They'd placed a long bow across Abbey Watson's shoulders and stretched her arms out to the bow's tips. Then they had bound them in place with thin leather thongs.
The Algonquins had stood jeering her attempts to mount the snorting steed. Three times she had crashed heavily to the dank ground, the breath knocked from her body. Finally they had dragged her to her feet and hoisted her onto the horse's back. While the braves held her in position, a rope was knotted around one of her slim ankles and passed under the slathering mount's belly to form a tight girth. Then it was tied securely to her other ankle.
The ride had been a combination of physical and emotional agony for Abbey. Once she had dared look behind her at the still smoldering sutler's wagon which lay on its side. The sight of her father's fist clenched against his grisly fate had brought tears to her eyes. The sight of his blood soaked skull had made the nausea churn in her belly. One Algonquin brave had ridden up to her, shaking a gore clotted scalp in her face. Abbey Watson's head had reeled with the stench of the savage and the horror of his trophy.
The merciless August sun had beaten down on her through the hellish journey. Sharp tree branches laced the narrow trail, whipping her defenseless body with their jagged edges. The combination of heat, terror and fatigue caused her to slump against her bindings. This was terrible mistake for the bow dug into her tender flesh, bringing devilish waves of new pain.
Abbey Watson knew that soon she must go insane with the horror that surrounded her. Yet she rode on, the sides of the horse rubbing the tenderness of her thighs, the swarms of flies swirling around her head, the certainty that new terrors awaited her at her ultimate destination pounding against her sensibilities.
As the purple shades of night fell around her outraged shoulders, Abbey Watson knew the scouting party had passed Diamond Point. Now all hope of help from Fort William Henry was behind her.
Three days later, the Algonquin party reached Warrensburg. Abbey Watson felt the hideous panic gripping her breast and squeezing it to the point of suffocation at the sight of the Algonquin village.
The war party's drunken shouts announced their arrival with a valuable prize. From the tepees and the lodge house the savages poured. Immediately Abbey Watson's steed was surrounded. Old men and women stood on the fringe of the mob. Yapping and snarling dogs nipped at the horse's hooves. Young braves and squaws stared up at Abbey with unmitigated hostility.
An Algonquin reached up and grasped her ankle in a crushing grip. He slashed at the binding rope with a knife. A squaw tugged at Abbey's skirt. Unable to protect herself from the clutching hands of the crowd, Abbey was wrestled to the ground. She felt her face being pushed into the mud.
Desperately she heaved against the binding bow. But there was no give to it. Attracted by her futile struggles, two braves jumped on the tips of the bows. Tendrils of agony slithered across Abbey Watson's flat belly.
Now she sensed the clothes being ripped from her. A squaw squealed in delight as she twisted Abbey's silk petticoat around her own coppery loins. A mocking, mincing brave clad his hanks in Abbey's delicate drawers and danced to the hooting and hollering of the assembled savages.
At last Abbey was dragged half swooning into the lodge house. The pinioning bow was lashed to the wall so that the terrified girl had to stand on tiptoes to ease the strain on her tormented arms.
The hours passed. From time to time a brave would stick his head into the lodge house and make an obscene gesture with his fist. Then he would race away, cackling gleefully at the distress he had caused the lovely captive.
As the lodge house darkened with the shadows of night, Abbey could sense a feeling of growing expectancy in the camp. Soon a group of Algonquin maidens, about her own age came to her. They cleaned the grime of the trail from her denumbed body and draped her in a breech cloth. Then they brought a bowl of corn and fed her.
For a few moments Abbey allowed her spirits to rise. But the look of hatred never left the Indian girls' eyes. Slowly the impact of what they were doing to her sank into her being.
Among the savages it was beneath a brave's dignity to torture a female captive. This did not mean that the captive went untended. Instead she was turned over to the women of the tribe and there was no blessing in that.
One of the Indian maidens brought a gourd which had been fashioned to resemble a woman's breast. She shook the obscene fetish before Abbey's dilated eyes. Then with slow, malevolent cunning the Algonquin girl drew a thin splinter from her own breech clout. She plunged it deep into the gourd. Again and again she repeated the process until the gourd bristled like the back of a porcupine.
Abbey's body constricted with the suffocation of her panic. She made little gasping sounds deep within her throat. The full weight of the demonstration's portent lanced her. The convulsive shivering seized her as a second Algonquin girl raced out of the lodge house only to return seconds later carrying a flaming stick.
The imbedded tips of the slivers sputtered to life. They burned slowly, giving off the stench of pitch. The slivers twisted and writhed in their own obscene dance as they carried the unbearable heat to the body of the gourd.
Abbey Watson could take no more. "Please!" she whimpered, "Please make it fast!"
One of the Algonquins dug her fingers into Abbey's long, tawny blonde hair. Abbey saw the girl's dazzling white teeth scant inches from her. They shone in their climax of derision.
"Never fast when Pierre Monnet comes."
The name Pierre Monnet slashed across Abbey Watson's enflamed consciousness like a fiery whip lashing her tender flesh. And well it might have. For a hundred miles around Fort William Henry the name Pierre Monnet struck its own cacophony of blood lust. For Pierre Monnet represented all that was wicked, obscene, depraved and sadistic among men.
As had many others, Monnet had been a highwayman, brigand and rapist. He had operated in the Bois around Paris. And like many others, he had been caught, whipped, branded and sentenced to death. However like many others, his sentence had been commuted to banishment to New France, which the French considered tantamount to a form of execution.
But they had failed to recognize Monnet's cunning and lethal charm. In many strange and devious ways he had managed to ingratiate himself to the Marquis du Quesnes, Governor of New France.
It had been Monnet who had shown the Marquis the benefits of turning the savagery of the Algonquin nations against the English. "What better way to drive the British out than to pay the savages to erect their torture stakes?" Monnet had asked.
"What better way indeed?" the Marquis had mused.
"A nominal payment for each scalp presented and we will soon have done with the English," Monnet assured. "You are indeed a man of great intelligence," the Marquis had answered. "You will become my special representative among the Algonquin nations."
And now as Abbey Watson was hustled through the narrow door of the lodge house, she was to meet Monnet face to face.
Quickly the Algonquin maidens hustled her to a huge tent which had been erected in the center of the clearing. They thrust her through the flaps. Abbey screamed out her horror at the sight of the white man who stood outlined before a small fire. He held a dripping scalp by the hair, twisting and turning it so that he could examine every facet of the gruesome item.
It was more than the sickening object which Monnet held which caused the sickness to mount in Abbey Watson's soft belly. It was the look of demoniacal pleasure in the Frenchman's eyes. They glittered in the flickering firelight seeming to give off fiendish sparks of their own.
At the sight of the nearly naked white girl, Monnet's thin lips curled back in a taunting leer. "For her the great father in Quebec will pay a great tribute to the brave chiefs of the Algonquin nations," Monnet rasped.
Monnet stooped and opened a small casket. It contained nothing more than a collection of cheap beads and knicknacks. The squatting brave ran his fingers through the pile as if he were caressing a beautiful woman.
"The father in Quebec says that you should leave the girl with his representative. He says that he does not want his representative to be disturbed until he is through with the girl."
"The father in Quebec speaks well," the brave said.
At his nod, the Indian maidens surrounded Abbey. Deftly they cut the thongs which held her wrists to the bow. It fell to the ground with a dull clatter.
Now Abbey felt their hands gripping her arms, dragging her forward. Cold fingers moved along the column of her spine, cruelly urging her towards the waiting stake. The Indian maidens tugged and twisted the lovely blonde girl into position with her back pressed against the splintery wood of the pole.
Abbey tried to fight off her tormentors with her delicate fists. But she was no match for them. The ropes snaked their way across her breasts, her waist, her hips. They held her calves and ankles fast to the stake. Her arms were wrenched behind her.
Monnet nodded his satisfaction. The Indians moved out of the tent, their eyes downcast as Monnet plunged the first sliver into Abbey's sweat-soaked body. Her cry was a fearful, mindless thing of unadulterated pain. From somewhere in the Algonquin camp it was answered by the frenzied screaming of a mongrel dog.
Monnet stroked her body, letting her know where the next sliver would be placed. And the next. And the one after that.
No savage tribe could have outdone the Frenchman in the outrages he was to commit on his helpless prisoner on the days and nights to come. Nor could they have improvised more subtle refinements to the tortures which he perpetrated on her tortures which kept her always sensitive, always aware, never quite over the brink of blessed insanity or death.
At last when the old squaws came to claim the girl and light the final fire to the slivers which now covered her from head to foot, Abbey welcomed them as the messengers of the only hope that she could have prayed for - the hope of eternal sleep.
No trace was ever found of Abbey Watson's body. But she, like hundreds of other young and beautiful women were the victims of one of the most savage and vicious wars of all history - The French and Indian War.
Its tone had been set by the Marquis du Quesnes himself when he wrote to an aide, "Your policy is excellent - to threaten the English with your Indians whose attacks will increase their fears. The Indians are the main support of this Colony and must be kept in a state of hatred and vengeance. The actual condition of Canada requires that they strike without delay."
Down rode the 70 tribes of the Algonquin nations, scourging the more peaceful tribes to the south. Where they found resident Indians, they drove them up into the mountains, away from their water and game. As a matter of fact the Adirondack Mountain Range takes its name from those tribes which were forced into the hills. They came to be known as Hill People or Adirondacks.
Southward the French and their Algonquin Allies moved, menacing Lake George and the Mohawk Valley below. Only one bastion stood between them and their objective -the wooden Fort William Henry at the southern most tip of the Lake.
It was a vicious war, but entirely different from the way wars are fought today. Military operations were carried out only in the summer when they did not interfere with planting or harvesting. Most of the militia men who staffed Fort William Henry were farmers from the nearby valleys. They came to the Fort, but in their time, returned home for personal reasons and generally gave their officers quite a bit of hell.
But they were not afraid to fight. This even though fighting meant leaving their womenfolk unprotected from the marauding savages.
They went out from the fort on patrol and to meet the sutlers' wagons which brought them, their meager life line of supplies. They fought the enemy, they fought the swamp mosquitoes, they fought the pox which raged around them.
And Monnet took advantage of their absence to prey on the helpless women. To him there was a maniacal satisfaction in watching a beautiful girl tied hand and foot to an Algonquin torture stake. It was even better for him than it had been in the Bois. Now the Marquis saw that he was given money and position for activities which had nearly seen him drawn and quartered in his native France.
But Monnet was mercenary too. He had to have more blood, more scalps, more reason to dun the Marquis for extra funds.
Gradually he began to apply more pressure to the Algonquins.
"You call these a brave's number of scalps?" he ranted at their fires. "Did you send your squaws to collect them? Why braves should present me with ten-no a hundred scalps for every one I count here.
"I can only think that my brothers have grown fat and soft. They don't care for the money or the gifts that come from Quebec."
"Our brother doesn't speak truth," the braves intoned solemnly. "We will show that we appreciate his generosity."
And the Algonquins set out to prove their benefactor wrong. Here Monnet's cowardice was to cause retribution to claim him for its own.
Monnet made it a point never to accompany a war party. He would remain behind to count the scalps the Indians brought back.
Thus he had no knowledge that stung by his taunts, the Algonquins had been scouting the cemetery which had been dug around the southern bastion of Fort William Henry. How would the Marquis' representative be able to tell the difference between a fresh scalp and one which had been lifted from a relatively new cadaver in the military cemetery, they asked.
The answer was that he could not. Under cover of night, the Algonquin braves descended on the cemetery and scratched away the newly turned earth. Their scalping knives grated on bone, but drew no blood. The Algonquins worked feverishly. The quota of scalps would impress Monnet.
It was to leave a lasting impression on the brigand. It was to disfigure his mortal remains and carry him to the very gates of hell.
What the Indians were not to learn until too late was that many of the cadavers which had been buried in the military cemetery had succumbed to the dread smallpox which was now raging through Fort William Henry.
Though the men had died, the disease still contaminated the lifted scalps. And as Monnet counted them lovingly, the grisly remains of the pox victims were to have their last grim jest. They were to claim Pierre Monnet as their very own. He too would burn with the fever. His vomit would be black. He too would feel the scars eating their way like a million maggots under the tender surface of his skin.
Battles and wars end. Memories grow dim. There has been much savagery since the French and Indian Wars. Where hundreds of innocent men and women were tortured to death in a senseless orgy of depravity, we have witnessed wars where literally millions of men and women have been tortured to death in more efficient orgies.
Yet the spirit of Abbey Watson - dead at twenty-one - the victim of a madman's blood lust hangs over Lake George.
You can feel it as you climb the bastions of the restored wooden fort and look down at the parking lot which covers the abandoned cemetery. You can hear it as the wind moans from the north and little waves ripple on the still lake.
You can feel it as you walk through the interior of the fort and look down at the bleached skeletons of the men who died defending it.