Elsie Singmaster.

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hilarity. Some let the fires before their tents go out and all spent
their small remaining sums of money for provisions to take on shipboard.

Alas, bundles were unpacked, fires were relighted, and the food
purchased for the sea eaten on land long before the ships were in
harbor and the Germans on board. Some of the bundles were then packed
once more by other hands. Before the hour for sailing hundreds of
pilgrims, among them the disappointed magistrate of Oberdorf, had come
to the end of their journey. The Blackheath camp had become a camp of
death.

In the weeks which now followed, John Conrad was summoned twice to the
palace, not to see the Queen or to meet his Indian benefactors, but
to have explained to him, as the chief representative of the Germans,
their duties in the new world. Once more the need of the English navy
for tar was made clear and the method for extracting it from the
pine trees carefully explained. Governor Hunter, who talked to John
Conrad at length, was quick of speech and temper, a man who brooked no
opposition and listened to few questions.

To John Conrad was presented a contract for his signature and that of
other Germans, by which they were to promise to perform that which
the Queen required. With happy hearts they promised; with overflowing
gratitude they heard that they were to receive, after their debt to the
Government was paid, twenty-five dollars and forty acres of land.

Finally, as Christmas Day drew near, good news came to Blackheath.
Ships would be provided for all, the first sailing on Christmas Day.
Assigned to the first ship were the Weisers and Conrad's friend Peter
Zenger and his father. The rabble of London gathered at the camp to see
the Germans start, but now their taunts fell on deaf ears. The new
country was just across the sea; peace and plenty were at hand. They
thought with sad regret of those who had started with them, but who
were no longer here to continue the journey.

Though it was winter, the Germans thought little of the storms which
they would meet at sea. They were landsmen who knew nothing of the
fierce power of the ocean. If they remembered the roughness of the
Channel crossing, it was with the consoling reflection that the ocean
was there confined to narrow bounds, like the Rhine where its rapids
were so swift. It was true that Conrad's little book advised various
precautions against illness and misery. But they refused to think of
illness or misery. With their long journey so nearly ended, they could
endure both.

Conrad brought out from its hiding-place George Reimer's flute and
discovered to his delight that Peter Zenger had a drum. Perhaps there
would be other instruments upon the ship and a band could be formed.

To the eyes of Conrad and Peter the ship Lyon looked enormous as
it lay in the harbor, its mighty sails furled. From its sides there
projected four cannon, regarded by the two boys with terror and
delight. A sailor standing on the quay explained that they were to deal
with the French and with pirates.

"Pirates!" repeated Conrad. "What are they?"

"They are freebooters," explained Peter. "I have heard of them. They
attack any one whom they please and kill and rob."

"Are we _sure_ to meet them?" asked Conrad.

"They come out from the shore like wolves," answered the sailor. "But
with these cross dogs we can scare them off."

But whether there were pirates or not, whether there were storms to
meet, or whether they were to sail in a continued calm, the Germans
must now get aboard. On Christmas morning the first four hundred
embarked upon the ship Lyon for another stage of the long journey.




V

ACROSS THE SEA


So welcome had been the sight of the ship, so blessed the prospect of
being able to set out once more, that the Weisers and their friends
had no fault to find with the meager provision which had been made for
them. They trooped joyfully aboard, disposing themselves and their
goods as well as they could. It was true that what seemed to be a
large space shrank amazingly as the passengers found places for the
bundles and boxes which remained in their possession in spite of all
their misfortunes, but of lack of space they made light. Thus crowded
together they would not suffer so dreadfully from the cold as they had
in the open tents of Blackheath. Besides, the journey would soon be
over. Those who had misgivings as the shores of England dropped out of
sight, smiled to see Conrad and Peter gazing longingly from the boat's
prow toward the west.

In comparison with the journey down the Rhine the journey across the
Atlantic is dull to most travelers. There are no interesting waitings
at landings, there are no towering castles, there are no flowery
meadows. But to the children on the ship Lyon there was no moment
without its entertainment. There was, to begin with, the never-ending
motion of the sea; there was, for the first few days, the almost hourly
sight of a distant sail. Presently they began to watch for the spouting
of whales and for the dipping and soaring of creatures which were half
bird, half fish.

The voyage began in a long and unusual calm, so that the older folk
could sit comfortably on the deck in the sunshine and the children
could scamper about at their games. The captain and the crew were kind
and patient, as they needed to be to answer the numberless questions
about the ship and her rudder and her white sails and the wide sea upon
which she traveled. The mate had crossed the Atlantic Ocean four times
and had been many times to Marseilles: to the shivering girls and the
delighted boys he told a hundred tales of storms, of waves covering
the ship, of rigging locked in ice, of flights from pirates and of
battles with the French.

"Shall we meet storms like that?" they asked, terrified, yet eager.

"I've crossed when the sea was like a raging lion," answered the mate,
to please the boys; "and when she was like a smooth pond," he added, to
please the girls.

Presently the mate rigged up a fishing-line with which the boys took
turns. Peter Zenger added an edible dolphin to the ship's food - that
was the first catch. Then, Conrad, feeling a powerful tug at his line,
was convinced that he had caught a whale, and screamed for help.

"It will pull me over," he called. "Come quickly!"

The sailor who came to his aid laughed.

"You could have let go!"

When they hauled in the catch it proved to be a shark, at whose
enormous mouth and hideous teeth the girls screamed. Thereafter they
scarcely looked over the side of the ship.

Among themselves the older folk reviewed again and again their
persecutions, their griefs, and their hopes. To the younger men and
women John Conrad talked long and earnestly.

"If all that we hear is true, children, this new land will be the
finest land in the world. There are fertile fields; there are great
forests and rivers, such as we know nothing of; there are rich ores.
Above all, there are young, eager hearts. I believe that there will
also be new governments, which will, please God, be different from
the old. In this new country every man should have a fair chance. I
am growing old, I shall not have much to do with the affairs of the
new country, but my children may. Let them remember their own history
and be always on the side of the oppressed. You may be divided from
one another. Our new friends may forsake us. You will have griefs and
sorrows like the rest of mankind. You must learn to find companionship
in yourselves and help from above. You must learn to be independent of
others, even of those who love you and whom you love."

Daily Conrad and Peter practiced on their flute and drum. There were,
as they had hoped, other instruments on the ship and a band was
organized which played many lively tunes. Sometimes the boys were
allowed to help with the furling of a sail or the giving out of the
supply of food and water. They were shown by the friendly mate the
ship's store of arms and ammunition, a store which seemed to their
inexperienced eyes sufficient to meet a whole fleet of pirates.

"If they would but come!" sighed Conrad and Peter to themselves.

Presently John Conrad's watchful eyes saw a new expression in the eyes
of his oldest daughter. She sat often by herself, and when she joined
the general company one of the young men, Baer by name, was certain
to put himself as soon as possible by her side. John Conrad sighed,
scolded his son Conrad and Peter Zenger for their constant punning on
the young man's name, and then took his own medicine.

"They must leave me one by one," said he to himself. "Magdalena will
doubtless soon be showing the same signs. Thank God, they can start
together in a land of peace and plenty!"

Through January all went well with the pilgrims. Then Peter Zenger's
father succumbed to the disease with which he had been afflicted. The
end was sudden to no one but Peter, who would not be comforted. To him
John Conrad talked when the solemn burial was completed.

"You believe in God and Heaven, dear child. Your father was worn and
weary and he is at rest until the last day. You are young with life
before you. You have your new country; to it you must devote yourself,
heart and soul. The good God closes all gates sometimes so that we may
see the more plainly the one through which He means we should go."

With the death of Zenger the character of the journey changed. As the
calm of the early part of January had been extraordinary, so now were
the storms. There appeared one morning along the western horizon a low
bank of clouds which the children took at first, in wild enthusiasm,
for land. As the clouds rose higher and higher, the color of the sea
changed to a strange oily gray, and suddenly the ship began to rock
as though the waves were rising like the clouds. Now a great wind
whistled in the rigging with a sound different from any which the
passengers had heard.

"What is it, father?" cried Sabina. "I am afraid."

The Germans looked at one another ominously.

For many days there was no sitting about the deck. No passenger was
allowed, indeed, to leave the hold of the ship. The vessel, which had
come to seem as solid as the earth, was tossed about like a cork. Again
and again waves covered it, again and again with sails closely furled
it fought for its life. The coverings of the hatchways were burst open
and the sea rushed in. Giving themselves up many times for lost, the
passengers tried to be as brave as they could. Those who could keep on
their feet did all that lay in their power for their companions, and
through the intolerable hours they prayed. When, once or twice during
the storm, the captain visited them, they took courage from him.

"Conrad shall still catch a whale," said he in a voice which was
cheerful through all its weary hoarseness. "And Peter shall play his
drum, and the young maidens shall smile upon the young men."

Finally the long storm died away. The passengers were startled to
realize that the Lyon shook and quivered no longer, that silence
had succeeded the dreadful creaking in the timbers and the fearful
whistling in the rigging, and that as the storm abated they had each
one fallen asleep.

Now followed many days of cold, bright weather. Again the travelers
sought the deck and the sunshine. Peter Zenger was able to remind
Conrad one day, with a weak little smile, of the advice given by the
book of directions.

"It would have taken a pretty lively swing to prepare us for such a
shaking," said he.

In a day or two Peter lifted his drum and the band returned to its
practicing. At first they played solemn tunes; then, with returning
color to their cheeks, came fresh cheerfulness and courage. Even the
older folk joined cheerfully in "Susy, dear Susy." The sailors mended
the sails, the girls took out their knitting, and the children played
about on the deck.

But the whole-hearted gayety of the early journey did not return. The
great storm had taken fearful toll, and there were already twenty
passengers less than there had been at the beginning. The crowding of
the ship had become a serious menace to health. There were a few sick
persons at whom the captain looked more anxiously than he had looked at
the angry clouds or the tempestuous sea. Not the least of the dangers
of the long journey were various diseases, contagious and deadly,
which, once started, could scarcely be checked.

Now another terrible peril threatened the ship Lyon. The supply of food
brought by the passengers was entirely exhausted, and that furnished by
the ship was small in quantity and hardly edible. The drinking-water
had become foul, and through a leak in one of the wooden casks a large
quantity had been lost. Passengers and crew watched the sky for a
cloud.

When at last the cloud appeared, it was accompanied again by the
terrible wind and the heaving sea of the great storm. Again the
passengers spent a week in the hold while the ship battled with a
tempest which broke the rudder. Their respect for the captain and the
stanch vessel which carried them grew to admiration and then to awe.

"It is no wonder they call the ship 'she,'" said Conrad feebly. "One
would think it was alive. It is well named 'Lyon,' for it fights for us
like a lion."

Again the passengers returned to the deck, more weak and miserable than
before. The supply of water gathered in the storm sank lower and lower
in the cask, the rations of salt pork and sea biscuit became daily
smaller. Finally a day dawned when the supply of water was gone and the
supply of food so low that starvation and death were imminent. John
Conrad went about from group to group telling of the glories of the
heavenly country to which their passage seemed now but the matter of a
short time.

Then came help. A faint speck appeared upon the horizon. The children,
when they saw it, flew to the captain, who, they discovered, had been
watching it for an hour. It grew larger and larger, not into the shape
of a rain cloud, but into the shape of a vessel. Young Conrad guessed
the nature of the hope in the captain's eager eyes.

"Might they have food and water for us?" The captain shook his head.

"We cannot tell. They may be as badly off as we are."

The ship came closer and closer, flying, they saw joyfully, the pennant
of England. The passengers grew silent and eyes burned and hearts
almost ceased to beat. Presently they were able to hear a shout across
the smooth sea. It was surely a friendly hail, and still the ship came
nearer and nearer. Then the travelers heard, almost unbelieving, the
blessed words: -

"We have potatoes and ground beans and dried venison from Her Majesty's
colony. Do you wish to buy?"

"Yes," shouted the captain: "all you have."

"We have water, also. Do you need any?"

To this replied a hurrah from every throat on the ship Lyon.

"Thank God! Thank God!" cried the poor Germans.

In a short time the water casks were aboard and with them bags of
vegetables and meat. For several hours the ship stood near and the
sailors coming aboard the Lyon showed the Germans how to roast the
potatoes in an open fire on the deck. Never had food tasted so good and
water so delicious. It was a happy promise from the new country.

But the ship which brought this welcome freight brought also bad news.
The freebooters along the coast were unusually active. The captain of
the Lyon must look well to his guns. Everywhere in the ports of the new
country one heard of ships boarded, of treasure taken, and of crew and
passengers murdered The more closely the vessel approached the shores
of America, the greater was the danger.

The Germans looked at one another with despair.

"We have suffered as much as we can bear!" cried some one.

"We have no treasures," said John Conrad to the captain. "Why should
any one molest people so poor as we are?"

"My ship would be a treasure for them," answered the captain. "For that
they would murder every soul on board."

Daily the passengers were assembled and drilled. The crew was only
sufficient to sail the ship; for its defense the passengers would have
to be depended upon. They were instructed in the firing of the cannon
and informed about the methods of pirates in attacking a vessel.

"I have stood them off before," said the captain, uneasily, to John
Conrad. "But I have always had more powder than I have now and a few
trained gunners. If they are once aboard, we shall have to fight like
tigers for our lives. They give no quarter."

Now sabers and pistols were laid ready so that there might be no
confusion when the pirate ship was sighted. The women and children eyed
the weapons fearfully; the men tried to laugh at their alarm. No one
but the very youngest of the children slept the night through.

But no pirate ship appeared. The air grew softer and warmer; all began
to breathe more freely and to look ahead, not for the ship of the dread
enemy, but for the land. Eyes of passengers and crew were weary of the
sea.

"They are afraid of our cross dogs," said Conrad, half wishing, as the
danger faded, for a battle.

"Perhaps some brave captain has swept them from the sea," said Peter.
"That would be a work I should like. I should board their ships as they
have boarded others and then I should give no quarter."

At last, after the captain had declared the danger past, and had
jokingly bidden the boys keep constant eyes upon the west for the
promised land, the sailor on watch gave a loud cry: -

"Ship, ahoy!"

At once the passengers crowded to the prow of the boat. The approaching
ship was a tiny speck, visible only to the sharpest eyes. For a long
time it seemed to remain stationary; then they realized that it was
steadily approaching. Children began to cry and mothers to hold them
closer and closer.

"It is coming very fast, is it not?" said Conrad to the captain.

"Pretty fast."

"It is not necessarily a pirate ship," said John Conrad. "It may be a
friendly ship."

"I believe it brings us good water and more food," said Sabina.

"I am sure that I can see the English flag," said George Frederick.

But the passengers were not allowed to linger long at the prow
speculating about the strange vessel. Suddenly hopes were dashed and
all speculations and prophecies interrupted by a sharp order from
the captain. Women and children were to go below and each man was to
take his place at once at the post assigned him. The ammunition - a
perilously small store - was divided. Conrad and Peter Zenger were the
youngest passengers who were allowed to stay on deck. They had been
included in the drills, but for them there was now neither gun nor
powder. They were given orders to keep out of the way of the crew and
the older men. If any of the defenders fell, they might take their
places. The two boys crouched down close to the mast, not venturing
to go below to put away the drum and flute upon which they had been
playing when the alarm was given.

Nearer and nearer came the strange ship. It was not so large as the
Lyon, and it responded far more quickly to its helm. In the quickening
breeze from the west it advanced with great speed. It floated no
pennant - the wish of the Germans had been father to the thought.

Now a sailor in the masthead of the Lyon sent out a friendly hail.
There was no answer. Again the sailor shouted. Still there was no
reply. The crew of the Lyon could see now plainly armed men upon the
deck of the stranger. The captain spoke in a whisper to the mate.

"We have powder for two rounds. Not enough to keep them off for five
minutes. We - "

The stranger seemed actually to leap ahead, and the captain's eyes
flashed. He raised his hands before his mouth like a trumpet.

"Fire!"

The two cannon which pointed toward the strange ship spit out a long
streak of flame, and the Lyon trembled with a terrific detonation.

When the smoke cleared away, it was plainly to be seen that the pirates
were not frightened by the warning shots. The balls had fallen short,
and the pirate ship sailed on, as though to take quick advantage of the
time required to reload the cannon. It was now so near that the evil
faces could be clearly discerned upon its deck.




VI

THE PIRATE SHIP


It was small wonder that the passengers on the Lyon were almost
paralyzed with terror. They were not soldiers, nor accustomed to taking
the part of soldiers, and they were not fighting upon a battlefield,
distant from their loved ones, but close to them where the danger
threatened alike themselves and all they held dear. The fact made them
at once more courageous and more terrified.

It was known by all that powder was short and that the accuracy of the
next shot would probably decide their fate. Their hands grew more and
more awkward, their cheeks whiter. Conrad and Peter sprang to their
feet, seeing plainly the panic on the faces of the gunners who were
trying to reload the cannon, and upon the faces of the others who
stood, saber or pistol in hand, waiting for what seemed to be certain
destruction. One frightened soul fired his pistol prematurely, another
waved his saber wildly in the air. If the freebooters saw, they must
have anticipated an easy victory.

"If we only had pistols!" cried Peter shrilly.

The captain shouted fierce orders, and still the gunners fumbled at
their task.

Now Conrad ran to the captain's side. A wild plan had suddenly occurred
to him.

"We could play," cried he breathlessly, "Peter and I. There was a
trumpeter on a castle wall who played and played till - "

"Play, then!"

With trembling lips and hands the two boys began. The flute gave forth
a sharp piping, the drum tried to roar as fiercely as the cannon. There
was at first no tune, there was at first, indeed, only a mad discord.
And still the pirate ship came on.

"Louder! Louder! Louder!" The boys did not know whether they had heard
or had imagined the command. They were playing "Susy, dear Susy," and
playing it like a jig. As though its sprightliness steadied them, arms
grew stronger, breath more even. The gunners heard, the infantry
heard, the women and children shivering in the hold heard, and best of
all the evil men on the pirate ship heard. The hands of the gunners
trembled a little less, the hands which held the pistols and sabers
grasped them more firmly, the women and children looked with a tiny bit
of hope into one another's eyes, and the pirates looked at one another
with astonishment.

It may have been that the captain of the pirate ship did not care to
try conclusions with a force which could spare men to play the drum and
flute; it may have been that he could observe that the firing of the
second shot was the matter of only a second or two; or it may have been
that merely the lively defiance of "Susy, dear Susy," discouraged him.
At any rate, he altered the course of his vessel. When the second shot
sailed after him, he had darted out of range.

At first the passengers of the Lyon stared as though a spell had been
put upon them. A moment ago they had been in danger of their lives; now
they were safe while the enemy sailed away. Some laughed aloud, others
wiped their eyes, and a sailor flung open the hatchway and shouted the
good news to the anxious hearts below.

Though the distance between the Lyon and her enemy grew wider and wider
until presently the stranger had vanished over the horizon's edge, the
sailors kept watch until nightfall.

But the passengers gave no thought now to an enemy. They saw, late in
the afternoon, a sailor lowering the sounding-line over the ship's
side. They had watched this process many times. But the earnestness
of the sailor and the eager watching of his companions gave it a new
significance. Into the group at the ship's edge young Conrad forced his
way.

"How much?" said he.

The sailors paid no attention and Conrad concluded to wait. Presently
the line was drawn in and the sailor announced to the captain in a loud
voice, -

"Thirty-five fathoms, sir."

"That is shallow," said Conrad. "Is there any danger?"

The sailors laughed.

"There is danger of seeing land to-morrow," said one.

To this no one made any reply for a long moment. Then another shout
arose like the one which had greeted the arrival of water and food. In
one moment the news had spread: in another, though the captain laughed,
the women were descending to pack boxes and to tie up the bundles in
the hold.

But no one stayed long below the deck. Margareta and Magdalena with
one bundle packed climbed back to look toward the west. John Conrad's
expectation was being realized; there was now a young man by the side


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Online LibraryElsie SingmasterThe long journey, by Elsie Singmaster → online text (page 4 of 8)