Elsie Singmaster.

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warpath will be trodden down.

"It is for the consideration of these matters that the council is
assembled."

When Shikellamy had finished a loud uproar was made by the medicine
men. They rose and faced the east, then prostrated themselves again and
again. The Great Spirit was being invoked.

Now with astonishing order the various businesses of which Shikellamy
had spoken were presented to the council and settled. The young Indians
who had quarreled with their neighbors were admonished and fined.
Young Eagle was to send five deerskins to dry the tears of the warrior
whose son he had injured; Short Arm was to send three blankets to the
widow of the man whom he had killed. Against these decisions there was
no protest. The code which the young men had disobeyed was clearly
understood and its penalties accepted without argument.

When the relations of the allied nations to the French and English came
to be spoken of, there was a change in the spirit of the meeting. Now
all whispering ceased; every one sat motionless, listening with knitted
brows and bright, eager eyes. The council was informed minutely of the
affairs of the English colonies to the east and the French settlements
to the west. Conrad listened as eagerly as the rest, his terror lost in
amazement.

"I am a swift runner," said Short Arm. "I went in three days to
Harris's Ferry. The children of Brother Onas are creeping, creeping
to the west and to the north. They are coming into the Long House.
They are grazing their cattle where our deer have grazed. They are our
enemies."

"The pale-faces are in Schoharie," said a dark-faced, hideously painted
old chief. As he spoke he pointed at Conrad. "Not only are they given
lands, but they are taken into our wigwams. They are our enemies."

From some one came a sneering laugh. Now Conrad was sure of what would
be his fate. Then, on the opposite side of the council fire, a tall
figure rose. Conrad's lips parted; he was about to cry out; then he
held his lips closely shut with his hand.

"It is the King of Rivers! It is the King of Rivers!"

"This talk about the children of Onas is nonsense. The children of
Onotio are more hateful. They come into the Long House from the north.
They think nothing of their promises. They have allied themselves with
our enemies; they are our enemies. There are no two words about them."

Now Quagnant rose, and standing with folded arms looked about until
he had met every piercing eye. Last of all he sought the wide blue
ones at the edge of the forest. Like the other Indians, Quagnant spoke
eloquently.

"Brothers, we are of the extended lodge. The Long House is no mere hut
like the dwelling of the Catawbas. We have made our enemies to flutter
like frightened young birds. At the Catawbas and the Lenape we laugh.

"Now strangers seek to live with us in the Long House, - a great people,
pale of face, with new customs and long guns. Some are our friends,
some are our enemies. They have brought us good things and bad things.
With the guns they have brought we have become powerful, but with the
fire-water they have brought we have become mad.

"We cannot tell which among these pale-faces are our friends. Their
words are not ours and their faces are not ours. They give little in
exchange for much. Our furs are to them no more valuable than a few
beads, our hunting-grounds no more than a few hatchets."

"It is a good day's journey from the Susquehanna to the Black
Mountain," cried a voice. "This they have taken for a piece of bright
cloth and a glass in which to see one's face!"

"Their traders lie to us!" cried another.

The hideously painted old chief rose.

"Year by year their ships come. They overrun our land, given by the
Great Spirit. They enter at the front of the Long House to shove us out
at the back; at the back, to push us out at the front. I counsel death
to all!"

A great trembling seized upon Conrad. Then he saw that Quagnant still
stood, motionless, waiting to continue his speech. Quagnant would not
forget the icy bank and the deep pool!

"Brothers," said Quagnant, "let us be orderly in council, not like
chattering birds. The words of Quagnant were not finished."

At once silence was restored.

"The various brothers have spoken," went on Quagnant. "Many have spoken
without thought. They desire war, without reflecting that the pale-face
has long guns also, without reflecting that ships will bring new
pale-faces. There is a pale-face to whom I have put many questions; he
tells me that they are across the sea like the leaves of the forest. To
talk of making war upon all is child's talk.

"What we should do, brothers of the Long House, is to enter into
understanding with the pale-face, so that we may say, 'To this river
the land is yours, beyond is ours.' Then our mind will be clear to
them, then messengers can go to and fro and - "

"They will not listen!" cried the old warrior. "They have laughed our
messengers in the face."

Quagnant waited again until the old warrior had been frowned at by half
the assemblage. Quagnant approached now the carefully planned climax of
his address.

"The pale-faces will not listen to us, it is true. They do not
understand us. But they will listen to another pale-face. I have had in
my wigwam a young pale-face. I have watched his behavior. He has done
things which will move the hearts of the brothers of the Long House
when I tell them. I will tell them at length. We have made of him an
Indian. He speaks our words. He - "

Now the fierce old warrior would not be stayed. He sprang to his feet,
hatchet in hand.

"He may well speak our words when he sits at our councils! Such a thing
has never been heard of in the Long House. Let him go away and go
quickly."

Shikellamy crossed the open space toward Quagnant.

"Let the young braves take him away," said he.

At once Conrad found himself surrounded. Down the hillside he was led
and to the far end of a long meadow through which flowed a stream.

There, when the curiosity of the young Indians about what was going on
in the council could be no longer resisted, he was left alone. He could
hear on the rising wind the sound of many voices and now a single voice
raised in impassioned speech. About him the shades of the spring night
were falling and a cold breath from the water chilled him through.
Hungry and tired, he sat with his hands clasped round his knees and
his cheek bent upon them. The forest seemed to press upon him. A more
terrible oppression came from the thought of the savage creatures on
the hillside, gathered from the wilderness, debating now whether to
deal with the whites in peace or to exterminate them with knife and
flame.

He thought of his father's dreams of a great country where there should
be liberty and peace. With honesty and at the same time with firmness
must these children of the wilderness be met or dreams and their
dreamers would perish in a night.

Presently a dark form stole toward him across the meadow. He heard a
strange singing unlike the voice of man or animal. He saw strange forms
approach; with faces masked and bodies wrapped in skins of deer and
panther and bear. He moved to the nearest tree and stood with his back
against it. He thought now no more of his father's dreams, or of God's
purpose of which his father talked, but prayed in his pious German way
that he might meet his death bravely.

He found himself taken by the hand and led up the hill, the strange
forms following after. Through the Indian village where the women
stared from firelit doorways, and where over great fires meat was
cooking, to the center of the council he was taken, and there he was
placed alone beside the council fire. About sat the chiefs, behind
them in the shadowy circle the young men. Conrad stood still, his eyes
seeking Quagnant. If death should come, he hoped its messenger would be
a swift knife. The medicine men were behind him; it would be by their
hands that the blow would be struck.

Shikellamy was the first to speak. Upon his magnificent body the
firelight danced. His immobile face told nothing of his heart, but it
seemed to Conrad that his voice was kind.

"We have listened to the story of our brother Quagnant," said he. "We
believe that you are honest and true. We believe that you speak our
words. In order that we may bind ourselves to you and you to us" - now
Conrad's heart stood still - "in order that we may bind ourselves to
you and you to us, we make you a member of the Five Nations. We give
you our heart and you give us your heart. He who is our friend is
your friend. He who is our enemy is your enemy. We invite you to the
extended lodge, we bid you come to our feasts. We will give you in
token deerskins to make you clothes and shoes."

Now there was a long pause. The rising wind moaned in the pine trees,
the fire leaped. Shikellamy crossed to the council fire and held out
his great hand.

"We give you also in token a new name. 'Eyes-like-the-Sky' you are to
the children, but among men you are, 'He-holds-our-fate.'"

Now the King of Rivers came forward. A true Indian, he gave no sign
that he recollected the camp of Blackheath and the strange encounter
which reached now its stranger consummation.

"We are to see dark sights," said he. "I see wars, with Indians
creeping upon pale-faces and pale-faces upon Indians. I hear cries to
the Great Spirit. See that you, who are now our Tongue, are true to us.
Then the English will conquer the French and the land will have peace.
Between the Indian and the English is a bond. You are that bond."

Now Shikellamy spoke again.

"You will have a great name while you live, and after you die your
Indian brothers will visit the place where you lie. Your children will
say with pride, 'I am of the great He-holds-our-fate, his blood is
mine, I have his brave heart.' Will you be true to your brothers?"

"I will be true to my brothers."

Then, at the side of a beckoning Quagnant, Conrad sat down.

"You have done well," said Quagnant. "Now the feast begins."

Conrad made no answer. He saw the Long House, enormous, mysterious; he
saw the little fringe of white faces between it and the sea. He saw the
hopes and fears of the dwellers in the Long House and the hopes and
fears of the strangers. Both were in his own heart.

* * * * *

In June, John Conrad's eager, anxious eyes were satisfied. He still
walked each evening into the forest. There on a fallen tree he sat and
looked toward the west. One clear evening, he saw coming toward him an
erect, alert young Indian and sprang up to make the same eager inquiry
with which he greeted all Indians. Then he stood still. The Indian was
clad in doeskin, his hair was long, his feet were moccasined - but his
eyes were blue!

"My son!" cried John Conrad.

Hand in hand the two sat down on the fallen tree.

"How are my brothers and sisters?" asked Conrad.

"I have heard no ill news of them. Sabina is married, and Barbara has
taken her place with a kind mistress in Schenectady. Of all my dear
children you are left me, Conrad. What has befallen you?"

Conrad talked steadily and quietly. He was different; his eyes were
steady, his figure erect, his voice deep. He told of the strange life,
of the harsh training, of the bitter suffering from hunger and cold.

When he described the council, John Conrad shivered.

"A thousand times I wished I had not let you go!" Then in the gathering
dusk his eyes sought his son's face. "What are you going to do now,
Conrad?"

Conrad turned and smiled into the anxious eyes.

"I am going to help you and I am going to teach the children their
letters. Father," - Conrad looked back into the darkening woods, - "the
life among the Indians seems already like a dream; but there they are
waiting, a fearful menace to us all. Suppose that I should some day be
the one to keep the peace! Perhaps God has saved me for that through
much danger and perversity."

John Conrad breathed a long sigh. He did not look into the future, but
into the past.

"Your mother and I could not give our children riches and honor," said
he slowly. "We tried to give them faith in God and willingness to do
their simple duty. If you have learned those lessons from us or in the
forest among the Indians, you are at last a man. Your mother - "

But John Conrad could not finish, needed not to finish. The hand within
his tightened and an arm was thrown across his bent shoulders. Together
the two sat silently, as they had stood long ago in Gross Anspach in
the moonlight by the little church. Their thoughts traveled together
from sister to sister and brother to brother, and finally back once
more across the sea. Then, at last, John Conrad spoke.

"It has been a long journey and a weary one," said he, "but my
children will have a better chance than I in the world. There may be
other journeys before me, but tonight my heart is at rest."


THE END




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Transcriber's Notes

Obvious typographical errors have been silently corrected, all other
spelling, punctuation and accents are as in he original.

Italics are represented thus _italic_.








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