The Rulers of the Lakes by Joseph A. Altsheler
Chapter VIII. Areskoui's Favor
In the dusk of the evening the whole force came to the crest of a hill from which through a cleft they caught a glimpse of the shimmering waters of the lake, called by the Iroquois Andiatarocte, by the French, St. Sacrement, and by the English, George. It was not Robert's first view of it, but he always thrilled at the prospect.
"Both Andiatarocte and Oneadatote must be ours," he said to Tayoga. "They're too fine and beautiful to pass into possession of the French."
"What about the Hodenosaunee? Do you too forget, Dagaeoga?"
"I don't forget, Tayoga. When I said 'ours' I meant American, Hodenosaunee and English combined. You've good eyes, and so tell me if I'm not right when I say I see a moving black dot on the lake."
"You do see it, my friend, and also a second and a third. The segment of the lake that we can see from here is very narrow. At this distance it does not appear to be more than a few inches across, but I know as surely as Tododaho sits on his star watching over us, that those are canoes, or perhaps long boats, and that they belong to our enemies."
"A force on the water cooeperating with that on land?"
"It seems so, Dagaeoga."
"And they mean to become the rulers of the lakes! With their army powerfully established at Crown Point, and their boats on both Andiatarocte and Oneadatote, it looks as if they were getting a great start in that direction."
"Aye, Dagaeoga. The French move faster than we. They seize what we both wish, and then it will be for us to put them out, they being in possession and intrenched. Look, Black Rifle comes out of the forest! And Haace is with him! They have something to tell!"
It was the honor and pleasure of young Lennox and the Onondaga to be present at the councils, and though they said nothing to their elders unless asked for an opinion, they always listened with eagerness to everything. Now Willet, Rogers and Daganoweda drew together, and Black Rifle and Haace, their dark eyes gleaming, made report to them.
"A strong force, at least one hundred and fifty men, lies about five miles to the north, on the shore of the lake," said Black Rifle. "About twenty Frenchmen are with it, and it is commanded by St. Luc. I saw him from the bushes. He has with him the Canadian, Dubois. De Courcelles and Jumonville are there also. At least a hundred warriors and Frenchmen are on the lake, in canoes and long boats. I saw Tandakora too."
"A formidable force," said Willet. "Do you wish to turn back, Daganoweda?"
The eyes of the Mohawk chieftain glittered and he seemed to swell both in size and stature.
"We are a hundred," he replied proudly. "What does it matter how many they are? I am astonished that the Great Bear should ask me such a question."
Willet laughed softly.
"I asked it," he said, "because I knew what the answer would be. None other could come from a Mohawk chieftain."
Again the eyes of Daganoweda glittered, but this time with pride.
"Shall we advance and attack St. Luc's force tonight?" said Willet, turning to Rogers.
"I think it would be best," replied the Mountain Wolf. "A surprise is possible tonight only. Tomorrow his scouts are sure to find that we are near. What say you, Daganoweda?"
"Tonight," replied the Mohawk chief, sententiously.
There was no further discussion, and the whole force, throwing out skirmishers, moved cautiously northward through the great, green wilderness. It was a fair night for a march, not enough moonlight to disclose them at a distance, and yet enough to show the way. Robert kept close to Tayoga, who was just behind Willet, and they bore in toward the lake, until they were continually catching glimpses of its waters through the vast curtain of the forest.
Robert's brain once more formed pictures, swift, succeeding one another like changes of light, but in high colors. The great lake set in the mountains and glimmering under the moon had a wonderful effect upon his imagination. It became for the time the core of all the mighty struggle that was destined to rage so long in North America. The belief became a conviction that whoever possessed Andiatarocte and Oneadatote was destined to possess the continent.
The woods themselves, like the lake, were mystic and brooding. Their heavy foliage was ruffled by no wind, and no birds sang. The wild animals, knowing that man, fiercer than they, would soon join in mortal combat, had all fled away. Robert heard only the faint crush of moccasins as the hundred, white and red, sped onward.
An hour, and a dim light showed on a slope gentler than the rest, leading down to the lake. It was a spark so faint and vague that it might have passed to the ordinary eye as a firefly, but rangers and Mohawks knew well that it came from some portion of St. Luc's camp and that the enemy was close at hand. Then the band stopped and the three leaders talked together again for a few moments.
"I think," said Willet, "that the force on land is in touch with the one in the boats, though a close union has not been effected. In my opinion we must rush St. Luc."
"There is no other way," said Rogers.
"It is what I like best," said Daganoweda.
They promptly spread out, the entire hundred in a half circle, covering a length of several hundred yards, and the whole force advanced swiftly. Robert and Tayoga were in the center, and as they rushed forward with the others, their moccasined feet making scarcely any sound, Robert saw the fireflies in the forest increase, multiply and become fixed. If he had felt any doubt that the camp of St. Luc was just ahead it disappeared now. The brilliant French leader too, despite all his craft, and lore of the forest, was about to be surprised.
Then he heard the sharp reports of rifles both to right and left. The horns of the advancing crescent were coming into contact with St. Luc's sentinels. Then Daganoweda, knowing that the full alarm had been given, uttered a fierce and thrilling cry and all the Mohawks took it up. It was a tremendous shout, making the blood leap and inciting to battle.
Robert, by nature kindly and merciful, felt the love of combat rising in him, and when a bullet whistled past his ear a fury against the enemy began to burn in his veins. More bullets came pattering upon the leaves, and one found its target in a ranger who was struck through the heart. Other rangers and Mohawks received wounds, but under the compelling orders of their leaders they held their fire until they were near the camp, when nearly a hundred rifles spoke together in one fierce and tremendous report.
St. Luc's sentinels and skirmishers were driven back in a minute or two, many of them falling, but his main force lay along a low ridge, timbered well, and from its shelter his men, French and Indians, sent in a rapid fire. Although taken by surprise and suffering severely in the first rush, they were able to stem the onset of the rangers and Mohawks, and soon they were uttering fierce and defiant cries, while their bullets came in showers. The rangers and Mohawks also took to cover, and the battle of the night and the wilderness was on.
Robert pulled Tayoga down, and the two lay behind a fallen log, where they listened to the whining of an occasional bullet over their heads.
"We may win," said the Onondaga gravely, "but we will not win so easily. One cannot surprise Sharp Sword (St. Luc) wholly. You may attack when he is not expecting it, but even then he will make ready for you."
"That's true," said Robert, and he felt a curious and contradictory thrill of pleasure as he listened to Tayoga. "It's not possible to take the Chevalier in a trap."
"No, Dagaeoga, it is not. I wish, for the sake of our success, that some other than he was the leader of the enemy, but Manitou has willed that my wish should not come true. Do you not think the dark shadow passing just then on the ridge was Tandakora?"
"The size indicated to me the Ojibway, and I was about to seize my rifle and fire, but it's too far for a shot with any certainty. I think our men on the horns of the crescent are driving them in somewhat."
"The shifting of the firing would prove that it is so, Dagaeoga. Our sharpshooting is much better than theirs, and in time we will push them down to the lake. But look at Black Rifle! See how he craves the battle!"
The swart ranger, lying almost flat on the ground, was creeping forward, inch by inch, and as Robert glanced at him he fired, a savage in the opposing force uttering his death yell. The ranger uttered a shout of triumph, and, shifting his position, sought another shot, his dark body drawn among the leaves and grass like that of some fierce wild animal. He fired a second time, repeated his triumphant shout and then his sliding body passed out of sight among the bushes.
Both Rogers and Willet soon joined Robert and Tayoga behind the logs where they had a good position from which to direct the battle, but Daganoweda on the right, with all of his Mohawks, was pushing forward steadily and would soon be able to pour a flanking fire into St. Luc's little army. The forest resounded now with the sharp reports of the rifles and the shouts and yells of the combatants. Bullets cut leaves and twigs, but the rangers and the Mohawks were advancing.
"Do you know how many men we have lost, Rogers?" asked Willet.
"Three of the white men and four of the Mohawks have been slain, Dave, but we're winning a success, and it's not too high a price to pay in war. If Daganoweda can get far enough around on their left flank we'll drive 'em into the lake, sure. Ah, there go the rifles of the Mohawks and they're farther forward than ever. That Mohawk chief is a bold fighter, crafty and full of fire."
"None better than he. I think they're well around the flank, Rogers. Listen to their shouts. Now, we'll make a fresh rush of our own."
They sprang from the shelter of the log, and, leading their men, rushed in a hundred yards until they dropped down behind another one. Robert and Tayoga went with them, firing as they ran, borne on by the thrill of combat, but Robert felt relief nevertheless when he settled again in the shelter of the second log and for the time being was secure from bullets.
"I think," said Willet to Rogers, "that I'll go around toward the left, where the flanking force is composed mostly of rangers, and press in there with all our might. If the two horns of the crescent are able to enclose St. Luc, and you charge at the center, we should win the victory soon."
"It's the right idea, Dave," said Rogers. "When we hear your shots and a shout or two we'll drive our hardest."
"I'd like to take Tayoga and Robert with me."
"They're yours. They're good and brave lads, and I'll need 'em, but you'll need 'em too. How many more of the men here will you want?"
"Then take them too."
Willet, with Robert, Tayoga and the ten, began a cautious circuit in the darkness toward the western horn of the crescent, and for a few minutes left the battle in the distance. As they crept through the bushes, Robert heard the shouts and shots of both sides and saw the pink flashes of flame as the rifles were fired. In the darkness it seemed confused and vague, but he knew that it was guided by order and precision. Now and then a spent bullet pattered upon the leaves, and one touched him upon the wrist, stinging for a moment or two, but doing no harm.
But as they passed farther and farther to the west the noise of the battle behind them gradually sank, while that on the left horn of the crescent grew.
In a few more minutes they would be with the rangers who were pressing forward so strenuously at that point, and as Robert saw dusky figures rise from the bushes in front of them he believed they were already in touch. Instead a dozen rifles flashed in their faces. One of the rangers went down, shot through the head, dead before he touched the ground, three more sustained slight wounds, including Robert who was grazed on the shoulder, and all of them gave back in surprise and consternation. But Willet, shrewd veteran of the forest, recovered himself quickly.
"Down, men! Down and give it back to 'em!" he cried. "They've sent out a flanking force of their own! It was clever of St. Luc!"
All the rangers dropped on their faces instantly, but as they went down they gave back the fire of the flanking party. Robert caught a glimpse of De Courcelles, who evidently was leading it, and pulled trigger on him, but the Frenchman turned aside at that instant, and his bullet struck a St. Regis Indian who was just behind him. Now the return volley of the rangers was very deadly. Two Frenchmen were slain here and four warriors, and De Courcelles, who had not expected on his circling movement to meet with a new force, was compelled to give back. He and his warriors quickly disappeared in the forest, leaving their dead behind them, and Willet with his own little force moved on triumphantly, soon joining his strength to that of the rangers on the left.
The combined force hurled itself upon St. Luc's flank and crumpled it up, at the same time uttering triumphant shouts which were answered from the right and center, rangers and Mohawks on all fronts now pressing forward, and sending in their bullets from every covert. So fierce was their attack that they created the effect of double or triple their numbers, and St. Luc's French and Indians were driven down the slope to the edge of the lake, where the survivors were saved by the second band in the canoes and great boats.
The defeated men embarked quickly, but not so quickly that several more did not fall in the water. At this moment Robert saw St. Luc, and he never admired him more. He, too, was in forest green, but it was of the finest cloth, trimmed with green yet darker. A cap of silky fur was on his head, and his hair was clubbed in a queue behind. March and forest battle had not dimmed the cleanliness and neatness of his attire, and, even in defeat, he looked the gallant chevalier, without fear and without reproach.
St. Luc was in the act of stepping into one of the long boats when a ranger beside Robert raised his rifle and took aim squarely at the Frenchman's heart. It was not a long shot and the ranger would not have missed, but young Lennox at that moment stumbled and fell against him, causing the muzzle of his weapon to be deflected so much that his bullet struck the uncomplaining water. Robert's heart leaped up as he saw the chevalier spring into the boat, which the stalwart Indians paddled swiftly away.
The entire Indian fleet now drew together, and it was obviously making for one of the little islands, so numerous in Andiatarocte, where it would be safe until the English and Americans built or brought boats of their own and disputed the rulership of the lake. But the rangers and the Mohawks, eager to push the victory, rushed down to the water's edge and sent after the flying fleet bullets which merely dropped vainly in the water. Then they ceased, and, standing there, uttered long thrilling shouts of triumph.
Robert had never beheld a more ferocious scene but he felt in it, too, a sort of fierce and shuddering attraction. His veins were still warm with the fire of battle, and his head throbbed wildly. Everything took on strange and fantastic shapes, and colors became glaring and violent. The moonlight, pouring down on the lake, made it a vast sea of crumbling silver, the mountains on the farther shores rose to twice or thrice their height, and the forests on the slopes and crests were an immense and unbroken curtain, black against the sky.
Five or six hundred yards away hovered the Indian fleet, the canoes and boats dark splotches upon the silver surface of the water. The island upon which they intended to land was just beyond them, but knowing that they were out of rifle range they had paused to look at the victorious force, or as much of it as showed itself, and to send back the defiant yells of a defeated, but undaunted band.
Robert clearly saw St. Luc again, standing up in his boat, and apparently giving orders to the fleet, using his small sword, as a conductor wields a baton, though the moonlight seemed to flash in fire along the blade as he pointed it here and there. He beheld something fierce and unconquerable in the man's attitude and manner. He even imagined that he could see his face, and he knew that the eye was calm, despite defeat and loss. St Luc, driven from the field, would be none the less dangerous than if he had been victor upon it.
The whole Indian fleet formed in a half circle and the Chevalier ceased to wave orders with his sword. Then he drew himself up, stood rigidly erect, despite his unstable footing, faced the land, and, using the sword once more, gave a soldier's salute to the foe. The act was so gallant, so redolent of knightly romance that despite themselves the rangers burst into a mighty cheer, and the Mohawks, having the Indian heart that always honored a brave foe, uttered a long and thrilling whoop of approval.
Robert, carried away by an impulse, sprang upon a rock and whirled his rifle around his head in an answering salute. St. Luc evidently saw, and evidently, too, he recognized Robert, as he lifted his sword in rejoinder. Then the Indians, bent to their paddles, and the fleet, hanging together, swept around the island and out of sight. But they knew that the French and Indian force landed there, as fires soon blazed upon its heavily-wooded crest, and they saw dusky figures passing and repassing before the flames.
"The victory has been given to us tonight," said Tayoga gravely to Robert, "but Manitou has not allowed us to complete it. Few triumph over St. Luc, and, though his manner may have been gay and careless, his heart burns to win back what he has lost."
"I take it you're right, Tayoga," said Robert. "His is a soul that will not rest under defeat, and I fancy St. Luc on the island is a great danger. He can get at us and we can't get at him."
"It is true, Dagaeoga. If we strike we must strike quickly and then be off. This, for the time being, is the enemy's country, yet I think our leaders will not be willing to withdraw. Daganoweda, I know, will want to push the battle and to attack on the island."
The Onondaga's surmise was correct. The triumph of the rangers and the Mohawks, although not complete, was large, as at least one-third of St. Luc's force was slain, and the three leaders alike were eager to make it yet larger, having in mind that in some way they could yet reach the French and Indian force on the island. So they built their own fires on the slope and the Mohawks began to sing songs of triumph, knowing that they would infuriate the foe, and perhaps tempt him to some deed of rashness.
"Did you see anything of Tandakora?" asked Robert of Tayoga. "I know it's no crime to wish that he fell."
"No, it's no crime, Dagaeoga," replied the Onondaga soberly, "and my wish is the same as yours, but this time we cannot have it. I saw him in one of the boats as they passed around the island."
The two then sat by one of the fires and ate venison, thankful that they had escaped with only slight wounds, and as there was no immediate call for their services they wrapped themselves in their blankets, by and by, and went to sleep. When Robert awoke, the morning was about half gone and the day was bright and beautiful beyond compare.
Although the hostile forces still confronted each other there was no other evidence of war, and Robert's first feelings were less for man and more for the magnificence of nature. He had never seen Andiatarocte, the matchless gem of the mountains, more imposing and beautiful. Its waters, rippling gently under the wind, stretched far away, silver or gold, as the sunlight fell. The trees and undergrowth on the islands showed deepest green, and the waving leaves shifted and changed in color with the changing sky. Far over all was a deep velvet blue arch, tinged along the edges with red or gold.
Keenly sensitive to nature, it was a full minute before young Lennox came back to earth, and the struggles of men. Then he found Tayoga looking at him curiously.
"It is good!" said the Onondaga, flinging out his hand. "In the white man's Bible it is said that Manitou created the world in six days and rested on the seventh, but in the unwritten book of the Hodenosaunee it is said that he created Andiatarocte and Oneadatote, and then reposed a bit, and enjoyed his work before he went on with his task."
"I can well believe you, Tayoga. If I had created a lake like George and another like Champlain I should have stopped work, and gloried quite a while over my achievement. Has the enemy made any movement while we slept?"
"None, so far as our people can tell. They have brought part of their fleet around to the side of the island facing us. I count six large boats and twenty canoes there. I also see five fires, and I have no doubt that many of the warriors are sleeping before them. Despite losses, his force is still larger than ours, but I do not think St. Luc, brave as he is, would come back to the mainland and risk a battle with us."
"Then we must get at him somehow, Tayoga. We must make our blow so heavy that it will check Dieskau for a while and give Colonel Johnson's army time to march."
"Even so, Dagaeoga. Look at the Mountain Wolf. He has a pair of field glasses and he is studying the island."
Rogers stood on a knoll, and he was making diligent use of his glasses, excellent for the time. He took them from his eyes presently, and walked down to Robert and Tayoga.
"Would you care to have a look?" he said to Robert.
"Thank you, I'd like it very much," replied young Lennox eagerly.
The powerful lenses at once brought the island very near, and trees and bushes became detached from the general mass, until he saw between them the French and Indian camp. As Tayoga had asserted, many of the warriors were asleep on the grass. When nothing was to be done, the Indian could do it with a perfection seldom attained by anybody else. Tandakora was sitting on a fallen log, looking at the mainland. As usual, he was bare to the waist, and painted frightfully. Not far away a Frenchman was sleeping on a cloak, and Robert was quite sure that it was De Courcelles. St. Luc himself was visible toward the center of the island. He, too, stood upon a knoll, and he, too, had glasses with which he was studying his foe.
"The command of the water," said Rogers, "is heavily against us. If we had only been quick enough to build big boats of our own, the tale to be told would have been very different."
"And if by any means," said Willet, "we contrive to drive them from the island, they can easily retreat in their fleet to another, and they could repeat the process indefinitely. George has many islands."
"Then why not capture their fleet?" said Robert in a moment of inspiration.
Rogers and Willet looked at each other.
"It's queer we didn't think of that before," said the hunter.
"'Twill be an attempt heavy with danger," said Rogers.
"So it will, my friend, but have we shirked dangers? Don't we live and sleep with danger?"
"I was merely stating the price, Dave. I was making no excuse for shirking."
"I know it, old friend. Whoever heard of Robert Rogers shunning danger? We'll have a talk with Daganoweda, and you, Robert, since you suggested the plan, and you, Tayoga, since you've a head full of wisdom, shall be present at the conference."
The Mohawk chieftain came, and, when the scheme was laid before him, he was full of eagerness for it.
"Every one of my warriors will be glad to go," he said, "and I, as becomes my place, will lead them. It will be a rare deed, and the news of it will be heard with wonder and admiration in all our castles."
He spoke in the language of the Ganeagaono, which all the others understood perfectly, and the two white leaders knew they could rely upon the courage and enthusiasm of the Mohawks.
"It depends upon the sun whether we shall succeed tonight or not," said Tayoga, glancing up at the heavens, "and at present he gives no promise of favoring us. The sun, as you know, Dagaeoga, is with us the Sun God, also, whom we call Areskoui, or now and then Aieroski, and who is sometimes almost the same as Manitou."
"I know," said Robert, who had an intimate acquaintance with the complex Pantheon of the Hodenosaunee, which was yet not so complex after all, and which also had in its way the elements of the Christian religion in all their beauty and majesty.
Tayoga gazed out upon Andiatarocte.
Robert's eyes followed the Onondaga's.
"It's true," he said, "that the Sun God, your Areskoui, and mine, too, for that matter, makes no promise to us. The warriors of the Hodenosaunee have looked upon Andiatarocte for many centuries, but doubtless there has never been a day before when any one of them saw it more beautiful and more gleaming than it is now."
"Yes, Dagaeoga, the waters slide and ripple before the wind, and they are blue and green, and silver and gold, and all the shades between, as the sunlight shifts and falls, but it is many hours until night and Areskoui may be of another mind by then."
"I know it, Tayoga. I remember the two storms on Champlain, and I don't forget how quickly they can come on either lake. I'm not praying for any storm, but I do want a dark and cloudy night."
"Dagaeoga should not be too particular," said Tayoga, his eyes twinkling. "He has told Areskoui exactly what kind of a night he wishes, but I think he will have to take just the kind of a night that Areskoui may send."
"I don't dispute it, Tayoga, but when you're praying to the Sun God it's as well to pray for everything you want."
"We'll watch Areskoui with more than common interest today, you and I, Dagaeoga, but the warriors of the Ganeagaono, even as the Hurons, the Abenakis and the Ojibways, will go to sleep. Behold, Daganoweda even now lies down upon his blanket!"
The Mohawk chief, as if sure that nothing more of importance was going to happen that day, spread his fine green blanket upon some leaves, and then settling himself in an easy posture upon it, fell asleep, while many of his warriors, and some of the rangers too, imitated his example. But Robert and Tayoga had slept enough, and, though they moved about but little, they were all eyes and ears.
Scouts had been sent far up and down the shores of the lake, and they reported that no other band was near, chance leaving the issue wholly to the two forces that now faced each other. Yet the morning, while remaining of undimmed beauty, had all the appearance of ease, even of laziness. Several of the rangers went down to the edge of the lake, and, removing their clothing, bathed in the cool waters. Then they lay on the slope until their bodies dried, dressed themselves, and waited patiently for the night.
The French and Indians, seeing them engaged in a pleasant task, found it well to do likewise. The waters close to the island were filled with Frenchmen, Canadians and Indians, wading, swimming and splashing water, the effect in the distance being that of boys on a picnic and enjoying it to the utmost.
Robert took a little swim himself, though he kept close to the shore, and felt much refreshed by it. When he had been dried by the sun and was bade in his clothes, he stretched himself luxuriously near the rangers on the slope, taking an occasional glance at the sun from under his sheltering hand.
"There is a little mist in the southwest," he said, after a long time, to Tayoga. "Do you think it possible that Areskoui will change his mind and cease to flood the world with beams?"
"I see the vapor," replied Tayoga, looking keenly. "It is just a wisp, no larger than a feather from the wing of an eagle, but it seems to grow. Areskoui changes his mind as he pleases. Who are we to question the purposes of the Sun God? Yet I take it, Dagaeoga, that the chance of a night favorable to our purpose has increased."
"I begin to think, Tayoga, that Areskoui does, in truth, favor us, through no merit of ours, but perhaps because of a lack of merit in Tandakora and De Courcelles. Yet, as I live, you're right when you say the cloud of mist or vapor is growing. Far in the southwest, so it seems to me, the air becomes dim. I know it, because I can't see the forests there as distinctly as I did a half hour ago, and I hold that the change in Areskoui's heart is propitious to our plan."
"A long speech, but your tongue always moves easily, Dagaeoga, and what you say is true. The mist increases fast, and before he goes down on the other side of the world the Sun God will be veiled in it. Then the night will come full of clouds, and dark. Look at Andiatarocte, and you will see that it is so."
The far shores of the lake were almost lost in the vapors, only spots of forest green appearing now and then, a veil of silver being over the eastern waters. The island on which St. Luc lay encamped was growing indistinct, and the fires there shone through a white mist.
Tayoga stood up and gazed intently at the sun, before which a veil had been drawn, permitting his eyes to dwell on its splendors, now coming in a softened and subdued light.
"All the omens are favorable," he said. "The heart of Areskoui has softened toward us, knowing that we are about to go on a great and perilous venture. Tonight Tododaho on his star will also look down kindly on us. He will be beyond the curtain of the clouds, and we will not see him, but I know that it will be so, because I feel in my heart that it must be so. You and I, Dagaeoga, are only two, and among the many on this earth two can count for little, but the air is full of spirits, and it may be that they have heard our prayers. With the unseen powers the prayers of the humble and the lowly avail as much as those of the great and mighty."
His eyes bore the rapt and distant expression of the seer, as he continued to gaze steadily at the great silver robe that hung before the face of Areskoui's golden home. Splendid young warrior that he was, always valiant and skillful in battle, there was a spiritual quality in Tayoga that often showed. The Onondagas were the priestly nation of the Hodenosaunee and upon him had descended a mantle that was, in a way, the mantle of a prophet. Robert, so strongly permeated by Indian lore and faith, really believed, for a moment, that his comrade saw into the future.
But not the white youth and the red youth alone bore witness to the great change, the phenomenon even, that Areskoui was creating. Both Rogers and Willet had looked curiously at the sun, and then had looked again. Daganoweda, awaking, stood up and gazed in the intent and reverential manner that Tayoga had shown. The soul of the Mohawk chieftain was fierce. He existed for the chase and war, and had no love beyond them. There was nothing spiritual in his nature, but none the less he was imbued with the religion of his race, and believed that the whole world, the air, the forests, the mountains, and the lakes were peopled with spirits, good or bad. Now he saw one of the greatest of them all, Areskoui, the Sun God himself, in action and working a miracle.
The untamable soul of Daganoweda was filled with wonder and admiration. Not spiritual, he was nevertheless imaginative to a high degree. Through the silver veil which softened the light of the sun more and more, permitting his eyes to remain fixed upon it, he saw a mighty figure in the very center of that vast globe of light, a figure that grew and grew until he knew it was Areskoui, the Sun God himself.
A shiver swept over the powerful frame of Daganoweda. The Mohawk chieftain, whose nerves never quivered before the enemy, felt as a little child in the presence of the mighty Sun God. But his confidence returned. Although the figure of Areskoui continued to grow, his face became benevolent. He looked down from his hundred million miles in the void, beheld the tiny figure of Daganoweda standing upon the earth, and smiled. Daganoweda knew that it was so, because he saw the smile with his own eyes, and, however perilous the venture might be, he knew then it could not fail, because Areskoui himself had smiled upon it.
The great veil of mist deepened and thickened and was drawn slowly across all the heavens. Robert felt a strange thrill of awe. It was, in very truth, to him a phenomenon, more than an eclipse, not a mere passage of the moon before the sun for which science gave a natural account, but a sudden combination of light and air that had in it a tinge of the supernatural.
All the Mohawks were awake now, everybody was awake and everybody watched the sun, but perhaps it was Daganoweda who saw most. No tincture of the white man's religion had ever entered his mind to question any of his Iroquois beliefs. There was Areskoui, in the very center of the sun, mighty and shining beyond belief, and still smiling across his hundred million miles at the earth upon which Daganoweda stood. But, all the while he was drawing his silver robe, fold on fold, thicker and tighter about himself, and his figure grew dim.
One after another the distant islands in the lake sank out of sight, and the fires were merely a faint red glow on the one occupied by St. Luc. Over the waters the vapors swept in great billows and columns. Daganoweda drew a great breath. The sun itself was fading. Areskoui had shown his face long enough and now he meant to make the veil between himself and man impenetrable. He became a mere shadow, the mists and vapors rolled up wave on wave, and he was gone entirely. Then night came down over mountains, forest and Andiatarocte. The last fire on St Luc's island had been permitted to die out, and it, too, sank into the mists and vapors with the others, and was invisible to the watchers on the mainland slope.
But little could be seen of Andiatarocte itself, save occasional glimmers of silver under the floating clouds. Not a star was able to come out, and all the lake and country about it were wrapped in a heavy grayish mist which seemed to Robert to be surcharged with some kind of exciting solution. But the three leaders, Rogers, Willet and Daganoweda, gathered in a close council, did not yet give any order save that plenty of food be served to rangers and Mohawks alike.
Thus a long time was permitted to pass and the mists and vapors over Andiatarocte deepened steadily. No sound came from St. Luc's island, nor was any fire lighted there. For all the darkness showed, it had sunk from sight forever. It was an hour till midnight when the three leaders gave their orders and the chosen band began to prepare. Robert had begged to be of the perilous number. He could never endure it if Tayoga went and not he, and Willet, though reluctant, was compelled to consent. Willet himself was going also, and so was Daganoweda, of course, and Black Rifle, but Rogers was to remain behind, in command of the force on the slope.
Thirty rangers and thirty Mohawks, all powerful swimmers, were chosen, and every man stripped to the skin. Firearms, of necessity, were left behind with the clothes, but everyone buckled a belt around his bare body, and put in it his hatchet and hunting knife. The plan was to swim silently for the island and then trust to courage, skill and fortune. Buoyed up by the favor of Areskoui, who had worked a miracle for them, the sixty dropped into the water, and began their night of extreme hazard.