“Have you no power over your own people?”
“But little,” he answered. “I have been too long absent from them, and my name is half forgotten. Yet, were they free of this prophet, I think I might sway them, for I know their ways, and I am the son of their ancient kings. But for the present his magic holds them in thrall. They listen in fear to one who hath the ear of God.”
I arose, stretched my arms, and yawned.
“They carry me to this Sachem,” I said. “Well and good. I will outface this blasphemous liar, whoever he may be. If he makes big magic, I will make bigger. The only course is the bold course. If I can humble this prophet man, will you dissuade your nation from war and send them back to the sunset?”
“Assuredly,” he said wonderingly. “But what is your plan, brother?”
“None,” I answered. “God will show me the way. Honesty may trust in Him as well as madness.”
“By my father’s shade, you are a man, brother,” and he gave me the Indian salute.
“A very weary, feckless cripple of a man,” I said, smiling. “But the armies of Heaven are on my side, Shalah. Take my pistols and Ringan’s sword. I am going into this business with no human weapons.” And as they set me on an Indian horse and the whole tribe turned their eyes to the higher glens, I actually rejoiced. Light-hearted or light-headed, I know not which I was, but I know that I had no fear.
HOW I STROVE ALL NIGHT WITH THE DEVIL.
It was late in the evening ere we reached the shelf in the high glens which was the headquarters of the Indian host. I rode on a horse, between Onotawah and Shalah, as if I were a chief and no prisoner. On the road we met many bands of Indians hastening to the trysting-place, for the leader had flung his outposts along the whole base of the range, and the chief warriors returned to the plateau for the last ritual. No man spoke a word, and when we met other companies the only greeting was by uplifted hands.
The shelf was lit with fires, and there was a flare of torches in the centre. I saw an immense multitude of lean, dark faces—how many I cannot tell, but ten thousand at the least. It took all my faith to withstand the awe of the sight. For these men were not the common Indian breed, but a race nurtured and armed for great wars, disciplined to follow one man, and sharpened to a needle-point in spirit. Perhaps if I had been myself a campaigner I should have been less awed by the spectacle; but having nothing with which to compare it, I judged this a host before which the scattered Border stockades and Nicholson’s scanty militia would go down like stubble before fire.