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"She did not say."
"You do not know?"
"But," said I, troubled, "why did she journey hither?"
"Because she now believes that only I in all the world could guide her to the vale Yndaia; and that one day I will pity her and take her there."
"Doubtless," I said anxiously, "she has heard at the forts or hereabouts that we are to march on Catharines-town."
"She knows it now, Loskiel"
"And means to follow?" I exclaimed in horror.
"My brother speaks the truth."
"God! What urges the child thither?"
"I do not know, Loskiel. It seems as though a madness were upon her that she must go to Catharines-town. I tell you there is sorcery in all this. I say it-- I, a Sagamore of the Enchanted Wolf. Who should know magic when it stirs but I, of the Siwanois-- the Magic Clan? Say what you will, my comrade and blood-brother, there is sorcery abroad; and well I know who wrought it, spinning with spiders' webs there by the lost Lake of Kendaia----" He shuddered slightly. "There by the black waters of the lake-- that hag-- and all her spawn!"
"The Toad-woman herself-- and all her spawn."
"And the others," he said in a low voice.
A sudden and terrible misgiving assailed me. I swallowed, and then said slowly:
"Two scalps were taken late last night by Murphy and Elerson. And the scalps were not of the Mohawk. Not Oneida, nor Onondaga, nor Cayuga. Mayaro!" I gasped. "So help me God, those scalps are never Seneca!"
"Erie!" he exclaimed with a mixture of rage and horror. And I saw his sinewy hand quivering on his knife-hilt. "Listen, Loskiel! I knew it! No one has told me. I have sat here all the day alone, making my steel bright and my paint fresher, and singing to myself my people's songs. And ever as I sat at the lodge door, something in the summer wind mocked at me and whispered to me of demons. And when I rose and stood at gaze, troubled, and minding every river-breeze, faintly I seemed to scent the taint of evil. If those two scalps be Erie, then where the Cat-People creep their Sorcerer will be found."
"Amochol," I repeated under my breath. And shivered.
For, deep in the secret shadows of that dreadful place where this vile hag, Catharine Montour, ruled it in Catharines-town, dwelt also all that now remained of the Cat-Nation-- Eries-- People of the Cat-- a dozen, it was rumoured, scarcely more-- and demons all, serving that horrid warlock, Amochol, the Sorcerer of the Senecas.
What dreadful rites this red priest and his Eries practiced there, none knew, unless it were true that the False Faces knew. But rumour whispered with a thousand tongues of horrors viewless, nameless, inconceivable; and that far to the westward Biskoonah yawned, so close indeed to the world's surface that the waters boiling deep in hell burst into burning fountains in the magic garden where the red priest made his sorcery, alone.
These things I had heard, but vaguely, here and there-- a word perhaps at Johnson Hall, a whisper at Fort Johnson, rumours discussed at Guy Park and Schenectady when I was young. But ever the same horror of it filled me, though I believed it not, knowing full well there were no witches, sorcerers, or warlocks in the world; yet, in my soul disturbed concerning what might pass deep in the shadows of that viewless Empire.
"Mayaro," I said seriously, "do you go instantly to the fort and view those scalps."
"Were the braids fastened at the roots with tree-cat claws?"
"No need to view them, then, Loskiel."
"Are they truly Erie?"
"Cats!" He spat the word from his lips and his eyes blazed.
"And-- Amochol!" I asked unsteadily.
"The Cat People creep with the Seneca high priest, mewing under the moon."
"Then-- he is surely here?"
"God!" said I, now all a-quiver; "only to slay him! Only to end this demon-thing, this poison spawn of the Woman-Toad! Only to glimpse his scarlet rags fairly along my rifle sight!"
"No bullets touch him."
"That is nonsense, Mayaro----"
"I tell you he is human! There are no sorcerers on earth. There never were-- except the Witch of Endor----"
"I never heard of her. But the Witch of Catharines-town is living. And her warlock offspring, Amochol!" He squared his broad shoulders, shaking them. "What do I care?" he said. "I am a Sagamore of the Enchanted Clan!" He struck the painted symbol on his chest. "What do I care for this red priest's sorcery-- I, who wear the great Witch Bear rearing in scarlet here across my breast!
"Let the Cat People make their magic! Let Amochol sacrifice to Leshi in Biskoonah! Let their accursed Atensi watch the Mohicans from behind the moon. Mayaro is a Sagamore and his clan are Sachems; and the clan was old-- old-- old, O little brother, before their Hiawatha came to them and made their League for them, and returned again to The Master of Life in his silver cloud-canoe!
"And I say to you, O my blood-brother, that between this sorcerer and me is now a war such as no Mohican ever waged and no man living, white or red, has ever seen. His magic will I fight with magic; his knife and hatchet shall be turned on mine! And I shall deceive and trick and mock him-- him and his Erie Cats, till one by one their scalps shall swing above a clean Mohican fire. O Loskiel, my brother, and my other self, a warrior and a Sagamore has spoken. Go, now, to your evening tryst in peace and leave me. For in my ears the Seven Chiefs are whispering-- The Thunderers. And Tamanund must hear my speech and read my heart. And the long roll of our Mohican dead must be recited-- here and alone by me-- the only one who has that right since Uncas died and the Mohican priesthood ended, save for the Sagamores of the Magic Clan.
"Go, now, my brother. Go in peace."
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The Hidden Children -by- Robert W. ChambersBottom Content goes here. Wikipedia content requires these links..... Wikipedia content is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.