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The French & Indian War Novels: 1

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The French & Indian War Novels: 1
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Author(s): Joseph A. Altsheler
Date Published: 2009/01
Page Count: 460
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-1-84677-585-7
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-1-84677-586-4

The French and Indian War—the collision between Britain, its provincial troops and Indian allies against France and its own allies during the eighteenth century in America is fascinating to many students of the period. It gave rise to famous characters such as Robert Rogers of the Rangers who have found their way into literature and the cinema. Of course, the famous Hawkeye and the novel ‘The Last of the Mohicans' which takes place within real historical events of the time has also become an American classic. Author Joseph Altsheler has taken this well loved subject for a series of novels of high adventure. In these six novels the chronology of the war, which of course includes many of its true life characters, is told through the adventures of its principal characters. Young Robert Lennox, the hunter Willet-also known as the Great Bear and his Indian companion Tayoga travel through intrigues, dangers, battles and many trials and setbacks as the story unfolds. Leonaur has brought the entire collection together in substantial three volumes. In this first volume are ‘The Hunters of the Hills’ & ‘The Shadow of the North.’

The Onondaga stepped from the shelf, finding a place for his feet in crevices below, the water rising almost to his knees, and leaned farther forward to listen. One hand held firmly to a projection of stone above and the other clasped the knife.
Tayoga maintained the intense concentration of his faculties, as if he had drawn them together in an actual physical way, until they bore upon one point, and he poured so much strength and vitality into them that he made the darkness thin away before his eyes and he heard noises of the water that had not come to him before.<br>
A broken bough, a bush and a sapling washed past. Then came a tree, and deflecting somewhat from the current it floated toward the shelf. Leaning far over and extending the hand that held the knife, Tayoga struck. When the blade came back it was red and the young Onondaga uttered a tremendous war whoop that rang and echoed in the confines of the stony hollow.<br>
Lennox and Willet sprang to their feet, all sleep driven away at once, and instinctively grasped their rifles.<br>
“What is it, Tayoga?” exclaimed the startled Willet.<br>
“The attack of the savage warriors,” replied the Onondaga. “One came floating on a tree. He thought to slay us as we slept and take away our scalps, but the river that brought him living has borne him away dead.”<br>
“And so they know we’re here,” said the hunter, “and your watchfulness has saved us. Well, Tayoga, it’s one more deed for which we have to thank you, but I think you’d better get back on the shelf. They can fire from the other side, farther up, and although it would be at random, a bullet or two might strike here.”<br>
The Onondaga swung himself back and all three flattened themselves against the rock. After Tayoga’s triumphant shout there was no sound save those of the river and the rain. But Robert expected it. He knew the horde would be quiet for a while, hoping for a surprise the second time after the first one had failed.<br>
“It was bold,” he said, “for a single warrior to come floating down the stream in search of us.”<br>
“But it would have succeeded if Tayoga hadn’t been awake,” said the hunter. “One warrior could have knifed us all at his leisure.”<br>
“Where do you think they are now?”<br>
“They must be crouched in the shelter of rocks. If they had nothing over them the storm would take the fighting spirit for the time out of savages, even wild for scalps. I’m mighty glad we have the canoe. It holds the food we need for a siege, and if the chance for escape comes it will bear us away. I think, Tayoga, I can see a figure stirring among the boulders on the other side farther up.”<br>
“I see two,” said the Onondaga, “and doubtless there are others whom we cannot see. Keep close, my friends, I think they are going to fire.”<br>
A dozen rifles were discharged from a point about a hundred yards away, the exploding powder making red dots in the darkness, the bullets rattling on the stone cliff or sending up little spurts of water from the river. The volley was followed by a shrill, fierce war whoop, and then nothing was heard but the flowing of the river and the rushing of the rain.<br>
“You are not touched?” said Tayoga, and Robert and Willet quickly answered in the negative.<br>
“They don’t know just which way to aim their guns,” said Willet, “and so long as we keep quiet now they won’t learn. That shout of yours, Tayoga, was not enough to tell them.”<br>
“But they must remember about where the hollow is, although they can’t pull trigger directly upon it, owing to the darkness and storm,” said Robert.<br>
“That about sums it up, my boy,” said the hunter. “If they do a lot of random firing the chances are about a hundred to one they won’t hit us, and the Indians don’t have enough ammunition to waste that way.”<br>
“I don’t suppose we can launch the canoe and slip away in it?”<br>
“No, it would be swamped by the rain and the flood. It’s likely, too, that they’re on watch for us farther down the stream.”
“Then this is our home and fortress for an indefinite time, and, that being the case, I’m going to make myself as easy as I can.”<br>
He drew the blanket under his body again and lay on his elbow, but he held his rifle before him, ready for battle at an instant’s notice. His feeling of comfort returned and with it the sense of safety. The bullets of the savages had gone so wild and the darkness was so deep that their shelter appeared to him truly as a fortress which no numbers of besiegers could storm.<br>
“Do you think they’ll try floating down the stream on trees or logs again, Tayoga?” he asked.<br>
“No, the danger is too great,” replied the Onondaga. “They know now that we’re watching.”<br>
An hour passed without any further sign from the foe. The rain decreased somewhat in violence, but, as the wind rose, its rush and sweep made as much sound as ever. Then the waiting was broken by scattering shots, accompanied by detached war whoops, as if different bands were near. From their shelter they watched the red dots that marked the discharges from the rifles, but only one bullet came near them, and after chipping a piece of stone over their heads it dropped harmlessly to the floor.<br>
“That was the one chance out of a hundred,” said Willet, “and now we’re safe from the next ninety-nine bullets.”
“I trust the rule will work,” said Robert.<br>
“I wish you’d hold my left hand in a firm grip,” said Willet.<br>
“I will, but why?” returned the youth.<br>
“If I get a chance I’m going to drag up some of that dead and floating wood and lay it along the edge of the shelf. In the dark the savages can’t pick us off, but we’ll need a barrier in the morning.”<br>
“You’re right, Dave, of course. I’m sorry I didn’t think of it myself.”<br>
“One of us thought of it, and that’s enough. Hold my hand hard, Robert. Don’t let your grip slip.”<br>
By patient waiting and help from the others Willet was able to draw up two logs of fair size, and some smaller pieces which they placed carefully on the edge of the stone shelf. Lying flat behind them, they would be almost hidden, and now they could await the coming of daylight with more serenity.<br>
A long time passed. The three ate strips of the deer meat, and Robert even slept for a short while. He awoke to find a further decrease in the rain, although the river was still rising, and Tayoga and Willet were of the opinion that it would stop soon, a belief that was justified in an hour. Robert soon afterward saw the clouds move away, and disclose a strip of dark blue sky, into which the stars began to come one by one.<br>
“The night will grow light soon,” said Tayoga, “then it will darken again for a little time before the coming of the day.”<br>
“And we’ve built our breastwork none too soon,” said Willet. “There’ll be so many stars by and by that those fellows can pick out our place and send their bullets to it. What do you think, Tayoga? Is it just a band taking the chance to get some scalps, or are they sent out by the Governor General of Canada to do wicked work in the forest and then be disowned if need be?”