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the night. All day they lay close in the depth of the forest. At twilight they embarked again, paddling their cautious way till the eastern sky began to redden. Their goal was the rocky promontory where Fort Ticonderoga was long afterward built. Thence, they would pass the outlet of Lake George, and launch their canoes again on that Como of the wilderness, whose waters, limpid as a fountain head, stretched far southward between their flanking mountains. Landing at the future site of Fort William Henry, they would carry their canoes through the forest to the river Hudson, and, descending it, attack, perhaps, some outlying town of the Mohawks. In the next century this chain of lakes and rivers became the grand highway of savage and civilized war: a bloody, debatable ground linked to memories of momentous conflicts.
The allies were spared so long a progress. It was ten o'clock in the evening of the twenty-ninth of July when they descried dark objects in motion on the lake before them. These were a flotilla of Iroquois canoes, heavier and slower than theirs, for they were made of oak bark. Each party saw the other, and the mingled war cries pealed over the darkened water. The Iroquois, who were near the shore, having no stomach for an aquatic battle, landed, and, making night hideous with their clamors, began to barricade themselves.
Champlain could see them in the woods, laboring like beavers, hacking down trees with iron axes taken from the Canadian tribes in war, and with stone hatchets of their own making, The allies remained on the lake, a bowshot from the hostile barricade, their canoes made fast together by poles lashed across. All night they
danced with as much vigor as the frailty of their vessels would permit, their throats making amends for the enforced restraint of their limbs. It was agreed on both sides that the fight should be deferred till daybreak; but mean while a commerce of abuse, sarcasm, menace, and boasting gave unceasing exercise to the lungs and fancy of the combatants, — “Much,” says Champlain, “ like the besiegers and besieged in a beleaguered town.”
As day approached, he and his two followers put on the light armor of the time. Champlain wore the doublet and long hose then in vogue.
Over the doublet he buckled on a breastplate, and probably a backpiece, while his thighs were protected by cuisses of steel, and his head by a plumed casque.
Across his shoulder hung the strap of his bandoleer, or ammunition box ; at his side was his sword, and in his hand his arquebus, which he had loaded with four balls. Such was the equipment of this ancient Indian fighter, whose exploits date eleven years before the landing of the Puritans at Plymouth, and sixty-six years before King Philip's War.
Each of the three Frenchmen was in a separate canoe, and, as it grew light, they kept themselves hidden, either by lying at the bottom or covering themselves with an Indian robe. The canoes approached the shore, and all landed without opposition at some distance from the Iroquois, whom they presently could see filing out of their barricade, tall, strong men, some two hundred in number, of the boldest and fiercest warriors of North America.
They advanced through the forest with a steadiness which excited the admiration of Champlain. Among them could be seen several chiefs, made conspicuous by their tall plumes. Some bore shields of wood and hide,
and some were covered with a kind of armor made of tough twigs interlaced with a vegetable fiber supposed by Champlain to be cotton.
The allies, growing anxious, called with loud cries for their champion, and opened their ranks that he might pass to the front. He did so, and, advancing before his red companions in arms, stood revealed to the astonished gaze of the Iroquois, who, beholding the warlike apparition in their path, stared in mute amazement. But his arquebus was leveled; the report startled the woods ; a chief fell dead, and another by his side rolled among the bushes. Then there rose from the allies à yell, which, says Champlain, would have drowned a thunderclap, and the forest was full of whizzing arrows.
For a moment the Iroquois stood firm and sent back their arrows lustily ; but when another and another
guinshot came from the thickets on their flank, they broke and fled in uncontrollable terror. Swifter than hounds, the allies tore through the bushes in pursuit. Some of the Iroquois were killed ; more were taken.
Camp, canoes, provisions, all were abandoned, and many weapons flung down in the panic flight. The arquebus had done its work. The victory was complete.
Thus did New France rush into collision with the redoubted warriors of the Five Nations. Here was the beginning, in some measure doubtless the cause, of a long suite of murderous conflicts, bearing havoc and flame to generations yet unborn.
– From “ Pioneers of France in the New World.”
NOTE. — The Iroquois Indians were called by the English the Five Nations. They lived in the central and northern parts of the present state of New York.
By RALPH WALDO EMERSON.
Burly, dozing humblebee,
Insect lover of the sun,
When the south wind, in May days,