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ELM ISLAND STORIES.
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LION BEN OF ELM ISLAND.
CHARLIE BELL, THE WAIF OF ELM ISLAND.
THE ARK OF ELM ISLAND.
THE BOY-FARMERS OF ELM ISLAND.
THE YOUNG SHIP-BUILDERS OF ELM ISLAND.
THE HARD-SCRABBLE OF ELM ISLAND.
PLEASANT COVE SERIES.
ARTHUR BROWN, THE YOUNG CAPTAIN.
THE YOUNG DELIVERERS OF PLEASANT COVE.
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THE CHILD OF THE ISLAND GLEN.
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THE FISHER BOYS OF PLEASANT COVE.
THE WHISPERING PINE SERIES.
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THE SPARK OF GENIUS.
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THE WHISPERING PINE.
THE TURNING OF THE TIDE.
WINNING HIS SPURS.
A STOUT HEART.
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LEE & SHEPARD, Publishers, Boston.
THE MOHAWK’S FRIENDSHIP.
AUTHOR OF “ELM ISLAND STORIES,” “PLEASANT COVE STORIES,”
“THE WHISPERING PINE SERIES,” ETC.
LEE AND SHEPARD, PUBLISHERS.
CHARLES T. DILLINGHAM
By ELIJAH KELLOGG.
The story here presented not only grasps those terrible vicissitudes in which the frontier life of our forefathers was so prolific, but at the same time conveys many useful lessons and incentives to manly effort, and much curious information in relation to a period in the history of Pennsylvania, when her soil was occupied by a population comprising many different races and religious sects, having little in common, and held together by the fearful pressure of an Indian war.
Here we behold the strange spectacle of the Quaker tilling his land, and pursuing his ordinary duties, while his more belligerent neighbor sleeps with the rifle within reach of his hand, sits in the house of God with the weapon between his knees, goes armed in the funeral procession, which is often attacked, the mourners killed, scalped, and flung into the grave of the corpse they were about to inter.
The noble response of the Delawares to the appeal of the Quakers evinces that the red man is no less[Pg 6] sensitive to kindness, than implacable in revenge; capable of appreciating and manifesting the most tender and generous sentiments.
Our breasts throb with sympathetic emotions, as, after having noted with interest the progress of the strife, we see this determined band emerge in triumph, with thinned ranks but courage undiminished, from the terrible ordeal.
THE MOHAWK’S FRIENDSHIP.
THE MOHAWK’S FRIENDSHIP.
THE BREWING OF THE STORM.
Our story opens at that period of the year when summer is fast verging to autumn.
As the wind that had blown fresh during the night diminished, about eleven o’clock in the forenoon, to a gentle breeze, the heat in the valley of Wolf Run, hemmed in by mountains, became excessive. Corn-blades rolled up, pitch oozed from the logs of which the houses were built, all broad-leaved plants wilted, and the high temperature was adapted to produce an unusual sluggishness.
Stewart, who held the day-watch at the fort, seated on the platform over the gate, was sound asleep. Half a dozen sheep lay in the shade of[Pg 12] the walls, panting, with mouths wide open. Not a person was to be seen in the vicinity of the houses or in the fields. Not a rooster had sufficient courage to crow, or even a dog to bark. The windmill inside the stockade made one or two revolutions; but, as the wind died away, gave up with a groan, and remained motionless.
The profound silence was rudely broken by the successive discharge of fire-arms. The sentinel awoke, and grasped his rifle; but, after listening a few moments, settled back in his corner, and was soon once more asleep. Two of the sheep rose up, but in a few moments lay down again.
The firing continued at intervals for more than an hour, no notice being taken of it by the sentry, who, in the mean time, finished his nap.
If our readers will go with us in the direction of the river, we will endeavor to find out what it is all about, and shall perceive that the settlers were improving the leisure interval between hay and grain harvest, in making preparations for future exigencies.
On a level plat of ground, not far from the bank of the river, were assembled a band of lads from twelve to fifteen years of age, engaged in[Pg 13] firing at a mark, while several of the settlers were seated on the grass, looking at them.
The fearful peril of their position, together with their inferiority in numbers, had compelled the parents to train their children to arms, even at that tender age; and, though unable to hold out a gun steadily, they were no mean marksmen when shooting from a rest.
These little folks had organized themselves into a company, with the ferocious title of “The Screeching Catamounts,” in rivalry of the older boys, who styled themselves “The Young Defenders.”
They had hewn the bark and sap-wood from a lone pine, and a black spot in the centre of the white wood served as a target. Eighty-five yards was the distance for a smooth gun, while for rifles, with which some of the boys were armed, it was a hundred. A rest was made by driving two stakes into the ground, and putting a withe across for them to fire over. Sam Sumerford, Archie Crawford, and Tony Stewart hit the black circle, though neither of them in the centre, but not varying half an inch; several touched the edge of it; and no one missed the tree, although one or[Pg 14] two put their balls in the bark, outside the white spot, or “blaze” as it was called in frontier phrase.
They next engaged in throwing the tomahawk; after which, forming ranks, the band marched to the fort, and deposited their arms.
It is needful briefly to inform those who have not read the previous volumes, of the circumstances of the settlers to whom they are rather abruptly introduced, and the probable nature of those exigencies in view of which they had long been making preparations.
When the Indian war broke out, the Provincial government gave up the original frontier, from which nearly all the settlers who survived the Indian attack had already fled, and established a line of forts nearer the old settlements, behind which it was supposed the savages would not penetrate, and where the fugitives might cultivate the land in comparative safety.
This system of defence had, upon trial, proved utterly inadequate. The greater part of the money raised for that purpose was expended at the very outset in building, arming, and provisioning the forts; and even then they were but[Pg 15] scantily provided, either with arms or ammunition. A commissioner reported that in one of them he found but four pounds of powder. Flints were often wanting; many of the guns were unfit for use, the locks in some instances being fastened on with strings. So great was the poverty of the Province, that a man who brought his own gun and blanket was allowed a dollar per month for their use above his pay. In addition to this, the forts were eight, ten, sixteen, and even twenty miles apart. The great cause of all the destruction of life and property that took place arose from the want of any military organization.
The original population of Pennsylvania were entirely opposite in all their views and practices to the settlers of Virginia, Maryland, and the New-England States, who came armed and prepared for self-defence or conquest. But the government of Pennsylvania was based upon the principle of non-resistance. The Quakers came unarmed; and, as they made no resistance, so they gave no offence. They did as they would be done by, while the savages on their part did as they were done by; and thus matters went on smoothly for nearly seventy years.
In process of time, other races came in, and people with other views. The Scotch and Irish settlers, and those from Maryland, Virginia, and the New-England States, who were by no means careful of giving offence, looked upon the natives as vermin to be extirpated like the wolves and bears, to make room for others. Though in a minority, they inflicted injuries upon the Indians, and stirred them up to revenge.
But the bulk of the population were Quakers, Germans, Swedes, and English. The Germans only desired to till the ground, with no wish to fight, unless compelled to in self-defence. The English and Swedes were much of the same mind. Thus while the Indians, through a series of years, had been irritated, there was in the Province no militia-law: the inhabitants were incapable of acting in concert; and, when the storm long brewing burst, were, as a whole, defenceless, unarmed, and divided in sentiment, and ran at the attack of the Indians like sheep before wolves.
It was from such a population that the majority of the men to man the forts and protect the country must be drawn, the hunters, trappers, and Scotch-Irish preferring to defend their own [Pg 17]families, or to go on scalping-expeditions, which were vastly more profitable than serving for the small pay given the soldiers, and there was no law to compel service.
When the forts were built, it was supposed that the garrisons in them, by patrolling from one to another, would keep back the savages. It was also made the duty of the commanders in the several forts to detail a certain portion of their men to protect the farmers while planting and gathering their harvest, as well as promptly furnish a refuge to which the inhabitants might flee in case of an invasion.
We shall now see how comparatively useless this method of defence was, because there was no militia-law, and in the population none of the spirit which such a law creates. Forts are of little use without suitable soldiers to defend them. A few facts would set this matter in a striking light, and afford our readers a clear view of the situation.
The commissioner appointed to examine the condition of the forts reported: At Fort Lebanon he called out the men, and put up a mark for them to fire at eighty yards distant, and but fifteen out of[Pg 18] twenty-eight could hit within two feet of the bull’s eye. At Fort Allemingle, he put the mark on a tree eighty-five yards distant; and only four out of twenty-five hit the tree, and not one the bull’s eye. So much for the marksmanship of these fort soldiers: now for their courage.
It is on record that Hugh Micheltree was attacked by Indians within speaking distance of Patterson’s fort; and though he begged the men in the fort to rescue him, telling them there were but six Indians, they had not the courage to leave the fort, but permitted the savages to take him off before their eyes.
Forts were often built at gaps of mountain-chains for the purpose of commanding these passes. Those might have been formidable obstacles to regular troops encumbered with baggage and artillery, but not in respect to savages. Every place is a pass to an Indian with a little parched corn in his pouch, and armed with rifle and tomahawk: he sets forth, and neither swamps, mountains, nor rivers bar his progress when on the war-path. He can eat ground-nuts, mice, frogs, wood-worms, or snakes: nothing comes amiss; or, if afraid of discovering his whereabouts by discharging his rifle, he can kill game with the bow.
Noiselessly as the gliding snake they passed between the forts, easily eluding the scouts posted on so long and thin a line, and were often butchering the inhabitants in one direction while the scouts were looking for them in another.
The history of that period records that in several instances while a band of soldiers from the forts were guarding farmers gathering their harvest, the Indians have crept up, shot the soldiers, and afterwards butchered the farmers thus left defenceless.
The Indians, whom nothing escaped, often improved the opportunity, when the number of a garrison was reduced by details, to attack the forts.
Ascertaining that there was but a small supply of ammunition in Fort Granville, they attacked and took it, when twenty-three men, three women, and several children fell into their hands. After promising to spare the lives of the garrison if they would surrender, they fastened to a post the very man who opened the gate for them, and thrust red-hot gun-barrels through his body.
A very different sort of people from those just described, were the settlers of the Forest Glen;[Pg 20] rough-handed, high-spirited men of the frontier, who could plant the second bullet in the same hole with the first, and drive it home. Disdaining the aid of soldiers whom they held in utter contempt, they had thus far, though suffering fearful losses, held their own, inflicting more injuries than they received, and had been busily employed for a few weeks in putting themselves in a posture of defence preparatory to gathering the harvest.
Rifles had been put in order, tomahawks ground, the roofs of the buildings fresh plastered with clay mortar as a protection against the fire-arrows of the Indians, and gun-flints manufactured from Indian arrow-heads by Holdness to eke out their scanty supply, and the woods and ravines carefully examined every day to detect signs of lurking savages. Though the settlers were living in their own houses, for the greater convenience of harvesting, the cattle were driven at night to the garrison.
Notwithstanding their preparations for a stout defence, the settlers could not avoid anxiety, in view of the fact that the savages had during the last few months changed their method of attack. Finding that the log houses of the whites, when[Pg 21] resolutely defended, bade defiance to the efforts of their scalping-parties, consisting usually of but twelve or fifteen, they had latterly come in bodies of seventy and even a hundred, often led by French officers, with French soldiers in their ranks, and bringing field-pieces.
There were, however, no signs of perturbation, and whatever anxiety they felt was manifested only in increased watchfulness; and many of them, having completed their preparations for defence, occupied themselves in clearing land for future crops, a portion keeping watch while the rest labored.
Others devoted the time to rest, perhaps considering it very doubtful if the isolated settlement survived the attacks that were to be expected during harvest.
We trust that what has been said will render the story that follows intelligible to those not familiar with the other volumes of this series, or the history of the period.
THUNDER FROM AFAR.
Perhaps many of our readers would like to know how Mr. Seth Blanchard (who was the only man in the Glen not possessed of fighting qualities) was busying himself all this time.
They doubtless recollect that when, after a desperate effort, the mill was nearly completed, the settlers placed the upper stone on the spindle by fastening a hide rope to wooden pins in the edge of the stone, and then putting a long lever into the bight of the rope.
In a regularly constructed mill, this is done by means of an iron bale or crane, and an iron screw working in the crane, or by a tackle attached to the crane. The stone, being lifted from the spindle in this manner, can be easily swung off by moving the crane, and turned over in the bale in order to pick the under side. They had used up[Pg 23] every particle of iron in building the mill, and been reduced to the greatest straits for want of that necessary article.
When, after much labor and contrivance, the stone was safely landed on the spindle, Mr. Seth said,—
“By the time this stone needs picking, I’ll make a bale to take it off and put it on without an ounce of iron.”
Honeywood, who was a blacksmith, laughed at him, and said it was impossible; to which Mr. Seth replied,—
“A man who has always worked in iron has very little idea of what can be done with wood.”
He was now leisurely at work, redeeming that pledge. Having procured from the woods a rock-maple tree of suitable shape, he made a crane of proper size and shape to swing over the stone, hewing the timber to a proud edge, and working it smooth with adze and plane. In that portion of the arm that when the crane was set up would come directly over the centre of the stone, he made a five-inch hole, perfectly smooth and plumb, and cut a screw-thread on the inside of it with a rude machine of his own invention.
His next labor was to make a screw to work in this arm; and he made it from a piece of timber that he had blocked out when the mill was built, and put away to season.
While thus engaged, Mr. Seth had the company and heartfelt sympathy of all the children of any size in the Run, and most of their elders, as there were but very few in the settlement who had ever seen a screw-thread cut, or even a wooden screw.
When the crane was put in its place, the screw entered in the arm, and Mr. Seth turned it up and back again, that the spectators might see the working of it, those who had said, and at the time firmly believed, that it was impossible for him or any one to make a wooden bale that would take off a mill-stone, began to change their opinions.
Tony Stewart probably expressed the general sentiment when he exclaimed, “Zukkers! a man what can do that can do any thing! Can’t he, Sammy?”
With his usual consideration for the wishes of children, Uncle Seth fastened a two-bushel basket to the screw, and, packing it full of children, turned up the screw. The mill floor was quite large; and[Pg 25] the children had plenty of fun riding in the basket, and pushing the crane round by turns.
After waiting till the children had screwed up and swung each other round on the crane a while, Mr. Seth left the place, telling them they need not come to the mill any more, as he should not begin on the bale at present.
The next morning Mr. Seth and his brother Israel ground their axes, and started for the woods to fell trees for a burn, expecting to find other neighbors there, and a guard. They had gone but a little way, when Mr. Seth said,—
“Israel, I sha’n’t be able to go, at least this forenoon. See yonder wind-clouds: there’s quite a breeze now; and I’ve several grists in the mill that the neighbors want ground. I must go to the mill.”
It was soon known in the neighborhood that the mill was going; and persons were seen approaching it from different directions, some because they had business there, and some to talk over matters of common interest with others whom they expected to find there.
Most of them were the older members of the community; the young men being on the scout that day, or guarding those chopping.
“Neighbors,” said McClure, seating himself upon a bag of meal, with his rifle across his knees, “have you heard the news?”
“Where should we get news, who are a hundred miles from anywhere, and cut off from all the rest of mankind?” said Proctor.
“I spoke to Honeywood as I came along. He was out on the scout yesterday: he told me he met Dick Ellison and sixteen men. Dick has been one of the Black Rifle’s men. Dick told him the Indians had murdered twenty-eight people at Shamakin; that they took their trail, but couldn’t overtake ’em, they had so much start.”
“Then they must have been in strong force. I wonder how many Indians ‘twould take to kill twenty-eight men like us?”
“‘Twould take five hundred, if we had a fort overhead, Proctor; but you can’t judge of their numbers by the people killed: most like, there wasn’t more’n ten or twelve Indians, and the people they killed were German farmers with some old gun,—the lock too weak to throw the pan open,—or only a pitchfork to defend themselves with, and skeered ter death at that, or else they were fort soldiers, that ain’t better’n our children[Pg 27] would be, nor half so good, only let ’em have a rest to fire from.”
“What else did Dick say?”
“He said the governor had offered a bounty for sculps. For every Indian man, or boy over ten years old, one hundred fifty dollars; for every squaw, or girl over ten, one hundred thirty dollars; for the sculp of every Indian man, or boy over ten, one hundred thirty dollars; and for every squaw’s or girl’s sculp, fifty dollars. Dick reckoned there wouldn’t be many prisoners taken on that lay.”
“Of course there wouldn’t. What a fool a ranger would be to take an Indian prisoner, have to feed him and watch night and day, run the risk of his getting away, or of being killed by him in the night, and have to carry him perhaps a hundred miles to a government fort to get one hundred fifty dollars, or one hundred thirty if ’twas a woman, when he could get one hundred thirty or fifty for their sculp that are nothing to carry, and could hang fifty on ’em to your belt, and no trouble ‘cept to knock ’em on the head, and take the sculp off!”
“Honeywood,” continued McClure, “thinks, [Pg 28]after hearing this news, we ought not to wait to get the harvest, but go into the garrison right off. He says, and it’s a fact, that McDonald and his family were all murdered last year, just by staying out one day too long.”
“Did he say where the Black Rifle was?” asked Armstrong.
“At his cave in the mountain: he’s going ter stop there quite a while.”
“Then we sha’n’t be troubled with Indians as long as he’s round.”
“Don’t be too sure of that: they’ve found out that it don’t pay to come as they used to, in small numbers; and now it’s said there are from seventy to a hundred and fifty Indians under one of their chiefs.”
“There were five hundred French and Indians at the taking of Fort Granville. Such a crowd as that wouldn’t pay much attention to the Black Rifle,” said Wood.
“We’ve given them cause enough to dread and hate, and want to wipe us out. They’ve driven all the other settlers out of the valley, or butchered ’em. They know very well that we are planted out here beyond all help, or hope of it;[Pg 29] and I believe our turn’ll come to take it worse than ever before during this harvest time,” said Mr. Seth.
“The women,” said Proctor, “hate mortally to go into garrison. It is hot in the block-houses, they have no place to keep their milk, the children torment them to death, and they’re afraid of the garrison-fever at this time of year. I think, however, ’tis better to go into the fort than to be listening for the war-whoop, or looking to see if the fire’s not flashing out ‘twixt the rafters, all the time you are harvesting.”
“Well, neighbors,” said McClure, “all here are agreed about it, and I have spoken to the others: they think as we do, and we kalkerlate to go inter the fort day after to-morrow at the outside; and I’m going ter leave my grist in the mill, then ’twill be here.”
Mr. Seth had finished grinding; and they all left the mill to prepare for the worst, except Proctor, whose turn it was to keep guard that night. One man was kept on guard at the mill, even when the settlers were in their own dwellings, to open the gate, and fire the alarm-gun in case of need.
When the settlers left the fort in the spring, Honeywood moved into the house of his father-in-law, Israel Blanchard, his own dwelling being at a greater distance from the fort than any other at the Run. He, however, became tired of going so far every day to his work, and chose to go back to his own home when he had recovered from a wound received in a skirmish with the Indians in hoeing-time. His family consisted of himself, wife, and two children; the eldest boy about six, the other a little child.
Cal Holdness had come over to take supper with them; and, having despatched the meal, they were variously occupied.
The mother was undressing Eddie, and the youngest child was asleep in the cradle. Cal’s rifle was out of order; and he had brought it with[Pg 31] him, that Harvey might repair it. He laid the weapon across his knees, and proceeded to take off the lock, Cal holding a lighted sliver of pitch-wood to give him light. It was a sultry night, and the house, built of hewn timber, excessively warm. The doors and bullet-proof shutters being closed, there was no ventilation except by means of the chimney, and the loop-holes which were only large enough to admit the barrel of a rifle. Honeywood, noticing the drops of perspiration on the face of his wife, said,—
“Sarah, I’ve a good mind to open the door: see how that child in the cradle sweats, and you are well-nigh roasted. If I open the door ’twill make a good draught up the chimney, and cool the house off for the night.”
“Don’t, husband, I beg of you: it’s just the time of year when Indians are most likely to come; we’ve just heard that they’ve been killing people at Shamakin. It’s not long since they took Fort Granville, and killed all the garrison but one; and this very day you’ve been telling the neighbors that we ought to go into the fort, and not wait to reap the grain first; and now you want to open the door, and there may be a dozen Indians[Pg 32] around it. Have you forgotten that this very last spring Mr. Maccoy’s family were sitting one evening with the door open, and an Indian was creeping up to it, when the Black Rifle shot him, or they would all have been murdered? I know it’s warm, but I had rather bear the heat than have you open the door.”
“I don’t think there’s any danger: there’s two of us here.”
“My rifle can’t be depended upon,” said Cal.
“But there’s two more loaded in the brackets, and two smooth-bores; and we’re not obliged to sit near the doors.”
“Oh, don’t, husband! an Indian always seems to me just like the Evil One: you can’t hear or see him till he is upon you. They may be lurking round the house this moment.” She had scarcely finished when there was a loud rap on the door.
Cal, placing the pine sliver in a stone made to hold it on the hearth, took a rifle from the wall. Honeywood said, “Who is there?”
“Wasaweela,” was the reply in the unmistakable tone and accent of a savage.
“We shall be murdered,” cried Mrs. Honeywood, catching the sleeping child from the cradle.[Pg 33] “O Edward! fire right through the door, and kill him.”
“I shall do no such thing: he’s an old friend of mine;” and he instantly began to unbar the door. His wife ran into the bedroom with the child in her arms, little Eddie following in his nightgown, holding fast to his mother’s clothes, and screaming lustily in concert with his brother. Cal Holdness, on the other hand, a true frontier boy cradled amid alarms, restored to the bracket the rifle he had held ready to fire.
As the door opened, an Indian stepped in, so very tall (though he stooped considerably as he entered) that the single feather on his scalp-lock brushed the lintel. He was not painted for war; naked except a breech-cloth, and his only arms were the knife and tomahawk in his belt. His moccasons and leggings were torn, and his whole body reeking with perspiration, as though he had undergone great and prolonged exertion. He, in the language of the Mohawks, greeted Honeywood, who replied in the same tongue.
After drinking some water, he took the seat offered him, and remained silent some time, either to collect his thoughts, as is customary with [Pg 34]Indians, who are never in haste to speak, or perhaps to regain his breath; while Honeywood, familiar with the customs of the savages, waited till he should see fit to speak.
Mrs. Honeywood was a woman of fortitude, reared on the frontier; but the news of recent murders by the Indians, the knowledge that her husband, a most resolute man, had warned his neighbors that no time should be lost in getting into garrison, coupled with the sudden appearance of the Indian, all conspired to excite her fears till they were beyond control. She had also been brought up with such prejudices, that it was almost impossible for her to believe that any confidence could be safely reposed in a savage. But observing that the Indian was not in his war-paint, but partially armed, that he manifested no concern when her husband barred the door, thus placing himself entirely at the mercy of him and Cal, also recollecting that she had seen him at her father’s, and how faithfully he at that time performed an engagement, her fears subsided, and she began to soothe the terrified children.
Meanwhile every feature of Cal’s countenance manifested the intense desire he felt to know the[Pg 35] meaning of this singular and abrupt visit, for it was evident enough that his was no idle errand; neither could he sufficiently admire the noble proportions of a form in which strength and agility were so happily blended.
At length rising to his feet, he said, “Brother, listen. We have eaten of each other’s bread, drank of the same cup, and spread our blankets at the same fire. Though the Great Spirit has made us of a different color, we are one in heart.”
Extending his hand as he uttered these words, it was grasped by Honeywood. He then proceeded, “Brother, open your ears. Your king and the French king have dug up the hatchet. The Delawares, Shawanees, Monseys, and some other Indians, have joined the French. They have struck the English very hard, and killed their great chief who came over the water. The Delawares and Shawanees have taken the scalps of a great many of your people, and driven them from the land that the Delawares say belongs to them, and that your people took and never paid for. Is it not so?”
Honeywood made a gesture of assent.
“The Six Nations do not like the French. We[Pg 36] have struck them very hard in days that are past; but we do not wish to interfere in the quarrel between the thirteen fires and the Delawares, though the Delawares are our nephews.
“We cannot always keep our young men in subjection: therefore some of them may have gone with the Delawares and the French. This we cannot help: we did not send them; if you take their scalps, it is no cause for quarrel between us.
“Brother, open your ears. The Delawares and Shawanees have struck your people, and you have done the same to them, and struck the Delawares much harder than they have struck you; you are great warriors. The Six Nations do not think it right or just that the pale-faces should take the land of the Delawares without paying them for it: therefore they look on, and let them strike you. You are my brother; I know you to be a just and brave man, though you live among very bad people: therefore I’ve run a great ways and very fast to tell you that the Delawares are coming to take your scalp and the scalps of all your people, that their young men whose scalps your people have taken may rest in their graves.”
“I thank you, brother. When will the Delawares come?”
“At break of day, after the sun comes and goes.”
“How many of them?”
The Mohawk took from his pouch seven kernels of parched corn, placed them in a row on the table, and spread out his fingers over them, saying,—
“So many Delawares.”
Then, taking away all but two of the kernels, he again spread his fingers, saying, “So many Shawanees,” and then signified that there would be the same number of Monseys. Honeywood then inquired if there would be any French officers or soldiers with them, to which the Mohawk replied that there would not.
“It is well, brother: we will be ready.”
While all were attentively listening, the little child had left the mother’s side (who was too much occupied with the fearful tidings to heed his motions), and, venturing farther and farther, at length crept to the feet of the Indian, and began playing with his leggings, which were of a bright red color.
The little creature, gradually becoming more[Pg 38] bold, at length stood up on his feet by holding the lacings of the leggings, and looked proudly around, crowing and laughing, no doubt thinking himself the central figure of the group, and the object of universal attention.
“One hundred and ten raging Indians! Our time has come: we shall all be murdered!” exclaimed the mother.
Honeywood set food before the Mohawk, then took off his moccasons, which were worn, and his leggings, and gave him some water for his feet. The Indian signified his wish to sleep till within an hour of daybreak. Honeywood spread blankets on the floor, promising to watch, and rouse him at the proper time. Wasaweela, wrapping himself in a blanket, was asleep in a moment. The others retired to the bedroom, where they conversed in low tones.
“Sarah, you’ve heard your father say many times, and you, Cal, have also heard your father say, if an Indian war should break out, that this Mohawk who then hunted with me, and was apparently so friendly, would be the very first to take my scalp and those of my family. Now you see what he has done,—travelled through woods[Pg 39] and swamps, forded or swum rivers, much of the time on the run night and day, to save the life of one (and the lives of his family) who had merely treated him kindly.”
“Isn’t he a noble-looking man?” said Cal. “Isn’t he handsome, beautiful? What an arm and leg he’s got! and his breast, and so tall—just as straight as a pine-tree. Didn’t you see him smile when the baby stood up and held on to his leggings? and what a pleasant smile it was too! Oh, I wish I was such a man!”
Cal’s conception of beauty lay in thews and sinews.
“But, husband, what will become of us? A hundred Indians, only think of it!—seventy Delawares, twenty Shawanees, and twenty Monseys; and the Delawares are the most bloodthirsty of all. It seems to me that you or Cal ought to go this moment, and rouse the neighbors, and get into the fort before morning: you might both go, but I couldn’t be left alone with this Indian.”
“Not after he made such efforts to save you and the children’s lives?”
“No: I suppose I ought not to feel so, but I cannot help it.”
“There’s no cause, wife, for alarm, nor for haste. There are no Frenchmen coming, and of course there is no artillery. The fort is well prepared for a much longer siege than is to be apprehended from Indians. It is well provided with water, provisions, and ammunition; and we are all at home, and every man fit for duty, not a disabled man amongst us. There’s time enough to move after daylight.”
“Most of our provisions are in the fort now,” said Cal; “never have been taken away. Every family can move in three hours.”
“If,” continued Honeywood, “they could have come upon us by surprise, and caught each family in their own home, our case would have been a desperate one; but, forewarned and prepared, it is entirely another matter. Now, wife, you and Cal had better try to get some rest, for to-morrow will be a busy, trying day.”
“I can lie down; but as for sleeping, it’s no use to think of it.”
“Well, lie down, then: ’twill rest you.”
“I’ll divide the watch with you, Mr. Honeywood,” said Cal; “and when I think by the moon it’s twelve o’clock, I’ll call you.”
Honeywood went to bed, and slept as soundly as though no danger threatened him or his. Such is the result of strong nerves, and familiarity with peril. His wife, on the other hand, lay sleepless; or, if for a few moments she dozed, would awake with a start, imagining she heard the sound of the war-whoop.
At midnight Cal woke Honeywood, but, instead of going to bed, lay down on the floor, as he wished to be at hand when the Mohawk left, and to witness the parting.
He was unwilling to lose any opportunity of contemplating a being who by his splendid physical proportions, and the noble qualities of his heart, had quite won the affections of the enthusiastic youth.
Honeywood woke the Mohawk, and placed food before him, of which the latter partook heartily; he also presented him with a new pair of moccasons and leggings, to replace his that were so much torn, also a pipe filled and lighted. After smoking, apparently with great satisfaction, he rose, drew his belt round him, and, extending his hand to Honeywood, said,—
“Brother, be strong: the Delawares are many,[Pg 42] but they are cowards; we have put the hoe in their hands, and made women of them. If they master your scalp, your people will revenge your death. Farewell.” With the noiseless step of a savage he left the house, and disappeared in the shades of the forest.
PREPARING FOR THE WORST.
It was fortunate for these settlers, that, in view of contingencies, they had made thorough preparations for defence.
By noon of that day their household effects had been removed to the fort, troughs filled with water to extinguish fire, and the cannon in the flankers loaded.
“Neighbors,” said Honeywood, “there are too many of them for us to meet in the field. If we wait in the fort for them to attack us, they’ll first burn our houses and barns, kill the cattle, tread down or pull up the corn: that is too green to burn, but the grain is not. And we shall have to look on and see it done. Rather than do that, I counsel we ambush their advance: it is possible we may rout them altogether; and, if not, we can fall back to the fort.”
“I,” said McClure, “like Honeywood’s plan, and I don’t like it: there’s much to be said on both sides. I know very well that if we don’t make any fight except behind the walls of the fort, they’ll destroy every thing outside of it; but suppose they do: we’re not going to quite starve. It’s no great to build up the log houses again. A good part of our hay is inside the stockade, and we could get the cattle through the winter on browse; we’ve considerable of last year’s corn, grain, and pork, in the garrison; we can drive the hogs and cattle inside; and, though it would be a dreadful calamity to lose our corn and grain, we could keep life in us by hunting.
“Now as consarns ambushing, we of course should take but part of our force, and leave the rest in the fort; and that part would be so small, that if there’s as many Indians as the Mohawk said, they would be surrounded and killed without making much impression on the Indians; and that would leave a very weak garrison to hold so large a fort.”
“Indians,” said Armstrong, “always march in Indian file, except they’re going to attack, or apprehend danger, when they come two abreast.[Pg 45] They’ll be likely to come now in Indian file till they cross the river, ’cause they expect to surprise us. In that case there wouldn’t be rifles enough to kill many, ’cause you can’t take aim right in the night, and firing at men in a long line is not like firing into a crowd, when if you miss one you’ll hit another. They would know by our fire that our number was small, and would take trees till daylight, and then surround us.”
“What do you say, Brad?” inquired McClure, appealing to Holdness.
“I’m in favor of the ambush. You see, they’re coming down here with a force large enough to divide, and then attack every house at once. The Mohawk says there are seventy Delawares. These Delawares were driven off from here: they know every inch of the ground, every house and every man, and can guide the rest. It would be a great backer ter ’em when they expected ter find us all in our houses unprepared, and ter wipe us out as easy as a man would snuff a candle, and pay off old scores, ter be ambushed themselves, and met with a rattling volley; and they might break, and give it up.”
“But, neighbors, that’s all perhaps: there’s[Pg 46] another thing that ain’t. One hundred nor five hundred Indians can’t drive us out of this fort; and in it our families are safe if we are there to defend it. If we were all single men, I’d say, Ambush ’em; let’s have a right up-and-down fight, and try their mettle: and I’m for it now, if we can reduce the risk for the women and children in any way.”
“The greatest difficulty ’bout an ambush,” said Blanchard, “is, we don’t know which way they’ll come. The Mohawk told Honeywood they would start from their town Kittanning; but whether they’ll take either of the war-paths, or come through the woods where there is no path, we can’t tell.”
“Whichever way they come in the daytime,” said Armstrong, “when at night they come near to us, they’ll take the path that leads direct to the ford. There’s so many of ’em, they’ll be bold: they won’t hesitate to take the water at the regular fording-place, because they know the country is all their own, and that they’ve killed or driven off all but us.”
“Why not lay an ambush there, where we cannot be flanked, because we shall have the stream[Pg 47] at our backs, nor be so far away but what we can fall back and reach the fort?”
“We must of course fall back if the Indians don’t,” said Grant; “and then we shall be exposed to their fire while we are crossing the river, when they’ll be under cover, and probably but very few of us would get across. I should like to have one slap at ’em. They’ll take very good care to keep out of rifle-shot of the fort; and all we can do will be to stand on the platforms and grind our teeth, while they are burning our houses and destroying our crops.”
“I see there’s but one feeling among us,” said Honeywood: “that is, to preserve our crops if it can be done without risking the lives of our household. Suppose we do this: Let one party lay in ambush at the ford among the bushes and drift timber on the edge of the bank on the side next the fort, and another party lay in ambush on the opposite bank in the woods; then both parties hold their fire till a good many Indians are in the water crossing, and then open fire on them. It will be a great deal lighter on the river than in the woods, as there will be part of a moon; and, looking out of the darkness into the light, we can see them[Pg 48] better than they can see us. So heavy a fire as both parties can throw will stagger them; and in surprise they will fall back, as Indians always do when they lose men. Then the party on the western side can recross, join the others, and we can hold the ford, or retreat to the fort, as we think best.”
“I like that,” said Holdness: “then the party on the western bank can be protected while crossing by the fire of the others, if the Indians attack ’em in the water.”
“Harry Sumerford,” said Grant, “you seem to have something on your mind, and we would like to hear it.”
“I think there are people here whose opinions are of much more value than mine, Mr. Grant. I was going to say that Dick Ellison told Mr. Honeywood that the Black Rifle was at his place in the mountains, and was going to stay there quite a spell. Now, he generally has ten or a dozen men that he can lay his hands on when he wants ’em for a scalping-scrape, and perhaps they might help us. They are men to be depended upon, or the Black Rifle would have nothing to do with them.”
“I’ll go,” said Nat Cuthbert: “I know the road.”
“Take my horse,” said Armstrong, “and ride for your life, and all our lives: if you kill him, no matter.”
“What shall I say to him?”
“Just tell him a hundred Indians are on the road from Kittanning, to attack us at daybreak to-morrow morning. He’ll know what ter do; and he’ll want no coaxing ter come ter such a party, I kin tell you,” said Holdness.
“If I ain’t back by midnight, you may know he’s coming, and that I’m coming with him.”
“Where were all our wits, that we could none of us think of that,” said Honeywood, “when Dick told me, and I told the rest of you, that the captain was about getting up a scalping-party? God grant they may not have started before Nat gets there!”
“He may be alone,” said Grant; “may not have got his party together yet.”
“If he is alone,” said Holdness, “he’ll come: and his war-whoop is worth a dozen men. There ain’t an Indian this side the Monongahela, but knows the Black Rifle’s yell, for it don’t sound like any thing else in this world; and, when they hear it, they’ll think their game is up.”
The settlers now proceeded to make their final arrangements. To Honeywood were assigned Harry, Alex and Enoch Sumerford, Ned Armstrong, Hugh Crawford, jun., Stewart, James Blanchard, Cal Holdness, Andrew McClure, and nearly all Harry’s company of the “Young Defenders.” This was done because these youth had been engaged together in several sharp conflicts with Indians, had been accustomed to act together under the command of Harry, and had always come off victorious. They were also greatly attached to Honeywood, and reposed the most implicit confidence in his judgment and courage.
The other party consisted of Holdness, McClure, Grant, sen., Ben Rogers, Wood, Holt, Maccoy, Armstrong, Proctor, and Heinrich Stiefel.
Israel Blanchard was left in command of the fort. With him was his brother Seth (who was of no account as a fighting man), Daniel Blanchard, and the boys who had been drilled to fire from a rest, had participated in several actions, some of whom had been wounded, of which they were sufficiently proud. This band comprised all the “Screeching Catamounts.”
These two parties, who were to meet a hundred[Pg 51] and ten Indians, all picked men, were in the proportion of more than five savages to one of the settlers: yet so high was their courage, and so inured were they to danger, that when they might have remained behind their defences, and repulsed the foe, they hesitated not to take the fearful risk, rather than see their grain destroyed when almost ready for the sickle.
“I have thought of another thing,” said Holdness, as, after having selected the place for ambush, they were returning to the fort. “You know for the last year we’ve been taking more or less smooth-bores and rifles from the Indians we’ve killed; then we’ve all got more than one gun apiece that we had before the war broke out; and, when we went after the salt, we bought more: now we kin take two rifles, or a rifle and a smoothbore apiece, and then leave extra arms in the fort for the women ter load or use if worst comes ter worst; and that will be almost the same as doubling our forces, at any rate for the first fire.”
“If,” said McClure, “instead of coming, as we expect, before or about the break of day, they should not get along till after sunrise, they would stop short, hide in the woods, and put off their[Pg 52] attack till the next morning before daybreak; but then they would send scouts ahead, who’d creep round and find that we had left our houses and gone ter the fort, and discover our ambush.”
“Well, I’ll send Harry and Ned Armstrong ahead,” said Honeywood, “to watch their motions, and give us notice; and then we must retreat to the fort, and let them burn and destroy; for it’s no use for us to think of fighting such a host, except we can surprise them; for if we stay here, and they discover us, as they certainly would in the daytime, they would find ways to cross the stream and surround us. But I think they will be here at the very time the Mohawk said. Indians are not like a regular force, that are liable to be impeded by a thousand things, under the command of several officers. Nothing stops an Indian on the war-path: there is but one leader and one mind among ’em.”
As they assembled in the kitchen of the fort that night for supper, it seemed well-nigh certain that some of those seated at that table would never eat together again; yet the men ate heartily, and even cheerfully. But it was a solemn parting, when, soon after nightfall, they moved[Pg 53] silently from the fort, in Indian file, to take up their positions.
The mothers and children stood at the gate watching the departing forms of their kindred till they could no longer be distinguished, and when the great bars that closed the entrance were dropped into their mortises with a dull thud, it reminded more than one of the fall of clods on the coffin-lid.
There were but two men left in the fort,—Israel Blanchard and Mr. Seth. As for the negro, he had not been seen since the inhabitants went into garrison.
“What a pity Scip is such a miserable coward! He is an excellent shot, and might do good service at the loop-holes. I suppose he’s hid somewhere,” said Israel Blanchard.
In this state of things, the boys held the watch; and, as there were so many of them, they stood but an hour each, Blanchard keeping guard during the two hours before daybreak.
The women were busily employed scraping lint, preparing bandages and ointments, the virtues of which they had learned from the Indians, or by long experience had found to be efficacious in the[Pg 54] case of gun-shot wounds. It was a season of anxious foreboding: none cared to converse, and they plied their labors for the most part in silence. The only exceptions were to be found among the boys, who, confident in the prowess of their fathers and brothers, elated with the idea that they were holding the fort and intrusted with guard-duty, seemed raised far above all perception of danger or possibility of mishaps, and were in a state of most pleasurable excitement.
It increased the sadness of their parents to see them thus, and often the tears sprang to the mother’s eyes as she thought of the terrible fate that awaited them, should those who had gone out to engage in such an unequal conflict be overcome.
Under the influence of these depressing anxieties, all that they could do being done, Mrs. Honeywood proposed that they should go into the schoolhouse, and spend a season in prayer.
Upon this Israel Blanchard said to Mr. Seth, who looked pale and anxious,—
“Brother, you had better go with the women.”
“You mean, Israel, that I am good for nothing else.”
“I did not say that; for, if He who made you has denied courage, he has given you grace. You’re a better man than I am, Seth,—better fitted either to live or die. Go with them; for we need divine aid now, if we ever did since we broke ground here.”
The settlers had now reached their positions, where they were concealed not merely by trees and underbrush, but by large quantities of drift-wood brought down by the floods, and left on the banks by the falling of the water. Having set their watch, the rest lay down and slept as coolly as though their own lives and the lives of those they held most dear were not at stake.
“Ned,” said Holdness to Honeywood, “they pay us a fine compliment, coming a hundred and ten against twenty, for these Delawares know about what our number is.”
“True: they have a pretty thorough knowledge of what they may expect at our hands.”
THE STORM BURSTS.
It was little past midnight when Holdness, who held the watch, espied two persons coming from the garrison, who, to his astonishment, proved to be Tony Stewart and Sam Sumerford.
“Who sent you here?” he exclaimed.
“Where’s my father?” inquired Tony, instead of answering the question.
“On the other side of the river, with Mr. Honeywood.”
“Where’s our Harry?” said Sam.
“He’s over there with ’em.”
“You won’t tell Tony’s father nor our Harry that we are here, will you, Mr. Holdness? ’cause we’ve both of us got rifles, and we want to kill Indians. You know Tony killed an Indian; and I want to kill one, and he wants to kill another. We ain’t no good in the fort, the Indians won’t come there: we want to be where the Indians come.”
“Well, now, do you start right back just as quick as you kin go, or I’ll take my ramrod to you. Why, your mothers’ll be worried to death about you. How did you get out of the fort?”
“We came out when all the rest did.”
“Where have you been all this time?”
“We went into Mr. Armstrong’s barn, and went to sleep on the hay.”
“Well, go right back: you’re no use; you’ll only get killed, and won’t do any good, but in the fort you will. Don’t go up ter the gate till daylight, for Blanchard’ll shoot you. Go back to the barn, and sleep till sunrise.”
Slowly and sulkily the boys started off in the direction indicated by Holdness.
“What little tykes they are! if that ain’t grit, I’d like ter know what is.”
Honeywood, perceiving by the moon that it was not far from daybreak, roused his men. Scarcely had he done so, when Harry and Ned Armstrong, who had been sent in advance, returned to report that the Indians were coming along the ordinary path, but at some distance.
Now ensued a period of intense expectation: every ear was strained to catch the faintest sound[Pg 58] that might betoken the approach of the foe. But the mighty forest was silent as the grave; not a breath of wind stirred the foliage; not even the howl of a wolf, or the cry of a night-bird, was heard. The light murmur of the stream among the rocks that here and there strewed the shallows of the ford alone broke the silence of that lovely morning, that seemed made for repose, not slaughter.
The day was now breaking fast; and, even amid the dim shadows of the forest, objects near at hand could be distinguished: still no foe appeared.
At length the cracking of a dry stick was heard, but so faintly as only to be perceptible to the trained ear of the frontier-man; and the long line of dark forms came gliding along the path noiselessly as the panther steals upon his prey. The foremost Indian stooped as he reached the bank, examined the ground, and listened intently. The least sound—a loud breath, the click of a gunlock, or even the least footprint in the soil—would have alarmed the keen senses of the savage. There was neither sound nor sign; for Honeywood and his party well knew with whom they had[Pg 59] to deal, and had not crossed at the ford, but at some distance above.
The leader now touched with his finger the warrior next him, and that one the next. When the signal had thus passed along the line, the last man marched to the front, thus bringing them two abreast, in which order they entered the water, keeping close. Six had mounted the opposite bank, and the rest were following, when the deep stillness of nature was broken by the roar of fire-arms; and the greater part of those forms but an instant before instinct with life, and breathing vengeance, sank beneath the wave, or, after a few convulsive struggles, were borne away by the rapid current; and the rays of the rising sun gleamed on waters red with blood. Another volley instantly succeeded, completing the slaughter; two only were seen to crawl on their hands and knees, sorely wounded, to the shelter of some bushes that grew on the water’s edge; but, ere they could reach the covert, Armstrong rushed down the bank, tomahawk in hand, and despatched them.
The Ambuscade.—Page 59.
Elated with the success of their ambush (for the two volleys had swept away the Indians on[Pg 60] the borders of both banks and those in the water, while, being under cover, the settlers had received no harm from the fire that the Indians in their surprise returned), Holdness and his men instantly dashed across the ford, and joined Honeywood, resolved to follow up their advantage.
Although meeting with a severe loss of men and a severe resistance, when they had expected to surprise their foes, the savages did not retreat, but took trees, and, confident in their superior force, renewed the contest.
Holdness now had reason to regret, that, under the impulse of the moment, he had not acted with his usual caution in thus crossing the stream; for, although the river protected the rear of the little band, the savages, by occupying the bank both above and below them, could command the ford; and thus they were prevented from retreating without being exposed to the fire of the Indians while crossing the stream, while the latter would be under cover.
In another manner they made their superiority in numbers tell to the disadvantage of the settlers. Behind some of the largest trees, two Indians stationed themselves, one standing, the other lying[Pg 61] flat on the ground; and whenever a settler, knowing that the Indian opposed to him had fired, incautiously exposed himself to load, he was liable to be hit by the other. Before this stratagem was discovered, three of the settlers were killed, and several wounded.
An Indian was stationed behind a large sugar-tree within half rifle-shot of Harry Sumerford, and they had long been trying to kill each other. At length the Indian fired, but missed; and Harry, knowing his rifle was empty, stepped from behind his tree to take better aim, and would have been shot by another (who, unbeknown to Harry, was lying behind the same tree), but at that moment a rifle cracked, and the savage fell over, shot through the head; and a well-known voice cried,—
“Zukkers! I’ve shot another Indian!”
Looking round in surprise, Harry espied Tony Stewart, on his knees behind a windfall, his rifle resting on it, the smoke yet rising from the muzzle, and Sam also crouching behind the same tree.
“You little plagues!” exclaimed Harry, “what sent you here right into the thickest of the fire?”
“If I hadn’t been here,” retorted Tony, “you’d[Pg 62] ‘a’ been killed; for, when I shot that Indian, he had his finger on the trigger.”
“Is that so?”
“Yes,” said Sam; “and there’s two Indians behind most every tree.”
It came out, that, after being sent home by Holdness, they sauntered off in that direction till beyond his notice, and then went along by the bank of the river. There they found the raft on which Honeywood and his party had crossed, and which they had set adrift. They sat down on the raft, and waited till the conflict began, and the Indians had fallen back; when, no longer able to resist the temptation, they crossed on the raft.
Once across, they crept along beneath the high bank near to where the settlers were posted, and, concealing themselves among the drift-wood, lay unnoticed till the Indians, returning by degrees, had obtained such positions as to command the ford.
There was now no such thing as sending them home; and well they knew it, and no longer hesitated to show themselves and take part in the conflict.
Great was the alarm of the parents at home[Pg 63] when Sam and Tony did not make their appearance at the breakfast-table, and when they found their beds had not been slept in.
Their fears were by no means allayed when (after the most searching inquiries of the other boys, mingled with threats of summary punishment if they refused to tell) they ascertained, partly from Ike Proctor and partly from Archie Crawford, where they had gone.
“Did ever anybody in this world see such children?” said Mrs. Sumerford. “That’s what comes of letting them have rifles, tomahawks, and scalping-knives, and bringing them up like wolves, as Mr. Honeywood says.”
“It’s a sair thing, nae doubt, to hae the weans sae greedy for fight when they’ve nae come till’t; still I ken there’s nae knowledge mair needfu’ than the knowledge o’ fighting in these waefu’ times, for it’s just kill or be kilt,” said Mrs. Stewart, who took a more practical view of the matter.
It was a source of great mortification to Sam Sumerford, that he had never yet been able to kill an Indian, although Tony had killed two; and he was prepared to incur any risk to accomplish that feat; and, after long waiting, the opportunity was presented.
The Indians are extremely dexterous in carrying away their dead, and even during the time of action will generally contrive to remove or conceal their bodies.
Tony saw a savage conveying away the body of another who had been shot by Holdness. Having fastened a line to the head of the corpse, this savage, lying flat on the ground, taking advantage of every inequality, was worming himself along, and almost imperceptibly drawing the body after him.
Sammy crept along after him, gradually drawing near, till within short range. The body at length came in contact with a log: and, the Indian cautiously raising himself from the ground to lift it over the obstacle, Sammy, firing, killed him.
Entirely occupied in endeavoring to accomplish his purpose, he had crawled much farther than he was aware. The next moment an Indian, rushing out of a thick clump of trees, caught the boy, and, holding him before him as a protection from the fire of the settlers, began to walk slowly backwards.
A cry of horror arose from the ranks of the whites; while the Indians filled the air with yells of exultation, and increased their fire to prevent rescue.
The Indian was within a few feet of the clump from which he had issued, slowly retreating amid the silence of friends and foes, all intently watching his progress, when the report of a rifle rung through the forest, and the savage fell, shot through the very centre of his forehead.
“God bless you, Mr. Honeywood!” shouted Harry: “you had help to do that.”
“I asked for it,” was the reply, as he leaned against the tree behind which he stood, pale and weak with emotion.
The savages endeavored to shoot the lad as he lay on the ground; but the noble fellow pulled the body of the savage over his own, thus sheltering himself till Harry and Alex, rushing forward, rescued him, Harry escaping unharmed, and Alex with a slight flesh-wound.
“They are not such shots as Honeywood, or neither of you would have come back,” said Holdness.
“Hope you’ve got enough of it now, youngster,” said Harry as he put the boy down.
“I want to kill another Indian, and I mean to, ’cause Tony’s killed two.”
The settlers now found themselves in a position[Pg 66] of great peril, being too few in number to advance, while, at the same time, they could not recross the ford without exposing themselves to the same fearful slaughter which they had inflicted upon the Indians.
The latter soon made it evident that they were fully sensible of their advantage. With great skill and promptitude they made a raft which they covered with brush, and on it placed their arms, then, swimming alongside, pushed it across the stream, and, seizing their arms, took the most direct route to the fort.
“They’ll capture the fort, and massacre our families,” said Armstrong. “We must brave their fire, cross the river, and go to the rescue at whatever cost of life.”
“Not so,” said Holdness. “If the fort was empty, they couldn’t enter it in a hurry. There’s a choice man in command, who has no flinch about him: the boys’ll do good service at the loop-holes, and so will the women, and the cannon rake the walls. We’ll hold our ground till night, and, if we must fall back, do it under cover of night.”
The Indians who remained now increased their fire, accompanied with fearful yells. Their yells,[Pg 67] however, went for nothing with the settlers; and having, in consequence of detailing a part of their number to attack the fort, reduced themselves to one man at each tree, they were deprived of the advantage in shooting they at first enjoyed, and inflicted no injury upon the settlers, while they, who never fired at random, frequently brought the death-yell from some savage.
Finding they were losing ground, and fruitful in expedients, some of the Indians swam the stream, and brought over the raft that had been used by their comrades, and, placing their arms on it, crossed to the other side.
Having rifles which had been furnished them by the French, and the stream being narrow, they intended to attack the settlers in the rear by firing across it, while sheltered themselves by the trees that grew along the bank. In this manner they hoped soon to destroy their stubborn and implacable foes, while the others should capture the fort.
Concealed from the frontiersmen by a bend of the stream, they were making their preparations. Holdness (versed in Indian wiles) suspected their design by seeing a number of the warriors going in one direction.
“Boys,” said he, “one of you climb that bushy hemlock, and see what these redskins, so many of them, are going over that knoll arter. They’re working some plot to circumvent us.”
Detecting by this means the intentions of their enemies, they quickly threw up a breastwork of drift-wood and saplings, which they cut with their tomahawks; and, when the Indians attained their position on the opposite bank, they found the frontiersmen effectually intrenched, and, foiled where they had counted on success, they hastened to aid in the capture of the garrison.
The Indians possessed quite an accurate knowledge of the number of men in the Run, and knew by the firing and observation that there could not be more than two or three men left in the fort, and felt no apprehension in approaching quite near the walls.
But they did not know there was a large number of boys, who, firing from a rest, were as good or even better marksmen than themselves, were most of them armed with rifles, that many of the women could shoot, and that they were under the command of a man who was not inferior to themselves either in subtlety or vindictive feeling.
Observing the approach of the savages, Blanchard placed the boys at the loop-holes, and with them Mrs. Honeywood, Joan, and Mrs. Holdness, Mrs. Grant, Lucy Mugford, Mrs. Sumerford, Mrs. Stewart, and Maccoy’s wife, with orders to be ready, but not to put the muzzles into the loop till they received a signal to fire. The large gun in the flanker, that raked the whole side of the fort on which was the main entrance, and that was loaded with bullets and buckshot to the muzzle, and concealed by a bundle of straw flung over it, was given in charge of Will Grant, one of Harry Sumerford’s “Young Defenders,” a cool, resolute young fellow, in his nineteenth year. Thus there was no show of defence visible from without.
Blanchard said by way of encouragement, after counting the number of the Indians: “Neighbors, there’s no cause for alarm, not a mite: the ambush was a raal thing, and give the imps a downright raking, I know by the death-yells; and our folks are holding their own now, or else they would have spared more Indians to come here; and, if I don’t teach ’em a lesson that’ll stick, my name’s not Israel Blanchard, and I wasn’t born in the Eastern woods.”
The Indians, confident that the inmates of the fort were nearly all women, and still more confirmed in the opinion by observing no guns at the loop-holes, nor any persons on the platforms (for Blanchard had ordered every one to keep out of sight, but to be ready at a moment’s notice), and a bundle of straw in the embrasure of the flanker, approached the walls without the least hesitation, and one of them made signals for a parley. Blanchard accordingly mounted to the platform over the gate, and asked the spokesman what he wanted.
“Pale-face let Indians come in, Indian no hurt him. Pale-face make fight, then Indian take the fort, kill him.”
“You can’t take this fort soon: we can hold it till our people come back.”
“Your warriors never come back: most all dead. Delawares all round ’em, shoot ’em down just like one pigeon.”
“You lie. I know the ground and the men; I can see the smoke of the guns; they’ve got a good cover, have killed many of your people, and will hold their own.”
Finding that he could not deceive the [Pg 71]frontiersman in this way, the savage changed his ground. “S’pose good many Indians keep your warriors good while: we take the fort soon, then we kill squaw, pappoose, all, every one, burn some. S’pose you give up, no hurt you.”
“We can kill a good many of you before you can take this fort, and if we give up you’ll kill all the same when you get us: so be off with you,” grasping his rifle.
“Indian no hurt you,” persisted the savage.
“What will you do with us?”
“Let you go to the Susquehanna. You no belong here: this Delawares’ land.”
“Will you let us take our cattle and mules and goods and arms?”
“You told the people at Fort Granville if they would surrender you wouldn’t hurt ’em; and then you roasted the man who opened the gate to you, butchered and scalped all but one, and would have killed him if you could.”
“We killed them because they killed a good many of our people: you no kill us, we no kill you.”
“Well, I’ll open the gate.”
Blanchard made a great show of removing bolts and bars, the Indians meanwhile eagerly crowding up to the gate and walls; and, perceiving through a crevice in the timber that they were compact together, he made a signal to Grant, who applied the match.
“Ay!” cried McClure as he listened to the firing, “as pretty a volley as one would want to hear, and the cannon too. That tells the story: some of the sarpents have caught it. Israel Blanchard’s not the man to waste powder himself, nor to let anybody else.” Israel threw the gate open, and went out to look at the dead.
“What makes you open the gate, Mr. Blanchard?” said his wife.
“It might as well be open as shut: not another Indian will you see round this fort to-day. They’ll not come here agin in a hurry. A pretty sprinkling of deed Indians: there’s more money value in the scalps lying here than in our whole harvest.”
He now proceeded coolly to tear the scalps from the heads of the slain.
GATHERING COURAGE FROM DESPAIR.
The few savages who escaped fled in the direction of the river, where they were met by the band coming to re-enforce them; and, being by no means disposed to make another attempt upon the fort, they carried the news of their defeat to the main body.
Wrought up to frenzy by such repeated failures, and thirsting for revenge, the Indians rallied all their energies for one decisive blow.
Their numbers were now increased by the return parties; and, by holding the edge of the bank both above and below the settlers, they were able to command the ford with a cross-fire which seemed sufficient to insure the destruction of any party that might attempt to cross. They were favored in their plans by the shape of the shore, the settlers being in the centre of a curve, while[Pg 74] they held the two extremities, the ford lying between.
The wind, that had been gradually rising during the morning, now blew a gale in the direction of the ford, and right across the position occupied by the settlers.
It was a period of drought, and the woods were full of combustible material as dry as tinder.
“What’s that?” cried Holdness as he smelt the smoke.
“They’ve set the woods afire,” said McClure; “and we can take our choice,—be burnt to death, or cross the ford in the face of their fire. They’ve trapped us with a vengeance.”
A bright flame was now seen rising in several places, and creeping along the ground behind the Indians’ line, that now began to open right and left as the flames came on rapidly before the wind, heralded by the exulting shouts of the savages, who now felt their long-sought day of vengeance had come, and began to mass their force along the bank as the flames came on.
Gathering courage from despair, the settlers prepared to dash across the ford in a long line, hoping in this manner, and by the swiftness of their passage, to escape in some degree the enemy’s fire.
“Follow me, neighbors!” shouted Honeywood: “there’s death behind, and no mercy before.”
His voice was drowned in a rattling volley, followed by the death-shrieks of Indians, while far above the din rose the wild, exulting, peculiar war-whoop of the Black Rifle, like nothing else in the world as Holdness said, and which was instantly recognized both by the settlers and their foes.
This was immediately succeeded by the blast of a conch, by which he directed those who from time to time followed his lead.
Israel Blanchard, who was perched on the roof of the block-house, listening anxiously to every sound that came from the battle-ground, saw the flames rising, and understood but too well the object for which they were kindled. Hard upon this came the volley, and the blast of the horn.
“It’s the Black Rifle and his men: Nat’s got ’em,” shouted Blanchard.
He flung open the gate, and rushed to the scene of conflict with all the lads at his heels, whose yells justified abundantly their cognomen of the “Screeching Catamounts.”
“I do believe Israel has lost his senses,” said Mr. Seth, as he shut and barred the gate his brother had left open in his headstrong flight.
“Then he’s lost a good deal,” said Mrs. Sumerford, who heard the remark.
They were too late to join in the conflict; for when they reached the spot the Indians had fled, pursued by the Black Rifle and his band.
From the scattered hints to be gathered from history and tradition, it appears that there were quite a number of men very much like McClure and Holdness, who were at any time disposed to follow the lead of the Black Rifle, and to make up a scalping-party to kill Indians of whatever tribe, although for the most part he preferred to go alone.
Revenge was so sweet a morsel to this singularly constituted being, that he was seldom willing to dilute by sharing it with others.
The governor having offered a large bounty for Indian scalps, twelve men were camping in the woods near the cave of Capt. Jack, waiting for others who were to join them, and make up a party of twenty to start on a scalping expedition; and, when Nat Cuthbert brought tidings of the expected attack at Wolf Run, they marched on the instant.
Their leader, discovering by the sound of rifles[Pg 77] the exact position of the Indians (whose attention was fully occupied with the enemies in front), gained their rear unperceived, and poured in a fire every bullet of which told.
This most unexpected blow; the fearful slaughter at the fort, which caused them to fear there were soldiers in it who might at any moment bring a re-enforcement to the settlers, added to the terrible presence of the Black Rifle, who the Indians believed bore a charmed life, effectually discouraged them; and, though picked warriors, they sought safety in flight.
The losses of the settlers were less than might have been expected from the duration of the contest, and the overwhelming odds against which they fought. Heinrich Stiefel, David Blanchard, and Wood were killed; and all except Harry Sumerford, Ned Armstrong, and Stewart were wounded, but most of them slightly.
“If this Indian war holds on much longer,” said Holdness, “I shall have to be made over; for I sha’n’t have a square inch of flesh without a scar, or a single bone without it’s callous.”
Sammy Sumerford was found lying beside the dead body of the second Indian he had killed, and was wounded.
He instantly became an object of envy to all his mates, who crowded around him.
Stewart now for the first time became aware that his boy had been in the action, Tony having been very careful to keep out of his father’s sight. Though several recollected having seen him during the conflict, he could not be found.
Stewart was very much moved; for, notwithstanding his rough ways, he was a man of warm affections, ardently attached to Tony his only son; and, though often vexed by the mischievous pranks of the lad, was excessively proud of him; and instantly commenced an eager search, assisted by his neighbors.
“Dinna ye ken wha hae became o’ my bairn?” said he to Sammy; “for I ken richt weel ye canna be sundered by ordinar mair than soul and body. I trust he’s come by nae skaith.”
“He was down there by that log,” said Sammy, pointing behind him, “and said he was going to crawl to a spring he knowed about, and get a drink, and wanted me to go too; but I didn’t want to, because this Indian was behind a little small tree, and I wanted to shoot him, ’cause Tony shot two Indians, and I wanted to. He went to the spring, and I didn’t see him after that.”
Stewart went in the direction pointed out by Sammy, found the spring, the rifle of Tony, and the prints of his knees in the soft ground where he had knelt to drink; but neither the lad nor his body could anywhere be found. The spring was not far from the position occupied by the Indians, and it was concluded that he had been seen and carried off by them: but there were so many wounded, that pursuit was impossible; and it was thought that the Black Rifle’s band would be more likely to rescue the lad than any party that could be sent from the Run.
Holdness and others scalped the dead; and McClure told Stewart (without thinking of what he was saying) to scalp the Indian Tony killed.
“I winna he did nae want it done: I maist like’ll nivir see him mair. I hae been strict wi’ him mayhap ower muckle, and I winna do it nor let it be done.”
He then proceeded to cover the body with rotten wood, brush, and leaves, McClure and Holdness helping him. As for Sammy, though his moccason was full of blood from a flesh-wound in his thigh, he would not consent to be moved until he obtained a solemn promise from Harry[Pg 80] that neither his two Indians, as he termed them (those he had shot), nor Tony’s, should be scalped, but covered up with brush; “because,” said Sam, “me and Tony and most of my company of the ‘Screeching Catamounts’ don’t believe in taking scalps. We feel just as Mr. Honeywood does: he says it’s a mean thing, and ’tain’t right.”
Harry gave the promise.
“Tony’s father covered his Indian up, and wouldn’t have him scalped,” said Johnny Crawford; “and we’ll help cover up yours.”
Grant had a heifer that he was fatting, intending to kill her when the weather became cool enough. This creature had been overlooked when the rest of the cattle were driven into the stockade.
The Indians, finding the animal, killed her, meaning, no doubt, after butchering the settlers and setting the buildings on fire, to have had a grand dance and feast of victory.
She was dressed, the meat taken to the fort, and formed a meal for the settlers. It was a singular assemblage: nearly every one had received some injury. One had a patch on his head, where a bullet grazed; another carried his arm in a sling; the hands of several were bound up. Grant and[Pg 81] Maccoy sat with their legs extended on stools, one being wounded in the foot, the other in the thigh. There were three who were wounded in such a manner, they had to be fed by others; and, in the majority of the cases, the blood from the wounds had come through the bandages. Nevertheless they were in high spirits at having defeated the savages and saved their crops, and were resolved to enjoy themselves.
“It’s a sore thing ter have our neighbors killed by our side,” said Holdness; “and there’s no one of us but feels for those who are mourning the loss of husbands, fathers, and children; but we ought certainly ter feel thankful it’s no worse. It’s a sad thing for neighbor Stewart and neighbor Blanchard to lose their boys. A smart lad was Tony, and David was a nice, likely young man, and had good larnin’; but Stewart and his wife shouldn’t be too much cast down. The Indians won’t kill Tony, that’s sartain: they seldom do a boy of that age; they’ve lost a great many men in this fight, and they’ll adopt him to fill up some gap, and treat him just like their own children.”
“The Black Rifle’s people may rescue him,” said Proctor; “or, when the war is over, he can be redeemed.”
“I wad be loath our misfortune should mar the joy we a’ suld feel, and gratitude to One above,” said Stewart, “seeing there’s good ground for hope in respect to the bairn. It’s not like finding him on the field with a tomahawk in his head, or a bullet in his breast.”
The next day was devoted to the burial of those killed in battle. Directly afterwards, with that recklessness so characteristic of all frontier population, they left the fort to occupy their own dwellings; although, now that their wounds had become stiff, it was necessary to haul some on sleds, and there were not able-bodied men enough to furnish a scouting-party, nor to gather the harvest.
But the frontier-women were equal to the exigency, and able to assist the men who were well or slightly wounded. Most of the women, especially those of Scotch descent, could handle the sickle. The children likewise did their portion of the work, the boys in the field, and the girls doing the housework while their mothers were harvesting.
Frontier life is one of sharp contrasts, constituting, perhaps, its charms for rugged natures.
It was a clear day of bright sunshine: the women and every man who could manage to work were busily employed. Mrs. Grant was singing at her work; and the cheerful notes of the harvest-song floated up over fields that but two days before echoed to the roar of cannon and the war-whoop of the savage.
“Indeed, neighbor McClure,” said Mrs. Sumerford, wiping the sweat from her brow, and laying the sickle over her shoulder as the horn blew for dinner, “I don’t mind the hard work nor the hot sun one mite: it’s far better to be reaping and getting bread for the children than to be making shrouds for the dead, and putting dear friends and neighbors in the grave, as we’ve been doing so often for the past year.”
“I dinna mind the work a windle strae,” said Mrs. Armstrong. “I hae reaped mony a bushel o’ sowin’ in my ain countrie, and whiles I like better to be in the field than to do housework. Ay, I’ve reaped mony a long day for sma’ wages, and gleaned and wrought sair; but I like better to be reaping my ain grain than ither people’s. Is it not sae, Jean Stewart?”
“Indeed it is. We wad hae reaped nae grain[Pg 85] of our ain had we bided in bonnie Scotland, though oftenwhiles my thoughts will travel back among the lochs and the braes where I first drew breath. I could na’ keep the tears frae running down my cheeks while Maggie Grant was singing; for many’s the time I’ve heard my auld mither sing those same words owre her sickle, when I a wee bairn was gleaning after her.”
Sammy Sumerford could not bear to stay in the house with Jane Proctor, who had engaged to mind the baby while Mrs. Sumerford was in the field, and also to get dinner; and so persuaded his mates to carry him to the field, and set him up against a stook of grain. They then brought him some long coarse grass, of which he made bands to bind the grain.
Here he found at work Holdness, whose chin was ploughed by a bullet that had taken the skin and flesh to the bone. The wound, though not dangerous, was extremely sore and sensitive. He could not reap, because the heads of the grain that were very stout, brushing against his chin, kept constantly irritating the wound. He therefore bound up the sheaves, while Sam made bands for him; and, as both were wounded, they frequently left off work to rest and talk.
“Mr. Holdness, didn’t you like Tony?”
“Yes, I liked him much: he was a brave boy. I’m right sorry for his loss. It’s a loss ter all of us, as well as ter his father and mother.”
“I loved Tony: he’s played with me ever since I can remember. I can’t remember the time I didn’t play with Tony. I know I never shall love another boy as well as I loved Tony. What will the Indians do to him, Mr. Holdness? will they kill him?”
“Kill him! no. I’ll tell you. A good many of the Indians we killed the other day were quite young men. When they get Tony to one of their towns, some of the fathers or mothers of them what’s killed will take him for their own, in place of the one they’ve lost. That’s the Indian fashion.”
“Then they won’t kill, scalp, nor roast him alive?”
“No, indeed! If they could get hold of me or McClure, or Tony’s father, or Mr. Honeywood, they would torment us all they knew how; but, as for him, they won’t hurt a hair of his head: though if the Black Rifle should overtake them, and they found they couldn’t get away, they’d[Pg 87] tomahawk him in a minute before they would let the Black Rifle get him.”
“What do Indians want a white boy for?”
“They want ter make an Indian of him. They’ll be just as good ter him and treat him just as well as they do their own, and larn him every thing they know themselves. He won’t get the lickin’s he had at home, for the Indians never strike their children.”
“When he gets bigger, he can run away and come home.”
“They’ll watch him at first; and it won’t be long afore he’ll forget his father and mother and everybody he knew, and turn into an Indian. He won’t have any thing white about him but his skin, and hardly that; for they’ll grease him, paint and smoke him, and he’ll go half naked in the sun and wind, till he’s about as red as themselves. He’ll come ter have Indian ways and feelings, and never will want to leave ’em.”
“Oh, Mr. Holdness! Tony will never forget me and his father and mother and sister. Mr. Holdness, Tony hates an Indian: he’s killed two on ’em.”
“I tell you he’ll turn into an Indian, just as a[Pg 88] tadpole turns into a frog, and like ’em just as much as he hates ’em now, and love his Indian father and mother better than he loves his own father and mother, and like their miserable way of living better’n the way he was brought up in.”
“I don’t see how it can be.”
“Neither do I; but I know it will if he stays among ’em any length of time, which I hope to God he won’t do, because every boy, or girl either, that goes among the Indians at his age, does just so. But you can’t make a white man out of an Indian, any more’n you can make a hen out of a partridge. But don’t tell his folks what I’ve said, ’cause it would make ’em feel bad.”
Holdness now took up a handful of bands, and went to tie up wheat.
The boys talked the matter over after he was gone. Sammy appeared sad: the tears stood in his eyes as he said,—
“Mr. Holdness never told me any thing before that I didn’t believe every word of: but I can’t believe Tony could forget me; I’m sure I never shall forget him.”
“I don’t believe Tony will ever forget his sister Maud. He would do any thing for Maud: he[Pg 89] loved Maud more’n he loved himself,” said Jim Grant.
“I don’t believe he’ll forget Alice Grant neither,” said Ike Proctor: “’cause don’t you know, Sammy, when we were going to have the party down to Cuthbert’s house, and you and I didn’t want to have the gals, he stuck up for havin’ ’em, and ’twas only ’cause he wanted Alice Grant to come.”
“I should think,” said Dan Mugford, “they’d want to kill him, ’cause he killed one of them; but perhaps they won’t know as ’twas him who killed him.”
“Mr. Holdness says they’ll like him all the better for that; ’cause it shows he’s brave, and knows how to shoot, and they’ll know he’ll make a great chief,” said Johnnie Crawford.
The boys could not possibly bring themselves to believe that Tony could or would forget parents, playmates, kith and kin; and, the more they discussed the matter, the more confirmed they became in their previous opinion.
The subject of conversation was now changed at the approach of the girls, who, having done up their housework, had come to assist in the field.
“If they ain’t going to have scouts out any more,” said Dan Mugford, “and the Indians have got scared and won’t come any more, then why can’t they let us go swimming in the river?”
“Yes: and we can have our bladders that we’ve been keeping so long, and swim with ’em; and when the acorns, chestnuts, and walnuts are ripe, we can go nutting,” said Sam.
“We can go with you, and have nice times, same as we did before the war,” said Maud Stewart.
“There was ever so much powder in the Indians’ pouches, and Mr. Holt turned it into a basket: I saw him,” said Ben Wood. “Maybe they’ll give us some; and then we can kill deer and coons, and all of us could kill a bear.”
“I don’t believe they’ll let us go where we are a mind to,” said Jim Grant: “all the reason they don’t send out scouts now is ’cause they can’t. There’s so many wounded, there ain’t enough men to go on the scout, and get the grain too; and they’ve got to get the grain, ’cause if they don’t we won’t have any thing to eat next winter.”
Thus the children speculated respecting the future, and lightened their toil by building castles in the air.
TREADING OUT THE GRAIN.
During the past season, wheat and other grain had assumed in the eyes of the settlers a greater relative importance than ever before.
Wheat, oats, and barley could be raised abundantly on the burnt land; but hitherto there had been very little inducement to raise either of those grains, because they could not make use of them as articles of food to any extent, and they did not pay when carried to market.
Corn had heretofore been their main dependence: that they could pound, and make into bread. With corn they could keep and fatten swine; and, in time of peace, hams paid when carried to market on pack-horses; and pork was also the staple article of food.
But the Indians and the mill had effected a[Pg 92] complete revolution. The different grains were now of more value to them than Indian corn, because they could grind the grain. The Scotch could have their oatmeal; and the others, wheat flour, barley, and rye, to mix with their corn-meal; and they were delivered from the drudgery of the hominy-block.
It was less work to sow grain than to plant corn and hoe it: therefore there was less exposure to Indians while doing it. Grain was not so much exposed to the depredations of crows, blue-jays, coons, squirrels, deer, and bears. Deer could be kept out by fences, but birds, bears, coons, and squirrels could not.
When a bear enters a corn-field, he goes among the corn, sits on his breech, stretches out his paws, and, gathering between them all the corn he can reach, lies down on the heap, and munches the ears that lie on top; then going along, breaks down more, thus destroying a great deal more than he eats. The coons make up in numbers what they lack in size, and are often more destructive than the bears. There is nothing, except honey, that bears and coons love so well as corn in the milk: the grain does not possess such attraction.
There was still another reason that diminished the importance of corn in the opinion of the settlers at this juncture of their affairs. Corn had obtained its paramount importance because it was the best, and, indeed, was considered the only food suitable for fattening swine; and pork, beef, and corn-bread were the great staples of life. But neither pork nor beef could be preserved without salt, and salt could be procured (while the country was filled with hostile Indians) only with great labor and at the risk of life. In the grain, however, that the mill enabled them to make use of, they found a substitute; and so much less pork and other meat was required, that, with what salt they had on hand, they could, by securing a good grain-crop, preserve meat sufficient to carry them through the winter.
In this condition of things the settlers had planted but little corn, and kept but few hogs, but had sown a large breadth of wheat, rye, oats, barley, and pease, and planted a good many beans; intending to eat more bread and less meat, as cattle and hogs were liable to be killed by Indians, and hunting and fishing could only be prosecuted at the risk of life.
The harvest was abundant; and the settlers were making the most strenuous efforts to secure it, although many of them worked in misery by reason of their wounds. Those who had the use of but one arm brought the sheaves to the stacks with the other. Those who had the use of both arms, but were wounded in the leg, made bands for the binders; or going about the house on crutches, with a child to help them, superintended the cooking while their wives and mothers were at work in the field. Some who were wounded in the head or trunk of the body managed to rake together in bunches for the binders.
Our young people will thus perceive the importance of the grain-crop to the settlers, and likewise why they were willing to incur so fearful a risk to preserve it, when they might have remained behind their defences, and repulsed the foe with safety to themselves.
When the wheat was put in stooks, the other grains housed, and the pease and beans secured, the wounded and the women were excused from labor.
There was still, however, much to be done; for so long as the grain was in the stack, or even in[Pg 95] the barns, it was liable to be destroyed by Indians, and even more so, as it was more compact. In order to be secure, it must be inside the fort.
Threshing with flails was hard work, in which the wounded could not engage, and it was a slow process. It was necessary to lose no time, as they might be attacked again.
When the mill was built, some plank were left; and with a whip-saw Israel Blanchard and Seth manufactured some more, and laid a platform on the ground near the fort, within rifle-shot, and built a fence around it.
On this platform they laid a great flooring of grain; and having kept the horses and mules without food over night, and exercised them beforehand to empty their stomachs, turned them into the enclosure, and drove them over the grain with whips.
When one flooring was threshed they put on another, and thus beat out the grain much faster than they could have done it by hand, had they all been in a condition to labor.
The grain, chaff and all, was carried into the stockade, and put on the floor of the block-house and flankers in heaps. It was now safe from foes[Pg 96] and weather. Afterwards, as the wind served, it was carried out and winnowed on the same platform. The mill afforded an excellent place in which to store it, being dry, and well ventilated by loop-holes.
The settlers now obtained the rest so much needed; and the greatest care was bestowed upon the wounded, who had evidently not been benefited by the labor absolute necessity had compelled them to perform. Such is the life of a people living on the frontiers during an Indian war. Wherever you go, and whatever you are doing, it is necessary to be armed and on your guard; for life is the forfeit of negligence. You can never commence any work with the certainty of finishing it. When you lie down at night, the weapon must be within reach of your hand.
The human mind possesses a wonderful power of adapting itself to circumstances, and becoming reconciled to those apparently calculated to produce prolonged torture. Surrounded by too many real causes of anxiety to concern themselves about imaginary ones, these people, when not under the pressure of actual suffering, were cheerful, patient in trial; and no one entering their families would[Pg 97] have suspected from appearances that they were at any moment liable to be called to struggle for their lives, and also perfectly sensible of it.
During the stormy times we have described, Scipio was nowhere to be found. It was in accordance with the usual course of things for Scipio and Mr. Seth to retire from action in times of danger.
It was taken for granted that the negro had concealed himself somewhere, and would appear when the danger was past. During the season of greatest peril, all were too much occupied to waste a thought on the matter; but Scipio was an excellent reaper, and when they began to cut the grain the black was both missed and needed.
“Boys, what has become of Scip? Hunt him up. He’s hid away somewhere,” said his master.
“We have hunted, Mr. Blanchard,” said Archie Crawford, “in the potato-hole, under the pig-pen, in the flankers, and everywhere we knowed; and can’t find nothing on him.”
“Perhaps he’s hid away in the old Cuthbert house.”
“No, sir: we’ve looked there and in the mill.”
The matter was dropped for the time; but when[Pg 98] the harvest was gathered, and no Scip made his appearance, there was a general anxiety manifested, for the negro was a valuable member of the little community. He was a good mechanic, his master having taught him the use of tools. He was very strong and good at any kind of farm work. Unlike most slaves, he was not indolent, and would allow no man to outdo him. He was a great wrestler, and could jump and run with the best; he was also an excellent shot at a mark, any small game, or deer, but was too much of a coward to face a wolf or bear. He was an excellent cook, and a great favorite with the good wives. Nobody could bring the butter so quick, or tie a broom to the handle so fast, as Scip: and he was a capital basket-maker, a lucky fisherman, could sing and play on the jew’s-harp, and beat a drum.
Scip loved the children with all his heart; and they returned his affection with interest, and shared whatever they had with him, though they sometimes amused themselves by working on his dread of the Indians. Scip had two prominent failings,—he would steal eggs, and lie to cover the theft.
It was not at first thought possible that the[Pg 99] black, who cherished a chronic fear of Indians, would leave the fort, a place of safety; but, when every part of it had been searched in vain, Israel Blanchard said,—
“It’s plain he’s not in the garrison: he’s taken to the woods, and got lost; or else he’s got into the river to hide, and the current’s carried him off, and he’s drowned.”
“He may have got lost in the woods,” said Holdness, “that’s likely enough; but there’s not water enough in Raystown branch to drown that darky: he swims like an otter.”
“I’ll tell you what to do,” said Mrs. Honeywood: “take something Scip has worn, a stocking or shirt, let Fan smell of it, and set her to seek; she’ll find if he’s above ground, or, if he’s under ground, she’ll find where he’s buried.”
“It’s too late, wife: the scent’s all gone, long ago. The slut can’t track him.”
“Well, then,” said Harry Sumerford, “we boys’ll take all the pups and the old slut to boot; and, between them and ourselves, we’ll find him.”
Harry, the young men, and all the children started with no less than seven dogs, and went in different directions through the woods, the dogs being divided among them.
Cal Holdness and Harry were together, accompanied by Fan; the slut running through the woods, and then returning to them. At length they heard her barking at a distance in the woods.
“She’s treed something,” said Harry,—”most like a bear or a coon. A bear ought to be in decent order now.”
Following the sound, they found Fan sitting at the butt of a great pine. As they approached, she began to bark, whine, and scratch the dead bark off the roots of the tree.
“A bear wouldn’t be denning this time of year. I’ll wager it’s Scip,” said Harry.
The tree was nearly dead; had a short butt, that, after running about eighteen feet, divided into three large branches; and an ash, uprooted by the wind, lay in the crotch. After quieting the dog, Harry, standing at the foot of the tree, began to call Scip by name, and tell him that the Indians were gone. For some fifteen minutes there was no answer; but at length Scip’s woolly head appeared in the crotch of the tree, and by degrees was followed by his body. Harry and Cal always contended that he was pale.
“Come down here, Scip,” shouted Cal: “the Indians are gone.”
“Won’t dey come back?”
“Not without they come from another world: we’ve killed most of ’em.”
“Hab dey killed Massa Blanchard and all de rest but you?”
“No: they haven’t killed but three,—Mr. Stiefel, Wood, and David Blanchard. Come down.”
Scip, now satisfied, quickly descended along the trunk of the windfall, to the great joy of Fan, who almost flung him down, jumping on him, and licking his black face.
“How did you know about that tree, Scip?” said Harry. “How’d you know ’twas hollow?”
“Massa McClure kill a bear dere last fall.”
When Scip heard that more than a hundred Indians were coming to attack the fort, he felt sure they would take it, and determined to flee to this tree, taking provisions with him. When asked how he came to take that course, he replied that he recollected when the Indians killed Alexander McDonald’s family, that his nephew Donald was at some distance from the house, in the woods, and, by hiding away there, saved his life; and so he thought it best to hide in the woods, for he knew the Indians would take the fort.
A LITTLE SUNSHINE.
A week had passed since the occurrence of the events just narrated.
It was a sunny morning; and Mrs. Sumerford was busily employed in weaving, having in the loom a web of linen.
The dwelling of this motherly woman, so much beloved by her neighbors and especially by all the young fry, was a log house of the rudest description; still there was about it that air of neatness and comfort that a thrifty woman will create under almost any circumstances.
The walls were of rough logs, and the openings between them stuffed with moss; but it was driven as hard as the oakum in a vessel’s seams, and trimmed at the edges with a sharp knife. The bullet-proof shutters were hung with wooden hinges from the top, and, instead of sliding, swung[Pg 103] up to the chamber floor, that was made of peeled poles.
The kitchen presented one feature not precisely in keeping with the rest of the house; namely, a nice board floor, which, after the advent of the whip-saw, Harry had substituted for the original one of flattened poles (or puncheons).
In one corner was a bedstead; for the room served the different purposes of kitchen, sleeping-room, and place of common resort. At the windows were curtains of bulrushes; the floor was white and sanded; and the bed boasted a linen spread, beautifully figured. In a side room was the loom at which Mrs. Sumerford was weaving. All the clothing for four boys and herself was spun and woven from flax and wool, and made up by this goodly, pains-taking woman, who, though extremely sensitive in respect to any danger that menaced her family, did not hesitate, as we have just seen, to handle the rifle in their defence.
Stretched at full length on the hearth, lay a white-faced bear sound asleep, with his right paw on his nose; and between his hind and fore legs was the baby, also sound asleep, his head pillowed on the bear, and his right hand clutching the creature’s fur.
Sammy, with his wounded leg resting in a chair, was making a fancy cane, by peeling the bark from a stick of moose-wood in a serpentine curve, and so as to show the white wood in contrast with the dark and mottled bark.
Alex and Enoch were dressing each other’s wounds, and permitting the dog to lick them; the tongue of a dog being considered, by the frontier folks, a wonderful specific for healing gun-shot wounds.
Harry was on his knees in the corner of the fire-place, running bullets, and melting his lead in a wooden ladle. Somebody may wonder how he could melt lead in a wooden ladle. Well, he made the fire inside, with bits of charcoal; and, as the coal was lighter than the lead, when the latter melted, the charcoal and dust floated on top, and could be blown off. The ladle burned up after a while, but not very speedily; and it cost nothing but a little work to make another. All were busily engaged; and there was little to break the quiet of the morning, save the monotonous sound of Mrs. Sumerford’s loom, as she sprung the treadles, and beat up the filling with the beam, when a great clamor of voices was heard outside,[Pg 105] and a whole flock of children, girls and boys, rushed in at the open door.
The dog began to wag his tail, and rub up against the children for recognition. The bear took his paw from his nose, and gaped, showing his white teeth; but, as the baby did not wake, went to sleep again.
“Well, well, what’s in the wind now?” said Mrs. Sumerford.
“Don’t you think, Mrs. Sumerford,” cried Bobby Holt, “they’ve given us some of the powder what the Indians that was killed had in their pouches; and we’re going to shoot wild pigeons, and go in swimming: we hain’t been in swimming this year.”
“Us girls,” said Maud Stewart, “are going after blueberries on the mountains, while the boys are gunning and swimming.”
“I wish I could go,” said Sam.
“We’ll bring you some pigeons, and you can go with us when you get well,” said Archie Crawford.
“I don’t know about you children going in the woods. Who told you you might go?” said Mrs. Sumerford.
“Mother said we might go,” said Jane Holt.
“Father said I might go,” said Ike Proctor.
“Did Mr. Holdness, or McClure, or Mr. Honeywood, know you were going?”
“I don’t know as they did; but father said the Indians had had such a browsing lately, they’d be shy of meddling with Wolf Run folks for a spell.”
“That wouldn’t hinder them from prowling round, and snapping you up. Only think of Prudence Holdness. There hadn’t been an Indian sign seen anywhere, and she only went out to pick a few herbs for her sick father, and was carried off; and it was of God’s mercy, and of the Black Rifle, that she ever got back.”
“We’ve got guns, we know how to shoot, and we’ll shoot ’em,” said Archie proudly, “if they come near us.”
“Oh, my! hear the roosters crow. You won’t be behind the loop-holes down there in the woods.—What do you think of it, Harry?”
“Let ’em go, mother: I don’t think there’s any danger. Only look at it: these children were cooped up in garrison all winter; in the spring they had but little liberty, for since Prudence Holdness was carried off they have been kept in; and it’s a hard case.”
“Well, Harry, I sha’n’t have one minute’s peace if they do go.”
“Well, mother, let ’em go; and, if you feel so, I’ll get Mr. Holdness and Nat Cuthbert, and we’ll take our guns and follow ’em. You know we haven’t got so many hogs this year as usual, and the pigeons help out the pork-trough. I think we ought to kill all the game and catch all the fish we can.”
“O mother!” cried Sammy: “you’ve got flour now; and won’t you make some berry-pies, and a pigeon-pie with crust, for me, ’cause I’m wounded and can’t go? Won’t you, ma’am?”
“Yes; but I don’t feel, I can’t feel, it’s what ought to be, for all these children to go into the woods, even if the men do go. Three of ’em can’t have their eyes everywhere, and watch so many; and they may shoot each other, so many guns in children’s hands.”
Mrs. Sumerford sat down to her loom in a frame of mind far from quiet.
“We wanted Scip to go,” said Jim Grant, “and Mr. Blanchard said he might: he was dying to go, but he was so scared of the Indians! but if Mr. Holdness, Harry, and Nat go, he won’t be. I’ll go[Pg 108] and get him, and come after with him and the men.”
Whatever Mrs. Sumerford’s opinion might be in respect to the capabilities of the children, she knew very well that Harry would not come home empty-handed. So after an early dinner, she got out the sieve (a moose-hide punched full of holes with a burning-iron) and flour, and mixed the dough ready for use when needed.
First came the girls, with their pails full of berries; then the boys, each with a load of pigeons slung on his gun; finally Harry came with as many as he could carry, saying he believed there were half as many pigeons in the woods as leaves on the trees.
Sammy wanted all of them to stay to supper, especially Scip. Mrs. Sumerford, who could never have too many children round her, was as desirous to have them stop as was Sammy; but she said it would never do, because they would want to stop and play a while after supper, and their parents would think the Indians had carried them off. Didn’t Mr. Crawford go out to shoot pigeons, and come within one of being shot by an Indian, and would have been, hadn’t the hog took at the Indian?
The children wanted so much to stay, and Sammy was so anxious to have them, that Nat Cuthbert, who came in with Harry, said he would get on the horse and take some pigeons (as there were ten times as many as they could eat), and give to the families around, and tell them the children were safe.
“Well, Scip,” said Mrs. Sumerford, “if you are going to stop, you may make the pigeon-pie, and I’ll make the berry ones.”
This announcement was received with shouts by the children, for they well knew Scip had no rival for getting up a savory mess.
After he had washed his face and hands, Mrs. Sumerford put an apron on him, and he set to work.
The girls picked over the berries, and the boys plucked the pigeons. There were many hungry mouths, and Scip made corresponding preparations. There was no oven: but Scip lined a kettle with crust, put in his pigeons and other things, and put on the upper crust; then, putting a large iron bake-pan over the mouth of the kettle, set it on the coals, and filled the pan with hot coals.
Mrs. Sumerford’s plates were all either wood or[Pg 110] pewter; but she was better off than some, for she had one large earthen pan for milk, and one smaller one. She made her pie in the small one, and baked it in the Dutch oven which she borrowed from Mrs. Honeywood for the occasion: she also made a berry-cake, and baked it on a board set before the fire, with a stone behind to hold it up. Potatoes were baked in the ashes.
Notwithstanding the lack of the customary utensils, and more than all of an oven, she made a capital pie: it was not only good, but a good deal of it. Scip was equally successful, and made a glorious pie.
“Dere, chillen [setting it on the table in the kettle], he good stew ebber man put in his mouf: under crust done, upper crust jes brown.” The very dog began to lick his chops as he inhaled the savory smell.
After the repast they decorated the house with boughs of sassafras, locusts, wild flowers, and the pods of the cucumber-tree, and Scip played on the jew’s-harp. You would have thought they had just got out of prison, they were so wild and full of tickle; and in one sense they had, having been confined to a limited circle around their homes,[Pg 111] kept hard at work in the field, or set to fight for their lives with the Indians.
None of the inmates of the garrison, old or young, were so supremely happy as Scip; and before they separated he hugged the children all round, and they hugged him, and Dan Mugford made the philosophical reflection, that if the Indians had killed them all, Scip never could have made that pie, nor could they have enjoyed the pleasure of eating it.
The children now naturally supposed that the bars were all to be taken down, and that they were to enjoy their old-time liberty: therefore the next morning, the moment the chores were done and the cattle turned to pasture, they were about to set forth on a fishing expedition, when, to their no small surprise and grief, they were told that this liberty had been granted them because of their long confinement in close quarters, and also to show how highly their good behavior and pluck (when the fort was threatened by the Indians) was appreciated, but that they could not go again for a week at least. It would be useless for me to attempt to describe how slowly and wearily the hours dragged along for some days. The settlers[Pg 112] were restricted from hunting as much as usual, on the account of the risk of life and scarcity of powder and lead. They had raised a less number of cattle and hogs, because the animals were liable to be killed by prowling Indians in the pasture, and there was a lack of salt with which to preserve pork and beef.
In this condition of affairs, the settlers, ever fruitful in expedients, hit upon another method to supply themselves with food, namely, by rearing a great number of fowls. These could be kept on grain, of which they had an abundance, and, in the event of their being compelled to live in garrison, could be kept very well inside the stockade; and the eggs and flesh would afford a constant supply of food.
The children were therefore encouraged to raise chickens and other kinds of fowl; and they engaged in the business with a will. They set every hen, duck, and turkey, that wanted to sit, and a good many that did not; fastening them on the nests with baskets and boxes of birch-bark, and even tying them on with strings. When, as was often the case, two hens had each a small brood of chickens, they gave both broods to one hen to[Pg 113] bring up, in order that the other might go to laying; and the same with turkeys and ducks.
The greatest rivalry took place among the boys, each anxious to carry off the palm. Cut off from their ordinary sources of amusement, they gave their whole soul to this work, till fowl increased to such a degree that Holdness said, “You can’t step without treading on eggs or chickens, nor go into the hovels to look for any tool, but a sitting hen will fly up in your face.”
Those were glorious days for Scip: he could steal all the eggs he wished to; there were so many, no one suspected him.
Archie Crawford had reared a noble flock of ducks, of which he was excessively proud. He took great delight in watching them, as, after being let out in the morning, they waddled off to the swamp in Indian file, the bright colors on the necks of the drakes glistening in the rays of the morning sun, returning at night in the same manner.
Three of those dreary days had passed; and, on the morning of the fourth, Archie had fed and was watching his ducks as they ate up the corn. With him were Bobby Holt and Ike Proctor. The[Pg 114] faces of the boys were clouded, and they added to their discontent by talking about the hard experience they were just then undergoing.
Their conference was interrupted by the loud “quack, quack,” of the old drake as he started for the swamp, the ducks and young drakes falling into line behind him, with responsive but more subdued quacks.
“Wish I was a duck!” said Archie moodily.
“What do you want to be a duck for?” said Ike Proctor.
“‘Cause I could go to the swamp or the river, go a-fishing or frogging, or anywhere I had a mind to, then; but, ’cause I’m only a boy, I have to stay in prison.”
Hugh Crawford, who was putting a handle to an axe before the door, heard the remark. The disconsolate tone in which it was uttered touched him; and he said,—
“You shall go fishing, Archie; and Ike and Bobby too. I’ll take my rifle, and go with you, as soon as I put this axe-handle on, and wedge it.”
The boys ran to get their lines and bait, and were soon following the trail of the ducks.
LIBERTY IS SWEET.
The wounded men were now rapidly recovering; and, in proportion as their means of defence increased, the anxieties of the settlers diminished; and, feeling that it was hard treatment of the children to deprive them altogether of going upon these excursions, so dear to the young, they followed the example set by Hugh Crawford. First one and then another would take three or more children with them into the woods and to the river, shooting pigeons, picking berries, and catching fish; and this all helped the food supply. Very little powder was expended in killing pigeons, they were so numerous; and thus it was felt that the operation paid. Thus, also, in respect to the powder given to the children: they were allowed but a small quantity; if they wasted it, and did not make good shots and[Pg 116] bring home either the powder or an equivalent in game, they got no more, and had to content themselves with the bow and arrow, with which weapon they could kill pigeons, wild turkeys, coons, and even fish in shoal-water. This tended to make them accurate marksmen, a matter of vital importance to the settlers; and therefore they seldom begrudged the powder and lead given to the children.
This arrangement operated very well for a time, it was in such pleasant contrast with the previous rigorous confinement; but it soon wore threadbare, and the children began to complain that they didn’t have any good times. They didn’t want to go out two or three together, under guard, they didn’t like to fool afore the men; but they wanted to go out by themselves, just as they always did.
When the majority of those who were wounded had recovered, a strong scout was sent out, as formerly; and the children (with many misgivings on the part of the anxious mothers, and abundance of cautions that were forgotten the next moment) were allowed to go.
At the welcome announcement, boys and girls[Pg 117] rushed whooping to the pastures, bearing guns, tomahawks, and baskets, in addition to which each boy carried, tied to his person, a number of inflated bladders.
The extravagant spirit of boyhood vented itself in various ways; some procured sticks, and, getting astride of them, pranced and neighed like horses; some rolled over on the grass, turning somersaults; others played with the dogs that accompanied them; while a few found great enjoyment in simply shouting to imaginary Indians to come on.
“There’ll be something going on now, you may depend,” said Mrs. Mugford, as she looked after the party, “since Sammy Sumerford has got well of his wound, and is among ’em.”
The jubilant troop kept together till near the river, where they separated, the girls going to a high bluff where berries grew, and the boys to the river, as they said, to go in swimming, although none of them, except Sam Sumerford, Fred Stiefel, and Jim Grant, could swim more than half a dozen strokes.
There was a short bend in the river, quite narrow, in the middle of which was a deep hole.[Pg 118] Those who could dive amused themselves by seeing who of them could dive to the bottom and bring up two handfuls of mud as an evidence of success; and the stream in this place was so narrow, that, with two or three strokes, they could reach shoal-water. The others began to float and try to swim on bladders. Ever since the previous winter, these boys had been imagining what a great time they would have swimming on bladders whenever they were again allowed to be at liberty, and had added fuel to the fire by talking it over amongst themselves; but, after all, it did not prove upon trial such excellent fun as they had anticipated.
They could, to be sure, float about as long as they pleased; but it is necessary to lean forward to swim, and the bladders held them perpendicularly in the water, like a spindle buoy on a ledge; and they found it hard work to make any progress in the water. They therefore soon became tired, and abandoned them for logs that they could push wherever they liked. As the bladders had not been as useful as they expected, nor productive of so much amusement, Sammy proposed to make a raft of them.
This suggestion was unanimously approved. They selected dry logs from the drift-wood, and lashed several of them together with cedar bark; for these boys were apt scholars, and had learned from their elders the backwoods arts. The raft was long in proportion to its breadth, and held together by crossbands about two feet apart. They had brought more than thirty bladders, nearly all belonging to the last year’s crop of hogs, some from hogs killed the year before, a few having been given to their mothers to put lard and bear’s grease in, and others to be used as syringes for cleansing wounds.
The bladders were secured to the poles by strings made of bark stripped very fine, and which while green is quite strong.
After fastening them to the upper side of the raft, they turned it over, thus bringing them underneath. It was a magnificent affair, twenty feet long by ten wide, and floated as light as a feather, although the poles were of small size, because buoyed up by the great number of bladders that were placed under the ends.
They had made it large enough to carry themselves and the girls, who were to dine with them,[Pg 120] and whom they intended to give a sail on the raft. The boys were exceedingly proud of their workmanship, and often exclaimed,—
“Isn’t it nice? Wouldn’t Tony Stewart like to be here?”
Ike Proctor and Archie Crawford now went to shoot pigeons; others built a fireplace, and brought wood and clay in which the birds were to be enveloped and baked. The girls, who were expected to cook the dinner, had brought bread, salt, spoons, and knives. Birch-bark furnished plates, and likewise drinking-cups that were made by folding the bark in a peculiar way, and sticking thorns at the corners.
This is a very nice way to make drinking-cups or a vessel to hold sap in; it is done in a moment, but it is not easy to describe. While this was going on, Sammy and Will Redmond cut long poles with which to move and steer the raft.
All was now ready, and they shoved off, holding in their hands boughs to catch the breeze; and away they went before the wind and current, laughing, shouting, and enjoying themselves to the top of their bent.
No such good time as that could the older [Pg 121]people have got up for them. Children are best by themselves, even if they do meet with head-flaws once in a while, and pay the penalty of rashness. Experience must be obtained in this way, to a greater or less extent.
They had a splendid sail down stream, but were obliged to push the raft back with setting poles, and against the stream. However, it was not very hard work, as they kept near the bank where the current was not very strong, and in some places an eddy-current setting up stream.
They had just commenced another voyage, and were discussing a proposal of Jim Grant to coax their mothers to make them a flax rope, or, failing in this, to persuade Uncle Seth to make a bark one for them, in order that they might be able to anchor their raft, and fish from it, when all at once the bladders under the after end of the raft floated out, the bark strings that fastened them having become slippery by being wet; and they went souse into the stream. They, however, regained the raft, and held by the forward end that was supported by the bladders, and managed to keep their heads out of water. In this shape they drifted along towards a large rock that rose in the[Pg 122] middle of the stream, and upon which they made out to scramble just as the raft came to pieces, and the logs and bladders went drifting down stream. Though safe, they were not in a very enjoyable position. The rock was so far from either bank, that no one of them felt equal to the task of swimming to the land in order to obtain help for the rest.
In plain sight on the bank lay the pigeons and all the preparations for cooking. The girls would soon be along to get dinner; and they were cooped up on a rock in the middle of the stream.
“Mr. Holdness,” said Will Redmond, “has got a dug-out behind his house, what they sometimes go down to Mr. Honeywood’s place in; and they’d come and get us, if they only knowed we were here.”
“Let’s screech,” said Ike.
They did screech: the “Catamounts” never screeched louder; but the wind was blowing against them, and they screamed themselves hoarse, to no purpose. The wind, however, that carried the sound from the fort and the dwellings, bore it to the ears of the girls, who, terribly frightened, dropped their pails and baskets, and ran to[Pg 123] the nearest house, which happened to be Armstrong’s, with eyes full of tears, panting, and screaming that Indians were killing the boys, and then ran to spread the tidings.
Armstrong, his son Ned, and Will Grant (who happened to be there), seizing their rifles, hastened to the river, and, when arriving where they could see the boys, slacked their speed, much wondering how they came on that rock. The next moment the alarm-gun at the fort sent out its summons; and Stewart, Holdness, Harry Sumerford, and McClure came running to the spot.
Harry was sent round to stop the women who were fleeing to the fort; and Ned Armstrong crossed the ford to tell the scouts who were seen in the distance, hastening home, that it was a false alarm.
They were now in no haste to relieve the boys.
“Let ’em screech,” said Holdness: “it’s the best place for ’em. I don’t know but ‘twould be a good thing to leave ’em there all night and to-morrow, to supple ’em a little.”
After some little time, the dug-out was hauled down, and the boys brought to the bank. They begged hard to be allowed to keep the dug-out;[Pg 124] but the parents were so much provoked with them on account of the alarm and anxiety they had occasioned, that the entreaty met with a stern denial.
Congratulating themselves that they were not ordered home and shut up (as they fully expected to be when they saw how angry the old folks were), and joined by the girls, who sympathized with them, they made the best of their misfortune.
Some of the boys kindled the fire, others brought the berries from the mountain (the girls having dropped their baskets when they heard the screams of the boys), and Maud Stewart and Jane Proctor began the cooking.
They had an excellent dinner, and the best time imaginable, eating, lolling on the grass, drying themselves in the sun, talking over their mishap with the girls, and telling them all about it, and that they were going to give them a sail after dinner if the raft had not come to pieces.
“Let’s go pick up the bladders, and make another,” said Sam.
“If we do,” said Dan, “maybe ’twill come to pieces; and we don’t want to get the girls on it,[Pg 125] and have it come to pieces, and drown ’em. I think we’ve made fuss enough for one day.”
“Why don’t you coax Uncle Seth to make one? then it won’t come to pieces,” said Maud.
“He’s so frightened of Indians, you never could get him to come down here. I’ll coax mother to get our Harry and Knuck and Elick to come here, and shoot pigeons, and guard him; then he’ll come,” said Sam. “My mother’ll do most any thing for me now, ’cause I’ve been wounded; and so my brothers will, ’cause they know I haven’t got Tony to play with me any more, never.”
“Oh, how I do wish this Indian war would be done!” said Alice Proctor; “then we could go anywhere without being afraid, and our mothers wouldn’t be all the time worrying. I think it’s awful: seems as though, if it keeps on, we shall all be killed, because we keep having fights, and, every time we have a fight, somebody’s killed. There’s more of the Indians than there is of us; and so they’ll keep coming till we are all killed.”
“If it wa’n’t for the Indian war, we shouldn’t have guns of our own, and so much powder and lead,” said Jim Grant.
“They wouldn’t think so much of us, neither,”[Pg 126] said Fred Stiefel. “We wouldn’t be nothing but boys: now they count on us. Didn’t they set us to hold the fort, and stand watch? and didn’t we kill a lot of Indians? I tell you, we’d ‘a’ got an awful lickin’ to-day if it hadn’t been for what we did this time and the other time, when the Indians tried to take the fort.”
“I know Mr. Armstrong wanted to lick us, and Mr. Holdness said we all ought to have a good beating; and we’d got it, if ‘twa’n’t for our fighting so well. I’d ruther kill Indians than pull flax,” said Sam.
“I’d ruther fight, and be wounded too,” said Archie Crawford, “than knock sprouts off the stumps, and pull fire-weed all day.”
“Fightin’ ain’t so bad,” said Sam. “I love to fight. When it’s all still, just afore they begin, and the Indians come, lookin’ so savage, all painted, a body feels kind of bad; but when the Indians begin to yell, and you begin to yell, and the rifles crack, and Mr. Blanchard or Mr. Honeywood sings out, ‘Now we’ll see who’s a man and who’s a mouse! fire!’ then the bad feelin’s all gone. Nobody wants to be a mouse: and you don’t care one bit after the first of it.”
“If it hadn’t been for the Indian war,” said Archie Crawford, “my father wouldn’t have been killed, and Dan’s father, and Fred’s.”
“They might have died,” said Sammy.
“They couldn’t have died, if they hadn’t been killed nor hurted.”
“Yes, they might: folks die ’cause they’re sick.”
“I don’t believe that nobody in this Run ever died ‘thout they was killed. How can anybody die, ‘cept they’re killed or drownded? they can’t, I know.”
“I tell you they can: they’ll be took sick, and grown all pale, and their flesh’ll all go away, and they’ll go to bed, and grow weak; and bime-by they’ll get so weak they can’t live. I’ve heard my mother say how her father died. Mr. Holdness might have died. Mother says the rheumatism what he had kills folks sometimes.”
“I had a little sister,” said Will Redmond, “that her throat all swelled, and she couldn’t breathe, and she died.”
Archie still being incredulous, Maud Stewart said,—
“Why, Archie, there is a man buried in the graveyard that the Indians didn’t kill,—Mr. [Pg 128]Campbell. I’ve heard mother tell how he is all the one in this Run who ever died, and wasn’t killed by Indians. Don’t you know the reason Mrs. Sumerford wanted to move out of the fort was because she said that so many in a small place, all stived up, and cattle round, might breed the garrison-fever? and she told my father that would be as bad as the Indians.”
No one of the children had ever known one of their number to die of disease. All their knowledge respecting the matter was obtained from their parents; and nothing could more strikingly illustrate the perilous life the settlers led than the fact that Archie Crawford considered death by the rifle, tomahawk, or some violence, the natural end of mankind. He had never been out of the Run; there was not an old person there, and he had not the least conception of death by decay of nature.
Just below the scene of their mishap, the stream was so crooked that it resembled very much a bean-vine encircling a pole. Here they found the greater portion of the bladders, which they valued somewhat.
The children prevailed upon Mr. Seth to make the raft, with much less difficulty than they had anticipated, and likewise obtained the aid of Harry, Alex, and Enoch.
Mr. Seth stipulated, however, that but one of them should go pigeon-shooting at a time, thus leaving two to guard him. The boys also took their guns, and thus he was protected by ten or twelve rifles.
“Well, Uncle Seth,” said Harry, “I’ll take my broad-axe along; for, if I am to stay by you, I might as well help.”
They found many cedars that had been killed by forest fires, and dry on the stump. Some of them had large hollow butts. They plugged up these ends, thus making air-chambers that rendered the logs very buoyant: therefore there was[Pg 130] not the least need of bladders, though the boys insisted on having a number enclosed in the logs. These logs were hewed on the top and flattened on two sides, brought close together, and then confined by cross-ties at each end and in the middle. These cross-ties were treenailed to each log, thus making it impossible for any log to work out, or the raft to get apart; and the water could not slop up between the logs, they were so closely jointed and bound together. Long pins were driven at the four corners, by which to fasten the raft. To crown the whole, they made proper setting-poles and an oar to steer with, and drove two stout pins in the centre of each end, between which the oar was dropped to confine it.
Mr. Seth, who now entered into the matter with as much interest as the children themselves, told Sam and Ike to go and tell his brother Israel to send him a bark rope that he had made several months before, and put in the corn-crib. He said he would give them the rope to fasten their raft to the shore with, and made them a fisherman’s wooden anchor to hold the raft when they went a fishing.
When they came back with the rope, they were[Pg 131] accompanied by Mr. Honeywood, whom they had persuaded to come and see what Mr. Seth and Harry were doing for them.
When Mr. Seth had finished making the anchor, he put it on the raft with the rope, and said, “There, boys, there you are: that raft won’t drown you if you only keep on it.”
With joyous shouts, the boys leaped on it, jumping, capering, and yelling like wild creatures, and, seizing the poles, pushed off into the stream. After looking at them a few minutes, Mr. Seth picked up his tools, and went home; but Mr. Honeywood and the others sought game in the woods.
When they came back, the boys had been some distance down the stream, and returned, and were in the middle of the river.
“Shove the raft in here, boys,” said Honeywood, “and I’ll show you something.”
They did so, and Honeywood took the steering-oar, put it between the pins, and began to scull the raft against the current at a great rate. This was something new to the boys: they were mightily pleased, and wanted to try their hands at it. Honeywood instructed them in a short time.[Pg 132] Sam, Ike, and the older boys, learned the motion, were able to keep the oar under water, and move the raft, and kept at it till it was time to go home.
If Mr. Seth before he made the raft (to quote an expression of the lamented Tony) “was the goodest man that ever was,” his goodness now must have been beyond the power of language to express. The boys lay awake half the night, telling each other of all his goodness, and planning as to what they should do, now they had got the raft.
The next forenoon was all taken up in learning to scull, there were so many of them to practise; then they had to talk, and fool, and fuss so long about it. Every few minutes the oar would slip or come out of the water while some boy was doing his “level best;” and he would fall flat on his back, receiving a poult on the nose from the end of the oar, that would make him see stars.
Archie Crawford was trying his hand, when Ike, who was looking at him, exclaimed,—
“Oh, pshaw! what sculling that is! let me show you how it’s done.”
Seizing the oar, he made several mighty strokes;[Pg 133] the raft was moving lively, when one of the pins broke, and away went Ike into the river. They now anchored the raft at a little distance from the shore, as far as they thought they could swim, and then, diving, made for the shore. The diving, being in a slanting direction, carried them a good part of the distance to the bank. After practising in this manner a while, they moved the raft a little farther from the bank; and, thus doing, they learned to swim faster than by any other method.
Those who could not swim a stroke were not afraid to dive in the direction of the shore, when, as they came up, they could feel the bottom with their feet; and in this way they became sensible of the power of the water to support them, and that it was not easy to reach the bottom while holding their breath. It was a great deal better method than wading in. The next move was to fish from the raft; and while thus engaged they amused themselves in a manner by no means to be commended. It must be considered, however, that they were frontier boys, and their training had not been of a character to cultivate the finer feelings and sympathies of humanity.
We remember that they had resolved never to[Pg 134] take a scalp, though most of their parents believed and taught them that scalping an Indian was no more harm than scalping a wolf.
Bobby Holt proposed fastening two of the largest fish together by their tails, and then tying a bladder to them, which was no sooner proposed than done. The fish would make for the bottom, and for a while succeed in keeping there; but, becoming tired, up would come the bladder, and the fish after it. Again, the fish would swim with great velocity along the surface of the water till exhausted, then turn belly up, and die. Others would swim in different directions till they wore one another out.
Probably the words of Holdness, McClure, and Israel Blanchard did not produce much impression upon the minds of the children; but those of Honeywood did, who told them they were as bad as the Indians, who took pleasure in torturing their captives, and that it was wrong in the sight of God, who did not give mankind authority over the animals that they might abuse them. He went on to say, that cruelty and cowardice were near of kin; and that many a man would run at the sound of the war-whoop, and turn pale at the sight[Pg 135] of an Indian alive, tomahawk in hand, who would be mean enough to scalp the unresisting dead, or torture a helpless fish. The reproof of Uncle Seth, however, cut the deepest, who said that if he had once thought they would do as they had done (as he had heard they had done, for he could hardly credit the story), he certainly would not have made the raft. He made it for them because he loved them, that they might amuse themselves; but how could he love boys that were so cruel?
Upon this Sam Sumerford got up in his lap, and said he was sorry, and would never torment a fish or any other creature again; so they all said, and would not be satisfied till he told them that he truly forgave and loved them as aforetime.
I never knew a boy who didn’t like to play in water, and paddle about on a raft, even if it consisted of only two or three boards or parts of boards, whose floating capacity was not sufficient to prevent the water from washing into his shoes, with a mud-hole for a pond, or an old cellar partly filled with rain-water.
Therefore it may well be doubted whether Mr. Seth could have constructed any thing out of[Pg 136] which those boys would have obtained more fun and innocent amusement than they contrived in various ways to get from that raft. From it they could dive; on its smooth floor, could leave their clothes while bathing, bask in the sun to dry off, and run about barefoot without getting splinters in their feet; and they could move it to any spot where the depth of water and quality of the bottom suited them.
Borrowing an auger and gouge from Mr. Seth, they made a three-inch hole in the cross-tie at one end of the raft, and another in the middle tie. Into these holes they put two large hemlock bushes as large as they could possibly handle, and sailed under them before the wind at a great rate.
The return was not quite so romantic, but they contrived to extract amusement even from that.
They took down the bushes, kept near the shore, and the trip afforded an excellent opportunity for learning to scull.
After making their trial-trip, they invited the girls to sail with them, and fish from the raft. Satisfied with sailing, they began to fish; and rocks, sheep’s heads, catfish, sunfish, and at times a trout, were flapping on the raft.
In order that what follows may be intelligible to transient readers, it is necessary to inform them, that, some months before the period under consideration, Sam Sumerford and Tony Stewart captured three bear-cubs, and brought them home. One of them, that had a white stripe on his face, was instantly appropriated by Mrs. Sumerford’s baby, and went by the name of baby’s bear. The other two were the boys’ pets. One of them proving vicious, they were both killed. Baby’s bear, however, was as mild as a rabbit, and when small used to lie in the foot of baby’s cradle. As the bear grew larger, the child would lie down on him and go to sleep.
There were seven or eight large wolf-dogs belonging to different neighbors, savage enough, and prompt at any moment to grapple with bear or wolf; but when pups, and while the settlers lived in the fort, they had been reared with the cubs, and always ate and slept with them. No one of the dogs ever had any difference with baby’s bear, though they often quarrelled with each other. The boys were very fond of these dogs, and always at play with them.
It chanced on this particular day, that Tony’s[Pg 138] dog (who, since the loss of his young master, had been very lonely) started off on a visit to Archie Crawford’s Lion, and the twain went over to make a friendly call on Sam Sumerford’s Watch.
They snuffed round a while, poked their noses into every place where they imagined their friend and his master might be; and, not finding him, began to feel lonesome and disappointed. After a while, Lion lighted upon Sammy’s track, and of some of the other boys who had come to Mrs. Sumerford’s to start with Sammy, told his companion what he had discovered, and proposed that they should follow the trail.
Off went the two dogs with noses to the ground, and tails in the air, and soon came to the river; and, sitting down upon the bank, they began to bark and whine. They were soon joined by Sam’s Watch, who, missing his master, had been looking for him in another direction, and, hearing the others bark, came to the stream.
“Look,” said Archie, “there’s Sammy’s Watch, my Lion, and Tony’s Rover, all sitting on the bank.”
When the dogs started, baby’s bear was half asleep in the sun on the door-stone, and hardly[Pg 139] noticed them when they came and smelled of him. After they had gone, he roused up, stared round, and shook himself, and, feeling lonesome too, moved along after them.
Instead of sitting down as the dogs had done, when he reached the bank, he entered the water, and swam towards the raft.
“Oh!” shouted Sammy, “only look at baby’s bear coming to see us fish: isn’t he good? we’ll have him on the raft with us.”
“Yes, and the dogs are coming too: won’t it be nice to have ’em all?” said Maud.
It proved, however, not to be so very nice, after all. The raft was already loaded nearly to its capacity; and when the bear (which weighed three hundred pounds when dry, much more wet) put his fore-paws on the raft in order to mount, he pressed it to the water’s edge. The girls began to scream, and the boys to kick the bear, and pound him on the head, to make him let go. And now came the dogs: the bear was resolved to get on the raft, and the dogs too. In this exigency the boys all jumped into the water, holding by their hands to the raft, in order to lighten it, upon which the dogs relinquished their purpose, and[Pg 140] kept swimming round the boys; but not so the bear, who, scrabbling on the raft, shook himself, drenching the girls with spray; and, seating himself in the middle, cast approving glances round him from his wicked little eyes.
It was found that the raft would bear part of the boys; and Sam and Ike Proctor, getting upon it, pulled up the anchors, and sculled to the shore; the bear meanwhile regaling himself with fish, thus making it evident why he was so anxious to get on the raft.
There was no harm done: the girls, to be sure, were pretty well sprinkled, but it was no great matter, as they were all barefoot.
After reaching the shore, the girls concluded to go on the mountain, and pick berries in the hot sun till their clothes were dried.
Mrs. Armstrong had sent word for the boys to catch some blood-suckers (leeches) to apply to her husband’s wound that was inflamed. The boys, therefore, thought best to get them while the girls were berrying, and while they were wet. They all went to a frog-pond near by, stripped up their trousers, waded into the water, and, when the blood-suckers came to fasten on their legs, caught[Pg 141] them in their hands, and put them into a pail of water. Some of the boys, who wanted a new sensation, would permit them to fasten on their legs, and suck their fill till they became gorged, and dropped off of their own accord. Sam Sumerford had no less than three on his right leg, and was sitting on a log with his legs in the water, patiently waiting for the leeches to fill themselves, with his head on his hands, half asleep.
Suddenly he leaped from the log, with a fearful yell, and ran out of the water, dragging a snapping turtle after him, as big over as a half-bushel, that had fastened to his right foot. They all ran to his aid.
“He won’t let go till it thunders,” said Dan Mugford: “they never do.”
“Cut his head off, then: cut him all to pieces,” cried the sufferer.
“If you can bear it a little while, Sammy,” said Jim Grant, “till we pry his mouth open easy, we can keep him, and have him to play with, and set the dogs on him.”
“I guess, if he had your foot in his mouth, you wouldn’t want to bear it, Jim Grant: kill him, I tell you, quicker!”
Archie held the turtle, and Ike pulled his head out of his shell, and cut it off. Even then the jaws were set so hard that it required some force to open them.
The injury was above the roots of the great and second toes, and severe enough to wound the flesh and cause blood to run freely; but the resolute boy plastered some clay on it, and went berrying with the rest.
Before starting for home with the leeches, they consulted in respect to the manner in which they should amuse themselves the next day.
This, of course, implied that they should do something with the raft.
“We’ve sailed, fished, and learned to scull; and now we want to do something we never did do,” said Ike.
“Then let’s sail up to the leaning hemlock,” said Mugford, “where there’s plenty of fish; and get clay and flat stones, and build a fire-place on the raft, borrow Mrs. Honeywood’s Dutch oven, get potatoes, pork, and fixin’s, and have a cook on the raft.”
A DAY OF UNALLOYED PLEASURE.
The boys flattered themselves that they had made all their arrangements for a good time the next day; but on the way home they met Mr. Seth, who said that he and Israel were going to junk and pile logs on a burn the next day, and he must have all of them to nigger off logs.
“We can’t to-morrow, Uncle Seth,” said Sammy; “’cause we’re going to make a fire-place on the raft, and have a cook, and have the Dutch oven, and have Scip, and the biggest time we ever did have.”
“But you can’t have Scip, because he’ll have to chop with us; but you can have a first-rate time niggering logs: you can have a fire in a stump, and roast potatoes and ears of corn.”
“We ought to help Uncle Seth, ’cause he’s the goodest man ever was, ’cause he’s made us the raft,” said Sam.
“So we will help, Uncle Seth,” said Will Redmond; “and we’ll let you see what we kin do.”
“That’s good boys; and we’ll have a long nooning; and I’ll tell you about Mr. Honeywood, how, when he was a little bit of a boy, he went to sea on a tree, and was picked up by a vessel.”
“What’s a sea, and what’s a vessel?” said Bob Holt.
“I’ll tell you all about it; and, when we get the piece ready to sow, I’ll ask Israel to let Scip go with you on the raft. But you mustn’t tell him Indian stories, nor say any thing about them; for, if you do, he won’t be good for any thing for a fortnight.”
“No, Uncle Seth, we won’t, and we won’t scare him for fun as we used to,” said Ben Wood.
These frontier boys had never seen a vessel, nor even a tug-boat; all the craft they were acquainted with was a birch canoe or a dug-out; and they wondered much what Uncle Seth meant by the sea for though some of them had read some pieces at school, in which references were made to vessels and the ocean, yet as they had never seen a map, and could only read by spelling many of the words,[Pg 145] they had no definite conception in regard to the subject.
The next morning the boys took their guns and provisions with them to the field. The place was not far from the fort; there was a strong party on the scout; and the boys were able to persuade Mr. Seth to say, that, when noon came, he would eat with them in the field.
Mr. Seth, Israel, and Scipio now began to cut into proper lengths the large logs that the clearing-fire had spared, and the boys went to niggering. They placed a large stick across a log, put brands and dry stuff beside it on the log, and set it on fire, in order to burn the log off, until they had twenty or thirty logs on fire at once, which kept them running from one to the other tending the fires. In this way they rendered good service, and niggered off logs faster than the men could chop them in two; and they liked the work right well.
Mr. Seth had brought bread and butter and some slices of bacon. Scip brought a jug of milk; and the boys roasted eggs and potatoes in the ashes, and ears of corn before the fire; and, after dinner, Mr. Seth told them what happened to Mr. Honeywood; then he described the ocean, and[Pg 146] tried to give them some idea of a vessel by whittling out a miniature one with his knife.
The next day these scorched and half-burned logs and brands (over which the fire had run, burning up all the limbs and tops) were to be piled up and entirely consumed. The men and boys came to the field, dressed in tow frocks and trousers. Maccoy and Grant came to help with oxen; and the logs were drawn together, and rolled up in piles, and all the large brands picked up and flung on top or tucked under the piles, which occupied the whole day.
The next morning they set all the piles on fire, and tended them, in order to make a clean burn, throwing in the brands and branches. They were, every one of them, just as black as a smut-coal; and at night they went to the river, washed both their persons and clothes, and put on clean garments.
The lads now entered with new enthusiasm upon preparation for their postponed expedition on the river.
It is the nature of a well-constructed boy to receive peculiar delight from any thing of his own contrivance. The rudest plaything of his own[Pg 147] invention or manufacture is dearer to him than a much better one that is the workmanship of another.
Boys who are possessed of any pluck, and are worth raising, delight in the development of their own powers, both of brain and muscle: you may observe it in a little child taking its first steps, and holding the father’s finger.
The little thing toddles on demurely enough, so long as led; but the moment it leaves the father’s finger, and strikes out boldly for the safe harbor of its mother’s lap, its eyes are dancing in its head, hands going up and down in high glee, and, screaming and crowing with delight, it tumbles into those extended arms breathless but in ecstasy.
That feeling of self-help, so dear to the child, is no less so to the boy or to the man, of whom the child is the father. Therefore, though the boys were under great obligations to Mr. Seth for putting the raft into their hands, and to Mr. Honeywood for teaching them to manage it, and thus contributing to their amusement, they were under still greater obligations to them for opening before them such a field for contrivance, furnishing them with resources, and placing them in a position that stimulated their own energies.
They commenced operations by boring two holes with an auger into the cross-tie at the centre of the raft, into which they drove two crotches some five feet in length. Clay from the frog-pond, and sand from the river, were mixed together and well worked, and wooden trowels made to handle it with. Several of the boys made use of the shoulder-blades of moose, which made very good substitutes for steel trowels. The shell of the snapping turtle, and pieces of pine and hemlock bark, were used to carry the mortar on. Plastering the floor of the raft with this mortar to the depth of a foot, they bedded flat stones in it to form a hearth, then built up a fireplace with three sides but open in front, plastering the stones with clay both inside and out.
A stout green stick was laid in the crotches, and a withe fastened to it to hold the Dutch oven. Leaving their work to dry in the hot sun, they cut dry hard wood in short pieces, and, going to the burn, brought from thence in a basket some hard-wood coals and brands to cook with.
The object of cutting the wood fine, and procuring the charcoal, was that they might have a hot fire without much blaze that would be likely[Pg 149] to burn their crotch pole and withe, which as a further safeguard they smeared with clay.
It is evident that all this implies forethought, calculation, and practice.
“Don’t let us go home for bowls, plates, or spoons,” said Johnnie Armstrong: “we can make ’em ourselves.”
“I and Jim Grant, Dan Mugford, and Johnnie Armstrong can make the spoons and plates,” said Fred Stiefel.
“We can make square trenchers good enough out of a chip,” said Archie; “but we can’t bowls: ‘twould take all summer.”
“I know a better way than that,” said Sam. “We don’t want but one or two bowls, one big one to hold the stew; and we can make bowls and plates out of clay.”
“That’ll be the best fun that ever was,” said Archie. “I’d sooner make the dishes than eat the vittles.”
“I wouldn’t: I’d rather do both.”
Part of them with axes split blocks of proper wood to make the spoons, and shaped them rudely with tomahawks, while others prepared clay for the bowls. They had been accustomed to make[Pg 150] marbles of clay, and bake them on the hearth, though it must be confessed they frequently split into halves in baking; they had also made moulds of clay in which to run bullets, and had helped make clay mortar to plaster the chimneys. They treated this clay in the same manner, mixing sand with it. Thus they were occupied till the horn blew for dinner, at which time Archie obtained a crooked knife made to dig out bowls, spoons, and trays, having a rest for the thumb.
During meal-time the boys were much questioned by the girls; but they preserved a dignified silence, looking unutterable things, and saying, as they left home, that, if the girls presumed to come peeking and prying round, they shouldn’t go with them, not one inch.
Fred Stiefel was master workman of the spoon business; and while his gang were seated in the shade, manufacturing those utensils, Sam and his fellow-potters began the making of earthen-ware.
They adopted a singular method, originating in the inventive brain of Sammy. Selecting a level spot in the dry, tough clay ground, they removed the turf, picked out the grass-roots, smoothed the surface, and swept off the dust. Upon this surface[Pg 151] they laid some of the square wooden plates or trenchers used by the settlers, and cut into the clay, then hollowed the centre with a crooked drawing-knife made to hollow the staves of tubs and pails. This was the mould, and they made numbers of them. Moulds for bowls were made in the same way; and, when the draw-shave did not accomplish the purpose, they worked out the bottom of the moulds, and smoothed them up with the bowl of a horn spoon, the handle of which had been broken off.
Into these moulds they put the clay, plastering it on the sides and bottom to a proper thickness, and, removing all superfluous clay with wooden scrapers and the spoon-bowl, pressed and smoothed it with their fingers and a bunch of wet moss, that left the surface smooth and shining.
They became more and more interested in their work, and endeavored to excel each other in the shape and ornamentation of their vessels, for they even aspired to that. The square trenchers with their large margin afforded ample space for designs.
Archie made a row of sharp points round the edge of his plate, and between each two a round[Pg 152] dot by pressing a buckshot into the clay; and also cut his name on the bottom.
Ike Proctor made a vine; and outside of that he made quite a pretty figure by pressing beechnuts and the upper surface of acorn-cups into the clay.
Sammy Sumerford excelled all the others. In the first place, he traced a vine round the outer edge, and did it quite well; having found in the house the wheel or rowel of a spur he printed it in the clay inside the vine; not satisfied with this he obtained some garnets, and, pressing them into the clay, left them there.
“How did you cut that vine so true, Sam?” said Bob Holt, who was admiring the work.
“I laid a little small spruce-root, not so large as a knitting-needle, all round the edge, and made all the turns as I wanted to have ’em, and put thorn spikes to keep ’em from moving while I pressed ’em into the clay.”
It was now time to drive up the cattle; and, dusting their work with sand, they covered it with boughs to keep off the dew.
The next morning the plates and bowls were carefully dug out of the moulds, and placed in the sun to dry the outside; then they were put in the[Pg 153] fireplace, the top of which was covered with flat stones and clay to keep in the heat; and they were burned as red as a brick. Some of them fell to pieces. All of them were full of small cracks; but they would hold water some time, though it soaked out gradually.
The remainder of the day was spent in killing and plucking pigeons, and making preparations for the morrow.
Early next morning came the girls and Scip, bringing with them whatever other articles of food or seasoning were needed.
The girls were much pleased with the fireplace, and especially with the bowls, spoons, and platters; and the boys were the recipients of compliments that put them in excellent humor.
Shoving off, they went up to a part of the stream that was wider, in order to have a better opportunity to sail. They now discovered, that, to all his other accomplishments, Scip added that of an excellent oarsman. He was a Baltimore negro, and was purchased in that place (as most of our readers know) by Israel Blanchard, on his way to settle at Wolf Run; and had been accustomed to go in boats, and scull rafts of lumber on the [Pg 154]Patapsco River. He disdained the use of pins or a notch to keep his oar in place, but would scull right on the side of the raft anywhere, shoving his oar perpendicularly into the water and keeping it so, which afforded him a greater leverage in sculling against the stream.
With Scip at the oars, and the boys at the setting-poles, they went along lively when returning from a trip and against the wind and current.
When tired of sailing, they fished; and then, bringing the raft under the branches of a leaning hemlock, the boys went on shore to pick berries for a dessert, while Scip and the girls were getting dinner.
The fireplace worked to a charm, and the dinner proved to be all that could be desired. They enjoyed the pleasure of eating afloat, something new to them, and, with no mishap to mar the pleasure of the day, had the best time imaginable. They also had berries to carry home.
On arriving home that night, the boys were told that they had enjoyed a good long play-spell, and that the next morning they must go sprouting.
In clearing land the stumps of the trees send up a great many sprouts: these the boys were set[Pg 155] to beat off, or cut with hatchets, in order to kill the stumps. When the sprouts become dry they are piled up around the stumps, and burned, which tends still more to kill them; and by doing this a few times the roots are exhausted.
The next employment was to cut down the fire and pigeon weed among the corn, and to pull the pease and beans. Then there was flax to pull; and, though only the men and largest boys could do that, yet any of them could carry it off the piece, and spread it on the grass to rot the stalk, and make it separate from the outside skin or fibre, which is the part used to make thread.
One thing coming thus after another, it was a long time before they were given another holiday.
CANNOT GIVE IT UP.
Occurrences very trifling, in themselves considered, often lead to important results. The boyish whim of making a fireplace on the raft, and constructing dishes from clay, developed a capacity in Sammy Sumerford of the existence of which he was before unconscious; and was productive of most useful results, affecting the entire community in which he lived.
The other boys, when they had succeeded in making and burning the bowls, satisfied with accomplishing their present purpose, seemed to have exhausted their enthusiasm in that direction. It was far otherwise with Sammy. At night, morning, and even sometimes at noon, he would steal away by himself to the clay-pit. He also held a good many private conferences with Mr. Seth, going to the mill for that purpose. We will take the liberty to repeat one of them.
“Mr. Seth, you know my mother’s got an earthen milk-pan, and Mrs. Holdness has got two: where did they come from?”
“Who made ’em?”
“A potter by the name of Bickford. He makes pans, jugs, bowls, and teapots, out of clay.”
“My mother’s pan don’t leak a drop, not when she puts hot water in it; but we boys made some things out of clay, and baked ’em just as we do our marbles, and the water and soup we put in ’em soaked through.”
“It didn’t soak through faster than you could eat it, did it?”
“No, sir; but when we let it set, after a good while, it did. What’s the reason milk nor nothing else won’t go through mother’s pan?”
“‘Cause it’s glazed, and probably burned harder than yours. Didn’t you see that the inside was of a different color from the outside, and there was something smooth and shiny all over it? That’s the glazing, that makes it as tight as though it was made of glass. That’s a secret they keep to themselves; but I believe they burn lead, and mix other things with it, put it on, and then bake it in. But[Pg 158] the potter’s ware that is not glazed will hold water well enough: the water won’t drop, and it takes a long time to soak out; all the trouble is, whatever you put into it soaks in, and you can’t keep it so clean as though it was glazed.”
“Then what made ours leak so fast?”
“Were there cracks in it?”
“Yes, sir; lots of ’em.”
“Did you put sand in your clay, just as we do when we make mortar?”
“What else did you do to it?”
“Worked it with the hoe, just as we do mortar.”
“Was that all?”
“Well, the potters don’t put any sand in their clay as a general thing, and never but a very little: the sand made it leak. You didn’t make earthen: you made brick. And they take great pains to work their clay. I think it is very likely there were sticks and grass-roots in yours, and it was raw, and not worked enough; and that made it crack and blow. If you had worked it as much as your mother does her dough, not put in any sand, and baked it harder, it would have done better.”
“Uncle Seth, I love to make things in clay, and I’m going to try to make a bean-pot for my mother. You won’t tell anybody, Uncle Seth. Will you?”
“No, indeed, and I’m real glad you are going to try. It’s a great deal better to spend your time in trying to make something useful than to be fooling or doing mischief.”
“You know everybody likes Harry ’cause he’s brave, kills Indians and bears, and can foller a trail. Ain’t I brave?”
“Yes, you’re brave.”
“Folks like Harry ’cause he can do so much work,—make tubs, pails, baskets, and drums. You and Mr. Israel like to have him with you, and let him have your tubs, and mother, she says he’s the best boy ever a mother had, may the Lord bless him!
“I want to make things too; ’cause I love to, and ’cause I haven’t got Tony to play with me any more, and ’cause I don’t want everybody to say I’m a plague above ground, and a real vexation: that’s what Mrs. Mugford said.”
“That’s right, my lad: if you do that you’ll be a great benefit, and everybody will love you. How[Pg 160] did you make your bowls and platters the other day? What did you have to make ’em by?”
“We made ’em in the ground.”
“That’s the last way I should have thought of,” said Uncle Seth, laughing. “How did you get ’em out?”
“After they dried, we dug the ground away with our scalping-knives, till we could pull ’em out.”
“If the ground hadn’t been as dry as an ash-heap, they never would have dried in the ground so that you could have taken them out; and, if there had come a shower, they’d been full of water.”
“What’s a better way to do?”
“Make a wooden mould, and put the clay on it: then the inside will be smooth, and just the shape of the mould, and you can make the outside just as you like; and when you put it in the fire the wood will burn out. Or you can do as the Indians do,—make a basket, and put the clay on the inside of the basket; and the basket will burn off.”
Sammy went away, and pondered a long while upon what Mr. Seth had told him; but he thought[Pg 161] he could not make a wooden mould very well, nor a basket, and took the funniest method imaginable; but then, you know, he was a Sumerford, and own brother to Harry. He dug his clay, made it as thin as porridge with water, and strained it through a riddling-sieve.
“I guess there ain’t any sticks or grass-roots in that,” said Sammy.
After the clay had settled to the bottom, he turned off the water, and worked it with a hoe, then dragged the tub into the woods where the boys would not be likely to see it, and left it, as Uncle Seth had said it ought to lie a while.
After the work referred to in the last chapter was done, the boys were given a day to go fishing; but, to their great surprise, Sammy, who was generally the leader in all such enterprises, didn’t want to go.
The boys were no sooner out of sight than Sammy ran to the clay-pit, dragged the tub from the bushes, and gave the clay another working. Then, hunting among the corn, he found a hard-shelled pumpkin which suited him in shape. The bottom of it was slightly hollowing; but Sammy cut it perfectly square, and likewise cut a piece[Pg 162] from the stem end, in order that both the top and bottom might be square.
Sammy knew his mother would want a big pot; for there were three strapping boys to eat beans, and, if half the children in the Run happened to be at Mrs. Sumerford’s near meal-time, she would have them stop to eat: therefore he had selected the largest pumpkin of the right shape that he could find, on which to mould his pot.
Over this pumpkin he plastered the clay, and regulated the thickness by marking the depth on a little pointed stick which he thrust into the clay from time to time. Knowing his mother would be obliged to cover the top of the pot with coals and ashes, it must of course have a cover. He turned his tub bottom up, and, using the bottom for a table, rolled out a strip of clay, and placed it round the edge of the pot on the inside, for the cover to rest on; then, cutting out a piece of birch-bark to fit the top of the pot, moulded his cover by that, punching up the clay in the middle for a handle to take it off by, for he did not know that handles could be made and stuck on to clay vessels when they are half dry.
All this accomplished, Sammy was quite [Pg 163]delighted, clapped his hands, and danced round his work, exclaiming,—
“I never did feel so good in all my life. What’ll my mother say? I guess Harry’ll think something. Oh, if Tony was only here to make one for his mother!”
He was now seized with a strong desire to ornament his work, which was quite rough, and covered with finger-marks. The first thing needed was a smooth surface on which to make figures. He sharpened a stake at both ends, drove one end into the ground, and stuck the pot on the other, running the stake into the pumpkin to hold it.
He then moistened the clay, smoothed it with wet moss and a flat stick, and afterwards with a piece of wet bladder, till it was perfectly smooth and level; and sat down to consider in what way he should ornament the surface. Several methods suggested themselves, none of which were satisfactory. At length an idea entered his mind, that he hastened to carry out in practice.
Rolling out a piece of clay on the bottom of the tub till it was a foot square or more, he took a beech-leaf, and, placing it on the clay, pressed it carefully into the surface; then taking it up by[Pg 164] the stem, he found the full impress of it left on the clay. Delighted with this, he gathered the top shoots of cedar, and beech-leaves of various kinds, and ferns, and took impressions from all of them, till he had quite a gallery at his command. The large-ribbed, deeply-indented leaves gave the best impression; while the ferns, though very beautiful, afforded an indistinct outline, and the cedar the most marked, the leaf being thick, and going deeper into the surface.
After long deliberation, he settled down upon the beech, cedar, fern, and locust, choosing the extremities of the smallest branches, which he pressed carefully into the surface of his pot, and left them there to be burned out when the pot was baked.
Sammy now took a thin flat stone, sprinkled it with sand, turned the pot on it, and set it in a hollow tree; intending as soon as the clay had hardened sufficiently, and the pumpkin had become tender by decay, to dig out the meat, leaving the shell to be burned out.
He then flatted out a large piece of clay, and began to search round after other leaves and objects of which to take impressions. So absorbed[Pg 165] did he become, that he forgot his dinner, taking no note of passing time, and meditated new devices till he was roused by hearing the voices of the boys coming from fishing; and, instantly putting away his implements, ran home.
He didn’t want the boys to know what he was doing, for fear they would tell his mother; and he wanted to surprise her.
Before reaching the house, he met his mother coming after him.
“Why, Sammy Sumerford, where have you been this livelong day?”
“Down to the river.”
“Down to the river, indeed! Didn’t you hear me blow the horn? I was afraid the Indians had got you. What could you find to do there without any dinner, and all alone?”
“I’ve had a good time, ma’am.”
“Well, if you have, I’m glad of it; but it must have been a very different good time from any you ever had before: for never since you came into the world could you have any sort of a good time without half a dozen boys round you; and, if there were as many girls, so much the better.”
The moment he had swallowed his supper, he[Pg 166] ran off to report to Mr. Seth; who had a good laugh when Sammy told him he had moulded on a pumpkin, and reckoned he could not dig out till it was thoroughly rotten, without breaking the pot.
He was, however, singularly favored in this respect: not being able to visit the place for two days without the notice of the other boys, when he did go he found the pumpkin entirely covered with ants, who had devoured nearly the whole of it.
“Good on your heads!” said he. “You can dig it easier and better than I can, and won’t break the pot neither.”
The interior of the old tree was damp; and when the ants had devoured all of the meat, leaving only the shell of the pumpkin, Sam, watching his opportunity, removed the pot to the garret of the house, where it might dry thoroughly.
Mr. Seth had told Sammy that one reason his bowls and platters cracked was because they were baked too quick: that to bake a potter’s kiln required forty-eight hours; that the baking must commence gradually, and be discontinued in the same way. Another reason was, that they were of unequal thickness; and the thin places shrunk before the thicker ones, and pulled them apart.
One morning, while the pot was drying, Sam came into the house, and heard his mother up garret. He thought she was making his bed, but, listening a moment, found she was rummaging round. Alarmed, he said,—
“Mother, what are you doing up there?”
“Doing? I’m hunting after a ‘sley’ that belongs to the loom.”
“Come down, marm, and I’ll come and find it.”
“You find any thing? umph! You can’t keep the run of your own clothes. I have to find your hat for you half the time. I expect now I’ll have to move half the old trumpery in this garret.”
Grown desperate, Sammy flung a mug of cold water in the face of the baby, who was sitting on the floor. The child set up a terrible screeching.
“Sam, what does ail that child?”
“I don’t know, marm. Guess he’s going to have a fit. He’s holding his breath.”
Mrs. Sumerford was down the ladder in an instant, and catching up the child, who was purple in the face from temper and strangulation, thumped him on the back, exclaiming,—
“Poor blessed baby! was he frightened ’cause his mother left him? Well, mother won’t;” and the next moment, “Why, this child’s all wet! Sam Sumerford, what have you been doing? Have you been throwing water on this baby?”
Sam, who was in the chamber, and had hid the pot in his bed, to change the subject replied,—
“Yes, marm, I—I’m trying to find it.”
“Well, you look for it. I must go to the barn, and get some eggs for Harry’s breakfast.”
Harry had stood watch in the night at the fort, and was in bed.
Taking the child with her, Mrs. Sumerford left the house, when Sammy went and hid the pot in the pasture, in a hollow fence-log on high ground, and where a current of air circulated through that kept it dry.
Sammy thought it would be a fine thing to have his mother’s name on the pot, or at least the words “For mother,” and knew that, though it was dry, he could cut them in. He persuaded Mr. Seth to cut the inscription on a piece of bark taken from a young pine; and then, pasting the bark with flour paste to the surface to keep it from moving, he cut out the letters by the pattern, moistening the clay a little, that it might not crumble at the edge. The bark was quite thick, which served better for guiding the point of the tool with which he worked.
New difficulties now arose in respect to the baking. Uncle Seth had told Sammy it took forty-eight hours to bake a kiln of potter’s ware, but, where the fire was all directed to one pot, that perhaps one day and one night would be sufficient.
Sammy perceived at once that he could not[Pg 170] hope to do this without the knowledge of his companions; and, making a virtue of necessity, took them to the pasture, showed them the pot, and told them all his heart.
They instantly entered into his plans, promised to keep the secret, and do all they could to help him, and instantly set about preparations.
“Where can we bake it?” said Sammy. “We can’t do it on the raft; ’cause we’ve got to keep a fire all night, and our folks won’t let us be down to the river all night nor one minute after sundown.”
“Bake it down to Cuthbert’s house, in the big fireplace. Make a kiln right in that,” said Mugford.
“They wouldn’t let us stay there all night.”
“What matter will it be,” said Archie, “if we let the fire be at night, and then kindle it up in the morning? S’pose you put in a lot of hard wood when you left it: ‘twould be all hot in the morning; ‘twouldn’t get cold; then there won’t be no trouble.”
“I don’t know,” said Sammy. “I’ll ask Uncle Seth.”
Mr. Seth, being appealed to, said he didn’t think[Pg 171] it would make any difference if they put in wood at night, kept it warm, and started the fire in the morning slowly; that the reason potters and brick-makers kept their kilns burning all night was to save time and wood; that it would require a great deal less wood to keep it going all night, than to let the kiln cool off, and start it again.
There was no need of going to the river for clay, as there was a pit in the pasture just back of the Cuthbert house, from which the settlers had dug clay to plaster the roofs of the block-houses. They therefore began to build the kiln with rocks and clay right before Mrs. Sumerford’s door, part of them working on the kiln, and the rest making marbles to bake in it.
Mr. Seth had told them that the fire must not come directly to the pot: so they built a square of rocks and clay, and in the middle made a place in which to put the pot, marbles, and several bowls and platters that the boys made on the spot. In this little apartment they left openings to admit the heat, having fire on all sides of it: then they covered the top with two flat stones about four inches apart, and left below two holes to put in wood, and plastered the whole all over with clay.[Pg 172] They then covered each end of the slit on top with flat stones and clay, except a short space in the middle left for draught, and which could be closed with a stone laid near for the purpose.
They had received general instructions from Uncle Seth, and were carrying them out in their own way with the greatest possible enthusiasm. There were quite a number of articles in the receptacle with the pot, that the boys made and moulded from the clay with which the kiln was built; but some of the boys had brought up some of the clay Sam had worked, and made platters and marbles.
The piece of land on which they had recently been burning the logs was full of the ends of limbs and half-burned brands, just the thing to make a hot fire and to kindle readily. They gathered many of these, and plenty of other wood; and, their preparations being all made at night, they kindled the fire at sunrise next day.
They made a regular holiday of it, roasting corn, potatoes, and eggs in a separate fireplace constructed for the purpose; and Scip came occasionally to partake of their cheer.
They borrowed Mrs. McClure’s big skillet, and[Pg 173] Mrs. Sumerford made bread for them: this was on the second day, when the fire had been burning long enough to make plenty of ashes and coals. They swept the hearth of their fireplace clean, put the dough into the skillet, turned it bottom up on the hearth, and covered the skillet with hot coals. With the coals on top and the hot hearth beneath, it baked splendidly; and they had their dinner before the kiln.
Harry shot two wild turkeys, and gave them one; and they baked it, and had a great feast, and kept the fire up three days; and when on the forenoon of the fourth day they opened it, the pot came out without a crack, and baked to a bright red.
The little stems of the cedar and beech were baked to a coal; and Sammy picked them out, leaving the impression sharp and clear.
He then mixed up some lamp-black that Solomon Lombard, the Indian trader, had given him, and filled the letters that composed the motto, which brought them out finely in contrast with the red ground on which they were cut. The other articles fared quite otherwise: many of the marbles split in halves, some cracked, others[Pg 174] blistered or fell to pieces; but a few came out whole and fair.
It was found, however, that the marbles and dishes made of clay brought from the river were the ones that stood the baking and were bright red, while the others were lighter-colored. Mr. Seth said they stood the fire because the clay had been worked more, and that the deeper color was due to the greater quantity of iron in the river clay.
Sammy had taken his pot to the pasture among the bushes, to fill the letters with black, and was joined by the other boys as soon as they had cleared the kiln.
Their conversation, as was often the case, turned upon the virtues of Uncle Seth, without whose advice it was allowed Sammy would never have succeeded in making his pot.
“What a pity,” said Dan, “such a good man should be a coward!”
“He isn’t a coward,” said Sammy.
“Yes, he is. Didn’t he shut himself up in the mill when the Indians attacked the fort, scared to death? and didn’t his own brother Israel say it was the first time he ever knew a fort saved by a coward?”
“What is a brave man, what ain’t a coward?”
“Why, a man what ain’t scared of any thing.”
“Then there ain’t any brave men, and every man in the Run is a coward; for there ain’t one of ’em but’s afraid of something,—afraid to go into the house where McDonald and his folks were killed. Mr. Holdness nor McClure wouldn’t go in there in the night, sooner’n they’d jump into the fire: don’t you call them brave men?”
“Uncle Seth isn’t afraid to walk up on a tree that’s lodged, and cut it off, and then come down with it, or jump off. He isn’t afraid to go under a tree that’s lodged, and cut the tree it’s lodged on; he’ll ride the ugliest horse that ever was; walk across the water on a log when it’s all white with froth; and when there was a great jam of drift stuff stopped the river, and was going to overflow the cornfield, he went on to the place, and cut a log what held it, and broke the jam; and there wasn’t another man in the Run dared do it. He said he’d lose his life afore the water should destroy the corn.”
While Sammy was defending Uncle Seth from the charge of cowardice, his face reddened, his[Pg 176] eyes flashed fire, his fists were clinched, and he threw his whole soul into the argument, and carried his audience with him.
They resolved on the spot that Uncle Seth was not a coward, though he was afraid of Indians. They could not endure the thought that an imputation so disgraceful in their eyes as that of a coward should rest upon the character of a man whom they so dearly loved.
It is perhaps needless to inform our readers that Sammy did not find the “sley” on that eventful day when he threw the water in the baby’s face; but his mother got the baby to sleep, and found it. On the morning of the third day, she had just entered the door of the kitchen with a pail of water in her hand, when she encountered Sammy (followed by Louisa Holt, Maud Stewart, Jane Proctor, and a crowd of boys) with the bean-pot in his hand, which he placed upon the table with an air of great satisfaction.
It was some time before the good woman could be brought to believe that Sam made it. She knew that of late he had been much at the mill with Mr. Seth, and supposed he must have made and given it to him; but, when she became [Pg 178]convinced of the fact, the happy mother clasped him in her arms, exclaiming,—
“Who says Sammy’s fit for nothing but mischief? Who is it says that? Let him look at that pot, as nice a one as ever a woman baked beans in, and a cover too. Harry has made pails, tubs, a churn, and a good many other things; but he never made an earthen pot, nor any man in this place. My sakes! to think we’ve got a potter among us! what a blessing he will be! There’s not another woman in the settlement has got a bean-pot.”
“Mrs. Sumerford, only see the printing and the pictures on it,” said Maud Stewart.
“Pictures and printing! I must get my glasses.”
After putting on her spectacles, the happy mother expressed her astonishment in no measured terms.
“‘For Mother:’ he’s his mother’s own blessed baby. But did you truly make the letters, and the leaves on there, your own self?”
“Yes, mother: I did it alone in the woods; only Mr. Seth made the letters on some bark for me, but I put ’em on the pot.”
“Now I’ll bake a mess of beans in it, just to christen it. Girls, you help me pick over the beans; and I’ll put ’em on to parboil afore we sit down to dinner, and have ’em for supper. I want you all to stay to dinner and supper both. The boys can play with Sammy; and the girls and I’ll make some buttermilk biscuit for supper, and a custard pudding.
“Girls, I’m going to draw a web of linen into the loom; and you can help me, and learn how; play with the baby and the bear: baby’s bear’ll play real good; he’s a good creature. He’ll tear all the bark off the tree with his claws; but, when he’s playing with baby, he’ll pull ’em all into the fur, so his paw is soft as can be. Harry, Elick, and Enoch’ll be home from the scout; and what think they’ll say when they come to know that Sammy’s made a pot, and his mother’s baked beans in it?”
“Mother, may I ask Uncle Seth to come to supper? I want him to see the pot, ’cause he told me how to fix the clay, and bake it.”
“Sartain: I’d like to have Mr. Seth come every night in the week. This pot isn’t glazed, to be sure; but I’ll rub it with tallow and beeswax: I’ve heard my husband say that was the way the Indians used to do their pots.”
“Mr. Seth said the Indians used to make pots, mother.”
“Sartain, dear, the Indians clear back; but now they get iron ones of the white folks, and people reckon they’ve lost the art. If you look on the side of the river where the old Indian town used to be, where you go to get arrow-heads, you’ll find bottoms of pots washing out of the banks, and sometimes half of one.”
The good woman stuffed the pot thoroughly with tallow and wax, dusted some flour over it, and put it in the beans and pork.
Mrs. Sumerford had no oven; but that did not in the least interfere with baking the beans. With the kitchen shovel she threw back the ashes and coals on the hearth, and took up a flat stone under which was a square hole dug in the hearth (the house had no cellar), lined with flat stones. Into this hole she put wood and hot coals till it was thoroughly heated: then she cleaned the cavity, put in the pot, covered it with hot coals, and left the beans to bake; for there never was a better place,—that is, to give them the right flavor.
The boys could not leave till this important[Pg 181] operation was performed; when, finding the mill was in motion, they concluded to go there, and invite Uncle Seth to supper, and, after having a swim, and a sail on the raft, escort him to Mrs. Sumerford’s. The mill had not yet ceased to be a novelty; and they loved dearly to watch the grain as it dropped from the hopper into the shoe, and from the shoe into the hole in the upper stone.
It was also a great source of amusement to go up into the head of the mill, and hear it crack, and feel it jar and quiver when the wind blew fresh, and put their hands on the shaft as it revolved. They were more disposed to this quiet pastime, from the fact that they had been prohibited the use of powder and lead for the present.
When Harry, Alex, and Enoch came home, nothing was said about the bean-pot, though it was hard work for Mrs. Sumerford, and especially for the girls, to hold in.
“Come, mother,” said Harry, “we’re raving hungry: ain’t you going to give us any supper?”
“I should have had supper on the table when you came, but Mr. Seth’s coming: the boys have[Pg 182] gone after him, and I knew you would want to eat with him.”
It was not long before they all came in; and after putting the dishes on the table, and other provisions, Mrs. Sumerford took from the Dutch oven the biscuits, a custard pudding she had baked from a kettle, and then, placing a bean-pot in the middle of the table, exclaimed with an air of ill-concealed triumph,—
“There! Harry, Elick, Enoch, look at that pot, and tell me where you suppose it came from.”
They examined it with great attention; and, the more they looked, the more their wonder grew.
“It was made by somebody in this place, of course,” said Alex; “because nobody has been here to bring it, and nobody could go from here to get it. I guess Mr. Honeywood made it, because he’s lived in Baltimore where they make such things.”
“Guess, all of you; and, when any one guesses right, I’ll say yes.”
“I,” said Enoch, “guess Mr. Holt made it, ’cause he came from one of the oldest settlements, where they have every thing; and he made the millstones.”
Harry, who had been examining it all the while, thought he recognized Uncle Seth’s handiwork in the inscription, and said,—
“I think, as Elick does, it must have been made here, because there’s no intercourse betwixt us and other people; and no regular potter would have made it that shape; it would have been higher and straighter, like some I saw at Baltimore when we went after the salt: so I guess Uncle Seth made it.”
“Come, Mr. Blanchard, it’s your turn now.”
“I guess little Sammy here made it.”
This assertion raised a roar of laughter; and, when it subsided, Mrs. Sumerford said,—
“Yes; Sammy made it.”
“O mother!” cried Harry, “you needn’t try to make us believe that, because it’s impossible.”
Sam had ever been so full of mischief, that it was new experience for him to receive commendation from his brothers; but now it was given him with a liberality amply sufficient to remunerate him for its lack in the past. A proud boy he was that evening; but he bore his honors modestly, and his face was redder than the surface of the pot on which he had bestowed so much labor.
When the cover was removed, much to the surprise of Mrs. Sumerford, it was found that the pot had not lost any portion of its contents.
“Why, I expected to find these beans dry,—most of the juice filtered out,—’cause it wasn’t glazed; but I don’t see but it’s about as tight as an iron pot, though, to be sure, I rubbed it with wax and tallow, and dredged flour over it.”
“That pot,” said Mr. Seth, “is very thick,—as thick again as one a potter would make,—was made of good clay, quite well worked, and hard baked; and it is no wonder that it would not let any thing as thick as the bean-juice through it. Good potter’s ware, if it isn’t glazed, will hold water a long time: it won’t leak fast enough to drop; it will hold milk longer still; and after a while the pores will become filled up, and ’twill glaze itself, especially if anybody helps it with wax as you have. I wish every woman in this Run had plenty of earthen dishes, pots and pans, if they were not one of them glazed.”
“If there’s so little difference, why ain’t the unglazed just about as good?”
“Because you can’t keep ’em so clean: after a while, the unglazed ware gets soaked full of[Pg 185] grease, butter, milk, or whatever you put in it, and becomes rancid; you can’t get it out, and it sours and taints whatever you put in it: that bean-pot will after a while; but, when ware is glazed, nothing penetrates, and you can clean it with hot water, scald it sweet. There’s another trouble with ware that is not glazed: if you put water in it, and heat it on the fire, the water swells the inside, and the fire shrinks the outside; and it is apt to crack.”
“Uncle Seth, you said, when we made the dishes down to the river, that we made brick. What is brick?” asked Sam.
“It’s made of clay and sand worked together; and this brick mortar is put into a mould that makes each brick about seven and a half inches long, and three and a half inches wide, and two and a half inches thick; then they are dried and burnt hard in a kiln; and in old settled places they build houses of ’em, chimneys, ovens, and fireplaces: they don’t make chimneys of wood and clay, and fireplaces of any stone that comes to hand, as we do.”
“Did you ever see a house made of brick?”
“Yes, a good many. Israel and I made and[Pg 186] burnt a kiln of bricks, and had enough to make a chimney, fireplace, and oven, in our house where we used to live; and, if this terrible war is ever over, I mean to make brick, build a frame house, and put a good brick chimney, fireplace, and oven, in it. Israel’s wife misses her oven very much.”
“I never had an oven, nor saw one; but I’ve heard of ’em, and I expect they are good things. I think a Dutch oven is a great thing for us wilderness-folks; but I suppose the one you tell of is better,” said Mrs. Sumerford.
“I guess it is better. Why, Mrs. Sumerford, if you had a brick oven, you could put a pot of beans, twice as many biscuits as you’ve got in that Dutch oven, a custard, and an Indian pudding, and ever so many pies, in it all at once, and shut up the oven, and then have your fireplace all clear to boil meat, fry doughnuts or pork, or any thing you wanted to do.”
“It must be a great privilege to be able to do so many things at once: I can’t boil and bake more than one thing at a time now, except beans or potatoes, because I have to bake in a kettle.”
“If you had a brick oven, you could bake a pumpkin, or a coon, or beaver, or joint of meat, or[Pg 187] a spare-rib. Why, by heating the oven once, you could bake victuals enough to last a week; and then, any thing baked in a brick oven is as good again as when it is baked in iron. These beans wouldn’t have been half so good if they’d been baked in an iron pan set into the Dutch oven or a kettle, because that place in the hearth is what you may call an oven.”
“What kind of moulds do the potters in the settlements have to make their things of?” asked Sammy; “or do they make ’em in holes in the ground or on a basket?”
“No, indeed! they make ’em on a wheel.”
“Oh, do tell me about it, Uncle Seth! tell me all you know.”
“That won’t take long. What is called a potter’s wheel means not only a wheel, but a good many more things with it; but they all go by the name of the potter’s wheel.
“In the first place, there’s a rough bench made; and then there’s an iron spindle goes through this bench, and not far from the bottom is a crank; and below this crank, about three inches from the lower end, a wheel is put on it as big over as the bottom of a wash-tub, with a gudgeon at the end[Pg 188] that goes into a socket in a timber. Upon the other end that comes up about a foot above the bench, a screw-thread is cut, and a round piece of hard-wood plank is screwed on the top of the spindle about a foot over; on this the potter puts his lump of clay, and smashes it down hard to make it stick fast.
“There’s a treadle fixed to this crank on the spindle, just as there is to your mother’s flax-wheel. The potter puts his foot on this, sets the clay whirling round, sticks his thumb into it and his fingers on the outside, and makes it any shape he wants. After the vessel, whatever it may be, is made, he takes off the finger-marks, and shapes it inside and out more to his mind, with little pieces of wood cut just the shape he wants; then takes it off the wheel, and puts it away to dry.”
“Does it take him a good while to make a pot?” asked Harry.
“No, indeed! he’d make a pot as large as that bean-pot in five minutes, and less too. A potter’d make a thousand of four-inch pots in a day. In their kilns they burn thousands of pieces according to size, of all kinds at once; as it don’t take much longer, nor is it any more work, to burn a thousand pieces than two hundred.”
“That isn’t much like me, two or three days making one pot,” said Sammy.
“Sometimes, instead of having a crank on the spindle, they put a pulley on it, and have the wheel on the floor, and a band run from this big wheel to the pulley; but then it takes another hand to turn the big wheel.”
“O Uncle Seth! how much you do know, don’t you?”
“I don’t know much about pottery, Sammy, because it’s not my business; but I’ve seen a little of it, and it’s the most interesting work to see a man doing, that I ever looked at. I’ve seen their kilns, and seen them bake their ware, but it was a good many years ago: so you must not take all I say for gospel, ’cause I may have forgotten. I always take notice of what I see, because sometimes it might be a benefit. I’ve taken more notice of brickmakers and masons: I can make brick; I think Israel and myself could build a chimney, between us, and make an oven and a fireplace. It wouldn’t be like one made by a mason, but would answer the purpose, and be a great comfort here in the woods.”
“We don’t know any thing,” said Mrs. [Pg 190]Sumerford; “and no wonder we don’t, here in the woods with wild beasts and wild Indians.”
If our young readers will call to mind that these frontier people had never seen many of the most common conveniences of daily life, nor witnessed any of the usual mechanical employments, they will perceive at once how intensely interesting the conversation of Uncle Seth must have been to this family-circle, and also how much mankind can dispense with and yet be happy.
To no one of the circle was it more absorbing than to Sammy, who longed to know more about the matter, and asked what the glazing was made of, and how they put it on.
“As I told you once before, my lad, I don’t know much about that; because it’s one of their secrets that they don’t care to let folks know, though I’ve seen some put it on. When I was a boy, and lived with my grandfather in Northfield, Mass., afore we went into the woods, I’ve seen an old English potter by the name of Adams make a kind of glaze that’s on your mother’s milk-pan. He used to take lead, and heat it red-hot till he made a great scum come on it, which he would skim off till he burnt it all into dross; then he[Pg 191] pounded that all fine, and mixed it with water, clay, and a little sand, about as thick as cream, and poured it into the things he wanted to glaze, rinsed it round, and then turned it out; sometimes he put it on with a brush. What little water there was would soak into the ware, and the lead would be on the outside; then he put ’em into the kiln, and started the fire. When the pots got red-hot the lead would melt; and I s’pose the sand melted some too, and run all over the inside, and made the glaze. I don’t know as I’ve got it just right, but that’s as near as I can recollect; and I know I’m right about the lead.
“He said that in England they flung a lot of salt into the kiln to glaze some kinds of ware; but he didn’t, and his glaze was just like that on your mother’s pan.”
“What an awful sin,” said Mrs. Sumerford, “to burn up salt!”
“Oh, what a worse sin,” said Harry, “to burn up lead! I should rather go without pots and pans all the days of my life: I’m sure there are ash and beech whorls enough in the woods to make bowls of.”
“Indeed,” said Mr. Seth, “salt and lead are not[Pg 192] such scarce articles in the settlements as they are amongst us, I can tell you.”
Some who read these pages may think these boys to be very much inferior to themselves, and be almost inclined to pity them; but are you sure, that, considering the advantages both parties have had, they may not be far your superiors? Notwithstanding all your advantages, is it not probable, that, turn you right out in the world, you would either beg or starve?
But turn one of them out into the woods, with a rifle, tomahawk, flint and steel, and I would risk him: he would do neither.
THE DAWN OF A LIFE-PURPOSE.
After the conversation referred to in the preceding chapter, there was a pause; and Harry, well knowing Mr. Seth’s habits, filled a pipe, and handed it to him.
While he was enjoying his smoke, Mrs. Sumerford washed up her dishes with the help of the girls, and the boys related to each other the incidents of the scout.
Sammy, on the other hand, sat with his hands clinched over one knee, as still as a mouse, occasionally casting a glance towards Mr. Seth; and, the instant the latter laid by his pipe, he leaped from his stool, and, running up to Mr. Seth, cried out,—
“O Uncle Seth! will you make me a potter’s wheel, and show me how to make a pot on it, and show me how they fix the glaze, so I can make my[Pg 194] mother and all the neighbors bean-pots, bowls, and milk-pans, and glaze ’em just like the potters do?”
“I can’t, child! I couldn’t make a wheel, because there’s a crank that must be made of iron, and we haven’t got any iron. If I should make a wheel, I couldn’t show you how to make a pot on it, for I don’t know how myself. A potter’s trade is a great trade, takes years to learn it. It’s not every one who can learn it; and I have only happened to see them work a few times in my life.”
“You could make a windmill without hardly any iron; and you’re going to make a bail to take off the millstone without one mite of iron, when Mr. Honeywood said ’twas impossible. Everybody says you can do any thing you be a mind to. I should think you might help me.”
Adopting the method he had ever found to be most effective with his mother, Sammy burst into tears; and so did the girls, who sympathized with him.
“Dear me! what shall I do with the child?” exclaimed Uncle Seth, whose whole heart went out to a boy so interested in a mechanical pursuit.
“Do help him if you can, Mr. Blanchard. I’m sure if he wants to think about or do something[Pg 195] besides killing Indians, and risking his life on rafts, I do hope you’ll gratify and encourage him, if it’s only for the sake of his mother, and tell him something to pacify him.”
“Well, Sammy, if I can’t make you a wheel nor tell how to use it, there’s one thing I can do: I can show you how to mould brick, and you can have a brick-yard and a kiln, and make your mother a brick oven that will be worth three times as much to her as the bean-pot; and she can bake beans, bread, and meat in it.”
“I don’t want to make no brick oven. I wouldn’t give a chestnut-burr for a thousand brick ovens. I want to do what the potters do.”
“Well, I’ll tell you all about how the potters work their clay; and then you can make a good pot or milk-pan on a mould as you do now, and I’ll make moulds for you. I’ll keep thinking about a wheel; and perhaps we may have to go to Baltimore or Lancaster for salt or powder, and can get some iron: then I’ll make a wheel; or perhaps I shall think of some way to make it without iron.”
In this manner Mr. Seth continued to pacify Sammy, who, wiping up his tears, got up in his[Pg 196] benefactor’s lap, and wanted to know when he would show him how to fix the clay.
Mr. Seth replied, “To-morrow morning,” well knowing he should have no peace till it was done.
Sammy then wanted to know when he would tell him about the glaze; to which he answered that it was no use to think about that till the Indian war was over, as neither lead nor salt could be spared for the purpose, and if the clay was well worked, and the articles well baked, they would do good service without any glaze.
Harry, Alex, and Enoch now took their rifles, and went home with the children; but Mrs. Sumerford persuaded Mr. Blanchard to tarry all night.
“What do you think has got into this boy, Mr. Blanchard?” said the mother, after Sammy had gone to bed, “that he should set out all at once in such a fury to make things of clay?”
“Well, Mrs. Sumerford, almost everybody in this world has a turn for some one thing more than another; and you know that all your boys have a turn for handling tools: Elick and Enoch have, though not so much as Harry.”
“That’s true, Mr. Blanchard; and they take it[Pg 197] from their father: he could make almost anything; he would make a handsome plate out of an ash-whorl; and he made me a churn that he dug out of a round log, and swelled the bottom in, then put hoops on; it was the handsomest you ever did see.”
“The child’s got that natur in him; but he’s been so full of other things since the war broke out, been stirred up all the time, that it never came out till they began to build that raft. He was the head of that; but when he got hold of the clay, and started the notion of making dishes to play with, he was like a man who is digging a well, and all at once strikes water. He found the thing that suited his turn; and it became real earnest with him, though it was nothing but play to the others. When the rest of ’em wanted to make dishes out of wood and bark, he said, ‘Let’s make ’em out of clay.’ He didn’t know what he was fumbling arter in the dark, didn’t know he was chalking out his whole life; for, mark my words for it, sooner or later that boy’ll be a potter, and no power on earth can hinder it. Mary Sumerford, I believe there’s a higher Power has to do with these things; and I verily believe we have[Pg 198] our own way least when we think we have it most.”
“From my soul I believe as you do, Mr. Blanchard, and always did.”
“I know how it is: he’s had a call to do that thing, and you’ll see how ’twill be. I know all about it: it’s no new thing to me, it was just so with me when I began to work wood. If he could be in the settlements, he would learn a potter’s trade in no time; but what we shall do with him here, I’m sure I don’t know.”
“Then you don’t think he’ll give it up. Boys, and my boys, are apt to take hold of some new thing pretty sharp for a time, and then give it up, and go into something else.”
“He’ll not give it up as long as the breath of life’s in him: it’s clear through him, in his marrow and in his bones, and must and will come out.”
“But I don’t like to have him down to the river: the Indians might carry him off.”
“I’ll get him to go to the old Cuthbert house: there’s good clay there, and the spring where Cuthbert got his water.”
The next morning Mr. Seth said to Sam,—
“Your mother don’t like to have you down to[Pg 199] the river: it’s too far away; the Indians might come; we don’t any of us think it’s safe. You must play with your clay at the Cuthbert house: it’s near the garrison, and then you’ll all be safe.”
“It isn’t play,” said Sammy, straightening him self up: “what makes you call it play? It isn’t foolish play to make a bean-pot and things for folks to use, and that they have to buy at Baltimore: it’s real work. It isn’t a bit like making mud-puddin’s, cob-houses, or playing marbles or horse, or having a war-post and making believe kill Indians.”
“Indeed it’s not,” said Uncle Seth, more delighted than he cared to express, and patting the young enthusiast on the head.
“I don’t want to go to the Cuthbert house, ’cause it’s handsome down to the river; and the raft’s there, and the fireplace, and water, and plenty of wood to bake the pots; and the clay down there is real soft, and just as blue as indigo, and feels greasy; and I can cut it with my knife, and it won’t dull it one mite.”
“I know that; but it’s not so good clay to make pots as the gray at the Cuthbert house. It will do to make bricks by putting sand with it; but it’s[Pg 200] liable to crack, blister, and melt in the fire, ’cause there’s so much iron in it.”
“It don’t look so red when it’s burnt, that Cuthbert clay don’t.”
“Well, then, you can bring up a little of that from the river to color it: ‘twon’t take but a mite. There’s more wood lying round Cuthbert’s door than you can burn in six months; then you can have the house to dry your ware in, and to work in when it rains, and the great fireplace to build your kiln in.”
“What shall I do for water?”
“There’s a spring on the side of the hill where Mr. Cuthbert got his water; and there’s a great trough in the kitchen that he used to salt pork in, and you can have that to put your clay in, and a table. I’ll ask Nat to let you have that to make your things on.”
When Mr. Seth concluded, Sammy expressed himself reconciled. He then told him to dig the clay, and pick out any little sticks or gravel-stones he found, put it in the trough, pour in water enough to cover it, and let it soak till after dinner, when he would come down, and tell him what to do with it.
With the help of his mates, Sammy was not long in filling the trough with clay and water when they went to haul wood. The settlers hauled their fire-wood as they wanted it, and did all their work in companies for safety.
After dinner Mr. Seth, with all the boys at his heels, went to look at the clay, and told them to strip up their trousers, get into the trough, and tread the clay by turns with their bare feet, while he sat on the door-stone to smoke his pipe.
The boys entered upon the work with great good-will; but the longer they tramped, the stiffer the clay grew as it absorbed the water, and the harder the work became. In the course of fifteen minutes they asked,—
“Isn’t it trod enough, Uncle Seth?”
They then wanted to put more water to it, but Mr. Seth would not permit that. The clay grew more dense: and the boys began, one after another, to get out of the trough. They suddenly recollected that they were wanted at home, till at the end of a half-hour only Will Redmond, Archie Crawford, and Sammy were left. Mr. Seth then looked at it, rubbed it between his fingers, and[Pg 202] told Sammy to let it lie till supper-time, then give it another treading, and he would tell him what to do next.
When the time came, Sammy could not get a single boy to help him. Their interest in pottery had evaporated. They had the cattle to drive up, chores to do, and plenty of occupation. Not so, however, with Sammy: his enthusiasm lay deeper. He got into the trough, and trod as long as he could see, till his legs ached, and he perceived that the clay became much tougher and finer. Just as he was about to go, he saw Uncle Seth coming from the mill, and they went home together.
When Uncle Seth came the next morning to look at the clay, he said,—
“You see, my lad, we always do every thing with a better heart when we understand the reason for doing it.”
He then took a piece of clay, placed it on the table, and cut it in halves with a knife, and made Sammy notice that there were a good many little holes and bubbles in it, and some little hard lumps, and sometimes he picked out a little gravel-stone.
“If,” said he, “these air-bubbles are not removed, when the ware is put into the kiln, that air will expand with the heat, and burst the clay; if there are stones, they will crumble; if there are sticks they will make steam, swell, and cause a flaw. The potters work their clay more than a woman does her dough: it is a great deal more work to prepare the clay than it is to do all the rest. After they have worked their clay, they let it lay in a heap to settle together, and break the bubbles, and close the holes: sometimes they dig it a whole year beforehand, and let it lie and ripen, as they call it.”
“I don’t care how hard I work, if I can only make a real good pot.”
“That’s a manly principle. You know how hard we all worked to build the mill; and see what a blessing it is. Every thing, my lad, comes from labor: it’s the root and foundation of every thing worth having. The Indians won’t work, and see what a miserable life they lead.”
Mr. Seth now made some of the clay into large lumps, and, taking up one, slapped it down on the table with all his force three or four times, and then kneaded it, and made Sammy take notice[Pg 204] that when he kneaded it he folded the dough back on itself so as to keep the grain in one direction; and then cut it in halves, and Sammy saw that the air-bubbles were closed up.
He told Sammy, if he just stuck together several lumps, just as an eave-swallow does to make her nest, and made a dish out of it, that when it came to dry it would be full of seams, a seam for every lump. He then gave him a mallet, and told him when he was tired with slapping he could pound it with the mallet.
“Why couldn’t I put it in Mr. Cuthbert’s hominy-block that is right here before the door, and pound it same as we used to the corn? I could get the boys to help, and pound up a lot.”
“That would be just the best thing that ever was; and get them to help you all you can the first going-off, while it is a new thing, for they’ll get sick of that sooner than they did treading the clay in the trough.”
Sammy found it was just as Mr. Seth said: the boys thought it was nice fun at first; but they soon became tired, and one after another found their folks wanted them, or they had something to do at home. In vain Sammy begged them to stay; but, no, they could not.
“You’ll want me to go ‘long with you some time, and then I won’t go,” said Sammy, and began to cry.
Soon Mr. Seth came along with some tools in his hand, with which he had been working at the mill.
“What’s the matter, Sammy?”
“The boys have all gone off, and won’t help me; and I can’t lift the pestle. I wanted to pound all what was in the trough, and they ain’t pounded more’n half of it.”
“Don’t cry, lad: I’m going to the house, and I’ll send Scip to help you.”
He felt so bad to have all his mates leave him, that he could not recover himself immediately and Scip (with whom Sammy was a great favorite) found him in tears.
“What de matter wid my leetle Sammy?” cried Scip, taking the lad in his arms, and wiping off his tears.
“The boys won’t help me,—Archie won’t, nor Will; and I can’t lift the pestle.”
“Nebber mind dem. Scip help you much you want: you tell Scip what you want.”
Scip was a powerful fellow; and, though he had[Pg 206] always avoided the hominy-block before the mill was built, he now stripped himself to the work, and soon pounded what remained of the clay that had been trod in the trough, then carried it into the house. Sam cut it up into lumps with a tomahawk; and Scip would take them up, and slap them down on the table with a force that filled up the pores of the clay, and made it compact.
Sammy hugged Scip, and told him he never would scare him again, would give him half of all the maple-sugar he got, make him an earthen mug to drink out of, and give him a lot of his hens’ eggs.
It is not probable that Sammy would have obtained much help from his companions, except for two reasons; one, that they could not have a very good time without him, and also that he (by his influence with Uncle Seth, and through him with Israel Blanchard) could obtain the company of Scip on their expeditions.
Thus it was for their interest to help Sammy, in order that they might have him and Scip to go with them. Sammy knew this, and made the most of it while they were disposed to make the least of it, and help him as little as would answer the purpose.
Sammy found that this clay was a very different material from any he had used before: it was fine, tough, and did not stick to his hands in the least; and with a mallet he could flat it out into broad sheets, and roll it with a rolling-pin as his mother did her pie-crust.
As Mr. Seth became interested in Sammy’s work, he recollected many things that at first did not occur to him, and told Sam that the potters put handles on their wares after they were partly dried; that they rolled out a piece of clay of the right shape, and then stuck it on with a little “slip” (that is, clay and water of the consistency of thick cream), smoothed it with a wet sponge; and after the wares were baked it would not show, but all look alike, and that a rag would do as well as a sponge. Mr. Seth had offered to make moulds of wood for him to mould his vessels on, but Sammy resolved to do it himself; and, as he knew that the quality of the clay would improve by lying, took time to think over the matter, and collected a number of hard-shelled pumpkins, gourds, and squashes, which suited his fancy in shape, boiled them, and scraped out the inside with a spoon instead of waiting for the meat to rot, or trusting to the wood-ants.
He wanted to make a bean-pot for Mrs. Stewart, and especially for Mrs. Blanchard, because Uncle Seth would eat of the beans in that, and, in respect to it, wished to do his best.
He could not brook the thought of making a pot, that was, in truth, to be a present to Uncle Seth in acknowledgment of favors received, and at the same time ask him to make the mould to form it on. The boy likewise felt, as every one does who has accomplished any thing, that he now had a character to sustain.
This is the operation of right and wrong notions and doings with a boy. When he has done one or two good things, he naturally feels anxious to do more, and maintain and add to the reputation he has obtained.
On the other hand, when he has done several bad things, and feels that he has lost character, he grows reckless: it becomes up-hill work to get back, and he finally gets discouraged. Thus it happens to him as the Scriptures declare: “For he that hath, to him shall be given; and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath.”
The boys wanted Sammy to go hunting with bows and arrows, as they were not allowed any more powder for gunning at present; but he recollected how they had disappointed him in respect to the hominy-block, and went to the mill, hoping something might drop from Uncle Seth that would aid his thought.
The good man having constructed the crane and screw with which to lift the upper millstone, and swing it off the spindle, was deliberating upon the method in which he should make a bail by which the screw was to be attached to the stone. He knew that among the trees that grew on the banks of the stream or among the bowlders on the hillside, where roots of trees were turned from their natural course by various obstructions, it was not difficult to find a root or branch[Pg 210] that would form the upper part or crown of the bail; and then, by cutting a mortise in each end, he could attach two strong straight pieces of wood to drop over the edge, and be fastened to it by wooden pins, thus forming a kind of wooden chain similar to the brake on the driving-wheel of the wind-shaft.
He knew if such a root or branch was found, it would be a rough affair, not a true curve, would probably be crooked, at least one way; and that it was not at all probable that one would be found large enough to hew to a square edge, and that here and there portions of bark would need to be left on. Should he make the crown from a large, slightly sweeping stick, it would be necessary to cut the wood so much across the grain, there would not be sufficient strength.
Mr. Seth was sitting flat on the floor, with his back to the wall, chewing a chip. Sammy, who also had a burden on his mind, seated himself at a little distance, waiting patiently for a proper opportunity to speak.
At length Mr. Seth began to talk to himself: “I know what I’ll do. I won’t get a natural crook; ’twill be rough, crooked, full of bunches,[Pg 211] and won’t come to the stone as it should. It will look just like cart and sled tongues that I have seen people make out of a crotched tree; and I always despise ’em. I won’t make it in pieces either. I’ll take a tough piece of wood, and bend it to exactly the shape I want; then I can finish it up smooth. Of course it won’t be quite as strong as a natural crook, but I’ll make it larger.”
“O Uncle Seth! how can you bend such a great piece of wood?”
“Ha! you there, my little potter? You can do any thing, my lad, if you only have pluck and patience.”
“Then,” thought Sammy, “I can find some better way to make pots, if I have pluck and patience.”
“Sammy, have you got your rifle with you?”
“No, sir. They don’t let the boys have powder and bullets now.”
“Well, I’m going home to get the oxen to haul a walnut-butt: run down to your house, and ask Harry and the other boys to go into the woods with me. Israel’ll go too. And tell Harry to bring his broad-axe: I want him to help me.”
After hauling home a walnut-butt twenty feet[Pg 212] in length, Mr. Seth rolled it upon blocks, and began to hew the bail from the large end of it; hewing the wood to a proud edge, and leaving a much greater quantity of wood in the middle, where the screw was going through, than at the ends.
Israel Blanchard and Harry began to make a form on which to bend this great piece of timber by treenailing logs together, and hewing them in the form of half the millstone the bail was to lift, or rather little more than half as room must not only be left for the stone to turn easily in the bail, but also for the head of the screw between the bail and the stone, and also at the ends, as the holes for the pins that attached it to the stone could not be very near the end, but space must be left to admit treenails to prevent splitting.
On the sides of this form they fastened strong uprights opposite each other, at proper distances, and strong yokes to slip over the ends of them, and fastened by pins through the uprights, that could be put on and taken off at pleasure; and made a number of large wedges to drive under the yokes.
It was now sundown; and Sammy, who had[Pg 213] been much more interested in watching the work than he would have been in hunting, went home to milk, and reflect upon the matter nearest his heart, having enjoyed some little opportunity to converse about it with Uncle Seth.
Sammy did not like the pumpkins and gourds as forms to mould his dishes on; neither did he like a mould of wood, or a basket. He knew the basket would leave the outside rough.
He sat down in the yard to milk his cow, and began; but became so absorbed in thought, that the cow put her foot in the pail all unnoticed by Sammy, who kept on milking mechanically.
“Why, Samuel Sumerford! are you out of your senses? Don’t you see that cow has got her foot in the pail? What in the world can you be thinking of? Now go give that milk to the hogs, and get a clean pail.—I declare, I don’t know what has got into that child: he was always tearing round, couldn’t live without half a dozen boys round him, always complaining that he couldn’t have no good times, till sometimes, betwixt him and that little sarpent of a Tony, I was afraid I should go distracted; and now he goes right down to the Cuthbert house the moment he gets his[Pg 214] breakfast, or up to the mill with Mr. Seth; and there he stays. He don’t seem to care about company, nor about his hens, nor any play. I don’t believe he’s taken a bow and arrow nor a gun in his hand this ten days; and seems all the time in a study.”
“I’m sure, mother, I should think you’d be glad of it,” said Enoch: “you couldn’t take any peace of your life for him; at any rate, all the rest of us are glad.”
“So am I, Enoch; but it seems so kind of unnatural!”
If the cow did put her foot in the pail, and if while it was there Sammy was leaning his head against her, he got an idea that after sleeping on he resolved to carry out in practice. But scarcely had he despatched his breakfast when several boys made their appearance with bows and arrows, and wanted him to go with them on a ramble.
“What’s the reason?” asked Stiefel.
“Don’t want to.”
“If you don’t go with us never, we won’t help you tread clay.”
“I’ll go some time: don’t want to go to-day.”
The boys went off; and Mrs. Sumerford said, “Sam, what made you so short with the boys? I know they didn’t like it. If you wanted to work with your clay, why didn’t you tell ’em that was the reason you didn’t want to go to-day? then they would have gone down to the Cuthbert house with you.”
“I knew they would, marm; and that was just the reason I didn’t tell ’em. I didn’t want ’em down there: I wanted to be alone to contrive something. Mother, if you was going to draw a piece of linen into the loom, and study out a new figure that you never wove before, would you want all the neighbors in, gabbing?”
“No, I’m sure I shouldn’t.”
Sammy went to his workshop; and his mother began to wash the breakfast-dishes, saying, “Well, these are new times: I shouldn’t think I’d been talking with Sam Sumerford.”
The first thing Sammy did was to gather up all the pumpkins, gourds, and squashes he had been at so much pains to select and dig out, and throw them on the woodpile: he had brought with him a piece of ash board (a remnant that was left when Harry made a drum, and had given him), also a[Pg 216] large piece of thick, smooth birch-bark pressed flat as a board, and Harry’s large compasses. He sat down at the table, and began to talk to himself:—
“I heard my brother say, and tell Jim Blanchard, he didn’t want to eat other people’s cold victuals, but he liked best to build his own campfire. I don’t want to eat anybody’s cold victuals neither. I’ll make my own moulds: I won’t ask Uncle Seth to make ’em. If I can’t make ’em, I won’t try to be a potter.”
Sammy had found that the bean-pot he had made for his mother was about the right size, but the shape did not suit: he knew that everybody who looked at it would see that it was just the shape of a pumpkin. To use his own expression, it was too “pottle-bellied;” and the mouth was not large enough to admit a piece of pork the right size. The cover of this pot dropped inside the rim of the pot; and, as nearly all the settlers baked their beans in a hole under the hearth, it was not so good a form for keeping out the ashes, as to have the cover shut over the rim, with a flange on the inside of it.
With the compasses he struck out a circle on[Pg 217] the table, the exact size of the bottom of his mother’s bean-pot, of which he had the measure, and, boring a hole in the centre, stuck up a round, straight willow stick considerably longer than the height of the original vessel. Around this stick and in this circle he built up a mass of clay as high as the stick, and much larger in circumference than the old pot.
His object in putting the stick in the centre of his circle was to obtain a guide, a plumb-line centre from which to work.
“When they build a haystack,” said he, “they always set a pole in the middle, and then they get all sides alike.”
Having thus provided plenty of material to go and come upon, he ran home, and got his mother’s pot, and placed it on the table beside his pile of clay; then with the compasses marked on a piece of bark the size he intended to have the mouth of his pot, and cut it out, levelled the top of the clay, and, making a hole exactly in the centre of the bark, slipped it over the upright rod and downward till it rested upon the surface of the clay; and put some flat stones upon it to keep it in place.
He now had the centre of the top and bottom, and by measuring found the centre of the side, and marked it in four places; and with those guides began with his scalping-knife to slice off the clay, form the sides and swell and taper of the vessel, and by placing a rule across the mouth obtained another guide, till he thus formed a model to suit his eye. Sometimes he took off a little too much in one place, and made a hollow: then he filled it with clay and cut again, until he felt that he could make no further improvement.
It was of much better proportions than the original, which was manifest as they sat side by side: still the capacity of the vessel represented by the mould was about the same. If it was a little deeper, and had a larger mouth, it was less bulging in the middle, tapering gradually each way.
Sammy cleaned up the table, and was walking round it, viewing his pot from different standpoints, once in a while making some trilling alteration, or smoothing the surface with a wet rag, when he was greatly surprised by the entrance of his mother.
“O mother! did you come to see me work?”
“Not altogether, my dear. Nat Cuthbert said[Pg 219] there was a pair of wool-cards in the chamber, that he would lend me. Run up, and look for them.”
Sammy soon returned with the cards, when his mother said,—
“Had you rather be down here alone, than at play with the boys?”
“Yes, marm: I’m having a nice time.”
“What made you throw all those punkins, squashes, and gourds away, my son, after you had taken so much pains to boil and scrape the inside out?”
“‘Cause they wasn’t the right shape. They had their bigness all in one place. The punkins had their bigness all in the middle, the squashes and gourds at the bottom. They wasn’t good moulds, marm.”
“Wasn’t the moulds the Lord made good enough for you to work from?”
“The Lord don’t make bean-pots, mother; he only makes squashes and punkins and such like: if he did, he’d make ’em right, ’cause he makes the beans, flowers, and every thing right. Marm, there’s both pots: now which do you think is the best shape? Truly now, marm.”
“Well, Sammy, I think this last is the best shape, and it has a larger mouth to take in a good piece of pork. Come, you’d better go home with me. It’s only about an hour till dinner-time.”
“Has the mill been going this morning?”
“Most all the forenoon, but the wind is nearly gone now.”
“Then Uncle Seth hasn’t touched his bail; but he’ll work on it this afternoon, and I’ll see him.”
He now made a profile just the shape of the outside of his pot, from the thin piece of ash-board, then set it off an inch from the edge, and cut the other side to correspond: thus the inside of the profile gave the outside of the mould, and the outside of the profile the inside of the vessel to be made. He then placed the great compasses each side on the middle of the mould, and by that measure cut out another birch-bark pattern: thus he had the measure of the diameter in three places, bottom, middle, and top. After putting the profile and pieces of bark carefully away, he tore down his mould, flung the clay in with the rest, laid away the stick for future use, and ran home to dinner.
He had worked out all his plans in his head[Pg 221] and in part with his hands, knew he could do it, and felt easy; could go to the mill now. But to have gone in the morning, and left that idea undeveloped—he would not have done it to see Uncle Seth make a dozen bails.
When he came near the mill he met Uncle Seth, Israel Blanchard, Mr. Holdness, Cal, and his brother Harry, who had been to dinner with Israel, coming to help Mr. Seth bend the bail that he blocked out in the stick the day before, and had not meddled with since: there having sprung up a “mill-wind,” he had been occupied in grinding. Thus Sammy was in season.
A fire was made in the block-house, and water heated. The part of the tree on which the bail was made being covered with straw, hot water was poured on it till it was thoroughly steamed: then all those strong men lifted the whole stick, and put the finished end on the mould between two uprights, put a yoke over, and Uncle Seth drove a wedge between the yoke and the bail, bringing it snug to the mould, and gave the word, “Lower away.” They now gradually let down the heavy unhewn end of the stick that was in the air, the great leverage bringing it down easily,[Pg 222] for the bail was as limber as a rag. Slowly the heavy timber came down, Uncle Seth meanwhile driving wedges under the yokes, and Sammy pouring hot water on the portions designated by the former, till the end of the stick struck the ground.
The end of the mould was instantly lifted, and large blocks that lay ready put under it, which permitted the end of the stick to come down far enough to bend that portion of the bail that formed the crown, the most important part of the whole affair.
“Over with him,” said Uncle Seth. The whole form that had previously stood on its edge was instantly upset, lying flat on the ground, stakes driven to hold it, and the remaining portion brought to the mould, secured by wedges, and the long end of the stick sawed off.
The mould was now again set upon its edge, more water poured on, and a final drive given to all the wedges, and the operation completed.
“Indeed, brother,” said Uncle Seth, passing his hand carefully over the hot wood, “there’s not the sign of a ‘spawl’ on it: the wood is not strained nor rucked in the least. A smart piece[Pg 223] of timber that: I knew ’twas afore I cut it, just as well as I know now. I’ve had my eye on that tree for more’n a year.”
“How did you know it?” asked Sammy, who was not disposed to permit any opportunity to obtain information to pass unimproved.
“I knew by the way it grew, and the ground it grew on. The limbs came out straight from the tree, and turned down: a tree that grows that way is always of tougher wood about bending than one when the limbs run up like a fir. Then it grew on moist, loamy land; and trees that grow on that kind of land have wood more pliant than where they grow on coarse, gravelly land.
“How much more workmanlike that looks than any natural crook full of bunches and hollows! Not that I would say any thing agin nat’ral crooks: they are great things sometimes when a man’s at his wits’ ends, specially in ship-building and often in mill-work.”
“What are you going to do to it next?” asked Sammy.
“Nothing, my lad, right away: it must remain in the press two or three days, that it may become set so that it won’t straighten.”
When Mr. Seth found that the bail was well seasoned and set, he took it out of press, cut the holes in the ends to receive the pins that were to hold it to the stone, and the large hole in the centre by which it was to be hung to the head of the screw, worked it off smooth, and oiled it.
He then made a washer or wooden circle to lie between the shoulder on the head of the screw and the under side of the bail, in order that the screw might turn more easily.
Screws of this size are always turned by putting a lever into holes, generally four made in the head of them.
There were two objections to this method in the present case: one was, that the bail interfered with turning the screw, another, that it would be necessary to make the head of the screw much bigger, and require a larger space between the bail and the stone than Mr. Seth cared to have. Therefore he left the top of the screw square, and made a lever to fit over it like a wrench over a bolt.
It was soon known among the boys that Mr. Seth had got the bail most done, and would be likely to try it. Israel Blanchard and Mr. [Pg 225]Holdness were seen by the children going towards the mill; and they followed suit.
The hopper, shoe, and covering boards were removed, the stone laid bare, and the crane with the bail swung over it, the pins that confined the latter to the stone thrust in; and Mr. Seth, standing on the stone, turned the screw, and lifted both himself and the stone as easily, Sam Sumerford said, as a squirrel would wash his face.
It was then swung over a trap-door in the floor, into which the lower edge of the stone dropped; and they turned it over as easily as a griddle in its bail. No more would have been required to place the stone in a position to be picked, than to have put some blocks beneath it, and turned back the screw. The hole in the floor saved the labor of lifting the stone so high as would otherwise have been necessary, and also required a less length of screw.
“This stone,” said Uncle Seth, after examining it, “don’t need picking, and I didn’t expect it did. I only wanted to see how the thing would work. Wonder what Mr. Honeywood’ll think about a wooden bail when he comes back from the scout.”
FRUITS OF PATIENCE AND PERSEVERANCE.
Sammy now returned with greater interest than ever to his work of experimenting. Having kneaded a lump of clay, he flattened it out on his bench with the mallet, and rolled it with the rolling-pin into a broad sheet of the thickness which he thought desirable for the bottom of his pot, and cut it out of the proper size and shape, and as much larger than the original vessel, as the thickness he intended for the sides. He then sprinkled sand on the bench to prevent the bottom from sticking, rolled out another sheet of dough, and cut it all up into strips a little longer than the circumference of his vessel, thus leaving room to lap; these he rolled into pieces as nearly equal in size as possible, and with them built up the sides of his pot from the bottom, moistening the edges where they came together with clay slip, and [Pg 227]placing them one upon another like the coils of a rope.
By pressing with his hands on both sides and the surface, he incorporated the different layers into one, so as to obliterate all the marks where they came together. With his two circular pieces of birch-bark he regulated the size, and with the profile the curve, of the side, and made a vessel precisely like his own model. Then, with a roll of clay, he made a projection on the inside to hold the cover, to be put on afterwards when it was half dry.
The young potter was now quite well satisfied. He had made a pot far superior to the other, of handsomer shape; and, the clay being properly worked, there was no probability of its coming to pieces in the fire; and, after smoothing the sides with a wet rag, he began to consider how he should ornament his work.
Harry was possessed of a great genius for sketching and drawing figures of all kinds on birch-bark, and often did it for the amusement of the children.
Sam showed the pot to Harry, and wanted him to draw on it Indians killing white folks, and[Pg 228] scalping old people, women, and little children.
“I wouldn’t do that,” said Harry: “that would be very well if you was going to give the pot to Mr. Holdness, McClure, or Mr. Israel; but Mr. Seth don’t like any thing of that kind. If I was you, I’d have the windmill: I’ll cut that on it, and Uncle Seth right under it, and the year it was built; and on the other side I’ll make a man sowing grain.”
Sammy assented to this, and put a wreath of oak-leaves round the design and inscription by pressing them into the clay: then he put on the handles. Mr. Seth had told him that wet leather would polish a pot: he therefore obtained a piece from Mr. Holdness, who was the tanner of the little community, and had managed, by shaving his bark with a drawing-knife, to tan leather enough for pack-saddles.
The grateful boy now resolved to present the offering (that had cost him so much labor), to his great benefactor, carried the pot to Mrs. Israel Blanchard, and with a throbbing heart confided the secret to her.
The next day she invited Mrs. Sumerford, [Pg 229]Sammy, the families of Mr. Honeywood and Mr. Holdness, to supper. When they were all seated at the table, she put on the pot of beans, setting it directly in front of Uncle Seth, with the windmill staring him directly in the face.
Great was the surprise, many and fervent the encomiums; and Sammy was never better satisfied with himself.
He had also made a pot for Mrs. Stewart. When she looked at it, and read the name inscribed on it, the mother’s eyes filled with tears.
“So you put Tony’s name on it: you loved your little mate, Sammy.”
“Yes, marm: I miss him all the whole time. I never shall think so much of anybody as I did of him. I like all the boys, but I loved Tony. If he was here, he’d help me: we should have made a pot for our two mothers; and ’cause he ain’t here, I made this for you.”
“You are a bonnie bairn, an’ I trust your mither’ll nae ha’ occasion to greet for you as I maun for Tony.”
Sammy could now make earthen vessels with much greater facility. He had a good eye, and could make them without so much measuring as[Pg 230] was at first necessary, and without making a model. All he had to do was to determine in his mind the size he would have the vessel, roll out his clay, and cut the sheet long enough to form a circle as large as the circumference of his vessel at its largest place, then cut it into strips, lapping some more and some less, as the sides flared or tapered; and, as he kept his measures of height, diameter, and the profiles of the sides, he soon learned to make a vessel of any size he wished.
When it was found that his ware would bear to be put on the fire to boil in, the women wished to use them in this manner; but there was nothing by which to hang them.
One day he was digging among the broken pottery under the shelving bank on the site of the old Indian village, and unearthed the upper half of a pot, the edge of the mouth rolled over, making a very broad flange. He took it to Mr. Honeywood, who told him that it was done by the Indian squaws to hold a withe to hang it over the fire by.
“I should think it would burn off.”
“They put clay upon it, and watched it: if the clay fell off, put on more.”
“Mr. Honeywood, how did you know so much[Pg 231] about Indians? and how did you learn to talk Indian?”
“I learned to speak the language from two men in Baltimore, who had been prisoners with them a long time: of their customs I learned a great deal more from Wasaweela the Mohawk, with whom I hunted and camped a whole winter.”
Sammy now went to work, and made some very thick and strong pots, that would hold two pailfuls, after the Indian form, and fastened withes to them. They were very useful, for the women could hang them on the crane, and boil meat or vegetables.
They kept a little clay at home to smear them with, which was seldom necessary if the fire was made with judgment directly under the bottom of the pot, and not suffered to blaze upon the sides.
Sammy now wished to try his hand at a milk-pan; but his mother discouraged him, because she said the milk would soak into it more or less, and it would not be possible to keep it sweet, and after a while the milk put in it would sour. However, he made one, just to see if he could; and it looked just like his mother’s except the glazing. How he wished he could glaze! He made pitchers and drinking-mugs, and put handles on them by [Pg 232]forming a roll of clay, and then sticking them on when the ware was partly dry. He would stick the upper end of the roll of clay on the vessel, then dip his hand in water, form the roll into proper shape, and attach the lower end, then smooth with a moist rag. After these unglazed dishes became foul, Sammy purified them by putting them in the kiln, and baking them again. He made another improvement that facilitated his labor. He got Scip to plane and shave a piece of pine perfectly round, two feet long, and three inches in diameter, and split in equal parts with a saw. Scip then hollowed out each part, and put dowels in one half, and bored holes to correspond in the other, which held the pieces evenly upon each other.
When he had made a roll of clay about the size, he dipped the mould in water, put the roll in one half, and squat the other on it, and thus made every roll the same size perfectly; and, by counting them up, he knew very nearly when he had cut out enough for his pot.
There was one thing he could not prevent his mind from dwelling on: it haunted him night and day; to wit, the statement made by Uncle Seth in respect to the potter’s wheel, and with what [Pg 233]marvellous celerity vessels could be made on it. That a thousand pots could be made in a day, seemed to him little short of a miracle. He had not forgotten that Uncle Seth had said, that, instead of a crank (of the nature of which he had little conception), the spindle was sometimes moved by a band going over a larger wheel, and passing round a smaller wheel (pulley) on the spindle, and that this large wheel was turned by another person.
This was not to him difficult of conception; and he thought Uncle Seth might, if he would, make one of that kind, and cherished a vague notion that he might make such a one himself.
With his head full of such thoughts, he was occupied in preparing nests for setting hens, and casting about in his mind which of the boys he should endeavor to persuade to help him, should he adventure upon it.
He finally pitched upon Archie Crawford. Archie was quite ingenious, could make a good wooden or horn spoon, a windmill, or a trencher, and manifested more endurance in sticking to any thing he undertook than most of the boys; was of a kindly nature, and willing to oblige.
While Sammy was thus engaged, Archie [Pg 234]presented himself, accompanied by several more armed with bows and arrows. The bows were capable, when the arrow was drawn to the head, of killing a bear or wolf; and the arrows were most of them steel pointed, the others flint heads, but they were of Indian make and effective.
These bows belonged to the larger boys. The one carried by Johnnie Armstrong belonged to his brother Ned; Harry Sumerford had killed an Indian with it. As they had been restricted in the use of powder, they had betaken themselves to the use of the bow; but these boys, by virtue of incessant practice from childhood, would, when the object was near, kill nearly every time. The bows they now had, however, were too stiff for them, and they were not able to draw the arrow to the head.
“Come, Sammy,” said Archie, “get Harry’s bow and arrow, and go with us: we’re going to shoot pigeons and coons, and want to shoot fish.”
The boys were in the habit of shooting fish when they came near the surface in the shoal-water; but they sometimes lost both arrow and fish.
Sammy made no objections to going this time,[Pg 235] as he had used up all his clay, and knew he should need help from his mates, and that he must gratify them if he desired their aid.
“It’s no good for me to take Harry’s bow. I’ll take Knuck’s: I’d ruther have that. I can’t begin to bend Harry’s.”
As the baby was asleep in the cradle, and could make no objection, they took the bear with them. There were several dogs: Will Redmond had brought Mr. Honeywood’s Fan, the mother of the whole litter; Sammy had one; and Tony’s had come visiting of his own free will.
The boys would have taken them all; but Mrs. Sumerford objected, because, though the dogs and the bear agreed well at home where they had been taught to show due respect to his bearship, it was quite the reverse when they were not under the inspection of their masters, the dogs always being the aggressors. Therefore the dogs were shut up in the house till the boys were gone, when Mrs. Sumerford let them out, and gave them their breakfast.
Coons are wont to sleep in the daytime, and forage in the night. A favorite resort of these creatures is the evergreen trees with close foliage,[Pg 236] among which it is not easy to see them. There, after a hearty meal, they coil themselves around the tree, lying upon the limbs at their junction with the trunks, and sleeping. The boys were no novices in the art of finding them: one or two would climb the tree, and drive them to the top, or upon the outer limbs, and the others shoot them. They liked best to shoot pigeons when they could find them on the ground, or on low bushes feeding on berries.
In shooting into the tops of trees, if they missed their aim, the arrows were likely to stick in a limb or some part of the tree, in which case it was not only some work to recover them, but the points of the flint ones were liable to be broken, and those of the iron ones bent, or if steel they were sometimes broken.
They had killed four coons, finding a whole family in one tree, and a partridge, and were now in pursuit of pigeons, creeping on their hands and knees among the bushes; and the bear, as fond of berries as the pigeons, was improving the opportunity, lying down on the loaded bushes, and eating while the juice ran in streams from either side of his mouth.
The pigeons were accustomed to bears, had no fear of them, would feed right under their noses. Archie Crawford knew this, and was crawling up to some pigeons, and sheltering himself from their notice behind the body of the bear, when from under a windfall out rushed a wild bear, followed by two cubs, and growling savagely.
The civilized bear neither manifested fear nor a wish to quarrel. The boys, on the other hand, strong in numbers, and many of them armed with steel-pointed arrows, were delighted with the prospect of a duel between two such antagonists, and shouted,—
“Go at her, baby! clinch her! you can lick her: we’ll back you.”
While baby’s bear was mildly regarding his savage antagonist, the hairs of whose coat stood upright with anger, the white foam flying from her lips, and who was working herself into a great rage, one of the cubs ventured up to baby’s bear, who, putting down his nose, smelled of the cub, and licked it with his tongue.
The wild bear then sprung upon the tame one, and seized him by the under jaw; upon which the other, being much stronger and heavier, instantly[Pg 238] rose upon his hind-legs, and flung her off with so great force, that she not only fell to the earth, but rolled entirely over upon her back, almost crushing one of her cubs.
At this decided demonstration, the boys, wild with delight, shouted encouragement; but the tame bear showed no disposition to follow up his advantage, and continue the contest so well begun. Not so with the other, who, springing up madder than ever, kept walking around her opponent, growling savagely, while the latter began eating berries.
The boys now, provoked at his lack of mettle, addressed him in another fashion, calling him a coward, lazy, and a fool, because he did not spring upon the other when on her back, and finish her.
The wild bear now seized the tame one by his right fore-paw, which she endeavored to grind between her teeth. The other, however, succeeded in withdrawing it, and, now thoroughly mad, uttered in his turn terrific growls; and a deadly grapple ensued between them, to the great delight of the boys, who now had what they desired,—the prospect of a contest of life or death.
It soon became evident, that though the tame bear was much the larger, and for a “spurt” the[Pg 239] stronger of the two, and by no means lacking in courage, his fat, short wind, and want of exercise, rendered him a poor match for his lean and wiry antagonist.
At this juncture of affairs, Ike Proctor, who had the strongest and a remarkably clear, sharp-toned voice, mounting a great rock, called the dogs with all his might. At the same time the others, drawing their bows with every ounce of strength they possessed, sent a shower of arrows at the wild bear, venturing near enough to make amends for lack of muscle.
The bear instantly turned upon the boys, struck Sammy’s bow from his hand with a blow of her paw, tore his hunting-shirt from his shoulder, slightly lacerating the flesh, broke his belt, and in another instant would have killed him if Jim Grant had not at that moment sent a flint-headed arrow into her right eye, and Archie Crawford fastened a steel point in her left nostril; and Sammy, picking up his weapon while the bear was trying to shake the barbed shaft from her nostril, returned to the charge.
“Here they come! Here come the dogs!” shouted Rogers. On they came, full stretch, [Pg 240]uttering short barks; the mother, a powerful veteran used to coping with bears and wolves, leading the van. Instinctively avoiding the stroke of the bear’s paw, she fastened to the right ear of the brute, one of the pups instantly seizing the left.
The bear, enfeebled by her previous encounter and the loss of blood, strove in vain to shake off these ferocious antagonists. Strong as fierce they clung to her, while the remaining dog buried his fangs in the bear’s throat, and, rolling her on her back, thrust his sharp muzzle in her vitals. The blood poured out in a stream; the hard-lived animal quivered a moment, and gave up.
Excited by the combat, and the smell and taste of blood, the dogs instantly turned upon baby’s bear already half dead, and upon the cubs, and killed them in a moment in spite of all their masters could do to prevent it.
The boys would have killed the dogs if they had dared, so enraged and grieved were they at the death of the tame bear, and also at the loss of the cubs which they coveted.
“What pretty little things these would have been for us to keep!” said Mugford, taking one of the cubs up in his arms. “Baby’s bear would[Pg 241] have liked ’em; and how handsome the baby and the two little bears would have looked, all three lying asleep together on the old bear!”
“They were big enough to eat any thing,” said Proctor.
“You’re crying, Sammy,” said Will Redmond, noticing the tears on his cheeks, which he did not try to conceal.
“If I be, I ain’t crying for myself, but only ’cause baby’ll miss his bear, and ’cause my mother’ll feel so bad: she loved the bear ’cause he was so good to the baby. I’ve seen him lay on the hearth after he’d been asleep, and just waked up, and stretch and gape, and stick out every claw on his feet, just like the old cat will sometimes; the baby would see ’em, and creep along to get hold of ’em; and the bear would put ’em all in so they needn’t scratch baby. I’ve seen that little thing try to suck the bear’s paw. Oh, he was a good bear!”
“I loved him too,” said Archie; “and it makes me feel real bad, just like crying. Let’s all cry. There ain’t anybody to see us: we’ll cry all we want to.”
It needed but this to open the sluices, for the[Pg 242] eyes of every boy were brimfull of tears. They had a good solid cry, and, having given vent to their pent-up emotions, felt relieved.
They all collected round the dead body of the bear. Sammy, kneeling down, began to pat his head, and talk to him as though he was alive.
“Poor beary! we be all real sorry you’re dead: mother and the baby’ll be sorry too. The dogs always did hate you, though you never did them a bit of hurt, wouldn’t hurt a fly.”
“If you’d been brought up in the woods same as that wild bear, you’d have licked two of her.”
“The dogs know they’ve done wrong,” said Rogers: “only see how meaching they look, and keep their tails ‘twixt their legs.”
The wild bear was poor, and not fit to eat: so they skinned her. But baby’s bear was as fat as a well-fatted hog, but no one of them for a moment indulged the thought of eating or even skinning him.
“If we leave the baby’s bear in the woods, and cover him up with brush, the wolves will get him,” said Sammy.
Fred Stiefel and Archie volunteered to go home, and get shovels and hoes; and they soon[Pg 243] dug a grave in the soft ground to bury their pet in.
“Let’s put the cubs ‘long with baby’s bear. We know he liked ’em, cause he smelt of ’em, and was licking one of ’em when the old bear jumped at him,” said Archie.
“The wolves sha’n’t have baby’s bear; they sha’n’t pick his bones,” said Sammy.
The boys brought stones as large as two, and sometimes as large as four of them, could carry, and piled them on the grave to prevent the wolves from digging into it. They put a large stone in the bear-skin; and four carried it, and put on small ones till they made a large pile, resolving whenever they came that way they would put on a stone. When the boys returned home (for they all went home with Sam), bringing with them the bear-skin, four coons, a partridge, and only three pigeons, and with downcast looks made known what had taken place, Mrs. Sumerford expressed much sorrow.
“You don’t know, Sammy, how much I shall miss that creature. He was so good! He wasn’t a mite like any tame bear that ever I saw; and I’ve seen scores of ’em, first and last. They are[Pg 244] always great thieves; but he wasn’t; he had principle: he was a good deal honester than Scip. They are mostly great plagues; people soon grow sick of ’em, and kill ’em: but he was not the least trouble. All the tame bears that ever I saw before him were mighty unsartin’: they’d take spells when they would snap and strike with their paws.”
“Tony’s bear did: he killed a dog, broke his back at one lick of his paw; and he clinched Mrs. Blanchard, and wanted to kill her,” said Grant.
“I know he did; but this bear was a great help to me about the child. When I was all alone, and wanted to weave, I could put the baby on the floor with the bear, and they would play ever so long; and when I couldn’t get the little one to sleep by rocking, to save me, he’d go to sleep on the bear.”
While his mother was thus recounting the virtues of the dead, it brought the whole matter to the mind of Sammy in such a light that he began to cry, and the boys with him; and finally the good woman herself was moved by the tears of the children.
The baby was sitting on the floor with his[Pg 245] playthings, and, not knowing what to make of it, began staring with his great round eyes, first at his mother, then at the others; and finally, not relishing the silence, pounded on the floor with a spoon, and laughed.
“If you wasn’t a baby, you wouldn’t laugh; you’d cry like every thing,” said Sammy.
“What creatures boys are!” said Mrs. Sumerford. “We’ve been thinking all the danger was from Indians; but I’m afraid they’ll contrive to be killed by bears, or be drowned. They will if they can.”
TRIUMPH OF THOUGHT AND INGENUITY.
After the departure of the boys, Sammy took up, with greater enthusiasm than ever, those trains of thought that had been so rudely interrupted by the day’s occurrences, and after supper sat down in one corner of the room to reflect.
His mother, having spun her stint, began to reel up the yarn. As he sat thinking, and occasionally looking at her as she reeled the yarn from the spindle, he communed thus with himself:—
“If a potter’s wheel is an upright spindle with a little wheel on it turned by a band that goes over a big wheel, and my mother’s wheel is a level spindle with a little wheel on it turned by a band that goes over a big wheel, then what’s the reason, if my mother’s wheel is turned upside down, the spindle won’t be upright, just as Uncle Seth said[Pg 247] a potter’s wheel was? And then if there was a round piece put on top to put the clay on, and you turned the big wheel, it would turn the clay.”
“Sammy, don’t you feel well?” setting her wheel back against the wall.
“Yes, ma’am, I’m well.”
“What makes you sit there so still, then?”
“I don’t know, ma’am.”
“I don’t believe you feel very well: you’ve been through a good deal this day, and you needn’t go to milking. I’ll milk: the cows don’t give a great mess now.”
Scarcely had his mother left the threshold than Sammy, jumping up, turned the wheel over flat on the floor, with the pointed end of the spindle uppermost. He put a log under the post of the wheel to keep the end of the spindle from touching the floor, and prevent its turning. There was a basket of turnips sitting in the corner: he sliced the top from one of them, to flatten it, and stuck it on the end of the spindle, and getting on his knees turned the wheel round; and round went both spindle and turnip.
“There!” said he talking to himself, “if that turnip was a round piece of wood, and if there[Pg 248] was clay on it, ‘twould be the same thing as the potter’s wheel that Uncle Seth told about, that didn’t have any crank, only two wheels.”
The same principle, Sammy meant.
“I haven’t got any tools, nor any thing to make a wheel of: so I couldn’t make one.”
The tears sprung to the poor boy’s eyes; and hearing his mother’s step on the door-stone, and not wanting to have her question him about his tears, he opened the window-shutter, leaped out, made for the hovel, and sat down there. He had left in haste; and, as Mrs. Sumerford set down her milk-pail, she saw her wheel upside down, with a turnip on the end of the spindle. “What’s all this!” pulling off the turnip. “Samuel, Samuel Sumerford! Did ever anybody see or hear tell of such a boy? It’s a mercy that he didn’t break the wheel-head. What satisfaction could there be in turning that wheel upside down, and sticking a turnip on the spindle?”
The little fellow’s reflections were of a sombre cast. “There ain’t no good times now as there used to be. I had a bear, and he was killed; Tony had one, and he was killed; and now baby’s bear, that was the best most of the whole, is killed too.[Pg 249] I had a tame coon, and they killed him; a cosset lamb, and he died; and the Indians have come, and carried off Tony who I loved better than the bear or coon or cosset lamb. The Indians keep coming, and killin’ our folks; and Alice Proctor thinks they’ll kill us all some time.”
Sammy’s thoughts now seemed to take a sudden turn; for at once he jumped up, and ran at his utmost speed to the Cuthbert house. His mother, looking after him in amazement, said,—
“I don’t know about this pottery business: the child don’t seem one mite as he used to. I hope he won’t lose his wits.”
Rushing up garret, he brought down part of a flax-wheel; that is, the bench, the wheel, and the posts on which the wheel was hung, the rest having been carried off by Cuthbert. Sammy’s spirits rose with a bound: he thought, if he only had a wheel, he could manage the rest.
Where should he get boards to make a bench? for boards were precious things in the settlement. He recollected that Mr. McDonald had in his house a meal-chest, and partitions made of boards, and some milk-shelves; and that some of them were used for making coffins to bury the family[Pg 250] in, as there was not time to manufacture boards with the whip-saw. But he thought they might not all have been used; the house stood empty, and was rotting down.
Away ran the excited lad for Archie, made a confidant of him, and wanted him to go to the McDonald house to see if there were not some boards there, and, if so, get them.
“You don’t ketch me there this time of day: it’s haunted. It’s all but sundown now. I’ll go in the morning: ’twill be dark by the time we get there.”
“‘Twon’t be dark if we run. All I want is just to look in, and see what there is; and, if there is any, we can get them some other time.”
As usual, Sammy prevailed; and away they ran, reaching the place just after the sun had set. Directly before the door stood the hominy-block on which McDonald and his son were pounding corn when the savages came upon them, and an Indian arrow still sticking in the block. On the door-step was the blood-stain, where little Maggie was butchered. The boys recollected it well, for she was their playmate. They didn’t like to venture in; for the bullet-proof shutters were closed[Pg 251] just as they had been left when the family were killed, and it was dark inside. They had not forgotten that the floor (on that fearful morning) of the very room in which they expected to find the boards was red with the blood of Grace and Janet McDonald. They tried to look through the loop-holes, but could not see any thing distinctly within.
“You go in, Sam.”
“I don’t want to: go yourself.”
“It’s more your place to go than ’tis for me, ’cause you want to be a potter.”
Urged by his desire to obtain boards, Sammy at length entered the door, and, standing in the passage, looked in.
“I see some square pieces of timber, Archie, that would be nice to make the frame of the bench; but I don’t see any boards. The partition’s all taken down: only these timbers what it was fastened to are left.”
A slight noise was heard in the room; and Sam tumbled over Archie in his haste to escape, and both ran away. They ventured back, and found that the noise that had alarmed them was made by the fluttering of a piece of loose bark (moved by[Pg 252] the wind) which hung by one end to a log; and found there was one short board left in the room, about six feet long. They thought there might be some in the chamber where the children used to sleep, which was not so dark as the rest of the house, because light came through many chinks in the roof.
Sam mounted the ladder to look; but, just as he got his head above the level of the floor, he heard a great scrambling, and something went swiftly past him. He either leaped or tumbled to the floor (he never knew which); and they ran home, resolving never again to go to that place in the twilight.
Early next morning they went there; and it seemed very different in the daytime. They brought their guns with them; but of what use they supposed fire-arms would be, in a contest with supernatural foes, is not readily perceived: however, they felt stronger for having them.
Archie opened the shutters, that had been closed by the hands of Mrs. McDonald a few moments before her death, and the sunlight streamed in. In the chamber they found a wide board twenty feet long, that was planed on one side, and placed[Pg 253] between the beds for the children to step on when they got out of bed, as the rest of the floor was laid with poles that were rough with knots and bark. They took down the joist in the room below: these had been sawed out with the whip-saw, by Mr. Seth and his brother, when they put up the partition. They were a great acquisition to the boys, almost as much as the boards; for they could not have hewn out joist accurately enough to frame together.
“Mr. McDonald didn’t think, when he got Uncle Seth to make this partition, a meal-chest, and milk-shelves (what nobody else in the Run has got, and Mr. Blanchard himself ain’t got), that they would take the boards to make coffins for himself and his folks; did he, Sammy?”
“Don’t let’s talk about that here.”
They yoked the oxen, hauled their stuff to the Cuthbert house, and set about making a bench.
“How high and wide and long shall we make it?” said Archie.
“Uncle Seth told me it ought to be about as big as this table.”
Cutting their joist, they halved the pieces together, and made the frame of the bench with a[Pg 254] cross-sill at the bottom in the centre to receive the end of the spindle. How they should make the spindle, and what they should make it of, was the next thing to be considered.
They went to a piece of land that had been cleared, and the timber burnt, but had not been planted, and had partially grown up again, where were a great number of ash-sprouts, that grew luxuriantly and very straight, as is the habit of that tree; and soon found one to answer their purpose.
Two blocks, one much larger than the other, were sawed from the ends of logs,—one for a pulley (wheel the boys called it), and the other for a small wheel to receive the clay; and a hole bored in the cross-sill to admit the lower end of the spindle.
Holes were bored, and a square mortise cut in the centre of the two blocks, and the spindle squared near the lower end, and the pulley fitted on to it. The top of the spindle was also squared for the other block. This was done in order that neither the pulley nor the wheel might turn on the spindle: then a score was cut in the edge of the pulley to receive a band. The frame of the[Pg 255] bench was now boarded on top, the spindle put in its place, and the upper wheel put on. Their tools were few, and the boys without practice in using them; yet, though the work was rough, the bench was level, and the spindle plumb, although made of an ash-sprout, the bark still adhering to portions of it. The pulley and clay wheel were also true circles, as they struck them out with Harry’s large compasses, and cut to the scratch.
A serious consultation was now held in respect to the manner in which they should avail themselves of the flax-wheel.
After a long consideration, arising from the fact that the flax-wheel was not theirs, and that they could do nothing to unfit it for future use in spinning, Sammy knocked the legs out carefully from the bench, and placed the latter upon its edge, upon the floor, with the wheel and posts attached, and at a proper distance from the spindle; then put under the posts a flattened piece of wood just thick enough to bring it up to a level, and drove into it two pins each side of the post to keep them in place, and short enough for the wheel to play over them.
Flat stones were laid against the other end of[Pg 256] the bench, to keep it from moving; a band passed round both the flax-wheel and the spindle, and the bearings greased. Some method must now be devised to turn the large wheel; and this was not an easy matter. This wheel had on it a short crank, to which (when the parts of the machine were all in place) the treadle was attached; and on this crank a tang half an inch long, with a button on the end, to keep the treadle from slipping off. This affair, especially the button, was much in the way of putting any thing on the wheel by which to turn it, and was not large enough to be made useful of itself; for it could only be held betwixt the finger and thumb, it was so very short.
The rim of this wheel was three inches in depth, and there were sixteen spokes quite near together. Archie proposed boring a hole in this rim, and putting a pin into it; but Sam said that would never do, because it would injure the wheel, and he had promised Prudence Holdness he would leave it as good as he found it.
He tried to fit a wooden handle to the tang of the crank, but the button on the end prevented.
These boys, it is true, possessed little knowledge[Pg 257] of things in general: yet they had read the woods pretty thoroughly, and were aware that the roots of the alder, hazel, and wild cherry, inclined to run for some distance near the surface, and then throw up shoots at right angles with the root from which they sprung.
They found a wild cherry nearly two inches in diameter, that sprang up from a long naked root, cut the top off within eighteen inches of the ground, and then dug it up. They now cut one arm of the root close to the stem, leaving the other a foot in length, flattened the under side, placed the end of the root towards the hub of the wheel, and lashed it firmly to a spoke. This was a handle by which to turn the wheel, and did not injure it in the least. They found, by getting on their knees and turning the flax-wheel, the spindle revolved steadily but not very fast.
“It don’t go so fast as mother’s flax-wheel,” said Sam.
“Not a quarter so fast as my mother’s big wheel: the spindle of that’ll whirl so you can’t hardly see it, when she’s a mind to make it,” said Archie.
The boys now sat down to rest, and contemplate their work with great satisfaction.
“Ain’t it nice, Archie?”
“Yes; and we made it our own selves, didn’t we?”
There is an important principle developed in this declaration of Archie. They had learned much, and derived a great deal more pleasure from the contemplation of that rude machine that they had exerted all their ingenuity to make, than they would have done had Uncle Seth made a potter’s wheel, and given it to them. If you want to bring out what is in a boy, want him to develop original thought, and become possessed of resources within himself, encourage and stimulate him to make his own playthings. How many children there are who have almost every thing given them that a toy-shop can furnish, and yet get sick of their novelties when they have looked them over, acquire but few ideas in the process, and remain children during life! if that deserves the name of life which is useless and barren, both in respect to themselves and to others.
They soon tested their instrument by experiment. Taking some sand, Sammy strewed it over the wheel, and put a lump of clay on it while Archie turned. He did this in order that he[Pg 259] might be able to get the vessel off, as he knew the clay would stick to the wood; but when he put his hands on the clay the wheel turned round under it, and the clay tumbled to the floor. Finding that would never do, he swept off all the sand, and flung the lump down hard on the wood, where it stuck fast (as Uncle Seth had told him he saw the potters do), put his hands on each side of the clay, and brought it up to a sugar-loaf form, and then pressed it down to break the air-bubbles, then put his thumbs into the middle of the lump, and his fingers outside. The clay instantly assumed a circular form, and became hollow.
“Oh, oh! It’s doing it!” shouted Sam.
“Doing what?” cried Archie, who on his knees could not see what was going on.
“It’s growing hollow. It’s making a pot. Oh, it’s growing thinner and thinner!”
Indeed it was; for Sammy not only stuck his thumbs into the lump, but kept separating his hands, till, the walls of the pot growing thinner and thinner, both thumbs broke through, and there were only two long, wide ribbons of clay, and no bottom; for he had pressed his hands down so hard as to scrape through to the wood.[Pg 260] He uttered a yell of dismay, and Archie ran to look.
“Only see there,” said Sam, taking up part of the side: “see how smooth it is! I couldn’t have made it so smooth the way I did before. Oh, if it hadn’t bursted!”
“What made it do so?”
“Don’t know: guess I can do better next time.”
Next time he succeeded in making something hollow, but it was almost as big at the top as at the bottom; the sides were thick in one place, and thin in another: but the boys thought it was nice till they tried to take it from the wheel, when they found Sammy had poked his fingers through the bottom to the wood.
Archie was now to try his hand: the wheel had made but a few revolutions when he shouted,—
He had pressed his hands so close together, that at the top there was a cone of clay, and a round lump on the wheel, without the sign of a hollow. The next time he made something hollow; but the sides were so thin they would not stand, but tumbled down in a heap as soon as he took his hands off.
Now it was Sammy’s turn again. While turning the wheel for Archie, he had been reflecting upon the causes of his poor success; and this time made a pot that was all right at the bottom, and of a proper thickness, only rather bulging in the middle. They were greatly delighted, but, in trying to take it from the wheel, tore it in pieces. Sammy made another attempt, and met with still better success. They dared not take this pot from the wheel, yet were unwilling to ask Uncle Seth, or let him know any thing about their proceedings till they had made more progress.
As it was near dinner-time, they concluded to leave it on the wheel, and inquire of others, supposing that Mrs. Honeywood, Mrs. Blanchard, or Holt’s wife, who had lived in the old settlements, might tell them something; but they could not.
“I don’t believe but Scip would know: he has lived in Baltimore,” said Mrs. Blanchard.
They applied to Scip.
“De potters hab leetle piece of wire wid two sticks on it, to take hold on. Dey pull dat through ‘twixt de clay and de wheel; den dey take it off wid dere han’s, if leetle ting: if big ting, hab two sticks ob wood put each side, fay to[Pg 262] de pot, so not jam it. Me show you, me make you one.”
The boys looked at each other; for there was no such thing as a piece of wire within a hundred miles, and they had never seen any save the priming-wires that were with some of the smooth-bores. Scip advised them to try a hard-twisted string, which they found to answer the purpose.
Sammy kept on improving; but Archie did not, and began to grow tired of pottery. It was hard work to turn the wheel: he perceived that, as he could make no further progress in turning, in the natural order of things, Sammy must be the potter, while he would remain wheel-boy.
Sammy, on the other hand, was full of enthusiasm, ever improving. He could now tell the thickness of his pots by the feeling, and made them uniform in this respect; was all the time correcting little defects; and learned by practice how thick the sides should be to stand. He offered Archie a powder-horn if he would turn all the afternoon; but he wouldn’t hear a word of it, and said his hands were blistered, and the skin was worn off his knees, kneeling on the hard floor.[Pg 263] Sammy offered him a bullet if he would turn long enough for him to make three more pots. Archie said he would the next morning; and here the work ended for the day.
UNCLE SETH’S SURPRISE.
When this new and exciting employment came thus suddenly to a full stop by the refusal of Archie to turn the wheel any longer, the latter went home with two large holes in the knees of his trousers, albeit they were buckskin: Sammy went over to Israel Blanchard’s.
He found Scip and his master pulling flax, and instantly took hold with them. Since Sam had become so industrious, he had grown into great favor with Mr. Blanchard, who believed in hard work and also in hard fighting.
It appeared in the sequel, that Sammy’s motives were not altogether disinterested in thus volunteering to help his neighbor; for, after working lustily till night, he asked Mr. Blanchard if he might have Scip to help him the next afternoon.
“Yes, my little potter: I suppose you want him[Pg 265] to work clay for you; but it seems to me you use up clay fast.”
Sammy didn’t tell him what he wanted of Scip. The next morning Archie came, true to his word; and they began to work.
Mr. Seth found, when he had finished his work upon the bail, that he had about worn up his mallet with so much mortising in the tough wood; and recollecting that, some months before, he had seen a stick of hornbeam about the right size on the woodpile at the old Cuthbert house, took a saw in his hand, and went over to get a piece. Hearing the boys at work inside, he crept up, and peeped through a crevice in the logs.
Archie was on his knees on the floor, tugging with his right hand at the wheel, while his left was leaning on a stone placed for that purpose; and Sammy was making a pot. Equally surprised and delighted, he looked on a while in silence; and, as he could not obtain a good view of Sam where he stood, he went to the window that was open. Archie’s back was towards him, and Sam was too intent upon his work to notice him.
The kindly nature of the old mechanic was stirred to the quick when he saw Sam actually[Pg 266] turn a pot of good shape with such machinery as that; and he vowed internally that he would make him a potter’s wheel before the lad was a week older, but, upon reflection, concluded it would be better to help him a little, and not too much at once.
“So you’ve made a wheel for yourselves, have you?” said Uncle Seth, showing himself at the window.
The wheel stopped. Archie jumped up: Sam colored, his face as red as red paint.
“Don’t be bashful,” said Uncle Seth, getting in at the window. “I think you’ve done first rate, most remarkable: that pot’s as good as a pot need be.”
“We was afraid you’d laugh at us, Uncle Seth, and so we didn’t like to tell you.”
“Laugh at you! I praise you: you’ve done wonderful. Now let me see you make a pot.”
Sammy had turned one pot, and, drawing a string under it, took it from the wheel with his hands; in so doing, he put it a little out of form, but repaired it by pressing it into shape again with his fingers.
Sammy turned two more pots, each one being[Pg 267] an improvement on the former one; being put on his mettle by the praises of Uncle Seth.
He then told him that Archie’s contract was completed, but that Scip was going to help him in the afternoon.
“What made you put your large wheel flat on the floor? why didn’t you set it on the legs?”
“‘Cause it wouldn’t go so: the band would slip right off the little wheel.”
“Cross the band, then it won’t.”
“Cross the band!”
This was a step farther than Sammy’s knowledge of machinery extended.
Uncle Seth took the wheel from the floor, put the legs in again, crossed the band, and put it on the wheel.
“Now you can stand up, and turn: put some clay on the wheel, and I’ll turn for you.”
Uncle Seth turned, and Sam made another pot.
The boys could hardly contain themselves, they were so delighted.
“How much you do know, Uncle Seth!” said Archie: “we don’t know any thing.”
“You haven’t been learning so long as I have. I want you to pay attention, and I’ll explain [Pg 268]something to you. You see this spindle don’t turn very fast,—not near as fast as the spindle on your mothers’ flax-wheels; and yet this large wheel is exactly the same kind of a wheel. What do you suppose is the reason?”
“We don’t know,” said Archie.
“If that pulley, Sammy, that is on the spindle (little wheel you call it), was just as large as the flax-wheel, and you should turn that, the other would turn just as fast,—just as many times,—wouldn’t it?”
“Yes, sir: of course it would if they were both of just the same bigness.”
“Well, then, if you should make the flax-wheel as big again as the pulley, the pulley would turn twice when the flax-wheel turned once: wouldn’t it?”
“Thus you see the reason that spindle doesn’t turn any faster is because the two wheels are so near of a bigness. That pulley is so near the size of the other wheel, that it don’t turn but three or four times while the large one is turning once. The large wheel is not more than thirty inches, and the pulley is large seven. Don’t you know[Pg 269] how fast your mother’s spindle on her large wheel whirls?”
“Yes, sir. It goes so sometimes you can hardly see it.”
“Good reason for it. The wheel is forty-eight inches in diameter, and the pulley on the spindle is only about an inch. What do you think of that, my boy?—forty-eight inches to one inch; the spindle turning forty-eight times while the large wheel turns once.”
“We didn’t know. All we knowed was, you said they had a big wheel and a little one on the spindle.”
Mr. Seth took the pulley from the spindle, cut it down more than one-half, and put it higher up on the spindle.
“There, my lads, I have made that pulley smaller; and your spindle will turn so much faster that you can make three pots where you made one afore: besides, now that the large wheel is upright, you can turn it as fast again, and much easier than you could when ’twas lying on the floor.”
Mr. Seth now put a stone on the bench near the wheel on which the vessels were turned, and[Pg 270] put a junk of clay on it: through the top of this clay he ran a stick, passing it back and forth in the hole till it would move easily, and be held firm in place when the clay became dry. He then said to Sammy,—
“There’s a gauge for you. Run that stick over the wheel, and draw it back just in proportion to the size of the pot you want to make. If you bring the edge of the pot to the end of that, it will regulate the size.”
It was a rude affair, made in a moment; and yet it answered the purpose perfectly. Mr. Seth also made some half-circles of wood, with handles, and a dowel in one of the halves to fit into a corresponding hole in the other half. These were placed on each side of the vessel, bearing equally all round, and cut to the shape of the side. With them he could easily take his ware from the wheel without marring it. Sammy had already found that he could smooth the sides of his pots by applying the edge of the profile to them.
Still, after these improvements, the wheel was a poor affair. There was not sufficient power to turn a pot of any size, and the band was apt to slip; and the spindle, running wood to wood, increased the friction.
Mr. Seth, convinced that the pottery business was not a mere boy’s affair with Sammy, resolved that at the first opportunity he would make him a far better machine than that. Without saying any thing to Sammy, he took the measure of the bench, that answered the purpose well, and left him to knead clay, and make preparation for the arrival of Scip in the afternoon.
Perhaps our readers will wonder where the other boys were all this time, that they took no interest in the proceedings.
Well, their parents had work for them to do at home; and every leisure moment was taken up in building a turkey-pen, or trap to catch wild turkeys in, as the time was approaching when it would be wanted.
Thus occupied, they were ignorant of the doings of Sammy and Archie; but it was soon noised abroad, and the old house filled with curious boys, who all wanted to try their hands at turning a pot. After experimenting a while, and meeting with about as much success as Archie, they preferred play, or even work. Archie also, after the excitement of making the wheel was over, lost his interest; and Sammy, much to[Pg 272] his satisfaction, was left to work in peace, aided by Scip. He also had aid from another source; for, after the improvement made by Mr. Seth in setting the wheel upright, the girls would turn for him, and sometimes also his mother; and, as he could not make large pots on the wheel, he made pitchers and mugs for the girls, bowls and platters; and by practice he became expert in putting handles to his mugs and pitchers. When desirous of making a large pot to hang on the fire, or for any other purpose, he resorted to his old method of rolling the clay, and also when he could get no one to turn for him.
It was now time to gather the corn. Sammy was obliged to suspend his operations, and the entire community were busily employed in harvesting and husking. The ears were picked off and husked in the field, and the sound corn put in log cribs inside the fort.
A strong scout was sent out, boys placed back to back on stumps to watch while the rest were at work. Every nerve was strained to place their bread-corn out of the reach of the savages; for, this being accomplished, their anxieties in respect to food would cease.
The corn-crop and all their crops were late sown and planted, by reason of Indian alarms, and because in the spring they were occupied in building the mill.
The last basketful had been placed on the sled;[Pg 274] and Honeywood took up his goad to start the oxen, when Mrs. Sumerford exclaimed, “Who’s that? I saw a man, I know I did, come from behind the big rock, cross the ford and the little clear spot between there and the woods; and I think he had a rifle on his shoulder.”
All now stood on their guard, rifle in hand.
“It ain’t an Indian, that’s sartain,” said Holdness: “an Indian wouldn’t be walking about in plain sight, with a rifle on his shoulder.”
“Who else can it be? We haven’t seen a white face for months. I think we’d better run for the garrison,” said Mrs. Blanchard.
“I see him,” said McClure. “It’s a white man, but none of our folks: he’s got a pack and a rifle. It’s some ranger who has lost his way.”
Every eye was now eagerly fastened on the stranger, who travelled slowly as though fatigued.
“It’s Ned Rangely, Brad,” shouted McClure, “as sure as the sun is in the heavens: it’s Ned, who hunted and trapped with us so many winters at Red Stone, and has been in more Indian fights than any man on the frontier. Don’t you see how he carries that left arm: that was broke by an Indian bullet?”
“I believe you’re right, neighbor.”
“Right? I know I am: I could tell him among a thousand.”
They both started towards the stranger, who stopped, and stood leaning on his rifle, evidently fatigued.
“God bless you, Ned Rangely! Is that yourself?” cried Holdness, seizing one hand, while McClure laid his hand upon his shoulder.
“How are you, old stand-by?” cried McClure. “It does a man good, these ticklish times, to look on your old face. Haven’t you come in a good time? We’ve plenty to eat, nothing to do; and you’ve got to stay here with us all the rest of your life.”
“Wish I could; but the fact is, we came on business, and must do it and be off.”
“Not a word of business till morning,” said McClure, clapping his hand on Rangely’s mouth: “come, go home with me.”
“Let him go with me to-night,” said Holdness, “because he’s tired and foot-sore, and you can come with him: and he can go to your house to-morrow.”
To this McClure assented. One taking [Pg 276]Rangely’s rifle, and the other his pack, they marched off, leaving the rest to get in the corn.
Holdness did not lack for company that evening; all the young people coming in to listen to the talk of these old comrades, Rangely’s in particular, whose whole life had been a scene of perils and hair-breadth escapes.
The next day was a leisure one, the harvest being secured. Holdness and Rangely strolled over to McClure’s: soon Honeywood dropped in, Maccoy, Stewart, Ned Armstrong, Harry Sumerford, Andrew McClure, and others of the young men.
“Now, Ned,” said Holdness, “there’s a number of us here: we’ll listen to your business, whatever ’tis. We’ve no separate interests, but are like so many peas in one pod, that all touch, and there’s no parting ‘twixt ’em.”
Rangely looked round upon this noble group of stalwart men and youth with evident delight as he said,—
“Well, neighbors, I was sent here by those who pretend to know more’n I do, to raise men for a skirmage with these Delawares, Monseys, Shawanees, and what not red trash, that are whooping[Pg 277] round, and scalping women and children. They want to raise three or four hundred men, and just wipe ’em out. They want men that can shoot and march, and know how to fight Indians in the woods; and they don’t want nothing else. So you see, ’cause they knowed I was acquainted, they sent me up here.”
“We’re much obliged to ’em,” said Holdness. “Didn’t think the rest of the world knew we was in it, or cared whether we lived or died. Don’t s’pose they did, till they happened to want to make use on us. It strikes me, Ned, they sent you on a fool’s errand.”
“I’m pretty much of the same opinion with Brad,” said McClure,—”that we’ve got about enough to do to take care of ourselves and them what look to us. Here we’ve stood in death’s door, as you may say, ever since the war began. There isn’t a man, scarcely a boy, not to say children, what hasn’t a scar on him; and some of us are pretty much cut to pieces. There’s about as many of us under the sod, killed by Indians, as there are above it. And now you ask us to leave our families, forts, and guns, and go to fight for people who wouldn’t lift a finger to help us, and[Pg 278] wouldn’t have let us have cannon nor powder if they could have helped it.”
“As for me,” said Armstrong, “I’m not going into them woods to throw away my life, and be ambushed by Indians, at the tail of these turkey-cocks like Braddock, who don’t know the first thing of the duty they are sent to perform, and are fit only to lead men to death and destruction.”
“Don’t think we cast any reflection upon you, Ned,” said Holdness, “for doing the errand; but you see how the neighbors feel about it.”
“I’ve no doubt what you say is all true,” replied Rangely,—”true as the Bible, and they say that’s just so. But, you see, these Indians get together in their towns, three or four hundred of them: there they keep their women, children, and ammunition the French give ’em, lay out their plans, and divide their scalping-parties to go to those places they think most exposed. When they have struck their blow, they go back with their scalps and prisoners to have a great dance and jollification, and get ready for another raid, and the whites that are left flee into the older settlements, and leave the country to them. They don’t kere[Pg 279] any thing ’bout the forts: they’re a good ways apart, and they can pass ’em night or day.”
“That’s so,” said Maccoy.
“What they want is to have the Province raise a force of men what know the woods, and have had experience in fighting Indians,—not a blasted red-coat among ’em,—and carry the war into the Indian country up to their towns, clean ’em out, kill their women and children, burn up their possessions and forts now just as winter comes on: that’ll quail ’em to some purpose. I reckon,” said Ned, looking round him, “I’ve come to the right place for that sort of men: think I’ve seen some of ’em afore to-day, and when the bullets were flying lively.”
“But,” said Stewart, “an’ we tak’ the gait you propose, what will hinder the scalping-parties you speak of from falling upon our families while we’re awa’?”
“You have a very strong fort here, have taught the Indians some hard lessons, and, after this last mauling, they won’t be in a hurry to meddle with you. You can leave enough to defend the fort, and then spare quite a number. It’s for you, not for me, to judge whether by going on this [Pg 280]expedition you won’t be taking the best method to break the power of the Indians, and protect yourselves for the time to come.”
Thus far the debate had been carried on chiefly by McClure, Holdness, and Armstrong. Israel Blanchard was not present; and the young men, though eager for any thing that promised a fight with Indians, were too modest to obtrude their views; while Honeywood had not opened his mouth. Noticing this, McClure said,—
“I should like to have Mr. Honeywood’s mind on this matter.”
“I,” said Honeywood, “would inquire, in the first place, who is to command this force it is proposed to raise?”
“Sure enough! We’ve been beating all about the bush; and Ned, as he allers does, has hit the nail right on the head,” said Holdness.
“Who is to command it? Kernel Armstrong,” replied Rangely.
“I wat weel that makes an unco difference, sae much that it becomes us to gie the matter special consideration,” said Stewart.
“Indeed it makes a difference,” said Holdness.
“I know Kernel Armstrong right well. I’ve[Pg 281] fought with him, and fought under him: so has Hugh Crawford who’s dead and gone, and Harry’s father.”
“I think,” said Honeywood, “there’s much truth in what Mr. Rangely has said,—that by joining this expedition we take the best method to defend ourselves, and break the Indian power. If instead of building all these forts, and manning them with soldiers half of whom will run at the sight of an Indian, the same money had been spent in getting together a force of frontier-men led by a suitable person to do what is now on foot, a great portion of this terrible slaughter and destruction of property would have been saved. One-half the money would have done it.”
“I’d ‘a’ taken the job for that,” said McClure, “and found the men.”
“One great reason why the Indians so much dread the Black Rifle is, he pursues the same course in respect to them that they do towards the whites; and they can never be sure that he is not lurking round their wigwams. A whole British army wouldn’t make the impression upon them that he has. One thing’s very certain: if the Province is going to wait for the king and[Pg 282] council to send an army over here, the chiefs of the Six Nations won’t be able to hold their young men; but they will join the French, and drive us to the coast. The garrison is now in excellent condition: the harvest is secured; there is ammunition and provision; and I think we might spare some men, and leave enough to defend the fort.”
“We’ll defend the fort,” cried Sam Sumerford, unable to contain himself: “the Screeching Catamounts’ll defend the fort; we’ve done it one time.”
“Well crowed, my young cock of the walk,” said Rangely, patting him on the head: “you’ll be wanted.”
“I,” continued Honeywood, “am ready to volunteer on condition that the force is made up of men that are used to the woods, and that they are commanded by Col. Armstrong and such other officers as he selects: if I get there, and find it otherwise, I shall shoulder my rifle and come home again.”
“I’ll go,” said Harry Sumerford.
“I’ll go,” said Ned Armstrong.
“And I,” said Nat Cuthbert.
“We’ll all go,” said Andrew McClure; “we’ll[Pg 283] follow Harry: where he goes we’ll go,—that is, if the old folks think best.”
“I’ll go,” said Hugh Crawford, “if it’s thought best.”
By this time the news had spread. Israel Blanchard, Wood, and Holt came in, and, after hearing what had been said and done, approved heartily of the proceedings.
“Ain’t you and McClure goin’, Brad?” asked Rangely.
“We ain’t often behind, Ned, when bullets are flying; and sha’n’t be now, I reckon.”
Holdness, perceiving by the looks of Harry Sumerford that he had something he would like to say, remarked,—
“Harry, I see you’ve somewhat on your mind: what is it?”
“I think, Mr. Holdness, there are people here whose judgment is worth a great deal more than mine.”
“The more minds, the better: I want to hear it,” said Blanchard.
“I’ve been thinking whether the Black Rifle wouldn’t go. There are always fifteen or twenty men that’ll follow him anywhere; and they are[Pg 284] just the men we want. He offered to go with Braddock, but the old goat wouldn’t have him.”
“Don’t think ‘twould work,” said Holdness. “Kernel Armstrong’s a man who knows his business, and would kalkerlate ter be obeyed. The Black Rifle’s better kalkerlated ter lead than ter foller anybody; and his men likewise had ruther go with him, and nobody else. He kills Indians for the sake of killin’ ’em: peace or war, it’s all the same ter him. They go for the sake of the scalps; and they know very well that they can take more scalps going with him in one week, than with a regular force in a month; and make ten dollars where they wouldn’t make one.”
“That’s so,” said McClure: “Brad’s got the right of it.”
“There’s one thing though,” said Holdness: “I believe he thinks more of me than any other being, and loves me as well as he can love anybody since his great sorrow crushed his heart, and tore him all ter pieces; and I’ve not much doubt but if I go and see him, tell him what’s on foot, and that we want ter do all we kin for the country, and have got to leave this fort with a small garrison, that he would agree to camp[Pg 285] here in the Run; and look out for us; and, if he agrees ter do it, he’s just as true as steel. And though I don’t think there’s much danger, yet, if he would agree to camp round here, I for one should go away easy; and ‘twould be a great comfort to the women-folks. Perhaps he’d let us have some powder and lead: he allers has a stock.”
“Well, Ned,” said McClure, “I s’pose you want to have an answer; and you may tell Armstrong that we’ll furnish twelve or fifteen men, and be at the place appointed at the time set; and you kin tell him they’ll be men too,—men that kin shoot ter a hair’s breadth, brought up ter fightin’ Indians, and won’t tremble in their shoes at the sound of the war-whoop.”
“I’ll just tell him,” said Rangely, “that Brad Holdness and Sandie McClure are among them, and they are a sample of the rest.”
“Tell him they know their worth; won’t foller any turkey-cock of a red-coat they may send across the water; and after they get there, if they find they’ve been deceived, they’ll shoulder their rifles and go back.”
“Ye’ll please to remember that last observation, Maister Rangely,” said Stewart, “seeing it’s o'[Pg 286] muckle weight; for I opine that Black Douglas himsel’, with his two hundred claymore, and lance like a weaver’s beam, would hae been of sma’ account in the woods wi’ savages.”
The next question to be decided was, who should go and who remain. The young men all wanted to go, of course, and were burning to distinguish themselves before the Province, for which as yet they had had no opportunity; but, on the other hand, the older people were equally anxious, and even more so. Both Stewart and Israel Blanchard, who had heretofore remained at home,—not, indeed, for the same reason as the young men, seeing they had established their reputation for conduct and courage, and outgrown the enthusiasm of youth,—desired now to go, as they saw in this movement (the choice of the commander, and quality of men sought for) an opportunity to strike an effectual blow at their implacable foes, and to procure safety for themselves in the future; and with most of them the desire of revenge entered largely into the account.
This explains the indifference and even contempt with which the proposition of Rangely was at first met by men still smarting under the [Pg 287]recollections connected with Braddock’s defeat; and likewise the sudden change in their opinions, when, in reply to Honeywood’s question, Rangely gave the name of a leader well known and trusted,—a man who had grown up among the perils of the frontier.
“It seems to me, neighbors,” said Israel Blanchard, “that Mr. Holdness had better go and see what he can do with the Black Rifle before we attempt to pick out the men; because it will make a vast difference in respect to who and how many we are to leave in garrison, whether the Black Rifle will agree to help us or not.”
The next morning Holdness and Rangely, whose paths for some distance were the same, started; one to return to his commanding officer, the other to meet the Black Rifle.
Holdness found that restless being busily engaged making a canoe (from bark he had peeled in the spring) for a fall hunt. He welcomed Holdness with great cordiality; who, laying aside his pack and rifle, instantly set at work helping him (much to the gratification of the captain, as it is quite inconvenient for one person to build a birch alone), mentioning never a word about the[Pg 288] business on which he came, and accepting the invitation of his old comrade to spend the night. While they were eating supper the Black Rifle said,—
“Brad, I’m right glad to see you, but I don’t believe you came here just to help me build this birch: so, whatever your business is, out with it, and we’ll talk it over to-night afore the campfire.”
Holdness laid the whole matter before this veteran leader, and asked what he thought of the plan.
“I think well of the thing: it’s what should have been done at the first. I see what you’re after: you want to put all the strength you’ve got into this thing, ’cause you think it’s a move in the right direction, and the first one, too, after so long a time; and you Wolf Run folks are just the chaps who can do it. But you’re consarned about your families while you’re gone; and that ties your hands.”
“Just so, and that’s all the difficulty.”
“Well now, Brad, you’re come in a good time. You see, it’s kind of a slack time with me: we’ve been on a rampage arter Indian scalps, and we’ve[Pg 289] got ’em too. Some of my men have been wounded, though not very bad, and some have gone home to get in their harvest; and when it gets a little later, the wounded get well, and the rest ready, we’re goin’ to start out on a fall and winter hunt and scalping-scrape both; that is, we’re goin’ on to the hunting-grounds of the Delawares, and of course they’ll object. So, you see, I’m building this birch, and am going to fill snow-shoes, make moccasons, and get ready; and have got to dress some skins to make the moccasons of, and a good deal to do. But I kin just as well do these things at your place as here, and I will; and, just as fast as any of ’em get through their work, they’ll come. I s’pose you’ve got room and provision enough in the fort for ’em: you know I allers live outside. I’ve got some iron; and your Mr. Honeywood can mend my traps afore he goes, and mend some gunlocks for me.”
“Sartainly, and bring all the wounded: our women-folks’ll take kere of ’em. Mrs. Sumerford can’t be beat for dressing a gun-shot wound.”
“Reckon I will. Most of ’em are wounded in the legs or body: they kin shoot if they can’t march. Then I shall be outside; and, if the Indians come, I kin soon muster the rest.”
The next morning Holdness took leave of his friend, and returned to tell the settlers that the Black Rifle would be at the fort within two days, and wanted four mules or horses to bring some wounded men, and a spare mule and pack-saddle to bring his traps and ammunition.
Will Grant and Hugh Crawford started with the beasts, and in due time returned, bringing with them the wounded men.
These men were of the same stamp as Holdness and Ned Rangely; rude in speech, but honest, honorable, simple-hearted as children, and kindly disposed to all men except Indians.
Two of them, John Lovell and Dennis Morton, were wounded in the breast; Ridgway in the left arm; Thomas Bracket and Robert Tysdale, the former in the thigh, and the latter in the right leg below the knee, and could walk with a cane: either of them could shoot through a loop-hole, and both were recovering rapidly.
In the afternoon of the second day, the Black Rifle came, and built his camp between the fort and the river.
It is perhaps needless to observe, that at the arrival of the Black Rifle and his men, the [Pg 291]martial spirit of the “Screeching Catamounts” arose to fever-heat.
Capt. Sam Sumerford forgot his pots and pitchers; and the potter’s wheel stood still. The tomahawks and scalping-knives that had been devoted to the peaceful purpose of cutting clay were ground, rifles cleaned, and he went tearing through the house, wanting his mother to spin him a bowstring, sew the eagle’s feathers into his cap, wash his hunting-shirt, and do twenty things all at once.
“I declare, Sammy Sumerford’s come back again. I did hope I was done with knives, tomahawks, and Indian fightin’.”
“I’m sure, mother, I don’t know to please you. You wanted the Indian war to be over, ’cause it worried you to see me so full of fighting; and then when the Indians held off a little, you was worried about the water and the raft and the wild beasts. Then I went to making pots, and it was first-rate for a little while; but you soon began to worry again, ’cause I was so still, and didn’t seem nat’ral, and tear round and yell. And now I’m nat’ral again, you don’t like that nuther.”
The ground of all this excitement was, that in[Pg 292] expectation of being called to defend the fort, and on account of the arrival of the Black Rifle, Capt. Sumerford was preparing to muster his men for drill and ball-practice, that had been neglected of late.
Having set up a target, he was drilling his company before the fort, Scip beating the drum, and Cal Holdness playing the fife.
A great part of the male portion of the settlers were looking on, the women being too much occupied in preparations for the departure of the former to be present. The wounded men also were seated among the rest, when the Black Rifle himself came along, with his hands full of beaver-traps for Honeywood to mend, and on his way to the blacksmith’s shop.
You may be assured the “Screeching Catamounts” did their best in such august presence; and their hearts beat high.
The Black Rifle and his men were loud in their expressions of surprise and approbation. The captain then drew up his men to fire at the target two hundred yards distant.
“I wouldn’t have believed,” said Capt. Jack, “that these children, as you must needs call ’em,[Pg 293] could shoot so. Why, the red-coats in the army, and half the soldiers in the forts along the frontier, can’t begin with ’em.”
“We’ve burnt a good deal of powder, used a good deal of lead, teaching them, and sometimes when we didn’t know how to spare it,” said McClure.
“Not a kernel of powder nor an ounce of lead has been wasted: you may be sure of that.”
He was, if possible, more surprised when they were exercised in throwing the tomahawk, shooting with bow and arrow, and imitating the voices of beasts and birds. There was scarcely any thing they could not imitate, from the chirrup of the cricket to the scream of an eagle, except the grum notes of the bull-frog: their voices were too shrill for that.
“This,” said the Black Rifle, “is the best of all,—even beats the shooting with rifles: ’cause it requires judgment that you wouldn’t expect in so young persons, to throw the tomahawk, or shoot with a bow.”
“I never was in this clearing afore,” said William Blythe, one of the three men who came with the captain; “but, if these are the children, what must the men be like?”
CARRYING THE WAR INTO AFRICA.
The settlers now removed their families into the fort preparatory to the departure of the volunteers. The Black Rifle had sent them, by Grant and Crawford, a large quantity of powder and lead; and, on the night that the last family moved into the fort, four more of the Black Rifle’s men came, having finished up their work.
These men brought word that eight or ten more would be along in a few days, and said that their purpose was to get ready for their fall hunt, and ambush the Indians who were going back and forth between the Ohio and the older settlements; making the fort their headquarters, and always leaving men enough to defend it.
Hearing this, the settlers resolved to march in a body the next morning, young and old.
Rogers, who had cut himself so badly with an[Pg 295] axe that he could not engage in the last conflict with the Indians, was now able to go. Mr. Seth, however, objected to this. “Neighbors,” said he, “you all know I’m no fighting man, don’t pretend to be; and yet you’re kind enough to say that I’m of some benefit.”
“Benefit!” exclaimed Holdness, “there’s no man among us who’s so great a benefit.”
“Well, then, I hope you’ll be patient with me when I say that I can’t feel reconciled to have Israel go. We’ve never been separated, and I’ve always kind of leaned on him. I don’t know what I should do without him: I should neither eat, sleep, nor take one moment’s peace.”
“Then I won’t go, brother, though I do want to more’n ever I wanted to go anywhere in my life.”
“I think,” said McClure, “that there ought to be more’n one stay: there are the cattle and hogs to see to, and many things that the rangers don’t know any thing about to be done, though I don’t suppose any of us cares to be the one to stay behind.”
Every preparation being completed, the volunteers set out the next morning for the rendezvous.
After their departure the children were [Pg 296]somewhat restrained in their rambles, and Sammy experienced a severe relapse of the pottery-fever. He also found less difficulty in obtaining the help of the others to work his clay: besides, the usefulness of his work had been recognized by every one in the Run; and, when the boys were unwilling to assist, Israel Blanchard would let him have Scip, who was worth more than all the others put together.
Ike Proctor was the laziest, and least inclined to help, of any of the boys. Sammy hired him to turn the wheel half a day for some maple-sugar and two bullets. Ike ate the sugar, pocketed the bullets, worked about an hour, and then went off. Sammy said nothing, and manifested no feeling in regard to the affair; but, as soon as Ike left, went to the river, obtained a little of the clay that was strongly impregnated with iron, worked and kneaded it, working in some red ochre to raise the color still more, and made some clay doughnuts precisely the shape of those his mother was accustomed to make of dough, and baked them.
After several days had passed, he told Ike if he would help him half a day, and stick to it, when the work was done he would give him a dozen[Pg 297] doughnuts and four gun-flints, boughten ones; and to this Proctor agreed.
When the time was up, Sam gave him the flints, and went to the fort for the doughnuts, that he had given his mother a charge to keep hot in the Dutch oven, and put a little lard on them. Sammy took the clay doughnuts in a cloth, and when warm and greasy they looked precisely like the real ones: he took one flour doughnut in his pocket. He spread them out on the table before Ike, and clapped the one from his pocket into his mouth, saying, “Eat ’em, Ike, while they’re hot: only see how hot they be.”
The Doughnut Squabble
The “Doughnut” Squabble.—Page 297.
“So they be,” said Ike, taking one in his hand: he attempted to bite it, burnt his tongue, and the tears came into his eyes. He threw the hot brick down in a great rage, and began throwing the others at Sammy’s head. The latter retreated to the trough that was two-thirds full of soft clay trodden only the day before, and returned the attack with right good-will in a most generous manner. He plastered Ike from head to foot, filled his eyes, nose, and mouth full; and he was glad to make his escape. The boys all said Sam served him right, and they nicknamed him “Doughnut.”
It was very seldom that there was ever any falling-out among these frontier-boys, who were, in general, a band of brothers, for the reason that they had fighting enough outside, and the pressure kept them together.
Uncle Seth was now in the best of spirits, having the society of his brother, in whose courage and sagacity he placed implicit confidence, with the Black Rifle and his men to protect them; and he resolved to make Sammy a foot-wheel, and thus render him independent of his mates and all others as far as turning the wheel was concerned.
Guarded by two of the rangers, he went into the woods to find a tree that grew of the right shape to make a crank. You may think it would be impossible to find a tree trunk or limb that would answer, as it must be a double crank with a short turn, the sides not more than three inches apart. He could have sawed it out of a plank, or made it in pieces; but in the one case it would have been cut directly across the grain, and in the other would have been without much strength and very clumsy. He wanted to find a tree the grain of which grew in the right direction. No wonder Mr. Seth declared,—when he thought[Pg 299] Sammy’s pottery-fever would not last long, and wanted to get rid of his teasing,—that it was impossible to make a crank without iron. But he was now disposed to make the attempt; and you know, if Uncle Seth undertakes to do any thing, it will be done.
The rangers who were with him expected to see him looking up into the tops of the trees, among the limbs; but instead of that they were astonished to see him running about with his eyes fastened on the butts of the trees, and never bestowing a glance at the limbs.
“You hunting after a bear’s den, or a coon-hole?” said Will Blythe.
Mr. Seth made no reply, but stopped before a sugar-tree about fifteen inches through, and straight as a candle. From one side of this tree, about two feet from the ground, protruded a great whorl, not flattened on the top as they often are, like a wart on the hand, but thimble-shaped.
“That’s the time of day,” said he. Stripping to the waist, he soon cut the tree down, and junked it off,—twenty feet of it. This was hauled to the fort, where the saw-pit was; and the brothers cut the whole tree into three-inch plank, as[Pg 300] they wanted part of it for another purpose. They arranged their saw-kerfs in such a manner as to bring the centre of the whorl in the plank of which the spindle and crank were to be made. This plank they cut to the length desired, and then split it the other way, leaving a strip four inches in width, and the whorl being on the outside edge of it.
In this whorl Mr. Seth cut the turn of his crank; and it was strong because the principal part of the grain grew in that direction, being looped around the whorl; and in other portions it crossed every way, twisted in and out, was clung, and looked much like the grain of a nutmeg. After roughing it out, he laid it up to season, in order that he might smooth it up. Tysdale, who chanced to pass just as he finished working on it, said,—
“If that ain’t one way to make a crank!”
“Isn’t it a good way?”
“Good way, sartain; but a man must be born in the woods to think of that.”
“I was born in the woods, and have worked in the woods most of the time since I was born.”
He now made a wheel three feet in diameter,[Pg 301] with rim and hub and but four spokes, finished up his crank, put the wheel on the bottom of it, and attached a treadle to the crank, so that it could be turned with the foot, and placed in the bench. On the upper end of the crank, he cut a screw-thread; and got out, from the same plank that furnished the crank, three circles of different sizes, on which large or small pots might be made, and cut a screw-thread in the centre of each one, so that they could be put on or taken from the crank easily. This was not all. He was no mean blacksmith. He found, among the guns last taken from the Indians, one of which the barrel was good for nothing; and, going into the blacksmith-shop, he made a gudgeon for the lower end of the crank, and an iron socket for it to run in. He also bushed the hole in the bench, where the crank-spindle passed through, with horn, which made it run much more easily.
Thus Sammy had a potter’s wheel at last, which he could use alone, and on which he could turn pots of the largest size.
Was he not a happy boy! and didn’t he hug, praise, and thank Uncle Seth!
He had, in his practice, accumulated a large[Pg 302] number of little pots at the Cuthbert house. They were too small to be of much use; and he was by no means satisfied with the workmanship, as he found he could do much better work with his wheel: so he flung them all into the trough, put water on them, and made them into dough again; this being one advantage a potter has over other mechanics,—if he makes a blunder, he has not destroyed his material, but can work it over.
Sammy now, instead of making a great number of vessels, endeavored to improve the quality of his wares, and turned milk-pans on this wheel with the greatest ease. It also required much time to bake them; for, though he had enlarged his kiln, it was still quite small; and he began to think about trying to make brick, and building such a one as he had heard Mr. Seth say the potters had. Thus one invention, like one sin, necessitates another. Finding, however, that he had already supplied the settlement with pots and pans sufficient to last them a long time, he concluded to defer that enterprise for the present.
Children have little idea of the anxieties of their parents; and while they had not the least doubt but Col. Armstrong and his men would lick[Pg 303] all the Indians on the Ohio (for three hundred men seemed an immense force to them, enough to overcome any number of Indians), their parents knew the object would not be attained without loss; and none knew but they might be called to mourn the loss of friends.
Two of the rangers went to McDowell’s mill, and learned that the force had left the beaver-dams, which place was well on their way, and that the matter must be decided one way or the other very soon.
A few days after, they went again, and brought word that there was no doubt but Col. Armstrong had surprised the Indian town, killed a good many of them, and burnt up their log houses. There was a flying report that Col. Armstrong was killed, Lieut. Hogg and several men killed, and some wounded, but that the loss had not been severe.
After a week of agonizing suspense, the settlers were roused at midnight by the report of a rifle, and, turning out in expectation of an attack, found the whole party, with the exception of Honeywood, at the gate; not a man among them hurt, though several had bullets shot through their[Pg 304] clothes, and McClure’s rifle had been struck and chipped by a ball. Never had the Wolf Run settlers come out of an Indian fight before, without more serious consequences. They informed those at home that they found the Indians in log houses that were loop-holed and well prepared for defence. In these houses they had stored a great quantity of powder, enough, as the Indians boasted, to last them ten years, that had been given them by the French; and they were then preparing to attack Fort Shirley, aided by French officers and soldiers.
Capt. Jacobs, the great war-chief of the Indians, was killed; and many of them, refusing quarter, were burned and blown up in their houses.
“When did you see my husband last? and how came you to be separated from him?” said Mrs. Honeywood.
“When we came within a few miles of the Indian town,” said Holdness, “he and Rangely were sent out to scout, and discovered three Indians round a fire. Col. Armstrong didn’t want to molest these Indians, for fear of alarming the town: so he ordered Lieut. Hogg with twelve men, among whom was your husband and Rangely, to[Pg 305] keep watch of ’em while he went forward to the town with the main body, with orders to fall upon these Indians at daybreak, at which time he would attack the Indian village. The lieutenant obeyed orders, killed three of them at the first fire, when it turned out that instead of three there were twenty-four, the rest lying in the woods.”
“What were those Indians about there?” said Blanchard.
“They were an advance party, on their way to Fort Shirley. They killed Rangely and three more, mortally wounded the lieutenant, and forced the rest to retreat.”
“How did you know this?”
“We got it from a party who separated from the rest after the action, and found the lieutenant lying wounded on the ground alone, and the bodies of those who had been killed lying around him. Your husband was not among the killed; no one knew any thing about him; and we reckoned he had retreated with the others, and we should find him at the beaver-dams, or on the road; and, not finding him at either place, made up our minds, that, having found out the Indians were licked, he had taken the shortest cut through[Pg 306] the woods for the Run; and ‘spected ter find him here afore us.”
This force having been raised for the sole purpose of capturing the Indian village, their obligations ended with the accomplishment of that object. At first they had no serious anxiety in respect to Honeywood. Holdness and McClure knew that his body had not been found, though the woods had been thoroughly searched. They did not believe that when the Indians must have known by the firing, that their village was attacked by a strong force, they would encumber themselves with a prisoner, but, if they had taken him, would have killed and scalped him. But when day after day passed away, and they heard that other stragglers had returned, and Honeywood came not, the alarm was universal; and they knew that he was a captive to the Indians.
It was then manifest how much Honeywood was beloved and respected. Every man was willing to encounter any danger to rescue him; and even the children could find no heart to play, and burst into tears when they found he was a captive.
The Black Rifle and three of his men went in one direction; Harry Sumerford, Ned Armstrong,[Pg 307] and Cal Holdness, in another; and Israel Blanchard, McClure, and Holdness, in still another,—in order to lurk around the Indian villages and camping-places, to find where he was held captive, that they might attempt either rescue or ransom.
But all their efforts were fruitless: because, as was afterwards known, the party who had captured Honey wood, finding their town attacked by so large a force, fled with their prisoner across the Alleghany and into the territories of the Six Nations, where only, after the first alarm created by Armstrong’s attack, they could feel secure.
It was a gloomy period at the Run, when one party after another would come in without tidings.
“If,” said Mrs. Sumerford, “the Almighty ever did hear prayer for any thing or any body, and I know he has and does, he will for this good man: he’ll never let those savages torture their best friend.”
“He permitted the Jews to torture the Saviour, their best friend,” replied Mrs. Honeywood. “We have no right to say what God in his wisdom will or will not permit; but, if the Indians tie him to the stake, I believe he will enable him to bear it, and will support me likewise.”
“The church,” said Mrs. Sumerford, “prayed for Peter, and the Lord sent his angel: perhaps he will hear our prayers for him.”
These good women then resolved they would meet every afternoon in the schoolhouse, and pray.
THE QUAKER’S APPEAL TO THE DELAWARES.
Honeywood and Rangely, maintaining their ground while their comrades retreated, were thus left alone; and, being surrounded by savages, Rangely was killed, and Honeywood, wounded severely in the breast, was taken prisoner.
The Delawares knew Honeywood well: among them were some of those who were present when he shot the savage who held Sam Sumerford in his arms, without hurting the boy. They immediately painted his face black, thus signifying that he was to be reserved for torture. Greatly elated with their prize, they treated him with the utmost kindness, and carried him the greater part of the way to a Delaware camping-ground on a litter. Upon arriving at their place of destination, they exerted all their skill to heal his wounds, and[Pg 310] restore his strength, in order that he might be able longer to endure the tortures they intended to inflict upon so brave a man and dreaded enemy.
The victim was too well acquainted with Indian customs and character to be ignorant of the designs of his captors; but hope lingers long in the human breast, and he was not without some slight expectation that his friend Wasaweela might be able to help him. He was not aware that the generous Mohawk had fallen (soon after he gave the warning to the settlers at the Run) in a battle with the southern Indians who had trespassed upon the hunting-grounds of the Six Nations.
Among the savages who captured Honeywood, was one who had often been to the shop of Clavell in Baltimore, of whom the captive had learned his trade; and he had several times repaired the rifle and traps of this savage free of charge, and invited him to spread his blanket on the hearth. On the march this savage showed much kindness to his former benefactor, often gave him food from his own store that was scanty, and would probably have aided him to escape if he could; but the day before they reached their place of destination, a Delaware encampment in the territory of the[Pg 311] Six Nations, he told Honeywood, evidently with sorrow, that his people would burn him, because he had struck them very hard, and killed many of their young men, and was a great brave. He then exhorted him to be strong, and to let it be known, by the courage with which he endured the torture, that he was a great warrior.
Thrown upon the world in childhood, the mind of Honeywood was of the firmest texture, and he had often been called to face death. But he was in the prime of early manhood, a loving, kind-hearted man; and it was bitter to die under such horrible tortures as savage ingenuity alone could devise. He thought of his home, the acres he had toiled so hard to win and defend; his wife and little ones; his neighbors, young men and children, respecting whose improvement, both mental and moral, he had cherished so many hopes, and devised so many plans to be carried into effect when the Indian war should end, of which there was now a probability.
Honeywood was not only a man of iron nerve and unflinching courage, but he was a good man: he lived in constant intercourse with God. In his boyhood, while one of the household of Henry[Pg 312] Clavell, he had been deeply interested in religious truths.
The instructions of Mrs. Raymond, a Quakeress, and the housekeeper of his master, had fallen upon willing ears and a tender conscience; and the great sorrow of his youth, the death of his benefactor, had completed the work; and from his Father in heaven he sought for strength to die, not with the sullen stoicism of the red man, but with the faith and resignation of a Christian.
His wounds were now healed, and his strength restored; his captors, having treated his injuries with great skill, fed him upon the best of provisions, game being plenty, and treated him with all the kindness consistent with safe-keeping. The war-parties sent out in different directions had come in, as also the fugitives who had escaped from Armstrong at Kittanning.
One of those parties brought with them two white captives,—one a Scotchman by the name of McAlpine, and the other a German, Luke Bogardus,—and a great number of scalps.
These scalping-parties were received by the Indians with great rejoicings. They instantly made a feast, had an Indian scalp-dance, and resolved[Pg 313] to put Honeywood and the other captives to the torture, as an offering to appease the spirits of their warriors who had been slain at Kittanning, and more especially of the great number that had fallen by the hands of the settlers at Wolf Run. Upon Honeywood, therefore, these demons in human form resolved to inflict the most horrible torments, made familiar by long practice and taught by the traditions of their savage ancestors. Could they but make him cry like a woman, their hearts would thrill with joy. With this end in view they had healed his wounds, and done all in their power to restore him to health and strength; and now the hour of vengeance had come. The prisoners were now brought out, and fastened to small trees by hide ropes of such a length as to permit them to run round the trees when the flames began to scorch them, and by their convulsive motions afford amusement to their tormentors. The squaws and children were building fires at a little distance, at which to heat gun-barrels and ramrods to be thrust into the bodies of the prisoners after they had been partially roasted by the fire built around them. Others were splitting up little slivers of pitch-wood[Pg 314] to be run into their flesh, and set on fire; some were filling the quills of turkeys with powder, to be used in a similar way, and then touched with fire.
While these fearful preparations were going on, Isetaune, the friendly savage referred to, unwilling to witness the suffering of one who had bestowed favors upon him, retired to the forest, where he was suddenly confronted by Ephraim Cuthbert, accompanied by Mrs. Raymond, who were instantly recognized by the Indian. Cuthbert, to whom the Delaware language was as familiar as his mother tongue, communicated to the astonished Isetaune his errand, who, whatever he might have felt, betrayed no emotion, but turned back with these unexpected guests.
An old squaw was approaching McAlpine with a birch dish full of splinters of pitch-wood; and boys were following her with fire-brands to light them. An Indian had just drawn a red-hot gun-barrel from the fire, with which to torment Bogardus.
When Ephraim and his companions appeared, their Quaker dress, and mild, passionless features, in strange contrast with the grim forms of those[Pg 315] naked and infuriated demons, the astonished savages dropped their instruments of torture; and, recognizing the well-known garb, ever associated in their minds with justice and brotherly love, appreciated at its full value the confidence which had impelled these wayfarers, unarmed and unannounced, to trust themselves to the red man in his haunts; and they hastened to show that it was not misplaced.
A number of the more elderly Indians and principal warriors were seated in a position where they could command the best view both of the captives and their tormentors; and, riding up directly in front of them, Ephraim and his companion halted.
Honeywood in a moment recognized the persons of Cuthbert and Mrs. Raymond, though they passed along without even glancing at him. The color came to his cheek, his eyes moistened, and he looked up in gratitude to heaven, though he might well doubt the success of the mission upon which he knew his friends had come.
Amid a silence so profound that the crackling of the fires kindled to heat the instruments of torture were distinctly heard, an aged Delaware[Pg 316] came forward, and, extending his hand to Cuthbert, greeted him thus:—
“My brother and the woman are welcome. Is he hungry? we will feed him. Is he tired? we will take him to our fire, and spread for him a blanket. Has he lost his way? we will put him in the right path. Is he not our brother? Conadose has said.”
A low murmur of assent succeeded; and, after it had subsided, Cuthbert said,—
“Brother, thy people have taken a young man from the Juniata. He is a just and brave man. In time of peace, he has been very kind to the Delawares, as Isetaune will tell you; and in war has only defended his lodge, and has never taken a scalp. He is very dear to the woman who is with me; and she has asked me to bring her on this long journey, that she might look in the eyes of her brothers, and ask them to give her this man, who is as a son.”
“Brother, we believe as you have told us, that this is a just and brave man; but he has struck our people very hard, and will, if we let him live, strike many more of them. The bones of our young men are scattered in the woods; the wolves[Pg 317] are gnawing them; and their spirits will complain if he should live: they cry to us from the ground for his blood. Brother, forget that you have asked us for that we could not grant. This man must die.”
“It is well. Will my brothers allow the woman to speak to them?”
After a brief consultation, the request was granted.
Praying to God for aid in this apparently hopeless effort to pluck the prey from the very jaws of the wolf, Mrs. Raymond ventured to speak, Cuthbert interpreting. Not a word she uttered was lost by Honeywood, whose life depended upon her success.
“Brothers, I have lived many years: you see my hair is white; and I have had many sorrows. My grandfather was one of the men of peace, who came over the sea with William Penn, and stood beside him when he met your fathers at Shackamaxon.
“When a little child, I have sat upon his knees, and heard him tell what William Penn said to the Delawares,—that he considered them one flesh and blood with his people, and as though one[Pg 318] man’s body was divided in two parts; and the Delawares said that they would live in love and friendship with William Penn and his children as long as the sun and moon endured.”
During her address, every trace of ferocity vanished from the features of the Indians, and was replaced by an expression of curious interest and respect.
She paused a moment to collect her thoughts, when the chief said,—
“Brother, let the woman speak on. The ears of the Delawares are open; and they desire to wipe the tears from her eyes.”
Thus encouraged, she said, while her voice trembled with emotion,—
“Brothers, I am told that it is a custom of the Delawares, handed down from their fathers, that when a captive is taken, any who have lost relatives may take him for their own in the place of those they have lost. We are one flesh and blood: William Penn and your fathers made us one; my father and your fathers joined hands in covenant before this sun; and before this sun I claim this right of my brothers.
“I have had children; but it has pleased the[Pg 319] Great Spirit to take them. I do not complain: whatever he doeth is just. I wish to take this man to fill the place in my heart left empty by those I have lost. I ask it of my brothers, because we are one, like two parts of the same body; and I claim the ancient privilege that has always been granted by your old men. Should not a Delaware be just?
“My brother has said the spirits of the slain will be angry if the captive is let go; but will not the spirits of the just and brave who have gone to the happy hunting-grounds grieve and be angry if their children do not remember the covenant their fathers made at Shackamaxon? It is truly a great thing I have asked of the Delawares; but is any thing too good for a friend? Does the red man give to his friend that which he values not, and set before him that he would not eat himself?”
Mrs. Raymond did not conclude, but stopped, utterly exhausted by her efforts, and the emotions excited by the fearful scene before her.
The Indian councillors were evidently much perplexed. No such question had ever come before them. On one side was the desire of[Pg 320] revenge, so dear to a savage; on the other, the veneration amounting to idolatry, that all red men, and especially the Delawares, cherished for the character of William Penn (for it was with the Delawares that he made the covenant), and also that sense of justice so strong in the Indian mind.
The affectionate and almost childish confidence with which Cuthbert and his companion had come to them was peculiarly adapted to touch the hearts of these untutored children of the forest.
The older Indians went a little apart from the rest; and hope revived in the heart of Honeywood when he perceived them call Isetaune to their councils.
After a short time spent in deliberation, an Indian, much more advanced in years than the first speaker, arose, and said to Cuthbert,—
“Brother, open your ears. We have listened to the words of the woman: they are good words; such words as were never spoken to the Delawares before, or our old men would have heard and told us of them. We have considered them well, and we think the Great Spirit has sent the woman to speak these good words in our ears.
“For no reason that the pale-faces could have[Pg 321] offered us, would we let this man go. If all the governors of the thirteen fires had come to demand this captive, we would have burnt him before their eyes. But the woman and yourself belong to William Penn; you are one with us; and the woman asks that we do by her as we do by our own: therefore we give her this man, because we love to give large gifts to our friends, and because it is just.
“Brother, listen! I have lived many moons; many snows have fallen on my head; and I remember the good days when the children of William Penn were many, when they bore rule at the council-fire, and those bad men who now have most to say were of small account, and when the red man, treated justly, was happy; and, because you are few, our lands are taken without paying for them, and our blood is shed. We do not love you the less because the power has gone from you: therefore we give the life of this man (whom the pale-faces could not buy) to you, and the spirit of the great and good Penn.
“Brother, you have come to us when our hearts are sore and our minds disturbed, for which we are sorry. We shall burn these two bad men.[Pg 322] You would not wish to hear their cries, therefore we cannot ask you to spread your blanket at our fire; but some of our young men will build you a wigwam in the woods, and, when you are rested, will guide you to the white man’s fort by a shorter path than the one by which you came. I have said.”
Cuthbert now presented his thanks, and also those of Mrs. Raymond, to his brothers the Delawares; and Isetaune, loosing Honeywood from the stake, brought him to Mrs. Raymond.
Savage ferocity, so long repressed, now broke forth: fires were rekindled, and yells of vengeance rent the air. Cuthbert would gladly have interceded for the two other miserable victims, but he knew it would be of no avail; and but a moment was given him to think of it, for with Honeywood and Mrs. Raymond he was hurried off to the woods by Isetaune and several others, who hastily constructed a shelter of boughs, provided them with food, and then hurried back to take part in the terrible tortures about to be inflicted upon McAlpine and Bogardus.
THE RETURN OF THE CAPTIVE.
When the Indians had departed, Honeywood said to Mrs. Raymond,—
“Mother, when a boy under your care, you were the means of saving my soul; and this day you and Friend Cuthbert have saved my life.”
He then begged to know in what way Cuthbert was informed of his capture, and more especially of the place to which the Indians had carried him, as it was in the limits of the Six Nations, who had taken no part in the war.
Ephraim replied that the governor of Pennsylvania, through Sir William Johnson, governor of New York, who had great influence with the Six Nations, had endeavored to prevail upon them to command the Delawares to stop their inroads, and to make peace with the English; and for that purpose had sent a delegation to them, among[Pg 324] whom were several Quakers of his acquaintance.
He then went on to say that the friendship between the Indians and the Quakers had not been interrupted in the least by the war, with which (as the Indians well knew) they had no concern except to endeavor to prevent it.
After visiting the Six Nations, those Quakers, knowing the deep impression made upon the minds of the Delawares by the attack of Armstrong and the capture of Kittanning, resolved to visit the Delaware king Teedyuscung; and thus learned of the capture of Honeywood, and where he was, and that the Delawares were determined to burn him, and would take no ransom, for he was one of the Wolf Run settlers, who were the worst enemies they had.
“I then,” said Ephraim, “resolved with the help of God to rescue thee, seeing it was my duty, and not forgetful of thy great kindness to me when I was thy neighbor at the Run.”
“You took a most singular way: if you had sent word to the Run, the people there would have rescued me by force of arms.”
“They might, and they might not: they would[Pg 325] have killed many Indians in doing it, of which thou knowest we do not approve. I took the way of peace and righteousness, and thou seest it has succeeded. I know the Indians loved my people, and the memory of William Penn, though he has been so long in his grave. Friend Honeywood, ‘love is stronger than death: many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it.’ Thou knowest we believe there is an inward light in every person born into the world; and there is in these poor savages (who are now torturing their prisoners, and would have tortured thee), but it has been obscured by ages of ignorance and superstition: yet they would take the food from their mouths to put into mine, or any true follower of William Penn.
“Thou knowest how long a journey thy mother and myself have come to find thee; and nearly every day we met larger or smaller bands of Delawares, Shawanees, Monseys, and Wyandottes in their war-paint, going after the scalps of white men, to kill the mother and the babe on her bosom; but they called me brother, offered me food, directed me in the best paths, and to places where I could find grass and water; and often went many miles out of their way to do this.”
Honeywood made no reply. He could not accept the Quaker doctrine of non-resistance, though in other respects sympathizing with and entertaining the greatest affection and respect for them and their principles. While the light of the torture-fires could be discerned in the distance, and the Indian yells faintly heard, they knelt in prayer, and then retired to rest.
Cuthbert and his companions would gladly have started at the first glimpse of day; but this would not have been agreeable to Indian customs, that required a more formal leave-taking and an escort as a mark of respect.
Those singularly discordant traits that go to make up Indian character appeared in a striking light the next morning when they were taken back to the encampment. Here they were received with the greatest kindness. A lodge was placed at their disposal; and they found a bountiful breakfast already prepared. The grim colors of the war-paint had disappeared from the persons of the warriors, who had resumed the grave dignity and cold demeanor of an Indian when in repose. The squaws, who the day before were foaming at the mouth with malignant spite, and longing to engage[Pg 327] in the work of torture, were quietly pursuing their household duties; and the children at play.
Some terrible reminders of what had taken place remained,—the half-burned trees to which the captives had been fastened, and the still smoking embers. Indian dogs were gnawing and dragging about the half-burned bones of the dead, snarling at each other, and fighting for favorite morsels.
Honeywood turned sick at heart as he looked upon the stake to which he had been fastened, the wood collected to burn him, and the mangled remains of his fellow-captives, whose fate he had so narrowly escaped.
Cuthbert now expressed his desire to depart, and they proceeded to take leave of him.
“Brother,” said the Indian who had welcomed him, “listen. You came to us when our minds were chafed, and the spirits of our dead were calling upon us to revenge their blood. We have now given them satisfaction: they will no longer complain, but will rest in their graves. We have wiped the tears from your eyes, picked the thorns from your legs; you have eaten of our food, spread your blankets with us; and, as you are about to[Pg 328] leave us, we wish you a good journey, and are glad that you have come and brightened the chain of friendship. Our young men will go with you, that you may not lose your way and come to harm. Brother, farewell.”
Indians never do any thing at the halves. Honeywood’s rifle, pack, and every article, even to the bullets in his pouch, and the powder in his horn, were restored; and he was presented with new moccasons and leggings.
Isetaune and six Delawares conducted them to within four miles of Fort Shirley, where the Indians took leave of them, Cuthbert and Mrs. Raymond going to the fort, and Honeywood towards the Run at a speed that corresponded to the emotions swelling in the breast of the husband and father.
Expecting to find the settlers in garrison, he went directly to the fort. Passing through the Cuthbert pasture, he encountered Fan with three of her pups following the trail of a pack of wolves for their own amusement. With the wildest expression of joy, she leaped upon her master, the pups doing the same, all striving to be the first to lick his face: they fairly bore him to the ground,[Pg 329] each one, as he accomplished his purpose, running in a circle around him.
“That’s a warm welcome, old friend,” patting the head of Fan, as, having finished her gambol, she stood looking in his face, and wagging her tail, as though she wanted to speak.
As he approached, he found the gates of the stockade and the fort open; and there was no sentry to be seen on the platform.
“The Black Rifle must be here still,” he said to himself; “or they would never leave the gates open, and let down their watch.”
The door of the mill was open; and he looked in, but saw no one, for Mr. Seth was in the top of the building, greasing the bearings of the machinery.
He was hurrying to the block-house, when he heard the voice of his wife in the schoolhouse; and entering found her, Mrs. Sumerford, Mrs. Holdness, Lucy Mugford, and several of the older girls, at prayer. Prayer was now turned to praise; and the girls ran to the block-house to spread the glad tidings.
“The Lord has sent his angel, and delivered Peter; praised be his name!” shouted Mrs. Sumerford. “Oh the dear good man!” and she fairly embraced him.
“The Lord sent two angels, Mrs. Sumerford; and they were Ephraim Cuthbert and Mrs. Raymond.—Where are the children, wife?”
“Here they are, coming with their grandmother and all the rest.”
The next moment all the female portion of the community, and Mr. Seth, were assembled in the schoolhouse; and, after Honeywood had embraced and kissed his children, Mr. Seth said,—
“Neighbors, we have been in this place more or less for weeks, praying in behalf of Mr. Honeywood; and those who were on the scout knelt down in the wood to put up the same petition, and the sentry knelt at midnight on the platform; and it does not become us now in the hour of our deliverance to forget the Author of all our mercies. I want Mr. Honeywood to read the hundred and sixteenth Psalm, and pray; and we’ll all praise together.”
The dogs were put out, and all seated themselves for worship; but scarcely had Honeywood taken the book in his hand, than the old mother dog leaped in at the window, followed by the rest.
“Let them stay. I cannot bear to shut out[Pg 331] Fan. She was the first to welcome me. The Lord made them as well as us.”
At his command they all lay down around him, and remained perfectly quiet during the worship; Fan only lifting her head once in a while to look her master in the face, and make sure of his presence.
The happy company retired to the block-house, when Honeywood inquired what had become of the men-folks and children.
“The young men,” said Uncle Seth, “have gone with the Black Rifle and four of his band, to Loyal Hannah, where they have heard there is a Delaware camp, to lurk round to see if you are there. Some are on the scout. The rest are gone to Mr. Holdness’s lot to junk and pile logs on a burn, and all the boys are with ’em; and Joan Holdness’s gone to let ’em know you’ve come.”
Before Honeywood had finished eating, the boys rushed in, having run all the way; and, not long after, Holdness, McClure, Grant, Stewart, and Israel Blanchard came in.
Honeywood then gave his friends a minute account of all that had happened to him. When he finished, McClure said,—
“It was not the memory of William Penn, nor what Mrs. Raymond said, that turned the Indian from his purpose when the captive was tied to the stake, and the fire lighted: ’twas Him who stopped the mouth of the lions. They couldn’t work their will, couldn’t do the thing they wanted to.”
“Sinner that I am,” said Holdness, “I have never yet had the grace to seek pardon of my Maker for my many transgressions, much more of man; but, if I ever meet Ephraim Cuthbert agin, I’ll ask his forgiveness for insulting him, and knocking his hat from his head, and giving him hard words, because he would neither fight himself, nor pay others for doing it; and you all know Ned Honeywood had ter step between us, or I might have done worse. Quaker or no Quaker, he’s a brave, noble-hearted, Christian man.”
“No wonder we couldn’t find him,” said Israel Blanchard: “nobody ever dreamed that they would carry him into the hunting-grounds of the Six Nations.”
“It would seem,” said Honeywood, “that, though the Six Nations take no open part in the war, they have no objection to see it go on. Many of the Delawares have left their old men, women,[Pg 333] and children, among the Six Nations, while the warriors went to war; and it was to one of these places, that, after Kittanning was taken, they carried me.”
“To be sure, they are willing it should go on, in order that they may be called in to make the Delawares and all the rest behave, and have rich presents for their trouble; and that is what the governor is trying to bring about now. Better give ’em a few more bullets, and a little more of Armstrong,” said McClure.
“There is no doubt,” said Holdness, “that the Six Nations rule the Delawares and all the rest with a rod of iron; and, if they order the Delawares to bury the hatchet, they’ll have to do it. But it seems to me that a government cuts a very mean figure when it goes a-begging to one portion of these savages, gits down on its knees to them, and hires them to make peace with another portion. Rather than do that, I would be willing to set out to-morrow on another expedition into their country. A few more such raids would bring them to beg for peace, instead of their being hired and coaxed to agree to it.”
“There’s a great deal of wholesome truth in[Pg 334] what the Quakers said,” replied Honeywood. “They told the government that the Indian troubles were generally settled in this way. The Indians were abused and exasperated till they dug up the hatchet; and when the affair had gone on till great numbers of the inhabitants were killed, and a few of the savages, the frontiers depopulated, and the whole country filled with terror, then presents were made to the Indians, a council held, and peace confirmed. The Quakers, therefore, thought it would be better to make the presents first, and dispense with all the butchery and devastation.”
The concluding volume of this series—entitled, Burying the Hatchet; or, The Young Brave of the Delawares—will clear up the mystery connected with the disappearance of that reckless and mischievous urchin, Tony Stewart, and manifest the effect of peaceful relations and pursuits upon the rude and reckless spirits who composed the majority of the settlers of Wolf Run. Hitherto they have been presented to us struggling for bare existence, in circumstances of mortal peril, calculated to develop the sterner[Pg 335] passions of human nature. We trust they will manifest qualities of mind and heart equally striking and admirable when laying aside the weapons of war, to engage in enterprises of culture and progress.