and sending lingering raindrops down on the heads of the pursuers.
Black Rifle curved off to the right as a flanker against ambush, and two of Daganoweda's best scouts were sent to the left, while the main force went on directly, feeling now that the danger from a hidden force had been diminished greatly, their zeal increasing as the trail grew warmer. Daganoweda believed that they could overtake St. Luc in three or four hours, and he and his Mohawks, flushed with victory on the lake, were now all for speed, the rangers being scarcely less eager.
The country through which they were passing was wooded heavily, wild, picturesque and full of game. But it was well known to Mohawks and rangers, and the two lads had also been through it. They started up many deer that fled through the forest, and the small streams and ponds were covered with wild fowl.
"I don't wonder that the settlers fail to come in here on this strip of land between George and Champlain," said Robert to Tayoga. "It's a No Man's land, roamed over only by warriors, and even the most daring frontiersman must have some regard for the scalp on his head."
"I could wish it to be kept a No Man's land," said Tayoga earnestly.
"Maybe it will--for a long time, anyway. But, Tayoga, you're as good a trailer as Black Rifle or any Mohawk. Judging from the traces they leave, how many men would you say St. Luc now has with him?"
"As many as we have, or more, perhaps seventy, though their quality is not as good. The great footprint in the center of the trail is made by Tandakora. He, at least, has not fallen, and the prints that turn out are those of St. Luc, De Courcelles and doubtless of the officer Jumonville. The French leaders walked together, and here they stopped and talked a minute or two. St. Luc was troubled, and it was hard for him to make up his mind what to do."
"How do you know that, Tayoga?"
"Because, as he stood by the side of this bush, he broke three of its little stems between his thumb and forefinger. See, here are the stumps. A man like St. Luc would not have had a nervous hand if he had not been perplexed greatly."
"But how do you know it was St. Luc who stood by the bush, and not De Courcelles or Jumonville?"
"Because I have been trained from infancy, as an Onondaga and Iroquois, to notice everything. We have to see to live, and I observed long ago that the feet of St. Luc were smaller than those of De Courcelles or Jumonville. You will behold the larger imprints that turn out just here, and they face St. Luc, who stood by the bush. Once they not only thought of turning back to meet us, but actually prepared to do so."
"What proof have you?"
"O Dageaoga, you would not have asked me that question if you had used your eyes, and had thought a little. The print is so simple that a little child may read. The toes of their moccasins at a point just beyond the bush turn about, that is, back on the trail. And here the huge moccasins of Tandakora have taken two steps back. Perhaps they intended to meet us in full face or to lay an ambush, but at last they continued in their old course and increased their speed."
"How do you know they went faster, Tayoga?"
"O Dagaeoga, is your mind wandering today that your wits are so dull? See, how the distance between the imprints lengthens! When you run faster you leap farther. Everybody does."
"I apologize, Tayoga. It was a foolish question to be asked by one who has lived in the forest as long as I have. Why do you think they increased their speed, and how does St. Luc know that they are followed?"
"It may be that they know a good place of ambush farther ahead, and St. Luc is sure that he is pursued, because he knows the minds of Willet, Rogers and Daganoweda. He knows they are the kind of minds that always follow and push a victory to the utmost. Here the warriors knelt and drank. They had a right to be thirsty after such a battle and such a retreat."
He pointed to numerous imprints by the bank of a clear brook, and rangers and Mohawks, imitating the example of those whom they pursued, drank thirstily. Then they resumed the advance, and they soon saw that the steps of St. Luc's men were shortening.
"They are thinking again of battle or ambush," said Tayoga, "and when they think of it a second time they are likely to try it. It becomes us now to go most warily."
Daganoweda and Willet also had noticed St. Luc's change of pace, and stopping, they took counsel with themselves. About two miles ahead the country was exceedingly rough, cut by rocky ravines, and covered heavily with forest and thickets.
"If St. Luc elects to make a stand," said Willet, "that is the place he will choose. What say you, Daganoweda?"
"I think as the Great Bear thinks," replied the Mohawk chieftain.
"And you, Rogers?"
"Seems likely to me, too. At any rate, we must reckon on it."
"And so reckoning on it, we'd better stop and throw out more scouts."
Both Rogers and Daganoweda agreed, and flankers were sent off in each direction. Tayoga asked earnestly for this service, and Robert insisted on going with him. As the great skill of the Onondaga was known to the three leaders, he was obviously the proper selection for the errand, and it was fitting that Robert, his comrade in so many dangers and hardships, should accompany him. Daganoweda and Rogers said yes at once, and Willet was not able to say no. They were the best choice for such an errand, and although the hunter was reluctant for the youth, who was almost a son to him, to go on such a perilous duty, he knew that he must yield to the necessity.
The two lads went off to the left or northern flank, and in less than a minute the deep forest hid them completely from the main force. They were buried in the wilderness, and, for all the evidence that came to them, the band of rangers and Mohawks had ceased to exist.
They passed about a half mile to the north of the main force, and then they began to look everywhere for traces of trails, or evidence that an ambush was being prepared.
"Do you think St. Luc will make a new stand at the ridges?" asked Robert.
"All the chances favor it," replied the Onondaga. "We know that Sharp Sword, besides being a great leader, is full of pride. He will not like to go to Crown Point, and report that he has not only lost his fleet and the temporary command of Andiatarocte, but a large part of his force as well. If he can strike a heavy and deadly blow at his pursuers he will feel much better."
"Your reasoning seems good to me, and, therefore, it behooves us to be mighty careful. What do you take this imprint to be, Tayoga? Is it that of a human foot?"
"It is so very faint one can tell little of it. Your eye was keen, Dagaeoga, to have seen it at all, though I think the hoof of a buck and not the foot of a man trod here on the fallen leaves, but the tread was so light that it left only a partial impression."
"I can find no other trace like it farther on."
"No, the ground grows very hard and rocky, and it leaves no impression. We will advance for a little while toward the ridge, and then it will be well for us to lie down in some cover and watch, because I think St. Luc will send out skirmishers."
"And naturally he will send them to both right and left as we do."
"Of course, Dagaeoga."
"And then, if we keep moving on, we're sure to meet them?"
"It would appear so, Dagaeoga."
"And for that reason, Tayoga, I'm in favor of the greatest care. I hope we'll come soon to a covert so deep and thick that when we hide in it we can't be seen five yards away."
"So do I, Dagaeoga. It is no shame to us to wish to save our lives. Lost, they would be of no use either to ourselves or to those whom we are here to serve. I think I see now the place that is waiting for us."
He pointed to a dense clump of scrub cedars growing on hard and rocky ground.
"I see," said Robert. "We can approach it without leaving any trail, and in that mass of green no foe will notice us unless his eyes are almost against us."
"Dagaeoga, at times, shows understanding and wisdom. The day may come when he will be a great scout and trailer--if he lives long enough."
"Go ahead, Tayoga, if it amuses you to make game of me. If humor can be produced at such a time I'm glad to be the occasion of it."
"It's best for us, Dagaeoga, to await all things with a light heart. Our fates are in the hands of Manitou."
"That's good philosophy, Tayoga, though I'm bound to say I can't look upon my life as a thing mapped out for me in every detail, though I live to be a hundred. Manitou knows what's going to happen, but I don't, and so my heart will jump anyhow when the danger comes. Now, you're sure we've left no trail among those rocks?"
"Not a trace, Dagaeoga. If Tododaho himself were to come back to earth he could not find our path."
"And you're sure that we're thoroughly hidden among these little cedars?"
"Quite sure of it. I doubt whether the bird singing over our heads sees us, and Manitou has given to the bird a very good eye that he may see his food, which is so small. It may be that the birds and animals which have given us warning of the enemy's approach before may do it again."
"At any rate, we can hope so. Are we as deserving now as we were then?"
"Yes, we can hope, Dagaeoga. Hope is never forbidden to anybody."
"I see that you're a philosopher, Tayoga."
"I try to be one," said the Onondaga, his eyes twinkling.
"Do you think that bird singing with so much power and beauty overhead sees us at last?"
"No, because he would certainly have stopped long enough to gratify his curiosity. Even a bird would want to know why strange creatures come into his thicket."
"Then as long as he sings I shall know that danger is not near. We have been watched over by birds before."
"Again you talk like a little child, Dagaeoga. I teach you the wisdom of the woods, and you forget. The bird may see a worm or a moth or something else that is good to eat, and then he will stop singing to dart for his food. A bird must eat, and his love of music often gives way to his love of food."
"You speak as if you were talking from a book."
"I learned your language mostly out of books, and so I speak as they are written. Ah, the song of the bird has stopped and he has gone away! But we do not know whether he has been alarmed by the coming of our enemy or has seen food that he pursues."
"It's food, Tayoga; I can hear him, faintly, singing in another tree, some distance to our right. Probably having captured the worm or the moth or whatever it was he was pursuing, and having devoured it, he is now patting his stomach in his pleasure and singing in his joy."
"And as a sentinel he is no longer of any use to us. Then we will watch for the little animals that run on the ground. They cannot fly over the heads of Ojibway and Caughnawaga warriors, and so, if our enemies come, they, too, are likely to come our way."
"Then I'll rest awhile, Tayoga, and it may be that I'll doze. If a rabbit runs in our direction wake me up."
"You may pretend to sleep, Dagaeoga, but you will not. You may close your eyes, but you cannot close your ears, nor can you still your nerves. One waits not with eyes and ears alone, but with all the fiber of the body."
"True, Tayoga. I was but jesting. I couldn't sleep if I tried. But I can rest."
He stretched himself in an easy position, a position, also, that allowed him to go into instant action if hostile warriors came, and he awaited the event with a calmness that surprised himself. Tayoga was crouched by his side, intent and also waiting.
A full half hour passed, and Robert heard nothing stirring in the undergrowth, save the wandering but gentle winds that rustled the leaves and whispered in the grass. Had he been left to himself he would have grown impatient, and he would have continued the scouting curve on which he had been sent. But he had supreme confidence in Tayoga. If the Onondaga said it was best for them to stay there in the bush, then it was best, and he would remain until his comrade gave the word to move on.
So sure was he of Tayoga that he did close his eyes for a while, although his ears and all the nerves of his body watched. But it was very peaceful and restful, and, while he lay in a half-dreamy state, he accumulated new strength for the crisis that might come.
"Any little animals running away yet, Tayoga?" he asked, partly in jest.
"No, Dagaeoga, but I am watching. Two rabbits not twenty feet from us are nibbling the leaves on a tiny weed, that is, they nibble part of the time, and part of the time they play."
"They don't sing like the bird, because they can't, but I take it from what you say they're just as happy."
"Happy and harmless, Dagaeoga. We Iroquois would not disturb them. We kill only to eat."
"Well, I've learned your way. You can't say, Tayoga, that I'm not, in spirit and soul at least, half an Iroquois, and spirit and soul mean more than body and manners or the tint of the skin."
"Dagaeoga has learned much. But then he has had the advantage of associating with one who could teach him much."
"Tayoga, if it were not for that odd little chord in your voice, I'd think you were conceited. But though you jest, it is true I've had a splendid chance to discover that the nations of the Hodenosaunee know some things better than we do, and do some things better than we do. I've found that the wisdom of the world isn't crystallized in any one race. How about the rabbits, Tayoga? Do they still eat and play, as if nobody anywhere near them was thinking of wounds and death?"
"The rabbits neither see nor hear anything strange, and the strange would be to them the dangerous. They nibble at the leaves a little, then play a little, then nibble again."
"I trust they'll keep up their combination of pleasure and sustenance some time, because it's very nice to lie here, rest one's overstrained system, and feel that one is watched over by a faithful friend, one who can do your work as well as his. You're not only a faithful friend, Tayoga, you're a most useful one also."
"Dagaeoga is lazy. He would not have as a friend one who is lazy like himself. He needs a comrade to take care of him. Perhaps it is better so. Dagaeoga is an orator; an orator has privileges, and one of his privileges is a claim to be watched over by others. One cannot speak forever and work, too."
Robert opened his eyes and smiled. The friendship between him and Tayoga, begun in school days, had been tested by countless hardships and dangers, and though each made the other an object of jest, it was as firm as that of Orestes and Pylades or that of Damon and Pythias.
"What are the rabbits doing now?" asked young Lennox, who had closed his eyes again.
"They eat less and play less," replied the Onondaga. "Ah, their attitude is that of suspicion! It may be that the enemy comes! Now they run away, and the enemy surely comes!"
Robert sat up, and laid his rifle across his knee. All appearance of laziness or relaxation disappeared instantly. He was attentive, alert, keyed to immediate action.
"Can you see anything, Tayoga?" he whispered.
"No, but I think I hear the sound of footsteps approaching. I am not yet sure, because the footfall, if footfall it be, is almost as light as the dropping of a feather."
Both remained absolutely still, not moving a leaf in their covert, and presently a huge and sinister figure walked into the open. It seemed to Robert that Tandakora was larger than ever, and that he was more evil-looking. His face was that of the warrior who would show no mercy, and his body, save for a waistcloth, was livid with all the hideous devices of war paint. Behind him came a Frenchman whom Robert promptly recognized as Achille Garay, and a half dozen warriors, all of whom turned questing eyes toward the earth.
"They look for a trail," whispered Tayoga. "It is well, Dagaeoga, that we took the precaution to walk on rocks when we came into this covert, or Tandakora, who is so eager for our blood, would find the traces."
"Tandakora costs me great pain," Robert whispered back. "It's my misfortune always to be seeing him just when I can't shoot at him. I'm tempted to try it, anyhow. That's a big, broad chest of his, and I couldn't find a finer target."
"No, Dagaeoga, on your life, no! Our scalps would be the price, and some day we shall take the life of Tandakora and yet keep our own. I know it, because Tododaho has whispered it to me in the half world that lies between waking and sleeping."
"You're right, of course, Tayoga, but it's a tremendous temptation."
The Onondaga put his hand on his lips to indicate that even a whisper now was dangerous, and the two sank once more into an utter silence. The chest of Tandakora still presented a great and painted target, and Robert's hand lay on the trigger, but his will kept him from pressing it. Yet he did not watch the Ojibway chief with more eagerness than he bestowed upon the Frenchman, Achille Garay.
Garay's face was far from prepossessing. In its way it was as evil as that of Tandakora. He had sought Robert's life more than once. In the naval battle he had seen the Frenchman pull trigger upon him. Why? Why had he singled him out from the others in the endeavor to make a victim of him? There must be some motive, much more powerful than that of natural hostility, and he believed now if they were discovered that not Tayoga but he would be the first object of Garay's attack.
But Tandakora and his men passed on, bearing to the right and from the main force. Robert and Tayoga saw their figures vanish among the bushes and heard the fall of their moccasins a little longer, and then the question of their own course presented itself to them. Should they go back to Rogers with a warning of the hostile flankers, or should they follow Tandakora and see what he meant? They decided finally in favor of the latter course, and passing quietly from their covert, began to trail those who were seeking to trail a foe. The traces led toward the west, and it was not hard to follow them, as Tandakora and his men had taken but little care, evidently not thinking any scouting rangers or Mohawks might be near.
Robert and Tayoga followed carefully for several hundred yards; then they were surprised to see the trail curve sharply about, and go back toward the main force.
"We must have passed them," said Robert, "although we were too far away to see each other."
"It would seem so," said the Onondaga. "Tandakora may have come to the conclusion that no enemy is on his extreme flank, and so has gone back to see if any has appeared nearer the center."
"Then we must follow him in his new course."
"If we do what we are sent to do we will follow."
"Lead on, Tayoga."
The Onondaga stooped that the underbrush might hide him, advanced over the trail, and Robert was close behind. The thickets were very still. All the small wild creatures, usually so numerous in them, had disappeared, and there was no wind. Tayoga saw that the imprints of the moccasins were growing firmer and clearer, and he knew that Tandakora and his men were but a short distance ahead. Then he stopped suddenly and he and Robert crouched low in the thicket.
They had heard the faint report of rifles directly in front, and they believed that Tandakora had come into contact with a party of rangers or Mohawks. As they listened, the sound of a second volley came, and then the echo of a faint war whoop. Tayoga rose a little higher, perhaps expecting to see something in the underbrush, and a rifle flashed less than forty yards away.
The Onondaga fell without a cry before the horrified eyes of his comrade, and then, as Robert heard a shout of triumph, he saw an Indian, horribly painted, rush forward to seize what he believed to be a Mohawk scalp.
Young Lennox, filled with grief and rage, stood straight up, and a stream of fire fairly poured from the muzzle of his rifle as his bullet met the exultant warrior squarely in the heart. The savage fell like a log, having no time to utter his death cry, and paying no further attention to him, feeling that he must be merely a stray warrior from the main band, Robert turned to his fallen comrade.
Tayoga was unconscious, and was bleeding profusely from a wound in the right shoulder. Robert seized his wrist and felt his pulse. He was not dead, because he detected a faint beat, but it was quite evident that the wound from a big musket bullet had come near to cutting the thread of life.
For a moment or two Lennox was in despair, while his heart continued to swell with grief and rage. It was unthinkable that the noblest young Onondaga of them all, one fit to be in his time the greatest of sachems, the very head and heart of the League, should be cut down by a mere skulker. And yet it had happened. Tayoga lay, still wholly unconscious, and the sounds of firing to the eastward were increasing. A battle had begun there. Perhaps the full forces of both sides were now in conflict.
The combat called to Robert, he knew that he might bear a great part in it, but he never hesitated. Such a thought as deserting his stricken comrade could not enter his mind. He listened a moment longer to the sounds of the conflict now growing more fierce, and then, fastening Tayoga's rifle on his back with his own, he lifted his wounded comrade in his arms and walked westward, away from the battle.