“Thank Heaven, he at least stands not in the path in which others travel,” musingly rejoined the governor. “But what sudden movement is that within the ruin?”
“The Indians are preparing to show a white flag,” shouted an artillery-man from his station in one of the embrasures below.
The governor and his officers received this intelligence without surprise: the former took the glass from Captain Erskine, and coolly raised it to his eye. The consultation had ceased; and the several chiefs, with the exception of their leader and two others, were now seen quitting the bomb-proof to join their respective tribes. One of those who remained, sprang upon an elevated fragment of the ruin, and uttered a prolonged cry, the purport of which,—and it was fully understood from its peculiar nature,—was to claim attention from the fort. He then received from the hands of the other chief a long spear, to the end of which was attached a piece of white linen. This he waved several times above his head; then stuck the barb of the spear firmly into the projecting fragment. Quitting his elevated station, he next stood at the side of the Ottawa chief, who had already assumed the air and attitude of one waiting to observe in what manner his signal would be received.
“A flag of truce in all its bearings, by Jupiter!” remarked Captain Erskine. “Ponteac seems to have acquired a few lessons since we first met.”
“This is evidently the suggestion of some European,” observed Major Blackwater; “for how should he understand any thing of the nature of a white flag? Some of those vile spies have put him up to this.”
“True enough, Blackwater; and they appear to have found an intelligent pupil,” observed Captain Wentworth. “I was curious to know how he would make the attempt to approach us; but certainly never once dreamt of his having recourse to so civilised a method. Their plot works well, no doubt; still we have the counter-plot to oppose to it.”
“We must foil them with their own weapons,” remarked the governor, “even if it be only with a view to gain time. Wentworth, desire one of your bombardiers to hoist the large French flag on the staff.”
The order was promptly obeyed. The Indians made a simultaneous movement expressive of their satisfaction; and in the course of a minute, the tall warrior, accompanied by nearly a dozen inferior chiefs, was seen slowly advancing across the common, towards the group of officers.
“What generous confidence the fellow has, for an Indian!” observed Captain Erskine, who could not dissemble his admiration of the warrior. “He steps as firmly and as proudly within reach of our muskets, as if he was leading in the war-dance.”
“How strange,” mused Captain Blessington, “that one who meditates so deep a treachery, should have no apprehension of it in others!”
“It is a compliment to the honour of our flag,” observed the governor, “which it must be our interest to encourage. If, as you say, Erskine, the man is really endowed with generosity, the result of this affair will assuredly call it forth.”