“And again I tell you, Mr. Law,” replied Sir Arthur, “that I will not fight you.”
“Then, sir,” said Law, dropping his own sword upon the grass and extending his hand with a broken smile, “’tis I who am your prisoner!”
Even as Sir Arthur and John Law clasped hands, there came a sudden interruption. A half-score yards deeper in the wood there arose a sudden, half-choked cry, followed by a shrill whoop. There was a crashing as of one running, and immediately there pressed into the open space the figure of an Indian, an old man from the village of the Illini. Even as his staggering footsteps brought him within gaze, the two startled observers saw the shaft which had sunk deep within his breast. He had been shot through by an Indian arrow, and upon the instant it was all too plain whose hand had sped the shaft. Following close upon his heels there came a stalwart savage, whose face, hideously painted, appeared fairly demoniacal as he came bounding on with uplifted hatchet, seeking to strike down the victim already impaled by the silent arrow.
“Quick!” cried Law, in a flash catching the meaning of this sudden spectacle. “Into the fort, Sir Arthur, and call the men together!”
Not stopping to relieve the struggles of the victim, who had now fallen forward gasping, Law sprang on with drawn blade to meet the advancing savage. The latter paused for an uncertain moment, and then with a shrill yell of defiance, hurled the keen steel hatchet full at Law’s head. It shore away a piece of his hat brim, and sank with edge deep buried in the trunk of a tree beyond. The savage turned, but turned too late. The blade of the swordsman passed through from rib to rib under his arm, and he fell choking, even as he sought again to give vent to his war-cry.
And now there arose in the woods beyond, and in the fields below the hill, and from the villages of the neighboring Indians, a series of sharp, ululating yells. Shots came from within the fortress, where the loop-holes were already manned. There were borne from the nearest wigwams of the Illini the screams of wounded men, the shrieks of terrified women. In an instant the peaceful spot had become the scene of a horrible confusion. Once more the wolves of the woods, the Iroquois, had fallen on their prey!
Swift as had been Law’s movements, Pembroke was but a pace behind him as he wrenched free his blade. The two turned back together and started at speed for the palisade. At the gate they met others hurrying in, Pembroke’s men joining in the rush of the frightened villagers. Among these the Iroquois pressed with shrill yells, plying knife and bow and hatchet as they ran, and the horrified eyes of those within the palisade saw many a tragedy enacted.
“Watch the gate!” cried Pierre Noir, from his station in the corner tower. As he spoke there came a rush of screaming Iroquois, who sought to gain the entrance.