The three arrived at the Richelieu without further hostile encounter, but they met a white forest runner who told them the aspect of affairs in the Ohio country was growing more threatening. A small force from Virginia was starting there under a young officer named Washington, and it was reported that the French from Canada in numbers were already in the disputed country.
"We know what we know," said Willet thoughtfully. "I've never doubted that English and French would come into conflict in the woods, and if I had felt any such doubts, our visit to Quebec would have driven them away. I don't think our letters from the Governor of New York to the Governor General of Canada will be of any avail."
"No," said Robert, soberly. "They won't. But I want to say to you, Dave, that I'm full of gladness, because we've reached our canoe. Our packs without increasing in size are at least twice as heavy as they were when we started."
"I can join you in your hosannas, Robert. Never before did a canoe look so fine to me. It's a big canoe, a beautiful canoe, a strong canoe, a swift canoe, and it's going to carry us in comfort and far."
It was, in truth, larger than the one they had used coming up the lakes, and, with a mighty sigh of satisfaction, Robert settled into his place. Their packs, rifles, swords and the case containing Tayoga's bow and arrows were adjusted delicately, and then, with a few sweeps of the Onondaga's paddle, they shot out into the slow current of the river. Robert and Willet leaned back and luxuriated. Tayoga wanted to do the work at present, saying that his wrists, in particular, needed exercise, and they willingly let him. They were moving against the stream, but so great was the Onondaga's dexterity that he sent the canoe along at a good pace without feeling weariness.
"It's like old times," said Willet. "There's no true happiness like being in a canoe on good water, with the strong arm of another to paddle for you. I'm glad you winged that savage, Tandakora, Tayoga. It would spoil my pleasure to know that he was hanging on our trail."
"Don't be too happy, Great Bear," said Tayoga. "Within a week the Ojibway will be hunting for us. Maybe he will be lying in wait on the shores of the great lake, Champlain."
"If so, Tayoga, you must have him to feel the kiss of another arrow."
Tayoga smiled and looked affectionately at his bow and quiver.
"The Iroquois shaft can still be of use," he said, "and we will save our ammunition, because the way is yet far."
"Deer shouldn't be hard to find in these woods," said Willet, "and when we stop for the night we'll hunt one."
They took turns with the paddle, and now and then, drawing in under overhanging boughs, rested a little. Once or twice they saw distant smoke which they believed was made by Canadian and therefore hostile Indians, but they did not pause to investigate. It was their desire to make speed, because they wished to reach as quickly as they could the Long House in the vale of the Onondaga. It was still possible to arrive there before St. Luc should go away, because he would have to wait until the fifty sachems chose to go in council and hear him.
On this, their return journey, Robert thought much of the chevalier and was eager to see him again. Of all the Frenchmen he had met St. Luc interested him most. De Galisonniere was gallant and honest and truthful, a good friend, but he did not convey the same impression of foresight and power that the chevalier had made upon him, and there was also another motive, underlying but strong. He wished to match himself in oratory before the fifty chiefs with Duquesne's agent. He was confident of his gifts, discovered so recently, and he knew the road to the mind and hearts of the Iroquois.
"What are you thinking so hard about, Robert?" asked Willet.
"Of St. Luc. I think we'll meet him in the vale of Onondaga. Do you ever feel that you can look into the future, Dave?"
"Just what do you mean?"
"Nothing supernatural. Don't the circumstances and conditions sometimes make you think that events are going to run in a certain channel? At the very first glance the Chevalier de St. Luc interested me uncommonly, and even in our exciting days in Quebec I thought of him. Now I have a vision about him. His life and mine are going to cross many times."
The hunter looked sharply at the lad.
"That's a queer idea of yours, Robert," he said, "but when you think it over it's not so queer, after all. It seems to be the rule that queer things should come about."
"Now I don't understand you, Dave."
"Well, maybe I don't quite understand myself. But I know one thing, Robert. St. Luc is always going to put you on your mettle, and you'll always appear at your best before him."
"That's the way I feel about it, Dave. He aroused in me an odd mixture of emotions, both emulation and defiance."
"Perhaps it's not so odd after all," said Willet.
Robert could not induce him to pursue the subject. He shied away from St. Luc, and talked about the more immediate part of their journey, recalling the necessity of finding another deer, as their supplies of food were falling very low. Just before sunset they drew into the mouth of a large creek and made the canoe fast. Tayoga, taking bow and quiver, went into the woods for his deer, and within an hour found him. Then they built a small fire sheltered well by thickets, and cooked supper.
The Onondaga reported game abundant, especially the smaller varieties, and remarkably tame, inferring from the fact that no hunting parties had been in the region for quite a while.
"We're almost in the country of the Hodenosaunee," he said, "but the warriors have not been here. All of the outlying bands have gone back toward Canada or westward into the Ohio country. This portion of the land is deserted."
"Still, it's well to be careful, Tayoga," said the hunter. "That savage, Tandakora, is going to make it the business of his life to hunt our scalps, and if there's to be a great war I don't want to fall just before it begins."
That night they dressed as much of their deer as they could carry, and the next day they passed into Lake Champlain, which displayed all of its finest colors, as if it had been made ready especially to receive them. Its waters showed blue and green and silver as the skies above them shifted and changed, and both to east and west the high mountains were clothed in dark green foliage. Robert's eyes kindled at the sight of nature's great handiwork, the magnificent lake more than a hundred miles long, and the great scenery in which it was placed. It had its story and legend too. Already it was famous in the history of the land and for unbroken generations the Indians had used it as their road between north and south. It was both the pathway of peace and the pathway of war, and Robert foresaw that hostile forces would soon be passing upon it again.
They saw the distant smoke once more, and kept close to the western shore where they were in the shadow of the wooded heights, their canoe but a mote upon the surface of the water. In so small a vessel and almost level with its waves, they saw the lake as one cannot see it from above, its splendid expanse stretching away from north to south, until it sank under the horizon, while the Green Mountains on the east and the great ranges of New York on the west seemed to pierce the skies.
"It's our lake," said Robert, "whatever happens we can't give it up to the French, or at least we'll divide it with the Hodenosaunee who can claim the western shore. If we were to lose this lake no matter what happened elsewhere I should think we had lost the war."
"We don't hold Champlain yet," said the hunter soberly. "The French claim it, and it's even called after the first of their governors under the Company of One Hundred Associates, Samuel de Champlain. They've put upon it as a sign a name which we English and Americans ourselves have accepted, and they come nearer to controlling it than we do. They're advancing, too, Robert, to the lake that they call Saint Sacrement, and that we call George. When it comes to battle they'll have the advantage of occupation."
"It seems so, but we'll drive 'em out," said Robert hopefully.
"But while we talk of the future," said Tayoga in his measured and scholastic English, "it would be well for us also to be watchful in the present. The French and their Indians may be upon the lake, and we are but three in a canoe."
"Justly spoken," said Willet heartily. "We can always trust you, Tayoga, to bring us back to the needs of the moment. Robert, you've uncommonly good eyes. Just you look to the north and to south with all your might, and see if you can see any of their long canoes."
"I don't see a single dot upon the water, Dave," said the youth, "but I notice something else I don't like."
"What is it, Robert?"
"Several little dark clouds hanging around the crests of the high mountains to the west. Small though they are, they've grown somewhat since I noticed them first."
"I don't like that either, Robert. It may mean a storm, and the lake being so narrow the winds have sudden and great violence. But meanwhile, I suppose it's best for us to make as much speed southward as we can."
Tayoga alone was paddling them, but the other two fell to work also, and the canoe shot forward, Robert looking up anxiously now and then at the clouds hovering over the lofty peaks. He noticed that they were still increasing and that now they fused together. Then all the crests were lost in the great masses of vapor which crept far down the slopes. The blue sky over their heads turned to gray with amazing rapidity. The air grew heavy and damp. Thunder, low and then loud, rolled among the western mountains. Lightning blazed in dazzling flashes across the lake, showing the waters yellow or blood red in the glare. The forest moaned and rocked, and with a scream and a roar the wind struck the lake.
The water, in an instant, broke into great waves, and the canoe rocked so violently that it would have overturned at once had not the three possessed such skill with the paddle. Even then the escape was narrow, and their strength was strained to the utmost.
"We must land somewhere!" exclaimed Willet, looking up at the lofty shore.
But where? The cliff was so steep that they saw no chance to pull up themselves and the canoe, and, keeping as close to it as they dared, they steadied the frail vessel with their paddles. The wind continually increased in violence, whistling and screaming, and at times assuming an almost circular motion, whipping the waters of the lake into white foam. Day turned to night, save when the blazing flashes of lightning cut the darkness. The thunder roared like artillery.
Willet hastily covered the ammunition and packs with their blankets, and continued to search anxiously for a place where they might land.
"The rain will be here presently," he shouted, "and it'll be so heavy it'll come near to swamping us if we don't get to shelter first! Paddle, lads! paddle!"
The three, using all their strength and dexterity, sent the canoe swiftly southward, still hugging the shore, but rocking violently. After a few anxious minutes, Robert uttered a shout of joy as he saw by the lightning's flash a cove directly ahead of them with shores at a fair slope. They sent the canoe into it with powerful strokes, sprang upon the bank, and then drew their little craft after them. Selecting a spot sheltered on the west by the lofty shore and on either side to a certain extent by dense woods, they turned the canoe over, resting the edges upon fallen logs which they pulled hastily into place, and crouched under it. They considered themselves especially lucky in finding the logs, and now they awaited the rain that they had dreaded.
It came soon in a mighty sweep, roaring through the woods, and burst upon them in floods. But the canoe, the logs and the forest and the slope together protected them fairly well, and the contrast even gave a certain degree of comfort, as the rain beat heavily and then rushed in torrents down to the lake.
"We made it just in time," said Willet. "If we had stayed on the water I think we'd have been swamped. Look how high the waves are and how fast they run!"
Robert as he gazed at the stormy waters was truly thankful.
"We have many dangers," he said, "but somehow we seem to escape them all."
"We dodge 'em," said Willet, "because we make ready for 'em. It's those who think ahead who inherit the world, Robert."
The storm lasted an hour. Then the rain ceased abruptly. The wind died, the darkness fled away and the lake and earth, washed and cleansed anew, returned to their old peace and beauty, only the skies seemed softer and bluer, and the colors of the water more varied and intense.
They launched the canoe and resumed their journey to the south, but when they had gone a few hundred yards Robert observed a black dot behind them on the lake. Willet and Tayoga at once pronounced it a great Indian canoe, containing a dozen warriors at least.
"Canadian Indians, beyond a doubt," said Tayoga, "and our enemies. Perhaps Tandakora is among them."
"Whether he is or not," said Willet, "they've seen us and are in pursuit. I suppose they stayed in another cove back of us while the storm passed. It's one case where our foresight couldn't guard against bad luck."
He spoke anxiously and looked up at the overhanging forest. But there was no convenient cove now, and it was not possible for them to beach the canoe and take flight on land. A new danger and a great one had appeared suddenly. The long canoe, driven by a dozen powerful paddles, was approaching fast.
"Hurons, I think," said Tayoga.
"Most likely," said the hunter, "but whether Hurons or not they're no friends of ours, and there's hot work with the paddles before us. They're at least four rifleshots away and we have a chance."
Now the three used their paddles as only those can who have life at stake. Their light canoe leaped suddenly forward, and seemed fairly to skim over the water like some great aquatic bird, but the larger craft behind them gained steadily though slowly. Three pairs of arms, no matter how strong or expert, are no match for twelve, and the hunter frowned as he glanced back now and then.
"Only three rifleshots now," he muttered, "and before long it will be but two. But we have better weapons than theirs, and ours can speak fast. Easy now, lads! We mustn't wear ourselves out!"
Robert made his strokes slower. The perspiration was standing on his face, and his breath was growing painful, but he remembered in time the excellence of Willet's advice. The gain of the long canoe increased more rapidly, but the three were accumulating strength for a great spurt. The pursuit and flight, hitherto, had been made in silence, but now the Hurons, for such their paint proved them to be, uttered a long war whoop, full of anticipation and triumph, a cry saying plainly that they expected to have three good scalps soon. It made Robert's pulse leap with anger.
"They haven't taken us yet," he said.
"Don't let 'em make you lose your temper," he said. "No, they haven't taken us, and we've escaped before from such places just as tight. They make faster time than we can, Robert, but our three rifles here will have a word or two to say."
After the single war whoop the warriors relapsed into silence and plied their paddles, sure now of their prey. They were experts themselves and their paddles swept the water in perfect unison, while the long canoe gradually cut down the distance between it and the little craft ahead.
"Two rifle shots," said the hunter, "and when it becomes one, as it surely will, I'll have to give 'em a hint with a bullet."
"It's possible,"' said Robert, "that a third power will intervene."
"What do you mean?" asked Willet.
"The storm's coming back. Look up!"
It was true. The sky was darkening again, and the clouds were gathering fast over the mountains on the west. Already lightning was quivering along the slopes, and the forest was beginning to rock with the wind. The air rapidly grew heavier and darker. Their own canoe was quivering, and Robert saw that the long canoe was rising and falling with the waves.
"Looks as if it might be a question of skill with the paddles rather than with the rifles," said Willet tersely.
"But they are still gaining," said Tayoga, "even though the water is so rough."
"Aye," said Willet, "and unless the storm bursts in full power they'll soon be within rifle shot."
He watched with occasional keen backward looks, and in a few minutes he snatched up his rifle, took a quick aim and fired. The foremost man in the long canoe threw up his arms, and fell sideways into the water. The canoe stopped entirely for a moment or two, but then the others, uttering a long, fierce yell of rage, bent to their paddles with a renewed effort. The three had made a considerable gain during their temporary check, but it could not last long. Willet again looked for a chance to land, but the cliffs rose above them sheer and impossible.
"We are in the hands of Manitou," said Tayoga, gravely. "He will save us. Look, how the storm gathers! Perhaps it was sent back to help us."
The Onondaga spoke with the utmost earnestness. It was not often that a storm returned so quickly, and accepting the belief that Manitou intervened in the affairs of earth, he felt that the second convulsion of nature was for their benefit. Owing to the great roughness of the water their speed now decreased, but not more than that of the long canoe, the rising wind compelling them to use their paddles mostly for steadiness. The spray was driven like sleet in their faces, and they were soon wet through and through, but they covered the rifles and ammunition with their blankets, knowing that when the storm passed they would be helpless unless they were kept dry.
The Hurons fired a few shots, all of which fell short or wide, and then settled down with all their numbers to the management of their canoe, which was tossing dangerously. Robert noticed their figures were growing dim, and then, as the storm struck with full violence for the second time, the darkness came down and hid them.
"Now," shouted Willet, as the wind whistled and screamed in their ears, "we'll make for the middle of the lake!"
Relying upon their surpassing skill with the paddle, they chose a most dangerous course, so far as the risk of wreck was concerned, but they intended that the long canoe should pass them in the dusk, and then they would land in the rear. The waves were higher as they went toward the center of the lake, but they were in no danger of being dashed against the cliffs, and superb work with the paddles kept them from being swamped. Luckily the darkness endured, and, as they were able to catch through it no glimpse of the long canoe, they had the certainty of being invisible themselves.
"Why not go all the way across to the eastern shore?" shouted Robert. "We may find anchorage there, and we'd be safe from both the Hurons and the storm!"
"Dagaeoga is right," said Tayoga.
"Well spoken!" said Willet. "Do the best work you ever did with the paddles, or we'll find the bottom of the lake instead of the eastern shore!"
But skill, strength and quickness of eye carried them in safety across the lake, and they found a shore of sufficient slope for them to land and lift the canoe after them, carrying it back at least half a mile, and not coming to rest until they reached the crest of a high hill, wooded densely. They put the canoe there among the bushes and sank down behind it, exhausted. The rifles and precious ammunition, wrapped tightly in the folds of their blankets, had been kept dry, but they were wet to the bone themselves and now, that their muscles were relaxed, the cold struck in. The three, despite their weariness, began to exercise again vigorously, and kept it up until the rain ceased.
Then the second storm stopped as suddenly as the first had departed, the darkness went away, and the great lake stood out, blue and magnificent, in the light. Far to the south moved the long canoe, a mere black dot in the water. Tayoga laughed in his throat.
"They rage and seek us in vain," he said. "They will continue pursuing us to the south. They do not know that Manitou sent the second storm especially to cover us up with a darkness in which we might escape."
"It's a good belief, Tayoga," said Willet, "and as Manitou arranged that we should elude them he is not likely to bring them back into our path. That being the case I'm going to dry my clothes."
"So will I," said Robert, and the Onondaga nodded his own concurrence. They took off their garments, wrung the water out of them and hung them on the bushes to dry, a task soon to be accomplished by the sun that now came out hot and bright. Meanwhile they debated their further course.
"The long canoe still goes south," said Tayoga. "It is now many miles away, hunting for us. Perhaps since they cannot find us, the Hurons will conclude that the storm sank us in the lake!"
"But they will hunt along the shore a long time," said Willet. "They're nothing but a tiny speck now, and in a quarter of an hour they'll be out of sight altogether. Suppose we cross the lake behind them--I think I see a cove down there on the western side--take the canoe with us and wait until they go back again."
"A wise plan," said Tayoga.
In another hour their deerskins were dry, and reclothing themselves they returned the canoe to the lake, the Hurons still being invisible. Then they crossed in haste, reached the cove that Willet had seen, and plunged into the deep woods, taking the canoe with them, and hiding their trail carefully. When they had gone a full three miles they came to rest in a glade, and every one of the three felt that it was time. Muscles and nerves alike were exhausted, and they remained there all the rest of the day and the following night, except that after dark Tayoga went back to the lake and saw the long canoe going northward.
"I don't think we'll be troubled by that band of Hurons any more," he reported to his comrades. "They will surely think we have been drowned, and tomorrow we can continue our own journey to the south."
"And on the whole, we've come out of it pretty well," said Willet.
"With the aid of Manitou, who so generously sent us the second storm," said Tayoga.
They brought the canoe back to the lake at dawn, and hugging the western shore made leisurely speed to the south, until they came to the neighborhood of the French works at Carillon, when they landed again with their canoe, and after a long and exhausting portage launched themselves anew on the smaller but more splendid lake, known to the English as George and to the French as Saint Sacrement. Now, though, they traveled by night and slept and rested by day. But Lake George in the moonlight was grand and beautiful beyond compare. Its waters were dusky silver as the beams poured in floods upon it, and the lofty shores, in their covering of dark green, seemed to hold up the skies.
"It's a grand land," said Robert for the hundredth time.
"It is so," said Tayoga. "After Manitou had practiced on many other countries he used all his wisdom and skill to make the country of the Hodenosaunee."
The next morning when they lay on the shore they saw two French boats on the lake, and Robert was confirmed in his opinion that the prevision of the French leaders would enable them to strike the first blow. Already their armed forces were far down in the debatable country, and they controlled the ancient water route between the British colonies and Canada.
On the second night they left the lake, hid the canoe among the bushes at the edge of a creek, and began the journey by land to the vale of Onondaga. It was likely that in ordinary times they would have made it without event, but they felt now the great need of caution, since the woods might be full of warriors of the hostile tribes. They were sure, too, that Tandakora would find their trail and that he would not relinquish the pursuit until they were near the villages of the Hodenosaunee. The trail might be hidden from the Ojibway alone, but since many war parties of their foes were in the woods he would learn of it from some of them. So they followed the plan they had used on the lake of traveling by night and of lying in the bush by day.
Another deer fell to Tayoga's deadly arrow, and on the third day as they were concealed in dense forest they saw smoke on a high hill, rising in rings, as if a blanket were passed rapidly over a fire and back again in a steady alternation.
"Can you read what they say, Tayoga?" asked Willet.
"No," replied the Onondaga. "They are strange to me, and so it cannot be any talk of the Hodenosaunee. Ah, look to the west! See, on another hill, two miles away, rings of smoke also are rising!"
"Which means that two bands of French Indians are talking to each other, Tayoga?"
"It is so, Great Bear, and here within the lands of the Hodenosaunee! Perhaps Frenchmen are with them, Frenchmen from Carillon or some other post that Onontio has pushed far to the south."
The young Onondaga spoke with deep resentment. The sight of the two smokes made by the foes of the Hodenosaunee filled him with anger, and Willet, who observed his face, easily read his mind from it.
"You would like to see more of the warriors who are making those signals," he said. "Well, I don't blame you for your curiosity and perhaps it would be wise for us to take a look. Suppose we stalk the first fire."
Tayoga nodded, and the three, although hampered somewhat by their packs, began a slow approach through the bushes. Half the distance, and Tayoga, who was in advance, putting his finger upon his lips, sank almost flat.
"What is it, Tayoga?" whispered Willet.
"Someone else stalking them too. On the right. I heard a bush move."
Both Willet and Robert heard it also as they waited, and used as they were to the forest they knew that it was made by a human being.
"What's your opinion, Tayoga?" asked the hunter.
"A warrior or warriors of the Hodenosaunee, seeking, as we are, to see those who are sending up the rings of smoke," replied the Onondaga.
"If you're right they're likely to be Mohawks, the Keepers of the Eastern Gate."
"Let us see," he said.
Putting his fingers to his lips, he blew between them a note soft and low but penetrating. A half minute, and a note exactly similar came from a point in the dense bush about a hundred yards away. Then Tayoga blew a shorter note, and as before the reply came, precisely like it.
"It is the Ganeagaono," said Tayoga with certainty, "and we will await them here."
The three remained motionless and silent, but in a few minutes the bushes before them shook, and four tall figures, rising to their full height, stood in plain view. They were Mohawk warriors, all young, powerful and with fierce and lofty features. The youngest and tallest, a man with the high bearing of a forest chieftain, said:
"We meet at a good time, O Tayoga, of the clan of the Bear, of the nation Onondaga, of the great League of the Hodenosaunee."
"It is so, O Daganoweda, of the clan of the Turtle, of the nation Ganeagaono, of the great League of the Hodenosaunee," replied Tayoga. "I see that my brethren, the Keepers of the Eastern Gate, watch when the savage tribes come within their territory."
The brows of the young Mohawk contracted into a frown.
"Most of our warriors are on the great trail to the vale of Onondaga," he said. "We are but four, and, though we are only four, we intended to attack. The smoke nearer by is made by Hurons and Caughnawagas."
"You are more than four, you are seven," said Tayoga.
Daganoweda understood, and smiled fiercely and proudly.
"You have spoken well, Tayoga," he said, "but you have spoken as I expected you to speak. Onundagaono and Ganeagaono be the first nations of the Hodenosaunee and they never fail each other. We are seven and we are enough."
He took it for granted that Tayoga spoke as truly for the two white men as for himself, and Robert and the hunter felt themselves committed. Moreover their debt to the Onondaga was so great that they could not abandon him, and they knew he would go with the Mohawks. It would also be good policy to share their enterprise and their danger.
"We'll support you to the end of it," said Willet quietly.
"The English have always been the friends of the Hodenosaunee," said Daganoweda, as he led the way through the undergrowth toward the point from which the smoke come. Neither Robert nor Willet felt any scruple about attacking the warriors there, as they were clearly invaders with hostile purpose of Mohawk territory, and it was also more than likely that their immediate object was the destruction of the three. Yet the two Americans held back a little, letting the Indians take the lead, not wishing it to be said that they began the battle.
Daganoweda, whose name meant "Inexhaustible," was a most competent young chief. He spread out his little force in a half circle, and the seven rapidly approached the fire. But Robert was glad when a stick broke under the foot of an incautious and eager warrior, and the Hurons and Caughnawagas, turning in alarm, fired several bullets into the bushes. He was glad, because it was the other side that began the combat, and if there was a Frenchman with them he could not go to Montreal or Quebec, saying the British and their Indians had fired the first shot.
All of the bullets flew wide, and Daganoweda's band took to cover at once, waiting at least five minutes before they obtained a single shot at a brown body. Then all the usual incidents of a forest struggle followed, the slow creeping, the occasional shot, a shout of triumph or the death yell, but the Hurons and Caughnawagas, who were about a dozen in number, were routed and took to flight in the woods, leaving three of their number fallen. Two of the Mohawks were wounded but not severely. Tayoga, who was examining the trail, suddenly raised his head and said:
"Tandakora has been here. There is none other who wears so large a moccasin. Here go his footsteps! and here! and here!"
"Doubtless they thought we were near, and were arranging with the other band to trap us," said Willet. "Daganoweda, it seems that you and your Mohawks came just in time. Are the smoke rings from the second fire still rising? We were too far away for them to hear our rifles."
"Only one or two rings go up now," replied Tayoga. "Since they have received no answer in a long time they wonder what has happened. See how those two rings wander away and dissolve in the air, as if they were useless, and now no more follow."
"But the warriors may come here to see what is the matter, and we ought to be ready for them."
Daganoweda, to whom they readily gave the place of leader, since by right it was his, saw at once the soundness of the hunter's advice, and they made an ambush. The second band, which was about the size of the first, approached cautiously, and after a short combat retired swiftly with two wounded warriors, evidently thinking the enemy was in great force, and leaving the young Mohawk chieftain in complete possession of his victorious field.
"Tayoga, and you, Great Bear, I thank you," said Daganoweda. "Without your aid we could never have overcome our enemies."
"We were glad to do what we could," said Willet sincerely, "since, as I see it, your cause and ours are the same."
Tayoga was examining the fleeing trail of the second band as he had examined that of the first, and he beckoned to his white comrades and to Daganoweda.
"Frenchmen were here," he said. "See the trail. They wore moccasins, but their toes turn out in the white man's fashion."
There was no mistaking the traces, and Robert felt intense satisfaction. If hostile Indians, led by Frenchmen, were invading the territory of the Hodenosaunee, then it would be very hard indeed for Duquesne and Bigot to break up the ancient alliance of the great League with the English. But he was quite sure that no one of the flying Frenchmen was St. Luc. The chevalier was too wise to be caught in such a trap, nor would he lend himself to the savage purposes of Tandakora.
"Behold, Daganoweda," he said, "the sort of friends the French would be to the Hodenosaunee. When the great warriors of the Six Nations go to the vale of Onondaga to hear what the fifty sachems will say at their council, the treacherous Hurons and Caughnawagas, led by white men from Montreal and Quebec, come into their land, seeking scalps."
The power of golden speech was upon him once more. He felt deeply what he was saying, and he continued, calling attention to the ancient friendship of the English, and their long and bitter wars with the French. He summoned up again the memory of Frontenac, never dead in the hearts of the Mohawks, and as he spoke the eyes of Daganoweda and his comrades flashed with angry fire. But he did not continue long. He knew that at such a time a speech protracted would lose its strength, and when the feelings of the Mohawks were stirred to their utmost depths he stopped abruptly and turned away.
"'Twas well done, lad! 'twas well done!" whispered Willet.
"Great Bear," said Daganoweda, "we go now to the vale of Onondaga for the grand council. Perhaps Tayoga, a coming chief of the clan of the Bear, of the great nation Onondaga, will go with us."
"So he will," said Willet, "and so will Robert and myself. We too wish to reach the vale of Onondaga. An uncommonly clever Frenchman, one Chevalier Raymond de St. Luc, has gone there. He is a fine talker and he will talk for the French. Our young friend here, whom an old chief of your nation has named Dagaeoga, is, as you have heard, a great orator, and he will speak for the English. He will measure himself against the Frenchman, St. Luc, and I think he will be equal to the test."
The young Mohawk chieftain gave Robert a look of admiration.
"Dagaeoga can talk against anybody," he said. "He need fear no Frenchman. Have I not heard? And if he can use so many words here in the forest before a few men what can he not do in the vale of Onondaga before the gathered warriors of the Hodenosaunee? Truly the throat of Dagaeoga can never tire. The words flow from his mouth like water over stones, and like it, flow on forever. It is music like the wind singing among the leaves. He can talk the anger from the heart of a raging moose, or he can talk the otter up from the depths of the river. Great is the speech of Dagaeoga."
Robert turned very red. Willet laughed and even Tayoga smiled, although the compliment was thoroughly sincere.
"You praise me too much, Daganoweda," said young Lennox, "but in a great cause one must make a great effort."
"Then come," said the Mohawk chieftain. "We will start at once for the vale of Onondaga."
They struck the great trail, waagwenneyu, and traveled fast. The next day six Mohawks from their upper castle, Ganegahaga on the Mohawk river near the mouth of West Canada Creek, joined them and they continued to press on with speed, entering the heart of the country of the Hodenosaunee, Robert feeling anew what a really great land it was, with its green forests, its blue lakes, its silver rivers and its myriad of creeks and brooks. Nature had lavished everything upon it, and he did not wonder that the Iroquois should guard it with such valor, and cherish it with such tenderness. As he sped on with them he was acquiring for the time at least an Indian soul under a white skin. Long association and a flexible mind enabled him to penetrate the thoughts of the Iroquois and to think as they did.
He knew how the word had been passed through the vast forest. He knew that every warrior, woman and boy of the Hodenosaunee understood how the two great powers beyond the sea and their children here, were about to go into battle on the edge of their country. And what must the Hodenosaunee do? And he knew, too, that as the Six Nations went so might go the war in America. He had seen too much to underrate their valor and strength, and on that long march his heart was very anxious within him.