Read CHAPTER XIV - ST. LUC’S REVENGE of The Masters of the Peaks A Story of the Great North Woods, free online book, by Joseph A. Altsheler, on

When Robert awoke from a long and deep sleep he became aware, at once, that the anxious feeling in the camp still prevailed.  Rogers was in close conference with Willet, Black Rifle and several of his own leaders beside a small fire, and, at times, they looked apprehensively toward the north or west, a fact indicating to the lad very clearly whence the danger was expected.  Most of the scouts had come in, and, although Robert did not know it, they had reported that the force of St. Luc, advancing in a wide curve, and now including the western band, was very near.  It was the burden of their testimony, too, that he now had at least a thousand men, of whom one-third were French or Canadians.

Tayoga was sitting on a high point of the cliff, watching the lake, and Robert joined him.  The face of the young Onondaga was very grave.

“You look for an early battle, I suppose,” said Robert.

“Yes, Dagaeoga,” replied his comrade, “and it will be fought with the odds heavily against us.  I think the Mountain Wolf should not have awaited Sharp Sword here, but who am I to give advice to a leader, so able and with so much experience?”

“But we beat St. Luc once in a battle by a lake!”

“Then we had a fleet, and, for the time, at least, we won command of the lake.  Now the enemy is supreme on Oneadatote.  If we have any canoes on its hundred and twenty-five miles of length they are lone and scattered, and they stay in hiding near its shores.”

“Why are you watching its waters now so intently, Tayoga?”

“To see the sentinels of the foe, when they come down from the north.  Sharp Sword is too great a general not to use all of his advantages in battle.  He will advance by water as well as by land, but, first he will use his eyes, before he permits his hand to strike.  Do you see anything far up the lake, Dagaeoga?”

“Only the sunlight on the waters.”

“Yes, that is all.  I believed, for a moment or two, that I saw a black dot there, but it was only my fancy creating what I expected my sight to behold.  Let us look again all around the horizon, where it touches the water, following it as we would a line.  Ah, I think I see a dark speck, just a black mote at this distance, and I am still unable to separate fancy from fact, but it may be fact.  What do you think, Dagaeoga?”

“My thought has not taken shape yet, Tayoga, but if ’tis fancy then ’tis singularly persistent.  I see the black mote too, to the left, toward the western shore of the lake, is it not?”

“Aye, Dagaeoga, that is where it is.  If we are both the victims of fancy then our illusions are wonderfully alike.  Think you that we would imagine exactly the same thing at exactly the same place?”

“No, I don’t!  And as I live, Tayoga, the mote is growing larger!  It takes on the semblance of reality, and, although very far from us, it’s my belief that it’s moving this way!”

“Again my fancy is the same as yours and it is not possible that they should continue exactly alike through all changes.  That which may have been fancy in the beginning has most certainly turned into fact, and the black mote that we see upon the waters is in all probability a hostile canoe coming to spy upon us.”

They watched the dark dot detach itself from the horizon and grow continuously until their eyes told them, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that it was a canoe containing two warriors.  It was moving swiftly and presently Rogers and Willet came to look at it.  The two warriors brought their light craft on steadily, but stopped well out of rifle shot, where they let their paddles rest and gazed long at the shore.

“It is like being without a right arm to have no force upon the lake,” said Rogers.

“It cripples us sorely,” said Willet.  “Perhaps we’d better swallow our pride, bitter though the medicine may be, and retreat at speed.”

“I can’t do it,” said Rogers.  “I’m here to hold back St. Luc, if I can, and moreover, ’tis too late.  We’d be surrounded in the forest and probably annihilated.”

“I suppose you’re right.  We’ll meet him where we stand, and when the battle is over, whatever may be its fortunes, he’ll know that he had a real fight.”

They walked away from the lake, and began to arrange their forces to the most advantage, but Robert and Tayoga remained on the cliff.  They saw the canoe go back toward the north, melt into the horizon line, and then reappear, but with a whole brood of canoes.  All of them advanced rapidly, and they stretched into a line half way across the lake.  Many were great war canoes, containing eight or ten men apiece.

“Now the attack by land is at hand,” said Tayoga.  “Sharp Sword is sure to see that his two forces move forward at the same time.  Hark!”

They heard the report of a rifle shot in the forest, then another and another.  Willet joined them and said it was the wish of Rogers that they remain where they were, as a small force was needed at that point to prevent a landing by the Indians.  A fire from the lake would undoubtedly be opened upon their flank, but if the warriors could be kept in their canoes it could not become very deadly.  Black Rifle came also, and he, Willet, Robert, Tayoga and ten of the rangers lying down behind some trees at the edge of the cliff, watched the water.

The Indian fleet hovered a little while out of rifle shot.  Meanwhile the firing in the forest grew.  Bullets from both sides pattered on leaves and bark, and the shouts of besieged and besiegers mingled, but the members of the force on the cliff kept their eyes resolutely on the water.

“The canoes are moving again,” said Tayoga.  “They are coming a little nearer.  I see Frenchmen in some of them and presently they will try to sweep the bank with their rifles.”

“Our bullets will carry as far as theirs,” said the hunter.

“True, O, Great Bear, and perhaps with surer aim.”

In another moment puffs of white smoke appeared in the fleet, which was swinging forward in a crescent shape, and Robert heard the whine of lead over his head.  Then Willet pulled the trigger and a warrior fell from his canoe.  Black Rifle’s bullet sped as true, and several of the rangers also found their targets.  Yet the fleet pressed the attack.  Despite their losses, the Indians did not give back, the canoes came closer and closer, many of the warriors dropped into the water behind their vessels and fired from hiding, bullets rained around the little band on the cliff, and presently struck among them.  Two of the rangers were slain and two more were wounded.  Robert saw the Frenchmen in the fleet encouraging the Indians, and he knew that their enemies were firing at the smoke made by the rifles of the defenders.  Although he and his comrades were invisible to the French and Indians in the fleet, the bullets sought them out nevertheless.  Wounds were increasing and another of the rangers was killed.  Theirs was quickly becoming an extremely hot corner.

But Willet, who commanded at that point, gave no order to retreat.  He and all of his men continued to fire as fast as they could reload and take aim.  Yet to choose a target became more difficult, as the firing from the fleet made a great cloud of smoke about it, in which the French and Indians were hidden, or, at best, were but wavering phantoms.  Robert’s excited imagination magnified them fivefold, but he had no thought of shirking the battle, and he crept to the very brink, seeking something at which to fire in the clouds of smoke that were steadily growing larger and blacker.

The foes upon the lake fought mostly in silence, save for the crackle of their rifles, but Robert became conscious presently of a great shouting behind him.  In his concentration upon their own combat he had forgotten the main battle; but now he realized that it was being pressed with great fury and upon a half circle from the north and west.  He looked back and saw that the forest was filled with smoke pierced by innumerable red flashes; the rattle of the rifles there made a continuous crash, and then he heard a tremendous report, followed by a shout of dismay from the rangers.

“What is it?” he cried.  “What is it?”

Willet, who was crouched near him, turned pale, but he replied in a steady voice.

“St. Luc has brought a field piece, a twelve-pounder, I think, and they’ve opened fire with grape-shot.  They’ll sweep the whole forest.  Who’d have thought it?”

The battle sank for a moment, and then a tremendous yell of triumph came from the Indians.  Presently, the cannon crashed again, and its deadly charge of grape took heavy toll of the rangers.  Then the lake and the mountains gave back the heavy boom of the gun in many echoes, and it was like the toll of doom.  The Indians on both water and shore began to shout in the utmost fury, and Robert detected the note of triumph in the tremendous volume of sound.  His heart went down like lead.  Rogers crept back to Willet and the two talked together earnestly.

“The cannon changes everything,” said the leader of the rangers.  “More than twenty of my men are dead, and nearly twice as many are wounded.  ’Tis apparent they have plenty of grape, and they are sending it like hail through the forest.  The bushes are no shelter, as it cuts through ’em.  Dave, old comrade, what do you think?”

“That St. Luc is about to have his revenge for the defeat we gave him at Andiatarocte.  The cannon with its grape turns the scale.  They come on with uncommon fury!  It seems to me I hear a thousand rifles all together.”

St. Luc now pressed the attack from every side save the south.  The French and Indians in the fleet redoubled their fire.  The twelve-pounder was pushed forward, and, as fast as the expert French gunners could reload it, the terrible charges of grape-shot were sent among the rangers.  More were slain or wounded.  The little band of defenders on the high cliff overlooking the lake at last found their corner too hot for them and were compelled to join the main force.  Then the French and Indians in the fleet landed with shouts of triumph and rushed upon the Americans.

Robert caught glimpses of other Frenchmen as he faced the forest.  Once an epaulet showed behind a bush and then a breadth of tanned face which he was sure belonged to De Courcelles.  And so this man who had sought to make him the victim of a deadly trick was here!  And perhaps Jumonville also!  A furious rage seized him and he sought eagerly for a shot at the epaulet, but it disappeared.  He crept a little farther forward, hoping for another view, and Tayoga noticed his eager, questing gaze.

“What is it, Dagaeoga?” he asked.  “Whom do you hate so much?”

“I saw the French Colonel, De Courcelles, and I was seeking to draw a bead on him, but he has gone.”

“Perhaps he has, but another takes his place.  Look at the clump of bushes directly in front of us and you will see a pale blue sleeve which beyond a doubt holds the arm of a French officer.  The arm cannot be far away from the head and body, which I think we will see in time, if we keep on looking.”

Both watched the bushes with a concentrated gaze and presently the head and shoulders, following the arm, disclosed themselves.  Robert raised his rifle and took aim, but as he looked down the sights he saw the face among the leaves, and a shudder shook him.  He lowered his rifle.

“What is it, Dagaeoga?” whispered the Onondaga.

“The man I chose for my target,” replied Robert, “was not De Courcelles, nor yet Junonville, but that young De Galissonniere, who was so kind to us in Quebec, and whom we met later among the peaks.  I was about to pull trigger, and, if I had done so, I should be sorry all my life.”

“Is he still there?”

Robert looked again and De Galissonniere was gone.  He felt immense relief.  He thought it was war’s worst cruelty that it often brought friends face to face in battle.

The French and Indian horde from the lake landed and drove against the rangers on the eastern flank with great violence, firing their rifles and muskets, and then coming on with the tomahawk.  The little force of Rogers was in danger of being enveloped on all sides, and would have been exterminated had it not been for his valor and presence of mind, seconded so ably by Willet, Black Rifle and their comrades.

They formed a barrier of living fire, facing in three directions and holding back the shouting horde until the main body of the surviving rangers could gather for retreat.  Robert and Tayoga were near Willet, all the best sharpshooters were there, and never had they fought more valiantly than on that day.

Robert crouched among the bushes, peering for the faces of his foes, and firing whenever he could secure a good aim.

“Have you seen Tandakora?” he asked Tayoga.

“No,” replied the Onondaga.

“He must be here.  He would not miss such a chance.”

“He is here.”

“But you said you hadn’t seen him.”

“I have not seen him, but O, Dagaeoga, I have heard him.  Did not we observe when we were in the forest that ear was often to be trusted more than eye?  Listen to the greatest war shout of them all!  You can hear it every minute or two, rising over all the others, superior in volume as it is in ferocity.  The voice of the Ojibway is huge, like his figure.”

Now, in very truth, Robert did notice the fierce triumphant shout of Tandakora, over and above the yelling of the horde, and it made him shudder again and again.  It was the cry of the man-hunting wolf, enlarged many times, and instinct with exultation and ferocity.  That terrible cry, rising at regular intervals, dominated the battle in Robert’s mind, and he looked eagerly for the colossal form of the chief that he might send his bullet through it, but in vain; the voice was there though his eyes saw nothing at which to aim.

Farther and farther back went the rangers, and the youth’s heart was filled with anger and grief.  Had they endured so much, had they escaped so many dangers, merely to take part in such a disaster?  Unconsciously he began to shout in an effort to encourage those with him, and although he did not know it, it was a reply to the war cries of Tandakora.  The smoke and the odors of the burned gunpowder filled his nostrils and throat, and heated his brain.  Now and then he would stop his own shouting and listen for the reply of Tandakora.  Always it came, the ferocious note of the Ojibway swelling and rising above the warwhoop of the other Indians.

“Dagaeoga looks for Tandakora,” said the Onondaga.

“Truly, yes,” replied Robert.  “Just now it’s my greatest wish in life to find him with a bullet.  I hear his voice almost continuously, but I can’t see him!  I think the smoke hides him.”

“No, Dagaeoga, it is not the smoke, it is Areskoui.  I know it, because the Sun God has whispered it in my ear.  You will hear the voice of Tandakora all through the battle, but you will not see him once.”

“Why should your Areskoui protect a man like Tandakora, who deserves death, if anyone ever did?”

“He protects him, today merely, not always.  It is understood that I shall meet Tandakora in the final reckoning.  I told him so, when I was his captive, and he struck me in the face.  It was no will of mine that made me say the words, but it was Areskoui directing me to utter them.  So, I know, O, my comrade, that Tandakora cannot fall to your rifle now.  His time is not today, but it will come as surely as the sun sets behind the peaks.”

Tayoga spoke with such intense earnestness that Robert looked at him, and his face, seen through the battle smoke, had all the rapt expression of a prophet’s.  The white youth felt, for the moment at least, with all the depth of conviction, the words of the red youth would come true.  Then the tremendous voice of Tandakora boomed above the firing and yelling, but, as before, his body remained invisible.  Tandakora’s Indians, many of whom had come with him from the far shores of the Great Lakes, showed all the cunning and courage that made them so redoubtable in forest warfare.  Armed with good French muskets and rifles they crept forward among the thickets, and poured in an unceasing fire.  Encouraged by the success at Oswego, and by the knowledge that the great St. Luc, the best of all the French leaders, was commanding the whole force, their ferocity rose to the highest pitch and it was fed also by the hope that they would destroy all the hated and dreaded rangers whom they now held in a trap.

Robert had never before seen them attack with so much disregard of wounds, and death.  Usually the Indian was a wary fighter, always preferring ambush, and securing every possible advantage for himself, but now they rushed boldly across open spaces, seeking new and nearer coverts.  Many fell before the bullets of the rangers but the swarms came on, with undiminished zeal, always pushing the battle, and keeping up a fire so heavy that, despite the bullets that went wild, the rangers steadily diminished in numbers.

“It’s a powerful attack,” said Robert.

“It’s because they feel so sure of victory,” said Tayoga, “and it’s because they know it’s the Mountain Wolf and his men whom they have surrounded.  They would rather destroy a hundred rangers than three hundred troops.”

“That’s so,” said Willet, who overheard them in all the crash of the battle.  “They won’t let the opportunity escape.  Back a little, lads!  This place is becoming too much exposed.”

They withdrew into deeper shelter, but they still fired as fast, as they could reload and pull the trigger.  Their bullets, although they rarely missed, seemed to make no impression on the red horde, which always pressed closer, and there was a deadly ring of fire around the rangers, made by hundreds of rifles and muskets.

Robert and Tayoga were still without wounds.  Leaves and twigs rained around them, and they heard often the song of the bullets, they saw many of the rangers fall, but happy fortune kept their own bodies untouched.  Robert knew that the battle was a losing one, but he was resolved to hold his place with his comrades.  Rogers, who had been fighting with undaunted valor and desperation, marshaling his men in vain against numbers greatly superior, made his way once more to the side of Willet and crouched with him in the bushes.

“Dave, my friend,” he said, “the battle goes against us.”

“So it does,” replied the hunter, “but it is no fault of yours or your men.  St. Luc, the best of all the French leaders, has forced us into a trap.  There is nothing left for us to do now but burst the trap.”

“I hate to yield the field.”

“But it must be done.  It’s better to lose a part of the rangers than to lose all.  You’ve had many a narrow escape before.  Men will come to your standard and you’ll have a new band bigger than ever.”

The dark face of the ranger captain brightened a little.  But he looked sadly upon his fallen men.  He was bleeding himself from two slight wounds, but he paid no attention to them.  The need to flee pierced his soul, but he saw that it must be done, else all the rangers would be destroyed, and, while he still hesitated a moment or two, the silver whistle of St. Luc, urging on a fresh and greater attack, rose above all the sounds of combat.  Then he knew that he must wait no longer, and he gave the command for ordered flight.

Not more than half of the rangers escaped from that terrible converging attack.  St. Luc’s triumph was complete.  He had won full revenge for his defeat by Andiatarocte, and he pushed the pursuit with so much energy and skill that Rogers bade the surviving rangers scatter in the wilderness to reassemble again, after their fashion, far to the south.

Black Rifle remained with the leader, but Robert, Tayoga and Willet continued their flight together, not stopping until night, when they were safe from pursuit.  As the three went southward through the deep forest, they saw many trails that they knew to be those of hostile Indians, and nowhere did they find a sign of a friend.  All the wilderness seemed to have become the country of the enemy.  When they looked once more from the lofty shores upon the vivid waters of George, they beheld canoes, but as they watched they discovered that they were those of the foe.  A terrible fear clutched at their hearts, a fear that Montcalm, like St. Luc, had struck already.

“The tide of battle has flowed south of us,” said Tayoga.  “All that we find in the forest proclaims it.”

“I would you were not right, Tayoga,” said the hunter, “but I fear you are.”

They came the next day to the trail of a great army, soldiers and cannon.  Night overtook them while they were still near the shores of Lake George, following the road, left by the French and Indian host as it had advanced south, and the three, wearied by their long flight, drew back into the dense thickets for rest.  The darkness had come on thicker and heavier than usual, and they were glad of it, as they were well hidden in its dusky folds, and they wished to rest without apprehension.

They had food with them which they ate, and then they wrapped their blankets about their bodies, because a wind was coming from the lake, and its touch was damp.  Clouds also covered all the skies, and, before long, a thin, drizzling rain fell.  They would have been cold, and, in time, wet to the bone, but the blankets were sufficient to protect them.

“Areskoui, after smiling upon us for so long, has now turned his face from us,” said Tayoga.

“What else can you expect?” said the valiant Willet.  “It is always so in war.  You’re up and then you’re down.  We were masters of the peaks for a while, and by our capture of Garay’s letter we kept St. Luc from attacking Albany, but the stars never fight for you all the time.  We couldn’t do anything that would save the rangers from defeat.”

The Onondaga looked up.  The others could not see his face, but it was reverential, and the cold rain that fell upon it had then no chill for him.  Instead it was soothing.

“Tododaho is on his great star beyond the clouds,” he said, “and he is looking down on us.  We have done wrong or he and Areskoui would not have withdrawn their favor from us, but we have done it unknowingly, and, in time, they will forgive us.  As long as the Onondagas are true to him Tododaho will watch over them, although at times he may punish them.”

That Tododaho was protecting them even then was proved conclusively to Tayoga before the night was over.  A great war party passed within a hundred yards of them, going swiftly southward, but the three, swathed in their blankets, and, hidden in the dark thickets, had no fear.  They were merely three motes in the wilderness and the warriors did not dream that they were near.  When the last sound of their marching had sunk into nothingness, Tayoga said: 

“It was not the will of Tododaho that they should suspect our presence, but I fear that they go to a triumph.”

They rose from the thicket early the following morning, and resumed their flight, but it soon came to a halt, when the Onondaga pointed to a trail in the forest, made apparently by about twenty warriors.  The hawk eye of Tayoga, however, picked out one trace among them which all three knew was made by a white man.

“I know, too,” said the red youth, “the white man who made it.”

“Tell us his name,” said the hunter, who had full confidence in the wonderful powers of the Onondaga.

“It is the Frenchman, Langlade, who held Dagaeoga a prisoner in his village so long.  I know his traces, because I followed them before.  His foot is very small, and it has been less than an hour since he passed here.  They are ahead of us, directly in our path.”

“What do you think we ought to do, Dave?” asked Robert, anxiously.  “You know we want to go south as fast as we can.”

“We must try to go around Langlade,” replied Willet.  “It’s true, we’ll lose time, but it’s better to lose time and be late a little than to lose our lives and never get there at all.”

“The Great Bear is a very wise man,” said Tayoga.

They made at once a sharp curve toward the east, but just when they thought they were passing parallel with Langlade’s band, they were fired upon from a thicket, the bullet singing by Robert’s ear.  The three took cover in the bushes, and a long and trying combat of sharpshooters took place.  Two warriors were slain and both Willet and Tayoga were grazed by the Indian fire, but they were not hurt.  Robert once caught sight of Langlade, and he might have dropped the partisan with his bullet, but his heart held his hand.  Langlade had shown him many a kindness, during his long captivity and, although he was a fierce enemy now, the lad was not one to forget.  As he had spared De Galissonniere, so would he spare Langlade, and, in a moment or two, the Frenchman was gone from his sight.

Another dark and rainy night came, and, protected by it, they crept in silence past the partisan’s band soon leaving this new danger far behind them.  Tayoga was very grateful, and accepted their escape as a sign.

“While Manitou, who rules all things, has decreed that we must suffer much before victory,” he said, “yet, as I see it, he has decreed also that we three shall not fall, else why does he spread so many dangers before us, and then take us safely through them?”

“It looks the same way to me,” said Willet.  “The dark and rainy night that he sent enabled us to pass by Langlade and his band.”

“A second black night following a first,” said Tayoga, devoutly.  “I do not doubt that it was sent for our benefit by Manitou, who is lord even over Tododaho and Areskoui.”

They made good speed near the shores of Andiatarocte and now and then they caught glimpses once more through the heavy green foliage of the lake’s glittering waters.  But they saw anew the canoes of the French and Indians upon its surface, and they realized with increasing force that Andiatarocte, so vital in the great struggle, belonged, for the time at least, to their enemies.  Yet the three themselves were favored.  The rain ceased, a warm wind out of the south dried the forest, and their flight became easy.  A fat deer stood in their path and fairly asked to be shot, furnishing them all the food they might need for days to come, and they were able to dress and prepare it at their leisure.

“It is clear, as I have already surmised and stated,” said Tayoga in his precise language, “that the frown of Manitou is not for us three.  The way opens before us, and we shall rejoin our friends.”

“If we have any friends left,” said the hunter.  “I fear greatly, Tayoga, that Montcalm will have struck before we arrive.  He has a powerful force with plenty of cannon, and we know he acts with decision and speed.”

“He has struck already and he has struck terribly,” said Tayoga with great gravity.

“How do you know that?” asked Robert, startled.

“I do not know it because of anything that has been told to me in words,” replied the Onondaga, “but O, Dagaeoga, the mind, which is often more potent than eye or ear, as I have told you so many times, is now warning me.  We know that our people farther south have been in disagreement.  The governors of the provinces have not acted together.  Everyone is of his own mind, and no two minds are alike.  No effort was made to profit by the great victory last year on the shores of Andiatarocte.  Waraiyageh, sore in body and mind, rests at home, so it is not possible that our people have been ready and vigorous.”

“While the French and Indians are all that we are not?”

“Even so.  Montcalm advances with great speed, and knows precisely what he intends to do.  He has had plenty of time to reach our forts below.  His force is overwhelming, though more so in preparation and decision, than in numbers.  He has had time to strike, and being Montcalm, therefore he has struck.  There is no chance of error, O, Dagaeoga and Great Bear, when I tell you a heavy blow has fallen upon us.”

“I don’t want to believe you, Tayoga,” said the hunter, “but I do.  The conclusion seems inevitable to me.”

“I’m hoping when hope’s but faint,” said Robert.

They swung again into the great trail, left by the army of Montcalm, or at least a part of it, and the Onondaga and the hunter told its tale with precision.

“Here passed the cannon,” said Tayoga.  “I judge by the size of the ruts the wheels made that a battery of twelve pounders went this way.  What do you say, Great Bear?”

“You’re right, of course, Tayoga, and there were eight guns in the battery; a child could tell their number.  They had other batteries too.”

“And the wooden walls of our forts wouldn’t stand much chance against a continuous fire of twelve and eighteen pounders,” said Robert.

“No,” said Willet.  “The forts could be saved only by enterprising and skillful commanders who would drive away the batteries.”

“Here went the warriors,” said Tayoga.  “They were on the outer edges of the great trail, walking lightly, according to their custom.  See the traces of the moccasins, scores and scores of them.  We will come very soon to a place where the whole army camped for the night.  How do I know, O, Dagaeoga?  Because numerous trails are coming in from the forest and converging upon one point.  They do that because it is time to gather for food and the night’s rest.  Some of the warriors went into the forest to hunt game, and they found it, too.  Look at the drops of blood, still faintly showing on the grass, leading here, and here, and here into the main trail, drops that fell from the deer they had slain.  Also they shot birds.  Behold feathers hanging on the bushes, blown there by the wind, which proves that the site of their camp is very near, as I said.”

“It’s just over the hill in that wide, shallow valley,” said Willet.

They entered the valley which had been marked by the departed army with signs as clear as the print of a book for the Onondaga and the hunter to read.

“Here at the northern end of the valley is where the warriors cooked and ate the deer they had slain,” said Tayoga.  “The bones are scattered all about, and we see the ashes of their fires, but they kept mostly to themselves, because few footprints of white men lead to the place they set aside as their own.  Just beyond them the cannon were parked.  All this is very simple.  An Onondaga child eight years old could read what is written in this camp.  Here are the impressions made by the cannon wheels, and just beside them the artillery horses were tethered, as the numerous hoofprints show.”

“And here, I imagine,” said Robert, who had walked on, “the Marquis de Montcalm and his lieutenants spent the night.  Tents were pitched for them.  You can see the holes left by the pegs.”

“Spoken truly, O, Dagaeoga.  You are using eye and mind, and lo! you are showing once more the beginnings of wisdom.  Four tents were pitched.  The rest of the army slept in the open.  Montcalm and his lieutenants themselves would have done so, but the setting up of the tents inspired respect in the warriors and even in the troops.  The French leaders have mind and they profit by it.  They neglect no precaution, no detail to increase their prestige and maintain their authority.”

“It is so, Tayoga,” said Willet, “and I can wish that our own officers would do the same.  The French are marvelously expert in dealing with Indians.  They can handle them all, except the Hodenosaunee.  But don’t you think they held a short council here by this log, after they had eaten their suppers?”

“It cannot be doubted, Great Bear.  Montcalm and his captains sat on the log.  The Indian chiefs sat in a half circle before it, and they smoked a pipe.  See, the traces of the ashes on the grass.  They were planning the attack upon the fort.  It is bound to be William Henry, because the trail leads in that direction.”

“And these marks on the log, Tayoga, show that there was some indecision, at first, and much talking.  Two or three of the French officers had their hunting knives in their hands, and they carved nervously at the log, just as a man will often whittle as he argues.”

“Well stated, O, Great Bear.  After the conference, the chiefs went back in single file to their own part of the camp.  Here goes their trail, and you can nearly fancy that all stepped exactly in the footprints of the first.”

“The straight, decisive line proves too, Tayoga, that the plan was completed and everything ready for the attack.  The chiefs would not have gone away in such a manner if they had not been satisfied.”

“Well stated again, Great Bear.  The Marquis de Montcalm also went directly back to his tent.  See, where the boot heels pressed.”

“But you have no way of knowing,” said Robert, “that the traces of boot heels indicate the Marquis.”

“O, Dagaeoga, after all my teaching, you forget again that mind can see where the eye cannot.  Train the mind!  Train the mind, and you will get much profit from it.  The traces of these boot heels lead directly to the place where the largest tent stood.  We know it was the largest, because the holes left by the tent pegs are farthest apart.  And we know it belonged to the Marquis de Montcalm, because, always having that keen eye for effect, the French Commander-in-Chief would have no tent but the largest.”

“True as Gospel, Tayoga,” said the hunter, “and the French officers themselves had a little conference in the tent of the Marquis, after they had finished with the Indian chiefs.  Here, within the square made by the pegs, are the prints of many boot heels and they were not all made by the Marquis, since they are of different sizes.  Probably they were completing some plans in regard to the artillery, since the warriors would have nothing to do with the big guns.  Here are ashes, too, in the corner near one of the pegs.  I think it likely that the Marquis smoked a thoughtful pipe after all the others had gone.”

“Aye, Dave,” said Robert, “and he had much to think about.  The officers from Europe find things tremendously changed when they come from their open fields into this mighty wilderness.  We know what happened to Braddock, because we saw it, and we had a part in it.  I can understand his mistake.  How could a soldier from Europe read the signs of the forest, signs that he had never seen before, and foresee the ambush?”

“He couldn’t, Robert, lad, but while countries change in character men themselves don’t.  Braddock was brave, but he should have remembered that he was not in Europe.  The Marquis de Montcalm remembers it.  He made no mistake at Oswego and he is making none here.  He took the Indian chiefs into council, as we have just seen.  He placates them, he humors their whims, and he draws out of them their full fighting power to be used for the French cause.”

Tayoga ranged about the shallow valley a little, and announced that the whole force had gone on together the morning after the encampment.

“The artillery and the infantry were in close ranks,” he said, “and the warriors were on either flank, scouting in the forest, forming a fringe which kept off possible scouts of the English and Americans.  There was no chance of a surprise attack which would cut up the forces of Montcalm and impede his advance.”

Willet sighed.

“The Marquis, although he may not have known it,” he said, “was in no danger from such an enterprise.  We have read the signs too well, Tayoga.  Our own people have been lying in their forts, weak of will, waiting to defend themselves, while the French and their allies have had all the wilderness to range over, and in which they might do as they pleased.  It is easy to see where the advantage lies.”

“And we shall soon learn what has happened,” said Tayoga, gravely.

The next morning they met an American scout who told them the terrible news of the capture of Fort William Henry, with its entire garrison, by Montcalm, and the slaughter afterward of many of the prisoners by the Indians.

Robert was appalled.

“Is Lake George to remain our only victory?” he exclaimed.

“It’s better to have a bad beginning and a good ending than a good beginning and a bad ending,” said the scout.

“Remember,” said Tayoga, “how Areskoui watched over us, when we were among the peaks.  As he watched over us then so later on he will watch over our cause.”

“It was only for a moment that I felt despair,” said Robert.  “It is certain that victory always comes to those who know how to work and wait.”

Courage rose anew in their hearts, and once more they sped southward, resolved to make greater efforts than any that had gone before.