In the Valley
Part 1 out of 6
In the Valley
_When, after years of preparation, the pleasant task of writing this tale
was begun, I had my chief delight in the hope that the completed book
would gratify a venerable friend, to whose inspiration my first idea of
the work was due, and that I might be allowed to place his honored name
upon this page. The ambition was at once lofty and intelligible. While he
was the foremost citizen of New York State, we of the Mohawk Valley
thought of him as peculiarly our own. Although born elsewhere, his whole
adult life was spent among us, and he led all others in his love for the
Valley, his pride in its noble history, and his broad aspirations for the
welfare and progress in wise and good ways of its people. His approval ef
this book would have been the highest honor it could possibly have won.
Long before it was finished, he had been laid in his last sleep upon the
bosom of the hills that watch over our beautiful river. With reverent
affection the volume is brought now to lay as a wreath upon his
grave--dedicated to the memory of Horatio Seymour._
London, _September 11_, 1890
Chapter I. "The French Are in the Valley!"
Chapter II. Setting Forth How the Girl Child Was Brought to Us.
Chapter III. Master Philip Makes His Bow--And Behaves Badly
Chapter IV. In Which I Become the Son of the House.
Chapter V. How a Stately Name Was Shortened and Sweetened.
Chapter VI. Within Sound of the Shouting Waters.
Chapter VII. Through Happy Youth to Man's Estate.
Chapter VIII. Enter My Lady Berenicia Cross.
Chapter IX. I See My Sweet Sister Dressed in Strange Attire.
Chapter X. The Masquerade Brings Me Nothing but Pain.
Chapter XI. As I Make My Adieux Mr. Philip Comes In.
Chapter XII. Old-Time Politics Pondered under the Starlight.
Chapter XIII. To the Far Lake Country and Home Again.
Chapter XIV. How I Seem to Feel a Wanting Note in the Chorus of Welcome.
Chapter XV. The Rude Awakening from My Dream.
Chapter XVI. Tulp Gets a Broken Head to Match My Heart.
Chapter XVII. I Perforce Say Farewell to My Old Home.
Chapter XVIII. The Fair Beginning of a New Life in Ancient Albany.
Chapter XIX. I Go to a Famous Gathering at the Patroon's Manor House.
Chapter XX. A Foolish and Vexatious Quarrel Is Thrust upon Me.
Chapter XXI. Containing Other News Besides that from Bunker Hill.
Chapter XXII. The Master and Mistress of Cairncross.
Chapter XXIII. How Philip in Wrath, Daisy in Anguish, Fly Their Home.
Chapter XXIV. The Night Attack Upon Quebec--And My Share in It.
Chapter XXV. A Crestfallen Return to Albany.
Chapter XXVI. I See Daisy and the Old Home Once More.
Chapter XXVII. The Arrest of Poor Lady Johnson.
Chapter XXVIII. An Old Acquaintance Turns Up in Manacles.
Chapter XXIX. The Message Sent Ahead from the Invading Army.
Chapter XXX. From the Scythe and Reaper to the Musket.
Chapter XXXI. The Rendezvous of Fighting Men at Fort Dayton.
Chapter XXXII. "The Blood Be on Your Heads."
Chapter XXXIII. The Fearsome Death-Struggle in the Forest.
Chapter XXXIV. Alone at Last with My Enemy.
Chapter XXXV. The Strange Uses to Which Revenge May Be Put.
Chapter XXXVI. A Final Scene in the Gulf which My Eyes Are Mercifully
Chapter XXXVII. The Peaceful Ending of It All.
In The Valley
"The French Are in the Valley!"
It may easily be that, during the many years which have come and gone
since the eventful time of my childhood, Memory has played tricks upon me
to the prejudice of Truth. I am indeed admonished of this by study of my
son, for whose children in turn this tale is indited, and who is now able
to remember many incidents of his youth--chiefly beatings and like
parental cruelties--which I know very well never happened at all. He is
good enough to forgive me these mythical stripes and bufferings, but he
nurses their memory with ostentatious and increasingly succinct
recollection, whereas for my own part, and for his mother's, our enduring
fear was lest we had spoiled him through weak fondness. By good fortune
the reverse has been true. He is grown into a man of whom any parents
might be proud--tall, well-featured, strong, tolerably learned, honorable,
and of influence among his fellows. His affection for us, too, is very
great. Yet in the fashion of this new generation, which speaks without
waiting to be addressed, and does not scruple to instruct on all subjects
its elders, he will have it that he feared me when a lad--and with cause!
If fancy can so distort impressions within such short span, it does not
become me to be too set about events which come back slowly through the
mist and darkness of nearly threescore years.
Yet they return to me so full of color, and cut in such precision and
keenness of outline, that at no point can I bring myself to say, "Perhaps
I am in error concerning this," or to ask, "Has this perchance been
confused with other matters?" Moreover, there are few now remaining who of
their own memory could controvert or correct me. And if they essay to do
so, why should not my word be at least as weighty as theirs? And so to
* * * * *
I was in my eighth year, and there was snow on the ground.
The day is recorded in history as November 13, A.D. 1757, but I am afraid
that I did not know much about years then, and certainly the month seems
now to have been one of midwinter. The Mohawk, a larger stream then by far
than in these days, was not yet frozen over, but its frothy flood ran very
dark and chill between the white banks, and the muskrats and the beavers
were all snug in their winter holes. Although no big fragments of ice
floated on the current, there had already been a prodigious scattering of
the bateaux and canoes which through all the open season made a thriving
thoroughfare of the river. This meant that the trading was over, and that
the trappers and hunters, white and red, were either getting ready to go
or had gone northward into the wilderness, where might be had during the
winter the skins of dangerous animals--bears, wolves, catamounts, and
lynx--and where moose and deer could be chased and yarded over the crust,
not to refer to smaller furred beasts to be taken in traps.
I was not at all saddened by the departure of these rude, foul men, of
whom those of Caucasian race were not always the least savage, for they
did not fail to lay hands upon traps or nets left by the heedless within
their reach, and even were not beyond making off with our boats, cursing
and beating children who came unprotected in their path, and putting the
women in terror of their very lives. The cold weather was welcome not only
for clearing us of these pests, but for driving off the black flies,
mosquitoes, and gnats which at that time, with the great forests so close
behind us, often rendered existence a burden, particularly just
Other changes were less grateful to the mind. It was true I would no
longer be held near the house by the task of keeping alight the smoking
kettles of dried fungus, designed to ward off the insects, but at the same
time had disappeared many of the enticements which in summer oft made this
duty irksome. The partridges were almost the sole birds remaining in the
bleak woods, and, much as their curious ways of hiding in the snow, and
the resounding thunder of their strange drumming, mystified and attracted
me, I was not alert enough to catch them. All my devices of horse-hair
and deer-hide snares were foolishness in their sharp eyes. The water-fowl,
too--the geese, ducks, cranes, pokes, fish-hawks, and others--had flown,
sometimes darkening the sky over our clearing by the density of their
flocks, and filling the air with clamor. The owls, indeed, remained, but I
The very night before the day of which I speak, I was awakened by one of
these stupid, perverse birds, which must have been in the cedars on the
knoll close behind the house, and which disturbed my very soul by his
ceaseless and melancholy hooting. For some reason it affected me more than
commonly, and I lay for a long time nearly on the point of tears with
vexation--and, it is likely, some of that terror with which uncanny noises
inspire children in the darkness. I was warm enough under my fox-robe,
snuggled into the husks, but I was very wretched. I could hear, between
the intervals of the owl's sinister cries, the distant yelping of the
timber wolves, first from the Schoharie side of the river, and then from
our own woods. Once there rose, awfully near the log wall against which I
nestled, a panther's shrill scream, followed by a long silence, as if the
lesser wild things outside shared for the time my fright. I remember that
I held my breath.
It was during this hush, and while I lay striving, poor little fellow, to
dispel my alarm by fixing my thoughts resolutely on a rabbit-trap I had
set under some running hemlock out on the side hill, that there rose the
noise of a horse being ridden swiftly down the frosty highway outside. The
hoofbeats came pounding up close to our gate. A moment later there was a
great hammering on the oak door, as with a cudgel or pistol handle, and I
heard a voice call out in German (its echoes ring still in my old ears):
"The French are in the Valley!"
I drew my head down under the fox-skin as if it had been smitten sharply,
and quaked in solitude. I desired to hear no more.
Although so very young a boy, I knew quite well who the French were, and
what their visitations portended. Even at that age one has recollections.
I could recall my father, peaceful man of God though he was, taking down
his gun some years before at the rumor of a French approach, and my mother
clinging to his coat as he stood in the doorway, successfully pleading
with him not to go forth. I had more than once seen Mrs. Markell of
Minden, with her black knit cap worn to conceal the absence of her scalp,
which had been taken only the previous summer by the Indians, who sold it
to the French for ten livres, along with the scalps of her murdered
husband and babe. So it seemed that adults sometimes parted with this
portion of their heads without losing also their lives. I wondered if
small boys were ever equally fortunate. I felt softly of my hair and wept.
How the crowding thoughts of that dismal hour return to me! I recall
considering in my mind the idea of bequeathing my tame squirrel to
Hendrick Getman, and the works of an old clock, with their delightful
mystery of wooden cogs and turned wheels, which was my chief treasure, to
my negro friend Tulp--and then reflecting that they too would share my
fate, and would thus be precluded from enjoying my legacies. The whimsical
aspect of the task of getting hold upon Tulp's close, woolly scalp was
momentarily apparent to me, but I did not laugh. Instead, the very
suggestion of humor converted my tears into vehement sobbings.
When at last I ventured to lift my head and listen again, it was to hear
another voice, an English-speaking voice which I knew very well, saying
gravely from within the door:
"It is well to warn, but not to terrify. There are many leagues between us
and danger, and many good fighting men. When you have told your tidings to
Sir William, add that I have heard it all and have gone back to bed."
Then the door was closed and barred, and the hoofbeats died away down the
These few words had sufficed to shame me heartily of my cowardice. I ought
to have remembered that we were almost within hail of Fort Johnson and its
great owner the General; that there was a long Ulineof forts between us and
the usual point of invasion with many soldiers; and--most important of
all--that I was in the house of Mr. Stewart.
If these seem over-mature reflections for one of my age, it should be
explained, that, while a veritable child in matters of heart and impulse,
I was in education and association much advanced beyond my years. The
master of the house, Mr. Thomas Stewart, whose kind favor had provided me
with a home after my father's sad demise, had diverted his leisure with
my instruction, and given me the great advantage of daily conversation
both in English and Dutch with him. I was known to Sir William and to Mr.
Butler and other gentlemen, and was often privileged to listen when they
conversed with Mr. Stewart. Thus I had grown wise in certain respects,
while remaining extremely childish in others. Thus it was that I trembled
first at the common hooting of an owl, and then cried as if to die at
hearing the French were coming, and lastly recovered all my spirits at the
reassuring sound of Mr. Stewart's voice, and the knowledge that he was
content to return to his sleep.
I went soundly to sleep myself, presently, and cannot remember to have
dreamed at all.
Setting Forth How the Girl Child Was Brought to Us.
When I came out of my nest next morning--my bed was on the floor of a
small recess back of the great fireplace, made, I suspect, because the
original builders lacked either the skill or the inclination, whichever it
might be, to more neatly skirt the chimney with the logs--it was quite
late. Some meat and corn-bread were laid for me on the table in Mr.
Stewart's room, which was the chief chamber of the house. Despite the big
fire roaring on the hearth, it was so cold that the grease had hardened
white about the meat in the pan, and it had to be warmed again before I
could sop my bread.
During the solitary meal it occurred to me to question my aunt, the
housekeeper, as to the alarm of the night, which lay heavily once more
upon my mind. But I could hear her humming to herself in the back room,
which did not indicate acquaintance with any danger. Moreover, it might as
well be stated here that my aunt, good soul though she was, did not
command especial admiration for the clearness of her wits, having been
cruelly stricken with the small-pox many years before, and owing her
employment, be it confessed, much more to Mr. Stewart's excellence of
heart than to her own abilities. She was probably the last person in the
Valley whose judgment upon the question of a French invasion, or indeed
any other large matter, I would have valued.
Having donned my coon-skin cap, and drawn on my thick pelisse over my
apron, I put another beech-knot on the fire and went outside. The stinging
air bit my nostrils and drove my hands into my pockets. Mr. Stewart was at
the work which had occupied him for some weeks previously--hewing out logs
on the side hill. His axe strokes rang through the frosty atmosphere now
with a sharp reverberation which made it seem much colder, and yet more
cheerful. Winter had come, indeed, but I began to feel that I liked it. I
almost skipped as I went along the hard, narrow path to join him.
He was up among the cedars, under a close-woven net of boughs, which,
themselves heavily capped with snow, had kept the ground free. He nodded
pleasantly to me when I wished him good-morning, then returned to his
labor. Although I placed myself in front of him, in the hope that he would
speak, and thus possibly put me in the way to learn something about this
French business, he said nothing, but continued whacking at the deeply
notched trunk. The temptation to begin the talk myself came near mastering
me, so oppressed with curiosity was I; and finally, to resist it the
better, I walked away and stood on the brow of the knoll, whence one could
look up and down the Valley.
It was the only world I knew--this expanse of flats, broken by wedges of
forest stretching down from the hills on the horizon to the very water's
edge. Straight, glistening lines of thin ice ran out here and there from
the banks of the stream this morning, formed on the breast of the flood
through the cold night.
To the left, in the direction of the sun, lay, at the distance of a mile
or so, Mount Johnson, or Fort Johnson, as one chose to call it. It could
not be seen for the intervening hills, but so important was the fact of
its presence to me that I never looked eastward without seeming to behold
its gray stone walls with their windows and loopholes, its stockade of
logs, its two little houses on either side, its barracks for the guard
upon the ridge back of the gristmill, and its accustomed groups of
grinning black slaves, all eyeballs and white teeth, of saturnine Indians
in blankets, and of bold-faced fur-traders. Beyond this place I had never
been, but I knew vaguely that Schenectady was in that direction, where the
French once wrought such misery, and beyond that Albany, the great town of
our parts, and then the big ocean which separated us from England and
Holland. Civilization lay that way, and all the luxurious things which,
being shown or talked of by travellers, made our own rough life seem ruder
still by contrast.
Turning to the right I looked on the skirts of savagery. Some few
adventurous villages of poor Palatine-German farmers and traders there
were up along the stream, I knew, hidden in the embrace of the wilderness,
and with them were forts and soldiers But these latter did not prevent
houses being sacked and their inmates tomahawked every now and then.
It astonished me, that, for the sake of mere furs and ginseng and potash,
men should be moved to settle in these perilous wilds, and subject their
wives and families to such dangers, when they might live in peace at
Albany, or, for that matter, in the old countries whence they came. For my
part, I thought I would much rather be oppressed by the Grand Duke's
tax-collectors, or even be caned now and again by the Grand Duke himself,
than undergo these privations and panics in a savage land. I was too
little then to understand the grandeur of the motives which impelled men
to expatriate themselves and suffer all things rather than submit to
religious persecution or civil tyranny. Sometimes even now, in my old age,
I feel that I do not wholly comprehend it. But that it was a grand thing,
I trust there can be no doubt.
While I still stood on the brow of the hill, my young head filled with
these musings, and my heart weighed down almost to crushing by the sense
of vast loneliness and peril which the spectacle of naked marsh-lands and
dark, threatening forests inspired, the sound of the chopping ceased, and
there followed, a few seconds later, a great swish and crash down
As I looked to note where the tree had fallen, I saw Mr. Stewart lay down
his axe, and take into his hands the gun which stood near by. He motioned
to me to preserve silence, and himself stood in an attitude of deep
attention. Then my slow ears caught the noise he had already heard--a
mixed babel of groans, curses, and cries of fear, on the road to the
westward of us, and growing louder momentarily.
After a minute or two of listening he said to me, "It is nothing. The
cries are German, but the oaths are all English--as they generally are."
All the same he put his gun over his arm as he walked down to the
stockade, and out through the gate upon the road, to discover the cause of
Five red-coated soldiers on horseback, with another, cloaked to the eyes
and bearing himself proudly, riding at their heels; a negro following on,
also mounted, with a huge bundle in his arms before him, and a shivering,
yellow-haired lad of about my own age on a pillion behind him; clustering
about these, a motley score of poor people, young and old, some bearing
household goods, and all frightened out of their five senses--this is what
we saw on the highway.
What we heard it would be beyond my power to recount. From the chaos of
terrified exclamations in German, and angry cursing in English, I gathered
generally that the scared mob of Palatines were all for flying the Valley,
or at the least crowding into Fort Johnson, and that the troopers were
somewhat vigorously endeavoring to reassure and dissuade them.
Mr. Stewart stepped forward--I following close in his rear--and began
phrasing in German to these poor souls the words of the soldiers, leaving
out the blasphemies with which they were laden. How much he had known
before I cannot guess, but the confidence with which he told them that the
French and Indian marauders had come no farther than the Palatine Village
above Fort Kouarie, that they were but a small force, and that Honikol
Herkimer had already started out to drive them back, seemed to his simple
auditors born of knowledge. They at all events listened to him, which they
had not done to the soldiers, and plied him with anxious queries, which he
in turn referred to the mounted men and then translated their sulky
answers. This was done to such good purpose that before long the wiser of
the Palatines were agreed to return to their homes up the Valley, and the
others had become calm.
As the clamor ceased, the soldier whom I took to be an officer removed his
cloak a little from his face and called out gruffly:
"Tell this fellow to fetch me some brandy, or whatever cordial is to be
had in this God-forgotten country, and stir his bones about it, too!"
To speak to Mr. Thomas Stewart in this fashion! I looked at my protector
in pained wrath and apprehension, knowing his fiery temper.
With a swift movement he pushed his way between the sleepy soldiers
straight to the officer. I trembled in every joint, expecting to see him
cut down where he stood, here in front of his own house!
He plucked the officer's cloak down from his face with a laugh, and then
put his hands on his hips, his gun under his arm, looked the other square
in the face, and laughed again.
All this was done so quickly that the soldiers, being drowsy with their
all-night ride, scarcely understood what was going forward. The officer
himself strove to unwrap the muffled cloak that he might grasp his sword,
puffing out his cheeks with amazement and indignation meanwhile, and
staring down fiercely at Mr. Stewart. The fair-haired boy on the horse
with the negro was almost as greatly excited, and cried out, "Kill him,
some one! Strike him down!" in a stout voice. At this some of the soldiers
wheeled about, prepared to take part in the trouble when they should
comprehend it, while their horses plunged and reared into the others.
The only cool one was Mr. Stewart, who still stood at his ease, smiling at
the red-faced, blustering officer, to whom he now said:
"When you are free of your cloak, Tony Cross, dismount and let us
The gentleman thus addressed peered at the speaker, gave an exclamation or
two of impatience, then looked again still more closely. All at once his
face brightened, and he slapped his round, tight thigh with a noise like
the rending of an ice-gorge.
"Tom Lynch!" he shouted. "Saints' breeches! 'tis he!" and off his horse
came the officer, and into Mr. Stewart's arms, before I could catch
It seemed that the twain were old comrades, and had been like brothers in
foreign wars, now long past. They walked affectionately, hand in hand, to
the house. The negro followed, bringing the two horses into the stockade,
and then coming inside with the bundle and the boy, the soldiers being
despatched onward to the fort.
While my aunt, Dame Kronk, busied herself in bringing bottles and glasses,
and swinging the kettle over the fire, the two gentlemen could not keep
eyes off each other, and had more to say than there were words for. It was
eleven years since they had met, and, although Mr. Stewart had learned
(from Sir William) of the other's presence in the Valley, Major Cross had
long since supposed his friend to be dead. Conceive, then, the warmth of
their greeting, the fondness of their glances, the fervor of the
reminiscences into which they straightway launched, sitting wide-kneed by
the roaring hearth, steaming glass in hand.
The Major sat massively upright on the bench, letting his thick cloak fall
backward from his broad shoulders to the floor, for, though the heat of
the flames might well-nigh singe one's eyebrows, it would be cold behind.
I looked upon his great girth of chest, upon his strong hands, which yet
showed delicately fair when they were ungloved, and upon his round,
full-colored, amiable face with much satisfaction. I seemed to swell with
pride when he unbuckled his sword, belt and all, and handed it to me, I
being nearest, to put aside for him. It was a ponderous, severe-looking
weapon, and I bore it to the bed with awe, asking myself how many people
it was likely to have killed in its day. I had before this handled other
swords--including Sir William's--but never such a one as this. Nor had I
ever before seen a soldier who seemed to my boyish eyes so like what a
warrior should be.
It was not our habit to expend much liking upon English officers or
troopers, who were indeed quite content to go on without our friendship,
and treated us Dutch and Palatines in turn with contumacy and roughness,
as being no better than their inferiors. But no one could help liking
Major Anthony Cross--at least when they saw him under his old friend's
roof-tree, expanding with genial pleasure.
For the yellow-haired boy, who was the Major's son, I cared much less. I
believe truly that I disliked him from the very first moment out on the
frosty road, and that when I saw him shivering there with the cold, I was
not a whit sorry. This may be imagination, but it is certain that he did
not get into my favor after we came inside.
Under this Master Philip's commands the negro squatted on his haunches and
unrolled the blankets from the bundle I had seen him carrying. Out of this
bundle, to my considerable amazement, was revealed a little child, perhaps
between three and four years of age.
This tiny girl blinked in the light thus suddenly surrounding her, and
looked about the room piteously, with her little lips trembling and her
eyes filled with tears. She was very small for her years, and had long,
tumbled hair. Her dress was a homespun frock in a single piece, and her
feet were wrapped for warmth in wool stockings of a grown woman's measure.
She looked about the room, I say, until she saw me. No doubt my Dutch face
was of the sort she was accustomed to, for she stretched out her hands to
me. Thereupon I went and took her in my arms, the negro smiling upon
I had thought to bear her to the fire-place, where Master Philip was
already toasting himself, standing between Mr. Stewart's knees, and boldly
spreading his hands over the heat. But when he espied me bringing forward
the child he darted to us and sharply bade me leave the girl alone.
"Is she not to be warmed, then?" I asked, puzzled alike at his rude
behavior and at his words.
"I will do it myself," he answered shortly, and made to take the child.
He alarmed her with his imperious gesture, and she turned from him,
clinging to my neck. I was vexed now, and, much as I feared discourtesy to
one of Mr. Stewart's guests, felt like holding my own. Keeping the little
girl tight in my arms, I pushed past him toward the fire. To my great
wrath he began pulling at her shawl as I went, shouting that he would have
her, while to make matters worse the babe herself set up a loud wail. Thus
you may imagine I was in a fine state of confusion and temper when I stood
finally at the side of the hearth and felt Mr. Stewart's eyes upon me. But
I had the girl.
"What is the tumult?" he demanded, in a vexed tone. "What are you doing,
Douw, and what child is this?"
"It is my child, sir!" young Philip spoke up, panting from his exertions,
and red with color.
The two men broke out in loud laughter at this, so long sustained that
Philip himself joined it, and grinned reluctantly. I was too angry to even
feel relieved that the altercation was to have no serious consequences for
me--much less to laugh myself. I opened the shawl, that the little one
might feel the heat, and said nothing.
"Well, the lad is right, in a way," finally chuckled the Major. "It's as
much his child as it is anybody's this side of heaven."
The phrase checked his mirth, and he went on more seriously:
"She is the child of a young couple who had come to the Palatine Village
only a few weeks before. The man was a cooper or wheelwright, one or the
other, and his name was Peet or Peek, or some such Dutch name. When
Bellêtre fell upon the town at night, the man was killed in the first
attack. The woman with her child ran with the others to the ford. There in
the darkness and panic she was crushed under and drowned; but strange
enough--who can tell how these matters are ordered?--the infant was in
some way got across the river safe, and fetched to the Fort. But there, so
great is the throng, both of those who escaped and those who now, alarmed
for their lives, flock in from the farms round about, that no one had time
to care for a mere infant. Her parents were new-comers, and had no
friends. Besides, every one up there is distracted with mourning or
frantic with preparation for the morrow. The child stood about among the
cattle, trying to get warm in the straw, when we came out last night to
start. She looked so beseechingly at us, and so like my own little
Cordelia, by God! I couldn't bear it! I cursed a trifle about their
brutality, and one of 'em offered at that to take her in; but my boy here
said, 'Let's bring her with us, father,' and up she came on to Bob's
saddle, and off we started. At Herkimer's I found blankets for her, and
one of the girls gave us some hose, big enough for Bob, which we
bundled her in."
"There! said I not truly she was mine?" broke in the boy, shaking his
yellow hair proudly, and looking Mr. Stewart confidently in the eye.
"Rightly enough," replied Mr. Stewart, kindly. "And so you are my old
friend Anthony Cross's son, eh? A good, hearty lad, seeing the world
young. Can you realize easily, Master Philip, looking at us two old
people, that we were once as small as you, and played together then on the
Galway hills, never knowing there could be such a place as America? And
that later we slept together in the same tent, and thanked our stars for
not being bundled together into the same trench, years upon years?"
"Yes, and I know who you are, what's more!" said the pert boy, unabashed.
"Why, that's wisdom itself," said Mr. Stewart, pleasantly.
"You are Tom Lynch, and your grandfather was a king----"
"No more," interposed Mr. Stewart, frowning and lifting his finger. "That
folly is dead and in its grave. Not even so fair a youth as you must give
"Here, Bob," said the Major, with sudden alacrity. "Go outside with these
children, and help them to some games."
Master Philip Makes His Bow--And Behaves Badly.
My protector and chief friend was at this time, as near as may be, fifty
years of age; yet he bore these years so sturdily that, if one should see
him side by side with his gossip and neighbor, Sir William Johnson, there
would be great doubt which was the elder--and the Baronet was not above
forty-two. Mr. Stewart was not tall, and seemed of somewhat slight frame,
yet he had not only grace of movement, but prodigious strength of wrist
and shoulders. For walking he was not much, but he rode like a knight. He
was of strictest neatness and method concerning his clothes; not so much,
let me explain, as to their original texture, for they were always plain,
ordinary garments, but regarding their cleanliness and order. He had a
swift and ready temper, and could not brook to be disputed by his equals,
much less by his inferiors, yet had a most perfect and winning politeness
when agreed with.
All these, I had come to know, were traits of a soldier, yet he had many
other qualities which puzzled me, not being observable in other troopers.
He swore very rarely, he was abstemious with wines and spirits, and he
loved books better than food itself. Of not even Sir William, great
warrior and excellent scholar though he was, could all these things be
said. Mr. Stewart had often related to me, during the long winter days and
evenings spent of necessity by the fire, stories drawn from his campaigns
in the Netherlands and France and Scotland, speaking freely and most
instructively. But he had never helped me to unravel the mystery why he,
so unlike other soldiers in habits and tastes, should have chosen the
profession of arms.
A ray of light was thrown upon the question this very day by the forward
prattle of the boy Philip. In after years the full illumination came, and
I understood it all. It is as well, perhaps, to outline the story here,
although at the time I was in ignorance of it.
In Ireland, nearly eighty years before, that is to say in 1679, there had
been born a boy to whom was given the name of James Lynch. His mother was
the smooth-faced, light-hearted daughter of a broken Irish gentleman, who
loved her boy after a gusty fashion, and bore a fierce life of scorn and
sneers on his behalf. His father was--who? There were no proofs in court,
of course, but it seems never to have been doubted by any one that the
father was no other than the same worthless prince to wear whose titles
the two chief towns of my State were despoiled of their honest Dutch
names--I mean the Duke of York and Albany.
Little James Lynch, unlike so many of his luckier brothers and cousins,
got neither a peerage nor a gentle breeding. Instead he was reared
meagrely, if not harshly, under the maternal roof and name, until he grew
old enough to realize that he was on an island where bad birth is not
forgiven, even if the taint be royal. Then he ran away, reached the coast
of France, and made his way to the French court, where his father was now,
and properly enough, an exile. He was a fine youth, with a prompt tongue
and clever head, and some attention was finally shown him. They gave him a
sword and a company, and he went with the French through all the wars of
Marlborough, gaining distinction, and, what is more, a fat purse.
With his money he returned to Ireland, wedded a maid of whom he had
dreamed during all his exile, and settled down there to beggar himself in
a life of bibulous ease, gaming, fox-hunting, and wastefulness generally.
After some years the wife died, and James Lynch drifted naturally into the
conspiracy which led to the first rising for the Pretender, involving
himself as deeply as possible, and at its collapse flying once more to
France, never to return.
He bore with him this time a son of eight years--my Mr. Stewart. This
boy, called Thomas, was reared on the skirts of the vicious French court,
now in a Jesuit school, now a poor relation in a palace, always reflecting
in the vicissitudes of his condition the phases of his sire's vagrant
existence. Sometimes this father would be moneyed and prodigal, anon
destitute and mean, but always selfish to the core, and merrily regardless
alike of canons and of consequences. He died, did this adventurous
gentleman, in the very year which took off the first George in Hanover,
and left his son a very little money, a mountain of debts, and an
injunction of loyalty to the Stewarts.
Young Thomas, then nearly twenty, thought much for a time of becoming a
priest, and was always a favorite with the British Jesuits about
Versailles, but this in the end came to nothing. He abandoned the
religious vocation, though not the scholar's tastes, and became a soldier,
for the sake of a beautiful face which he saw once when on a secret visit
to England. He fell greatly in love, and ventured to believe that the
emotion was reciprocated. As Jacob served Laban for his daughter, so did
Tom Lynch serve the Pretender's cause for the hope of some day returning,
honored and powerful, to ask the hand of that sweet daughter of the
One day there came to him at Paris, to offer his sword to the Stewarts, a
young Irish gentleman who had been Tom's playmate in childhood--Anthony
Cross. This gallant, fresh-faced, handsome youth was all ablaze with
ardor; he burned to achieve impossible deeds, to attain glory at a stroke.
He confessed to Tom over their dinner, or the wine afterward perhaps, that
his needs were great because Love drove. He was partly betrothed to the
daughter of an English Jacobite--yet she would marry none but one who had
gained his spurs under his rightful king. They drank to the health of this
exacting, loyal maiden, and Cross gave her name. Then Tom Lynch rose from
the table, sick at heart, and went away in silence.
Cross never knew of the hopes and joys he had unwittingly crushed. The
two young men became friends, intimates, brothers, serving in half the
lands of Europe side by side. The maiden, an orphan now, and of substance
and degree, came over at last to France, and Lynch stood by, calm-faced,
and saw her married to his friend. She only pleasantly remembered him; he
never forgot her till his death.
Finally, in 1745, when both men were nearing middle age, the time for
striking the great blow was thought to have arrived. The memory of Lynch's
lineage was much stronger with the romantic young Pretender of his
generation than had been the rightfully closer tie between their more
selfish fathers, and princely favor gave him a prominent position among
those who arranged that brilliant melodrama of Glenfinnan and Edinburgh
and Preston Pans, which was to be so swiftly succeeded by the tragedy of
Culloden. The two friends were together through it all--in its triumph,
its disaster, its rout--but they became separated afterward in the
Highlands, when they were hiding for their lives. Cross, it seems, was
able to lie secure until his wife's relatives, through some Whig
influence, I know not what, obtained for him amnesty first, then leave to
live in England, and finally a commission under the very sovereign he had
fought. His comrade, less fortunate, at least contrived to make way to
Ireland and then to France. There, angered and chagrined at unjust and
peevish rebukes offered him, he renounced the bad cause, took the name of
Stewart, and set sail to the New World.
This was my patron's story, as I gathered it in later years, and which
perhaps I have erred in bringing forward here among my childish
recollections. But, it seems to belong in truth much more to this day on
which, for the first and last time I beheld Major Cross, than to the
succeeding period when his son became an actor in the drama of my life.
* * * * *
The sun was now well up in the sky, and the snow was melting. While I
still moodily eyed my young enemy and wondered how I should go about to
acquit myself of the task laid upon me--to play with him--he solved the
question by kicking into the moist snow with his boots and calling out:
"Aha! we can build a fort with this, and have a fine attack. Bob, make me
Seeing that he bore no malice, my temper softened toward him a little, and
I set to helping the negro in his work. There was a great pile of logs in
the clearing close to the house, and on the sunny side near this the
little girl was placed, in a warm, dry spot; and here we two, with sticks
and balls of snow, soon reared a mock block-house. The English boy did no
work, but stood by and directed us with enthusiasm. When the structure was
to his mind, he said:
"Now we will make up some snowballs, and have an attack I will be the
Englishman and defend the fort; you must be the Frenchman and come to
drive me out. You can have Bob with you for a savage, if you like; only he
must throw no balls, but stop back in the woods and whoop. But first we
must have some hard balls made, so that I may hit you good when you come
up.--Bob, help this boy make some balls for me!"
Thus outlined, the game did not attract me. I did not so much mind doing
his work for him, since he was company, so to speak, but it did go against
my grain to have to manufacture the missiles for my own hurt.
"Why should I be the Frenchman?" I said, grumblingly. "I am no more a
Frenchman than you are yourself."
"You're a Dutchman, then, and it's quite the same," he replied. "All
foreigners are the same."
"It is you who are the foreigner," I retorted with heat. "How can I be a
foreigner in my own country, here where I was born?"
He did not take umbrage at this, but replied with argument: "Why, of
course you're a foreigner. You wear an apron, and you are not able to even
speak English properly."
This reflection upon my speech pained even more than it nettled me. Mr.
Stewart had been at great pains to teach me English, and I had begun to
hope that he felt rewarded by my proficiency. Years afterward he was wont
to laughingly tell me that I never would live long enough to use English
correctly, and that as a boy I spoke it abominably, which I dare say was
true enough. But just then my childish pride was grievously piqued by
"Very well, I'll be on the outside, then," I said. "I won't be a
Frenchman, but I'll come all the same, and do you look out for yourself
when I _do_ come," or words to that purport.
We had a good, long contest over the snow wall. I seem to remember it all
better than I remember any other struggle of my life, although there were
some to come in which existence itself was at stake, but boys' mimic
fights are not subjects upon which a writer may profitably dwell. It is
enough to say that he defended himself very stoutly, hurling the balls
which Bob had made for him with great swiftness and accuracy, so that my
head was sore for a week. But my blood was up, and at last over the wall I
forced my way, pushing a good deal of it down as I went, and, grappling
him by the waist, wrestled with and finally threw him. We were both down,
with our faces in the snow, and I held him tight. I expected that he would
be angry, and hot to turn the play into a real fight; but he said instead,
mumbling with his mouth full of snow:
"Now you must pretend to scalp me, you know."
My aunt called us at this, and we all trooped into the house again. The
little girl had crowed and clapped her hands during our struggle, all
unconscious of the dreadful event of which it was a juvenile travesty. We
two boys admired her as she was borne in on the negro's shoulder, and
"I am going to take her to England, for a playmate. Papa has said I may.
My brother Digby has no sport in him, and he is much bigger than me,
besides. So I shall have her all for my own. Only I wish she
When we entered the house the two gentlemen were seated at the table,
eating their dinner, and my aunt had spread for us, in the chimney-corner,
a like repast. She took the little girl off to her own room, the kitchen,
and we fell like famished wolves upon the smoking venison and onions.
The talk of our elders was mainly about a personage of whom I could not
know anything then, but whom I now see to have been the Young Pretender.
They spoke of him as "he," and as leading a painfully worthless and
disreputable life. This Mr. Stewart, who was twelve years the Chevalier's
senior, and, as I learned later, had been greatly attached to his person,
deplored with affectionate regret. But Major Cross, who related incidents
of debauchery and selfishness which, being in Europe, had come to his
knowledge about the prince, did not seem particularly cast down.
"It's but what might have been looked for," he said, lightly, in answer to
some sad words of my patron's. "Five generations of honest men have
trusted to their sorrow in the breed, and given their heads or their
estates or their peace for not so much as a single promise kept, or a
single smile without speculation in it. Let them rot out, I say, and be
damned to them!"
"But he was such a goodly lad, Tony. Think of him as we knew him--and
"No, I'll _not_ think, Tom," broke in the officer, "for, when I do, then I
too get soft-hearted. And I'll waste no more feeling or faith on any of
'em--on any of 'em, save the only true man of the lot, who's had the wit
to put the ocean 'twixt him and them. And you're content here, Tom?"
"Oh, ay! Why not?" said Mr. Stewart. "It is a rude life in some ways, no
doubt, but it's free and it's honest. I have my own roof, such as it is,
and no one to gainsay me under it. I hunt, I fish, I work, I study, I
dream--precisely what pleases me best."
"Ay, but the loneliness of it!"
"Why, no! I see much of Johnson, and there are others round about to talk
with, when I'm driven to it. And then there's my young Dutchman--Douw,
yonder--who bears me company, and fits me so well that he's like a
The Major looked over toward my corner with a benevolent glance, but
without comment. Presently he said, while he took more meat upon
"You've no thought of marrying, I suppose?"
"None!" said my patron, gravely and with emphasis.
The Major nodded his handsome head meditatively. "Well, there's a deal to
be said on that side," he remarked. "Still, children about the hearth help
one to grow old pleasantly. And you always had a weakness for brats."
Mr. Stewart said again: "I have my young Dutchman."
Once more the soldier looked at me, and, I'll be bound, saw me blushing
furiously. He smiled and said:
"He seems an honest chap. He has something of your mouth, methinks."
My patron pushed his dish back with a gesture of vexation.
"No!" he said, sharply. "There's none of that. His father was a dominie
over the river; his mother, a good, hard-working lady, left a widow,
struggles to put bread in a dozen mouths by teaching a little home-school
for infants. I have the boy here because I like him--because I want him.
We shall live together--he and I. As he gets older this hut will doubtless
grow into a house fit for gentlemen. Indeed, already I have the logs cut
out in part for an addition, on the other side of the chimney."
The Major rose at this, smiling again, and frankly put out his hand.
"I meant no harm, you know, Tom, by my barracks jest. Faith! I envy the
lad the privilege of living here with you. The happiest days of my life,
dear friend, were those we spent together while I was waiting for
Mr. Stewart returned his smile rather sadly, and took his hand.
The time for parting had come. The two men stood hand in hand, with
moistened eyes and slow-coming words, meeting for perhaps the last time in
this life; for the Major was to stop but an hour at Fort Johnson, and
thence hasten on to New York and to England, bearing with him weighty
While they still stood, and the negro was tying Master Philip's hat over
his ears, my aunt entered the room, bearing in her arms the poor little
waif from the massacre. The child had been washed and warmed, and wore
over her dress and feet a sort of mantle, which the good woman had hastily
and somewhat rudely fashioned meantime.
"Oh, we came near forgetting her!" cried Philip. "Wrap her snug and warm,
Bob, for the journey."
The Major looked blank at sight of the child, who nestled in my aunt's
arms. "What am I to do with her?" he said to my patron.
"Why, papa, you know she is going to England with us," said the boy.
"Tut, lad!" spoke the Major, peremptorily; then, to Mr. Stewart: "Could
Sir William place her, think you, or does that half-breed swarm of his
fill the house? It seemed right enough to bring her out from the Palatine
country, but now that she's out, damme! I almost wish she was back again.
What a fool not to leave her at Herkimer's!"
I do not know if I had any clear idea of what was springing up in Mr.
Stewart's mind, but it seems to me that I must have looked at him
pleadingly and with great hope in my eyes, during the moment of silence
which followed. Mr. Stewart in turn regarded the child attentively.
"Would it please you to keep her here, Dame Kronk?" he asked at last.
As my aunt made glad assent, I could scarcely refrain from dancing. I
walked over to the little girl and took her hand in mine, filled with
"You render me very grateful, Tom," said Major Cross, heartily. "It's a
load off my mind.--Come, Philip, make your farewells. We must be off."
"And isn't the child to be mine--to go with us?" the boy asked,
"Why be childish, Philip?" demanded the Major. "Of course it's out of the
The English lad, muffled up now for the ride, with his large flat hat
pressed down comically at the sides by the great knitted comforter which
Bob had tied under his chin, scowled in a savage fashion, bit his lips,
and started for the door, too angry to say good-by. When he passed me,
red-faced and wrathful, I could not keep from smiling, but truly rather at
his swaddled appearance than at his discomfiture. He had sneered at my
With a cry of rage he whirled around and struck me full in the face,
knocking me head over heels into the ashes on the hearth. Then he burst
into a fit of violent weeping, or rather convulsions more befitting a
wild-cat than a human being, stamping furiously with his feet, and
screaming that he _would_ have the child.
I picked myself out of the ashes, where my hair had been singed a trifle
by the embers, in time to see the Major soundly cuff his offspring, and
then lead him by the arm, still screaming, out of the door. There Bob
enveloped him in his arms, struggling and kicking, and put him on
Major Cross, returning for a final farewell word, gave me a shilling as a
salve for my hurts, physical and mental, and said:
"I am sorry to have so ill-tempered a son. He cannot brook denial, when
once he fixes his heart on a thing. However, he'll get that beaten out of
him before he's done with the world. And so, Tom, dear, dear old comrade,
a last good-by. God bless you, Tom! Farewell."
"God bless you--and yours, _mon frère_!"
We stood, Mr. Stewart and I, at the outer gate, and watched them down the
river road, until the jutting headland intervened. As we walked slowly
back toward the house, my guardian said, as if talking partly to himself:
"There is nothing clearer in natural law than that sons inherit from their
mothers. I know of only two cases in all history where an able man had a
father superior in brain and energy to the mother--Martin Luther and the
present King of Prussia. Perhaps it was all for the best."
To this I of course offered no answer, but trudged along through the
melting snow by his side.
Presently, as we reached the house, he stopped and looked the log
structure critically over.
"You heard what I said, Douw, upon your belonging henceforth to this
"Yes, Mr. Stewart."
"And now, lo and behold, I have a daughter as well! To-morrow we must plan
out still another room for our abode."
Thus ended the day on which my story properly and prophetically
begins--the day when I first met Master Philip Cross.
In Which I Become the Son of the House.
The French, for some reason or other, did not follow up their advantage
and descend upon the lower Valley; but had they done so there could
scarcely have been a greater panic among the Palatines. All during the
year there had been seen at times, darkly flitting through the woods near
the sparse settlements, little bands of hostile Indians. It was said that
their purpose was to seize and abduct Sir William; failing in this, they
did what other mischief they could, so that the whole Valley was kept in
constant alarm. No household knew, on going to bed, that they would not be
roused before morning by savage war-cries. No man ventured out of sight of
his home without entertaining the idea that he might never get back alive.
Hence, when the long-expected blow was really struck, and the town on the
German Flatts devastated, everybody was in an agony of fear. To make
matters worse, Sir William was at his home ill in bed, and there was some
trouble between him and the English commanders, which stood in the way of
troops being sent to our aid.
Those few days following the dreadful news of the attack above us seem
still like a nightmare. The settlers up the river began sending their
household goods down to Albany; women and children, too, passed us in
great parties, to take refuge in Fort Hunter or at Schenectady. The river
suddenly became covered with boats once more, but this time representing
the affrighted flight of whole communities instead of a peaceful commerce.
During this season of terror I was, as may be conceived, indeed unhappy. I
had no stomach even for play with the new addition to our household, yet
scarcely dared to show my nose outside the stockade. Mr. Stewart spent his
days abroad, either with Sir William, or up at Caughnawaga concerting
means of defence with our friends the Fondas. He did, however, find time
to cross the river and reassure my mother, who trembled with apprehension
for her great brood of young, but was brave as a lion for herself. Weeks
afterward, when I visited her once more, I saw baskets of lime in the
attic which this devoted woman had stored there, to throw with water on
the Indians when they came. This device she had learned from the family
traditions of her ancestors' doings, when the Spaniards were in Holland.
Gradually the alarm wore away. The French and Indians, after killing fifty
Palatines and taking thrice that number prisoners, turned tail and marched
back to the Lake again, with some of Honikol Herkimer's lead in their
miserable bodies. The Valley was rarely to be cursed with their presence
again. It was as if a long fever had come to its climax in a tremendous
convulsion, and then gone off altogether. We regained confidence, and
faced the long winter of '57 with content.
Before the next snowfall succeeded to that first November flurry, and the
season closed in in earnest, Mr. Stewart was able, by the aid of a number
of neighbors, to build and roof over two additions to his house. The
structure was still all of logs, but with its new wings became almost as
large, if not as imposing, as any frame-house round about. One of these
wings was set aside for Dame Kronk and the little girl. The other, much to
my surprise, was given to me. At the same time my benefactor formally
presented me with my little black playmate, Tulp. He had heretofore been
my friend; henceforth he was my slave, yet, let me add, none the less
All this was equivalent to my formal adoption as Mr. Stewart's son. It was
the custom in those days, when a slave child came of a certain age, to
present it to the child of the family who should be of the same age and
sex. The presentation was made at New Year's, ordinarily, and the white
child acknowledged it by giving the little black a piece of money and a
pair of shoes. My mother rather illogically shed some tears at this token
that I was to belong henceforth to Mr. Stewart; but she gave me a bright
Spanish dollar out of her small hoard, for Tulp, and she had old William
Dietz, the itinerant cobbler of Schoharie, construct for him a very
notable pair of shoes, which did him no good since his father promptly
sold them over at Fort Hunter for rum. The old rascal would have made
away with the coin as well, no doubt, but that Mr. Stewart threatened him
with a hiding, and so Tulp wore it on a leather string about his neck.
I did not change my name, but continued to be Douw Mauverensen. This was
at the wish of both Mr. Stewart and my mother, for the name I bore was an
honorable one. My father had been for years a clergyman in the Valley,
preaching now in Dutch, now in German, according to the nationality of the
people, and leading a life of much hardship, travelling up and down among
them. It is not my business to insist that he was a great man, but it is
certain that through all my younger years I received kindnesses from many
people because I was my father's son. For my own part I but faintly
remember him, he having been killed by a fractious horse when I was a very
As he had had no fixed charge during life, but had ministered to half a
dozen communities, so it was nobody's business in particular to care for
his family after his death. The owner of the horse did send my mother a
bushel of apples, and the congregation at Stone Arabia took up a little
money for her. But they were all poor people in those days, wresting a
scanty livelihood from the wilderness, and besides, I have never noticed
that to be free with their money is in the nature of either the Dutch or
the Palatines. The new dominie, too, who came up from Albany to take my
father's place, was of the opinion that there was quite little enough
coming in for the living pastor, without shearing it, as he said, to keep
alive dead folk's memories. Thus sadly a prospect of great destitution
opened before my mother.
But she was, if I say it myself, a superior woman. Her father, Captain
Baltus Van Hoorn, had been a burgher of substance in old Dorp, until the
knavery of a sea-captain who turned pirate with a ship owned by my
grandfather drove the old gentleman into poverty and idleness. For years
his younger daughter, my mother, kept watch over him, contrived by hook or
by crook to collect his old credits outstanding, and maintained at least
enough of his business to ward the wolf from the door. It was only after
his death, and after her older sister Margaret had gone to Coeymans with
her husband, Kronk, that my mother married the elderly Dominie
Mauverensen. When he was so untowardly killed, fifteen years later, she
was left with eight children, of whom I, a toddling urchin, was among the
youngest. She had no money save the pittance from Stone Arabia, no means
of livelihood, nor even a roof of her own over her head, since the new
dominie made harsh remarks about her keeping him out of his own every time
he visited our village. To add to the wretchedness of her plight, at this
very time her sister Margaret came back in destitution and weakness to
her, having been both widowed and sorely shaken in wits by the small-pox.
It was then that Mr. Stewart, who had known my father, came to our relief.
He first lent my mother a small sum of money--she would take no more, and
was afterward very proud to repay him penny for penny. He further
interested Sir William Johnson, Mr. Douw Fonda, Mr. John Butler, and
others in the project of aiding her to establish a small school at Fort
Hunter, where little children might be taught pure Dutch.
This language, which I have lived to see almost entirely fade from use,
was even then thought to be most probably the tongue of the future in the
colony, and there was the more need to teach it correctly, since, by the
barbarous commingling of Rhenish peasant dialects, Irish and Scotch
perversions of English, Indian phrases, the lingo of the slaves, and the
curious expressions of the Yankees from the East, the most villanous
jargon ever heard was commonly spoken in our Valley. My mother knew the
noble language of her fathers in all its strength and sweetness, and her
teaching was so highly prized that soon the school became a source of
steady support to us all. Old "Uncle" Conrad--or Coonrod as we used to
call him--the high-shouldered old pedagogue who was at once teacher,
tithing-man, herb-doctor, and fiddler for our section, grumbled a little
at the start; but either he had not the heart to take the bread from our
mouths, or his own lips were soon silenced by the persuasion of
It was out of respect for one of these, good old Douw Fonda, who came from
Schenectady to live at Caughnawaga when I was two years old, that I had
been named. But even more we all owed to the quiet, lonely man who had
built the log house opposite Aries Creek, and who used so often to come
over on Sunday afternoons in the warm weather and pay us a
My earliest recollections are of this Mr. Stewart, out of whom my boyish
fancy created a beneficent sort of St. Nicholas, who could be good all the
year round instead of only at New Year's. As I grew older his visits
seemed more and more to be connected with me, for he paid little attention
to my sisters, and rarely missed taking me on his knee, or, later on,
leading me out for a walk. Finally I was asked to go over and stay with
him for a week, and this practically was the last of my life with my
mother. Soon afterward my aunt was engaged as his housekeeper, and I
tacitly became a part of the household as well. Last of all, on my eighth
birthday, in this same November of '57, I was formally installed as son of
It was a memorable day, as I have said, in that Tulp was given me for my
own. But I think that at the time I was even more affected by the fact
that I was presented with a coat, and allowed to forever lay aside my
odious aprons. These garments, made by my mother's own hands, had long
been the bane of my existence. To all my entreaties to be dressed as the
other boys of my age were, like Matthew Wormuth or Walter Butler instead
of like a Dutch infant, she was accustomed to retort that young Peter
Hansenius, the son of the dominie at Schenectady, had worn aprons until he
was twelve. I had never seen Peter Hansenius, nor has it ever since been
my fortune so to do, but I hated him bitterly as the cause of my
Yet when I had got my coat, and wore it, along with breeches of the same
pearl-gray color, dark woollen stockings, copper buckles on my shoes, and
plain lace at my wrists and neck and on my new hat, I somehow did not feel
any more like the other boys than before.
It was my bringing up, I fancy, which made me a solitary lad. Continual
contact with Mr. Stewart had made me older than my years. I knew the
history of Holland almost as well, I imagine, as any grown man in the
neighborhood, and I had read many valuable books on the history of other
countries and the lives of famous men, which were in Mr. Stewart's
possession. Sir William also loaned me numerous books, including the
_Gentleman's Magazine,_ which I studied with delight. I had also from him
_Roderick Random_, which I did not at all enjoy, nor do I even now
understand how it, or for that matter any of its rowdy fellows, found
favor with sensible people.
My reading was all very serious--strangely so, no doubt, for a little
boy--but in truth reading of any sort would have served to make me an odd
sheep among my comrades. I wonder still at the unlettered condition of the
boys about me. John Johnson, though seven years my senior, was so ignorant
as scarcely to be able to tell the difference between the Dutch and the
Germans, and whence they respectively came. He told me once, some years
after this, when I was bringing an armful of volumes from his father's
mansion, that a boy was a fool to pore over books when he could ride and
fish and hunt instead. Young Butler was of a better sort mentally, but he
too never cared to read much. Both he and the Groats, the Nellises, the
Cosselmans, young Wormuth--in fact, all the boys of good families I knew
in the Valley--derided education, and preferred instead to go into the
woods with a negro, and hunt squirrels while he chopped, or to play with
Perhaps they were not to be blamed much, for the attractions of the rough
out-of-door life which they saw men leading all about them might very
easily outweigh the quiet pleasures of a book. But it was a misfortune
none the less in after-years to some of them, when they allowed uninformed
prejudices to lead them into a terrible course of crime against their
country and their neighbors, and paid their estates or their lives as the
penalty for their ignorance and folly.
Fortunately, things are better ordered for the youth of the land in these
How a Stately Name Was Shortened and Sweetened.
It was on the morrow after my birthday that we became finally convinced of
the French retreat. Mr. Stewart had returned from his journeys, contented,
and sat now, after his hot supper, smoking by the fire. I lay at his feet
on a bear-skin, I remember, reading by the light of the flames, when my
aunt brought the baby-girl in.
During the week that she had been with us, I had been too much terrified
by the menace of invasion to take much interest in her, and Mr. Stewart
had scarcely seen her. He smiled now, and held out his hands to her. She
went to him very freely, and looked him over with a wise, wondering
expression when he took her on his knee. It could be seen that she was
very pretty. Her little white rows of teeth were as regular and pearly as
the upper kernels on an ear of fresh sweet corn. She had a ribbon in her
long, glossy hair, and her face shone pleasantly with soap. My aunt had
made her some shoes out of deer-hide, which Mr. Stewart chuckled over.
"What a people the Dutch are!" he said, with a smile. "The child is
polished like the barrel of a gun. What's your name, little one?"
The girl made no answer, from timidity I suppose.
"Has she no name? I should think she would have one," said I. It was the
first time I had ever spoken to Mr. Stewart without having been addressed.
But my new position in the house seemed to entitle me to this much
liberty, for once.
"No," he replied, "your aunt is not able to discover that she has a
name--except that she calls herself Pulkey, or something like that."
"That is not a good name to the ear," I said, in comment.
"No; doubtless it is a nickname. I have thought," he added, musingly, "of
calling her Desideria."
I sat bolt upright at this. It did not become me to protest, but I could
not keep the dismay from my face, evidently, for Mr. Stewart
"What is it, Douw? Is it not to your liking?"
"Y-e-s, sir--but she is such a very little girl!"
"And the name is so great, eh? She'll grow to it, lad, she'll grow to it.
And what kind of a Dutchman are you, sir, who are unwilling to do honor to
the greatest of all Dutchmen? The Dr. Erasmus upon whose letters you are
to try your Latin this winter--his name was Desiderius. Can you tell what
it means? It signifies 'desired,' as of a mother's heart, and he took a
form of the Greek verb _erao_, meaning about the same thing, instead. It's
a goodly famous name, you see. We mean to make our little girl the truest
lady, and love her the best, of all the women in the Valley. And so we'll
give her a name--a fair-sounding, gracious, classical name--which no
other woman bears, and one that shall always suggest home love--eh, boy?"
"But if it be so good a name, sir," I said, gingerly being conscious of
presumption, "why did Dr. Erasmus not keep it himself instead of turning
it into Greek?"
My patron laughed heartily at this. "A Dutchman for obstinacy!" he said,
and leaned over to rub the top of my head, which he did when I specially
Late that night, as I lay awake in my new room, listening to the whistling
of the wind in the snow-laden branches outside, an idea came to me which I
determined to put into action. So next evening, when the little girl was
brought in after our supper, I begged that she might be put down on the
fur before the fire, to play with me, and I watched my opportunity. Mr.
Stewart was reading by the candles on the table. Save for the singing of
the kettle on the crane--for the mixing of his night-drink later on--and
the click of my aunt's knitting-needles, there was perfect silence. I
mustered my bravery, and called my wee playmate "Daisy."
I dared not look at the master, and could not tell if he had heard or not.
Presently I spoke the name again, and this time ventured to steal an
apprehensive glance at him, and fancied I saw the workings of a smile
repressed in the deep lines about his mouth. "A Dutchman for obstinacy"
truly, since two days afterward Mr. Stewart himself called the girl
"Daisy"--and there was an end of it. Until confirmation time, when she
played a queenly part at the head of the little class of farmers' and
villagers' daughters whom Dominie Romeyn baptized into full communion,
the ponderous Latin name was never heard of again. Then it indeed emerged
for but a single day, to dignify a state occasion, and disappeared
forever. Except alone on the confirmation register of the Stone Church at
Caughnawaga, she was Daisy thenceforth for all time and to all men.
The winter of 1757-58 is still spoken of by us old people as a season of
great severity and consequent privation. The snow was drifted over the
roads up to the first branches of the trees, yet rarely formed a good
crust upon which one could move with snow-shoes. Hence the outlying
settlements, like Cherry Valley and Tribes Hill, had hard work to
I do not remember that our household stood in any such need, but
occasionally some Indian who had been across the hills carrying venison
would come in and rest, begging for a drink of raw rum, and giving forth a
strong smell like that of a tame bear as he toasted himself by the fire.
Mr. Stewart was often amused by these fellows, and delighted to talk with
them as far as their knowledge of language and inclination to use it went,
but I never could abide them.
It has become the fashion now to be sentimental about the red man, and
young people who never knew what he really was like find it easy to extol
his virtues, and to create for him a chivalrous character. No doubt there
were some honest creatures among them; even in Sodom and Gomorrah a few
just people were found. It is true that in later life I once had occasion
to depend greatly upon the fidelity of two Oneidas, and they did not fail
me. But as a whole the race was a bad one--full of laziness and lies and
cowardly ferocity. From earliest childhood I saw a good deal of them, and
I know what I say.
Probably there was no place on the whole continent where these Indians
could be better studied than in the Mohawk Valley, near to Sir William's
place. They came to him in great numbers, not only from the Six Nations,
but often from far-distant tribes living beyond the Lakes and north of the
St. Lawrence. They were on their best behavior with him, and no doubt had
an affection for him in their way, but it was because he flattered their
egregious vanity by acting and dressing in Indian fashion, and made it
worth their while by constantly giving them presents and rum. Their liking
seemed always to me to be that of the selfish, treacherous cat, rather
than of the honest dog. Their teeth and claws were always ready for your
flesh, if you did not give them enough, and if they dared to strike. And
they were cowards, too, for all their boasting. Not even Sir William could
get them to face any enemy in the open. Their notion of war was midnight
skulking and shooting from behind safe cover. Even in battle they were
murderers, not warriors.
In peace they were next to useless. There was a little colony of them in
our orchard one summer which I watched with much interest. The men never
did one stroke of honest work all the season long, except to trot on
errands when they felt like it, and occasionally salt and smoke fish
which they caught in the river.
But the wretched squaws--my word but _they_ worked enough for both! These
women, wrinkled, dirty, sore-eyed from the smoke in their miserable huts,
toiled on patiently, ceaselessly, making a great variety of wooden
utensils and things of deer-hide like snow-shoes, moccasins, and shirts,
which they bartered with the whites for milk and vegetables and rum. Even
the little girls among them had to gather berries and mandrake, and, in
the fall, the sumach blows which the Indians used for savoring their food.
And if these poor creatures obtained in their bartering too much bread and
milk and too little rum and tobacco, they were beaten by their men as no
white man would beat the meanest animal.
Doubtless much of my dislike for the Indian came from his ridiculous and
hateful assumption of superiority over the negro. To my mind, and to all
sensible minds I fancy, one simple, honest, devoted black was worth a
score of these conceited, childish brutes. I was so fond of my boy Tulp,
that, even as a little fellow, I deeply resented the slights and cuffs
which he used to receive at the hands of the savages who lounged about in
the sunshine in our vicinity. His father, mother, and brothers, who herded
together in a shanty at the edge of the clearing back of us, had their
faults, no doubt; but they would work when they were bid, and they were
grateful to those who fed and clothed and cared for them. These were
reasons for their being despised by the Indians--and they seemed also
reasons why I should like them, as I always did.
There were other reasons why I should be very fond of Tulp. He was a
queer, droll little darky as a boy, full of curious fancies and comical
sayings, and I never can remember a time when he would not, I veritably
believe, have laid down his life for me. We were always together, indoors
or out. He was exceedingly proud of his name, which was in a way a badge
of ancient descent--having been borne by a long line of slaves, his
ancestors, since that far-back time when the Dutch went crazy over
His father had started in life with this name, too, but, passing into the
possession of an unromantic Yankee at Albany, had been re-christened
Eli--a name which he loathed yet perforce retained when Mr. Stewart bought
him. He was a drunken, larcenous old rascal, but as sweet-tempered as the
day is long, and many's the time I've heard him vow, with maudlin tears in
his eyes, that all his evil habits came upon him as the result of changing
his name. If he had continued to be Tulp, he argued, he would have had
some incentive to an honorable life; but what self-respecting nigger could
have so low-down a name as Eli, and be good for anything? All this
warranted my boy in being proud of his name, and, so to speak, living
up to it.
I have gossiped along without telling much of the long winter of 1757. In
truth, there is little to tell. I happen to remember that it was a season
of cruel hardship to many of our neighbors. But it was a happy time for
me. What mattered it that the snow was piled outside high above my head;
that food in the forest was so scarce that the wolves crept yelping close
to our stockade; that we had to eat cranberries to keep off the scurvy,
until I grew for all time to hate their very color; or that for five long
months I never saw my mother and sisters, or went to church? It was very
I seem still to see the square, home-like central room of the old house,
with Mr. Stewart's bed in one corner, covered with a great robe of pieced
panther skins. The smoky rafters above were hung with strings of onions,
red-peppers, and long ears of Indian corn, the gold of which shone through
pale parted husks and glowed in the firelight. The rude home-made table,
chairs, and stools stood in those days upon a rough floor of hewn planks,
on projecting corners of which an unlucky toe was often stubbed. There
were various skins spread on this floor, and others on the log walls, hung
up to dry. Over the great stone mantel were suspended Mr. Stewart's guns,
along with his sword and pistols. Back in the corners of the fireplace
were hung traps, nets, and the like, while on the opposite side of the
room was the master's bookcase, well filled with volumes in English,
Latin, and other tongues. Three doors, low and unpanelled, opened from
this room to the other chambers of the house--leading respectively to the
kitchen, to my room, and to the room now set apart for my aunt and
No doubt it was a poor abode, and scantily enough furnished, judged by
present standards, but we were very comfortable in it, none the less. I
worked pretty hard that winter on my Latin, conning Cæsar for labor and
Dr. Erasmus for play, and kept up my other studies as well, reading for
the first time, I remember, the adventures of Robinson Crusoe. For the
rest, I busied myself learning to make snow-shoes, to twist cords out of
flax, to mould bullets, and to write legibly, or else played with
Daisy and Tulp.
To confess how simply we amused ourselves, we three little ones, would be
to speak in an unknown tongue, I fear, to modern children. Our stock of
playthings was very limited. We had, as the basis of everything, the
wooden works of the old clock, which served now for a gristmill like that
of the Groats, now for a fort, again for a church. Then there were the
spindles of a discarded spinning-wheel, and a small army of spools which
my aunt used for winding linen thread. These we dressed in odd rags for
dolls--soldiers, Indians, and fine ladies, and knights of old. To our
contented fancy, there was endless interest in the lives and doings of
these poor puppets. I made them illustrate the things I read, and the
slave boy and tiny orphan girl assisted and followed on with equal
enthusiasm, whether the play was of Alexander of Macedon, or Captain Kidd,
or only a war-council of Delaware Indians, based upon Mr. Colden's book.
Sometimes, when it was warm enough to leave the hearth, and Mr. Stewart
desired not to be disturbed, we would transport ourselves and our games to
my aunt's room. This would be a dingy enough place, I suppose, even to my
eyes now, but it had a great charm then. Here from the rafters hung the
dried, odoriferous herbs--sage, summer-savory, and mother-wort; bottles of
cucumber ointment and of a liniment made from angle-worms--famous for cuts
and bruises; strings of dried apples and pumpkins; black beans in their
withered pods; sweet clover for the linen--and I know not what else
besides. On the wall were two Dutch engravings of the killing of Jan and
Cornelis de Wit by the citizens of The Hague, which, despite their hideous
fidelity to details, had a great fascination for me.
My childhood comes back vividly indeed to me as I recall the good old
woman, in her white cap and short gown (which she had to lift to get at
the pocket tied over her petticoat by a string to her waist), walking up
and down with the yarn taut from the huge, buzzing wheel, crooning Dutch
hymns to herself the while, and thinking about our dinner.
Within Sound of the Shouting Waters.
If I relied upon my memory, I could not tell when the French war ended. It
had practically terminated, so far as our Valley was concerned, with the
episode already related. Sir William Johnson was away much of the time
with the army, and several of the boys older than myself--John Johnson,
John Frey, and Adam Fonda among them--went with him. We heard vague news
of battles at distant places, at Niagara, at Quebec, and elsewhere. Once,
indeed, a band of Roman Catholic Indians appeared at Fort Herkimer and did
bloody work before they were driven off, but this time there was no panic
in the lower settlements.
Large troops of soldiers continually passed up and down on the river in
the open seasons, some of them in very handsome clothes.
I remember one body of Highlanders in particular whose dress and mien
impressed me greatly. Mr. Stewart, too, was much excited by the memories
this noble uniform evoked, and had the officers into the house to eat and
drink with him. I watched and listened to these tall, fierce, bare-kneed
warriors in awe, from a distance. He brought out bottles from his rare
stock of Madeira, and they drank it amid exclamations which, if I mistake
not, were highly treasonable. This was almost the last occasion on which I
heard references made to his descent, and he did his best to discourage
them then. Most of these fine red-haired men, I learned afterward laid
their bones on the bloody plateau overlooking Quebec.
Far fresher in my recollection than these rumors of war is the fact that
my Tulp caught the small-pox, in the spring of '60, the malady having been
spread by a Yankee who came up the Valley selling sap-spouts that were
turned with a lathe instead of being whittled. The poor little chap was
carried off to a sheep-shed on the meadow clearing, a long walk from our
house, and he had to remain there by himself for six weeks. At my urgent
request, I was allowed to take his food to him daily, leaving it on a
stone outside and then discreetly retiring. He would come out and get it,
and then we would shout to each other across the creek. I took up some of
our dolls to him, but he did not get much comfort out of them, being
unable to remember any of the stories which I illustrated with them, or to
invent any for himself. At his suggestion I brought him instead a piece of
tanned calf-skin, with a sailor's needle and some twine, and the little
fellow made out of this a lot of wallets for his friends, which had to be
buried a long time before they could be safely used. I have one of these
yet--mildewed with age, and most rudely stitched, but still a very
Tulp came out finally, scarred and twisted so that he was ever afterward
repellent to the eye, and as crooked as Richard the Third. I fear that
Daisy never altogether liked him after this. To me he was dearer than
ever, not because my heart was tenderer than hers, of course, but because
women are more delicately made, and must perforce shudder at ugliness.
How happily the years went by! The pictures in my memory, save those of
the snug winter rooms already referred to, are all of a beautiful Valley,
embowered in green, radiant with sunshine--each day live-long
There was first of all in the spring, when the chorus of returning
song-birds began, the gathering of maple-sap, still sacred to boyhood. The
sheep were to be washed and sheared, too, and the awkward, weak-kneed
calves to be fed. While the spring floods ran high, ducks and geese
covered the water, and muskrats came out, driven from their holes. Then
appeared great flocks of pigeons, well fattened from their winter's
sojourn in the South, and everybody, young and old, gave himself up to
their slaughter; while this lasted, the crack! crack! of guns was heard
all the forenoon long, particularly if the day was cloudy and the birds
were flying low--and ah! the buttered pigeon pies my aunt made, too.
As the floods went down, and the snow-water disappeared, the fishing
began, first with the big, silly suckers, then with wiser and more valued
fish. The woods became dry, and then in long, joyous rambles we set traps
and snares, hunted for nests among the low branches and in the
marsh-grass, smoked woodchucks out of their holes, gathered wild flowers,
winter-green, and dye-plants, or built great fires of the dead leaves and
pithless, scattered branches, as boys to the end of time will delight
When autumn came, there were mushrooms, and beech-nuts, butter-nuts,
hickory-nuts, wild grapes, pucker-berries, not to speak of loads of
elder-berries for making wine. And the pigeons, flying southward, darkened
the sky once more; and then the horses were unshod for treading out the
wheat, and we children fanned away the chaff with big palm-leaves; and the
combs of honey were gathered and shelved; and the October husking began by
our having the first kettleful of white corn, swollen and hulled by being
boiled in lye of wood ashes, spooned steaming into our porringers of milk
by my aunt.
Ah, they were happy times indeed!
Every other Sunday, granted tolerable weather, I crossed the river early
in the morning to attend church with my mother and sisters. It is no
reflection upon my filial respect, I hope, to confess that these are
wearisome memories. We went in solemn procession, the family being
invariably ready and waiting when I arrived. We sat in a long row in a pew
quite in front of the slate-colored pulpit--my mother sitting sternly
upright at the outer end, my tallest sister next, and so on, in regular
progression, down to wretched baby Gertrude and me. The very color of the
pew, a dull Spanish brown, was enough to send one to sleep, and its high,
uncompromising back made all my bones ache.
Yet I was forced to keep awake, and more, to look deeply interested. I was
a clergyman's son, and the ward of an important man; I was the
best-dressed youngster in the congregation, and brought a slave of my own
to church with me. So Dominie Romeyn always fixed his lack-lustre eye on
me, and seemed to develop all his long, prosy arguments one by one to me
personally. Even when he turned the hour-glass in front of him, he seemed
to indicate that it was quite as much my affair as his. I dared not twist
clear around, to see Tulp sitting among the negroes and Indians, on one of
the backless benches under the end gallery; it was scarcely possible even
to steal glances up to the side galleries, where the boys of lower degree
were at their mischief, and where fits of giggling and horse-play rose and
spread from time to time until the tithing-man, old Conrad to wit, burst
in and laid his hickory gad over their irreverent heads.
When at last I could escape without discredit, and get across the river
again, it was with the consoling thought that the next Sunday would be Mr.
This meant a good long walk with my patron. Sometimes we would go down to
Mount Johnson, if Sir William was at home, or to Mr. Butler's, or some
other English-speaking house, where I would hear much profitable
conversation, and then be encouraged to talk about it during our leisurely
homeward stroll. But more often, if the day were fine, we would leave
roads and civilization behind us, and climb the gradual elevation to the
north of the house, through the woodland to an old Indian trail which led
to our favorite haunt--a wonderful ravine.
The place has still a local fame, and picnic parties go there to play at
forestry, but it gives scarcely a suggestion now of its ancient wildness.
As my boyish eyes saw it, it was nothing short of awe-inspiring. The
creek, then a powerful stream, had cut a deep gorge in its exultant leap
over the limestone barrier. On the cliffs above, giant hemlocks seemed to
brush the very sky with their black, tufted boughs. Away below, on the
shadowed bottomland, which could be reached only by feet trained to
difficult descents, strange plants grew rank in the moisture of the
waterfall, and misshapen rocks wrapped their nakedness in heavy folds of
unknown mosses and nameless fern-growths. Above all was the ceaseless
shout of the tumbling waters, which had in my ears ever a barbaric message
from the Spirit of the Wilderness.
The older Mohawks told Mr. Stewart that in their childhood this weird spot
was held to be sacred to the Great Wolf, the totem of their tribe. Here,
for more generations than any could count, their wise men had gathered
about the mystic birch flame, in grave council of war. Here the tribe had
assembled to seek strength of arm, hardness of heart, cunning of brain,
for its warriors, in solemn incantations and offerings to the Unknown.
Here hostile prisoners had been tortured and burned. Some mishap or omen
or shift of superstitious feeling had led to the abandonment of this
council place. Even the trail, winding its tortuous way from the Valley
over the hills toward the Adirondack fastnesses, had been deserted for
another long before--so long, in fact, that the young brave who chanced to
follow the lounging tracks of the black bear down the creek to the gorge,
or who turned aside from the stealthy pursuit of the eagle's flight to
learn what this muffled roar might signify, looked upon the remains of the
council fire's circle of stone seats above the cataract, and down into the
chasm of mist and foam underneath, with no knowledge that they were a part
of his ancestral history.
Mr. Stewart told me that when he first settled in the Valley, a
disappointed and angry man, this gulf had much the satisfaction for him
that men in great grief or wrath find in breasting a sharp storm. There
was something congenial to his ugly unrest in this place, with its violent
clamor, its swift dashing of waters, its dismal shadows, and damp
chilliness of depths.
But we were fallen now upon calmer, brighter days. He was no longer the
discouraged, sullen misanthropist, but had come to be instead a pacific,
contented, even happy, gentleman. And lo! the meaning of the wild gorge
changed to reflect his mood. There was no stain of savagery upon the
delight we had in coming to this spot. As he said, once listened rightly
to, the music of the falling waters gave suggestions which, if they were
sobering, were still not sad.
This place was all our own, and hither we most frequently bent our steps
on Sundays, after the snow-water had left the creek, and the danger of
lurking colds had been coaxed from the earth by the May sun. Here he would
sit for hours on one of the stones in the great Druid-like circle which
some dead generation of savages had toiled to construct. Sometimes I
would scour the steep sides of the ravine and the moist bottom for curious
plants to fetch to him, and he would tell me of their structure and
design. More often I would sit at his feet, and he, between whiffs at his
pipe, would discourse to me of the differences between his Old World and
this new one, into which I providentially had been born. He talked of his
past, of my future, and together with this was put forth an indescribable
wealth of reminiscence, reflection, and helpful anecdote.
On this spot, with the gaunt outlines of mammoth primeval trunks and
twisted boughs above us, with the sacred memorials of extinct rites about
us, and with the waters crashing down through the solitude beneath us on
their way to turn Sir William's mill-wheel, one could get broad,
comprehensive ideas of what things really meant. One could see wherein the
age of Pitt differed from and advanced upon the age of Colbert, on this
new continent, and could as in prophecy dream of the age of Jefferson yet
to come. Did I as a lad feel these things? Truly it seems to me that
Half a century before, the medicine-man's fire had blazed in this circle,
its smoky incense crackling upward in offering to the gods of the pagan
tribe. Here, too, upon this charred, barren spot, had been heaped the
blazing fagots about the limbs of the captive brave, and the victim bound
to the stake had nerved himself to show the encircling brutes that not
even the horrors of this death could shake his will, or wring a groan
from his heaving breast. Here, too, above the unending din of the
waterfall and the whisper of these hemlocks overhead, had often risen some
such shrill-voiced, defiant deathsong, from the smoke and anguish of the
stake, as that chant of the Algonquin son of Alknomuk which my
grandchildren still sing at their school. This dead and horrible past of
heathendom I saw as in a mirror, looking upon these council-stones.
The children's children of these savages were still in the Valley. Their
council fires were still lighted, no further distant than the Salt
Springs. In their hearts burned all the old lust for torture and massacre,
and the awful joys of rending enemies limb by limb. But the spell of
Europe was upon them, and, in good part or otherwise, they bowed under it.
So much had been gained, and two peaceful white people could come and talk
in perfect safety on the ancient site of their sacrifices and cruelties.
Yet this spell of Europe, accomplishing so much, left much to be desired.
It was still possible to burn a slave to death by legal process, here in
our Valley; and it was still within the power of careless, greedy noblemen
in London, who did not know the Mohawk from the Mississippi, to sign away
great patents of our land, robbing honest settlers of their all. There was
to come the spell of America, which should remedy these things. I cannot
get it out of my head that I learned to foresee this, to feel and to look
for its coming, there in the gorge as a boy.
But there are other reasons why I should remember the place--to be told
The part little Daisy played in all these childhood enjoyments of mine is
hardly to be described in words, much less portrayed in incidents. I can
recall next to nothing to relate. Her presence as my sister, my comrade,
and my pupil seems only an indefinable part of the sunshine which gilds
these old memories. We were happy together--that is all.
I taught her to read and write and cipher, and to tell mushrooms from
toadstools, to eschew poisonous berries, and to know the weather signs.
For her part, she taught me so much more that it seems effrontery to call
her my pupil. It was from her gentle, softening companionship that I
learned in turn to be merciful to helpless creatures, and to be honest and
cleanly in my thoughts and talk. She would help me to seek for birds'
nests with genuine enthusiasm, but it was her pity which prevented their
being plundered afterward. Her pretty love for all living things, her
delight in innocent, simple amusements, her innate repugnance to coarse
and cruel actions--all served to make me different from the rough
boys about me.
Thus we grew up together, glad in each other's constant company, and
holding our common benefactor, Mr. Stewart, in the greatest love and
Through Happy Youth to Man's Estate.
As we two children became slowly transformed into youths, the Valley with
no less steadiness developed in activity, population, and wealth. Good
roads were built; new settlements sprang up; the sense of being in the
hollow of the hand of savagery wore off. Primitive conditions lapsed,
disappeared one by one. We came to smile at the uncouth dress and unshaven
faces of the "bush-bauer" Palatines--once so familiar, now well nigh
outlandish. Families from Connecticut and the Providence Plantations began
to come in numbers, and their English tongue grew more and more to be the
common language. People spoke now of the Winchester bushel, instead of the
Schoharie spint and skipple. The bounty on wolves' heads went up to a
pound sterling. The number of gentlemen who shaved every day, wore
ruffles, and even wigs or powder on great occasions, and maintained
hunting with hounds and horse-racing, increased yearly--so much so that
some innocent people thought England itself could not offer more
There was much envy when John Johnson, now twenty-three years old, was
sent on a visit to England, to learn how still better to play the
gentleman--and even more when he came back a knight, with splendid London
clothes, and stories of what the King and the princes had said to him.
The Johnsons were a great family now, receiving visits from notable people
all over the colony at their new hall, which Sir William had built on the
hills back of his new Scotch settlement. Nothing could have better shown
how powerful Sir William had become, and how much his favor was to be
courted, than the fact that ladies of quality and strict propriety, who
fancied themselves very fine folk indeed, the De Lanceys and Phillipses
and the like, would come visiting the widower baronet in his hall, and
close their eyes to the presence there of Miss Molly and her half-breed
children. Sir William's neighbors, indeed, overlooked this from their love
for the man, and their reliance in his sense and strength. But the others,
the aristocrats, held their tongues from fear of his wrath, and of his
influence in London.
They never liked him entirely; he in turn had so little regard for them
and their pretensions that, when they came, he would suffer none of them
to markedly avoid or affront the Brant squaw, whom indeed they had often
to meet as an associate and equal. Yet this bold, independent, really
great man, so shrewdly strong in his own attitude toward these gilded
water-flies, was weak enough to rear his own son to be one of them, to
value the baubles they valued, to view men and things through their
painted spectacles--and thus to come to grief.
Two years after Johnson Hall was built, Mr. Stewart all at once decided
that he too would have a new house; and before snow flew the handsome,
spacious "Cedars," as it was called, proudly fronted the Valley highway.
Of course it was not, in size, a rival of the Hall at Johnstown, but it
none the less was among the half-dozen best houses in the Mohawk Valley,
and continued so to be until John Johnson burned it to the ground fifteen
years later. It stood in front of our old log structure, now turned over
to the slaves. It was of two stories, with lofty and spacious rooms, and
from the road it presented a noble appearance, now that the old stockade
had given place to a wall of low, regular masonry.
With this new residence came a prodigious change in our way of life. Daisy
was barely twelve years old, but we already thought of her as the lady of
the house, for whom nothing was too good. The walls were plastered, and
stiff paper from Antwerp with great sprawling arabesques, and figures of
nymphs and fauns chasing one another up and down with ceaseless, fruitless
persistency, was hung upon them, at least in the larger rooms. The floors
were laid smoothly, each board lapping into the next by a then novel
On the floor in Daisy's room there was a carpet, too, a rare and
remarkable thing in those days, and also from the Netherlands. In this
same chamber, as well, were set up a bed of mahogany, cunningly carved and
decorated, and a tall foreign cabinet of some rich dark wood, for linen,
frocks, and the like. Here, likewise, were two gilt cages from Paris, in
which a heart-breaking succession of native birds drooped and died, until
four Dublin finches were at last imported for Daisy's special delight; and
a case with glass doors and a lock, made in Boston, wherein to store her
books; and, best of all, a piano--or was it a harpsichord?--standing on
its own legs, which Mr. Stewart heard of as for sale in New York and
bought at a pretty high figure. This last was indeed a rickety, jangling
old box, but Daisy learned in a way to play upon it, and we men-folk,
sitting in her room in the candle-light, and listening to her voice cooing
to its shrill tinkle of accompaniment, thought the music as sweet as that
of the cherubim.
Mr. Stewart and I lived in far less splendor. There was no foreign
furniture to speak of in our portions of the house; we slept on beds the
cords of which creaked through honest American maple posts; we walked on
floors which offered gritty sand to the tread instead of carpet-stuffs.
But there were two great stands laden with good books in our living-room;
we had servants now within sound of a bell; we habitually wore garments
befitting men of refinement and substance; we rode our own horses, and we
could have given Daisy a chaise had the condition of our roads made it
I say "we" because I had come to be a responsible factor in the control of
the property. Mr. Stewart had never been poor; he was now close upon being
wealthy. Upon me little by little had devolved the superintendence of
affairs. I directed the burning over and clearing of land, which every
year added scores of tillable acres to our credit; saw to the planting,
care, and harvesting of crops; bought, bred, and sold the stock; watched
prices, dickered with travelling traders, provisioned the house--in a
word, grew to be the manager of all, and this when I was barely twenty.
Mr. Stewart bore his years with great strength, physically, but he readily
gave over to me, as fast as I could assume them, the details of out-door
work. The taste for sitting indoors or in the garden, and reading, or
talking with Daisy--the charm of simply living in a home made beautiful by
a good and clever young girl--gained yearly upon him.
Side by side with this sedentary habit, curiously enough, came up a second
growth of old-world, mediæval notions--a sort of aristocratic aftermath.
It was natural, no doubt. His inborn feudal ideas had not been killed by
ingratitude, exile, or his rough-and-ready existence on the edge of the
wilderness, but only chilled to dormancy; they warmed now into life under
the genial radiance of a civilized home. But it is not my purpose to dwell
upon this change, or rather upon its results, at this stage of the story.
Social position was now a matter for consideration. With improved means of
intercourse and traffic, each year found some family thrifty enough to
thrust its head above the rude level of settlers' equality, and take on
the airs of superiority. Twenty years before, it had been Colonel Johnson
first, and nobody else second. Now the Baronet-General was still
preeminently first; but every little community in the Valley chain had its
two or three families holding themselves only a trifle lower than
Five or six nationalities were represented. Of the Germans, there were the
Herkimers up above the Falls, the Lawyers at Schoharie, the Freys (who
were commonly thus classed, though they came originally from Switzerland),
and many others. Of important Dutch families, there were the Fondas at
Caughnawaga, the Mabies and Groats at Rotterdam, below us, and the
Quackenbosses to the west of us, across the river. The Johnsons and
Butlers were Irish. Over at Cherry Valley the Campbells and Clydes were
Scotch--the former being, indeed, close blood relatives of the great
Argyll house. Colonel Isaac Paris, a prominent merchant near Stone Arabia,
came from Strasbourg, and accounted himself a Frenchman, though he spoke
German better than French, and attended the Dutch Calvinistic church.
There were also English families of quality. I mention them all to show
how curious was the admixture of races in our Valley. One cannot
understand the terrible trouble which came upon us later without some
knowledge of these race divisions.
Mr. Stewart held a place in social estimation rather apart from any of
these cliques. He was both Scotch and Irish by ancestry; he was French by
education; he had lived and served in the Netherlands and sundry German
states. Thus he could be all things to all men--yet he would not. He
indeed became more solitary as he grew older, for the reasons I have
already mentioned. He once had been friendly with all his intelligent
neighbors, no matter what their nationality. Gradually he came to be
intimate with only the Johnsons and Butlers on the theory that they were
alone well born. Hours upon hours he talked with them of the Warrens and
the Ormund-Butlers in Ireland, from whom they claimed descent, and of the
assurance of Dutch and German cobblers and tinkers, in setting up for
Sir William, in truth, had too much sense to often join or sympathize with
these notions. But young Sir John and the Butlers, father and son, adopted
them with enthusiasm, and I am sorry to say there were both Dutch and
German residents, here and there, mean-spirited enough to accept these
reflections upon their ancestry, and strive to atone for their assumed
lack of birth by aping the manners, and fawning for the friendship, of
But let me defer these painful matters as long as possible. There are
still the joys of youth to recall.
I had grown now into a tall, strong young man, and I was in the way of
meeting no one who did not treat me as an equal. It seems to me now that I
was not particularly popular among my fellows, but I was conscious of no
loneliness then. I had many things to occupy my mind, besides my regular
tasks. Both natural history and botany interested me greatly, and I was
privileged also to assist Sir William's investigations in the noble paths
of astronomy. He had both large information and many fine thoughts on the
subject, and used laughingly to say that if he were not too lazy he would
write a book thereon. This was his way of saying that he had more labor to
get through than any other man in the Colony. It was his idea that some
time I should write the work instead; upon the Sacondaga hills, he said,
we saw and read the heavens without Old-World dust in our eyes, and our
book that was to be should teach the European moles the very alphabet of
planets. Alas! I also was too indolent--truly, not figuratively; the book
was never written.
In those days there was royal sport for rod and gun, but books also had a
solid worth. We did not visit other houses much--Daisy and I--but held
ourselves to a degree apart. The British people were, as a whole, nearer
our station than the others, and had more ideas in common with us; but
they were not of our blood, and we were not drawn toward many of them. As
they looked down upon the Dutch, so the Dutch, in turn, were supercilious
toward the Germans. I was Dutch, Daisy was German: but by a sort of tacit
consent we identified ourselves with neither race, and this aided our
There was also the question of religion. Mr. Stewart had been bred a
Papist, and at the time of which I write, after the French war, Jesuit
priests of that nation several times visited him to renew old European
friendships. But he never went to mass, and never allowed them or anybody
else to speak with him on the subject, no matter how deftly they
approached it. This was prudent, from a worldly point of view, because the
Valley, and for that matter the whole upper Colony, was bitterly opposed
to Romish pretensions, and the first Scotch Highlanders who brought the
mass into the Valley above Johnstown were openly denounced as idolaters.
But it was certainly not caution which induced Mr. Stewart's backsliding.
He was not the man to defer in that way to the prejudices of others. The
truth was that he had no religious beliefs or faith whatever. But his
scepticism was that of the French noble of the time, that of Voltaire and
Mirabeau, rather than of the English plebeian and democrat, Thomas Paine.
Naturally Daisy and I were not reared as theologians. We nominally
belonged to the Calvinistic church, but not being obliged to attend its
services, rarely did so. This tended to further separate us from our
neighbors, who were mainly prodigious church-goers.
But, more than all else, we lived by ourselves because, by constant
contact with refined associations, we had grown to shrink from the
coarseness which ruled outside. All about us marriages were made between
mere children, each boy setting up for himself and taking a wife as soon
as he had made a voyage to the Lakes and obtained a start in fur-trading.
There was precious little sentiment or delicacy in these early courtships
and matches, or in the state of society which they reflected--uncultured,
sordid, rough, unsympathetic, with all its elementary instincts bluntly
exposed and expressed. This was of course a subject not to be discussed by
us. Up to the spring of 1772, when I was twenty-three years of age and
Daisy was eighteen, no word of all the countless words which young men and
women have from the dawn of language spoken on this great engrossing topic
had ever been exchanged between us. In earlier years, when we were on the
threshold of our teens, Mr. Stewart had more than once thought aloud in
our hearing upon the time when we should inherit his home and fortune as a
married couple. Nothing of that talk, though, had been heard for a
I had not entirely forgotten it; but I carried the idea along in the attic
of my mind, as a thing not to be thrown away, yet of no present use or
value or interest.
Occasionally, indeed, I did recall it for the moment, and cast a diffident
conjecture as to whether Daisy also remembered. Who shall say? I have been
young and now am old, yet have I not learned the trick of reading a
woman's mind. Very far indeed was I from it in those callow days.
And now, after what I fear has been a tiresome enough prologue, my story
Enter My Lady Berenicia Cross.
It is averred that all the evils and miseries of our existence were
entailed upon us by the meddlesome and altogether gratuitous perverseness
of one weak-headed woman. Although faith in the personal influence of Eve
upon the ages is visibly waning in these incredulous, iconoclastic times,
there still remains enough respect for the possibilities for mischief
inherent within a single silly woman to render Lady Berenicia Cross and
her works intelligible, even to the fifth and sixth generations.
I knew that she was a fool the moment I first laid eyes on her--as she
stood courtesying and simpering to us on the lawn in front of Johnson
Hall, her patched and raddled cheeks mocking the honest morning sunlight.
I take no credit that my eyes had a clearer vision than those of my
companions, but grieve instead that it was not ordered otherwise.
We had ridden up to the hall, this bright, warm May forenoon, on our first
visit of the spring to the Johnsons. There is a radiant picture of this
morning ride still fresh in my memory. Daisy, I remember, sat on a pillion
behind Mr. Stewart, holding him by the shoulder, and jogging pleasantly
along with the motion of the old horse. Our patron looked old in this
full, broad light; the winter had obviously aged him. His white, queued
hair no longer needed powder; his light blue eyes seemed larger than ever
under the bristling brows, still dark in color; the profile of his lean
face, which had always been so nobly commanding in outline, had grown
sharper of late, and bended nose and pointed chin were closer together,
from the shrinking of the lips. But he sat erect as of old, proud of
himself and of the beautiful girl behind him.
And she _was_ beautiful, was our Daisy! Her rounded, innocent face beamed
with pleasure from its camlet hood, as sweet and suggestive of fragrance
as a damask rose against the blue sky. It was almost a childish face in
its simplicity and frankness, yet already beginning to take on a woman's
thoughtfulness and a woman's charm of tint and texture. We often thought
that her parents must have had other than Palatine peasant blood, so
delicate and refined were her features, not realizing that books and
thoughts help far more toward making faces than does ancestry. Just the
edge of her wavy light-brown hair could be seen under the frill of the
hood, with lines of gold upon it painted by the sun.
She laughed and talked gayly as our horses climbed the hills. I thought,
as I rode by their side, how happy we all were, and how beautiful was
she--this flower plucked from the rapine and massacre of the Old War! And
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