“Iroquois, by the living Mother of God!” cried Pierre Noir.
“Look!” cried Tete Gris, calling them again outside the inclosure. He stood kicking in the ashes of what had been a fire-place. He disclosed, half buried in the charred embers, an iron kettle into which he gazed curiously. He turned away as John Law stepped up beside him.
“There must have been game here in plenty,” said Law. “There are bones scattered all about.”
Du Mesne and Tete Gris looked at each other in silence, and the former at length replied:
“This is an Iroquois war house, Monsieur L’as,” said he. “They lived here for more than a month, and, as you say, they fed well. But these bones you see are not the bones of elk or deer. They are the bones of men, and women, and children.”
Law stood taking in each detail of the scene about him.
“Now you have seen what is before us,” resumed Du Mesne. “The Iroquois have gone, ’tis true. They have wiped out the villages which were here. There are the little cornfields, but I warrant you they have not seen a tomahawk hoe for a month or more. The Iroquois have gone, yet the fact that they have been here proves they may come again. What say you, Tete Gris; and what is your belief, Pierre?”
Tete Gris remained silent for some moments. “’Tis as Monsieur says,” replied he at length. “’Tis all one to me. I go or stay, as it shall please the others. There is always the one trail over which one does not return.”
“And you, Pierre?”
“I stay by my friends,” replied Pierre Noir, briefly.
“And you, Monsieur L’as?” asked Du Mesne.
Law raised his head with the old-time determination. “My friends,” said he, “we have elected to come into this country and take its conditions as we find them. If we falter, we lose; of that we may rest assured. Let us not turn back because a few savages have been here and have slaughtered a few other savages. For me, there seems but one opinion possible. The lightning has struck, yet it may not strike again at the same tree. The Iroquois have been here, but they have departed, and they have left nothing to invite their return. Now, it is necessary that we make a pause and build some place for our abode. Here is a post already half builded to our hands.”
“But if the savages return?” said Du Mesne.
“Then we will fight,” said John Law.
“And right you are,” replied Du Mesne. “Your reasoning is correct. I vote that we build here our station.”
“Myself also,” said Tete Gris. And Pierre Noir nodded his assent in silence.
“Ola! Jean Breboeuf,” called out Du Mesne to that worthy, who presently appeared, breathing hard from his climb up the river bluff. “Know you what has been concluded?”
“No; how should I guess?” replied Jean Breboeuf. “Or, at least, if I should guess, what else should I guess save that we are to take boat at once and set back to Montreal as fast as we may? But that—what is this? Whose house is that yonder?”