Chapter 18: The Deadly Dupe Tuque Trick

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Chapter 18. The deadly dupe tuque trick. Scouts Cognac and Hebert meet two Iroquois.

Cognac was happy to get out of the camp with Roland Hebert on a scouting mission. He preferred the hunt to the canoe trip. As usual, they took snowshoes. Cognac took his bow as well as his musket. He was an expert archer, taught by the Huron, and one never knew when the bow might prove the superior weapon. Especially now when they wanted, at all costs, to be silent and undetected.

The rapids were terraced rocks, and the land restated the rapids so that a moderately high ridge of rock or ground gave way to a steep gully and that led up a steeper ravine. These, in turn, gave way to a small hill and then another gully, perhaps with a stream.

The footing was treacherous.

Cognac and Hebert wore the snowshoes over gullies and crossing ravines where the snow was still deep. Climbing the steep embankments they took them off and slung them, with their muskets, over their shoulders, leaving their hands free for grabbing rocks, scrub bushes and trees.

Suddenly Cognac, who was slightly ahead on the climb of a ridge, gasped and pulled back down the ridge almost knocking Hebert over. Before Hebert could cry out, Cognac silenced him with a hand across his mouth. He motioned Hebert to creep up to the ridge and together they did so. They saw two Mohawks walking in their direction.

"What the hell are they doing?" asked Hebert.

"Probably just going to go up to the crest of the rapid and look over it...see if the coast is clear before they come down in their canoe."

"God, do they always do that?...because if they do...they'll see us at the Long Sault, and we'll be discovered."

"No," said Cognac. "No, they don't, but there are only two of them. They'd be more cautious."

"Are they the advance for the massive war party we heard about from the other Iroquois."

"How the hell would I know?" said Cognac. "Anyway, we've got to decide what to do."

"Should we shoot them when they're in range?" Asked Hebert.

"The noise would alert our camp, but it would also alert theirs if there are more of them. I think we should capture them if we can." He scanned the terrain quickly. "Give me your toque."

Hebert's cap, or toque, which he handed to Cognac, was an inverted and elongated cone with a tassel. Multicolored, long and fanciful in the fort, it would be easy to spot in the forest, so most of the men wore dark wool ones on this military venture. But some of the young men, like Hebert, considered the bright colored toques as a kind of badge. Cognac moved down a slope into a small ravine and, taking off his jacket, pillowed it and placed it leaning upwards against the ridge. He placed the toque on the jacket with the top just rising above the ridgeline. Behind the place he selected was a huge boulder, and he motioned that he'd get up there with his bow. He pointed to a curvature in the rock where he wanted Hebert to conceal himself. He would even be out of view if the Iroquois came around the ridge to surprise the dupe.

Cognac and others had used this trick before but usually it was to draw fire, to discover where the enemy was hidden. Sometimes, though, it drew an enemy seeking a scalp right up to the spot.

Cognac prepared the dupe and moved behind the rock and climbed on it at the rear so that he could see the approach of the Iroquois. Herbert turned left and left again and slid between two boulders. Concealed completely. He couldn't see the enemy's approach, but he could signal Cognac.

Cognac motioned Hebert to take the man closest to his left while Cognac took the man on the right. Hebert drew his knife but checked his pistol too just in case. They waited silently. They knew the keen eyes of the Iroquois would soon see the splash of color against the emerging gray of the woods in spring.