The Rulers of the Lakes by Joseph A. Altsheler
Chapter XV. The Lake Battle
Robert and Tayoga approached the American camp in the early dawn of a waning summer, and the air was crisp and cool. The Onondaga's shoulder, at last, had begun to feel the effects of his long flight, and he, as well as Robert, was growing weary. Hence it was with great delight that they caught the gleam of a uniform through a thicket, and knew they had come upon one of Johnson's patrols. It was with still greater delight as they advanced that they recognized young William Wilton of the Philadelphia troop, and a dozen men. Wilton looked wan and hollow-eyed, as if he had been watching all night, but his countenance was alert, and his figure erect nevertheless.
Hearing the steps of Tayoga and Robert in the bushes, he called sharply:
His men presented their arms, and he stepped forward, sword in hand. Robert threw up his own hands, and, emerging from the thicket, said in tones which he made purposely calm and even.
"Good morning, Will. It's happy I am to see you keeping such a good watch."
Then he dropped his hands and walked into the open, Tayoga following him. Wilton stared as if he had seen someone come back from another star.
"Lennox, is it really you?" he asked.
"You in the flesh and not a ghost?"
"In the flesh and no ghost."
"And is that Tayoga following you?"
"The Onondaga himself."
"And he is not any ghost, either?"
"No ghost, though Tandakora's men tried hard to make him one, and took a good start at it. But he's wholly in the flesh, too."
"Then shake. I was afraid, at first, to touch hands with a ghost, but, God bless you, Robert, it fills me with delight to see you again, and you, too, Tayoga, no less. We thought you both were dead, and Colden and Carson and Grosvenor and I and a lot of others have wasted a lot of good mourning on you."
Robert laughed, and it was probably a nervous laugh of relief at having arrived, through countless dangers, upon an errand of such huge importance.
"Both of you look worn out," said Wilton. "I dare say you've been up all night, walking through the interminable forest. Come, have a good, fat breakfast, then roll between the blankets and sleep all day long."
Robert laughed again. How little the young Quaker knew or suspected!
"We neither eat nor sleep yet, Will," he said. "Where is Colonel Johnson? You must take us to him at once!"
"The colonel himself, doubtless, has not had his breakfast. But why this feverish haste? You talk as if you and Tayoga carried the fate of a nation on your shoulders."
"That's just what we do carry. And, in truth, the fate of more than one, perhaps. Lead on, Will! Every second is precious!"
Wilton looked at him again, and, seeing the intense earnestness in the blue eyes of young Lennox, gave a command to his little troop, starting without another word across the clearing, Robert and Tayoga following close behind. The two lads were ragged, unkempt, and bore all the signs of war, but they were unconscious of their dilapidated appearance, although many of the young soldiers stared at them as they went by. They passed New England and New York troops cooking their breakfast, and on a low hill a number of Mohawks were still sleeping.
They approached the tent of Colonel Johnson and were fortunate enough to find him standing in the doorway, talking with Colonel Ephraim Williams and Colonel Whiting. But he was so engrossed in the conversation that he did not see them until Wilton saluted and spoke.
"Messengers, sir!" he said.
Colonel Johnson looked up, and then he started.
"Robert and Tayoga!" he exclaimed. "I see by your faces that you have word of importance! What is it?"
"Dieskau's whole army is advancing," said Robert. "It long since left Crown Point, put a garrison in Ticonderoga, and is coming along Lake George to fall on you by surprise, and destroy you."
Waraiyageh's face paled a little, and then a spark leaped up in his eye.
"How do you know this?" he asked.
"I have seen it with my own eyes. I looked upon Dieskau's marching army, and so did Tayoga. St. Luc was thrown across our path to stop us, and we left Willet, Rogers and Daganoweda in battle with him, while we fled, according to instructions, to you."
"Then you have done well. Go now and seek rest and refreshment. You are good and brave lads. Our army will be made ready at once. We'll not wait for Dieskau. We'll go to meet him. What say you, Williams, and you, Whiting?".
"Forward, sir! The troops would welcome the order!" replied Colonel Williams, and Whiting nodded assent.
Johnson was now all activity and energy and so were his officers. He seemed not at all daunted by the news of Dieskau's rapid advance. Rather he welcomed it as an end to his army's doubts and delays, and as a strong incentive to the spirits of the men.
"Go, lads, and rest!" he repeated to Robert and Tayoga, and now that their supreme task was achieved they felt the need of obeying him. Both were sagging with weariness, and it was well for the Onondaga to look to his shoulder, which was still a little lame. As they saluted and left the tent a young Indian lad sprang toward them and greeted them eagerly. It was young Joseph Brant, the famous Thayendanega of later days, the brother of Molly Brant, Colonel William Johnson's Mohawk wife.
"Hail, Tayoga! Hail, Dagaeoga!" he exclaimed in the Mohawk tongue. "I knew that you were inside with Waraiyageh! You have brought great news, it is rumored already! It is no secret, is it?"
"We do have news, mighty news, and it is no secret," replied Robert. "It's news that will give you your opportunity of starting on the long path that leads to the making of a great chief. Dieskau has marched suddenly and is near. We're going to meet him."
The fierce young Mohawk uttered a shout of joy and rushed for his arms. Robert and Tayoga, after a brief breakfast, lay down on their blankets and, despite all the turmoil and bustle of preparation, fell asleep.
While the two successful but exhausted messengers slumbered, Colonel Johnson called a council of war, at which the chief militia officers and old Hendrik, the Mohawk sachem, were present. The white men favored the swift advance of a picked force to save Edward, one of the new forts erected to protect the frontier, from the hordes, and the dispatch of a second chosen force to guard Lyman, another fort, in the same manner. The wise old Mohawk alone opposed the plan, and his action was significant.
Hendrik picked up three sticks from the ground and held them before the eyes of the white men.
"Put these together," he said, "and you cannot break them. Take them one by one and you break them with ease."
But he could not convince the white leaders, and then, a man of great soul, he said that if his white comrades must go in the way they had chosen he would go with them. Calling about him the Mohawk warriors, two hundred in number, he stood upon a gun carriage and addressed them with all the spirit and eloquence of his race. Few of the Americans understood a word he said, but they knew from his voice that he was urging his men to deeds of valor.
Hendrik told the warriors that the French and their allies were at hand, and the forces of Waraiyageh were going out to meet them. Waraiyageh had always been their friend, and it became them now to fight by his side with all the courage the Ganeagaono had shown through unnumbered generations. A fierce shout came from the Mohawks, and, snatching their tomahawks from their belts, they waved them about their heads.
To the young Philadelphians and to Grosvenor, the Englishman, who stood by, it was a sight wild and picturesque beyond description. The Mohawks were in full war paint and wore little clothing. Their dark eyes flashed, as the eloquence of Hendrik made the intoxication of battle rise in their veins, and when two hundred tomahawks were swung aloft and whirled about the heads of their owners the sun flashed back from them in glittering rays. Now and then fierce shouts of approval burst forth, and when Hendrik finished and stepped down from the gun carriage, they were ready to start on a march, of which the wise old sachem had not approved.
The militia also were rapidly making ready, and Robert and Tayoga, awakened and refreshed, took their places with the little Philadelphia troop and the young Englishman, Grosvenor. Hendrik was too old and stout to march on foot, and he rode at the head of his warriors on a horse, lent him by Colonel Johnson, an unusual spectacle among the Iroquois, who knew little of horses, and cared less about them.
This was the main force, and the Philadelphia troop, with Robert, Tayoga and Grosvenor, was close behind the Iroquois as they plunged into the deep woods bordering the lake, a mass of tangled wilderness that might well house a thousand ambushes. Grosvenor glanced about him apprehensively.
"I don't like the looks of it," he said. "It reminds me too much of the forest into which we marched with Braddock, God rest his soul!"
"I wasn't there," said young Captain Colden, "but Heaven knows I've heard enough horrible tales about it, and I've seen enough of the French and Indians to know they're expert at deadly snares."
"But we fight cunning with cunning," said Robert, cheerfully. "Look at the Mohawks ahead. There are two hundred of 'em, and every one of 'em has a hundred eyes."
"And look at old Hendrik, trotting along in the very lead on his horse," said Wilton. "I'm a man of peace, a Quaker, as you know, but my Quakerish soul leaps to see that gallant Indian, old enough to be the grandfather of us all, showing the way."
"Bravery and self-sacrifice are quite common among Indians. You'll learn that," said Robert. "Now, watch with all your eyes, every man of you, and notice anything that stirs in the brush."
Despite himself, Robert's own mind turned back to Braddock also, and all the incidents of the forest march that had so terrible an ending. Johnson's army knew more of the wilderness than Braddock's, but the hostile force was also far superior to the one that had fought at Duquesne. The French were many times more numerous here than there, and, although he had spoken brave words, his heart sank. Like the old Mohawk chief, he knew the army should not have been divided.
The region was majestic and beautiful. Not far away lay the lake, Andiatarocte, glittering in the sun. Around them stretched the primeval forest, in which the green was touched with the brown of late summer. Above them towered the mountains. The wilderness, picturesque and grand, gave forth no sound, save that of their own marching. The regiments of Williams and Whiting followed the Mohawks, and the New England and New York men were confident.
Robert heard behind him the deep hum and murmur that an advancing army makes, the sound of men talking that no commands could suppress, the heavy tread of the regiments and the clank of metal. That wild region had seen many a battle, but never before had it been invaded by armies so great as those of Dieskau and Johnson, which were about to meet in deadly combat.
His apprehensions grew. The absence of sounds save those made by themselves, the lack of hostile presence, not even a single warrior or Frenchman being visible, filled him with foreboding. It was just this way, when he marched with Braddock, only the empty forest, and no sign of deadly danger.
"Tayoga! Tayoga!" he whispered anxiously. "I don't like it."
"Nor do I, Dagaeoga."
"Think you we are likely to march into an ambush again?"
"Tododaho on his star is silent. He whispers nothing to me, yet I believe the trap is set, just ahead, and we march straight into it."
"And it's to be another Duquesne?"
"I did not say so, Dagaeoga. The trap will shut upon us, but we may burst it. Behold the Mohawks, the valiant Ganeagaono! Behold all the brave white men who are used to the forest and its ways! It is a strong trap that can hold them, one stronger, I think, than any the sons of Onontio and their savage allies can build."
Robert's heart leaped up at the brave words of Tayoga.
"I think so, too," he said. "It may be an ambush, but if so we will break from it. Old Hendrik tried to stop 'em, to keep all our force together, but since he couldn't do it, he's riding at the very head of this column, a shining target for hidden rifles."
"Hendrik is a great sachem, and as he is now old and grown feeble of the body, though not of the mind, this may well be his last and most glorious day."
"I hope he won't fall."
"Perhaps he may wish it thus. There could be no more fitting death for a great sachem."
They ceased talking, but both continued to watch the forest on either side with trained eyes. There was no wind, though now and then Robert thought he saw a bough or a bush move, indicating the presence of a hidden foe. But he invariably knew the next instant that it was merely the product of an uncommonly vivid imagination, always kindling into a burning fire in moments of extreme danger. No, there was nothing in the woods, at least, nothing that he could see.
Ahead of him the band of Mohawks, old Hendrik on horseback at their head, marched steadily on, warily watching the woods and thickets for their enemies. They, at least, were in thorough keeping with the wildness of the scene, with their painted bodies, their fierce eyes and their glittering tomahawks. But around Robert and Tayoga were the young Philadelphians, trained, alert men now, and following them was the stream of New York and New England troops, strong, vigorous and alive with enthusiasm.
The wilderness grew wilder and more dense, the Mohawks entering a great gorge, forested heavily, down the center of which flowed a brook of black water. Thickets spread everywhere, and there were extensive outcroppings of rock. At one point rose precipices, with the stony slopes of French Mountain towering beyond. At another point rose West Mountain, though it was not so high, but at all points nature was wild and menacing.
The air seemed to Robert to grow darker, though he was not sure whether it was due to his imagination or to the closing in of the forests and mountains. At the same time a chill ran through his blood, a chill of alarm, and he knew instinctively that it was with good cause.
"Look at the great sachem!" suddenly exclaimed Tayoga.
Hendrik, loyal friend of the Americans and English, had reined in his horse, and his old eyes were peering into the thicket on his left, the mass of Mohawks behind him also stopping, because they knew their venerable leader would give no alarm in vain. Tayoga, Robert, Grosvenor and the Philadelphians stopped also, their eyes riveted on Hendrik. Robert's heart beat hard, and millions of motes danced in the air before his eyes.
The sachem suddenly threw up one hand in warning, and with the other pulled back his horse. The next instant a single rifle cracked in the thicket, but in a few seconds it was followed by the crashing fire of hundreds. Many of the Mohawks fell, a terrible lane was cut through the ranks of the Colonials, and the bullets whistled about the heads of the Philadelphia troop.
"The ambush!" cried Robert.
"The ambush!" echoed the Philadelphians.
Tayoga uttered a groan. His eyes had seen a sight they did not wish to see, however much he may have spoken of a glorious death for the old on the battlefield. Hendrik's horse had fallen beneath the leader, but the old chief leaped to his feet. Before he could turn a French soldier rushed up and killed him with a bayonet. Thus died a great and wise sachem, a devoted friend of the Americans, who had warned them in vain against marching into a trap, but who, nevertheless, in the very moment of his death, had saved them from going so completely into the trap that its last bar could close down.
A mighty wail arose from the Mohawks when they saw their venerated leader fall, but the wail merged into a fierce cry for vengeance, to which the ambushed French and Indians replied with shouts of exultation and increased their fire, every tree and bush and rock and log hiding a marksman.
"Give back!" shouted Tayoga to those around him. "Give back for your lives!"
The Mohawks and the frontiersmen alike saw they must slip from the trap, which they had half entered, if they were not to perish as Braddock's army had perished, and like good foresters they fell back without hesitation, pouring volley after volley into the woods and thickets where French and Indians still lay hidden. Yet the mortality among them was terrible. Colonel Williams noted a rising ground on their right, and led his men up the slope, but as they reached the summit he fell dead, shot through the brain. A new and terrible fire was poured upon his troops there from the bordering forest, and, unable to withstand it, they broke and began to retreat in confusion.
The young Philadelphians, with Robert, Tayoga and Grosvenor, rushed to their aid, and they were followed swiftly by the other regiment under Whiting. Yet it seemed that they would be cut to pieces when Robert suddenly heard a tremendous war cry from a voice he thought he knew, and looking back, he saw Daganoweda, the Mohawk, rushing into the battle.
The young chieftain looked a very god of war, his eyes glittering, the feathers in his headdress waving defiantly, the blade of his tomahawk flashing with light, when he swung it aloft. Now and then his lips opened as he let loose the tremendous war cry of the Ganeagaono. Close behind him crowded the warriors who had survived the combat with St. Luc, and there were Black Rifle, Willet, Rogers and the rangers, too, come just in time, with their stout hearts and strong arms to help stay the battle.
Robert himself uttered a shout of joy and the dark eyes of Tayoga glowed. But from the Mohawks of Hendrik came a mighty, thrilling cry when they saw the rush of their brethren under Daganoweda to their aid. Hendrik had fallen, and he had been a great and a wise sachem who would be missed long by his nation, but Daganoweda was left, a young chief, a very thunderbolt in battle, and the fire from his own ardent spirit was communicated to theirs. Willet, Black Rifle and the rangers were also pillars of strength, and the whole force, rallying, turned to meet the foe.
The French and Indians, sure now of a huge triumph, were rushing from their coverts to complete it, to drive the fugitives in panic and turmoil upon the main camp, where Johnson had remained for the present, and then to annihilate him and his force too. Above the almost continuous and appalling yells of the savages the French trumpets sang the song of victory, and the German baron who led them felt that he already clutched laurels as great as those belonging to the men who had defeated Braddock.
But the triumphant sweep of the Northern allies was suddenly met by a deadly fire from Mohawks, rangers and Colonials. Daganoweda and his men, tomahawk in hand, leaped upon the van of the French Indians and drove them back. The rangers and the frontiersmen, sheltering themselves behind logs and tree trunks, picked off the French regulars and the Canadians as they advanced. A bullet from the deadly barrel of Black Rifle slew Legardeur de St. Pierre, who led Dieskau's Indians, and whom they always trusted. The savage mass, wholly triumphant a minute ago, gave back, and the panic among the Mohawks and Colonials was stopped.
When St. Pierre fell Robert saw a gallant figure appear in his place, a figure taller and younger, none other than St. Luc himself, the Chevalier, arriving in time to help his own, just as Daganoweda, Willet and the others had come in time to aid theirs. The Chevalier was unhurt, and while one dauntless leader had fallen, another as brave and perhaps more skillful had taken his place. Robert saw him raise a whistle to his lips, and at its clear, piercing call, heard clearly above the crash of the battle, the Indians, turning, attacked anew and with yet greater impetuosity.
The smoke from so much firing was growing very thick, but through it the regulars of the regiments, Languedoc and La Reine, in their white uniforms, could be seen advancing, with the dark mass of the Canadians on one flank and the naked and painted Indians on the other, confident now that their check had been but momentary, and that the victory would yet be utter and complete.
Nevertheless, the Colonials and the Mohawks had rallied, order was restored, and while they were giving ground they were retreating in good formation, and with the rapid fire of their rifles were making the foe pay dearly for his advance.
Grosvenor had snatched up a rifle and ammunition from a fallen man, and was pulling trigger as fast as he could reload. His face was covered with smoke, perspiration and the stains of burned gunpowder, the whole forming a kind of brown mask, through which his eyes, nevertheless, gleamed with a dauntless light.
"It won't be Duquesne over again! It won't be! It won't be!" he repeated to all the world.
"But if you're not more careful you'll never know anything about it!" exclaimed Robert, as he grasped him suddenly by the coat and pulled him down behind a log, a half dozen musket balls whistling the next moment where his body had been. Grosvenor, in the moment of turmoil and excitement, did not forget to be grateful.
"Thanks, my dear fellow," he said to Robert. "I'll do as much for you some time."
Robert was about to reply, but a joyous shout from the rear stopped him. Over a hill behind them a strong body of provincials appeared coming to help. Waraiyageh in his camp had received news of ambush and battle, and knowing that his men must be in desperate case had hurried forward relief. Never was a force more welcome. Along the retreating line ran a welcoming shout, and all facing about as if by a single order, they gave the pursuing French and Indians a tremendous volley.
Robert saw regulars, Canadians and Indians drop as if smitten by a thunderbolt, and the whole pursuing army, reeling back, stopped. Then he heard the French trumpets again, and waiting behind the log, he saw that the hostile array was no longer advancing. The trumpets of Dieskau were sounding the recall, for the time, at least. Robert did not know until afterward that the Indian allies of the French had suffered so much that they were wavering, and not even the eloquence and example of St. Luc could persuade them, for the time being, to continue such a dangerous pursuit.
A few minutes of precious rest were allowed to the harried vanguard of Johnson, and now, holding their fire for a time when it would be needed more, the men continued to fall back toward the main camp, from which they had so recently come. The crash of rifles and muskets sank, but both sides were merely preparing for a new battle. Robert examined himself carefully, but found no trace of a wound.
"How is it with you, Tayoga?" he asked.
"Tododaho and Areskoui have protected me once more," replied the Onondaga. "The exertion has made my shoulder stiff and sore a little, but I have taken no fresh hurt."
"And you, Grosvenor?"
"My head is thumping at a terrible rate, but I feel that it will soon become quieter."
"Its ability to thump shows that you're full of life. How about your men, Captain Colden?"
"Four of my brave lads are sped. God rest their souls! They died in a good cause. Some of the others are wounded, but we won't count wounds now."
Robert was still able to see the indistinct figures of the French and Indians, through the clouds of smoke that hung between the two armies, but he saw also that they were not pursuing. At the distance he heard no sounds from them, and he presumed they were gathering up their dead and wounded, preparing for the new attack that would surely come.
"I was not in the first battle, but I will be in the second," a youthful voice said beside him, and he saw the Mohawk boy, Joseph Brant, his face glowing.
"We heard the firing," continued the boy, "and Colonel Johnson hurried forward a force, as you know. We are almost back at the camp now."
Robert had taken no notice of distance, but facing about, he saw the main camp not far away. Lucky it was for them that Waraiyageh and his officers were men of experience. They had sent enough men to help the vanguard break from the trap, but they had retained the majority, and had made them fortify with prodigious energy. A barricade of wagons, inverted boats, and trees hastily cut down had been built across the front. Three cannon were planted in the center, where it was expected the main Indian and French force would appear, and another was dragged to the crest of a hill to rake their flank.
The retreating force uttered a tremendous shout as they saw how their comrades had prepared for them, and then, in good order, sought the shelter of the barricade, where they were welcomed by those who had not yet been in battle.
"Get fresh breath while you may!" exclaimed Tayoga, as he threw himself down on the ground. "The delay will not be long. Sharp Sword will drive the warriors forward, and the regulars and Canadians will charge. It will be a great battle, and a desperate one, nor does Tododaho yet whisper to me which side will win."
Robert and his comrades breathed heavily for a while, until they felt new strength pouring back into their veins. Then they rose, looked to their arms and took their place in the line of battle. The trumpets of Dieskau were sounding again in the forest in front of them, and the new attack was at hand.
"Keep close, Grosvenor," said Robert. "They'll fire the first volley and we'll let it pass over our heads."
"I know the wisdom of what you say," replied the Englishman, "but it's hard to refrain from looking when you know a French army and a mass of howling savages are about to rush down upon you."
"But one must, if he intends to live and fight."
Clear and full sang the trumpets of Dieskau once more. Despite his advice to Grosvenor, Robert peeped over the log and saw the enemy gathering in the forest. The French regulars were in front, behind them the Canadians, and on the flanks hovered great masses of savages. Smoke floated over trees and bushes, and the forest was full of acrid odors. Far to the right he caught another glimpse of St. Luc in his splendid white and silver uniform, marshaling the Indians, a shining mark, but apparently untouched.
"The attack will be fierce," whispered Tayoga, who lay on his left. "They consider their check a matter of but a moment, and they think to sweep over us."
"But we have hundreds and hundreds of good rifles that say them nay. Is Tododaho still silent, Tayoga?"
The Onondaga looked up at the heavens, where the deep blue, beyond the smoke, was unstained. There was the corner, where the star, on which his patron saint lived, came out at night, but no light shone from the silky void and no whisper reached his ear. So he said in reply:
"The great Onondaga chieftain who went away four hundred years ago is silent today, and we must await the event."
"We won't have to wait long, because I hear a single trumpet now, and to me it sounds wonderfully like the call to charge."
The silver note thrilled through the woods, the French regulars and Canadians uttered a shout, which was followed instantly by the terrible yell of the Indians, and then the thickets crashed beneath the tread of the attacking army.
"Here they come!" shouted Grosvenor, and, laying his rifle across the log, he fired almost at random into the charging mass. Robert and Tayoga picked their targets, and their bullets sped true. All along the American line ran the fierce fire, the crest of the whole barricade blazing with red, while the artillery, which the savages always dreaded, opened on them with showers of grape.
The Indians, despite all the bravery and example of St. Luc, wavered, and, as their dead fell around them, they began to give forth laments, instead of triumphant yells. But the regulars in the center, led by Dieskau, came on as steadily as ever, and the little group behind the log, of which Tayoga and Robert were the leading spirits, turned their rifles upon them. Robert presently heard a youthful shout of exultation at the far end of the log, and he saw the boy, Joseph Brant, reloading the rifle which he had fired in his first battle. The French regulars suddenly stopped, and Grosvenor cried:
"It will be no Duquesne! No Duquesne again!"
The French were not withdrawing. Upon that field, as well as every other in North America, they showed that they were the bravest of the brave. Wheeling his regulars and Canadians to the right, Dieskau sought to crush there the three American regiments of Titcomb, Ruggles and Williams, and for an hour the battle at that point swayed to and fro, often almost hand to hand. Titcomb was slain and many of his officers fell, but when Dieskau himself came into view an American rifleman shot him through the leg. His adjutant, a gallant young officer named Montreuil, although wounded himself, rushed from cover, seized his wounded chief in his arms and bore him to the shelter of a tree.
But he was not safe long even there. While they were washing his wounds he was struck again by two bullets, in the knee and in the thigh. Two Canadians attempted to carry him to the rear. One was killed instantly, and Montreuil took his place, but Dieskau made them put him down and directed the adjutant to lead the French again in a desperate charge to regain a day that had started so brilliantly, and that now seemed to be wavering in the balance.
Colonel Johnson himself had been wounded severely, and had been compelled to retire to his tent, but the American colonels, at least those who survived, conducted the battle with skill and valor. The cannon, protected by the riflemen, still sent showers of grape shot among the French and Indians. The huge Tandakora with St. Luc tried to lead the savages anew upon the American lines, but the hearts of the red men failed them.
The French regulars, urged on by Montreuil, charged once more, and once more were driven back, and the Americans, rising from their logs and coverts, rushed forward in their turn. The regulars and Canadians were driven back in a rout, and Dieskau himself lying among the bushes was taken, being carried to the tent of Johnson, where the two wounded commanders, captor and captive, talked politely of many things.
The victory became more complete than the Americans had hoped. The Indians who had stayed far in the rear to scalp those fallen in the morning were attacked suddenly by a band of frontiersmen, coming to join Johnson's army, and, although they fought desperately and were superior in numbers, they were routed as Dieskau had been, the survivors fleeing into the forest.
Thus, late in the afternoon, closed the momentous battle of Lake George. The French and Indian power had received a terrible blow, the whole course of the war, which before had been only a triumphant march for the enemy, was changed, and men took heart anew as the news spread through all the British colonies.
When Dieskau's regulars, the Canadians and the Indians, broke in the great defeat, Robert, Tayoga, Willet, Grosvenor, the Philadelphia troop, Black Rifle and Daganoweda, all fierce with exultation, followed in pursuit. But the enemy melted away before them, and then, from the crest of a hill, Robert heard the distant note of a French song he knew:
Hier, sur le pont d'Avignon J'ai oui chanter la belle Lon, la, J'ai oui chanter la belle, Elle chantait d'un ton si doux Comme une demoiselle Lon, la, Comme une demoiselle.
"At least he has escaped," said Robert.
"The bullet that kills him is not molded and never will be," said Tayoga.
"How do you know?" asked Willet, startled.
"Because Tododaho has whispered it to me. I heard his voice in the breath of the wind as we pursued through the forest."
Robert caught a glimpse of St. Luc, in his uniform of white and silver, still apparently unstained, erect and defiant. Then he disappeared and they heard only the singing of the wind among the leaves.