Elsie Singmaster.

The long journey, by Elsie Singmaster online

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of the trees were said to be fit for felling and a few kilns were
constructed. In these the pine knots were first to be burned. To the
task of gathering them the little children were appointed and Conrad
was made their superintendent. The work was humiliating and he obeyed
unwillingly. His father had said nothing to him of his rebellion, but
he knew that it was constantly in John Conrad's mind. The presence
of the red-coated soldiers, who treated the whole settlement like
dangerous criminals, was, John Conrad may have thought, reproach enough.

Now another winter came and passed, a winter of idleness and discontent
for Conrad, of sadness for Margareta, and of great physical suffering
for all. The miserable substitutes for woolen clothes, the poor food,
the bitter cold weakened their bodies and depressed their minds. No
longer could Conrad enliven the camp with music, since his dear flute
had to be exchanged for food. The Governor's agent now played upon it,
but he played no German tunes. Barbara and Sabina grew as pale and thin
as their older sister, whose hopes of seeing her lover had almost died.
Once more as on shipboard John Conrad thought and spoke of the beauties
of the heavenly country.

Presently John Conrad was served with an astonishing notice. The
Germans might go! Hearts leaped; there were cries of joy. Then the hand
which held the order began to tremble.

"We may go south or east, but not north or west. To Schoharie we dare
not go. It is my opinion that this business of tar-making has failed.
It cannot be that they will turn us adrift and yet forbid us that which
is ours. God in heaven help us!"

To the confused and terrified settlement came another fearful threat.
No longer, said the Governor, would he feed women or children who had
no men to repay him in labor. A few single men married at once their
young countrywomen who were without support. Among them was John Conrad.

The summer passed in uncertainty. In September another notice came.
The business of tar-making was for the present ended. The Germans
would receive no more food, but must shift for themselves. With cruel
thoroughness they were now abandoned.

"And we dare not go to Schoharie!" they cried. "Last week Kniskern
tried to get away and the soldiers brought him back. We - "

Then upon the frightened assembly rushed young Conrad.

"The soldiers are gone!"

With one accord the council adjourned, running to the upper end of the
settlement. The camp-ground was deserted.

Now it was proposed that the settlement should start as a body with the
dawn. At this poor Margareta burst into tears. In the wilderness her
young man could never find her. It had been some small comfort to feel
that at least he knew where she was.

But Margareta was to have a little longer to watch and wait. Once more
the dissuading voice of John Conrad warned his companions.

"My friends! We do not know where this land is. A few chosen men must
make their way thither in the two rude boats owned by the settlers, and
consult with the Indians and return. At Albany we might find a guide.
It is the only way."

For hours the council sat in the Weiser house. It was agreed that seven
men should start in the morning. Conrad sat listening, his eyes looking
through the log walls, across the blue river, his heart longing to
see once more those great warriors, his friends. When the council had
adjourned, he caught his father by the arm.

"Oh, father, let me go, too!"

"We dare not take more than are necessary, lad."

"I will be wise and patient, father."

"You have yet to prove yourself to be so, Conrad." John Conrad looked
gravely into the beseeching eyes. "Your time of responsibility will
come, lad; see that you are ready for it."



Though Conrad was not allowed to go to Schoharie with his father and
the other deputies, he was allowed to see them on their way. The
evening following the council at which their plans were made, the moon
rose late, a fact which suited their purposes.

"We can slip away in the darkness, and still have the moon to light our
journey," said John Conrad. "It may be that they are watching us. There
will be two boats, and these must be brought back, since we may find a
shorter path through the forest when we return."

Conrad's blue eyes lifted to his father's in appeal.

"Let me go with you and bring the boats back. I can row well and I will
be very careful."

John Conrad consulted with his friends. When they said "yes," Conrad
rushed to get ready.

The journey to Albany consumed three days. Here and there, where the
banks of the river were low, the travelers saw fine farms which they
longed to possess. They did not dare to stop, however, to inspect the
land, since it seemed to them that they could hear on every breeze the
sound of pursuers, bidding them return to the slavery which was worse
than death. There were no villages and they passed but few boats. If
they were hailed, Conrad answered in the best English he could muster.

Albany was only a small settlement, but here was stationed the garrison
of soldiers from which the company had been sent to subdue the Germans,
and therefore recognition and arrest were easily possible. The two
boats were beached late in the afternoon below the town, and here the
deputies hid until nightfall.

When darkness came Conrad, rowing one boat and towing the other,
dropped quietly downstream with the current. In a thick wood to which
his father had pointed him on the upward journey, he stayed alone
during the warm September night. He was tired, but it was a long
time before he could go to sleep. He heard a gentle wind moving the
treetops; he heard a twig snap near by, as though some wild creature
were coming closer and closer with sinister intent. Several times he
sprang to his feet. When the dim landscape appeared unchanged and
without living inhabitants, he lay down once more.

Still he could not sleep. His thoughts traveled to Livingston Manor
with its cruel disappointments, to the long ocean journey, to
Blackheath, even to Gross Anspach. What vague, splendid dreams he had
had of the future and of the new land! He had dreamed of becoming
rich and powerful and important, and all he had succeeded in doing
was gathering a few pine knots! Remembering that childish service, he
laughed bitterly. If his father had given him his way he might have
done better, but his father would not believe that he was a man. Then,
before more dreary thoughts came to depress him, he fell asleep, his
head pillowed on his arm, his weary body finding the hard ground a
downy bed.

Early in the morning he continued his journey down the river, his
eyes watching carefully for enemies. But no emissaries of an angry
Governor came to meet him. The Germans were, it was plainly evident,
wholly abandoned to their misery. Past the tall cliffs, past the open
farmlands, where some day would be pleasant villages and towns, he
floated. He was hungry, but he had been hungry many times; he was
tired, but he did not mind weariness.

At the settlement he found all as it had been. The soldiers had not
returned and the agent had vanished. A hundred plans were being made
for the journey into the wilderness. A few families announced that they
would not go. The Governor would not forsake them utterly; if he did,
they would rather seek for help among their fellow countrymen across
the river than trust themselves to the forest.

In Albany, the deputies sought out quietly the German families whom
they knew and from their houses were able to make inquiries. That
there was an Indian settlement of Schoharie was certain. There were at
that time in Albany several Mohawk Indians from the neighborhood of
Schenectady, another Indian village, who could answer questions. With
one, whom the English called John Meyndert, the deputies talked before
the day was over. With grunts and nods he promised to be their guide
and interpreter, and in his canoe and the canoe of another Indian they
traveled to Schenectady, where, after a night's rest, they started
across a line of rough hills toward the southwest.

Of the beauties of the September woods the seven deputies saw nothing.
With eyes fixed upon the man in front, each man walked doggedly and
stubbornly on, determined not to yield to the fatigue which the rapid
pace produced. Soft of tread and sure of foot John Meyndert stalked
ahead as silent as the tree trunks among which he moved. An occasional
"Ugh" when the slipping foot of one of the travelers threatened an
ugly fall, or a shake of the head when some one pointed to a fruit or
berry which looked as though it were edible, formed his share of the

At last, at noon of a pleasant day, Meyndert halted his long stride and
pointed downward. They had reached and crossed a rough elevation whose
loose stones made it almost impossible to climb. Now, wearily, the
deputies lifted their eyes toward Meyndert and followed his pointing

It was John Conrad who cried out first.

"Oh, see!"

In a second the last of the party had come out on the little shelf of
rock to which Meyndert had led them. Peter Kniskern pointed with a
shaking hand.


The Indian answered with a grin.

Then, for a long time, no one spoke a word, and no one moved except to
wipe from his eyes the tears of which middle age had learned not to be

The smiling valley lay before them, threaded through its broad plain
with the river now in flood. Here where they stood the banks rose
precipitously; yonder there was a more gradual ascent; but on every
side the broad valley was sheltered. The travelers looked their fill,
then one by one gave judgment in slow sentences.

"Those are rich and fertile meadows."

"See this fine spring below us!"

"How quickly would fruit trees grow and vineyards cover the hillsides!"

"It is like" - the voice sank to a whisper - "it is like the valleys of

As they descended the steep hill, Meyndert pointed out the Indian
village at the far end of the valley. It was a time of year when
food was abundant and the villages were comfortable. As the visitors
approached, children dashed for cover in the neat wigwams set on each
side of a narrow street, and women, busy with baking or weaving, looked
up in amazement. Toward the tallest of the wigwams, Meyndert led his
company. In its doorway sat two Indians smoking, at sight of whom he
called a loud "Ho!" For a while the three talked together while the
Germans waited, aware from Meyndert's gestures that he was telling
their errand. Presently, in response to a shout, several Indian women
brought bearskins and deerskins from the wigwam and spread them down
under a great tree. Thither the Germans were led, and there they and
the three Indians sat down.

At once Meyndert pointed to one of his hosts, enormous of body and
painted with snakes and arrows. He called him, as nearly as the Germans
could understand, "Quagnant." Quagnant came, so Meyndert indicated by
broken sentences and gestures, from a valley beyond. He was a chief
over the Indians in this valley as well as his own. He delivered now a
long speech, whose meaning Meyndert made fairly clear. He spoke very
formally and solemnly after the manner of the Indian people. He and his
friends would be glad to have the strangers come among them. He had
heard of the wonderful journey of the King of Rivers and other great
chiefs who were overlords in the Five Nations, but he did not know
what had befallen them or whether they had returned, since they lived
far, far to the west. He was sorry that these new brethren had been so
afflicted. Here they might have, if they wished, a peaceful haven. His
people would help them with food and skins and show them how to build
their houses.

Having finished his speech to the happy Germans, Quagnant commanded
that a feast be made. Together all ate solemnly of Indian bread and
smoked meat, and took great whiffs from a long pipe lighted and passed
by Quagnant. Then, supplied with food for the journey and with light
hearts, the Germans started for Schenectady.

From Schenectady to Albany the Indians took the travelers in their
canoes, then the Germans set out on foot, keeping as near the river
as possible. They had traveled for a day when they heard a shout, and
looking down saw two rowboats, one containing a passenger, the other
towed. With an answering shout they descended the rocky bank to the

"I have been watching and watching," cried Conrad. "Have you been to
Schoharie? What did you find? Did you see our friends?"

When a score of questions had tumbled out one after the other, the
deputies began to answer. Schoharie was beautiful and fertile beyond
all their dreams. The Indians were not only willing to let them have
the land, but offered to help them. They had seen nothing of the King
of Rivers, but had heard of him.

"They have houses of bark in which they seem to be comfortable, but
better houses can easily be made."

"They are satisfied with what they have; therefore Fate has no power
over them. If their property is destroyed, they have a great storehouse
to draw from for more."

"They made a feast for us and gave us food."

Conrad's blue eyes sought his father's.

"When will we start?"

For an instant John Conrad rowed in silence. His plans would not suit
Conrad, the lad who was so young and who thought himself so old, who
felt that so little time was still his, and who had a lifetime before

"Some will start at once, Conrad. But we will stay in Schenectady until
the winter is over. There I have made arrangements with John Meyndert
to keep us, and there we will try to earn a little."

Conrad made no answer. He had already seen himself the first of the
pilgrims to burst into the quiet valley.

"We shall find peace at last," went on John Conrad. "This Quagnant said
no one should molest us, that the land is ours."

In a few days twenty families started for Schoharie. It was late
October and already there had been sharp frost. The journey must be
made slowly, since there were little children and ailing women in the
party. A few had boats for the first part of the way and the others
walked along the river-bank, the rustling leaves beneath their feet
giving warning of the winter which was rapidly approaching. Hope
minimized the dangers and smoothed the rough path.

A little later the Weisers started for Schenectady. Magdalena, like
Catrina in Gross Anspach, feared the journey for her baby, and with her
husband crossed the river to the older German settlement on the other
side. Like Catrina, she wept bitterly.

When bundles had been packed by a silent, pale Margareta, when John
Conrad had already lifted his pack to his shoulder, Fate, which had
played the Weisers many cruel tricks, became suddenly friendly. A
rowboat grounded on the little beach and a young man sprang out and
hailed John Conrad, who stared at him without answering. But the young
man did not wait for John Conrad's slow mental processes; he hurried
toward the pale girl who gazed as though she saw a ghost. A single
joyful "Margareta!" made clear to the settlement that Margareta's
prayers had been answered.

Now the starting must be delayed another day. Across the river rowed
Conrad to bring Magdalena and her husband and the preacher back with
him; about the reunited lovers sat all the Germans. Young Baer had a
good place and he had built a little house. He had written many times,
though no letter had come from Margareta.

"It was the wicked agent who kept the letters," said Margareta. "God be
thanked we are free from him!"

Best of all, young Baer had seen Christopher and George Frederick who
lived not far away.

"They are well cared for and happy, and they look for their sister.
Peter Zenger, who lives near by, watches for her also."

At this all the tender-hearted Germans wept once more. The parting from
Margareta was lightened by the expectation that they would meet again.
Once more the star of hope shone brightly.

In the lodge of John Meyndert the Weisers settled themselves in
November. It was not clean, but they could endure discomfort a little
longer. The chief difficulty was the drunkenness of Meyndert, who had
learned the white man's evil habit.

From Meyndert John Conrad and his son tried, in the long, idle hours,
to learn the Indian language. They hunted eagerly for work in the
settlement, but there was no work to be had. With thankfulness John
Conrad accepted the offer of an Englishwoman to take Sabina into
service. The Indian lodge was not a suitable home for either her
or little Barbara. At restless, unhappy Conrad his father looked
uneasily. Even the village of Schenectady offered mischief to idle

"You could teach the little children, lad," said he.

"I want a man's work," answered Conrad sullenly.

Then, as in the London fog, Conrad had a strange experience.

There was fog, also, here by the Mohawk River, by which he walked
early one November morning. Again he went with head bent, kicking the
leaves and pebbles before him. Again he felt that stubborn head strike
an obstacle and himself fly backward. When, in amazement, he picked
himself up, he was confounded. There was no obstacle before him. There
was neither tree nor rock. Puzzled and alarmed, he turned toward the
settlement. Presently he looked back. By this time the mist had lifted,
and behind him he saw a gigantic Indian. Conrad stopped as though his
feet were weighted and the great body, wrapped in a bright new blanket,
bore down upon him. The Indian grunted his queer "Ho, Ho," and
motioned Conrad to lead the way. That he had no unkindly intention was
made clear by the smile which his little trick brought to his face.

At the first flat rock to which they came he bade Conrad sit down. He
drew from the bundle which he carried on his shoulders a loaf of Indian
bread and broke off a large piece.

"Eat," said he in the Mohawk language. "Who are you?"

"I am John Conrad Weiser's son Conrad," answered Conrad, thankful for
each moment spent in learning the rudiments of John Meyndert's language.

"To Weiser we gave a gift. Why does he not come to take it?" This was
the meaning of the next sentence as nearly as Conrad could guess.

"He will come in the springtime."

"And you?" The Indian looked earnestly into Conrad's blue eyes, as
though astonished at their vivid color.

"Oh, _yes_!" cried Conrad.

The Indian said no more, but rose and walked toward the settlement,
motioning Conrad to follow. His long stride soon left Conrad far behind
and Conrad started to run, to find a grinning Indian waiting for him
behind a tree, or calling to him from the rear. Presently, when the
Indian's ruse brought them face to face, Conrad pointed to himself.

"I am Conrad," said he. "Who are you?"

"Quagnant," was the answer.

He it was who had given the Germans their hearty welcome!

When they entered the settlement, Conrad would have liked to follow the
chief as he went from Indian house to Indian house, but he did not dare.

To Meyndert's lodge Quagnant came late in the afternoon, and there
sat himself down on a pile of deerskins near the fire. He had come,
he said, to hold a conversation with the white chief. At a sign from
her husband, John Meyndert's squaw rose and went away, beckoning John
Conrad's family to follow. For an instant Conrad thought that he was to
remain. Then Quagnant, hitherto so kind, pointed to him, and Meyndert
bade him go also. Offended, Conrad did not return till hunger drove
him back after dark.

Then the family, except John Conrad, were asleep; as Conrad lifted
the curtain of skins which hung across the door, his father rose from
beside the dying fire and led him outside. In the starlight he walked
up and down with his hand on his boy's shoulder.

"Conrad, I have an offer to set before you. I have kept you with me,
both because I could not find any opening for you and because I could
not bear to let you go. This Indian Quagnant has asked me to let you
go with him to his village, there 'to learn to be a man,' as he puts
it. He means that they will teach you how to hunt and trap and how to
make a home in the wilderness. Would you like to enter on this strange

Conrad's full heart breathed a great sigh.

"Yes, father."

"You cannot come back until spring. The training in Indian ways may be
very irksome."

"Not as irksome as idleness."

For an hour father and son talked, entering once more upon the future
with a tender recalling of the past. Then they went to bed.

In the misty morning Conrad started away, a little bundle on his back.
He kissed the sleeping Barbara, he put both arms about his father's
neck, then he followed the tall Indian who walked before him, silent,
mysterious, his tall figure dim in the fog.

They crossed the wet meadow and walked for an hour by the stream-side,
then Quagnant turned into the forest. They ascended a rocky hill, they
followed a narrow valley, they climbed another hill. When the sun was
high in the sky, they ate a lunch of corn bread and dried fish from
Quagnant's pack. Then, already footsore and stiff, Conrad followed
doggedly the long stride which led farther and farther into the



At nightfall the travelers camped in the shelter of a huge boulder.
Quagnant made a fire by rubbing two sticks together; then he spread the
embers about and started other fires close to the face of the rock.
When they had burned themselves out, he bade Conrad lie down on the
warmed ground. Faintly aware that Quagnant went on with some other
device for making him comfortable, Conrad slept.

In the morning he found that he lay in a tent formed by the boughs of
evergreens and that he was still comfortably warm. Quagnant had shot
a bird which he was roasting over the fire. When it was eaten and the
fire was tramped out, Quagnant shouldered his pack. He looked up at the
sky, shook his head, and started briskly away.

Until noon Quagnant led the way across rough hills and through narrow
valleys. While they ate their lunch, the snow began to fall and
Quagnant grunted his annoyance. Soon the rocks were slippery and the
trail hard to find. There were other hills and other valleys and
another exhausted sleep at night.

On the third day, Conrad was certain that he could not rise. Quagnant
helped him up and many times in the morning slackened his pace or
stopped entirely. In the afternoon he stopped short and bade Conrad
look ahead. They had come round the shoulder of a hill and were looking
into a broad valley. Here there had been no snow and the meadows were
green. Through the center of the valley ran a stream, broad and full
and smoothly flowing.

"I see people!" cried Conrad. "They are building houses!"

Suddenly Conrad's heart throbbed against his side.

"Schoharie!" he cried. "Is this Schoharie?"

Quagnant grinned.

"Schoharie," he repeated.

Conrad tried to wave his hand, but could make only a feeble motion. He
began to talk in a queer, uncertain way, and Quagnant, looking at him
uneasily, took him by the arm, and presently lifted him to his back.
On he went until at dusk he stepped into a path worn into a deep rut.
Ahead were lights and the sound of voices.

When Conrad was allowed to slip from the broad back to a soft pile
of deerskins, he felt that all the comforts he had ever known were
combined in one delicious sensation. That Schoharie lay far behind
him he did not know: that the faces about him were dark, the voices
strange, - all were matters of indifference. He felt the rim of a warm
cup against his lips, then he fell asleep.

The sun had been long in the sky when he woke. He was in an oblong
house of bark. Through a hole in the roof the sun streamed upon the
ashes of a fire. On the walls hung guns and bows and arrows and strange
long spears and about were piles of furs, on one of which lay a little
case of bark from which there issued the scream of a hungry baby.

At once a young woman lifted the curtain at the door. Before taking
her baby, she looked at Conrad, and finding him awake, nodded and
smiled. In a moment she brought a wooden bowl filled with broth. Conrad
drained the bowl and lay back once more.

When, late in the afternoon, he lifted the curtain, he found himself in
a village of bark houses. At the far end of the single street children
were playing, and from the ashes of a fire a woman was taking a loaf of
Indian bread. She gave a little call and at once other women appeared
and the children came closer.

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Online LibraryElsie SingmasterThe long journey, by Elsie Singmaster → online text (page 6 of 8)