The heavens favored their journey. They were troubled by no more storms or rain, and as the soft winds blew, flowers opened before them. Game was abundant and they had food for the taking. As they drew near the vale they were joined by a small party of Oneidas, and a little later were met by an Onondaga runner who spoke with great respect to Tayoga and who gave them news.
The Frenchman, St. Luc, and the Canadian, Dubois, who had come with them, were in the vale of Onondaga, where they had been received as guests, and had been treated with hospitality. The fifty sachems, taking their own time, had not yet met in council, and St. Luc had been compelled to wait, but he had made great progress in the esteem of the Hodenosaunee. Onontio could not have sent a better messenger.
"I knew that he would do it," said Willet. "That Frenchman, St. Luc, is wonderful, and if anybody could convert the Hodenosaunee to the French cause he's the man. Oh, he'll ply 'em with a thousand arguments, and he'll dwell particularly on the fact that the French have moved first and are ready to strike. We haven't come too soon, Robert."
But the runner informed them further that it would yet be some time before the great council in the Long House, since the first festival of the spring, the Maple Dance, was to be held in a few days, and the chiefs had refused positively to meet until afterward. The sap was already flowing and the guardians of the faith had chosen time and place for this great and joyous ceremony of the Hodenosaunee, joyous despite the fact that it was preceded by a most solemn event, the general confession of sins.
The eyes of Tayoga and of the Mohawks and Oneidas glistened when they heard.
"We must be there in time for all," said Tayoga.
"Truly we must, brother," said Daganoweda, the Mohawk.
And now they hastened their speed through the fertile and beautiful country, where spring was attaining its full glory, and, as the sap began to run in the maples, so the blood leaped fresh and sparkling even in the veins of the old. A band of Senecas joined them, and when they came to the edge of the vale of Onondaga they were a numerous party, all eager, keen, and surcharged with a spirit which was religious, political and military, the three being inseparably intertwined in the lives of the Hodenosaunee.
They stood upon a high hill and looked over the great, beautiful valley full of orchards and fields and far to the north they caught a slight glimpse of the lake bearing the name of the Keepers of the Council Fire. Smoke rose from the chimneys of the solid log houses built by this most enlightened tribe, flecking the blue of the sky, and the whole scene was one of peace and beauty. The eyes of Tayoga, the Onondaga, and of Daganoweda, the Mohawk, glistened as they looked, and their hearts throbbed with fervent admiration. It was more than a village of the Onondagas that lay before them, it was the temple and shrine of the great league, the Hodenosaunee. The Onondagas kept the council fire, and ranked first in piety, but the Mohawks, the Keepers of the Eastern Gate, were renowned even to the Great Plains for their valor, and they stood with the Onondagas, their equals man for man, while the Senecas, known to themselves and their brother nations as the Nundawaono, were more numerous than either.
"We shall be in time for the great festival, the Maple Dance," said Tayoga to the young Mohawk.
"Yes, my brother, we have come before the beginning," said Daganoweda, "and I am glad that it is so. We may not have the Maple Dance again for many seasons. The shadow of the mighty war creeps upon the Hodenosaunee, and when the spring returns who knows where the warriors of the great League will be? We are but little children and we know nothing of the future, which Manitou alone holds in his keeping."
"You speak truth, Daganoweda. The Ganeagaono are both valiant and wise. It is a time for the fifty sachems to use all the knowledge they have gathered in their long lives, but we will hear what the Frenchman, St. Luc, has to say, even though he belongs to the nation that sent Frontenac against us."
"The Hodenosaunee can do no less," said the Mohawk, tersely.
Robert could not keep from hearing and he was glad of the little affair with the two hostile bands, knitting as it did their friendship with the Mohawks. But he too, since he had penetrated the Iroquois spirit and saw as they did, felt the great and momentous nature of the crisis. While the nations of the Hodenosaunee might decide whether English or French were to win in the coming war they might, at the same time, decide the fate of the great League which had endured for centuries.
They descended into the vale of Onondaga, but at its edge, in a great forest, the entire group stopped, as it became necessary there for Tayoga, Willet and Robert to say a temporary farewell to the others who would not advance into the Onondaga town until the full power of the Hodenosaunee was gathered. The council, as Robert surmised and as he now learned definitely, had been called by the Onondagas, who had sent heralds with belts eastward to the Oneidas, who in turn had sent them yet farther eastward to the Mohawks, westward to the Cayugas whose duty it was to pass them on to the Senecas yet more to the west. The Oneidas also gave belts to the Dusgaowehono, or Tuscaroras, the valiant tribe that had come up from the south forty years before, and that had been admitted into the Hodenosaunee, turning the Five Nations into the Six, and receiving lands within the territory of the Oneidas.
Already great numbers of warriors from the different nations, their chiefs at their head, were scattered about the edges of the valley awaiting the call of the Onondagas for participation in the Maple Dance, and the great and fateful council afterward. And since they did not know whether this council was for peace or for war, every sachem had brought with him a bundle of white cedar fagots that typified peace, and also a bundle of red cedar fagots that typified war.
"Farewell, my friends," said Daganoweda, the Mohawk, to Tayoga, Robert and Willet. "We rest here until the great sachems of the Onondagas send for us, and yet we are eager to come, because never before was there such a Maple Dance and never before such a council as these will be."
"You speak true words, Daganoweda," said Robert, "and the Great Bear and I rejoice that we are adopted sons of the Iroquois and can be here."
Robert spoke from his heart. Not even his arrival at Quebec, great as had been his anticipations and their fulfillment, had stirred in him more interest and enthusiasm. The feeling that for the time being he was an Iroquois in everything except his white skin grew upon him. He saw as they saw, his pulses beat as theirs beat, and he thought as they thought. It was not too much for him to think that the fate of North America might turn upon the events that were to transpire within the vale of Onondaga within the next few days. Nor was he, despite his heated brain, and the luminous glow through which he saw everything, far from the facts.
Robert saw that Willet, despite his years and experience, was deeply stirred also, and the dark eyes of Tayoga glittered, as well they might, since the people who were the greatest in all the world to him were about to deliberate on their fate and that of others.
The three, side by side, their hearts beating hard, advanced slowly and with dignity through the groves. From many points came the sound of singing and down the aisles of the trees they saw young girls in festival attire. All the foliage was in deepest green and the sky was the soft but brilliant blue of early spring. The air seemed to be charged with electricity, because all had a tense and expectant feeling.
For Robert, so highly imaginative, the luminous glow deepened. He had studied much in the classics, after the fashion of the time, in the school at Albany, and his head was filled with the old Greek and Roman learning. Now he saw the ancient symbolism reproduced in the great forests of North America by the nations of the Hodenosaunee, who had never heard of Greece or Rome, nor, to him, were the religion and poetry of the Iroquois inferior in power and beauty, being much closer kin than the gods of Greece and Rome to his own Christian beliefs.
"Manitou favors us," said Tayoga, looking up at the soft blue velvet of the sky. "Gaoh, the spirit of the Winds, moves but gently in his home, Dayodadogowah."
He looked toward the west, because it was there that Gaoh, who had the bent figure and weazened face of an old man, always sat, Manitou having imprisoned him with the elements, and having confined him to one place. In the beautiful Iroquois mythology, Gaoh often struggled to release himself, though never with success. Sometimes his efforts were but mild, and then he produced gentle breezes, but when he fought fiercely for freedom the great storms blew and tore down the forests.
"Gaoh is not very restless today," continued Tayoga. "He struggles but lightly, and the wind from the west is soft upon our faces."
"And it brings the perfume of flowers and of tender young leaves with it, Tayoga," said Willet. "It's a wonderful world and I'm just a boy today, standing at its threshold."
"And even though war may come, perhaps Manitou will smile upon us," said Tayoga. "The Three Sisters whom Hawenneu, who is the same to the white man as Manitou, gave to us, the spirit of the Corn, the spirit of the Squash and the spirit of the Bean will abide with us and give us plenty. The spirits in the shape of beautiful young girls hover over us. We cannot see them, but they are there."
He looked up and shadows passed over their heads. To the mystic soul of the young Onondaga they were the spirits of the three sisters who typified abundance, and Robert himself quivered. He still saw with the eyes and felt with the heart of an Iroquois.
Both he and Tayoga were conscious that the spirits were everywhere about them. All the elements and all the powers of nature were symbolized and typified. The guardians of fire, earth, water, healing, war, the chase, love, winter, summer and a multitude of others, floated in the air. The trees themselves had spirits and identity and all the spirits who together constituted the Honochenokeh were the servants and assistants of Hawenneyu. To the eyes of Tayoga that saw not and yet saw, it was a highly peopled world, and there was meaning in everything, even in the fall of the leaf.
Tayoga presently put his fingers to his lips and uttered a long mellow whistle. A whistle in reply came from a grove just ahead, and fourteen men, all of middle years or beyond, emerged into view. Though elderly, not one among them showed signs of weakness. They were mostly tall, they held themselves very erect, and their eyes were of uncommon keenness and penetration. They were the fourteen sachems of the Onondagas, and at their head was the first in rank, Tododaho, a name that never ceased to exist, being inherited from the great chief who founded the League centuries before, and being passed on from successor to successor. Close to him came Tonessaah, whose name also lasted forever and who was the hereditary adviser of Tododaho, and near him walked Daatgadose and the others.
Tayoga, Robert and Willet stopped, and the great chief, Tododaho, a man of splendid presence, in the full glory of Iroquois state costume, gave them welcome. The sight of Tayoga, of lofty birth, of the clan of the Bear, of the nation Onondaga, was particularly pleasing to his eyes. It was well that the young warriors, who some day would be chiefs to lead in council and battle, should be present. And the coming of the white man and the white lad, who were known to be trusted friends of the Hodenosaunee, was welcome also.
The three, each in turn, made suitable replies, and Robert, his gift of golden speech moving him, spoke a little longer than the others. He made a free use of metaphor and allegory, telling how dear were the prosperity and happiness of the Hodenosaunee to his soul, and he felt every word he said. Charged with the thoughts and impressions of an Iroquois, the fourteen chiefs were the quintessence of dignity and importance to him, and when they smiled and nodded approval of his youthful effort his heart was lifted up. Then he, Tayoga and Willet bowed low to these men who in very truth were the keepers of the council fire of the Hodenosaunee, and whose word might sway the destinies of North America, and, bowing, passed on that they might rest in the Long House, as became three great warriors who had valiantly done their duty in the forest when confronted by their enemies, and who had come to do another and sacred duty in the vale of Onondaga.
Young warriors were their escort into one of the great log houses, which in their nature were much like the community houses found at a later day in the far southwest. The building they entered was a full hundred and twenty feet in length and about forty feet broad, and it had five fires, each built in the center of its space. The walls and roof were of poles thatched with bark, and there were no windows, but over each fire was a circular opening in the roof where the air entered and the smoke went out. If rain or storm came these orifices were covered with great pieces of bark.
On the long sides of the walls extended platforms about six feet wide, covered with furs and skins where the warriors slept. Overhead was a bark canopy on top of which they placed their possessions. About a dozen warriors were in the house, all lying down, but they rose and greeted the three. Berths were assigned to them at once, food and water were brought, and Robert, weary from the long march, decided that he would sleep.
"I think I'll do the same," said Willet, "and then we'll be fresh for what's coming. Tayoga, I suppose, will want to see his kin first."
Tayoga nodded, and presently disappeared. Then Robert and Willet took their places upon the bark platforms and were soon asleep, not awakening until the next morning when they went forth and found that the excitement in the valley had increased. Tayoga came to them at once and told them that Sanundathawata, the council of repentance, was about to be held. The dawn was just appearing, and as the sun rose the sachems of the Onondagas would proceed to the council grove and receive the sachems of the allied nations.
"You will wish to see the ceremony," he said.
"Of course, of course!" said Robert, eagerly, who found that with the coming of a new day he was as much an Iroquois in spirit as ever. Nor could he see that Willet was less keen about it and the three proceeded promptly to the council grove where a multitude was already hastening. There was, too, a great buzz of talk, as the Iroquois here in the vale, the very heart of their country, did not show the taciturnity in which the red man so often takes refuge in the presence of the white.
The fourteen Onondaga chiefs, Tododaho at their head and Tonessaah at his right, were gathered in the grove, and the warriors of the allied nations approached, headed by their chiefs, nine for the Mohawks, ten for the Oneidas, nine for the Cayugas, and eight for the Senecas, while the Tuscaroras, who were a new nation in the League, had none at all, but spoke through their friends, the Oneidas, within whose lands they had been allowed to settle. And when the roll of the nations of the Hodenosaunee was called it was not the Onondagas, Keepers of the Council Fire, who were called first, although they were equal in honor, and leaders in council, but the fierce and warlike Mohawks. Then came the Onondagas, after them the numerous Senecas, followed by the Oneidas, with the Cayugas next and the sachemless Tuscaroras last, but filled with pride that they, wanderers from their ancient lands, and not large in numbers, had shown themselves so valiant and enduring that the greatest of all Indian leagues, the Hodenosaunee, should be willing to admit them as a nation.
Behind the sachems stood the chiefs, the two names not being synonymous among the Iroquois, and although the name of the Mohawks was called first the Onondagas were masters of the ceremonies, were, in fact, the priests of the Hodenosaunee, and their first chief, Tododaho, was the first chief of all the League. Yet the Senecas, who though superior in numbers were inferior in chiefs, also had an office, being Door Keepers of the Long House, while the Onondagas were the keepers in the larger sense. The eighth sachem of the Senecas, Donehogaweh, had the actual physical keeping of the door, when the fifty sachems met within, and he also had an assistant who obeyed all his orders, and who, upon occasion, acted as a herald or messenger. But the Onondaga sachem, Honowenato, kept the wampum.
The more Robert saw of the intertwined religious, military and political systems of the Hodenosaunee, the more he admired them, and he missed nothing as the Onondaga sachems received their brother sachems of the allied tribes, all together being known as the Hoyarnagowar, while the chiefs who were elective were known collectively as the Hasehnowaneh.
Robert, Willet, and Tayoga, who was yet too young to have a part in the ceremonies, stood on one side with the crowd and watched with the most intense interest. Among the nine Mohawk sachems they recognized Dayohogo, who had given Robert the name Dagaeoga, and the lad resolved to see him later and renew their friendship.
Meanwhile the thirty-six visiting sachems formed themselves in a circle, with Tododaho, highest of the Onondagas in rank, among them, and facing the sun which was rising in a golden sea above the eastern hills. Presently the Onondaga lifted his hand and the hum and murmur in the great crowd that looked on ceased. Then starting towards the north the sachems moved with measured steps around the circle three times. Every one of them carried with him a bundle of fagots, and in this case half of the bundle was red and half white. When they stopped each sachem put his bundle of fagots on the ground, and sat down before it, while an assistant sachem came and stood behind him. Tododaho took flint and steel from his pouch, set fire first to his own fagots and then to all the others, after which he took the pipe of peace, lighted it from one of the fires, and, drawing upon it three times, blew one puff of smoke toward the center of the heavens, another upon the ground, and the last directly toward the rising sun.
"He gives thanks," whispered Tayoga, to Robert, "first to Manitou, who has kept us alive, next to our great mother, the Earth, who has produced the food that we eat and who sends forth the water that we drink, and last to the Sun, who lights and warms us."
Robert thought it a beautiful ceremony, full of idealism, and he nodded his thanks to Tayoga while he still watched. Tododaho passed the pipe to the sachem on his right, who took the three puffs in a similar manner, and thus it was passed to all, the entire act requiring a long time, but at its end the fourteen Onondaga sachems and the thirty-six visiting sachems sat down together and under the presidency of Tododaho the council was opened.
"But little will be done today," said Tayoga. "It is merely what you call at the Albany school a preliminary. The really great meeting will be after the Maple Dance, and then we shall know what stand the Hodenosaunee will take in the coming war."
Robert turned away and came face to face with St. Luc. He had known that the chevalier was somewhere in the vale of Onondaga, but in his absorption in the Iroquois ceremonies he had forgotten about him. Now he realized with full force that he had come to meet the Frenchman and to measure himself against him. Yet he could not hide from himself a certain gladness at seeing him and it was increased by St. Luc's frank and gay manner.
"I was sure that we should soon meet again, Mr. Lennox," he said, "and it has come to pass as I predicted and hoped. And you too, Mr. Willet! I greet you both."
He offered a hand to each, and the hunter, as well as Robert, shook it without hesitation.
"You reached Quebec and fulfilled your mission?" he said, giving Robert a keen look of inquiry.
"Yes, but not without event," replied the youth.
"I take it from your tone that the event was of a stirring nature."
"It was rather a chain of events. The Ojibway chief, Tandakora, whom we first saw with you, objected to our presence in the woods."
St. Luc frowned and then laughed.
"For that I am sorry," he said. "I would have controlled the Ojibway if I could, but he is an unmitigated savage. He left me, and did what he chose. I hope you do not hold me responsible for any attacks he may have made upon you, Mr. Lennox."
"Not at all, Monsieur, but as you see, we have survived everything and have taken no hurt. Quebec also, a great and splendid city, was not without stirring event, not to say danger."
"But not to heralds, for such I take you and Mr. Willet and Tayoga to have been."
"A certain Pierre Boucher, a great duelist, and if you will pardon me for saying it, a ruthless bravo, also was disposed to make trouble for us."
"I know Boucher. He is what you say. But since you are here safe and unhurt, as you have just reminded me, you escaped all the snares he set for you."
"True, Monsieur de St. Luc, but we have the word that the fowler may fall into his own snare."
"Your meaning escapes me."
"Boucher, the duelist and bravo, will never make trouble for anybody else."
"You imply that he is dead? Boucher dead! How did he die?"
"A man may be a great swordsman, and he may defeat many others, but the time usually comes when he will meet a better swordsman than himself."
"Yourself! Why, you're but a lad, Mr. Lennox, and skillful as you may be you're not seasoned enough to beat such a veteran as Boucher!"
"That is true, but there is another who was."
He nodded toward the hunter and the chevalier's eyes opened wide.
"And you, a hunter," he said, "could defeat Pierre Boucher, who has been accounted the master swordsman! There is more in this than meets the eye!"
He stared at Willet, who met his gaze firmly. Then he shrugged his shoulders and said:
"I'm not one to pry into the secrets of another, but I did not think there was any man in America who was a match for Boucher. Well, he is gone to another world, and let us hope that he will be a better man in it than he was in this. Meanwhile we'll return to the business that brings us all here. I speak of it freely, since every one of us knows it well. I wish to bring in the Hodenosaunee on the side of France. The interests of these red nations truly lie with His Majesty King Louis, since you British colonists will spread over their lands and will drive them out."
"Your pardon, Chevalier de St. Luc, but it is not so. The English have always been the good friends of the Six Nations, and have never broken treaties with them."
"No offense was meant, Mr. Lennox. But we do not wish to waste our energies here debating with each other. We will save our skill and strength for the council of the fifty, where I know you will present the cause of the British king in such manner that its slender justification will seem better than it really is."
"A stab and praise at the same time," he said. "No, Monsieur de St. Luc, I have no wish to quarrel with you now or at any other time."
"And while we're in the vale of Onondaga we'll be friends."
"If you wish it to be so."
"And you too, Mr. Willet?"
"I've nothing against you, Chevalier de St. Luc, although I shall fight the cause of the king whom you represent here. On the other hand I may say that I like you and I wish nothing better than to be friends with you here."
"Then it is settled," said St. Luc in a tone of relief. "It is a good way, I think. Why be enemies before we must? I shall see, too, that my good Dubois becomes one of us, and together we will witness the Maple Dance."
St. Luc's manner continued frank, and Robert could not question his sincerity. He was glad that the chevalier had proposed the temporary friendship and he was glad, too, that Willet approved of it, since he had such a great respect for the opinion of the hunter. St. Luc, now that the treaty was made, bore himself as one of their party, and the dark Canadian, Dubois, who was not far away, also accepted the situation in its entirety. Tayoga, too, confirmed it thoroughly and now that St. Luc was with him on a footing of friendship Robert felt more deeply than ever the charm of his manner and talk. It seemed to him that the chevalier had the sincerity and honesty of de Galisonniere, with more experience and worldly wisdom, his experience and worldly wisdom matching those of de Courcelles with a great superiority in sincerity and honesty.
The three quickly became the five. St Luc and Dubois being accepted were accepted without reserve, although Dubois seldom spoke, seeming to consider himself the shadow of his chief. The next day the five stood together and witnessed the confessions of sins in the council grove, the religious ceremony that always preceded the Maple Dance.
Tododaho spoke to the sachems, the chiefs and the multitude upon their crimes and faults, the necessity for repentance and of resolution to do better in the future. Robert saw but little difference between his sermon and that of a minister in the Protestant faith in which he had been reared. Manitou was God and God was Manitou. The Iroquois and the white men had traveled by different roads, but they had arrived at practically the same creed and faith. The feeling that for the time being he was an Iroquois in a white man's skin was yet strong upon him.
Many of the Indian sachems and chiefs were men of great eloquence, and the speech of Tododaho amid such surroundings, with the breathless multitude listening, was impressive to the last degree. Its solemnity was increased, when he held aloft a belt of white wampum, and, enumerating his own sins, asked Manitou to forgive him. When he had finished he exclaimed, "Naho," which meant, "I have done." Then he passed the wampum to Tonessaah, who also made his confession, and all the other sachems and chiefs did the same, the people, too, joining with intense fervor in the manifestation.
A huge banquet of all that forest, river and field afforded was spread the next morning, and at noon athletic games, particularly those with the ball, in which the red man excelled long before the white man came, began and were played with great energy and amid intense excitement. At the same time the great Feather Dance, religious in its nature, was given by twelve young warriors and twelve young girls, dressed in their most splendid costumes.
Night came, and the festival was still in progress. What the Indian did he did with his whole heart, and all his strength. Darkness compelled the ball games to cease, but the dancing went on by the light of the fires and fresh banquets were spread for all who cared. Robert knew that it might last for several days and that it would be useless until the end for either him or St. Luc to mention the subject so dear to their hearts. Hence came an agreement of silence, and all the while their friendship grew.
It is true that official enemies may be quite different in private life, and Robert found that he and St. Luc had much in common. There was a certain kindred quality of temperament. They had the same courage, the same spirit of optimism, the same light and easy manner of meeting a crisis, with the same deadly earnestness and concentration concealed under that careless appearance. It was apparent that Robert, who had spent so much of his life in the forest, was fitted for great events and the stage upon which men of the world moved. He had felt it in Quebec, when he came into contact with what was really a brilliant court, with all the faults and vices of a court, one of the main objects of which was pleasure, and he felt it anew, since he was in the constant companionship of a man who seemed to him to have more of that knightly spirit and chivalry for which France was famous than any other he had ever met. St. Luc knew his Paris and the forest equally well. Nor was he a stranger to London and Vienna or to old Rome that Robert hoped to see some day. It seemed to Robert that he had seen everything and done everything, not that he boasted, even by indirection, but it was drawn from him by the lad's own questions, back of which was an intense curiosity.
Robert noticed also that Willet, to whom he owed so much, never intervened. Apparently he still approved the growing friendship of the lad and the Frenchman, and Tayoga, too, showed himself not insensible to St Luc's charm. Although he was now among his own people, and in the sacred vale of which they were the keepers, he still stayed in the community house with Robert and sought the society of his white friends, including St. Luc.
"I had thought," said Robert to the hunter the third morning after their arrival, "that you would prefer for us to show a hostile face to St. Luc, who is here to defeat our purpose, just as we are here to defeat his."
"Nothing is to be gained by a personal enmity," replied the hunter. "We are the enemies not of St. Luc, but of his nation. We will meet him fairly as he will meet us fairly, and I see good reasons why you and he should be friends."
"But in the coming war he's likely to be one of our ablest and most enterprising foes."
"That's true, Robert, but it does not change my view. Brave men should like brave men, and if it is war I hope you and St. Luc will not meet in battle."
"You, too, seem to take an interest in him, Dave."
"I like him," said Willet briefly. Then he shrugged his shoulders, and changed the subject.
The great festival went on, and the agents of Corlear and Onontio were still kept waiting. The sachems would not hear a word from either. As Robert understood it, they felt that the Maple Dance might not be celebrated again for years. These old men, warriors and statesmen both, saw the huge black clouds rolling up and they knew they portended a storm, tremendous beyond any that North America had known. France and England, and that meant their colonies, too, would soon be locked fast in deadly combat, and the Hodenosaunee, who were the third power, must look with all their eyes and think with all their strength.
While the young warriors and the maidens sang and danced without ceasing, the sachems and the chiefs sat far into the night, and as gravely as the Roman Senate, considered the times and their needs. Runners, long of limb, powerful of chest, and bare to the waist, came from all points of the compass and reported secretly. One from Albany said that Corlear and the people there and at New York were talking of war, but were not preparing for it. Another, a Mohawk who came out of the far east, said that Shirley, the Governor of Massachusetts, was thinking of war and preparing for it too. A third, a Tuscarora, who had traveled many days from the south, said that Dinwiddie, the Governor of Virginia, was already acting. He was sending men, led by a tall youth named Washington, into the Ohio country, where the French had already gone to build forts. An Onondaga out of the north said that Quebec and Montreal were alive with military preparations. Onontio was giving to the French Indians muskets, powder, bullets and blankets in a profusion never known before.
The red fagots were rapidly displacing the white, and the secret councils of the fifty sachems were filled with anxiety, but they hid all their disquietude from the people, and much of it from the chiefs. But, to their eyes, all the heavens were scarlet and the world was about to be in upheaval. It was a time for every sachem to walk with cautious steps and use his last ounce of wisdom.
On the fourth night a powerful ally of St. Luc's arrived, although the chevalier had not called him, and did not know until the next day that he had come. He was a tall, thin man of middle years, wrapped in a black robe with a cross upon his breast, and he had traveled alone through the wilderness from Quebec to the vale of Onondaga. He carried no weapon but under the black robe beat a heart as dauntless as that of Robert, or of Willet, or of Tayoga, and an invincible faith that had already moved mountains.
Onondaga men and women received Father Philibert Drouillard, and knelt for his willing blessing. Despite the memories of Champlain and Frontenac, despite the long and honored alliance with the English, the French missionaries, whom no hardships could stop, had made converts among the Onondagas, an enlightened nation with kindly and gentle instincts, and of all these missionaries Father Drouillard had the most tenacious and powerful will. And piety and patriotism could dwell together in his heart. The love of his church and the love of his race burned there with an equal brightness. He, too, had seen the clouds of war gathering, thick and black, and knowing the power of the Hodenosaunee, and that they yet waited, he had hastened to them to win them for France. He was burning with zeal and he would have gone forth the very night of his arrival to talk, but he was so exhausted that he could not move, and he slept deeply in one of the houses, while his faithful converts watched.
Robert encountered the priest early the next morning, and the meeting was wholly unexpected by him, although the Frenchman gave no sign of surprise and perhaps felt none.
"Father Drouillard!" he exclaimed. "I believed you to be in Canada! I did not think there was any duty that could call you to the vale of Onondaga!"
The stern face of the priest relaxed into a slight smile. This youth, though of the hostile race, was handsome and winning, and as Father Drouillard knew, he had a good heart.
"Holy Church sends us, its servants, poor and weak though we may be, on far and different errands," he said. "We seek the wheat even among the stones, and there are those, here in the vale of Onondaga itself, who watch for my coming."
Robert recalled that there were Catholic converts among the Onondagas, a fact that he had forgotten for the time, and he realized at once what a powerful factor Father Drouillard would be in the fight against him.
"The Chevalier de St. Luc has been here for some time," he said, "waiting until the fifty sachems are ready to hear him in council, when he will speak for France. Mr. Willet and I are also waiting to speak for England. But the Chevalier de St. Luc and I are the best of friends, and I hope, Father Drouillard, that you, who have come also to uphold the cause of France, will not look upon me as an enemy, but as one, unfitting though he may be, who wishes to do what he can for his country."
Father Drouillard smiled again.
"Ah, my son," he said, "you are a good lad. You bore yourself well in Quebec, and I have naught against you, save that you are not of our race."
"And for that, reverend sir, you cannot blame me."
Father Drouillard smiled for the third time. It was not often that he smiled three times in one day, and again he reflected that this was a handsome and most winning lad.
"Peace, my son!" he said. "Protestant you are and Catholic am I, English you are and French am I, but no ill wind can ever blow between you and me. We are but little children in the hands of the Omnipotent and we can only await His decree."
Robert told Willet a little later that Father Drouillard had come, and the hunter looked very grave.
"Our task has doubled," he said. "Now we fight both St. Luc and Father Drouillard, the army and the church."