The Rulers of the Lakes by Joseph A. Altsheler
Chapter VI. The Dark Stranger
Robert arrived at the house of Jacobus Huysman about dark and Tayoga came with him. Willet was detained at the camp on the flats, where he had business with Colonel Johnson, who consulted him often. The two lads were in high good spirits, and Mynheer Jacobus, whatever he may have been under the surface, appeared to be so, too. Robert believed that the army would march very soon now. The New York and New England men alike were full of fire, eager to avenge Braddock's defeat and equally eager to drive back and punish the terrible clouds of savages which, under the leadership of the French, were ravaging the border, spreading devastation and terror on all sides.
"There has been trouble, Mynheer Huysman," said Robert, "between Governor Shirley of Massachusetts, who has been in camp several days, and Colonel Johnson. I saw Governor Shirley when he was in the council at Alexandria, in Virginia, and I know, from what I've heard, that he's the most active and energetic of all the governors, but they say he's very vain and pompous."
"Vanity and pomp comport ill with a wilderness campaign," said Mynheer Jacobus, soberly. "Of all the qualities needed to deal with the French und Indians I should say that they are needed least. It iss a shame that a man should demand obeisance from others when they are all in a great crisis."
"The Governor is eager to push the war," said Robert, "yet he demands more worship of the manner from Colonel Johnson than the colonel has time to give him. 'Tis said, too, that the delays he makes cause dissatisfaction among the Mohawks, who are eager to be on the great war trail. Daganoweda, I know, fairly burns with impatience."
Mynheer Jacobus sighed.
"We will not haf the advantage of surprise," he said. "Of that I am certain. I do believe that the French und Indians know of all our movements und of all we do."
"Spies?" said Robert.
"It may be," replied Mynheer Jacobus.
Robert was silent. His first thought was of St. Luc, who, he knew, would dare anything, and it was just the sort of adventure that would appeal to his bold and romantic spirit. But his thought passed on. He had no real feeling that St. Luc was in the camp. Mynheer Jacobus must be thinking of another or others. But Huysman volunteered no explanation. Presently he rose from his chair, went to a window and looked out. Tayoga observed him keenly.
The Onondaga, trained from his childhood to observe all kinds of manifestations, was a marvelous reader of the minds of men, and, merely because Mynheer Jacobus Huysman interrupted a conversation to look out into the dark, he knew that he expected something. And whatever it was it was important, as the momentary quiver of the big man's lip indicated.
The Indian, although he may hide it, has his full share of curiosity, and Tayoga wondered why Mynheer Jacobus watched. But he asked no question.
The Dutchman came back from the window, and asked the lads in to supper with him. His slight air of expectancy had disappeared wholly, but Tayoga was not deceived. "He has merely been convinced that he was gazing out too soon," he said to himself. "As surely as Tododaho on his star watches over the Onondagas, he will come back here after supper and look from this window, expecting to see something or somebody."
The supper of Mynheer Jacobus was, in reality, a large dinner, and, as it was probably the last the two lads would take with him before they went north, he had given to it a splendor and abundance even greater than usual. Tayoga and Robert, as became two such stout youths, ate bountifully, and Mynheer Jacobus Huysman, whatever his secret troubles may have been, wielded knife and fork with them, knife for knife and fork for fork.
But Tayoga was sure that Mynheer Jacobus was yet expectant, and still, without making it manifest, he watched him keenly. He noted that the big man hurried the latter part of the supper, something which the Onondaga had never known him to do before, and which, to the observant mind of the red youth, indicated an expectancy far greater than he had supposed at first.
Clearly Mynheer Jacobus was hastening, clearly he wished to be out of the room, and it was equally clear to Tayoga that he wanted to go back to his window, the one from which he could see over the grounds, and into the street beyond.
"Will you take a little wine?" he said to Robert, as he held up a bottle, through which the rich dark red color shone.
"Thank you, sir, no," replied Robert.
"Und you, Tayoga?"
"I never touch the firewater of the white man, call they it wine or call they it whiskey."
"Good. Good for you both. I merely asked you for the sake of politeness, und I wass glad to hear you decline. But as for me, I am old enough to be your father, und I will take a little."
He poured a small glass, drank it, and rose.
"Your old room iss ready," he said, "und now, if you two lads will go to it, you can get a good und long night's sleep."
Robert was somewhat surprised. He felt that they were being dismissed, which was almost like the return of the old days when they were schoolboys, but Tayoga touched him on the elbow, and his declaration that he was not sleepy died on his lips. Instead, he said a polite good-night and he and Tayoga went away as they were bid.
"Now, what did he mean? Why was he so anxious to get rid of us?" asked Robert, when they were again in their room.
"Mynheer Jacobus expects something," replied the Onondaga, gravely. "He expects it to come out of the night, and appear at a window of the room in which we first sat, the window that looks over the garden, and to the street behind us."
"How do you know that?" asked Robert, astonished.
Tayoga explained what he had seen.
"I do not doubt you. It's convincing," said Robert, "but I'd not have noticed it."
"We of the red nations have had to notice everything in order that we might live. As surely as we sit here, Dagaeoga, Mynheer Jacobus is at the window, watching. When I lie down on the bed I shall keep my clothes on, and I shall not sleep. We may be called."
"I shall do the same, Tayoga."
Nevertheless, as time passed, young Lennox fell asleep, but the Onondaga did not close his eyes. What was time to him? The red race always had time to spare, and nature and training had produced in him illimitable patience. He had waited by a pool a whole day and night for a deer to come down to drink. He heard the tall clock standing on the floor in the corner strike ten, eleven, and then twelve, and a half hour later, when he was as wide awake as ever, there was a knock at the door. But he had first heard the approaching footsteps of the one who came and knocked, and he was already touching the shoulder of Robert, who sat up at once, sleep wholly gone from him.
"It is Mynheer Jacobus," said Tayoga, "and he wants us."
Then he opened the door and the large red face of Mynheer Huysman looked into the room, which was illuminated by the moonlight.
"Come, you lads," he said, in sharp, eager tones, "und bring your pistols with you."
Robert and Tayoga snatched up their weapons, and followed him into the sitting-room, where the tall lank youth, Peter, stood.
"You know Peter," he said, "und Peter knows you. Now, listen to what he hass to tell, but first pledge me that you will say nothing of it until I give you leave. Do you?"
"We do," they replied together.
"Then, Peter, tell them what you haf seen, but be brief, because it may be that we must act quickly."
"Obeying the instructions of Mynheer Jacobus Huysman, whom I serve," said Peter, smoothly, evidently enjoying his importance of the moment, "I watched tonight the house of Mynheer Hendrik Martinus, who is not trusted by my master. The building is large, and it stands on ground with much shrubbery that is now heavy with leaf. So it was difficult to watch all the approaches to it, but I went about it continuously, hour after hour. A half hour ago, I caught a glimpse of a man, strong, and, as well as I could tell in the night, of a dark complexion. He was on the lawn, among the shrubbery, hiding a little while and then going on again. He came to a side door of the house, but he did not knock, because there was no need. The door opened of itself, and he went in. Then the door closed of itself, and he did not come out again. I waited ten minutes and then hurried to the one whom I serve with the news."
Mynheer Jacobus turned to Tayoga and Robert.
"I haf long suspected," he said, "that Hendrik Martinus iss a spy in the service of France, a traitor for his own profit, because he loves nothing but himself und his. He has had remarkable prosperity of late, a prosperity for which no one can account, because he has had no increase of business. Believing that a Frenchman wass here, a spy who wished to communicate with him, I set Peter to watch his house, und the result you know."
"Then it is for us to go there and seize this spy," said Robert.
"It iss what I wish," said Mynheer Huysman, "und we may trap a traitor und a spy at the same time. It is well to haf money if you haf it honestly, but Hendrik Martinus loves money too well."
He took from a drawer a great double-barreled horse pistol, put it under his coat, and the four, quietly leaving the house, went toward that of Hendrik Martinus. There was no light except that of the moon and, in the distance, they saw a watchman carrying a lantern and thumping upon the stones with a stout staff.
"It iss Andrius Tefft," said Mynheer Jacobus. "He hass a strong arm und a head with but little in it. It would be best that he know nothing of this, or he would surely muddle it."
They drew back behind some shrubbery, and Andrius Tefft, night watchman, passed by without a suspicion that one of Albany's most respected citizens was hiding from him. The light of his lantern faded in the distance, and the four proceeded rapidly towards the house of Hendrik Martinus, entering its grounds without hesitation and spreading in a circle about it. Robert, who lurked behind a small clipped pine in the rear saw a door open, and a figure slip quietly out. It was that of a man of medium height, and as he could see by the moonlight, of dark complexion. He had no doubt that it was a Frenchman, the fellow whom Peter had seen enter the house.
Robert acted with great promptness, running forward and crying to the fugitive to halt. The man, quick as a flash, drew a pistol and fired directly at him. The lad felt the bullet graze his scalp, and, for a moment, he thought he had been struck mortally. He staggered, but recovered himself, and raising his own pistol, fired at the flying figure which was now well beyond him. He saw the man halt a moment, and quiver, but in an instant he ran on again faster than ever, and disappeared in an alley. A little later a swift form followed in pursuit and Robert saw that it was Tayoga.
Young Lennox knew that it was useless for him to follow, as he felt a little dizzy and he was not yet sure of himself. He put his hand to his hair, where the bullet had struck, and, taking it away, looked anxiously at it. There was no blood upon either palm or finger, and then he realized, with great thankfulness, that he was merely suffering a brief weakness from the concussion caused by a heavy bullet passing so close to his skull. He heard a hasty footstep, and Mynheer Huysman, breathing heavily and anxious, stood before him. Other and lighter footsteps indicated that Peter also was coming to his aid.
"Haf you been shot?" exclaimed Mynheer Jacobus
"No, only shot at," replied Robert, whimsically, "though I don't believe the marksman could come so close to me again without finishing me. I think it was Peter's spy because I saw him come out of the house, and cried to him to halt, but he fired first. My own bullet, I'm sure, touched him, and Tayoga is in pursuit, though the fugitive has a long lead."
"We'll leave it to Tayoga, because we haf to," said Mynheer Jacobus. "If anybody can catch him the Onondaga can, though I think he will get away. But come now, we will talk to Hendrik Martinus und Andrius Tefft who hass heard the shots und who iss coming back. You lads, let me do all of the talking. Since the spy or messenger or whatever he iss hass got away, it iss best that we do not tell all we know."
The watchman was returning at speed, his staff pounding quick and hard on the stones, his lantern swinging wildly. The houses there were detached and nobody else seemed to have heard the shots, save Hendrik Martinus and his family. Martinus, fully dressed, was coming out of his house, his manner showing great indignation, and the heads of women in nightcaps appeared at the windows.
"What is this intrusion, Mynheer Huysman? Why are you in my grounds? And who fired those two pistol shots I heard?"
"Patience, Hendrik! Patience!" replied Mynheer Jacobus, in a smooth suave manner that surprised Robert. "My young friend, Master Lennox, here, saw a man running across your grounds, after having slipped surreptitiously out of your house. Suspecting that he had taken und carried from you that which he ought not to haf, Master Lennox called to him to stop. The reply wass a pistol bullet und Master Lennox, being young und like the young prone to swift anger, fired back. But the man hass escaped with hiss spoil, whatefer it iss, und you only, Hendrik, know what it iss."
Hendrik Martinus looked at Jacobus Huysman and Jacobus Huysman looked squarely back at him. The angry fire died out of the eyes of Martinus, and instead came a swift look of comprehension which passed in an instant. When he spoke again his tone was changed remarkably:
"Doubtless it was a robber," he said, "and I thank you, Mynheer Jacobus, and Master Lennox, and your boy Peter, for your attempt to catch him. But I fear that he has escaped."
"I will pursue him und capture him," exclaimed Mynheer Andrius Tefft, who stood by, listening to their words and puffing and blowing.
"I fear it iss too late, Andrius," said Mynheer Jacobus Huysman, shaking his head. "If anyone could do it, it would be you, but doubtless Mynheer Hendrik hass not lost anything that he cannot replace, und it would be better for you, Andrius, to watch well here und guard against future attempts."
"That would be wise, no doubt," said Martinus, and Robert thought he detected an uneasy note in his voice.
"Then I will go," said Andrius Tefft, and he walked on, swinging his lantern high and wide, until its beams fell on every house and tree and shrub.
"I will return to my house," said Mynheer Martinus. "My wife and daughters were alarmed by the shots, and I will tell them what has happened."
"It iss the wise thing to do," said Mynheer Huysman, gravely, "und I would caution you, Hendrik, to be on your guard against robbers who slip so silently into your house und then slip out again in the same silence. The times are troubled und the wicked take advantage of them to their own profit."
"It is true, Mynheer Jacobus," said Martinus somewhat hastily, and he walked back to his own house without looking Huysman in the eyes again.
Mynheer Huysman, Robert and Peter returned slowly.
"I think Hendrik understands me," said Mynheer Huysman; "I am sorry that we did not catch the go-between, but Hendrik hass had a warning, und he will be afraid. Our night's work iss not all in vain. Peter, you haf done well, but I knew you would. Now, we will haf some refreshment und await the return of Tayoga."
"I believe," said Robert, "that in Albany, when one is in doubt what to do one always eats. Is it not so?"
"It iss so," replied Mynheer Jacobus, smiling, "und what better could one do? While you wait, build up the body, because when you build up the body you build up the mind, too, und at the same time it iss a pleasure."
Robert and Peter ate nothing, but Mynheer Jacobus partook amply of cold beef and game, drank a great glass of home-made beer, and then smoked a long pipe with intense satisfaction. One o'clock in the morning came, then two, then three, and Mynheer Jacobus, taking the stem of his pipe from his mouth, said:
"I think it will not be long now before Tayoga iss here. Long ago he hass either caught hiss man or hiss man hass got away, und he iss returning. I see hiss shadow now in the shrubbery. Let him in, Peter."
Tayoga entered the room, breathing a little more quickly than usual, his dark eyes showing some disappointment.
"It wass not your fault that he got away, Tayoga," said Mynheer Jacobus soothingly. "He had too long a start, und doubtless he was fleet of foot. I think he iss the very kind of man who would be fleet of foot."
"I had to pick up his trail after he went through the alley," said Tayoga, "and I lost time in doing so. When I found it he was out of the main part of the town and in the outskirts, running towards the river. Even then I might have caught him, but he sprang into the stream and swam with great skill and speed. When I came upon the bank, he was too far away for a shot from my pistol, and he escaped into the thickets on the other shore."
"I wish we could have caught him," said Mynheer Jacobus. "Then we might have uncovered much that I would like to know. What iss it, Tayoga? You haf something more to tell!"
"Before he reached the river," said the Onondaga, "he tore in pieces a letter, a letter that must have been enclosed in an envelope. I saw the little white pieces drift away before the wind. I suppose he was afraid I might catch him, and so he destroyed the letter which must have had a tale to tell. When I came back I looked for the pieces, but I found only one large enough to bear anything that had meaning." He took from his tunic a fragment of white paper and held it up. It bore upon it two words in large letters:
"That," said Robert, "is obviously the name of a Frenchman, and it seems to me it must have been the name of this fugitive spy or messenger to whom the letter was addressed. Achille Garay is the man whom we want. Don't you think so, Mynheer Huysman?"
"It iss truly the one we would like to capture," said Mynheer Jacobus, "but I fear that all present chance to do so hass passed. Still, we will remember. The opportunity may come again. Achille Garay! Achille Garay! We will bear that name in mind! Und now, lads, all of you go to bed. You haf done well, too, Tayoga. Nobody could haf done better."
Robert, when alone the next day, met Hendrik Martinus in the street. Martinus was about to pas? without speaking, but Robert bowed politely and said:
"I'm most sorry, Mr. Martinus, that we did not succeed in capturing your burglar last night, but my Onondaga friend followed him to the river, which he swam, then escaping. 'Tis true that he escaped, but nevertheless Tayoga salvaged a piece of a letter that he destroyed as he ran, and upon the fragment was written a name which we're quite sure was that of the bold robber."
Robert paused, and he saw the face of Martinus whiten.
"You do not ask me the name, Mynheer Martinus," he said. "Do you feel no curiosity at all about it?"
"What was it?" asked Martinus, thickly.
Martinus trembled violently, but by a supreme effort controlled himself.
"I never heard it before," he said. "It sounds like a French name."
"It is a French name. I'm quite confident of it. I merely wanted you to understand that we haven't lost all trace of your robber, that we know his name, and that we may yet take him."
"It does look as if you had a clew," said Martinus. He was as white as death, though naturally rubicund, and without another word he walked on. Robert looked after him and saw the square shoulders drooping a little. He had not the slightest doubt of the man's guilt, and he was filled with indignant wonder that anyone's love of money should be strong enough to create in him the willingness to sell his country. He was sure Mynheer Jacobus was right. Martinus was sending their military secrets into Canada for French gold, and yet they had not a particle of proof. The man must be allowed to go his way until something much more conclusive offered. Both he and Tayoga talked it over with Willet, and the hunter agreed that they could do nothing for the present.
"But," he said, "the time may come when we can do much."
Then Martinus disappeared for a while from Robert's mind, because the next day he met the famous old Indian known in the colonies as King Hendrik of the Mohawks. Hendrik, an ardent and devoted friend of the Americans and English, had come to Albany to see Colonel William Johnson, and to march with him against the French and Indians. There was no hesitation, no doubt about him, and despite his age he would lead the Mohawk warriors in person into battle. Willet, who had known him long, introduced Robert, who paid him the respect and deference due to an aged and great chief.
Hendrik, who was a Mohegan by birth but by adoption a Mohawk, adoption having all the value of birth, was then a full seventy years of age. He spoke English fluently, he had received education in an American school, and a substantial house, in which he had lived for many years, stood near the Canajoharie or upper castle of the Mohawks. He had been twice to England and on each occasion had been received by the king, the head of one nation offering hospitality to the allied head of another. A portrait of him in full uniform had been painted by a celebrated London painter.
He had again put on his fine uniform upon the occasion of his meeting with Colonel Johnson on the Albany flats, and when Robert saw him he was still clothed in it. His coat was of superfine green cloth, heavily ornamented with gold epaulets and gold lace. His trousers were of the same green cloth with gold braid all along the seams, and his feet were in shoes of glossy leather with gold buckles. A splendid cocked hat with a feather in it was upon his head. Beneath the shadow of the hat was a face of reddish bronze, aged but intelligent, and, above all, honest.
Hendrik in an attire so singular for a Mohawk might have looked ridiculous to many a man, but Robert, who knew so much of Indian nature, found him dignified and impressive.
"I have heard of you, my son," said Hendrik, in the precise, scholarly English which Tayoga used. "You are a friend of the brave young chief, Daganoweda, and to you, because of your gift of speech, has been given the name, Dagaeoga. The Onondaga, Tayoga, of the clan of the Bear, is your closest comrade, and you are also the one who made the great speech in the Vale of Onondaga before the fifty sachems against the missionary, Father Drouillard, and the French leader, St. Luc. They say that words flowed like honey from your lips."
"It was the occasion, not any words of mine," said Robert modestly.
"I was ill then, and could not be present," continued the old chief gravely, "and another took my place. I should have been glad could I have heard that test of words in the Vale of Onondaga, because golden speech is pleasant in my ears, but Manitou willed it otherwise, and I cannot complain, as I have had much in my long life. Now the time for words has passed. They have failed and the day of battle is at hand. I go on my last war trail."
"No! No, Hendrik!" exclaimed Willet. "You will emerge again the victor, covered with glory."
"Yes, Great Bear, it is written here," insisted the old Mohawk, tapping his forehead. "It is my last war trail, but it will be a great one. I know it. How I know it I do not know, but I know it. The voice of Manitou has spoken in my ear and I cannot doubt. I shall fall in battle by the shores of Andiatarocte (the Iroquois name of Lake George) and there is no cause to mourn. I have lived the three score years and ten which the Americans and English say is the allotted age of man, and what could be better for a Mohawk chief, when the right end for his days has come, than to fall gloriously at the head of his warriors? I have known you long, Great Bear. You have always been the friend of the Hodenosaunee. You have understood us, you have never lied to us, and tricked us, as the fat traders do. I think that when I draw my last breath you will not be far away and it will be well. I could not wish for any better friend than Great Bear to be near when I leave this earth on my journey to the star on which the mighty Hayowentha, the Mohawk chief of long ago, lives."
Willet was much affected, and he put his hand on the shoulder of his old friend.
"I hope you are wrong, Hendrik," he said, "and that many years of good life await you, but if you do fall it is fitting, as you say, to fall at the head of your warriors."
The old chief smiled. It was evident that he had made his peace with his Manitou, and that he awaited the future without anxiety.
"Remember the shores of Andiatarocte," he said. "They are bold and lofty, covered with green forest, and they enclose the most beautiful of all the lakes. It is a wonderful lake. I have known it more than sixty years. The mountains, heavy with the great forest, rise all around it. Its waters are blue or green or silver as the skies over it change. It is full of islands, each like a gem in a cluster. I have gone there often, merely to sit on a great cliff a half mile above its waters, and look down on the lake, Andiatarocte, the Andiatarocte of the Hodenosaunee that Manitou gave to us because we strive to serve him. It is a great and glorious gift to me that I should be allowed to die in battle there and take my flight from its shores to Hayowentha's star, the star on which Hayowentha sits, and from which he talks across infinite space, which is nothing to them, to the great Onondaga chieftain Tododaho, also on his star to which he went more than four centuries ago."
The face of the old chief was rapt and mystic. The black eyes in the bronzed face looked into futurity and infinity. Robert was more than impressed, he had a feeling of awe. A great Indian chief was a great Indian chief to him, as great as any man, and he did not doubt that the words of Hendrik would come true. And like Hendrik himself he did not see any cause for grief. He, too, had looked upon the beautiful shores of Andiatarocte, and it was a fitting place for a long life to end, preparatory to another and eternal life among the stars.
He gravely saluted King Hendrik with the full respect and deference due him, to which the chief replied, obviously pleased with the good manners of the youth, and then he and the hunter walked to another portion of the camp.
"A great man, a really great man!" said Willet.
"He made a great speech here in Albany more than a year ago to a congress of white men, and he has made many great speeches. He is also a great warrior, and for nearly a half century he has valiantly defended the border against the French and their Indians."
"I wonder if what he says about falling in battle on the shores of Andiatarocte will come true."
"We'll wait and see, Robert, we'll wait and see, but I've an idea that it will. Some of these Indians, especially the old, seem to have the gift of second sight, and we who live so much in the woods know that many strange things happen."
A few days of intense activity followed. The differences between Governor Shirley and the commander, Colonel William Johnson, were composed, and the motley army would soon march forward to the head of Andiatarocte to meet Dieskau and the French. It was evident that the beautiful lake which both English and French claimed, but which really belonged to the Hodenosaunee, had become one of two keys to the North American lock, the other being its larger and scarcely less beautiful sister, Champlain. They and their chains of rivers had been for centuries the great carry between what had become the French and English colonies, and whoever became the ruler of these two lakes would become the ruler of the continent.
It was granted to Robert with his extraordinary imaginative gifts to look far into the future. He had seen the magnificence of the north country, its world of forest and fertile land, its network of rivers and lakes, a region which he believed to be without an equal anywhere on earth, and he knew that an immense and vigorous population was bound to spring up there. He had his visions and dreams, and perhaps his youth made him dream all the more, and more magnificently than older men whose lives had been narrowed by the hard facts of the present. It was in these brilliant, glowing dreams of his that New York might some day be as large as London, with a commerce as large, and that Boston and Philadelphia and other places for which the sites were not yet cleared, would be a match for the great cities of the Old World.
And yet but few men in the colonies were dreaming such dreams, which became facts in a period amazingly short, as the history of the world runs. Perhaps the dream was in the wise and prophetic brain of Franklin or in the great imagination of Jefferson, but there is little to prove that more than a few were dreaming that way. To everybody, almost, the people on the east coast of North America were merely the rival outposts of France and England.
But the army that was starting for the green shores of Andiatarocte bore with it the fate of mighty nations, and its march, hidden and obscure, compared with that of many a great army in Europe, was destined to have a vast influence upon the world.
It was a strange composite force. There were the militiamen from New England, tall, thin, hardy and shrewd, accustomed to lives of absolute independence, full of confidence and eager to go against the enemy. Many of the New Yorkers were of the same type, but the troops of that province also included the Germans and the Dutch, most of the Germans still unable to speak the English language. There was the little Philadelphia troop under Colden, trained now, the wild rangers from the border, and the fierce Mohawks led by King Hendrik and Daganoweda. Colonel Johnson, an Irishman by birth, but more of an American than many of those born on the soil, was the very man to fuse and lead an army of such varying elements.
Robert now saw Waraiyageh at his best. He soothed the vanity of Governor Shirley. He endeared himself to the New England officers and their men. He talked their own languages to the men of German and Dutch blood, and he continued to wield over the Mohawks an influence that no other white man ever had. The Mohawk lad, Joseph Brant, the great Thayendanegea of the future, was nearly always with him, and Tayoga himself was not more eager for the march.
Now came significant arrivals in the camp, Robert Rogers, the ranger, at the head of his men, and with him Black Rifle, dark, saturnine and silent, although Robert noticed that now and then his black eyes flashed under the thick shade of his long lashes. They brought reports of the greatest activity among the French and Indians about the northern end of Andiatarocte, and that Dieskau was advancing in absolute confidence that he would equal the achievement of Dumas, St. Luc, Ligneris and the others against Braddock. All about him were the terrible Indian swarms. Every settler not slain had fled with his people for their lives. Only the most daring and skillful of the American forest runners could live in the woods, and the price they paid was perpetual vigilance. Foremost among the Indian leaders was Tandakora, the huge Ojibway, and he spared none who fell into his hands. Torture and death were their fate.
The face of Colonel Johnson darkened when Rogers told him the news. "My poor people!" he groaned. "Why were we compelled to wait so long?" And by his "people" he meant the Mohawks no less than the whites. The valiant tribe, and none more valiant ever lived, was threatened with destruction by the victorious and exultant hordes.
Refugees poured into Albany, bringing tales of destruction and terror. Albany itself would soon be attacked by Dieskau, with his regulars, his cannon, his Canadians and his thousands of Indians, and it could not stand before them. Robert, Tayoga and Willet were with Colonel Johnson, when Rogers and Black Rifle arrived, and they saw his deep grief and anger.
"The army will march in a few more days, David, old friend," he said, "but it must move slowly. One cannot take cannon and wagons through the unbroken forest, and so I am sending forward two thousand men to cut a road. Then our main force will advance, but we should do something earlier, something that will brush back these murderous swarms. David, old friend, what are we to do?"
Willet looked around in thought, and he caught the flashing eyes of Rogers. He glanced at Black Rifle and his dark eyes, too, were sparkling under their dark lashes. He understood what was in their minds, and it appealed to him.
"Colonel Johnson," he said, "one must burn the faces of the French and Indians, and show them a victory is not theirs until they've won it. Let Mr. Rogers here take the rangers he has, other picked ones from the camp, Robert, Tayoga and me, perhaps also a chosen band of Mohawks under Daganoweda, and go forward to strike a blow that will delay Dieskau."
The somber face of Waraiyageh lightened.
"David Willet," he said, "you are a man. I have always known it, but it seems to me that every time I meet you you have acquired some new virtue of the mind. 'Tis a daring task you undertake, but a noble one that I think will prove fruitful. Perhaps, though, you should leave the lads behind."
Then up spoke Robert indignantly.
"I've been through a thousand dangers with Dave, and I'll not shirk a new one. I have no commission in the army and it cannot hold me. I shall be sorry to go without your permission, Colonel Johnson, but go I surely will."
"For more centuries than man knows, my ancestors have trod the war trail," said Tayoga, "and I should not be worthy to have been born a son of the clan of the Bear, of the nation Onondaga, of the great League of the Hodenosaunee, if I did not go now upon the greatest war trail of them all, when the nations gather to fight for the lordship of half a world. When the Great Bear and the Mountain Wolf and Dagaeoga and the others leave this camp for the shores of Andiatarocte I go with them!"
He stood very erect, his head thrown back a little, his eyes flashing, his face showing unalterable resolve. Colonel Johnson laughed mellowly.
"What a pair of young eagles we have!" he exclaimed in a pleased tone. "And if that fiery child, Joseph Brant, were here he would be wild to go too! And if I let him go on such a venture Molly Brant would never forgive me. Well, it's a good spirit and I have no right to make any further objection. But do you, Dave Willet, and you, Rogers, and you, Black Rifle, see that they take no unnecessary risks."
Grosvenor also was eager to go, but they thought his experience in the woods was yet too small for him to join the rangers, and, to his great disappointment, the band was made up without him. Then they arranged for their departure.