The crisis demanded all their wisdom; for, while the continued ravages of disease threatened them with annihilation, the Iroquois scalping-parties infested the outskirts of their towns, and murdered them in their fields and forests.
The island, thanks to the vigilance of the French, escaped attack throughout the summer; but Iroquois scalping-parties ranged the neighboring shores, killing stragglers and keeping the Hurons in perpetual alarm. As winter drew near, great numbers, who, trembling and by stealth, had gathered a miserable subsistence among the northern forests and islands, rejoined their countrymen at St.
Perhaps the very strangest thing about them, and the most unaccountable, is their small numbers. The Iroquois were one of the most formidable of tribes. They were of the Five Nations, whose scalping-parties wandered over an expanse of thousands of square miles. Yet there is good reason to doubt whether the whole five nations could have put as many thousand warriors in the field.
We had our little scalping-parties or war-paths and ambuscades, in imitation of the Indians, but in spite of that we hated them heartily, and thought it a great weakness on the part of our minister, Bishop Hancock, when he spoke a good word for them. He, Bishop Hancock, was of the salt of the earth. He was very old, but bright and strong, and as full of fun as a kitten.
During the last year Loudon, filled with vain schemes against Louisbourg, had left the French scalping-parties to their work of havoc on the western borders.
This was not from a sense of security; for the greater part of the population had abandoned the town, thinking it too much exposed to the enemy, and there remained only about four hundred, chiefly women, children, and old men, whose infatuated defenders were absent hunting, or on futile scalping-parties against the Iroquois.
Small scalping-parties infested the Huron forests, killing squaws in the cornfields, or entering villages at midnight to tomahawk their sleeping inhabitants. Often, too, invasions were made in force. Sometimes towns were set upon and burned, and sometimes there were deadly conflicts in the depths of the forests and the passes of the hills. The invaders were not always successful.