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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesReckoning - Chapter 13. Thendara No More
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Reckoning - Chapter 13. Thendara No More Post by :CalGolden Category :Long Stories Author :Robert W. Chambers Date :May 2012 Read :1474

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Reckoning - Chapter 13. Thendara No More


Astounded at the apparition, yet instantly aware of his purpose, I sprang forward to meet him. That he did not immediately know me in my forest dress was plain enough, for he hastened my steps with an angry and imperious gesture, flung himself from his saddle, laid down his rifle, and strode to the heap of ashes that had once been the council-fire of Thendara--now Thendara no more.

His face was still flushed with passion when I came up, my rifle cradled in the hollow of my left arm; his distorted features worked silently as he pointed at the whitening ashes. Suddenly he burst out into a torrent of blasphemy.

"What in God's name does this mean?" he shouted. "Have the Iroquois dared leave this fire before I've had my say?"

His rifle rested between him and me, barrel tilted across a rotting log, butt in the wet marsh grass. I took a quick step forward and dislodged the weapon, as though by accident, so that it lay where I could set my foot upon it if necessary. Instantly he faced me, alert, menacing; his dusky eyes lighted to a yellow glare; but when his gaze met mine sheer astonishment held him dumb.

"Captain Butler," I said, controlling the fierce quiver in my voice, "it is not this dead council-fire of Thendara that concerns a Yellow Wolf-whelp."

"No," he said, drawing a long breath, "it is not this fire that concerns us--" The voice died in his throat. Astonishment still dominated; he stared and stared. Then a ghastly laugh stretched his features--a soundless, terrible laugh.

"So you have come to Thendara after all!" he said. "In your fringes and thrums and capes and bead-work I did not know you, Mr. Renault, nor did I understand that Gretna Green is sometimes spelled Thendara!" He pointed at the ashes; an evil laugh stretched his mouth again:

"Thendara _was_! Thendara _will be_! Thendara--Thendara no more! And I am too late?"

The evil, silent laugh grew terrible: "Well, Mr. Renault, I had business elsewhere; yet, had I known you had taken to forest-running, I would have come to meet you at Thendara. However, I think there is still time to arrange one or two small differences of opinion that have arisen between you and me."

"There is still time," I said slowly.

He cast an involuntary glance at his rifle; made the slightest motion; hesitated, looking hard at me. I shook my head.

"_Not that way?" he inquired blandly. "Well," with a cool shrug, "that was _one way to arrange matters, Mr. Renault--and remember I offered it! Remember that, Mr. Renault, when men speak of you as they speak of Boyd!"

The monstrous insult of the menace left me outwardly unmoved; yet I wondered he had dared, seeing how helpless he must be did I but raise my rifle.

"Well, Mr. Renault," he sneered, "I was right, it seems, concerning that scrap o' treason unearthed in your chambers. God! how you flouted that beast, Sir Henry, and his fat-headed adjutant!"

He studied me coldly: "Do you mean to let me have my rifle?"


"Oh! you mean murder?"

"I am no executioner," I said contemptuously. "There are those a-plenty who will paint black for a guinea--after a court martial. There are those who _paint for war_, too, Mr. Butler."

I talked to gain time; and, curiously enough, he seemed to aid me, being in nowise anxious to force my hand. Ah! I should have been suspicious at that--I realized it soon enough--yet the Iroquois, leaving Thendara for the rites at the Great Tree, were not yet out of sound of a shout, or of a rifle-shot--though I meant to take him alive, if that were possible. And all the while I watched his every careless gesture, every movement, every flutter of his insolent eyelids, ready to set foot upon his rifle and hold him to the spot. He no longer appeared to occupy himself with the recovery of his rifle; he wore neither pistol nor knife nor hatchet; indeed, in his belt I saw a roll of paper, closely scribbled, and knew it to be a speech composed for delivery at this fire, now burned out forever.

He placed his hands on his hips, pacing to and fro the distance between the fire and the edge of the Dead Water, now looking thoughtfully up into the blue sky, now lost in reverie. And every moment, I believed, was a precious moment gained, separating him more and more hopelessly from his favorite Senecas, whom he might even now summon by a shout.

Presently he halted, with an absent, upward glance, then his gaze reverted to me; he drew out a handsome gold watch, examined it with expressionless interest, and slowly returned it to the fob-pocket.

"Well, sir," he inquired, "do I take it that you desire to further detain me here, or do you merely wish to steal my rifle?"

"I think, truly, that you no longer require your rifle, Mr. Butler," I said quietly.

"A question--a matter of opinion, Mr. Renault." He waved his hand gracefully. "Who are your red friends yonder?" pointing toward the two distant forms at the edge of the willows.

"An Oneida and a quarter-breed."

"Oh--a squaw? By the head-gear I take the smaller one to be a Huron squaw. Which reminds me, Mr. Renault," he added, with a dull stare, "that the last time I had the pleasure of seeing your heels you were headed for the nearest parson!"

That awful, soundless laugh distorted his mouth again:

"I could scarcely be expected to imagine," he added, "that it was as far as this to Gretna Green. Is the Hon. Miss Grey with you here?"

"No, Mr. Butler, but your wife is with me."

"Oh!" he sneered; "so you have learned at last what she is?"

"You do not understand," I continued patiently. "I speak of your wife, Mr. Butler. Shall I name her?"

He looked at me narrowly. Twice his lips parted as though to speak, but no sound came.

"The woman yonder is Lyn Montour," I said in a low voice.

The yellow flare that lighted his black eyes appalled me.

"Listen to me," I went on. "That I do not slay you where you stand is because _she is yonder, watching us. God help her, you shall do her justice yet! You are my prisoner, Mr. Butler!" And I set my foot upon his rifle.

He did not seem to hear me; his piercing gaze was concentrated on the two distant figures standing beside the horse.

I waited, then spoke again; and, at the sound of my voice, he wheeled on me with a snarl.

"You damned spy!" he stammered; "I'll stop your dirty business now, by God!" and, leaping back, whipped a ranger's whistle to his lips, waking the forest echoes with the piercing summons ere I had bounded on him and had borne him down, shoulder-deep in moss and marsh-grass.

Struggling, half smothered by the deep and matted tangle, I heard the startled shout of the Oneida; the distant crashing of many men running in the underbrush; and, throttling him with both hands, I dragged him to his feet and started toward the Oneida, pulling my prisoner with me. But a yell from the wood's edge seemed to put fresh life into him; he bit and scratched and struggled, and I labored in vain to choke him or stun him. Then, in very desperation and fear of life, I strove to kill him with my hands, but could not, and at last hurled him from me to shoot him; but he had kicked the flint from my rifle, and, as I leveled it, he dropped on the edge of the Dead Water and wriggled over, splash! into the dark current, diving as my hatchet hit the waves. Then I heard the loud explosion of rifles behind me; bullets tore through the scrub; I turned to run for my life. And it was time.

"Ugh!" grunted the Oneida, as I came bursting headlong through the willows. "Follow now!" He seized the horse by the bridle; the girl mounted; then, leading the horse at a trot, we started due south through the tossing bushes.

A man in a green uniform, knee-deep in the grass, fired at us from the Stacking-Ridge as we passed, and the Oneida shook his rifle at him with a shout of insult. For now at last the whole game was up, and my mission as a spy in this country ended once and forever. No chance now to hobnob with Johnson's Greens, no chance to approach St. Leger and Haldimand. Butler was here, and there could be no more concealment.

Such an exhilaration of savage happiness seized me that I lost my head, and begged the Oneida to stop and let me set a flint and give the Royal Greens a shot or two; but the wily chief refused; and he was wise, for I should have known that the Sacandaga must already be a swarming nest of Johnson's foresters and painted savages.

The heat was terrific in the willows; sweat poured from the half-naked Oneida as he ran, and my hunting-shirt hung soaked, flapping across my thighs.

We had doubled on them now, going almost due west. Far across the Vlaie I could see dark spots moving along the Dead Water, and here and there a distant rifle glimmering as the sun struck it. Now and then a faint shout was borne to our ears as we halted, dripping and panting in the birches to reconnoiter some open swale ahead, or some cranberry-bog crimsoning under the October sun.

We swam the marshy creek miles to the west, coming out presently into a rutty wagon-trail, which I knew ran south to Mayfield; but we dared not use it, so steered the dripping horse southeast, chancing rather to cross Frenchman's Creek, four miles above Varicks, and so, by a circle bearing east and south, reaching the Broadalbin trail, or some safe road between Galway and Perth, or, if driven to it, making for Saratoga as a last resort.

My face was burned deep red, and I was soaked from neck to heels, so that my moccasins rubbed and chafed at every step. The girl had sat her saddle while the horse swam, so that her legs only were wet. As for the Oneida, his oiled and painted skin shed water like the plumage of a duck. Lord knows, we left a trail broad and wet enough for even a Hessian to follow; and for that reason dared not halt north of Frenchman's Creek or short of Vanderveer's grist-mill.

As I plodded on, rifle atrail, I began to comprehend the full import of what had occurred since the day before, when I, with soul full of bitterness, had left Burke's Inn. Was it only a day ago? By Heaven, it seemed a year since I had looked upon Elsin Grey! And what a change in fortune had come upon us in these two score hours! Free to wed now--if we dared accept the heart-broken testimony of this poor girl--if we dared deny the perjured testimony of a dishonored magistrate, leagued with his fellow libertine, who, thank God, had at length learned something of the fury he used on others. Strange that in all this war I had never laid a rifle level save at him; strange that I had never seen blood shed in anger, through all these battle years, except the blood that now dried, clotting on my cheek-bone, where his shoulder-buckle had cut me in the struggle. His spurs, too, had caught in the skirt of my hunting-shirt, tearing it to the fringed hem, and digging a furrow across my instep; and the moccasin on that foot was stiff with blood.

Ah, if I might only have brought him off; if I might only have carried this guilty man to Johnstown! Yet I should have known that Sir John's men were likely to be within hail, fool that I was to take the desperate chance when a little parley, a little edging toward him, a sudden blow might have served. Yet I was glad in my heart that I had not used craft; cat traits are not instinctive with me; craft, stealth, a purring ambush--faugh! I was no coward to beat him down unawares. I had openly declared him prisoner, and I was glad I had done so. Why, I might have shot him as we talked, had I been of a breed to do murder--had I been inhuman enough to slay him, unwarned, before the very eyes of the woman he had wronged, and who still hoped for mercy from him lest she pass her life a loathed and wretched outcast among the people who had accepted her as an Iroquois.

Thinking of these things which so deeply concerned me, I plodded forward with the others, hour after hour, halting once to drink and to eat a little of our parched corn, then to the unspotted trail once more, imperceptibly gaining the slope of that watershed, the streams of which feed the Mayfield Creek, and ultimately the Hudson.

Varicks we skirted, not knowing but Sir John's scouts might be in possession, the peppery, fat patroon having closed his house and taken his flock to Albany; and so traveling the forest east by south, made for the head waters of that limpid trout-stream I had so often fished, spite of the posted warnings and the indignation of the fat patroon, who hated me.

I think it was about four o'clock in the afternoon when, pressing through brush and windfall, we came suddenly out into a sunny road. Beside the road ran a stream clattering down-hill over its stony bed--a clear, noisy stream, with swirling brown trout-pools and rapids, rushing between ledges, foaming around boulders, a joyous, rolicking, dashing, headlong stream, that seemed to cheer us with its gay clamor; and I saw the Oneida's stern eyes soften as he bent his gaze upon it. Poor little Lyn Montour slipped, with a sigh, from her saddle, while my horse buried his dusty nose in the sparkling water, drawing deep, cold draughts through his hot throat. And here by the familiar head waters of Frenchman's Creek we rested in full sight of the grist-mill above us, where the road curved west. The mill-wheel was turning; a man came to the window overlooking the stream and stood gazing at us, and I waved my hand at him reassuringly, recognizing old Vanderveer.

Beyond the mill I could see smoke rising from the chimneys of the unseen settlement. Presently a small barefoot boy came out of the mill, looked at us a moment, then turned and legged it up the road tight as he could go. The Oneida, smoking his pipe, saw the lad's hasty flight, and smiled slightly.

"Yes, Little Otter," I said, "they take us for some of Sir John's people. You'll see them coming presently with their guns. Hark! There goes a signal-shot now!"

The smacking crack of a rifle echoed among the hills; a conch-horn's melancholy note sounded persistently.

"Let us go on to the Yellow Tavern," I said; and we rose and limped forward, leading the horse, whose head hung wearily.

Before we reached the Oswaya mill some men in their shirt-sleeves shot at us, then ran down through an orchard, calling on us to halt. One carried a shovel, one a rifle, and the older man, whom I knew as a former tenant of my father, bore an ancient firelock. When I called out to him by name he seemed confused, demanding to know whether we were Whigs or Tories; and when at length he recognized me he appeared to be vastly relieved. It seemed that he, Wemple, and his two sons had been burying apples, and that hearing the shot fired, had started for their homes, where already the alarm had spread. Seeing us, and supposing we had cut him off from the settlement, he had decided to fight his way through to the mill.

"I'm mighty glad you ain't shot, Mr. Renault," he said in his thin, high voice, scratching his chin, and staring hard at the Oneida. "Seein' these here painted injuns sorter riled me up, an' I up an' let ye have it. So did Willum here. Lord, sir, we've been expecting Sir John for a month, so you must kindly excuse us, Mr. Renault!"

He shook his white head and looked up the road where a dozen armed men were already gathered, watching us from behind the fences.

"Sir John is on the Sacandaga," I said. "Why don't you go to Johnstown, Wemple? This is no place for your people."

He stood, rubbing his hard jaw reflectively.

"Waal, sir," he piped, "it's kind er hard to leave all you've got in the world." He added, looking around at his fields: "I'd be a pauper if I quit. Mebbe they won't come here, after all. Mebbe Sir John will go down the Valley."

"Besides, we ain't got our pumpkins in nor the winter corn stacked," observed one of his sons sullenly.

We all turned and walked slowly up the road in the direction of the big yellow tavern, old Wemple shaking his head, and talking all the while in a thin, flat, high-pitched voice: "It seems kind'r hard that Sir John can't quit his pesterin' an' leave folks alone. What call has he to come back a-dodgin' 'round here year after year, a-butcherin' his old neighbors, Mr. Renault? 'Pears to me he's gone crazy as a mad dog, a-whirlin' round and round the same stump, buttin' and bitin' and clawin' up the hull place. Sakes alive! ain't he got no human natur'? Last Tuesday they come to Dan Norris's, five mile down the creek, an' old man Norris he was in the barn makin' a ladder, an' Dan he was gone for the cow. A painted Tory run into the kitchen an' hit the old woman with his hatchet, an' she fetched a screech, an' her darter, 'Liza, she screeched, too. Then a Injun he hit the darter, and he kep' a-kickin' an' a-hittin', an' old man Norris he heard the rumpus out to the barn, an' he run in, an' they pushed him out damn quick an' shot him in the legs. A Tory clubbed him an' ripped his skelp off, the old man on his knees, a-bellowin' piteous, till they knifed him all to slivers an' kicked what was left o' him into the road. The darter she prayed an' yelled, but 'twan't no use, for they cut her that bad with hatchets she was dead when Dan came a-runnin'. 'God!' he says, an' goes at the inimy, swingin' his milk-stool--but, Lord, sir, what can one man do? He was that shot up it 'ud sicken you, Mr. Renault. An' then they was two little boys a-lookin' on at it, too frightened to move; but when the destructives was a-beatin' old Mrs. Norris to death they hid in the fence-hedge. An' they both of 'em might agot clean off, only the littlest one screamed when they tore the skelp off'n the old woman; an' he run off, but a Tory he chased him an' ketched him by the fence, an' he jest held the child's legs between his'n, an' bent him back an' cut his throat, the boy a-squealin' something awful. Then the Tory skelped him an' hung him acrost the fence. The only Norris what come out of it was the lad who lay tight in the fence-scrub--Jimmy. He's up at my house; you'll see him. He come here that night to tell us of them goin's on. He acts kinder stupid, like he ain't got no wits, an' he jests sets an' sets, starin' at nothin'--leastways at nothin' I kin see----"

His high-pitched, garrulous chatter, and the horrid purport of it, were to me indescribably ghastly. To hear such things told without tremor or emphasis or other emotion than the sullen faces of his two strapping sons--to hear these incredible horrors babbled by an old man whose fate might be the same that very night, affected me with such an overpowering sense of helplessness that I could find no word to reassure either him or the men and boys who now came crowding around us, asking anxiously if we had news from the Sacandaga or from the north.

All I could do was to urge them to leave their homes and go to Johnstown; but they shook their heads, some asserting that Johnstown was full of Tories, awaiting the coming of Walter Butler to rise and massacre everybody; others declaring that the Yellow Tavern, which had been fortified, was safer than Albany itself. None would leave house or land; and whether these people really believed that they could hold out against a sudden onslaught, I never knew. They were the usual mixture of races, some of low Dutch extraction, like the Vanderveers and Wemples, some high Dutch, like the Kleins; and, around me, I saw, recognized, and greeted people who in peaceful days had been settled in these parts, and some among them had worked for my father--honest, simple folk, like Patrick Farris, with his pretty Dutch wife and tow-headed youngsters; and John Warren, once my father's head groom, and Jacob Klock, kinsman of the well-known people of that name.

The Oneida, pressed and questioned on every side, replied in guarded monosyllables; poor Lyn Montour, wrapped to the eyes in her blanket, passed for an Iroquois youth, and was questioned mercilessly, until I interposed and opened the tavern door for her and for Little Otter.

"I tell you, Wemple," I said, turning on the tavern porch to address the people, "there is no safety here for you if Walter Butler or Sir John arrive here in force. It will be hatchet and torch again--the same story, due to the same strange Dutch obstinacy, or German apathy, or Yankee foolhardiness. In the grain belt it is different; there the farmers are obliged to expose themselves because our army needs bread. But your corn and buckwheat and pumpkins and apples can be left for a week or two until we see how this thing is going to end. Be sensible; stack what you can, but don't wait to thresh or grind. Bury your apples; let the cider go; harness up; gather your cattle and sheep; pack up the clock and feather bed, and move to Johnstown with your families. In a week or two you will know whether this country is to be given to the torch again, or whether, by God's grace, Colonel Willett is to send Walter Butler packing! I'll wait here a day for you. Think it over.

"I have seen the Iroquois at the Sacandaga Vlaie. I saw Walter Butler there, too; and the woods were alive with Johnson's Greens. The only reason why they have not struck you here is, no doubt, because there was more plunder and more killing to be had along the Sacandaga. But when there remain no settlements there--when villages, towns, hamlets are in ashes, like Currietown, like Minnesink, Cherry Valley, Wyoming, Caughnawaga, then they'll turn their hatchets on these lone farms, these straggling hamlets and cross-road taverns. I tell you, to-day there is not a house unburned at Caughnawaga, except the church and that villain Doxtader's house--not a chimney standing in the Mohawk Valley, from Tribes Hill to the Nose. Ten miles of houses in ashes, ten miles of fields a charred trail!

"Now, do as you please, but remember. For surely as I stand here the militia call has already gone out, and this country must remain exposed while we follow Butler and try to hunt him down."

The little throng of people, scarcely a dozen in all, received my warning in silence. Glancing down the road, I saw one or two women standing at their house doors, and children huddled at the gate, all intently watching us.

"I want to send a message to Colonel Willett," I said, turning to the Oneida. "Can you go? Now?"

The tireless fellow smiled.

"Give us what you have to eat," I said to Patrick Farris, whose round and rosy little wife had already laid the board in the big room inside. And presently we sat down to samp, apple-sauce, and bread, with a great bowl of fresh milk to each cover.

The Oneida ate sparingly; the girl mechanically, dull eyes persistently lowered. From the first moment that the Oneida had seen her he had never addressed a single word to her, nor had he, after the first keen glance, even looked at her. This, in the stress of circumstances, the forced and hasty marches, the breathless trail, the tension of the Thendara situation, was not extraordinary. But after excitement and fatigue, and when together under the present conditions, two Iroquois would certainly speak together.

Anxious, preoccupied as I was, I could not help but notice how absolutely the Oneida ignored the girl; and I knew that he regarded her as an Oneida invariably regards a woman no longer respected by the most chaste of all people, the Iroquois nation.

That she understood and passionately resented this was perfectly plain to me, though she neither spoke nor moved. There was nothing for me to do or say. Already I had argued the matter with myself from every standpoint, and eagerly as I sought for solace, for a ray of hope, I could not but understand how vain it were to ask a cynical world to believe that this young girl was Walter Butler's wife. No; with his denial, with the averted faces of the sachems on the Kennyetto, as she herself had admitted, with the denial of Sir John, what evidence could be brought forward to justify me in wedding Elsin Grey? Another thing: even if Sir John should admit that, acting in capacity of a magistrate of Tryon County, he had witnessed the marriage of Walter Butler and Lyn Montour, what civil powers had a deposed magistrate; a fugitive who had broken parole and fled?

No, there was no legal tie here. I was not now free to wed; I understood that as I sat there, staring out of the window into the red west, kindling to flame behind the Mayfield hills.

The Oneida, rolling himself in his blanket, had stretched out on the bare floor by the hearth; the girl, head buried in her hands, sat brooding above the empty board. Farris fetched me ink and quill and the only sheet of paper in the settlement; but it was sufficiently large to tear in half; and I inked my rusty quill and wrote:

"Yellow Tavern,
Oswaya on Frenchman's Creek.


"_Sir_--I have the honor to report that the scout of two, under my command, proceeded, agreeable to orders, as far as the Vlaie, called Sacandaga Vlaie, arriving there at dawn and in time for the council and rites of Thendara, which were held at the edge of the Dead Water or Vlaie Creek.

"I flatter myself that the Long House has abandoned any idea of punishing the Oneidas for the present--the council recognizing my neutral right to speak for the Oneida nation. The Oneidas dissenting, naturally there could be no national unanimity, which is required at Thendara before the Long House embarks upon any Federal policy.

"Whether or not this action of mine was wise, you, sir, must judge. It may be that what I have done will only serve to consolidate the enemy in the next enterprise they undertake.

"My usefulness as a spy in Sir John's camp must prove abortive, as I encountered Captain Walter Butler at the Dead Water, who knows me, and who is aware of my business in New York. Attempting to take him, I made a bad matter of it, he escaping by diving. Some men in green uniforms, whom I suppose were foresters from Sir John's corps, firing on us, I deemed it prudent to take to my heels as far as the settlement called Oswaya, which is on Frenchman's Creek, some five miles above Varicks.

"The settlement is practically defenseless, and the people hereabout expect trouble. If you believe it worth while to send some Rangers here to complete the harvest, it should, I think, be done at once. Patrick Farris, landlord at the Yellow Tavern, estimates the buckwheat at five thousand bushels. There is also a great store of good apples, considerable pitted corn, and much still standing unstacked, and several acres of squashes and pumpkins--all a temptation to the enemy.

"I can form no estimate of Sir John's force on the Sacandaga. This letter goes to you by the Oneida runner, Little Otter, who deserves kind treatment for his services. I send you also, under his escort, an unfortunate young girl, of whom you have doubtless heard. She is Lyn Montour, and is by right, if not by law, the wife of Captain Walter Butler. He repudiates her; her own people disown her. I think, perhaps, some charitable lady of the garrison may find a home for her in Johnstown or in Albany. She is Christian by instinct if not by profession.

"Awaiting your instructions here, I have the honor to remain, Your humble and ob't servant,

"_Regt. Staff Capt_."

The sun had set. Farris brought a tallow dip. He also laid a fire in the fireplace and lighted it, for the evening had turned from chill to sheer dry cold, which usually meant a rain for the morrow in these parts.

Shivering a little in my wet deerskins, I sanded, folded, directed, and sealed the letter, laid it aside, and drew the other half-sheet toward me. For a few moments I pondered, head supported on one hand, then dipped quill in horn and wrote:

"_Beloved_--There is a poor young girl here who journeys to-night to Johnstown under escort of my Oneida. Do what you can for her in Johnstown. If you win her confidence, perhaps we both may help her. Her lot is sad enough.

"Dearest, I am to acquaint you that I am no longer, by God's charity, a spy. I now hope to take the field openly as soon as our scouts can find out just exactly where Major Ross and Butler's Rangers are.

"To my great astonishment, disgust, and mortification, I have learned that Walter Butler is near here. He evidently rode forward, preceding his command, in order to be present at an Iroquois fire. He was too late to work anybody a mischief in that direction.

"It is now our duty to watch for his Rangers and forestall their attack. For that purpose I expect Colonel Willett to send me a strong scout or to recall me to Johnstown. My impatience to hold you in my arms is tempered only by my hot desire to wash out the taint of my former duties in the full, clean flood of open and honorable battle.

"Time presses, and I must wake my Oneida. See that my horse is cared for, dearest. Remember he bore me gallantly on that ride for life and love.

"I dare not keep Colonel Willett's report waiting another minute. Good night, my sweet Elsin. All things must come to us at last.


I dried the letter by the heat of the blazing logs. The Indian stirred, sat up in his blanket, and looked at me with the bright, clear eyes of a hound.

"I am ready, brother," I said gently.

It was cold, clear starlight when Farris brought my horse around. I set Lyn Montour in the saddle, and walked out into the road with her, my hand resting on her horse's mane.

"Try not to be sad," I whispered, as she settled herself in the stirrups like a slim young trooper, and slowly gathered bridle.

"I am no longer sad, Mr. Renault," she said tremulously. "I comprehend that I have no longer any chance in the world."

"Not among your adopted people," I said, "but white people understand. There is no reason, child, why you should not carry your head proudly. You are guiltless, little sister."

"I am truly unconscious of any sin," she said simply.

"You have committed none. His the black shame of your betrayal! And now that you know him for the foul beast he is, there can be no earthly reason that you should suffer either in pride or conscience. You are pitifully young; you have life before you--the life of a white woman, with its chances, its desires, its aims, its right to happiness. Take it! I bid you be happy, little sister; I bid you hope!"

She turned her face and looked at me; the ghost of a smile trembled on her lips; then, inclining her head in the sweetest of salutes, she wheeled her horse out into the tremulous starlight. And after her stole the tall Oneida, rifle slanted across his naked shoulders, striding silently at her stirrup as she rode. I had a momentary glimpse of their shadowy shapes moving against the sky, then they were blotted out in the gloom of the trees, leaving me in the road peering after them through the darkness, until even the far stroke of the horse's feet died out, and there was no sound in the black silence save the hushed rushing of the stream hurrying through the shrouded hollow below.

Not a light glimmered in the settlement. The ungainly tavern, every window sealed with solid shutters, sprawled at the cross-roads, a strange, indistinct silhouette; the night-mist hung low over the fields of half-charred stumps, and above the distant bed of the brook a band of fog trailed, faintly luminous.

Never before had I so deeply felt the desolation of the northland. In a wilderness there is nothing forbidding to me; its huge earth-bedded, living pillars supporting the enormous canopy of green, its vastness, its mystery, its calm silence, may awe yet nothing sadden. But a vague foreboding enters when man enters. Where his corn grows amid the cinders of primeval things, his wanton gashes on tree and land, his beastly pollution of the wild, crystal waters, all the restlessness, and barrenness, and filth, and sordid deformity he calls his home--these sadden me unutterably.

I know, too, that Sir William Johnson felt as I do, loving the forest for its own beautiful, noble sake; and the great Virginian, who cared most for the majestic sylvan gardens planted by the Almighty, grieved at destruction, and, even in the stress of anxiety, when his carpenters and foresters were dealing pitilessly with the woods about West Point in order to furnish timber for the redoubts and the floats for the great chain, he thought to warn his engineers to beware of waste caused by ignorance or wantonness.

Where rich and fertile soil is the reward for the desperate battle with an iron forest, I can comprehend the clearing of a wilderness, and admire the transformation into gentle hills clothed in green, meadows, alder-bordered waters, acres of grain, and dainty young orchards; but here, in this land, only the flats along the river-courses are worthy of cultivation; the rest is sand and rock deeply covered with the forest mast, and fertile only while that lasts. And the forest once gone, land and water shrivel, unnourished, leaving a desert amid charred stumps and the white phantoms of dead pines. I was ever averse to the cutting of the forests here, except for selected crops of ripened timber to be replaced by natural growth ere the next crop had ripened; and Sir William Johnson, who was wise in such matters, set us a wholesome example which our yeomen have not followed. And already lands cleared fifty years since have run out to the sandy subsoil; yet still the axes flash, still the great trees groan and fall, crashing through and smashing their helpless fellows; and in God's own garden waters shrink, and fire passes, and the deer flee away, and rain fails, because man passes in his folly, and the path of the fool is destruction.

Where Thendara was, green trees flourish to the glory of the Holder of Heaven.

Where the forest whitens with men, the earth mourns in ashes for the lost Thendara--Thendara! Thendara no more!

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