Reading Books on PopNovel APP

The Shadow of the North: A Story of Old New York and a Lost Campaign

The Shadow of the North: A Story of Old New York and a Lost Campaign

Author:Joseph A. Altsheler


Tayoga, of the Clan of the Bear, of the nation Onondaga, of the great League of the Hodenosaunee, advanced with utmost caution through a forest, so thick with undergrowth that it hid all objects twenty yards away. He was not armed with a rifle, but carried ...
Show All▼

  Tayoga, of the Clan of the Bear, of the nation Onondaga, of the greatLeague of the Hodenosaunee, advanced with utmost caution through aforest, so thick with undergrowth that it hid all objects twenty yardsaway. He was not armed with a rifle, but carried instead a heavy bow,while a quiver full of arrows hung over his shoulder. He wore lessclothing than when he was in the white man's school at Albany, hisarms and shoulders being bare, though not painted.

  The young Indian's aspect, too, had changed. The great strugglebetween English and French, drawing with it the whole North Americanwilderness, had begun and, although the fifty sachems still sought tohold the Six Nations neutral, many of their bravest warriors werealready serving with the Americans and English, ranging the forest asscouts and guides and skirmishers, bringing to the campaign anunrivaled skill, and a faith sealed by the long alliance.

  Tayoga had thrown himself into the war heart and soul. Nothing coulddiminish by a hair his hostility to the French and the tribes alliedwith them. The deeds of Champlain and Frontenac were but of yesterday,and the nation to which they belonged could never be a friend of theHodenosaunee. He trusted the Americans and the English, but his chiefdevotion, by the decree of nature was for his own people, and now,that fighting in the forest had occurred between the rival nations, heshed more of the white ways and became a true son of the wilderness,seeing as red men saw and thinking as red men thought.

  He was bent over a little, as he walked slowly among the bushes, inthe position of one poised for instant flight or pursuit as the needmight be. His eyes, black and piercing, ranged about incessantly,nothing escaping a vision so keen and trained so thoroughly that henot only heard everything passing in the wilderness, but he knew thenature of the sound, and what had made it.

  The kindly look that distinguished Tayoga in repose haddisappeared. Unnumbered generations were speaking in him now, and theIndian, often so gentle in peace, had become his usual self, stern andunrelenting in war. His strong sharp chin was thrust forward. Hischeek bones seemed to be a little higher. His tread was so light thatthe grass scarcely bent before his moccasins, and no leavesrustled. He was in every respect the wilderness hunter and warrior,fitted perfectly by the Supreme Hand into his setting, and if an enemyappeared now he would fight as his people had fought for centuries,and the customs and feelings of the new races that had come across theocean would be nothing to him.

  A hundred yards more, and he sat down by the trunk of a great oak,convinced that no foe was near. His own five splendid senses had toldhim so, and the fact had been confirmed by an unrivaled sentinelhidden among the leaves over his head, a small bird that poured fortha wonderful volume of song. Were any other coming the bird would ceasehis melody and fly away, but Tayoga felt that this tiny featheredbeing was his ally and would not leave because of him. The song hadwonderful power, too, soothing his senses and casting a pleasingspell. His imaginative mind, infused with the religion and beliefs ofhis ancestors, filled the forest with friendly spirits. Unseen, theyhovered in the air and watched over him, and the trees, alive, bentprotecting boughs toward him. He saw, too, the very spot in theheavens where the great shining star on which Tododaho lived came outat night and glittered.

  He remembered the time when he had gone forth in the dusk to meetTandakora and his friends, and how Tododaho had looked down on himwith approval. He had found favor in the sight of the great league'sfounder, and the spirit that dwelt on the shining star still watchedover him. The Ojibway, whom he hated and who hated him in yet greatermeasure, might be somewhere in the forest, but if he came near, thefeathered sentinel among the leaves over his head would give warning.

  Tayoga sat nearly half an hour listening to the song of the bird. Hehad no object in remaining there, his errand bade him move on, butthere was no hurry and he was content merely to breathe and to feelthe glory and splendor of the forest about him. He knew now that theIndian nature had never been taken out of him by the schools. He lovedthe wilderness, the trees, the lakes, the streams and all theirmagnificent disorder, and war itself did not greatly trouble him,since the legends of the tribes made it the natural state of man. Heknew well that he was in Tododaho's keeping, and, if by chance, thegreat chief should turn against him it would be for some grave fault,and he would deserve his punishment.

  He sat in that absolute stillness of which the Indian by nature andtraining was capable, the green of his tanned and beautifully softdeerskin blending so perfectly with the emerald hue of the foliagethat the bird above his head at last took him for a part of the forestitself and so, having no fear, came down within a foot of his head andsang with more ecstasy than ever. It was a little gray bird, butTayoga knew that often the smaller a bird was, and the more sober itsplumage the finer was its song. He understood those musical notestoo. They expressed sheer delight, the joy of life just as he felt itthen himself, and the kinship between the two was strong.

  The bird at last flew away and the Onondaga heard its song dying amongthe distant leaves. A portion of the forest spell departed with it,and Tayoga, returning to thoughts of his task, rose and walked on,instinct rather than will causing him to keep a close watch on earthand foliage. When he saw the faint trace of a large moccasin on theearth all that was left of the spell departed suddenly and he becameat once the wilderness warrior, active, alert, ready to read everysign.

  He studied the imprint, which turned in, and hence had been made by anIndian. Its great size too indicated to him that it might be that ofTandakora, a belief becoming with him almost a certainty as he foundother and similar traces farther on. He followed them about a mile,reaching stony ground where they vanished altogether, and then heturned to the west.

  The fact that Tandakora was so near, and might approach again was notunpleasant to him, as Tayoga, having all the soul of a warrior, wasanxious to match himself with the gigantic Ojibway, and since the warwas now active on the border it seemed that the opportunity mightcome. But his attention must be occupied with something else for thepresent, and he went toward the west for a full hour through theprimeval forest. Now and then he stopped to listen, even lying downand putting his ear to the ground, but the sounds he heard, althoughvaried and many, were natural to the wild.

  He knew them all. The steady tapping was a woodpecker at work upon anold tree. The faint musical note was another little gray bird singingthe delight of his soul as he perched himself upon a twig; the lightshuffling noise was the tread of a bear hunting succulent nuts; acaw-caw so distant that it was like an echo was the voice of acircling crow, and the tiny trickling noise that only the keenest earcould have heard was made by a brook a yard wide taking a terrificplunge over a precipice six inches high. The rustling, one greatblended note, universal but soft, was that of the leaves moving inharmony before the gentle wind.

  The young Onondaga was sure that the forest held no alienpresence. The traces of Tandakora were hours old, and he must now bemany miles away with his band, and, such being the case, it was fittime for him to choose a camp and call his friends.

  It pleased Tayoga, zealous of mind, to do all the work before theothers came, and, treading so lightly and delicately, that he wouldnot have alarmed a rabbit in the bush, he gathered together deadsticks and heaped them in a little sunken place, clear of undergrowth.Flint and steel soon lighted a fire, and then he sent forth his call,the long penetrating whine of the wolf. The reply came from the north,and, building his fire a little higher, he awaited the result, withoutanxiety.

  The dry wood crackled and many little flames red or yellow arose.Tayoga heaped dead leaves against the trunk of a tree and sat downcomfortably, his shoulders and back resting against the bark. Presentlyhe heard the first alien sound in the forest, a light tread approachingThat he knew was Willet, and then he heard the second tread, evenlighter than the first, and he knew that it was the footstep of Robert.

  "All ready! It's like you, Tayoga," said Willet, as he entered theopen space. "Here you are, with the house built and the fire burningon the hearth!"

  "I lighted the fire," said Tayoga, rising, "but Manitou made thehearth, and built the house which is worthy of Him."

  He looked with admiration at the magnificent trees spreading away onevery side, and the foliage in its most splendid, new luxuriant green.

  "It is worthy, Tayoga," said Robert, whose soul was like that of theOnondaga, "and it takes Manitou himself a century or more to growtrees like these."

  "Some of them, I dare say, are three or four hundred years old ormore," said Willet, "and the forest goes west, so I've heard theIndians say, a matter of near two thousand miles. It's pleasant toknow that if all the axes in the world were at work it couldn't all becut down in our time or in the time of our children."

  Tayoga's heart swelled with indignation at the idea that the forestmight be destroyed, but he said nothing, as he knew that Willet andRobert shared his feeling.

  "Here's your rifle, Tayoga," said the hunter; "I suppose you didn'thave an occasion to use your bow and arrows."

  "No, Great Bear," replied the Onondaga, "but I might have had thechance had I come earlier."

  "What do you mean by that?"

  "I saw on the grass a human trace. It was made by a foot clothed in amoccasin, a large foot, a very large foot, the foot of a man whom weall have cause to hate."

  "I take it you're speaking of Tandakora, the Ojibway."

  "None other. I cannot be mistaken. But the trail was cold. He and hiswarriors have gone north. They may be thirty, forty miles from here."

  "Likely enough, Tayoga. They're on their way to join the force theFrench are sending to the fort at the junction of the Monongahela andthe Alleghany. Perhaps St. Luc--and there isn't a cleverer officer inthis continent--is with them. I tell you, Tayoga, and you too, Robert,I don't like it! That young Washington ought to have been sent earlierinto the Ohio country, and they should have given him a much largerforce. We're sluggards and all our governors are sluggards, exceptmaybe Shirley of Massachusetts. With the war just blazing up theFrench are already in possession, and we're to drive 'em out, whichdoubles our task. It was a great victory for us to keep theHodenosaunee on our side, or, in the main, neutral, but it's going tobe uphill work for us to win. The young French leaders are genuinekings of the wilderness. You know that, Robert, as well as I do."

  "Yes," said the youth. "I know they're the men whom the Englishcolonies have good cause to fear."

  When he spoke he was thinking of St. Luc, as he had last seen him inthe vale of Onondaga, defeated in the appeal to the fifty sachems, butgallant, well bred, showing nothing of chagrin, and sure to be aformidable foe on the field of battle. He was an enemy of whom onecould be proud, and Robert felt an actual wish to see him again, eventhough in opposing ranks.

  "We may come into contact with some of 'em," said the hunter. "TheFrench are using all their influence over the Indians, and aredirecting their movements. I know that St. Luc, Jumonville, Beaujeu,Dumas, De Villiers, De Courcelles and all their best men are in theforest. It's likely that Tandakora, fierce and wild as he is, isacting under the direction of some Frenchman. St. Luc could controlhim."

  Robert thought it highly probable that the chevalier was in truth withthe Indians on the border, either leading some daring band orgathering the warriors to the banner of France. His influence withthem would be great, as he understood their ways, adapted himself tothem and showed in battle a skill and daring that always make apowerful appeal to the savage heart. The youth had matched himselfagainst St. Luc in the test of words in the vale of Onondaga, and nowhe felt that he must match himself anew, but in the test of forestwar.

  Tayoga having lighted the fire, the hunter cooked the food over it,while the two youths reposed calmly. Robert watched Willet withinterest, and he was impressed for the thousandth time by his greatstrength, and the lightness of his movements. When he was younger, thedisparity in years had made him think of Willet as an old man, but hesaw now that he was only in early middle age. There was not a grayhair on his head, and his face was free from wrinkles.

  An extraordinarily vivid memory of that night in Quebec when thehunter had faced Boucher, the bully and bravo, reputed the bestswordsman of France, leaped up in Robert's mind. He had found no timeto think of Willet's past recently and he realized now that he knewlittle about it. The origin of that hunter was as obscure as hisown. But the story of the past and its mysteries must wait. Thepresent was so great and overwhelming that it blotted out everythingelse.

  "The venison and the bacon are ready," said Willet, "and you two ladscan fall on. You're not what I'd call epicures, but I've never knownyour appetites to fail."

  "Nor will they," said Robert, as he and Tayoga helpedthemselves. "What's the news from Britain, Dave? You must have heard alot when you were in Albany."

  "It's vague, Robert, vague. The English are slow, just as we Americansare, too. They're going to send out troops, but the French havedispatched a fleet and regiments already. The fact that our coloniesare so much larger than theirs is perhaps an advantage to them, as itgives them a bigger target to aim at, and our people who are trying totill their farms, will be struck down by their Indians from ambush."

  "And you see now what a bulwark the great League of the Hodenosauneeis to the English," said Tayoga.

  "A fact that I've always foreseen," said Willet warmly. "Nobody knowsbetter than I do the power of the Six Nations, and nobody has everbeen readier to admit it."

  "I know, Great Bear. You have always been our true friend. If all thewhite men were like you no trouble would ever arise between them andthe Hodenosaunee."

  Robert finished his food and resumed a comfortable place against atree. Willet put out the fire and he and Tayoga sat down in likefashion. Their trees were close together, but they did not talknow. Each was absorbed in his own thoughts and Robert had much tothink about.

  The war was going slowly. He had believed a great flare would come atonce and that everybody would soon be in the thick of action, butsince young Washington had been defeated by Coulon de Villiers at theGreat Meadows the British Colonies had spent much time debating andpulling in different directions. The union for which his eager soulcraved did not come, and the shadow of the French power in the north,reinforced by innumerable savages, hung heavy and black over theland. Every runner brought news of French activities. Rumor painted asimpregnable the fort they had built where two rivers uniting formedthe Ohio, and it was certain that many bands already ranged down inthe regions the English called their own.

  Spring had lingered far into summer where they were, and the foliagewas not yet touched by heat. All the forest was in deep and heavygreen, hiding every object a hundred yards away, but from theiropening they saw a blue and speckless sky, which the three by and bywatched attentively, and with the same motive. Before the dark hadbegun to come in the east they saw a thin dark line drawn slowlyacross it, the trail of smoke. It might not have been noticed by eyesless keen, but they understood at once that it was a signal. Robertnoted its drifting progress across the heavens, and then he said toWillet:

  "How far from here do you calculate the base of that smoke is, Dave?"

  "A long distance, Robert. Several miles maybe. The fire, I've nodoubt, was kindled on top of a hill. It may be French speaking toIndians, or Indians talking to Indians."

  "And you don't think it's people of ours?"

  "I'm sure it isn't. We've no hunters or runners in these parts, exceptourselves."

  "And it's not Tandakora," said the Onondaga. "He must be much fartheraway."

  "But the signal may be intended for him," said the hunter. "It may becarried to him by relays of smoke. I wish I could read that trailacross the sky."

  "It's thinning out fast," said Robert. "You can hardly see it! and nowit's gone entirely!"

  But the hunter continued to look thoughtfully at the sky, where thesmoke had been. He never underrated the activity of the French, and hebelieved that a movement of importance, something the nature of whichthey should discover was at hand.

  "Lads," he said, "I expected an easy night of good sleep for all threeof us, but I'm thinking instead that we'd better take to the trail,and travel toward the place where that smoke was started."

  "It's what scouts would do," said Tayoga tersely.

  "And such we claim to be," said Robert.

  As the sun began to sink they saw far in the west another smoke, thatwould have been invisible had it not been outlined against a fiery redsky, across which it lay like a dark thread. It was gone in a fewmoments, and then the dusk began to come.

  "An answer to the first signal," said Tayoga. "It is very likely thata strong force is gathering. Perhaps Tandakora has come back and isplanning a blow."

  "It can't be possible that they're aiming it at us," said the hunter,thoughtfully. "They don't know of our presence here, and if they didwe've too small a party for such big preparations."

  "Perhaps a troop of Pennsylvanians are marching westward," saidTayoga, "and the French and their allies are laying a trap for them."

  "Then," said Robert, "there is but one thing for us to do. We mustwarn our friends and save them from the snare."

  "Of course," said Willet, "but we don't know where they are, andmeanwhile we'd better wait an hour or two. Perhaps something willhappen that will help us to locate them."

  Robert and Tayoga nodded and the three remained silent while the nightcame. The blazing red in the west faded rapidly and darkness sweptdown over the wilderness. The three, each leaning against his tree,did not move but kept their rifles across their knees ready at oncefor possible use. Tayoga had fastened his bow over his back by theside of his quiver, and their packs were adjusted also.

  Robert was anxious not so much for himself as for the unknown otherswho were marching through the wilderness, and for whom the French andIndians were laying an ambush. It had been put forward first as asuggestion, but it quickly became a conviction with him, and he feltthat his comrades and he must act as if it were a certainty. But nosound that would tell them which way to go came out of this blackforest, and they remained silent, waiting for the word.

  The night thickened and they were still uncertain what to do. Robertmade a silent prayer to the God of the white man, the Manitou of thered man, for a sign, but none came, and infected strongly as he waswith the Indian philosophy and religion, he felt that it must be dueto some lack of virtue in himself. He searched his memory, but hecould not discover in what particular he had erred, and he was forcedto continue his anxious waiting, until the stars should choose tofight for him.

  Tayoga too was troubled, his mind in its own way being as active asRobert's. He knew all the spirits of earth, air and water were abroad,but he hoped at least one of them would look upon him with favor, andgive him a warning. He sought Tododaho's star in the heavens, but theclouds were too thick, and, eye failing, he relied upon his ear forthe signal which he and his young white comrade sought so earnestly.

  If Tayoga had erred either in omission or commission then the spiritsthat hovered about him forgave him, as when the night was thickestthey gave the sign. It was but the faint fall of a foot, and, atfirst, he thought a bear or a deer had made it, but at the fourth orfifth fall he knew that it was a human footstep and he whispered tohis comrades:

  "Some one comes!"

  As if by preconcerted signal the three arose and crept silently intothe dense underbrush, where they crouched, their rifles thrustforward.

  "It is but one man and he walks directly toward us," whispered Tayoga.

  "I hear him now," said Robert. "He is wearing moccasins, as his stepis too light for boots."

  "Which means that he's a rover like ourselves," said Willet. "Now he'sstopped. There isn't a sound. The man, whoever he is, has taken alarm,or at least he's decided that it's best for him to be morewatchful. Perhaps he's caught a whiff from the ashes of our fire. He'swhite or he wouldn't be here alone, and he's used to the forest, or hewouldn't have suspected a presence from so little."

  "The Great Bear thinks clearly," said Tayoga. "It is surely a whiteman and some great scout or hunter. He moved a little now to theright, because I heard his buckskin brush lightly against a bush. Ithink Great Bear is right about the fire. The wind has brought theashes from it to his nostrils, and he will lie in the bush long beforemoving."

  "Which doesn't suit our plans at all," said Willet. "There's achance, just a chance, that I may know who he is. White men of thekind to go scouting through the wilderness are not so plenty on theborder that one has to make many guesses. You lads move away a littleso you won't be in line if a shot comes, and I'll give a signal."

  Robert and Tayoga crept to other points in the brush, and the hunteruttered a whistle, low but very clear and musical. In a moment or two,a like answer came from a place about a hundred yards away, and Willetrising, advanced without hesitation. Robert and Tayoga followedpromptly, and a tall figure, emerging from the darkness, came forwardto meet them.

  The stranger was a man of middle years, and of a singularly wildappearance. His eyes roved continually, and were full of suspicion,and of a sort of smoldering anger, as if he had a grievance againstall the world. His hair was long and tangled, his face brown with sunand storm, and his dress more Indian than white. He was heavily armed,and, whether seen in the dusk or in the light, his whole aspect wasformidable and dangerous. But Willet continued to advance withouthesitation.

  "Captain Jack," he said extending his hand. "We were not looking foryou tonight, but no man could be more welcome. These are young friendsof mine, brave warriors both, the white and the red, Robert Lennox,who is almost a son to me, and Tayoga, the Onondaga, to whom I feelnearly like a father too."

  Now Robert knew him, and he felt a thrill of surprise, and of the mostintense curiosity. Who along the whole border had not heard of CaptainJack, known also as the Black Hunter, the Black Rifle and by manyother names? The tale had been told in every cabin in the woods howreturning home, he had found his wife and children tomahawked andscalped, and how he had taken a vow of lifelong vengeance upon theIndians, a vow most terribly kept. In all the villages in the Ohiocountry and along the Great Lakes, the name of Black Rifle was spokenwith awe and terror. No more singular and ominous figure ever crossedthe pages of border story.

  He swept the two youths with questing glances, but they met his gazefirmly, and while his eye had clouded at first sight of the Onondagathe threatening look soon passed.

  "Friends of yours are friends of mine, Dave Willet," he said. "I knowyou to be a good man and true, and once when I was at Albany I heardof Robert Lennox, and of the great young warrior, Tayoga, of the clanof the Bear, of the nation Onondaga, of the great League of theHodenosaunee."

  The young Onondaga's eyes flashed with pleasure, but he was silent.

  "How does it happen, Willet?" asked Black Rifle, "that we meet here inthe forest at such a time?"

  "We're on our way to the Ohio country to learn something about thegathering of the French and Indian forces. Just before sundown we sawsmoke signals and we think our enemies are planning to cut off a forceof ours, somewhere here in the forest."

  Black Rifle laughed, but it was not a pleasant laugh. It had in it aquality that made Robert shudder.

  "Your guesses are good, Dave," said Black Rifle. "About fifty men ofthe Pennsylvania militia are in camp on the banks of a little creektwo miles from here. They have been sent out to guard the farthestsettlements. Think of that, Dave! They're to be a guard against theFrench and Indians!"

  His face contracted into a wry smile, and Robert understood hisfeeling of derision for the militia.

  "As I told you, they're in camp," continued Black Rifle. "They built afire there to cook their supper, and to show the French and Indianswhere they are, lest they miss 'em in the darkness. They don't knowwhat part of the country they're in, but they're sure it's a longdistance west of Philadelphia, and if the Indians will only tell 'emwhen they're coming they'll be ready for 'em. Oh, they're braveenough! They'll probably all die with their faces to the enemy."

  He spoke with grim irony and Robert shuddered. He knew how helplessmen from the older parts of the country were in the depths of thewilderness, and he was sure that the net was already being drawn aboutthe Pennsylvanians.

  "Are the French here too, Black Rifle?" asked Willet.

  The strange man pointed toward the north.

  "A band led by a Frenchman is there," he replied. "He is the mostskillful of all their men in the forest, the one whom they callSt. Luc."

  "I thought so!" exclaimed Robert. "I believed all the while he wouldbe here. I've no doubt he will direct the ambush."

  "We must warn this troop," said Willet, "and save 'em if they will letus. You agree with me, don't you, Tayoga?"

  "The Great Bear is right."

  "And you'll back me up, of course, Robert. Will you help us too, BlackRifle?"

  The singular man smiled again, but his smile was not like that ofanybody else. It was sinister and full of menace. It was the smile ofa man who rejoiced in sanguinary work, and it made Robert think againof his extraordinary history, around which the border had built somuch of truth and legend.

  "I will help, of course," he replied. "It's my trade. It was mypurpose to warn 'em before I met you, but I feared they would notlisten to me. Now, the words of four may sound more real to 'em thanthe words of one."

  "Then lead the way," said Willet. "'Tis not a time to linger."

  Black Rifle, without another word, threw his rifle over his shoulderand started toward the north, the others falling into Indian filebehind him. A light, pleased smile played over his massive and ruggedfeatures. More than the rest he rejoiced in the prospect of combat.They did not seek battle and they fought only when they were compelledto do so, but he, with his whole nature embittered forever by thatmassacre of long ago, loved it for its own sake. He had ranged theborder, a torch of fire, for years, and now he foresaw more of therevenge that he craved incessantly.

  He led without hesitation straight toward the north. All four wereaccomplished trailers and the flitting figures were soundless as theymade their swift march through the forest. In a half hour they reachedthe crest of a rather high hill and Black Rifle, stopping, pointedwith a long forefinger toward a low and dim light.

  "The camp of the Pennsylvanians," he said with bitter irony. "As Itold you, fearing lest the savages should miss 'em in the forest theykeep their fire burning as a beacon."

  "Don't be too hard on 'em, Black Rifle," said Willet. "Maybe theycome from Philadelphia itself, and city bred men can scarcely beexpected to learn all about the wilderness in a few days."

  "They'll learn, when it's too late, at the muzzles of the French andIndian rifles," rejoined Black Rifle, abating a little his tone ofsavage derision.

  "At least they're likely to be brave men," said Willet, "and now whatdo you think will be our best manner of approaching 'em?"

  "We'll walk directly toward their fire, the four of us abreast. They'llblaze away all fifty of 'em together, as soon as they see us, but thedarkness will spoil their aim, and at least one of us will be leftalive, able to walk, and able to tell 'em of their danger. We don'tknow who'll be the lucky man, but we'll see."

  "Come, come, Captain Jack! Give 'em a chance! They may be a morelikely lot than you think. You three wait here and I'll go forward andannounce our coming. I dare say we'll be welcome."

  Willet advanced boldly toward the fire, which he soon saw consisted ofa great bed of coals, surrounded by sleepers. But the figures of men,pacing back and forth, showed that the watch had not been neglected,although in the deep forest such sentinels would be but littleprotection against the kind of ambush the French and Indians were ableto lay.

  Not caring to come within the circle of light lest he be fired upon,the hunter whistled, and when he saw that the sentinels were atattention he whistled again. Then he emerged from the bushes, andwalked boldly toward the fire.

  "Who are you?" a voice demanded sharply, and a young man in a fineuniform stood up in front of the fire. The hunter's quick andpenetrating look noted that he was tall, built well, and that his facewas frank and open.

  "My name is David Willet," he replied, "and I am sometimes called bymy friends, the Iroquois, the Great Bear. Behind me in the woods arethree comrades, young Robert Lennox, of New York and Albany; Tayoga, ayoung warrior of the clan of the Bear, of the nation Onondaga, of thegreat League of the Hodenosaunee, and the famous hunter and borderfighter, of whom everybody has heard, Captain Jack, Black Hunter, orBlack Rifle as he has been called variously."

  "I know the name," replied the young man, "and yours too, Mr.Willet. My own is Colden, James Colden of Philadelphia, and I am incommand of this troop, sent to guard the farthest settlements againstthe French and Indians. Will you call your comrades, Mr. Willet? Allof you are welcome."

  The hunter whistled again, and Robert, Tayoga and Black Rifle,advancing from the forest, came within the area of half light cast bythe glow from the coals, young Captain Colden watching them with themost intense curiosity as they approached. And well he might feelsurprise. All, even Robert, wore the dress of the wilderness, andtheir appearance at such a time was uncommon and striking. Most of thesoldiers had been awakened by the voices, and were sitting up, rubbingsleepy eyes. Robert saw at once that they were city men, singularlyout of place in the vast forest and the darkness.

  "We welcome you to our camp," said young Captain Colden, with dignity."If you are hungry we have food, and if you are without blankets wecan furnish them to you."

  Willet and Tayoga looked at Robert and he knew they expected him tofill his usual role of spokesman. The words rushed to his lips, butthey were held there by embarrassment. The soldiers who had beenawakened were already going back to sleep. Captain Colden sat down ona log and waited for them to state their wants. Then Robert spoke,knowing they could not afford to delay.

  "We thank you, Captain Colden," he said, "for the offer of supper andbed, but I must say to you, sir, that it's no time for either."

  "I don't take your meaning, Mr. Lennox."

  "Tayoga, Mr. Willet and Black Rifle, are the best scouts in thewilderness, and before sunset they saw smoke on the horizon. Then theysaw smoke answering smoke, and Black Rifle has seen more. The Frenchand Indians, sir, are in the forest, and they're led, too, byFrenchmen."

  Young James Colden was a brave man, and his eyes glittered.

  "We ask nothing better than to meet 'em," he said, "At the firstbreath of dawn we'll march against 'em, if your friends will only beso good as to show us the way."

  "It's not a matter of waiting until dawn, nor even of going to meet'em. They'll bring the battle to us. You and your force, CaptainColden, are surrounded already."

  The young captain stared at Robert, but his eyes were full ofincredulity. Several of the soldiers were standing near, and they tooheard, but the warning found no answer in their minds. Robert lookedaround at the men asleep and the others ready to follow them, and,despite his instinctive liking for Colden, his anger began to rise.

  "I said that you were surrounded," he repeated sharply, "and it's notime, Captain Colden, for unbelief! Mr. Willet, Tayoga and I saw thesignals of the enemy, but Black Rifle here has looked upon thewarriors themselves. They're led too by the French, and the best ofall the French forest captains, St. Luc, is undoubtedly with them offthere."

  He waved his hand toward the north, and a little of the high colorleft Colden's face. The youth's manner was so earnest and his wordswere spoken with so much power of conviction that they could not failto impress.

  "You really mean that the French and Indians are here, that they'replanning to attack us tonight?" said the Philadelphian.

  "Beyond a doubt and we must be prepared to meet them."

  Colden took a few steps back and forth, and then, like the brave youngman he was, he swallowed his pride.

  "I confess that I don't know much of the forest, nor do my men," hesaid, "and so I shall have to ask you four to help me."

  "We'll do it gladly," said Robert. "What do you propose, Dave?"

  "I think we'd better draw off some distance from the fire," repliedthe hunter. "To the right there is a low hill, covered with thickbrush, and old logs thrown down by an ancient storm. It's the veryplace."

  "Then," said Captain Colden briskly, "we'll occupy it inside of fiveminutes. Up, men, up!"

  The sleepers were awakened rapidly, and, although they were awkwardand made much more noise than was necessary, they obeyed theircaptain's sharp order, and marched away with all their arms and storesto the thicket on the hill, where, as Willet had predicted, they foundalso a network of fallen trees, affording a fine shelter anddefense. Here they crouched and Willet enjoined upon them thenecessity of silence.

  "Sir," said young Captain Colden, again putting down his pride, "I begto thank you and your comrades."

  "You don't owe us any thanks. It's just what we ought to have done,"said Willet lightly. "The wilderness often turns a false face to thosewho are not used to it, and if we hadn't warned you we'd have deservedshooting."

  The faint whine of a wolf came from a point far in the north.

  "It's one of their signals," said Willet. "They'll attack inside of anhour."

  Then they relapsed into silence and waited, every heart beating hard.