The Rulers of the Lakes by Joseph A. Altsheler
Chapter V. Gathering Forces
The eyes of all the warlike young men now turned northward. The people whom they had rescued scattered among their relatives and friends, awaiting the time when they could return to the wilderness, and rebuild their homes there, but Colden, Wilton, Carson and their troop were eager for service with Colonel William Johnson. In time orders arrived from the Governor of Pennsylvania, directing them to join the force that was being raised in the province of New York to meet the onrush of the savages and the French, and they rejoiced. Meanwhile Robert, Tayoga and Willet made a short stay at Mount Johnson, and in the company of its hospitable owner and his wife refreshed themselves after their great hardships and dangers.
Colonel Johnson's activities as a host did not make him neglect his duties as a commander. Without military experience, save that recently acquired in border war, he nevertheless showed indomitable energy as a leader, and his bluff, hearty manner endeared him to Colonials and Mohawks alike. A great camp had been formed on the low grounds by Albany, and Robert and his comrades in time proceeded there, where a numerous force of men from New York and New England and many Mohawks were gathered. It was their plan to march against the great French fortress of Crown Point on Lake Champlain, which Robert heard would be defended by a formidable French and Indian army under Baron Dieskau, an elderly Saxon in the French service.
Robert also heard that St. Luc was with Dieskau, and that he was leading daring raids against little bands of militia on their way from New England to the camp near Albany. Two were practically destroyed, half of their numbers being killed, while the rest were sent as prisoners into Canada. Two more succeeded in beating off the Frenchman, though with large loss, but he was recognized by everybody as a great danger, and Daganoweda and the best of the Mohawks went forth to meet him.
Rogers with his partisan band and Black Rifle also disappeared in the wilderness, and Robert looked longingly after them, but he and his friends were still held at the Albany camp, as the march of the army was delayed, owing to the fact that five provincial governors, practically independent of one another, had a hand in its management, and they could not agree upon a plan. Braddock's great defeat had a potent influence in the north, and now they were all for caution.
While they delayed Robert went into Albany one bright morning to see Mynheer Jacobus Huysman, who showed much anxiety about him these days. The little Dutch city looked its best, a comfortable place on its hills, inhabited by comfortable people, but swarming now with soldiers and even with Mohawks, all of whom brought much business to the thrifty burghers. Albany had its profit out of everything, the river commerce, the fur trade, and war itself.
Robert, as he walked along, watched with interest the crowd which was, in truth, cosmopolitan, despite the smallness of the place. Some of the Colonials had uniforms of blue faced with red, of which they were very proud, but most of them were in the homespun attire of every day. They were armed with their own rifles. Only the English had bayonets so far. The Americans instead carried hatchets or tomahawks at their belts, and the hatchet had many uses. Every man also carried a big jack or clasp knife which, too, had its many uses.
The New Englanders, who were most numerous in the camp, were of pure British blood, a race that had become in the American climate tall, thin and very muscular, enduring of body and tenacious of spirit, religious, ambitious, thinking much of both worldly gain and the world hereafter. Among them moved the people of Dutch blood from the province of New York, generally short and fat like their ancestors, devoted to good living, cheerful in manner, but hard and unscrupulous in their dealing with the Indians, and hence a menace to the important alliance with the Hodenosaunee.
There were the Germans, also, most of them descendants of the fugitives from the Palatinate, after it had been ravaged by the generals of Louis XIV, a quiet, humble people, industrious, honest, sincerely religious, low at present in the social scale, and patronized by the older families of English or Dutch blood, perhaps not dreaming that their race would become some day the military terror of the world.
The Mohawks, who passed freely through the throng, were its most picturesque feature. The world bred no more haughty savages than they. Tall men, with high cheek bones, and fierce eyes, they wore little clothing in the summer weather, save now and then a blanket of brilliant color for the sake of adornment. There were also some Onondagas, as proud as the Mohawks, but not so fierce.
A few Virginians and Marylanders, come to cooperate with the northern forces, were present, and they, like the New Englanders, were of pure British blood. Now and then a Swede, broad of face, from the Jersey settlements could be seen, and there was scarcely a nation in western Europe that did not have at least one representative in the streets of Albany.
It pleased Robert to see the great variety of the throng. It made a deep impression upon his imaginative mind. Already he foresaw the greatness of America, when these races were blended in a land of infinite resources. But such thoughts were driven from his mind by a big figure that loomed before him and a hearty voice that saluted him.
"Day dreaming, Master Lennox?" said the voice. "One does not have much time for dreams now, when the world is so full of action."
It was none other than Master Benjamin Hardy, portly, rubicund, richly but quietly dressed in dark broadcloth, dark silk stockings and shoes of Spanish leather with large silver buckles. Robert was unaffectedly glad to see him, and they shook hands with warmth.
"I did not know that you were in Albany," said young Lennox.
"But I knew that you were here," said Master Hardy.
"I haven't your great resources for collecting knowledge."
"A story reached me in New York concerning the gallant conduct of one Robert Lennox on the retreat from Fort Refuge, and I wished to come here myself and see if it be true."
"I did no better than a hundred others. How is the wise Master Jonathan Pillsbury?"
"As wise as ever. He earnestly urged me, when I departed for this town, not to be deceived by the glamour of the military. 'Bear in mind, Master Benjamin,' he said, 'that you and I have been associates many years, and your true path is that of commerce and gain. The march and the battlefield are not for you any more than they are for me.' Wise words and true, and it was not for me to gainsay them. So I gave him my promise that I would not march with this brave expedition to the lakes."
The merchant's words were whimsical, but Robert felt that he was examining him with critical looks, and he felt, too, that a protecting influence was once more about him. He could not doubt that Master Hardy was his sincere friend, deeply interested in him. He had given too many proofs of it, and a sudden curiosity about his birth, forgotten amid the excitement of continued action, rose anew. He was about to ask questions, but he remembered that they would not be answered, and so he held his peace, while the merchant walked on with him toward the house of Mynheer Jacobus Huysman.
"You are bent upon going with the army?" said Mr. Hardy. "Haven't you had enough of battle? There was a time, after the news of Braddock's defeat came, when I feared that you had fallen, but a message sent by the young Englishman, Grosvenor, told me you were safe, and I was very thankful. It is natural for the young to seek what they call adventure, and to serve their country, but you have done much already, Robert. You might go with me now to New York, and still feel that you are no shirker."
"You are most kind, Mr. Hardy. I believe that next to Willet and Tayoga you are the greatest and best of my friends. Why, I know not, nor do I ask now, but the fact is patent, and I thank you many times over, although I can't accept your offer. I'm committed to this expedition and there my heart lies, too. Willet and Tayoga go with it. So do Black Rifle and Rogers, I think, and Colonel Johnson, who is also my good friend, is to lead it. I couldn't stay behind and consider myself a true man."
Master Benjamin Hardy sighed.
"Doubtless you are right, Robert," he said, "and perhaps at your age I should have taken the same view, despite Jonathan's assertion that my true ways are the ways of commerce and gain. Nevertheless, my interest in this struggle is great. It is bound to be since it means vast changes in the colonies, whatever its result."
"What changes do you have in mind, Mr. Hardy?"
"Mental changes more than any other, Robert. The war in its sweep bids fair to take in almost all the civilized world we know. We are the outpost of Britain, Canada is the outpost of France, and in a long and desperate strife such as this promises to be we are sure to achieve greater mental stature, and to arrive at a more acute consciousness of our own strength and resources. Beyond that I don't care to predict. But come, lad, we'll not talk further of such grave matters, you and I. Instead we'll have a pleasant hour with Mynheer Jacobus Huysman, a man of no mean quality, as you know."
Mynheer Jacobus was at home, and he gave them a great welcome, glancing at one and at the other, and then back again, apparently rejoiced to see them together.
Then he ordered a huge repast, of which they ate bountifully, and upon which he made heavy inroads himself. When the demands of hospitality were somewhat satisfied, he put aside knife and fork, and said to Mr. Hardy:
"And now, old friend, it iss no impertinence on my part to ask what hass brought you to Albany."
Master Benjamin, who was gravely filling a pipe, lighted it, took one puff, and replied:
"No, Jacobus, it is no impertinence. No question that you might ask me could be an impertinence. You and I are old friends, and I think we understand each other. I have to say in reply that I have come here on a matter of army contracts, to get a clearer and better view of the war which is going to mean so much to all of us, and to attend to one or two matters personal to myself."
Robert, excusing himself, had risen and was looking out of a window at a passing company of soldiers. Mynheer Jacobus glanced at him and then glanced back at the merchant.
"It iss a good lad," he said, "und you watch over him as well as you can."
"Aye, I do my best," replied Hardy in the same subdued tones, "but he is bold of spirit, full of imagination and adventurous, and, though I would fain keep him out of the war, I cannot. Yet if I were his age I would go into it myself."
"It iss the way of youth. He lives in times troubled und full of danger, yet he hass in the hunter, Willet, and the Onondaga, Tayoga, friends who are a flaming sword on each side of him. Willet hass a great mind. He iss as brave as a lion und full of resource."
"Right well do I know it, Jacobus."
"And the young Onondaga, Tayoga, is of the antique mold. Do I not know it, I who haf taught him so long? Often I could think he was a young Greek or Roman of the best type, reincarnated und sent to the forest. He does haf the lofty nature, the noble character und simplicity of a young Roman of the republic, before it was corrupted by conquest. I tell you, Benjamin Hardy, that we do not value the red men at their true worth, especially those of the Hodenosaunee!"
"Right well do I know that, too, Jacobus. I had a fair reading in the classics, when I was a schoolboy, and I should call the lad, Tayoga, more Greek in spirit than Roman. I have found in him the spiritual quality, the love of beauty and the kindliness of soul which the books say the Greeks had and which the Romans lacked."
"It iss fairly put, Benjamin, und I bethink me you are right. But there iss one thing which you do not know, but which you ought to know, because it iss of much importance."
"What is it?" asked Hardy, impressed by the manner of Jacobus.
"It iss the fact that Adrian Van Zoon arrived in Albany this morning."
The merchant started slightly in surprise, and then his face became a mask.
"Adrian Van Zoon is a merchant like myself," he said. "He has a right to come to Albany. Perhaps he feels the necessity, too, as no doubt he is interested in large contracts for the army."
"It iss true, Benjamin, but you und I would rather he had not come. He arrived but this morning on his own sloop, the Dirkhoeven, und I feel that wherever Adrian Van Zoon iss the air becomes noxious, full of poisonous vapors und dangerous to those about him."
"You're right, Jacobus. I see that your faculties are as keen as ever. You can see through a mill stone, and you can put together much larger figures than two and two."
Mynheer Jacobus smiled complacently.
"I haf not yet reached my zenith," he said, "und I am very glad I am not yet an old man, because I am so full of curiosity."
"I don't take your meaning, Jacobus."
"I would not like to die before this great und long war iss ended because I wish to see how it does end. Und I want to see the nature of the mighty changes which I feel are coming in the world."
"What changes, for instance, Jacobus?"
"The action of the New World upon the Old, und the action of the old monarchies upon one another. All things change, Benjamin. You und I know that. The veil of majesty that wraps around kings und thrones iss not visible to us here in der American forest, und maybe for dot reason we see the changes coming in Europe better than those who are closer by. France is the oldest of all the old und great monarchies und for dot reason the French monarchy iss most overripe. Steeped in luxury und corruption, the day of its decay hass set in."
"But the French people are valiant and great, Jacobus. Think not that we have in them a weak antagonist."
"I said nothing of the French nation, Benjamin, mein friend. I spoke of the French throne. The French leaders in Canada are brave und enterprising. They will inflict on us many defeats, but the French throne will not give to them the support to which they as Frenchmen are entitled."
"You probably see the truth, Jacobus, and it's to our advantage. Perhaps 'tis better that the French throne should decay. But we'll return to affairs closer by. You've had Van Zoon watched?"
"My stable boy, Peter, hass not let him out of sight, since he landed from the Dirkhoeven. Peter is not a lad of brilliant appearance, which iss perhaps all the better for our purpose, but he will keep Van Zoon in sight, if it iss humanly possible, without being himself suspected."
"Well done, Jacobus, but I might have known that you would take all needful precautions."
Robert came back from the window, and they promptly changed the current of the talk, speaking now of the army, its equipment, and the probable time of its march to meet Dieskau. Presently they left Mynheer Huysman's house, and Robert and the merchant went toward the camp on the flats. Here they beheld a scene of great activity and of enormous interest to Robert.
Few stranger armies have ever been gathered than that which Colonel William Johnson was preparing to lead against Crown Point. The New Englanders brought with them all their characteristics, their independence, their love of individualism and their piety. Despite this piety it was an army that swore hugely, and, despite its huge swearing, it was an honest army. It survives in written testimony that the greatest swearers were from the provinces of New York and Rhode Island, and Colonel Ephraim Williams, an officer among them writing at the time, said that the language they most used was "the language of Hell." And, on the other hand, a New York officer testified that not a housewife in Albany or its suburbs could mourn the loss of a single chicken. Private property everywhere was absolutely safe, and, despite the oaths and rough appearance of the men, no woman was ever insulted.
"They're having prayer meeting now," said Mr. Hardy, as they came upon the flats. "I've learned they have sermons twice a week--their ministers came along with them--prayers every day, and the singing of songs many times. They often alternate the psalm singing with the military drill, but I'm not one to decry their observances. Religious fervor is a great thing in battle. It made the Ironsides of Cromwell invincible."
Five hundred voices, nearly all untrained, were chanting a hymn. They were the voices of farmers and frontiersmen, but the great chorus had volume and majesty, and Robert was not one to depreciate them. Instead he was impressed. He understood the character of both New Englanders and New Yorkers. Keen for their own, impatient of control, they were nevertheless capable of powerful collective effort. A group of Mohawks standing by were also watching with grave and serious attention. When they raised a chant to Manitou they demanded the utmost respect, and they gave it also, without the asking, to the white man when he sang in his own way to his own God.
It was when they turned back to the town that they were hailed in a joyous voice, and Robert beheld the young English officer, Grosvenor, whom he had known in New York, Grosvenor, a little thinner than of old, but more tanned and with an air of experience. His pleasure at meeting Robert again was great and unaffected. He shook hands with him warmly and exclaimed:
"When I last saw you, Lennox, it was at the terrible forest fight, where we learned our bitter lesson. I saw that you escaped, but I did not know what became of you afterward."
"I've had adventures, and I'll tell you of 'em later," said Robert. "Glad I am to see you, although I had not heard of your coming to Albany."
"I arrived but this morning. No British troops are here. I understand this army is to be composed wholly of Colonials--pardon the word, I use it for lack of a better--and of Mohawks. But I was able to secure in New York a detail on the staff of Colonel Johnson. My position perhaps will be rather that of an observer and representative of the regular troops, but I hope, nevertheless, to be of some service. I suppose I won't see as much of you as I would like, as you're likely to be off in the forest in front of the army with those scouting friends of yours."
"It's what we can do best," said Robert, "but if there's a victory ahead I hope we'll all be present when it's gained."
Jacobus Huysman insisted that all his old friends be quartered with him, while they were in Albany, and as there was little at present for Grosvenor to do, he was added by arrangement with Colonel Johnson to the group. They sat that evening on the portico in the summer dusk, and Master Alexander McLean, the schoolmaster, joined them, still regarding Robert and Tayoga as lads under his care, and soon including Grosvenor also. But the talk was pleasant, and they were deep in it when a man passed in the street and a shadow fell upon them all.
It was Adrian Van Zoon, heavy, dressed richly as usual, and carrying a large cane, with a gold head. To the casual eye he was a man of importance, aware of his dignity, and resolute in the maintenance of it. He bowed with formal politeness to the group upon the portico, and walked majestically on. Mynheer Jacobus watched him until he was out of sight, going presumably to his inn, and then his eyes began to search for another figure. Presently it appeared, lank, long and tow-headed, the boy, Peter, of whom he had spoken. Mynheer Huysman introduced him briefly to the others, and he responded, in every case, with a pull at a long lock on his forehead. His superficial appearance was that of a simpleton, but Robert noticed sharp, observant eyes under the thick eyebrows. Mynheer Jacobus, Willet and Master Hardy, excusing themselves for a few minutes, went into an inner room.
"What has Mynheer Van Zoon been doing, Peter?" asked Jacobus.
"He has talked with three contractors for the army," replied the lad. "He also had a short conversation with Colonel Ephraim Williams of the Massachusetts militia."
"Williams is a thoroughly honest man," said Mr. Hardy. "His talk with Van Zoon could only have been on legitimate business. We'll dismiss him. What more have you seen, Peter?"
"Late in the afternoon he went to his schooner, the Dirkhoeven, which is anchored in the river. I could not follow him there, but I saw him speaking on the deck to a man who did not look like a sailor. They were there only a minute, then they went into the cabin, and when Mynheer Van Zoon came ashore he came alone."
"And the man who did not look like a sailor was left on the ship. It may mean nothing, or it may mean anything, but my mind tells me it hath an unpleasant significance. Now, I wish I knew this man who is lying hid in the Dirkhoeven. Perhaps it would be better, Jacobus, to instruct Peter to follow the lad, Lennox, and give the alarm if any threat or menace appears."
"I think it is the wiser course, Benjamin, and I will even instruct Peter in such manner."
He spoke a few sentences to Peter, who listened with eagerness, apparently delighted with the task set for him. When Mynheer Huysman had finished the lad slipped out at a back door, and was gone like a shadow.
"An admirable youth for our purpose," said Mynheer Jacobus Huysman. "He likes not work, but if he is to watch or follow anyone he hangs on like a hound. In Albany he will become the second self of young Lennox, whose first self will not know that he has a second self."
They returned to the portico. Robert glanced curiously at them, but not one of the three offered any explanation. He knew, however, that their guarded talk with Peter had to do with himself, and he felt a great emotion of gratitude. If he was surrounded by dangers he was also surrounded by powerful friends. If chance had put him on the outskirts of the world it had also given him comrades who were an armor of steel about him.
Tayoga and he occupied their old bedroom at Mynheer Jacobus Huysman's that night, and once when Robert glanced out of the window he caught a glimpse of a dark figure lurking in the shrubbery. It was a man who did not look like a sailor, but as he did not know of the conversation in the inner room the shadow attracted little attention from him. It disappeared in an instant, and he thought no more about it.
Robert and his comrades were back in the camp next day, and now they saw Colonel Johnson at his best, a man of wonderful understanding and tact. He was soon able to break through the reserve of the New England citizen officers who were not wont to give their confidence in a hurry, and around great bowls of lemon punch they talked of the campaign. The Mohawks, as of old, told him all their grievances, which he remedied when just, and persuaded them into forgetting when unjust.
Robert, Tayoga and Willet, in their capacity of scouts and skirmishers, could go about practically as they pleased. Colonel Johnson trusted them absolutely and they talked of striking out into the wilderness on a new expedition to see what lay ahead of the army. Adrian Van Zoon, they learned definitely, had started for New York on the Dirkhoeven, and Robert felt relief. Yet the lank lad, Peter, still followed him, and, as had been predicted truly, was his second self, although his first self did not know it.
He had been at Albany several days when he returned alone from the flats to the town late one evening. At a dark turn in the road he heard a report, and a bullet whistled very near him. It was followed quickly by a second report, but not by the whistling of any bullet. He had a pair of pistols in his belt, and, taking out one and cocking it, he searched the woods, though he found nothing. He concluded then that it was a random bullet fired by some returning hunter, and that the second shot was doubtless of the same character. But the first hunter had been uncommonly careless and he hastened his steps from a locality which had been so dangerous, even accidentally.
Inured, however, as he was to risks, the incident soon passed entirely out of his mind. Yet an hour or two later the lad, Peter, sat in a back room with Mynheer Jacobus Huysman, and told him with relish of the occurrence at the dark turn of the road.
"I was fifty or sixty yards behind in the shadow of the trees," he said. "I could see Master Lennox very well, though he could not see me. The figure of a man appeared in the woods near me and aimed a pistol at Master Lennox. I could not see his face well, but I knew it was the man on the boat who was talking to Mynheer Van Zoon. I uttered a cry which did not reach Master Lennox, but which did reach the man with the pistol. It disturbed his aim, and his bullet flew wide. Then I fired at him, but if I touched him at all it was but lightly. He made off through the woods and I followed, but his speed was so great I could not overtake him."
"You haf done well, Peter. Doubtless you haf saved the life of young Master Lennox, which was the task set for you to do. But it iss not enough. You may haf to save it a second und yet a third time."
The pale blue eyes of Peter glistened. Obviously he liked his present task much better than the doing of chores.
"You can trust me, Mynheer Huysman," he said importantly. "I will guard him, and I will do more. Is there anybody you want killed?"
"No, no, you young savage! You are to shoot only in self-defense, or in defense of young Lennox whom you are to protect. Bear that in mind."
"Very well, Mynheer. Your orders are law to me."
Peter went out of the room and slid away in the darkness. Mynheer Jacobus Huysman watched his departure and sighed. He was a good man, averse to violence and bloodshed, and he murmured:
"The world iss in a fever. The nations fight among themselves und even the lads talk lightly of taking life."
Peter reported to him again the next night, when Robert was safely in bed.
"I followed Master Lennox to the parade ground again," he said. "The Onondaga, Tayoga, the hunter, Willet, and the Englishman, Grosvenor, were with him. They watched the drill for a while, and spoke with Colonel Johnson. Then Master Lennox wandered away alone to the north edge of the drill ground, where there are some woods. Since I have received your instructions, Mynheer, I always examine the woods, and I found in them a man who might have been in hiding, or who might have been lying there for the sake of the shade, only I am quite sure it was not the latter. Just when Master Lennox came into his view I spoke to him, and he seemed quite angry. He asked me impatiently to go away, but I stood by and talked to him until Master Lennox was far out of sight."
"You saw the man well, then, Peter?"
"I did, Mynheer Huysman, and I cannot be mistaken. It was the same that talked with Mynheer Van Zoon on the deck of the Dirkkoeven."
"I thought so. And what kind of a looking man was he, Peter?"
"About thirty, I should say, Mynheer, well built and strong, and foreign."
"Foreign! What mean you, Peter?"
"What? French of France or French of Canada?"
"That I cannot say with certainty, Mynheer, but French he was I do believe and maintain."
"Then he must be a spy as well as a threat to young Lennox. This goes deeper than I had thought, but you haf done your work well, Peter. Continue it."
He held out a gold coin, which Peter pocketed with thanks, and went forth the next morning to resume with a proud heart the task that he liked.
Robert, all unconscious that a faithful guardian was always at his heels, was passing days full of color, variety and pleasure. Admission into the society of Albany was easy to one of his manner and appearance, who had also such powerful friends, and there were pleasant evenings in the solid Dutch houses. But he knew they could not last long. Daganoweda and a chosen group of his Mohawks came back, reporting the French and Indian force to be far larger than the one that had defeated Braddock by Duquesne, and that Baron Dieskau who led it was considered a fine general. Unless Waraiyageh made up his mind to strike quickly Dieskau would strike first.
The new French and Indian army, Daganoweda said, numbered eight thousand men, a great force for the time, and for the New World, and it would be both preceded and followed by clouds of skirmishers, savages from the regions of the Great Lakes and even from beyond. They were flushed with victory, with the mighty taking of scalps, at Braddock's defeat, and they expected here in the north a victory yet greater. They were already assuming control of Champlain and George, the two lakes which from time immemorial, long before the coming of the white man, had formed the line of march between what had become the French colonies and the British colonies. It was equally vital now to possess this passage. Whoever became the rulers of the lakes might determine in their favor the issue of the war in America, and the youths in Johnson's army were eager to go forward at once and fight for the coveted positions.
But further delay was necessary. The commander still had the difficult task of harmonizing the provincial governors and legislatures, and he also made many presents to the Indians to bind them to the cause. Five of the Six Nations, alarmed by the French successes and the slowness of the Americans and English, still held neutral, but the Mohawks were full of zeal, and the best of their young chiefs and warriors stood by Johnson, ready to march when he marched, and to cover his van with their skirmishers and patrols.
Meanwhile the army drilled incessantly. The little troop of Philadelphians under Colden, Wilton and Carson were an example. They had seen much hard service already, although they spoke modestly of the dangers over which they had triumphed in the forest. It was their pride, too, to keep their uniforms neat, and to be as soldierly in manner as possible. They had the look of regulars, and Grosvenor, the young Englishman who had been taken on Colonel Johnson's staff, spoke of them as such.
New York and the four New England Colonies, whatever their lack of cooperation, showed energy. The governors issued proclamations, and if not enough men came, more were drafted from the regiments of militia. Bounties of six dollars for every soldier were offered by Massachusetts, and that valiant colony, as usual, led the way in energy.
They were full days for Robert. He listened almost incessantly to the sound of drum and fife, the drill master's word of command, or to voices raised in prayer, preaching or the singing of psalms. Recruits were continually coming in, awkward plowboys, but brave and enduring, waiting only to be taught. Master Benjamin Hardy was compelled to return to New York, departing with reluctance and holding an earnest conference with Mynheer Jacobus Huysman before he went.
"The man, who is most certainly a French spy, is somewhere about," said Mynheer Jacobus. "Peter haf seen him twice more, but he haf caught only glimpses. But you can trust Peter even as I do. His whole heart iss in the task I have set him. He wass born Dutch but hiss soul iss Iroquois! He iss by nature a taker of scalps."
Master Benjamin laughed.
"Just at present," he said, "'tis the nature that suits us best. Most urgent business calls me back to New York, and, after all, I can't do more here than you are doing, old friend."
When they had bidden each other good-by in the undemonstrative manner of elderly men who have long been friends, Master Jacobus strolled down the main street of Albany and took a long look at a substantial house standing in fine grounds. Then he shook his head several times, and, walking on, met its owner, whom he greeted with marked coolness, although the manner of the other toward him had been somewhat effusive.
"I gif you good day, Hendrik Martinus," he said, "und I hear that you are prospering. I am not one to notice fashions myself, but others haf spoken to me of the beautiful new shawls your daughters are wearing und of the brooches und necklaces they haf."
The face of Martinus, a man of about fifty, turned a deep red, but the excessive color passed in a few moments, and he spoke carelessly. In truth, his whole manner was lighter and more agile than that of the average man of Dutch blood.
"I am not so sure, Mynheer Jacobus, that you did not take notice yourself," he said. "Mynheer Jacobus is grave and dignified, but many a grave and dignified man has a wary eye for the ladies."
Mynheer Jacobus Huysman frowned.
"And as for shawls and brooches and necklaces," continued Martinus, "it is well known that war brings legitimate profits to many men. It makes trade in certain commodities brisk. Now I'd willingly wager that your friend, Master Benjamin Hardy, whom you have just seen on his way to New York, will be much the richer by this war."
"Master Hardy has ships upon the seas, and important contracts for the troops."
"I have no ships upon the seas, but I may have contracts, too."
"It may well be so, Hendrik," said Mynheer Jacobus, and without another word he passed on. When he had gone a hundred yards he shook himself violently, and when he had gone another hundred yards he gave himself a second shake of equal vigor. An hour later he was in the back room talking with the lad, Peter.
"Peter," he said, "you haf learned to take naps in the day und to keep awake all through the night?"
"Yes, Mynheer," replied Peter, proudly.
"Then, Peter, you vass an owl, a watcher in the dark."
"Und I gif you praise for watching well, Peter, und also gold, which iss much more solid than praise. Now I gif you by und by more praise und more gold which iss still more solid than praise. The lad, Robert Lennox, will be here early tonight to take supper with me, und I will see that he does not go out again before the morrow. Now, do you, Peter, watch the house of Hendrik Martinus all night und tell me if anyone comes out or goes in, und who und what he may be, as nearly as you can."
"Yes, Mynheer," said Peter, and a sudden light flickered in the pale blue eyes.
No further instructions were needed. He left the house in silence, and Mynheer Jacobus Huysman trusted him absolutely.