Robert looked back and saw the roofs and spires of Quebec sitting on its mighty rock, and he remembered how much had happened during their short stay there. He could recall the whole time, hour by hour, and he knew that he would never forget any part of it. The town was intense, glowing, vivid in the clear northern sunlight, and he had seen it, as he so often had longed to do. A quality in his nature had responded to it, but at the last his heart had turned against it. The splendor of that city into which he had enjoyed such a remarkable introduction had in it something hot and feverish.
"You're thinking a farewell to Quebec, Robert," said the hunter. "It looks grand and strong up there, but I've an idea there'll be a day when we'll come again."
"Americans and English have besieged it before," said Robert, "but they've never taken it."
"Which proves nothing, but we'll turn our minds now to our journey into the south. It's good to breathe this clean air again, and the sooner we reach the deep woods the better I'll like it. What say you, Tayoga?"
The nostrils of the Onondaga expanded, as he inhaled the odors of leaf and grass, borne on the gentle wind.
"I have lived in the white man's house in Albany," he said, "and in our own log house in the vale of Onondaga, and I know the English and the French have many things that the nations of the Hodenosaunee have not, but we can do without most of them. If the great chiefs were to drink and dance all night as Bigot and his friends do, then indeed would we cease to be the mighty League of the Hodenosaunee."
They traveled all that day on foot, but at a great pace, showing their safe conduct twice to French soldiers, and so thin was the line of settlements along the St. Lawrence that when night came they were beyond the cultivated fields and had entered the deep woods. The three, in addition to their weapons, carried on their backs packs containing blankets and food, and as Willet and Tayoga put them down they drew long breaths of relief like those of prisoners escaped.
"Home, Tayoga! Home!" said the hunter, joyfully. "I've nothing against cities in general, but I breathed some pretty foul air in Quebec, and it's sweet and clean here. There comes a time when you are glad no house crosses your view and you are with the world as it was made in the beginning. Don't these trees look splendid! Did you ever see a finer lot of tender young leaves? And the night sky you see up there has been washed and scrubbed until it's nothing but clean blue!"
"Why, you're only a boy, Dave, the youngest of us three," laughed Robert. "Here you are singing songs about leaves and trees just as if you were not the most terrible swordsman in the world."
A shadow crossed Willet's face, but it was quick in passing.
"Let's not talk about Boucher, Robert," he said. "I don't regret what I did, knowing that it saved the lives of others, but I won't recall it any oftener than I can help. You're right when you term me a boy, and I believe you're right, too, when you say I'm the youngest of the three. I'm so glad to be here that just now I'm not more'n fifteen years old. I could run, jump, laugh and sing. And I think the woods are a deal safer and friendlier than Quebec. There's nobody, at least not here, lying around seeking a chance to stick a rapier in your back."
He unbuckled his sword and laid it upon the grass. Robert put his beside it.
"I don't think we'll need to use 'em again for a long time," said the hunter, "but they're mighty fine as decorations, and sometimes a decoration is worth while. It impresses. Now, Tayoga, you kindle the fire, and Robert, you find a spring. It's pleasant to feel that you're again on land that belongs to nobody, and can do as you please."
Robert found a spring less than a hundred yards away, and Tayoga soon kindled a fire near it with his flint and steel, on which the hunter warmed their food. Each had a small tin cup from which he drank clear water as they ate, and Robert, elastic of temperament, rejoiced with the hunter.
"You are right, Dave," he said. "These are splendid trees, and every leaf on 'em is splendid, too, and the little spring I found is just about as fine a spring as the forest holds. I slept in a good bed at the Inn of the Eagle, but when I scrape up the dead leaves here, roll myself in my blanket and lie on 'em I think I'll sleep better than I did between four walls. What did you think of the Marquis Duquesne, Dave?"
"A man of parts, Robert. He has more military authority than any of our Governors have, and if war comes he'll be a dangerous opponent."
"And it will come, Dave?"
"Looks like a certainty. You see, Robert, the King of France and the King of England sitting on their golden thrones, only three or four hundred miles apart, but three or four thousand miles from us, have a dyspeptic fit, make faces at each other, and here in the woods we must fall to fighting. Even Tayoga's people--and the King of France and the King of England are nothing to them--must be drawn into it."
"Both Kings claim the Ohio country, which they will never see, and of which they know nothing," said Tayoga, with a faint touch of sarcasm, "but perhaps it belongs to the people who live in it."
"Maybe so, Tayoga! Maybe!" said Willet briskly, "but we'll not look for trouble or unpleasant thoughts now. We three are too glad to be in the woods again. Tayoga, suppose you scout about and see that no enemy's near. Then we'll build up the fire, till it's burning bright, and rejoice."
"It is well!" said Tayoga, as he slipped away among the trees, making no sound as he went. Robert meanwhile gathered dead wood which lay everywhere in abundance, and heaped it beside the fire ready for use. But as Tayoga was gone some time he sat down again with his back to a tree, taking long deep breaths of the cool fresh air, and feeling his pulses leap. The hunter sat in a similar position, gazing meditatively into the fire. Robert heard a rattling of bark over his head, but he knew that it was a squirrel scuttling up the trunk of the tree, and pausing now and then to examine the strange invaders of his forest.
"Do you see the squirrel, Dave?" he asked.
"Yes, he's about twenty feet above you now, sitting in a fork. He's a fine big fellow with a bushy tail curved so far over his back that it nearly touches his head. He has little red eyes and he's just burning up with curiosity. The firelight falls on him in such a way that I can see. Perhaps he has never seen a man before. Now he's looking at you, Robert, trying to decide what kind of an animal you are, and forming an estimate of your character and disposition."
"You're developing your imagination, Dave, but since I saw what you said and did in Quebec I'm not surprised."
"Encouraged by your motionless state he's left the fork, and come a half dozen feet down the trunk in order to get a better look at you. I think he likes you, Robert. He lies flattened against the bark, and if I had not seen him descending I would not notice him now, but the glow of the coals still enables me to make out his blazing little red eyes like sparks of fire. Now he is looking at me, and I don't think he has as much confidence in my harmlessness as he has in yours. Perhaps it's because he sees my eyes are upon him and he doesn't like to be watched. He's a saucy little fellow. Sit still, Robert! I see a black shadow over your head, and I think our little friend, the squirrel, should look out. Ah, there he goes! Missed! And our handsome young friend, the gray squirrel, is safe! He has scuttled into his hole higher up the tree!"
Robert had heard a rush of wings and he had seen a long black shadow pass.
"What was it, Dave?" he asked.
"A great horned owl. His iron beak missed our little squirrel friend just about three inches. Those three inches were enough, but I don't think that squirrel will very soon again stay out at night so late. The woods are beautiful, Robert, but you see they're not always safe even for those who can't live anywhere else."
"I know, Dave, but I'm not going to think about it tonight, because I've made up my mind to be happy. Here comes Tayoga. Is any enemy near, Tayoga?"
"None," replied the Onondaga, sitting down by the fire. "But the forest is full of its own people, and they are all very curious about us."
"That's true," said Willet, "a squirrel over Robert's head was so inquisitive that he forgot his vigilance for a few moments and came near losing his life as the price of his carelessness. I'm not surprised to hear you say, Tayoga, they're all looking at us. I've felt for some time that we're being watched, admired and perhaps a little feared. It's a tribute to the enormously interesting qualities of us three."
"That is, Dave, because we're human beings we're kings in the forest among the animals."
"You put it right, Robert. They look up to us. Is anything watching us among the leaves near by, Tayoga?"
"A huge bald-headed eagle, Great Bear, is sitting on a bough in the center of a mass of green leaves. He is looking at us, and while he is full of curiosity and some admiration he fears and hates us more."
"What is he saying to himself, Tayoga?"
"You can read his words to himself by the look in his eyes. He is saying that he does not like our appearance, that we are too large, that we have created here something hot and flaming, that we behave with too much assurance, going about just as if the forest was ours, and paying no attention to its rightful owners."
"He has got a grievance, and perhaps it's a just one," laughed Robert.
"No, it is not," said Tayoga, "because there is plenty of room in the forest for him and for us, too. I can read his eyes quite well. There is much malice and anger in his heart, and I will give him some cause for rage."
He picked up a live coal between the ends of two sticks, and holding it firmly in that manner, walked a little distance among the trees. Then swinging the sticks he hurled the coal far up among the boughs. There was an angry screech and whirr and Robert saw a swift shadow passing between his eyes and the sky.
"His heart can burn more than ever now," laughed Tayoga, as he returned to the fire.
"You've hurt his dignity, Tayoga," said Robert.
"So I have, but why should he not suffer a loss of pride? He is ruthless and cruel and when he has his way he makes desolation about him."
"What else is watching us, Tayoga?"
"A beast upon the ground, and his heart is much like that of the eagle in the air. He is crouched in a thicket about twenty yards away, and his lips are drawn back from his sharp fangs. His nostrils twitch with the odor of our food, and his yellow eyes are staring at us. Oh, he hates us because he hates everything except his own kind and very often he hates that. He wants our food because he's hungry--he's always hungry--and he would try to eat us too if he were not so much afraid of us."
"Tayoga, one needs only a single glance to tell that this animal you're talking about is a wolf."
"It is so, Dagaeoga. A very hungry and a very angry wolf. He is cunning, but he does not know everything. He thinks we do not see him, that we do not know he is there and that maybe, after awhile, when we go to sleep, he can slip up and steal our food, or perhaps he can bring many of his brothers, and they can eat us before we awake. Now, I will tell him in a language he can understand that it's time for him to go away."
He picked up a heavy stick and threw it with all his might into the bushes on their right. It sped straighter to the target than he had hoped, as there was a thud, a snarling yelp, and then the swift pad of flying feet. Tayoga lay back and laughed.
"The Spirit of Jest guided my hand," he said, "and the stick struck him upon the nose. He will run far and his wrath and fear will grow as he runs. Then he will lie down again in some thicket, and he will not dare to come back. Now, we will wait a little."
"Anything more looking at us?" asked Robert after awhile.
"Yes, we have a new visitor," replied Tayoga in a low tone. "Speak only in a whisper and do not move, because the animal that is looking at us has no malice in its heart, and does not wish us harm. It has come very softly and, while its eyes are larger, they are mild and have only curiosity."
"A deer, I should say, Tayoga."
"Yes, a deer, Lennox, a very beautiful deer. It has been drawn by the fire, and having come as near as it dares it stands there, shivering a little, but wondering and admiring."
"We won't trouble it, Tayoga. We'll need the meat of a deer before long, but we'll spare our guest of tonight."
"He is staring very straight at us," said Tayoga, "but something has stirred in the brushwood--perhaps it's another wolf--and now he has gone."
"We seem to be an attraction," said Willet, "and so I suppose we'd better give 'em as good a look as we can."
He cast a great quantity of the dry wood on the fire, and it blazed up gayly, throwing the red glow in a wide circle, and lighting up the pleasant glade. The figures of the three, as they leaned in luxurious attitudes, were outlined clearly and sharply, a view they would not have allowed had not Tayoga been sure no enemy was near.
"Now let the spectators come on," said Willet genially, "because we won't be on display forever. After a while we'll get sleepy, and then it will be best to put out the fire."
The flames leaped higher and the glowing circle widened. Robert, leaning against a tree, with his blanket wrapped around him and the cushion of dead leaves beneath him, felt the grateful warmth upon his face, and it rejoiced body and mind alike. Tayoga and the hunter were in a similar state of content, and they were silent for a while. Then Robert said:
"Who's looking at us now, Tayoga?"
"Two creatures, Dagaeoga, that belong upon the ground, but that are not now upon it."
"Your answer sounds like a puzzle. If they're not now upon the ground they're probably in the air, but they're not birds, because birds don't belong on the ground. Then they're animals that have climbed trees."
"Dagaeoga's mind is becoming wondrous wise. In time he may be a sachem among his adopted people."
"Don't you have sport with me, Tayoga, because bear in mind that if you do I will pay you back some day. Have these creatures a mean, vicious look?"
"I could not claim, Dagaeoga, that they are as beautiful as the deer that came to look at us but lately."
"Then I make so bold as to say, Tayoga, that they have tufted ear tips, spotted fur, and short tails, in brief a gentleman lynx and a lady lynx, his wife. They are gazing at us with respect and fear as the wolf did, and also with just as much malice and hate. They're wondering who and what we are, and why we come into their woods, the pair of bloodthirsty rabbit slayers."
"Did I not say you would be a sachem some day, Dagaeoga? You have read aright. An Onondaga warrior could not have done better. The two lynxes are on a bough ten feet from the ground, and perhaps in their foolish hearts they think because they are so high above the earth that we cannot reach them."
"You're not going to shoot at 'em, Tayoga? We don't want to waste good bullets on a lynx."
"Not I, Dagaeoga, but I will make them acquainted with something they will dread as much as bullets. It's right that those who come to look at us should be made to pay the price of it."
"So you think that Monsieur and Madame Lynx have looked long enough at the illustrious three?"
"Yes, Dagaeoga. It is time for them to go. And since they do not go of their own will I must make them go."
He snatched a long brand from the fire, and whirling it around his head, and shouting at the same time, he dashed toward an old dead tree some distance away. Two stump-tailed, tuft-eared animals, uttering loud ferocious screams, leaped from the boughs and tore away through the thickets, terror stabbing at their hearts, as the circling flame of red pursued them. Tayoga returned laughing.
"They will run and they will run," he said, throwing down his brand.
"You don't give 'em much chance to see us, Tayoga," said the hunter. "Since we're on exhibition tonight you might have let 'em look and admire a while longer."
"So I could, Great Bear, but I do not like the lynx. Its habits are unpleasant, and its scream is harsh. Hence, I drove the two of them away."
"I suppose you're right. I don't dare care much about 'em either. Now we'll rest and see what other visitors come to admire."
Tayoga sat down again. Their packs were put in a neat heap near the three, Robert's and Willet's swords, and Tayoga's bow and arrows in their case resting on the top. Robert threw more wood on the fire, and contentedly watched the great, glowing circle of light extend its circumference.
"We knew we'd find peace and rest here," said Willet, "but we didn't know we'd be watched and admired like people on the stage at a theater."
"Have you seen many plays, Dave?" asked Robert.
"A lot, especially in London at Drury Lane and other theaters."
"And so you know London, as well as Paris?"
"Well, yes, I've been there. Some day, Robert, I'll tell you more about both Paris and London and why I happened to be in such great cities, but not now. We'll keep our minds on the forest, which is worth our attention. Don't you hear a tread approaching, Tayoga?"
"Yes, Great Bear, and it's very heavy. A lord of the forest is coming."
"A moose, think you, Tayoga?"
"Yes, Great Bear, a mighty bull, one far beyond the common size. I can tell by his tread, and I think he is angry, or he would not march so boldly toward the fire."
"Then," said the hunter, "we'd better stand up, and be ready with our weapons. I've no wish to be trodden to death by a mad bull moose, just when I'm feeling so happy and so contented with the world."
"The Great Bear's advice is good," said Tayoga, and the three took it. The approaching tread grew heavier, and the largest moose that Robert had ever seen, pushing his way through the bushes, stood looking at the fire, and those who had built it. He was a truly magnificent specimen, and Tayoga had been right in calling him a lord of the forest, but his eyes were red and inflamed and his look was menacing.
"Mad! Quite mad!" whispered the hunter. "He sees us, but he doesn't admire us. He hates us, and he isn't afraid of us."
The three moved softly and discreetly into a place where both trees and bushes were so dense that the moose could not get at them.
"What troubles him?" asked Robert.
"I don't know," said the hunter. "He may be suffering yet from a wound by an Indian arrow, or he may have a spell of some kind. We can be certain only that he's raging mad, every inch of him. Look at those great sharp hoofs of his, Robert. I'd as soon be struck with an axe."
The moose, after some hesitation, rushed into the glade, leaped toward the fire, leaped back again, pawed and trampled the earth in a terrible convulsion of rage, and then sprang away, crashing through the forest. They heard the beat of his hoofs a long time, and when the sound ceased they returned and resumed their seats by the fire.
"That moose was a great animal," said Tayoga with irony, "but his mind was the mind of a little child. He did nothing with his strength and agility but tear the earth and tire himself. Now he runs away among the trees, scratching his body with bushes and briars."
"At any rate, he was an important visitor, Tayoga," said the hunter, "and since we've had a good look at him we're glad he's gone away. I think it likely now that all who wanted to look at us have had their look, and we might go to sleep. How are your leaves, Robert?"
"Fine and soft. They make a splendid bed, and I'm off to slumberland."
He pushed up the leaves at one end of his couch high enough to form a pillow, and stretched himself luxuriously. The night was turning cold, but he had his blanket, and there was the fire. He felt as comfortable as at the Inn of the Eagle in Quebec, and freer from plots and danger.
They were allowing the fire to die now, but the coals would glow for a long time, and Robert looked at them sleepily. His feeling of coziness and content increased, and presently he slept. The hunter soon followed him, but Tayoga slept not at all. His subtle Indian instinct warned him not to do so. For the Onondaga the forest was not free now from danger, and he would watch while his white friends slept.
Tayoga arose, after a while, and taking a stick, scattered the coals of the fire. But he did it in such a manner that he made no noise, the hunter and young Lennox continuing to sleep soundly. Then he watched the embers, having lost that union which is strength, die one by one. The conquered darkness came back, recovering its lost ground, slowly invading the glade, until it was one in the dusk with the rest of the forest. Then Tayoga felt better satisfied, and he looked at the sleepers, whose faces he could still discern, despite the absence of the fire, a fair moonlight falling.
Robert and the hunter slept peacefully, but their sleep was deep. The youth was weary from the long march in the woods, but as he slept his strong healthy tissues rapidly regained their vitality. The Onondaga looked at the two longer than usual. These comrades of his were knitted to him by innumerable labors and dangers shared. In him dwelled the soul of a great Indian chief, the spirit that has animated Pontiac, and Little Turtle, and Tecumseh and Red Cloud and other dauntless leaders of his race, but it had been refined though not weakened by his white education. Gratitude and truth were as frequent Indian traits as the memory of injuries, and while he was surcharged with pride because he was born a warrior of the clan of the Bear, of the nation Onondaga, of the great League of the Hodenosaunee, he felt as truly as any knight ever felt that he must accept and fulfill all the duties of his place.
Standing in a dusk made luminous by a silvery moonlight he was a fitting son of the forest, one of its finest products. He belonged to it, and it belonged to him, each being the perfect complement of the other. His face cut in bronze was lofty, not without a spiritual cast, and his black eyes flamed with his resolve. He looked up at the heavens, fleecy with white vapors, and shot with a million stars, the same sky that had bent over his race for generations no man could count, and his soul was filled with admiration. Then he made his voiceless prayer:
"O, Tododaho, first and greatest sachem of the Onondagas, greatest and noblest sachem of the League, look down from your home on another star, and watch over your people, for whom the storms gather! Let the serpents in your hair whisper to you of wisdom that you in turn may whisper it to us through the winds! Direct our footsteps in the great war that is coming between the white nations and save to us our green forests, our blue lakes and our silver rivers! Remember, O, Tododaho, that although the centuries have passed since Manitou took you from us, your name still stands among us for all that is great, noble and wise! I beseech you that you give sparks of your own lofty and strong spirit to your children, to the Hodenosaunee in this, their hour of need, and I ask too, that you help one who is scarcely yet a warrior in years, one who invokes thee humbly, even, Tayoga, of the clan of the Bear, of the nation Onondaga, of thy own great League of the Hodenosaunee!"
He bent his head a little to listen. All the legends and beliefs of his race, passed from generation to generation, crowded upon him. Tododaho leaning down from his star surely heard his prayer. Tayoga shivered a little, not from cold or fear, but from emotion. The mystic spell was upon him. Far above him in the limitless void little wreaths of vapor united about a great shining star, taking the shape of a man, the shape of a great chief, wise beyond all other chiefs that had ever lived, and he distinctly saw the wise serpents, coil on coil, in Tododaho's hair. They were whispering in his ear, and bending his head a little farther he heard the words of the serpents which the rising wind brought, repeated, from the lips of Tododaho:
"Fear not, O young warrior of the Onondagas! Tododaho leaning down from his star hears thy pious appeal! Tododaho, for more than four hundred years, has watched over the great League, night and day! Let the fifty sachems, old in years and wisdom, walk in the straight path of truth, and let the warriors follow! Let them be keepers of the faith, friends to those who have been their friends, sage in council, brave in battle, and they shall hold their green forests, their blue lakes and their silver rivers! And to thee, Tayoga, I say, thou shalt encounter many dangers, but because thy soul is pure, thou shalt have great rewards!"
Then the wind died suddenly. The leaves hung motionless. The vapors about the great shining star dissolved, the face of Tododaho, with the wise serpents, coil on coil in his hair, disappeared, and the luminous heavens were without a sign. But they had spoken.
Tayoga trembled, but again it was from emotion. Tododaho had sent his words of promise on the wind, and they had been whispered in his ear. Great would be his dangers but great would be his rewards. He was uplifted. His heart exulted. His deeds would be all the mightier because of the dangers, and he would never forget that he had the promise of Tododaho, greatest, wisest and noblest of the chiefs of the Hodenosaunee, who had gone to a shining star more than four hundred years ago.
He sat down under one of the trees and sleep remained far from him. He still listened with all the power of his sensitive hearing for any sound that might come in the forest, and after awhile he took his bow and quiver from their case, putting his quiver over his shoulder. He covered his rifle with the leaves, and holding the bow in his hand stole away among the trees.
The faintest of sounds had come to him, and Tayoga did not doubt its nature. It was strange to the forest and it was hostile. The mystic spell was still upon him, and it heightened his faculties to an extraordinary degree. He had almost the power of divination. A hundred yards, and he crouched low behind the trunk of a great oak. Then as the moonlight fell upon a small opening just ahead he saw them, Tandakora and two warriors.
The Ojibway was in full war paint, and the luminous quality of the moon's rays enlarged his huge form. He towered like Hanegoategeh, the Evil Spirit, and the figures upon his shoulders and chest stood out like carving. He and the two warriors also carried bows and arrows, and Tayoga surmised that they had meant to slay in silence. His heart burned with rage and he felt, too, an unlimited daring. Did he not have the promise of Tododaho that he should pass through all dangers and receive great rewards? He felt himself a match for the three, and he did not need secrecy and silence. He raised his voice and cried:
"Stand forth, Tandakora, and fight. I too have only waano (the bow) and gano (the arrow), but I meet the three of you!"
Tandakora and the two warriors sprang back and in an instant were hidden by the trees, but Tayoga had expected them to do so, and he dropped down, moving silently to another and hidden point, where he waited, an arrow on the string. He knew that Tandakora had recognized his voice, and would make every effort, his shoulder healed enough for use, to secure such a prize. The Ojibway would believe, too, that three must prevail against one, and he would push the attack. So the Onondaga remained motionless, but confident.
Nearly ten minutes of absolute silence followed, but his hearing was so acute that he did not think any of the three could move without his knowledge. Then a slight sliding sound came. One of the warriors was passing to the right, and that, too, he had expected, as they would surely try to flank him. He moved back a little, and with the end of his bow shook gently a bush seven or eight feet away. In an instant, an arrow, coming from the night, whistled through the bush. But Tayoga drew back the bow quick as lightning, fitted an arrow to the string and shot with all the power of his arm at a bronze body showing among the leaves at the point whence the arrow had come.
The shaft sang in the air, and so great was its speed and so short the range that it passed entirely through the chest of the warrior, cutting off his breath so quickly that he had no time to utter his death cry. There was no sound but that of his fall as he crashed among the leaves. Nor did Tayoga utter the usual shout of triumph. He sank back and fitted another arrow to the string, turning his attention now to the left.
It had been the Onondaga's belief that Tandakora would remain in front, sending the warriors on either flank, and now he expected a movement on the left. He did not have to make any feint of his own to draw the second warrior, who must have been lacking somewhat in skill, as he presently saw a dim figure in the bushes and his second arrow sped with the same speed and deadly result that had marked the first. Fitting his third arrow to the string, he called:
"Stand forth, Tandakora, and show yourself like a man! Then we shall see who shoots the better!"
But being a knight of the woods, and to convince the Ojibway that it was no trick, he showed himself first. Tandakora shot at once, but Tayoga dropped back like a flash, and the arrow cut the air, where his feathered head had been. Then all his Indian nature, the training and habit of generations, leaped up in him and he began to taunt.
"You shot quickly, Tandakora," he called, "and your arm was strong, but the arrow struck not! You followed us all the way from Stadacona, and you thought to have our scalps! The Great Bear and Lennox did not suspect, but I did! The warriors who came with you are dead, and you and I alone face each other! I have shown myself and I have risked your arrow, now show yourself, Tandakora, and risk mine!"
But the Ojibway, it seemed, had too much respect for the bow of Tayoga. He remained close, and did not disclose an inch of his brown body. The Onondaga did not show himself again, but crouched for a shot, in case the opportunity came. He knew that Tandakora was a great bowman, but he had supreme confidence in his own skill against anybody. Nothing stirred where his enemy lay and no sound came from the little camp, which was beyond the reach of the words they had uttered.
A quarter of an hour, a half hour, an hour passed, and neither moved, showing all the patience natural to the Indian on the war path. Then Tayoga shook a bush a few feet from him, but Tandakora divined the trick, and his arrow remained on the string. Another quarter of an hour, and seeing some leaves quiver, Tayoga, at a chance, sent an arrow among them. No sound came back, and he knew that it had been sped in vain.
Then he began to move slowly and with infinite care toward the right, resolved to bring the affair to a head. At the end of twenty feet he rustled the bushes a little once more and lay flat. An arrow flew over his head, but he did not reply, resuming his slow advance after his enemy's shaft had sped. Another twenty feet and he made the bushes move again. Tandakora shot, and in doing so he exposed a little of his right arm. Tayoga sent a prompt arrow at the brown flesh. He heard a cry of pain, wrenched in spite of his stoical self from the Ojibway, and then as he sank down again and put his ear to the ground came the sound of retreating footsteps.
The affair, unfinished in a way, so far as the vital issue was concerned, was concluded for the present, at least. Ear and mind told Tayoga as clearly as if eye had seen. His arrow had ploughed its path across Tandakora's arm near the shoulder, inflicting a wound that would heal, but which was extremely painful and from which so much blood was coming that a quick bandage was needed. Tandakora could no longer meet Tayoga with the bow and arrow and so he must retreat. Nor was it likely that his first wound was yet more than half healed.
The Onondaga waited until he was sure his enemy was at least a half mile away, when he rose boldly and approached the place where Tandakora had last lain hidden. He detected at once drops of dark blood on the leaves and grass, and he found his arrow, which Tandakora had snatched from the wound and thrown upon the ground. He wiped the barb carefully and replaced it in his quiver. Then he followed the trail at least three miles, a trail marked here and there by ruddy spots.
Tayoga did not feel sorry for his enemy. Tandakora was a savage and an assassin, and he deserved this new hurt. He was a dangerous enemy, one who had made up his mind to secure revenge upon the Onondaga and his friends, but his fresh wound would keep him quiet for a while. One could not have an arrow through his forearm and continue a hunt with great vigor and zest.
Tayoga marked twice the places where Tandakora had stopped to rest. There the drops of blood were clustered, indicating a pause of some duration, and a third stop showed where he had bound up his wound. Fresh leaves had been stripped from a bush and a tiny fragment or two indicated that the Ojibway had torn a piece from his deerskin waistcloth to fasten over the leaves. After that the trail was free from the ruddy spots, but Tayoga did not follow it much farther. He was sure that Tandakora would not return, as he had lost much blood, and for a while, despite his huge power and strength, exertion would make him weak and dizzy. Evidently, the bullet in his shoulder, received when they were on their way to Quebec, had merely shaken him, but the arrow had taken a heavier toll.
Tayoga returned to the camp of the three. All the fire had gone out, and Willet and Robert, wrapped in their blankets, still slept peacefully. The entire combat between the bowmen had passed without their knowledge, and Tayoga, quietly returning the bow and quiver to their case, and taking his rifle instead, sat down with his back against a tree, and his weapon across his knees. He was on the whole satisfied. He had not removed Tandakora, but he had inflicted another painful and mortifying defeat upon him. The pride of the Indian had been touched in its most sensitive place, and the Ojibway would burn with rage for a long time. Tayoga's white education did not keep him from taking pleasure in the thought.
He had no intention of going to sleep. Although Tandakora would not return, others might come, and for the night the care of the three was his. It had grown a little darker, but the blue of the skies was merely deeper and more luminous. There in the east was the great shining star, on which Tododaho, mightiest of chiefs, lived with the wise serpents coiled in his hair. He gazed and his heart leaped. The vapors about the star were gathering again, and for a brief moment or two they formed the face of Tododaho, a face that smiled upon him. His soul rejoiced.
"O Tododaho," were his unspoken words. "Thou hast kept thy promise! Thou hast watched over me in the fight with Tandakora, and thou hast given me the victory! Thou hast sent all his arrows astray and thou hast sent mine aright! I thank thee, O, Tododaho!"
The vapors were dissolved, but Tayoga never doubted that he had seen for a second time the face of the wise chief who had gone to his star more than four hundred years ago. A great peace filled him. He had accepted the white man's religion as he had learned it in the white man's school, and at the same time he had kept his own. He did not see any real difference between them. Manitou and God were the same, one was the name in Iroquois and the other was the name in English. When he prayed to either he prayed to both.
The darkness that precedes the dawn came. The great star on which Tododaho lived went away, and the whole host swam into the void that is without ending. The deeper dusk crept up, but Tayoga still sat motionless, his eyes wide open, his ecstatic state lasting. He heard the little animals stirring once more in the forest as the dawn approached, and he felt very friendly toward them. He would not harm the largest or the least of them. It was their wilderness as well as his, and Manitou had made them as well as him.
The darkness presently began to thin away, and Tayoga saw the first silver shoot of dawn in the east. The sun would soon rise over the great wilderness that was his heritage and that he loved, clothing in fine, spun gold the green forests, the blue lakes and the silver rivers. He took a mighty breath. It was a beautiful world and he was glad that he lived in it.
He awoke Robert and Willet, and they stood up sleepily.
"Did you have a good rest, Tayoga?" Robert asked.
"I did not sleep," the Onondaga replied.
"Didn't sleep? Why not, Tayoga?"
"In the night, Tandakora and two more came."
"What? Do you mean it, Tayoga?"
"They were coming, seeking to slay us as we slept, but I heard them. Lest the Great Bear and Dagaeoga be awakened and lose the sleep they needed so much, I took my bow and arrows and went into the forest and met them."
Robert's breath came quickly. Tayoga's manner was quiet, but it was not without a certain exultation, and the youth knew that he did not jest. Yet it seemed incredible.
"You met them, Tayoga?" he repeated.
"And what happened?"
"The two warriors whom Tandakora brought with him lie still in the forest. They will never move again. Tandakora escaped with an arrow through his arm. He will not trouble us for a week, but he will seek us later."
"Why didn't you awake us, Tayoga, and take us with you?"
"I wished to do this deed alone."
"You've done it well, that's sure," said Willet, "and now that all danger has been removed we'll light our fire and cook breakfast."
After breakfast they shouldered their packs and plunged once more into the greenwood, intending to reach as quickly as they could the hidden canoe on the Richelieu, and then make an easy journey by water.