Elsie Singmaster.

The long journey, by Elsie Singmaster online

. (page 5 of 8)
Online LibraryElsie SingmasterThe long journey, by Elsie Singmaster → online text (page 5 of 8)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

of Magdalena also. The captain laughed at them for watching for land as
he laughed at them for packing.

"To-morrow, my children, not to-day. You may look your eyes out to-day
and you will see nothing, and there will be plenty of time after we see
land for you to pack your clothes."

Nevertheless, the Germans looked and looked, though, as the captain
prophesied, they saw nothing. But they would not leave their place
in the bow. Sitting together, they reviewed the journey and the more
distant past. They spoke of the Fatherland, of those left behind who
might some day follow them, like George Reimer, of those, like the
magistrate of Oberdorf, whom they should never see again, and of
those already on the way in other ships. They spoke also in quiet
voices of those who slept, like the mother of the Weisers, in quiet
graveyards. They spoke of bondage and liberty and of war and peace and
of a strange new freedom, of which there was in the hearts of a few a
dim conception, like the tiny seed of a mighty tree. They spoke with
gratitude of the good Queen and offered a prayer for her, and for other
friends, like the good helmsman on the river boat. They spoke of the
strange red people, and Conrad must find his little book and read once
more of their skill as hunters, of their devotion in friendship and of
their ferocity in war and in revenge. Longest of all they talked of the
King of Rivers and his companions.

"It is my object to find them first of all," said Conrad. "I am sure
they are looking for us to come to the country which they gave us."

Once again must Conrad and Peter and the rest of the band play their
old tunes, grave and gay, mournful and lively; once again must all join
in song. Twilight came and then the starry, summer night, and still the
pilgrims sat gazing toward the west. All night a few kept vigil.

At daylight every one was on deck. The morning dawned in splendor, but
no one turned to watch the rising sun. At last, when the bright rays
illuminated the whole of earth and heaven, they saw through tears the
low shores of the promised land.

But now that land was in sight, the Lyon was not able to get into
the harbor. Already as the passengers watched the shore a storm was
rising. It was not so severe as those which had gone before nor so
long continued, but it was far more alarming since the ship was now
in danger of being cast upon the reefs. It seemed for many days that
the passengers had endured all for naught. It was like being sent
back into mid-ocean to suffer once more all the fearful trials through
which they had lived. Again the captain grew wan and hollow-eyed, again
the travelers lived for days in the hold of the ship, again there was
sickness and death. Some of those who had seen the promised land saw
it no more, nor any earthly land. There was no concealing the fact
that those who were ill had ship fever, which was almost certain, in
the conditions in which the patients had to live, to be fatal. Little
John Frederick, the youngest of the Weisers, about whose health they
had long felt anxiety, grew worse, so that his brothers and sisters
could not look at him without tears. Still the pilgrims were patient
and kind, still they tried not to murmur at this new dispensation of

"Courage!" said John Conrad a dozen times a day, to himself, as well as
to his companions. "Many a good enterprise has failed because those who
undertook it could not endure quite to the end."

The pilgrims were to have, alas, need for all the courage and patience
which they could summon. When a long swell succeeded the fierce
beating of the waves and the skies cleared, they sought the deck once
more, and hurried to the prow. There they stared at one another in
amazement and terror. The promised land at which they had looked with
such longing eyes had vanished.

"What has become of it?" asked a bewildered company.

"It is still exactly where it was," answered the captain. "It is we who
have changed our place."

"When shall we see it again?"

The captain reassured them with a cheerfulness which he did not feel.
The ship had been driven far out of its course; it would take many days
to win again a view of the low-lying shores.

It was now June. Unless conditions in the new world were very different
from those in the old, the season for planting was almost passed: and
John Conrad's eagerness to be settled grew to anxiety. Whatever young
Conrad's book might say about the strength of the sun in America, it
was certain that the pilgrims must have a house and some stores of
food and fuel with which to meet the winter. Again they gazed toward
the west until, between the blinding glare of the sun on the smooth sea
and their own tears, they could see no more.

But like all evils in the world the long journey came to an end. The
travelers had given up rising before dawn to watch the first beams of
the sun strike on the western shores, when one bright morning a shout
awoke them.

"Land! Land! Land!" Though it needed but one call to rouse the
sleepers, the sailor called a dozen times, as though the joyful news
could not be too often proclaimed.

The travelers crowded on deck; they saw the shore much nearer at hand
than it had been before, and green instead of a dull, indeterminate
color; they were surrounded by fluttering birds; they sniffed upon the
air a different odor, an odor of land and growing things. Then with one
accord their eyes sought the sky to see if once more a cloud threatened

But there was no cloud even so large as a man's hand, and the
dangerous reefs were passed safely.

"But we are not moving!" cried young Conrad. "What is the matter?"

The captain pointed ahead, and Conrad saw a long rowboat cutting the

"We can't go into the harbor without a pilot," said the captain. "Here
he comes."

Indifferent to the fact that their belongings were, after all their
planning, not ready to be carried to the shore, the passengers hung
over the side of the ship. There was a loud hail from the little boat,
and an answering shout from the captain of the Lyon.

Suddenly Conrad cried out and seized his father by the arm.

"Look! Look!"

"What is it, lad?"

Then John Conrad saw for himself. The rowers were dark-skinned,
black-haired creatures whose great bare bodies gleamed in the sun. The
King of Rivers and his friends had been blanketed, but there was no
mistaking these for any but men of their race.

"They are Indians," said Conrad, in awe.

Now a rope ladder was flung over the side of the ship and the pilot
came aboard. He shook hands with the captain and the mate, and then
lifted from the hands of an Indian who had followed him a roughly woven

"I always bring something for the birds," said he in a loud voice as he
uncovered it.

For a moment both children and adults could only stare at him dumbly.
He was real, he came from America, and America had begun to seem like
the figment of a dream: his was a new face, and they had seen no new
faces for months.

But when the children looked into his basket, they ran forward. Here
were cherries for mouths which had forgotten the taste of fruit; here
were strawberries for lips which had never touched strawberries. An old
woman began to weep.

"Cherries like those in the gardens of W├╝rttemberg, God be thanked!"

John Conrad looked at the pilot a little uneasily.

"We cannot pay," said he.

The pilot popped a strawberry into the mouth of John Frederick.

"Tut, tut," said he, "you are in a land of plenty. To-morrow when I
come to take you in I will bring more."

"To-morrow!" echoed a dozen voices. "Oh, sir, can we not go in to-day?"

The pilot shook his head.

"Not till to-morrow."

"But the storm came before and drove us far away."

"No storm will drive you away now."

With sinking hearts the pilgrims saw the pilot descend again over the
side of the ship and enter his boat and row away.

"I do not believe he will return," said one despairing soul.

But in a few minutes the speaker and every one else on board had
begun to pack. Pots and dishes, pans and kettles, clothes, a few
spinning-wheels, the few treasured books - all were boxed or wrapped
or corded together. The Weisers, remembering gayly that they had once
made nine bundles for eight persons, made careful division of their

"The spinning-wheel is not here and dear Wolf is not here, but we have
everything else," said Margareta.

"Including a tame bear," ventured Conrad, knowing that there would be
no boxing of ears to-day.

To the laughing astonishment of the travelers, the pilot was on the
deck in the morning when they came up to greet the sun. He rallied them
upon their laziness and passed out another gift of fruit, and then took
command of the ship. To the keen disappointment of the boys the Indians
did not come on board, but were towed in their rowboat.

Past the low shores of Long Island, nearer and nearer to the village of
New York moved the Lyon, more and more excited grew the pilgrims.

"I can see houses!"

"And smoke rising from chimneys!"

"And men walking about!"

"There is a wharf with people on it!"

"We are here at last, at last!"

Some one started a hymn and a single stanza was sung. Then voices

John Conrad stood silently, his older children close to him and little
John Frederick in his arms. With them was Peter Zenger, his arm round
Conrad's neck. John Conrad saw the house and the people and the strange
shore, and the certainty of impending change swept over him. These - his
boys and girls - what would befall them? They were his now, but the new
land must divide them from him. Each must do his work. Already the
sound of voices drifted to him from this alien shore. He longed to put
into one sentence all his love and hope. With brimming eyes he looked
at his little flock for whom he had made the long journey, for whom he
had forgotten sadness and heartache.

"Children," he said. "Margareta and Magdalena and Sabina and Conrad - "
John Conrad's voice faltered. In a moment he began once more with a new
message. "Children, - George and Christopher and Barbara and little John
and dear Peter, - here is now your Fatherland."



Close together the Weisers stepped from the gangplank of the Lyon.
Their question as to what they were to do was soon solved by their
prompt shepherding from the wharf into small boats by the officers of
the port.

"Where do we go?" asked John Conrad in astonishment.

"There has been ship fever on the Lyon," answered some one. "You go to
Nuttall's Island."

Like millions to follow them, the Germans soon gazed from Nuttall's
Island across the bay. They were given little houses to live in, and
as the magistrate of Oberdorf had greeted them on Blackheath, they
greeted presently their friends from the other ships. There were happy
reunions, there were stories of death and danger by sea, there was the
common hope of better things.

When the cool winds of September began to blow and they were still
waiting to be released from what seemed like captivity, the Germans
became impatient and then frightened. They wished to set to work so
that they might the sooner finish their task of tar-making and begin
to labor on their own account. During the long journey boys and girls
had grown up; like Conrad, other boys longed for adventure, and
like Margareta, other young women wished to begin the establishment
of a home. Among the Germans there was suddenly a new spirit of
independence. Here was not the goal for which they had striven.

"The Governor has not completed his arrangements," said John Conrad to
his impatient countrymen.

"Then let us go to that Schoharie which the Indians gave us." Conrad
spoke for all the younger Germans.

"We are bound to make tar," reminded John Conrad, who looked at his son
in amazement.

Presently came Governor Hunter, who had crossed the ocean in one of
the last ships of the fleet. His visit, so eagerly expected, had a
sorrowful outcome. From one end of the settlement to the other he
walked and at the cabin of John Conrad he paused.

"You are to go soon to Livingston Manor to begin your work. You are the
man who was in the Queen's audience room. I depend upon you to be a
good influence among your fellows." His bright gaze traveled from child
to child. "You have a large family."

Before John Conrad could answer, young Conrad stepped from the doorway,
disregarding his father's frown.

"Oh, sir, I wish we might go to Schoharie!"

Governor Hunter looked at him coldly.

"You will go where I send you."

When the Governor had gone, his agent announced a startling command
which he had left. Among the Germans were too many children. In New
York and on Long Island were farmers and merchants who needed help. To
them the orphans and some other young lads must be apprenticed.

"Not our children!" cried Magdalena.

John Conrad shook his head ominously. He had counted his children over
before he left the ship, - was separation to come so soon? That evening
he admonished gentle Christopher and grave George Frederick tenderly
and solemnly.

"We must submit to the Governor's will," said he. "My little lads know
what is right. To do right is all that is required of them."

The next day boats anchored at Nuttall's Island and from them
stepped English and Dutch farmers and their wives. Upon the heads of
Christopher and George Frederick were laid a pair of plump hands.

"These I would like," said a kind voice.

The eager eyes of the Weiser family gazed through tears.

"Both together?" asked John Conrad thickly.

"Both together," answered the farmer's wife. "We have a good farm and
no children." When she saw that little Christopher cried, she put her
hand into the deep pocket in the skirt of her husband's coat and drew
out a bar of maple sugar, the only candy of the colonies. "I put
something in my pocket for my new children." Then she sat down on the
rough bench before the little door. "The boats will not go back for a
long time to come. In the mean time we will talk."

Now more tears were shed, but they were not bitter tears. The English
of the Weisers was broken, but it sufficed to relate the sad history
of Gross Anspach, the kindness of George Reimer, the cruel cold on
Blackheath, and the dangers of the sea. When the time for parting came,
the Weisers trooped to the boats. Peter Zenger was to go also, with a
brisk printer, Bradford by name. Hands were waved until they could wave
no longer; then the Weisers turned back to their little hut.

"Two are gone," said John Conrad, bewildered. "My dear children! My
dear children!" Then poor John Conrad burst once more into tears.

When in November twelve hundred of the four thousand Germans who had
left Blackheath ascended the Hudson River, there was another grievous
parting. Margareta's young man had found work in New York, but until
he earned a little he and Margareta could not marry. One of the
Weisers, at least, looked back instead of forward as the heavily laden
boats made their slow way up the stream. Conrad wished to stay also and
find work, but neither the Governor's agent nor his father would give
him permission. The agent, Cast by name, was sharp of tongue, and with
him the young men had begun to dispute. Others like Conrad were strong
of will and hot of temper. In the long period of waiting, gratitude to
the English had somewhat faded.

The arrival at the new home was dreary. Upon the stretch of forest
in which the settlement was to be made there was only the agent's
comfortable log house. It was late afternoon when the pilgrims were put
ashore. At sight of the unimproved and repellent spot they looked at
one another in dismay.

"Is it for this that we have come so far?"

John Conrad began again his old work of encouragement.

"At last we have work to do. By night we must have some sort of

The next day substantial houses of logs began to rise among the tall
pine trees. John Conrad's suspicions about his second daughter proved
to be true. Quiet Magdalena and the young man upon whom she had smiled
announced that they, too, would build a house.

Then, when houses were built and logs were burning in the great
chimneys, the Germans waited idly. Tar-making was not to begin, it
seemed, until spring. Again John Conrad counseled patience.

"We are here, we cannot get away and, moreover, we have given our word.
We are fed and clothed. In the spring things will be better. We cannot
expect everything at once."

Young Conrad answered sharply.

"The men say that this land will never be good farming land, father.
After the pine trees are cut, we shall have nothing. I would find that
Schoharie which the Indians gave us. There is our home."

John Conrad shook his head.

"We must have patience," said he.

Slowly the winter passed. In the cold of January little John Frederick,
so loved and cherished, died, and was the first of the colony to be
buried in the new land.

"Now," said John Conrad, "it is our land, indeed."

In April Magdalena was married by a clergyman who came from the older
German settlement across the river. The wedding was merry: even
Margareta, who had heard but once from her lover, put anxiety away and
smiled and danced the old-fashioned dances of Gross Anspach weddings.
When Magdalena had gone to the little log house with her husband, John
Conrad sat before his door.

"She has done well. Now of nine, only four are left me."

Once during the winter Conrad saw an Indian. The tall figure crossed
the end of a little glade and as fast as he could Conrad pursued it.
But the Indian had vanished; there was neither sound nor motion in the
still forest. Gradually, their lands taken from them, themselves often
ill-treated, the Indians were withdrawing from the neighborhood of the

In great excitement Conrad hurried to his father.

"Father, I have seen an Indian. Let us ask him to guide us to

"We are not permitted to go."

"Let us go without permission. I can fight, father."

Again John Conrad regarded his son with astonishment.

"We have come for peace, not for war. God knows we have suffered enough
from war! Let me hear no more of such madness, Conrad, and sit no more
with the young men, but with your sisters."

In the early spring tools were given out for the cutting of the pine
trees and slashes were made in the tough bark so that the sap might
gather. In two years the trees would be felled and burned in kilns.

In the early summer came a new command. Over the great continent evil
forces were astir. Like the bent bow, the line of the French and their
allied Indians stretched from Montreal to New Orleans, its curve
including the Mississippi; like the string within stretched the English
line. There was conflict at Montreal where the Five Nations were true
to their English alliance, and thither the Germans were to go in three
companies. At once they forgot their wrongs and willingly they started,
John Conrad in command of a company.

The Germans gave the Queen little help, not because they were not
willing and able, but because the short campaign was almost over. They
marched back as they had come, congratulating themselves upon the pay
they would receive for military service. At last they could buy a few
spinning-wheels and perhaps a horse and cow.

But the Governor's agent laughed.

"Does a man pay extra to his servants?"

"You did not give us our due food while they were away!" cried young

The agent shook his fist.

"Return your arms and get back to your work!"

When the arms were returned, a dozen guns were lacking. The older
Germans were clearly puzzled, but the guns could not be found.

In a week the Governor came again to visit his colony. His shoulders
were bent and his countenance had changed. The good Queen was dead and
the support promised for his cherished enterprise of tar-making came
slowly from her successor. To the Governor appealed now the leading
men of the settlement. Perhaps it was the cruel contrast between his
magnificence and their rags which made him at first willing to listen
and to conciliate.

As John Conrad had talked bravely and simply to the Queen, so he spoke
to the Governor. The oldest of the settlers shared by this time the
discontent of the young men.

"It is almost a year since we came and we have done nothing for
ourselves. Even if we can make tar, we are not advanced because this
land is not farming land. We beg to be allowed to go to that country
which the Indians gave us, where we can have permanent homes. Is there
no pine there?"

The Governor made no answer.

"And we would have pay for our service as soldiers. We are very poor,
as you can see, and soldiering was not in our bargain."

The Governor smiled as his agent had smiled.

"You will serve yourself and your friends best by counseling
obedience," said he. "You cannot go away."

When the Governor had gone, his agent walked down the street of the
settlement. In his path stood young Conrad, who forgot once more his
father's admonitions.

"The Germans have guns, sir," said Conrad.

Cast returned at once to his house. In a moment his servant was riding
rapidly along the river-bank to intercept the Governor at the next
settlement, twenty miles away.

"I am charged with a message to Your Honor," he cried breathlessly at
sight of the Governor. "The German people are armed. Our lives are not

The Governor sailed up the river once more. When he reached Livingston
Manor, it was dark and the Germans knew nothing of his coming nor of
the prompt departure of the agent's servant through the forest to the
north. The next afternoon they were called together. To their amazement
the Governor appeared. In a stern voice he read a contract to them.

"But that is not our contract," protested a mystified John Conrad.
"We - "

The Governor waved them from his presence.

"It is your contract. Think over your situation and return to-morrow."

That evening the older Germans talked earnestly in the Weiser house.
They agreed to ask again that they be permitted to leave and that they
be paid. But to resist they were helpless. Resistance, moreover, was

For a while Conrad listened; then he joined a score of young men who
waited for him outside in the shadow.

"It is all for peace," said he. "I believe that Governor Hunter means
to entrap them."

Quietly the young men slipped into the darker woods. Into a little
cave high above the river, Conrad crept on hands and knees. One by one
he passed out a dozen guns. Though the leader of the enterprise was the
youngest of all, his friends looked at him with admiration. In their
admiration Conrad forgot his own somewhat troublesome conscience.

In the morning, John Conrad and his friends visited the Governor. They
had, they said, considered their situation, and they were not satisfied.

The Governor looked over their heads in the direction of Albany.

"We do not wish to be undutiful," explained John Conrad. "What we ask
is only justice. We did not promise to stay forever in a barren land."
John Conrad's voice trembled as it had trembled in Gross Anspach when
he spoke of the country which they had seen in their dreams. "We wish
to go to Schoharie."

"Whether or not you 'wish to go to Schoharie,'" the Governor mocked
them like a child, "you are to stay here." Now the Governor stamped
his foot. "Here is your land, here you are to live and die!"

The agent could not resist a temptation to add a word.

"You should be shot for your impertinence!"

Then the agent gave a wild scream. The punishment which he proposed so
angrily seemed likely to be carried into effect upon himself. Upon the
little house he saw an armed host approaching. Waiting for sound of
strife, the young men had come to the defense of their elders.

"They will murder us!" screamed the agent.

Young Conrad stepped inside the door.

"We ask only - " Then Conrad paused. Neither the Governor nor the agent
was listening to what he was saying. Even the eyes of his father, which
had looked upon him with horrified amazement, were turned away. From
the young men behind him came a loud warning to run, and he turned
his head. Among the trees was a gleam of red and a glitter of steel.
The agent's servant had made a swift trip to the British garrison at

"Captain, collect these guns," commanded the Governor. Then he turned
to young Conrad. "Another stirring-up of rebellion and you will pay the
penalty of a rebel."

Now the Germans gave up their arms and went back to their work. Some

1 2 3 5 7 8

Online LibraryElsie SingmasterThe long journey, by Elsie Singmaster → online text (page 5 of 8)