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The Rulers of the Lakes: A Story of George and Champlain

The Rulers of the Lakes: A Story of George and Champlain

Author:Joseph A. Altsheler


The three, the white youth, the red youth, and the white man, lay deep in the forest, watching the fire that burned on a low hill to the west, where black figures flitted now and then before the flame. They did not stir or speak for a long time, because a great horror was upon them. They had seen an army destroyed ...
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  The three, the white youth, the red youth, and the white man, lay deepin the forest, watching the fire that burned on a low hill to the west,where black figures flitted now and then before the flame. They did notstir or speak for a long time, because a great horror was upon them.They had seen an army destroyed a few days before by a savage butinvisible foe. They had heard continually for hours the fiercetriumphant yells of the warriors and they had seen the soldiers droppingby hundreds, but the woods and thickets had hid the foe who sent forthsuch a rain of death.

  Robert Lennox could not yet stop the quiver of his nerves when herecalled the spectacle, and Willet, the hunter, hardened though he wasto war, shuddered in spite of himself at the memory of that terriblebattle in the leafy wilderness. Nor was Tayoga, the young Onondaga,free from emotion when he thought of Braddock's defeat, and the blazingtriumph it meant for the western tribes, the enemies of his people.

  They had turned back, availing themselves of their roving commission,when they saw that the victors were not pursuing the remains of thebeaten army, and now they were watching the French and Indians. FortDuquesne was not many miles away, but the fire on the hill had beenbuilt by a party of Indians led by a Frenchman, his uniform showing whenhe passed between eye and flame, the warriors being naked save for thebreech cloth.

  "I hope it's not St. Luc," said Robert.

  "Why?" asked Willet. "He was in the battle. We saw him leading on theIndian hosts."

  "I know. That was fair combat, I suppose, and the French used the toolsthey had. The Chevalier could scarcely have been a loyal son of Franceif he had not fought us then, but I don't like to think of him overthere by the fire, leading a band of Indians who will kill and scalpwomen and children as well as men along the border."

  "Nor I, either, though I'm not worried about it. I can't tell who theman is, but I know it's not St. Luc. Now I see him black against theblaze, and it's not the Chevalier's figure."

  Robert suddenly drew a long breath, as if he had made a surprisingrecognition.

  "I'm not sure," he said, "but I notice a trick of movement now and thenreminding me of someone. I'm thinking it's the same Auguste deCourcelles, Colonel of France, whom we met first in the northern woodsand again in Quebec. There was one memorable night, as you know, Dave,when we had occasion to mark him well."

  "I think you're right, Robert," said the hunter. "It looks like DeCourcelles."

  "I know he is right," said Tayoga, speaking for the first time. "I havebeen watching him whenever he passed before the fire, and I cannotmistake him."

  "I wonder what he's doing here," said Robert. "He may have been in thebattle, or he may have come to Duquesne a day or two later."

  "I think," said Willet, "that he's getting ready to lead a band againstthe border, now almost defenseless."

  "He is a bad man," said Tayoga. "His soul is full of wickedness andcruelty, and it should be sent to the dwelling place of the evil minded.If Great Bear and Dagaeoga say the word I will creep through thethickets and kill him."

  Robert glanced at him. The Onondaga had spoken in the gentle tones ofone who felt grief rather than anger. Robert knew that his heart wassoft, that in ordinary life none was kinder than Tayoga. And yet he wasand always would be an Indian. De Courcelles had a bad mind, and he wasalso a danger that should be removed. Then why not remove him?

  "No, Tayoga," said Willet. "We can't let you risk yourself that way. Butwe might go a little closer without any great danger. Ah, do you seethat new figure passing before the blaze?"

  "Tandakora!" exclaimed the white youth and the red youth together.

  "Nobody who knows him could mistake him, even at this distance. I thinkhe must be the biggest Indian in all the world."

  "But a bullet would bring him crashing to earth as quickly as anyother," said the Onondaga.

  "Aye, so it would, Tayoga, but his time hasn't come yet, though it willcome, and may we be present when your Manitou deals with him as hedeserves. Suppose we curve to the right through these thick bushes, andfrom the slope there I think we can get a much better view of the band."

  They advanced softly upon rising ground, and being able to approach twoor three hundred yards, saw quite clearly all those around the fire. Thewhite man was in truth De Courcelles, and the gigantic Indian, althoughthere could have been no mistake about him, was Tandakora, the Ojibway.The warriors, about thirty in number, were, Willet thought, a minglingof Ojibways, Pottawattomies and Ottawas. All were in war paint and wereheavily armed, many of them carrying big muskets with bayonets on theend, taken from Braddock's fallen soldiers. Three had small swordsbelted to their naked waists, not as weapons, but rather as the visibleemblems of triumph.

  As he looked, Robert's head grew hot with the blood pumped up from hisangry heart. It seemed to him that they swaggered and boasted, althoughthey were but true to savage nature.

  "Easy, lad," said Willet, putting a restraining hand upon his shoulder."It's their hour. You can't deny that, and we'll have to bide a while."

  "But will our hour ever come, Dave? Our army has been beaten,destroyed. The colonies and mother country alike are sluggish, and nowhave no plans, the whole border lies at the mercy of the tomahawk andthe French power in Canada not only grows all the time, but is directedby able and daring men."

  "Patience, lad, patience! Our strength is greater than that of the foe,although we may be slower in using it. But I tell you we'll see our dayof triumph yet."

  "They are getting ready to move," whispered the Onondaga. "The Frenchmanand the band will march northward."

  "And not back to Duquesne?" said Willet. "What makes you think so,Tayoga?"

  "What is left for them to do at Duquesne? It will be many a day beforethe English and Americans come against it again."

  "That, alas, is true, Tayoga. They're not needed longer here, nor arewe. They've put out their fire, and now they're off toward the north,just as you said they would be. Tandakora and De Courcelles lead,marching side by side. A pretty pair, well met here in the forest. Now,I wish I knew where they were going!"

  "Can't the Great Bear guess?" said the Onondaga.

  "No, Tayoga. How should I?"

  "Doesn't Great Bear remember the fort in the forest, the one calledRefuge?"

  "Of course I do, Tayoga! And the brave lads, Colden and Wilton andCarson and their comrades who defended it so long and so well. That'sthe most likely point of attack, and now, since Braddock's army isdestroyed it's too far in the wilderness, too exposed, and should beabandoned. Suppose we carry a warning!"

  Robert's eyes glistened. The idea made a strong appeal to him. He hadmellow memories of those Philadelphia lads, and it would be pleasant tosee them again. The three, in bearing the alarm, might achieve, too, atask that would lighten, in a measure, the terror along the border. Itwould be a relief at least to do something while the governmentdisagreed and delayed.

  "Let's start at once for Fort Refuge," he said, "and help them to getaway before the storm breaks. What do you say, Tayoga?"

  "It is what we ought to do," replied the Onondaga, in his preciseEnglish of the schools.

  "Come," said Willet, leading the way, and the three, leaving the firebehind them, marched rapidly into the north and east. Two miles gone,and they stopped to study the sun, by which they meant to take theirreckoning.

  "The fort lies there," said Willet, pointing a long finger, "and by mycalculations it will take us about five days and nights to reach it,that is, if nothing gets in our way."

  "You think, then," asked Robert, "that the French and Indians arealready spreading a net?"

  "The Indians might stop, Robert, my lad, to exult over their victory andto celebrate it with songs and dances, but the French leaders, whoseinfluence with them is now overwhelming, will push them on. They willwant to reap all the fruits of their great triumph by the river. I'veoften told you about the quality of the French and you've seen foryourself. Ligneris, Contrecoeur, De Courcelles, St. Luc and the otherswill flame like torches along the border."

  "And St. Luc will be the most daring, skillful and energetic of themall."

  "It's a fact that all three of us know, Robert, and now, having fixedour course, we must push ahead with all speed. De Courcelles, Tandakoraand the warriors are on the march, too, and we may see them again beforewe see Fort Refuge."

  "The forest will be full of warriors," said Tayoga, speaking with greatgravity. "The fort will be the first thought of the western barbarians,and of the tribes from Canada, and they will wish to avenge the defeatthey suffered before it."

  It was not long until they had ample proof that the Onondaga's wordswere true. They saw three trails in the course of the day, and all ofthem led toward the fort. Willet and Tayoga, with their wonderfulknowledge of the forest, estimated that about thirty warriors made onetrail, about twenty another, and fifteen the smallest.

  "They're going fast, too," said the hunter, "but we must go faster."

  "They will see our traces," said Tayoga, "and by signaling to oneanother they will tell all that we are in the woods. Then they will seta force to destroy us, while the greater bands go on to take the fort."

  "But we'll pass 'em," said Robert confidently. "They can't stop us!"

  Tayoga and the hunter glanced at him. Then they looked at each otherand smiled. They knew Robert thoroughly, they understood his vivid andenthusiastic nature which, looking forward with so much confidence tosuccess, was apt to consider it already won, a fact that perhapscontributed in no small measure to the triumph wished so ardently. Atlast, the horror of the great defeat in the forest and the slaughter ofan army was passing. It was Robert's hopeful temperament and brilliantmind that gave him such a great charm for all who met him, a charm towhich even the fifty wise old sachems in the vale of Onondaga had notbeen insensible.

  "No, Robert," said the Great Bear gravely, "I don't think anything canstop us. I've a prevision that De Courcelles and Tandakora will stand inour way, but we'll just brush 'em out of it."

  They had not ceased to march at speed, while they talked, and now Tayogaannounced the presence of a river, an obstacle that might proveformidable to foresters less expert than they. It was lined on bothsides with dense forest, and they walked along its bank about a mileuntil they came to a comparatively shallow place where they forded it inwater above their knees. However, their leggings and moccasins driedfast in the midsummer sun, and, experiencing no discomfort, they pressedforward with unabated speed.

  All the afternoon they continued their great journey to save those atthe fort, fording another river and a half dozen creeks and leapingacross many brooks. Twice they crossed trails leading to the east andtwice other trails leading to the west, but they felt that all of themwould presently turn and join in the general march converging upon FortRefuge. They were sure, too, that De Courcelles, Tandakora and theirband were marching on a line almost parallel with them, and that theywould offer the greatest danger.

  Night came, a beautiful, bright summer night with a silky blue sky inwhich multitudes of silver stars danced, and they sought a covert in adense thicket where they lay on their blankets, ate venison, and talkeda little before they slept.

  Robert's brilliant and enthusiastic mood lasted. He could see nothingbut success. With the fading of the great slaughter by the river cameother pictures, deep of hue, intense and charged with pleasant memories.Life recently had been a great panorama to him, bright and full ofchanges. He could not keep from contrasting his present position, hid ina thicket to save himself from cruel savages, with those vivid days atQuebec, his gorgeous period in New York, and the gay time with sportingyouth in the cozy little capital of Williamsburg.

  But the contrast, so far from making him unhappy, merely expanded hisspirit. He rejoiced in the pleasures that he had known and adaptedhimself to present conditions. Always influenced greatly by what layjust around him, he considered their thicket the best thicket in whichhe had ever been hidden. The leaves of last year, drifted into littleheaps on which they lay, were uncommonly large and soft. The lightbreeze rustling the boughs over his head whispered only of peace andease, and the two comrades, who lay on either side of him, were thefinest comrades any lad ever had.

  "Tayoga," he asked, and his voice was sincerely earnest, "can you see onhis star Tododaho, the founder and protector of the great league of theHodenosaunee?"

  The young Onondaga, his face mystic and reverential, gazed toward thewest where a star of great size and beauty quivered and blazed.

  "I behold him," he replied. "His face is turned toward us, and the wiseserpents lie, coil on coil, in his hair. There are wreaths of vaporabout his eyes, but I can see them shining through, shining withkindness, as the mighty chief, who went away four hundred years ago,watches over us. His eyes say that so long as our deeds are just, solong as we walk in the path that Manitou wishes, we shall be victorious.Now a cloud passes before the star, and I cannot see the face ofTododaho, but he has spoken, and it will be well for us to remember hiswords."

  He sank back on his blanket and closed his eyes as if he, too, inthought, had shot through space to some great star. Robert and Willetwere silent, sharing perhaps in his emotion. The religion and beliefs ofthe Indian were real and vital to them, and if Tododaho promised successto Tayoga then the promise would be fulfilled.

  "I think, Robert," said Willet, "that you'd better keep the first watch.Wake me a little while before midnight, and I'll take the second."

  "Good enough," said Robert. "I think I can hear any footfall Tandakoramay make, if he approaches."

  "It is not enough to hear the footfall of the Ojibway," said Tayoga,opening his eyes and sitting up. "To be a great sentinel and foresterworthy to be compared with the greatest, Dagaeoga must hear the whisperof the grass as it bends under the lightest wind, he must hear the soundmade by the little leaf as it falls, he must hear the ripple in thebrook that is flowing a hundred yards from us, and he must hear the wildflowers talking together in the night. Only then can Dagaeoga callhimself a sentinel fit to watch over two such sleeping foresters as theGreat Bear and myself."

  "Close your eyes and go to sleep without fear," said Robert in the samevein. "I shall hear Tandakora breathing if he comes within a mile of us,at the same distance I shall hear the moccasin of De Courcelles, when itbrushes against last year's fallen leaf, and at half a mile I shall seethe look of revenge and cruelty upon the face of the Ojibway seeking forus."

  Willet laughed softly, but with evident satisfaction.

  "You two boys are surely the greatest talkers I've heard for a longtime," he said. "You have happy thoughts and you put 'em into words. IfI didn't know that you had a lot of deeds, too, to your credit, I'd callyou boasters, but knowing it, I don't. Go ahead and spout language,because you're only lads and I can see that you enjoy it."

  "I'm going to sleep now," said Tayoga, "but Dagaeoga can keep on talkingand be happy, because he will talk to himself long after we have gone tothe land of dreams."

  "If I do talk to myself," said Robert, "it's because I like to talk toa bright fellow, and I like to have a bright fellow talk to me. Sleep assoundly as you please, you two, because while you're sleeping I cancarry on an intellectual conversation."

  The hunter laughed again.

  "It's no use, Tayoga," he said. "You can't put him down. The fifty wiseold sachems in the vale of Onondaga proclaimed him a great orator, andgreat orators must always have their way."

  "It is so," said the Onondaga. "The voice of Dagaeoga is like a river.It flows on forever, and like the murmur of the stream it will soothe meto deeper slumbers. Now I sleep."

  "And so do I," said the hunter.

  It seemed marvelous that such formal announcements should be followed byfact, but within three minutes both went to that pleasant land of dreamsof which they had been talking so lightly. Their breathing was long andregular and, beyond a doubt, they had put absolute faith in theirsentinel. Robert's mind, so quick to respond to obvious confidence,glowed with resolve. There was no danger now that he would relax theneeded vigilance a particle, and, rifle in the hollow of his arm, hebegan softly to patrol the bushes.

  He was convinced that De Courcelles and Tandakora were not many milesaway--they might even be within a mile--and memory of a former occasion,somewhat similar, when Tayoga had detected the presence of the Ojibway,roused his emulation. He was determined that, while he was on watch, nocreeping savage should come near enough to strike.

  Hand on the hammer and trigger of his rifle he walked in an everwidening circle about his sleeping comrades, searching the thickets witheyes, good naturally and trained highly, and stopping now and then tolisten. Two or three times he put his ear to the earth that he mighthear, as Tayoga had bade him, the rustle of leaves a mile away.

  His eager spirit, always impatient for action, found relief in thecontinuous walking, and the steady enlargement of the circle in which hetraveled, acquiring soon a radius of several hundred yards. On thewestern perimeter he was beyond the deep thicket, and within amagnificent wood, unchoked by undergrowth. Here the trees stood up ingreat, regular rows, ordered by nature, and the brilliant moonlightclothed every one of them in a veil of silver. On such a bright night insummer the wilderness always had for him an elusive though powerfulbeauty, but he felt its danger. Among the mighty trunks, with noconcealing thickets, he could be seen easily, if prowling savages werenear, and, as he made his circles, he always hastened through what hecalled to himself his park, until he came to the bushes, in the densityof which he was well hidden from any eye fifty feet away.

  It was an hour until midnight, and the radius of his circle hadincreased another fifty yards, when he came again to the great spacesamong the oaks and beeches. Halfway through and he sank softly downbehind the trunk of a huge oak. Either in fact or in a sort of mentalillusion, he had heard a moccasin brush a dry leaf far away. The commandof Tayoga, though spoken in jest, had been so impressive that his earwas obeying it. Firm in the belief that his own dark shadow blurredwith the dark trunk, and that he was safe from the sight of a questingeye, he lay there a long time, listening.

  In time, the sound, translated from fancy into fact, came again, and nowhe knew that it was near, perhaps not more than a hundred yards away,the rustling of a real moccasin against a real dry leaf. Twice andthrice his ear signaled to his brain. It could not be fancy. It wasinstead an alarming fact.

  He was about to creep from the tree, and return to his comrades withword that the enemy was near, but he restrained his impulse, merelycrouching a little lower that his dark shadow might blend with the darkearth as well as the dark trunk. Then he heard several rustlings and thevery low murmur of voices.

  Gradually the voices which had been blended together, detachedthemselves and Robert recognized those of Tandakora and De Courcelles.Presently they came into the moonlight, followed by the savage band, andthey passed within fifty yards of the youth who lay in the shelter ofthe trunk, pressing himself into the earth.

  The Frenchman and the Ojibway were talking with great earnestness andRobert's imagination, plumbing the distance, told him the words theysaid. Tandakora was stating with great emphasis that the three whosetrail they had found had gone on very fast, obviously with the intentionof warning the garrison at the fort, and if they were to be cut off theband must hasten, too. De Courcelles was replying that in his opinionTandakora was right, but it would not be well to get too far ahead. Theymust throw out flankers as they marched, but there was no immediateneed of them. If the band spread out before dawn it would be sufficient.

  Robert's fancy was so intense and creative that, beginning by imaginingthese things so, he made them so. The band therefore was sure to go onwithout searching the thickets on either right or left at present, andall immediate apprehension disappeared from his mind. Tandakora and DeCourcelles were in the center of the moonlight, and although knowingthem evil, he was surprised to see how very evil their faces looked,each in its own red or white way. He could remember nothing at thatmoment but their wickedness, and their treacherous attacks upon his lifeand those of his friends, and the memory clothed them about with ahideous veil through which only their cruel souls shone. It wascharacteristic of him that he should always see everything in extremecolors, and in his mind the good were always very good and the bad werevery bad.

  Hence it was to him an actual physical as well as mental relief, whenthe Frenchman, the Ojibway and their band, passing on, were blotted fromhis eyes by the forest. Then he turned back to the thicket in which hiscomrades lay, and bent over them for the purpose of awakening them. Butbefore he could speak or lay a hand upon either, Tayoga sat up, his eyeswide open.

  "You come with news that the enemy has been at hand!"

  "Yes, but how did you know it?"

  "I see it in your look, and, also when I slept, the Keeper of Dreamswhispered it in my ear. An evil wind, too, blew upon my face and I knewit was the breath of De Courcelles and Tandakora. They have been near."

  "They and their entire band passed not more than four hundred yards tothe eastward of us. I lay in the bush and saw them distinctly. They'retrying to beat us to Fort Refuge."

  "But they won't do it, because we won't let 'em," said Willet, who hadawakened at the talking. "We'll make a curve and get ahead of 'em again.You watched well, Robert."

  "I obeyed the strict injunctions of Tayoga," said young Lennox, smilingfaintly. "He bade me listen so intently that I should hear the rustle ofa dry leaf when a moccasin touched it a mile away in the forest. Well, Iheard it, and going whence the sound came I saw De Courcelles, Tandakoraand their warriors pass by."

  "You love to paint pictures with words, Robert. I see that well, but'tis not likely that you exaggerate so much, after all. I'm sorry youwon't get your share of sleep, but we must be up and away."

  "I'll claim a double portion of it later on, Dave, but I agree with youthat what we need most just now is silence and speed, and speed andsilence."

  The three, making a curve toward the east, traveled at high speedthrough the rest of the night, Tayoga now leading and showing all hisinimitable skill as a forest trailer. In truth, the Onondaga was in hiselement. His spirits, like Robert's, rose as dangers grew thicker aroundthem, and he had been affected less than either of his comrades by theterrible slaughter of Braddock's men. Mentally at least, he was more ofa stoic, and woe to the vanquished was a part of the lore of all theIndian tribes. The French and their allies had struck a heavy blow andthere was nothing left for the English and Americans to do but to strikeback. It was all very simple.

  Day came, and at the suggestion of Willet they rested again in thethickets. Robert was not really weary, at least the spirit uplifted him,though he knew that he must not overtask the body. His enthusiasm, basedupon such a sanguine temperament, continued to rise. Again he foresawglittering success. They would shake off all their foes, reach the fortin time, and lead the garrison and the people who had found refuge theresafely out of the wilderness.

  Where they lay the bushes were very dense. Before hiding there they haddrunk abundantly at a little brook thirty or forty feet away, and nowthey ate with content the venison that formed their breakfast. Over thevast forest a brilliant sun was rising and here the leaves and grasswere not burned much by summer heat. It looked fresh and green, and thewind sang pleasantly through its cool shadows. It appealed to Robert.With his plastic nature he was all for the town when he was in town, andnow in the forest he was all for the forest.

  "I can understand why you love it so well," he said to Tayoga, wavinghis hand at the verdant world that curved about them.

  "My people and their ancestors have lived in it for more generationsthan anyone knows," said the Onondaga, his eyes glistening. "I havebeen in the white man's schools, and the white man's towns, and I haveseen the good in them, but this is my real home. This is what I lovebest. My heart beats strongest for the forest."

  "My own heart does a lot of beating for the woods," said Willet,thoughtfully, "and it ought to do so, I've spent so many years of mylife in them--happy years, too. They say that no matter how great anevil may be some good will come out of it, and this war will achieve onegood end."

  "What is that, Great Bear?"

  "It will delay the work of the ax. Men will be so busy with the riflethat they will have mighty little time for the ax. The trees will stopfalling for a while, and the forest will cover again the places where ithas been cleared away. Why, the game itself will increase!"

  "How long do you think we'd better stay here?" asked Robert, his eagersoul anxious to be on again.

  "Patience! patience, my lad," replied Willet. "It's one thing thatyou'll have to practice. We don't want to run squarely into DeCourcelles, Tandakora and their band, and meanwhile we're verycomfortable here, gathering strength. Look at Tayoga there and learnfrom him. If need be he could lie in the same place a week and behappy."

  "I hope the need will not come," laughed the Onondaga.

  Robert felt the truth of Willet's words, and he put restraint uponhimself, resolved that he would not be the first to propose the newstart. He had finished breakfast and he lay on his elbow gazing upthrough the green tracery of the bushes at the sky. It was a wonderfulsky, a deep, soft, velvet blue, and it tinted the woods with gloriousand kindly hues. It seemed strange to Robert, at the moment, that aforest so beautiful should bristle with danger, but he knew it too wellto allow its softness and air of innocence to deceive him.

  It was almost the middle of the morning when Willet gave the word torenew the march, and they soon saw they had extreme need of caution.Evidence that warriors had passed was all about them. Now and then theysaw the faint imprint of a moccasin. Twice they found little paintedfeathers that had fallen from a headdress or a scalplock, and onceTayoga saw a red bead lying in the grass where it had dropped, perhaps,from a legging.

  "We shall have to pass by Tandakora's band and perhaps other bands inthe night," said Tayoga.

  "It's possible, too," said Willet, "that they know we're on our way tothe fort, and may try to stop us. Our critical time will soon be athand."

  They listened throughout the afternoon for the signals that bands mightmake to one another, but heard nothing. Willet, in truth, was notsurprised.

  "Silence will serve them best," he said, "and they'll send runners fromband to band. Still, if they do give signals we want to know it."

  "There is a river, narrow but deep, about five miles ahead," saidTayoga, "and we'll have to cross it on our way to the fort. I think itis there that Tandakora will await us."

  "It's pretty sure to be the place," said Willet. "Do you know wherethere's a ford, Tayoga?"

  "There is none."

  "Then we'll have to swim for it. That's bad. But you say it's a narrowstream?"

  "Yes, Great Bear. Two minutes would carry us across it."

  "Then we must find some place for the fording where the trees lean overfrom either side and the shadow is deep."

  Tayoga nodded, and, after that, they advanced in silence, redoublingtheir caution as they drew near to the river. The night was not sobright as the one that had just gone before, but it furnished sufficientlight for wary and watching warriors to see their figures at aconsiderable distance, and, now and then, they stopped to search thethickets with their own eyes. No wind blew, their footsteps made nosound and the intense stillness of the forest wove itself into thetexture of Robert's mind. His extraordinary fancy peopled it withphantoms. There was a warrior in every bush, but, secure in thecomradeship of his two great friends, he went on without fear.

  "There is no signal," whispered Tayoga at last. "They do not evenimitate the cry of bird or beast, and it proves one thing, Great Bear."

  "So it does, Tayoga."

  "You know as well as I do, Great Bear, that they make no sound becausethey have set the trap, and they do not wish to alarm the game whichthey expect to walk into it."

  "Even so, Tayoga. Our minds travel in the same channel."

  "But the game is suspicious, nevertheless," continued Tayoga in hisprecise school English, "and the trap will not fall."

  "No, Tayoga, it won't fall, because the game won't walk into it."

  "Tandakora will suffer great disappointment. He is a mighty hunter andhe has hunted mighty game, but the game that he hunts now is more warythan the stag or the bear, and has greater power to strike back thaneither."

  "Well spoken, Tayoga."

  The hunter and the Onondaga looked at each other in the dark andlaughed. Their spirits were as wild as the wilderness, and they wereenjoying the prospect of the Ojibway's empty trap. Robert laughed withthem. Already in his eager mind success was achieved and the crossingwas made. After a while he saw dim silver through the trees, and he knewthey had come to the river. Then the three sank down and approached inchby inch, sure that De Courcelles, Tandakora and their forces would bewatching on the other side.