Henry awoke only once, and that was about half way between midnight and morning, when his senses, never still entirely, even in sleep, warned him that something was at the door. He rose cautiously upon his arm, saw a dark muzzle at the crevice, and behind it a pair of yellow, gleaming eyes. He knew at once that it was a panther, probably living in the swamp and drawn by the food. It must be very hungry to dare thus the smell of man. Henry's hand moved slowly to the end of a stick, the other end of which was a glowing coal. Then he seized it and hurled it directly at the inquisitive head.
The hot end of the stick struck squarely between the yellow eyes. There was a yelp of pain, and the boy heard the rapid pad of the big cat's feet as it fled into the swamp. Then he turned over on his side, and laughed in genuine pleasure at what was to him a true forest joke. He knew the panther would not come, at least not while he was in the hut, and he calmly closed his eyes once more. The old Henry was himself again.
He awoke in the morning to find that the cold rain was still falling. It seemed to him that it had prepared to rain forever, but he was resolved, nevertheless, now that he had food and the strength that food brings, to begin the search for his comrades. The islet in the swamp would serve as his base-nothing could be better-and he would never cease until he found them or discovered what had become of them.
A little spring of cold water flowed from the edge of the islet to lose itself quickly in the swamp. Henry drank there after his breakfast, and then felt as strong and active as ever. As he knew, the mind may triumph over the body, but the mind cannot save the body without food. Then he made his precious bear meat secure against the prowling panther or others of his kind, tying it on hanging boughs too high for a jump and too slender to support the weight of a large animal. This task finished quickly, he left the swamp and returned toward the spot where lie had seen the Mohawks.
The falling rain and the somber clouds helped Henry, in a way, as the whole forest was enveloped in a sort of gloom, and he was less likely to be seen. But when he had gone about half the distance he heard Indians signaling to one another, and, burying himself as usual in the wet bushes, he saw two small groups of warriors meet and talk. Presently they separated, one party going toward the east and the other toward the west. Henry thought they were out hunting, as the Indians usually took little care of the morrow, eating all their food in a few days, no matter how great the supply might be.
When he drew near the place he saw three more Indians, and these were traveling directly south. He was quite sure now that his theory was correct. They were sending out hunters in every direction, in order that they might beat up the woods thoroughly for game, and his own position anywhere except on the islet was becoming exceedingly precarious. Nevertheless, using all his wonderful skill, he continued the hunt. He had an abiding faith that his four comrades were yet alive, and he meant to prove it.
In the afternoon the clouds moved away a little, and the rain decreased, though it did not cease. The Indian signs multiplied, and Henry felt sure that the forest within a radius of twenty miles of his islet contained more than one camp. Some great gathering must be in progress and the hunters were out to supply it with food. Four times he heard the sound of shots, and thrice more he saw warriors passing through the forest. Once a wounded deer darted past him, and, lying down in the bushes, he saw the Indians following the fleeing animal. As the day grew older the trails multiplied. Certainly a formidable gathering of bands was in progress, and, feeling that he might at any time be caught in a net, he returned to the islet, which had now become a veritable fort for him.
It was not quite dark when he arrived, and he found all as it had been except the tracks of two panthers under the boughs to which he had fastened the big pieces of bear meat. Henry felt a malicious satisfaction at the disappointment of the panthers.
"Come again, and have the same bad luck," he murmured."
At dusk the rain ceased entirely, and he prepared for a journey in the night. He examined his powder carefully to see that no particle of it was wet, counted the bullets in his pouch, and then examined the skies. There was a little moon, not too much, enough to show him the way, but not enough to disclose him to an enemy unless very near. Then he left the islet and went swiftly through the forest, laying his course a third time toward the Indian camp. He was sure now that all the hunters had returned, and he did not expect the necessity of making any stops for the purpose of hiding. His hopes were justified, and as he drew near the camp he became aware that its population had increased greatly. It was proved by many signs. New trails converged upon it, and some of them were very broad, indicating that many warriors had passed. They had passed, too, in perfect confidence, as there was no effort at concealment, and Henry surmised that no white force of any size could be within many days' march of this place. But the very security of the Indians helped his own design. They would not dream that any one of the hated race was daring to come almost within the light of their fires.
Henry had but one fear just now, and that was dogs. If the Indians had any of their mongrel curs with them, they would quickly scent him out and give the alarm with their barking. But he believed that the probabilities were against it. This, so he thought then, was a war or hunting camp, and it was likely that the Indians would leave the dogs at their permanent villages. At any rate he would take the risk, and he drew slowly toward the oak opening, where some Indians stood about. Beyond them, in another dip of the valley, was a wider opening which he had not seen on his first trip, and this contained not only bark shelters, but buildings that indicated a permanent village. The second and larger opening was filled with a great concourse of warriors.
Fortunately the foliage around the opening was very dense, many trees and thickets everywhere. Henry crept to the very rim, where, lying in the blackest of the shadows, and well hidden himself, he could yet see nearly everything in the camp. The men were not eating now, although it was obvious that the hunters had done well. The dressed bodies of deer and bear hung in the bark shelters. Most of the Indians sat about the fires, and it seemed to Henry that they had an air of expectancy. At least two hundred were present, and all of them were in war paint, although there were several styles of paint. There was a difference in appearance, too, in the warriors, and Henry surmised that representatives of all the tribes of the Iroquois were there, coming to the extreme western boundary or fringe of their country.
While Henry watched them a half dozen who seemed by their bearing and manner to be chiefs drew together at a point not far from him and talked together earnestly. Now and then they looked toward the forest, and he was quite sure that they were expecting somebody, a person of importance. He became deeply interested. He was lying in a dense clump of hazel bushes, flat upon his stomach, his face raised but little above the ground. He would have been hidden from the keenest eye only ten feet away, but the faces of the chiefs outlined against the blazing firelight were so clearly visible to him that he could see every change of expression. They were fine-looking men, all of middle age, tall, lean, their noses hooked, features cut clean and strong, and their heads shaved, all except the defiant scalp lock, into which the feather of an eagle was twisted. Their bodies were draped in fine red or blue blankets, and they wore leggins and moccasins of beautifully tanned deerskin.
They ceased talking presently, and Henry heard a distant wailing note from the west. Some one in the camp replied with a cry in kind, and then a silence fell upon them all. The chiefs stood erect, looking toward the west. Henry knew that he whom they expected was at hand.
The cry was repeated, but much nearer, and a warrior leaped into the opening, in the full blaze of the firelight. He was entirely naked save for a breech cloth and moccasins, and he was a wild and savage figure. He stood for a moment or two, then faced the chiefs, and, bowing before them, spoke a few words in the Wyandot tongue-Henry knew already by his paint that he was a Wyandot.
The chiefs inclined their heads gravely, and the herald, turning, leaped back into the forest. In two or three minutes six men, including the herald, emerged from the woods, and Henry moved a little when he saw the first of the six, all of whom were Wyandots. It was Timmendiquas, head chief of the Wyandots, and Henry had never seen him more splendid in manner and bearing than he was as he thus met the representatives of the famous Six Nations. Small though the Wyandot tribe might be, mighty was its valor and fame, and White Lightning met the great Iroquois only as an equal, in his heart a superior.
It was an extraordinary thing, but Henry, at this very moment, burrowing in the earth that be might not lose his life at the hands of either, was an ardent partisan of Timmendiquas. It was the young Wyandot chief whom he wished to be first, to make the greatest impression, and he was pleased when he heard the low hum of admiration go round the circle of two hundred savage warriors. It was seldom, indeed, perhaps never, that the Iroquois had looked upon such a man as Timmendiquas.
Timmendiquas and his companions advanced slowly toward the chiefs, and the Wyandot overtopped all the Iroquois. Henry could tell by the manner of the chiefs that the reputation of the famous White Lightning had preceded him, and that they had already found fact equal to report.
The chiefs, Timmendiquas among them, sat down on logs before the fire, and all the warriors withdrew to a respectful distance, where they stood and watched in silence. The oldest chief took his long pipe, beautifully carved and shaped like a trumpet, and filled it with tobacco which he lighted with a coal from the fire. Then he took two or three whiffs and passed the pipe to Timmendiquas, who did the same. Every chief smoked the pipe, and then they sat still, waiting in silence.
Henry was so much absorbed in this scene, which was at once a spectacle and a drama, that he almost forgot where he was, and that he was an enemy. He wondered now at their silence. If this was a council surely they would discuss whatever question had brought them there! But he was soon enlightened. That low far cry came again, but from the east. It was answered, as before, from the camp, and in three or four minutes a warrior sprang from the forest into the opening. Like the first, he was naked except for the breech cloth and moccasins. The chiefs rose at his coming, received his salute gravely, and returned it as gravely. Then he returned to the forest, and all waited in the splendid calm of the Indian.
Curiosity pricked Henry like a nettle. Who was coming now? It must be some man of great importance, or they would not wait so silently. There was the same air of expectancy that had preceded the arrival of Timmendiquas. All the warriors looked toward the eastern wall of the forest, and Henry looked the same way. Presently the black foliage parted, and a man stepped forth, followed at a little distance by seven or eight others. The stranger, although tall, was not equal in height to Timmendiquas, but he, too, had a lofty and splendid presence, and it was evident to anyone versed at all in forest lore that here was a great chief. He was lean but sinewy, and he moved with great ease and grace. He reminded Henry of a powerful panther. He was dressed, after the manner of famous chiefs, with the utmost care. His short military coat of fine blue cloth bore a silver epaulet on either shoulder. His head was not bare, disclosing the scalp lock, like those of the other Indians; it was covered instead with a small hat of felt, round and laced. Hanging carelessly over one shoulder was a blanket of blue cloth with a red border. At his side, from a belt of blue leather swung a silver-mounted small sword. His leggins were of superfine blue cloth and his moccasins of deerskin. Both were trimmed with small beads of many colors.
The new chief advanced into the opening amid the dead silence that still held all, and Timmendiquas stepped forward to meet him. These two held the gaze of everyone, and what they and they alone did had become of surpassing interest. Each was haughty, fully aware of his own dignity and importance, but they met half way, looked intently for a moment or two into the eyes of each other, and then saluted gravely.
All at once Henry knew the stranger. He had never seen him before, but his impressive reception, and the mixture of military and savage attire revealed him. This could be none other than the great Mohawk war chief, Thayendanegea, the Brant of the white men, terrible name on the border. Henry gazed at him eagerly from his covert, etching his features forever on his memory. His face, lean and strong, was molded much like that of Timmendiquas, and like the Wyandot he was young, under thirty.
Timmendiquas and Thayendanegea-it was truly he-returned to the fire, and once again the trumpet-shaped pipe was smoked by all. The two young chiefs received the seats of favor, and others sat about them. But they were not the only great chiefs present, though all yielded first place to them because of their character and exploits.
Henry was not mistaken in his guess that this was an important council, although its extent exceeded even his surmise. Delegates and head chiefs of all the Six Nations were present to confer with the warlike Wyandots of the west who had come so far east to meet them. Thayendanegea was the great war chief of the Mohawks, but not their titular chief. The latter was an older man, Te-kie-ho-ke (Two Voices), who sat beside the younger. The other chiefs were the Onondaga, Tahtoo-ta-hoo (The Entangled) ; the Oneida, 0-tat-sheh-te (Bearing a Quiver) ; the Cayuga, Te-ka-ha-hoonk (He Who Looks Both Ways) ; the Seneca, Kan-ya-tai-jo (Beautiful Lake) ; and the Tuscarora, Ta-ha-en-te-yahwak-hon (Encircling and Holding Up a Tree). The names were hereditary, and because in a dim past they had formed the great confederacy, the Onondagas were first in the council, and were also the high priests and titular head of the Six Nations. But the Mohawks were first on-the war path.
All the Six Nations were divided into clans, and every clan, camping in its proper place, was represented at this meeting.
Henry had heard much at Pittsburgh of the Six Nations, their wonderful league, and their wonderful history. He knew that according to the legend the league had been formed by Hiawatha, an Onondaga. He was opposed in this plan by Tododaho, then head chief of the Onondagas, but he went to the Mohawks and gained the support of their great chief, Dekanawidah. With his aid the league was formed, and the solemn agreement, never broken, was made at the Onondaga Lake. Now they were a perfect little state, with fifty chiefs, or, including the head chiefs, fifty-six.
Some of these details Henry was to learn later. He was also to learn many of the words that the chiefs said through a source of which he little dreamed at the present. Yet he divined much of it from the meeting of the fiery Wyandots with the highly developed and warlike power of the Six Nations.
Thayendanegea was talking now, and Timmendiquas, silent and grave, was listening. The Mohawk approached his subject indirectly through the trope, allegory, and simile that the Indian loved. He talked of the unseen deities that ruled the life of the Iroquois through mystic dreams. He spoke of the trees, the rocks, and the animals, all of which to the Iroquois had souls. He called on the name of the Great Spirit, which was Aieroski before it became Manitou, the Great Spirit who, in the Iroquois belief, had only the size of a dwarf because his soul was so mighty that he did not need body.
This land is ours, the land of your people and mine, oh, chief of the brave Wyandots," he said to Timmendiquas. "Once there was no land, only the waters, but Aieroski raised the land of Konspioni above the foam. Then he sowed five handfuls of red seed in it, and from those handfuls grew the Five Nations. Later grew up the Tuscaroras, who have joined us and other tribes of our race, like yours, great chief of the brave Wyandots."
Timmendiquas still said nothing. He did not allow an eyelid to flicker at this assumption of superiority for the Six Nations over all other tribes. A great warrior he was, a great politician also, and he wished to unite the Iroquois in a firm league with the tribes of the Ohio valley. The coals from the great fire glowed and threw out an intense heat. Thayendanegea unbuttoned his military coat and threw it back, revealing a bare bronze chest, upon which was painted the device of the Mohawks, a flint and steel. The chests of the Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca head chiefs were also bared to the glow. The device on the chest of the Onondaga was a cabin on top of a hill, the Caytiga's was a great pipe, and the figure of a mountain adorned the Seneca bronze.
"We have had the messages that you have sent to us, Timmendiquas," said Thayendanegea, "and they are good in the eyes of our people, the Rotinonsionni (the Mohawks). They please, too, the ancient tribe, the Kannoseone (the Onondagas), the valiant Hotinonsionni (the Senecas), and all our brethren of the Six Nations. All the land from the salt water to the setting sun was given to the red men by Aieroski, but if we do not defend it we cannot keep it."
"It is so," said Timmendiquas, speaking for the first time. "We have fought them on the Ohio and in Kaintuck-ee, where they come with their rifles and axes. The whole might of the Wyandots, the Shawnees, the Miamis, the Illinois, the Delawares, and the Ottawas has gone forth against them. We have slain many of them, but we have failed to drive them back. Now we have come to ask the Six Nations to press down upon them in the east with all your power, while we do the same in the west. Surely then your Aieroski and our Manitou, who are the same, will not refuse us success."
The eyes of Thayendanegea glistened.
"You speak well, Timmendiquas," he said. " All the red men must unite to fight for the land of Konspioni which Aieroski raised above the sea, and we be two, you and I, Timmendiquas, fit to lead them to battle."
"It is so," said Timmendiquas gravely.