The Rulers of the Lakes by Joseph A. Altsheler
Chapter XIV. Sharp Sword
The rangers and Mohawks had suffered a further thinning in the last conflict with St. Luc, but they were still a formidable body, not so much through numbers as through skill, experience, courage and quality of leadership. There was not one among them who was not eager to advance toward Crown Point and hazard every peril. But they were too wise in wilderness ways not to have a long and anxious council before they started, as there was nothing to be gained and much to be lost by throwing away lives in reckless attempts.
They decided at last on a wide curve to the west, in order that they might approach Crown Point from the north, where they would be least suspected, and they decided also that they would make most of the journey by night, when they would be better hidden from wandering warriors. So concluding, they remained in the glen much longer than they had intended, and the delay was welcome to Robert, whose nervous system needed much restoration, after the tremendous exertions, the hopes and fears of recent days.
But he was able to imitate the Onondaga calm. He spread his blanket on the turf, lay down upon it, and lowered his eyelids. He had no intention of going to sleep, but he put himself into that drowsy state of calm akin to the Hindoo's Nirvana. By an effort of the will he calmed every nerve and refused to think of the future. He merely breathed, and saw in a dim way the things about him, compelling his soul to stay a while in peace.
Most of the rangers and Mohawks were lying in the same stillness. Stern experience had taught them to take rest, and make the most of it when they could find it. Only the watchful sentinels at the rim of the valley and beyond stirred, and their moccasins made no sound as they slid among the bushes, looking and listening with all their eyes and ears for whatever might come.
The sun was sunk far in the western heavens, tinting with gold the surface of both lakes, for the rulership of which the nations fought, and outlining the mountains, crests and ridges, sharp and clear against a sky of amazing blue. Yet so vast was the wilderness and so little had it been touched by man, that the armies were completely hidden in it, and neither Dieskau nor Johnson yet knew what movement the other intended.
The east was already dim with the coming twilight when the three leaders stood up, and, as if by preconcerted signal, beckoned to their men. Scarcely a word was spoken, but everyone looked to his arms, the sentinels came in, and the whole force, now in double file, marched swiftly toward the north, but inclining also to the east. Robert and Tayoga were side by side.
"I owe thee many thanks, Dagaeoga," said the Onondaga.
"You owe me nothing," said Robert. "I but paid an installment on a debt."
Then they spoke no more for a long time, because there was nothing to say, and because the band was now moving so fast that all their breath was needed for muscular effort. The sun went down in a sea of golden clouds, then red fire burned for a little while at the rim of the world, and, when it was gone, a luminous twilight, which by and by faded into darkness, came in its place.
But the band in double file sped on through the dusk. Daganoweda, who knew the way, was at the head, and so skillful were they that no stick crackled and no leaf rustled as they passed. Mile after mile they flitted on, over hill and valley and through the deep woods. Far in the night they stopped to drink at a clear little brook that ran down to Lake Champlain, but no other halt was made until the dawn broke over a vast silver sheet of water, and high green mountains beyond.
"Oneadatote," said Tayoga.
"And a great lake it is," said Robert. "We had a naval encounter on it once, and now we've had a battle, too, on George."
"But the French and their allies hold all of Oneadatote, while we only dispute the possession of Andiatarocte. They will march against us from Crown Point on the shores of this lake."
"We'll take George from 'em, all of it, and then we'll come and drive 'em from Champlain, too."
The eyes of the Onondaga sparkled.
"Dagaeoga has a brave heart," he said, "and we will do all that he predicts, but, as I have said before, it will be a long and terrible war."
They descended to a point nearer the lake, but, still remaining hidden in the dense forest, ate their breakfast of venison, bread and samp, and drank again from a clear brook. They were now several miles north of Crown Point, and the leaders talked together again about the best manner of approach. They not only wished to see what the army of Dieskau was doing, but they thought it possible to strike some blow that would inflict severe loss, and delay his advance. Rogers used his glasses again, and was able to discern many Indian canoes on the lake, both north and south of the point where they lay, although they were mostly scattered, indicating no certain movement.
"Those canoes ought to be ours," he said. "'Tis a great pity that we've let the French take control of Champlain. It's easier to hold a thing in the beginning than it is, having let your enemy seize it without a fight, to win it back again."
"It's better to do that than to be rash," said Willet. "I was with Braddock when we marched headlong into the wilderness. If we had been slower then we'd have now a good army that we've lost. Still, it's hard to see the French take the lead from us. We dance to their tune."
"Dave," said Rogers, "I see a whole fleet of Indian canoes far down the lake below Crown Point. One can see many miles in such a clear air as this, and I'm sure they're canoes, though they look like black dots crawling on the water. Take the glasses and have a look."
Willet held the glasses to his eyes a long time, and when he took them down he said with confidence:
"They're canoes, a hundred of 'em at least, and while they hold complete command of the lake, it don't seem natural that so many of 'em should be in a fleet away down there below the French fort. It means something unusual. What do you think, Tayoga?"
"Perhaps Dieskau is already on the march," said the Onondaga. "The glories that St. Luc, Dumas, Ligneris and the others won at Duquesne will not let him sleep. He would surpass them. He would repeat on the shores of Andiatarocte what they did so triumphantly by the ford of the Monongahela."
"Thunderation!" exclaimed Rogers. "The boy may be right! They may be even now stealing a march on us! If our army down below should be wiped out as Braddock's was, then we might never recover!"
Robert, who could not keep from hearing all the talk, listened to it with dismay. He had visions of Johnson's army of untrained militia attacked suddenly by French veterans and a huge force of Indians. It would be like the spring of a monstrous beast out of the dark, and defeat, perhaps complete destruction for his own, would be the result. But his courage came back in an instant. The surprise could not be carried out so long as the band to which he belonged was in existence.
"I think," said Willet, "that we'd better go south along the shore of the lake, and approach as near to the fort as we dare. Then Daganoweda and a half dozen of his best warriors will scout under its very walls. Do you care for the task, Daganoweda?"
The eyes of the young Mohawk chieftain glittered. Willet had judged him aright. It would be no task for him, it would be instead a labor of pleasure. In fifteen minutes he was off with his warriors, disappearing like shadows in the undergrowth, and Robert knew that whatever report Daganoweda might bring back it would not only be true but full.
The main band followed, though far more slowly, keeping well back from the lake, that no Indian eye might catch their presence in the woods, but able, nevertheless, to observe for immense distances everything that passed on the vast silver sheet of water. Rogers observed once more the fleet of Indian canoes rowing southward, and he and Willet were firmer than ever in their belief that it indicated some measure of importance.
Their own march through the woods was peaceful. They frightened no game from their path, indicating that the entire region had been hunted over thoroughly by the great force that had lain at Crown Point, and, after a while, they passed a point parallel to the fort, though several miles to the westward. Willet, Tayoga and Robert looked for trails or traces of bands or hunters, but found none. Apparently the forest had been deserted by the enemy for some days, and their alarming belief was strengthened anew.
Four miles farther on they were to meet Daganoweda and his warriors, at a tiny silver pond among the hills, and now they hurried their march.
"I'm thinking," said Robert, "that Daganoweda will be there first, waiting with a tale to tell."
"All signs point to it," said Tayoga. "It is well that we came north on this scouting expedition, because we, too, may have something to say when we return to Waraiyageh."
"You know this pond at which we are to meet?"
"Yes, it is in the hills, and the forest is thick all about it. Often Onondaga and Mohawk have met there to take council, the one with the other."
In another hour they were at the pond, and they found the Mohawk chieftain and his men sitting at its edge.
"Well, Daganoweda," said Willet, "is it as we thought?" Daganoweda rose and waved his hand significantly toward the south.
"Dieskau with his army has gone to fall upon Waraiyageh," he said. "We went close up to the walls, and we even heard talk. The French and the warriors were eager to advance, and so were their leaders. It was said that St. Luc, whom we call Sharp Sword, urged them most, and the larger part of his great force soon started in canoes. A portion of it he left at Ticonderoga, and the rest is going on. They intend to take the fort called Lyman, that the English and Americans have built, and then to fall upon Waraiyageh."
"It is for us to reach Waraiyageh first," said Willet, quietly, "and we will. God knows there is great need of our doing it. If Johnson's army is swept away, then Albany will fall, the Hodenosaunee, under terrific pressure, might be induced to turn against us, and the Province of New York would be ravaged with fire and the scalping knife."
"But we will reach Waraiyageh and tell him," said Tayoga, firmly. "He will not be swept away. Albany will not fall, and nothing can induce the Hodenosaunee to join the French."
The eyes of the Great Bear glistened as he looked at the tall young warrior.
"That's brave talk, and it's true, too!" he exclaimed. "You shame us, Tayoga! If it's for us to save our army by carrying the news of Dieskau's sudden march, then we'll save it."
Daganoweda had told the exact truth. Dieskau had reached Crown Point with a force mighty then for the wilderness, and, after a short rest, he issued orders to his troops to be prepared for advance at a moment's notice. He especially directed the officers to keep themselves in light marching order, every one of them to take only a bearskin, a blanket, one extra pair of shoes, one extra shirt, and no luxuries at all.
His orders to the Indians showed a savagery which, unfortunately, was not peculiar then to him. In the heat of battle they were not to scalp those they slew, because time then was so valuable. While they were taking a scalp they could kill ten men. But when the enemy was routed completely they could go back on the field and scalp as they wished.
The Indian horde was commanded by Legardeur de St. Pierre, who had with him De Courcelles and Jumonville, and St. Luc with his faithful Dubois immediately organized a daring band of French Canadians and warriors to take the place of the one he had lost. So great was his reputation as a forest fighter, and so well deserved was it, that his fame suffered no diminution, because of his defeat by the rangers and Mohawks, and the young French officers were eager to serve under him.
It was this powerful army, ably led and flushed with the general triumph of the French arms, that Daganoweda and his warriors had seen advancing, though perhaps no one in all the force dreamed that he was advancing to a battle that in reality would prove one of the most decisive in the world's history, heavy with consequences to which time set scarcely any limit. Nor did Robert himself, vivid as was his imagination, foresee it. His thoughts and energies were bounded for the time, at least, by the present, and, with the others, he was eager to save Johnson's army, which now lay somewhere near Lake George, and which he was sure had been occupied in building forts, as Waraiyageh, having spent most of his life in the wilderness, knew that it was well when he had finished a march forward to make it secure before he undertook another.
The rangers and Mohawks now picked up the trail of Dieskau's army, which was moving forward with the utmost speed. Yet the obstinacy of his Indian allies compelled the German baron to abandon the first step in his plan. They would not attack Fort Lyman, as it was defended by artillery, of which the savages had a great dread, but they were willing to go on, and fall suddenly upon Johnson, who, they heard, though falsely, had no cannon. Dieskau and his French aides, compelled to hide any chagrin they may have felt, pushed on for Lake George with the pick of their army, consisting of the battalions of Languedoc, and La Reine, a strong Canadian force, and a much larger body of Indian warriors, among whom the redoubtable Tandakora, escaped from rangers and Mohawks, was predominant.
Willet, Rogers, Black Rifle, Daganoweda and their small but formidable band read the trail plainly, and they knew the greatness of the danger. Dieskau was not young, and he was a soldier of fortune, not belonging to the race that he led, but he was full of ardor, and the daring French partisans were urging him on. Robert felt certain that St. Luc himself was in the very van and that he would probably strike the first blow.
After they had made sure that Dieskau would not attack Fort Lyman, but was marching straight against Johnson, the little force turned aside, and prepared to make a circuit with all the speed it could command.
As Willet put it tersely:
"It's not enough for us to know what Dieskau means to do, but to keep him from doing it. It's muscle and lungs now that count."
So they deserved to the full the name of forest runners, speeding on their great curve, using the long, running walk with which both Indians and frontiersmen devoured space, and apparently never grew weary. In the night they passed Dieskau's army, and, from the crest of a lofty hill, saw his fires burning in a valley below. Tayoga and some of the Mohawks slipped down through the undergrowth and reported that the camp had been made with all due precaution--the French partisan leaders saw to that--with plenty of scouts about, and the whole force in swift, marching order. It would probably be up and away again before dawn, and if they were to pass it and reach Johnson in good time not a single moment could be wasted.
"Now I wonder," said Willet, "if they suspect the advance of this warning force. St. Luc, of course, knows that we were back there by Champlain, as we gave him the most complete proofs of it that human beings could give. So does Tandakora, and they may prevail upon Dieskau to throw out a swift band for the purpose of cutting us off. If so, St. Luc is sure to lead it. What do you say, Tayoga?"
"I think St. Luc will surely come," replied the Onondaga youth gravely. "We have been trailing the army of Dieskau, and tomorrow, after we have passed it, we shall be trailed in our turn. It does not need the whisper of Tododaho to tell me that St. Luc and Tandakora will lead the trailers, because, as we all know, they are most fitting to lead them."
"Then there's no sleep for us tonight," said Rogers; "we'll push on and not close our eyes again until we reach Colonel Johnson."
They traveled many miles before dawn, but with the rising of the sun they knew that they were followed, and perhaps flanked. The Mohawk scouts brought word of it. Daganoweda himself found hostile signs in the bushes, a bead or two and a strand of deerskin fringe caught on a bush.
"It's likely," said Willet, "that they were even more cautious than we reckoned. It may be that before Dieskau left his force at Ticonderoga he sent forward St. Luc with a swift band to intercept us and any others who might take a warning to Colonel Johnson."
"I agree with you," said Rogers. "St. Luc started before we did, and, all the time, has been ahead of us. So we have him in front, Dieskau behind, and it looks as if we'd have to fight our way through to our army. Oh, the Frenchmen are clever! Nobody can deny it, and they're always awake. What's your opinion, Daganoweda?"
"We shall have to fight," replied the Mohawk chieftain, although the prospect caused him no grief. "The traces that we have found prove Sharp Sword to be already across our path. We have yet no way to know the strength of his force, but, if a part of us get through, it will be enough."
Robert heard them talking, and while he was able once more to preserve outward calm, his heart, nevertheless, throbbed hard. More than any other present, with the possible exception of Tayoga, his imagination pictured what was to come, and before it was fought he saw the battle. They were to march, too, into an ambush, knowing it was there, but impossible to be avoided, because they must get through in some fashion or other. They were now approaching Andiatarocte again, and although the need of haste was still great they dropped perforce into a slow walk, and sent ahead more scouts and skirmishers.
Robert and Tayoga went forward on the right, and they caught through the bushes the gleam from the waters of a small stream that ran down to the lake. Going a little nearer, they saw that the farther bank was high and densely wooded, and then they drew back, knowing that it was a splendid place for an ambush, and believing that St. Luc was probably there. Tayoga lay almost flat, face downward, and stared intently at the high bank.
"I think, Dagaeoga," he said, "that so long as we keep close to the earth we may creep a little nearer, and perhaps our eyes, which are good, may be able to pick out the figures of our foes from the leaves and bushes in which they probably lie hidden."
They dragged themselves forward about fifty yards, taking particular care to make nothing in the thickets bend or wave in a manner for which the wind could not account. Robert stared a long time, but his eyes separated nothing from the mass of foliage.
"What do you see, Tayoga?" he whispered at last.
"No proof of the enemy yet, Dagaeoga. At least, no proof of which I am sure. Ah, but I do now! There was a flash in the bushes. It was a ray of sunlight penetrating the leaves and striking upon the polished metal of a gun barrel."
"It means that at least one Indian or Frenchman is there. Keep on looking and see if you don't see something more."
"I see a red feather. At this distance you might at first take it for a feather in the wing of a bird, but I know it is a feather in the scalplock of a warrior."
"And that makes two, at least. Look harder than ever, Tayoga, and tell me what more you see."
"Now I catch a glimpse of white cloth with a gleam of silver. The cloth is on the upper arm, and the silver is on the shoulder of an officer."
"A uniform and an epaulet. A French officer, of course."
"Of course, and I think it is Sharp Sword himself."
"Look once more, Tayoga, and maybe your eyes can pick out something else from the foliage."
"I see the back and painted shoulder of a warrior. It may be those of Tandakora, but I cannot be sure."
"You needn't be. You've seen quite enough to prove that the whole force of St. Luc is there in the bushes, awaiting us, and we must tell our leaders at once."
They crept back to the center, where Willet and Rogers lay, Daganoweda being on the flank, and told them what they had seen.
"It's good enough proof," said Rogers. "St. Luc with his whole force in the bushes means to hold the stream against us and keep us from taking a warning to Johnson, but the hardest way to do a thing isn't always the one you have to choose."
"I take it," said Willet, "that you mean to flank him out of his position."
"It was what I had in mind. What do you think, Dave?"
"The only possible method. Those Mohawks are wonders at such operations, and we'd better detail as many of the rangers as we can spare to join 'em, while a force here in the center makes a demonstration that will hold 'em to their place in the bushes. I'll take the picked men and join Daganoweda."
"It's like you, Dave," he said, "to choose the most dangerous part, and leave me here just to make a noise."
"But the commander usually stays in the center, while his lieutenants lead on the wings."
"That's true. You have precedent with you, but it wouldn't have made any difference, anyhow."
"But when we fall on 'em you'll lead the center forward, and with such a man as St. Luc I fancy you'll have all the danger you crave."
Rogers laughed again.
"Go ahead, old fire-eater," he said. "It was always your way. I suppose you'll want to take Tayoga and Lennox with you."
"Oh, yes, I need 'em, and besides, I have to watch over 'em, in a way."
"And you watch over 'em by leading 'em into the very thickest of the battle. But danger has always been a lure for you, and I know you're the best man for the job."
Willet quickly picked twenty men, including Black Rifle and the two lads, and bore away with speed toward the flank where Daganoweda and the Mohawks already lay. As Robert left he heard the rifle shots with which the little force of Rogers was opening the battle, and he heard, too, the rifles and muskets of the French and Indians on the other side of the stream replying.
Fortunately, as the forest was very dense, and it was not possible for any of St. Luc's men to see the flanking movement, Willet and his rangers joined Daganoweda quickly and without hindrance, the eyes of the chieftain glittering when he saw the new force, and heard the plan to cross the stream far down and fall on St. Luc's flank.
"It is good," he said with satisfaction. "Sharp Sword has eyes to see much, but he cannot see everything."
"But one thing must be understood," said Willet, gravely. "If we see that we are getting the worst of the fight and our men are falling fast, the good runners must leave the conflict at once and make all speed for Waraiyageh. Tayoga, you are the fastest and surest of all, and you must leave first, and, Daganoweda, do you pick three of your swift young warriors for the same task."
"I have one request to make," said Tayoga.
"What is it?"
"When I leave let me take Dagaeoga with me. We are comrades who have shared many dangers, and he, too, is swift of foot and hardy. It may be that there will be danger also in the flight to Waraiyageh's camp. Then, if one should fall the other will go on."
"Well put, Tayoga. Robert, do you hear? If the tide seems to be turning against us join Tayoga in his flight toward Johnson."
Robert nodded, and the young warriors chosen by Daganoweda also indicated that they understood. Then the entire force began its silent march through the woods on their perilous encircling movement. They waded the river at a ford where the water did not rise above their knees, and entered the deep woods, gradually drawing back toward the point where St. Luc's force lay.
As they approached they began to hear the sounds of the little battle Rogers was waging with the French leader, a combat which was intended to keep the faculties and energies of the French and Indians busy, while the more powerful detachment under Willet and Daganoweda moved up for the main blow. Faint reports of rifle and musket shots came to them, and also the long whining yell of the Indians, so like, in the distance, to the cry of a wolf. Then, as they drew a little nearer they heard the shouts of the rangers, shouts of defiance or of triumph rattling continuously like a volley.
"That's a part of their duty," said Willet. "Rogers has only twenty men, but he means to make 'em appear a hundred."
"Sounds more like two hundred," said Robert. "It's the first time I ever heard one man shout as ten."
As they drew nearer the volume of the firing seemed to increase. Rogers was certainly carrying out his part of the work in the most admirable manner, his men firing with great rapidity and never ceasing their battle shouts. Even so shrewd a leader as St. Luc might well believe the entire force of rangers and Mohawks, instead of only twenty men, was in front of him. But Robert was quite sure from the amount of firing coming from the Frenchman's position that he was in formidable force, perhaps outnumbering his opponents two to one, and the fight, though with the advantage of a flank attack by Willet and Daganoweda, was sure to be doubtful. It seemed that Tayoga read his thought as he whispered:
"Once more, Dagaeoga, we may leave the combat together, when it is at its height. Remember the duty that has been laid upon us. If the battle appears doubtful we are to flee."
"A hard thing to do at such a time."
"But we have our orders from the Great Bear."
"I had no thought of disobeying. I know the importance of our getting through, if our force is defeated, or even held. Why couldn't our whole detachment have gone around St. Luc just as we've done, and have left him behind without a fight?"
"Because if the Mountain Wolf had not been left in his front, Sharp Sword would have discovered immediately the absence of us all and would have followed so fast that he would have forced us to battle on his terms, instead of our being able to force him on ours."
"I see, Tayoga. Look out!"
He seized the Onondaga suddenly and pulled him down. A rifle cracked in the bushes sixty or seventy yards in front of them, and a bullet whistled where the red youth's head had been. The shot came from an outlying sentinel of St. Luc's band, and knowing now that the time for a hidden advance had passed, Willet and all of his men charged with a mighty shout.
Their cheering also was a signal to the twenty men of Rogers on the other side of the river, and they, too, rushed forward. St. Luc was taken by surprise, but, as Robert had feared, his French and Indians outnumbered them two to one. They fell back a little, thus giving Rogers and his twenty a chance to cross the river, but they took up a new and strong position upon a well-wooded hill, and the battle at close range became fierce, sanguinary and doubtful.
Robert caught two glimpses of St. Luc directing his men with movements of his small sword, and once he saw another white man, who, he was sure was Dubois, although generally the enemy was invisible, keeping well under the shelter of tree and bush. But while human forms were hidden, the evidences of ferocious battle were numerous. The warriors on each side uttered fierce shouts, rifles and muskets crackled rapidly, now and then a stricken man uttered his death cry, and the depths of the forest were illuminated by the rapid jets of the firing.
The sudden and heavy attack upon his flank compelled St. Luc to take the defensive, and put him at a certain disadvantage, but he marshaled his superior numbers so well that the battle became doubtful, with every evidence that it would be drawn out to great length. Moreover, the chevalier had maneuvered so artfully that his whole force was now drawn directly across the path of the rangers and Mohawks, and the way to Johnson was closed, for the time, at least.
An hour, two hours, the battle swayed to and fro among the trees and bushes. Had their opponent been any other than St. Luc the three leaders, Willet, Rogers and Daganoweda, would have triumphed by that time, but French, Canadians and Indians alike drew courage from the dauntless Chevalier. More than once they would have abandoned the field, but he marshaled them anew, and always he did it in a manner so skillful that the loss was kept at the lowest possible figure.
The forest was filled with smoke, though the high sun shot it through with luminous rays. But no one looking upon the battle could have told which was the loser and which the winner. The losses on the two sides were about equal, and St. Luc, holding the hill, still lay across the path of rangers and Mohawks. Robert, who was crouched behind the trunk of a great oak, felt a light touch upon his arm, and, looking back, saw Tayoga.
"The time has come, Dagaeoga," said the Onondaga.
"The time for us to leave the battle and run as fast as we may to Waraiyageh."
"I had forgotten. The conflict here had gotten so much into my blood that I couldn't think of anything else. But, as I said it would be, it's hard to go."
"Go, Robert!" called Willet from a tree twenty feet away. "Curve around St. Luc. Do what Tayoga says--he can scent danger like an animal of the forest--and make all speed to Johnson. Maybe we'll join you in his camp later on."
"Good-by, Dave," said Robert, swallowing hard. He crept away with the Onondaga, not rising to his full height for a long time. Then the two stood for a few moments, listening to the sounds of the battle, which seemed to be increasing in violence. Far through the forest they faintly saw the drifting smoke and the sparks of fire from the rifles and muskets.
"Once more I say it's hard to leave our friends there," exclaimed Robert.
"But our path leads that way," said Tayoga, pointing southward.
They struck, without another word, into the long, loping run that the forest runners use with such effect, and sped southward. The sounds of the conflict soon died behind them, and they were in the stillness of the woods, where no enemy seemed near. But they did not decrease their pace, leaping the little brooks, wading the wider streams, and flitting like shades through forest and thicket. Twice they crossed Indian trails, but paid no heed to them. Once a warrior, perhaps a hunter, fired a long shot at them, but as his bullet missed they paid no attention to him, but, increasing their speed, fled southward at a pace no ordinary man could overtake.
"Now that we have left," said Robert, after a while, "I'm glad we did so. It will be a personal pleasure for us two to warn Johnson."
"We may carry the fate of a war with us, Dagaeoga. Think of that!"
"I've thought of it. But our friends behind us, engaged in the battle with St. Luc! What of them? Does Tododaho whisper to you anything about their fate?"
"They are great and skillful men, cunning and crafty in all the ways of the forest. They have escaped great dangers a thousand times before and Tododaho tells me they will escape the thousand and first. Be of good heart, Dagaeoga, and do not worry about them."
They dropped almost to a walk for a while, permitting their muscles to rest. Tayoga's wound had healed so fast, the miracle was so nearly complete, that it did not trouble him, and, after walking two hours, they struck into the long, easy run again. The miles dropped fast behind them, and now Johnson's camp was not far away. It was well for Tayoga and Robert that they were naturally so strong and that they had lived such healthy lives, as now they were able to go on all through the day, and the setting sun found them still traveling, the Onondaga leading with an eye as infallible for the way as that of a bird in the heavens. Some time after dark they stopped for a half hour and sat on fallen logs while they took fresh breath. Robert was apprehensive about Tayoga's wound and expressed his solicitude.
"There is no pain," replied the young warrior, "and there will be none. Tododaho and Areskoui gave me the miraculous cure for a purpose. It was that I might have the strength to be a messenger to Waraiyageh, because if he is crushed then the French and the Indians will strike at the Hodenosaunee, and they will ravage the Vale of Onondaga itself with fire and the tomahawk. Tododaho watches over his people."
"The stars have come out, Tayoga. Can you see the one on which Tododaho lives? And if so, what is he saying to you now?"
Tayoga looked up a long time. He had received the white man's culture, but the Indian soul was strong within him, nevertheless, and he was steeped, too, in Indian lore. All the legends of his race, all the Iroquois religion, came crowding upon him. A faint silvery vapor overspread the sky, the stars in myriads quivered and danced, and there in a remote corner of space was the great star on which Tododaho lived. It hung in the heavens a silver shield, small in the distance, but vast, Tayoga knew, beyond all conception. There were fine lines across its face, but they were only the snakes in Tododaho's hair.
Gradually the features and countenance of the great Onondaga emerged upon the star, and the blood of Tayoga ran in a chill torrent through his veins, though the chill was not the chill of fear. He was, in effect, meeting the mighty Onondaga of four hundred years ago, face to face. The forest around him glided away, Robert vanished, the solid earth melted from under his feet, and he was like a being who hung in the air suspended from nothing. He leaned his head forward a little in the attitude of one who listens, and he distinctly heard Tododaho say:
"Go on, Tayoga. As I have protected you so far on the way I shall protect you to the end. Four hundred years ago I left my people, but my watch over them is as vigilant now as it was when I was on earth. The nations of the Hodenosaunee shall not perish, and they shall remain great and mighty."
The voice ceased, the face of the mighty Onondaga disappeared, Tayoga was no longer suspended without a support in the air, the forest came back, and his good comrade, Robert Lennox, stood by his side, staring at him curiously.
"Have you been in a trance, Tayoga?" asked Robert.
"No, Dagaeoga, I have not, but I can answer your question. I not only heard Tododaho, but I saw him face to face. He spoke to me in a voice like the wind among the pines, and he said that he would watch over me the rest of the way, and that the Hodenosaunee should remain great and powerful. Come, Dagaeoga, all danger for us on this march has passed."
They rose, continued their flight without hindrance, and the next morning entered the camp of Johnson.