By: Dorothea Boyd Wolfe
Outside could be heard the "ker-chung" of many old frogs and the sounds of countless insects, all as unseen as the lapping of the puissant Mohawk River. Here, inside the new bark Council House Cheeseekan sat cross-legged on the dirt floor along with the men of the Indian village, watching them smoke their long pipes, listening to the fire spit and crackle, and heeding the pow-wow.
Shawnee rose to give his defense, and the old men of the tribe sat there patiently, intently and courteously to hear him out.
Shawnee, with his new white-man's 'God!' Cheeseekan looked down at his own arms, pale against the tawny skin next to him in the circle, and he remembered back many moons ago when he had discovered that he was different.
Cheeseekan, the stubby-legged baby running after his handsome brother who stretched up as tall and straight as the pines, and who led him to the spring that lay cool and quiet beneath the delicate ferns.
"Thanyendanegea will teach little Cheeseekan how to drink like brave," he said.
Cheeseekan's knees touched the damp stone and he looked down into the mirror of the waters. He suddenly drew back, frightened. The ghost that stared back at him had skin like snow and hair like ripened wheat ---not as Thanyendanegea and the squaw mother and warrior-father, with strong bronze cheekbones and with hair black as the eagle and eyes like the hawk.
"Thanyendanegea! What terrible spirit is that?"
Brother looked down and laughed at him. "Cheeseekan, that is you!"
Terrified, he ran home. "Squaw-mother! Squaw-mother!" He cried as he rushed into her soft lap while she held him tight in her arms and ran her fingers through his blond hair. Looking deep into his young, blue eyes, she spoke.
"Little papoose, my little papoose," she repeated softly until Cheeseekan lost his fear and sobbed no more. "I will tell you story and you listen. Then you never be afraid again." He looked past the long braids to the sweet face with the thin lips. "Cheeseekan come from far away on river mightier than Mohawk, land of the pale-face, 'neath mountain of the great old Squaw-mother Minewawa."
Cheeseekan had heard many tales of this Great Spirit Minewawa, who guarded the valley and who hurled down lightnings at them and growled at them when she was angry while the people cowered beside the fires in their bowl-like houses and wondered how they had offended this Great One. Sometimes they would dance and thank Minewawa for the soft rains making the maize and beans grow, and would send clouds of pungent tobacco smoke up towards her dwelling beyond the Catskill peaks to the "Land of the Sky." For Minewawa hung out the new moon above those peaks and took it down when it had grown old and cut it up into little stars which she cast about her in the western sky.
"Many pale face cheat and steal red man's land and beaver," Squaw-mother continued. "One night when enemy tribe-of-the-lakes sent warriors to land 'neath Minewawa's mountain, they scalped white man and his pale squaw. Then they hear papoose wail. That Cheeseekan! Warriors take Cheeseekan away, then they war on Mohawks. So we knock their braves on head and bring little papoose Cheeseekan to these happy waters and we love him."
How good of Minewawa to send Cheeseekan to these arms. His small hands reached up around gentle Squaw-mother and expressed the love within him for the only mother he could ever remember.
"Now Cheeseekan is getting to be big brave himself," and she clasped her hands around his head, "and he belong to Mohawks. Never mind, fair of skin, you are brave of heart, strong of body, and good---my Cheeseekan."
Over 100 moons had passed, watching Cheeseekan stretch up tall and straight, and at last Garangula said he was big enough to sit in the Council with the men. If he had once been white, they never mentioned it, and Cheeseekan had almost forgotten---until tonight when Shawnee was to speak to them about this new God.
Shawnee grasped in his hand a queer object which he said contained many "smoke signals' from this great God-Spirit, mightier against all wickedness than the voice of Minewawa; greater in love than the Minewawa who sent the soft rains and the good crops, for this God had sent His own Son-Warrior to make the only way to the "Land of the Sky."
"This is the Book of Truth," Shawnee repeated, "The Book of the Spirit that is greater than the great spirit our fathers worshipped. This Book shows the way to happiness, and bids all men do justice, and love one another."
When Shawnee was finished, he sat down and the men sat silently in the flickering shadows as the smoke curled upward, for they were thinking over Shawnee's words. Cheeseekan watched old Chief Garangula rise and quietly lay down his long pipe and cross his big arms over his chest, as he began to speak the mind of the rest. In the dim light his old face was wrinkled and wise with the years, his eyes were still bright, his back still straight as an arrow, and his shoulders and muscles great under the white flowing hair.
"This book which Shawnee brings is same book given to both white English Corlaer in New York and white French Onnonthia in Canada."
They all nodded, and Shawnee nodded.
Garangula's voice was sonorous, musical and expressive.. His arms opened with his great palms outstretched. "Why, if this is the "book of truth" that shows the way to happiness, and bids men do justice, and to love one another, does it not direct Corlaer and Onnonthia alike?" His voice now grew richer and he became more animated.
"Corlaer and Onnonthia war against each other." His expressive hands voiced in a single movement all the hatred between the English and the French. "How can people, who believe that God and good spirits view and take an interest in all their actions----" and now Garangula was very eloquent and explosive--- "why do they cheat and dissemble, drink and fight, quarrel and backbite, if they believe the great fire burns for those who do such things?"
"If we believed what you say, we should not exchange so much good for wickedness!" There was a long, heavy silence as Garangula turned his eyes from one to the other in the pensive circle. "It is true that Shawnee comes back to us a better warrior than when he left. But did not the evil fire-water which he once drank come from the same men who worship this 'new spirit?' If we could see more men made better, cleaner and stronger with this 'love' which Shawnee preaches, then--only then-- we might believe."
The Great Garangula had spoken. The embers of the council fire burned themselves out. Slowly the warriors rose and, one by one, silently left. Cheeseekan watched Shawnee with his Book as he passed dejectedly out into the palpable night.
Brother Thanyendanegea walked with Cheeseekan down the rough path to father's castle. His brother did not speak, but Cheeseekan could hear the ghost-spirit Jeebi speaking through the wailing monotony of a distant whippoorwill.
"Jeebi is not pleased with this talk of a new 'great spirit,'" Cheeseekan said. "He is wailing more than ever tonight."
"Cheeseekan." Thanyendanegea spoke at last, and his voice was husky. "You know I went with our King Hendrik, chief of all the Iroquois Nations, to visit Corlaer's white queen across the sea."
"Yes, my brother, and you received a curse for such a visit." Thanyendanegea's body, once clean and strong, now bore the pockmarks of the white man's plague.
"No, Cheeseekan. I believe that Shawnee's book is the truth." Cheeseekan felt as though little pukwidjinnies were jumping up and down his innards. "After all that nonsense our Garangula made of this 'spirit' and his Warrior-Son and this Book tonight?"
"Cheeseekan, I do not believe the fault is with the Great Spirit or with His Son, or with the Book of Truth. I believe the fault lies in the followers."
As Cheeseekan put his head down in his hammock that night, he watched Thanyendanegea and wondered how his brother could follow such a confusing belief. Idols-no idols; fire water-no fire water; love-hate.
Cheeseekan shuddered as he listened to the wail of the bird and it was closer now. Chief Garangula was right. He felt sorry for Thanyendanegea. "Jeebi is not pleased," he said. "Something bad is surely coming."
Diving for fish in the cool, livid water of the Mohawk River while squirrels barked overhead, the group of naked boys stopped in the slanting morning sun to watch the strange canoe and the unusual occupants as they approached and banked just outside the palisade gate. The messenger, draped in a brilliant blanket of red and blue, stepped out on the sand and saluted the white-haired chief who strode down the hill. Garangula saluted in return. His face was first pleasant, then grim.
One of the boys whispered to Cheeseekan, "Messenger from Albany--see markings on canoe."
"He brings good and bad news, from the looks on Garangula's face."
The boy shook his head. "They are the signs of victory and death, perhaps peace and farewell."
Cheeseekan put the leggings and breech cloth that smelled of the forest onto his clean body and walked up the path to father's house, listening to the drums that were beating out the call to a new pow-wow.
"Peace," the drums throbbed out. Then why did they make him feel confused and splintered inside?
He watched his squaw-mother making her way through the maize field; she was suddenly old and bent. With questioning in his mind, Cheeseekan led her into the house where she slumped to the hard floor and rocked her body back and forth, with low moaning. There was nothing he could do to quiet or comfort this one who had always been his comfort. She was still on the floor when father and Thanyendanegea came up the narrow path and hung the huge buck deer from the oak limb.
Father quietly lifted up squaw-mother's head and waited for her to speak.
"Peace pipe has been smoked."
"Yes, that is what the drums say." He sat down next to her. "And the treaty?"
Squaw-mother glanced tearfully toward Cheeseekan and then dropped her head again. "All prisoners must be exchanged. Word has come to Garangula from Albany, and he and King Hendrik have promised to do it."
Cheeseekan stared from Thanyendanegea to father in the throbbing silence, "What has all this treaty to do with me?" Cheeseekan asked.
"You belong once to white man," father explained.
"But you didn't take me from the white man!" He felt like fire inside. "Squaw-mother said you took me from the enemy Huron tribe."
"True. But enemies took Cheeseekan as prisoner of war from white man. Now, we must keep bargain of treaty."
"You must go to Albany," Thanyendanegea said. "You will not be afraid. Good white man will help you there who helped Thanyendanegea once when he was sick."
"But I do not want to go to this man in Albany," and he looked to his father. "I want to stay here."
"That is war and peace," said father. "Some are made happy, some are made sad. We will miss you, our son Cheeseekan." He watched squaw-mother's sadly slumped body and he knew.
They took him to the rise of ground to Garangula's castle, standing as Thanyendanegea had described it, like a white man's super-barn above the rest of the village. Cheeseekan, who had never been permitted such a favor before, drank in the vastness and the solemn beauty. Smells of drying tobacco reached his nostrils, and the melody from brilliantly plumed birds flooded his ears. Garangula, sitting on the floor under the huge beams and beside a large heap of wheat, was surrounded with baskets of dried berries of different kinds. His coat, trimmed with silver, was highly embellished with beads and other ornaments. Garangula, terrible to his enemies and kind to his friends, greeted Cheeseekan unceremoniously, then smiled and clapped his head as though he were his own son.
"Do not fear where you go, my son," said the monarch. "But remember us, your people."
"I shall never forget."
Garangula reached up to one of the crossbeams and drew out a bow, the most wonderful bow Cheeseekan had ever seen.
"This is to help you remember, a token from your chief." He bent it between his strong arms and gave it to Cheeseekan, who took it, with his heart thumping strongly.
"The bow must be bent to be useful," said Garangula. "So it is also with lives. Try not to rebel, but to yield. Be as a bent bow and you will not miss the mark of life."
Dejected and silent, the people lined the shore the next morning, the friends he had lived with and played with and hunted with and fished with for more than twelve summers and winters---he could not recall the three summers and winters that had passed before he had come to these banks.
The canoes slid out into the quiet river, soft pink and gold shimmering in the blue. Cheeseekan looked back in a final farewell, and feared to look ahead into his terrible unknown. Approaching the bend and the swift current, he caught a faint glimpse of Garangula's wooden castle rising above the tops of the tall pines, and his lips pressed each other tightly and his eyes alone showed the signs of his suffering. He stared blankly at father's stiff back and squaw-mother's slumped position in the boat ahead. Thanyendanegea sat silently next to him.
The boat was swallowed into the munificent solitude that was broken only now and then by a chattering squirrel or the cry of an eagle or the swoop of flocks of white-divers along the fringed banks.
Cheeseekan's entire existence was passing away with the scenery. He held tightly to the only thing left for him to hold on to---his bow.
He looked for dark monsters of disaster among the river bushes which the Wahwahtaysee--the fireflies--tried to reveal as they danced about with their flashing lanterns. He felt as lonesome as the croaking insects in the vast wilderness and as plaintive as the wailing wolves.
They portaged the falls and scudded through the plunging spray of white water heading south, and his brother Thanyendanegea finally pointed and simply said, "Albany."
In the year 1758 it was only a small town. As they approached the shore, Cheeseekan saw the wooden fort perched on the hill, a few Dutch brick houses with weather vanes on their roofs, and two churches in the distance whose spires were pointing skyward above the trees.
They beached in the engorgement of boats of every description and were herded up through the bewildered, doleful, shoving throng until they found an empty spot.
On the worn path up the grassy hill to the entrance of the large wooden fort Cheeseekan watched the people, white, red and a dark-skinned man, a color he had never seen before on a person. Each was speaking in a tongue that left him still more confused and feeling very much alone in a vast, strange land. Soldiers in red coats were shoving men around; white men and women were searching among the Indians, all in tears. Next to him a white child was clinging desperately to an Indian squaw and refusing to go to his own white mother's waiting outstretched arms. There was an Indian warrior, standing dejected and frigid, and black women standing by with baskets of clothing. Cheeseekan ached along with the cries of anguish around him. He heard the piercing screams of joy upon the recognition of a loved one.
Then Cheeseekan's arm was suddenly grasped by trembling hands, and he heard for the first time, "Jon! Jon!"
It was a little woman with a pinched face who looked up from under a lace bonnet at the tall, lean figure. She let out more wails and quick gasps of breath. Cheeseekan was embarrassed. Perhaps if he had been like the child bawling next to him, he would have clung to Squaw-mother. Instead, he held fast his new bow, his only comfort now, the gift from Chief Garangula.
He felt the eyes of the gathering crowd and then noticed the tall official making his way up the hill toward them.
"Cheeseekan," his brother smiled. "This is the good Philip Schuyler I told you about."
The officer went directly to the weeping woman clinging to Cheeseekan. "Vrauw VanderPoolen," the official said gently, trying to comfort her. Turning to the boy he said, "This is Lucy VanderPoolen,"
The woman kept jarring Cheeseekan's senses like a stone mallet. "Jon! Jon! Yes, see the birthmark on his shoulder, this is our son Jon. He is so much like my dear brother and his father. "
Philip Schuyler nodded. "The Indians say the boy came originally from near your house in Catskill, Lucy." He turned again to Cheeseekan. "Cheeseekan, this is your Aunt Lucy, your father's sister. Your name is Jon VanderPoolen."
Cheeseekan shuddered. "My name is Cheeseekan," he replied. He wanted to run from all of them as he had from the terrible reflection he had seen in the water so many years ago. His eyes reached out to Thanyendanegea, but there was no response.
"Your real name is Jon VanderPoolen," the man repeated.
"Me like Cheeseekan better," he replied.
Aunt Lucy was crying into a lace rag and someone was holding out a shiny blue shirt and billowy trousers for him. They put the new flimsy clothes on his toughened body, and pinched his feet into stiff, clattering affairs that made him wince when he walked. Then they led him down the hill to the river, not to his father's familiar canoe but to one of those huge, frightful spirits that bobbed up and down in the brackish water as if looking for prey. This "Aunt Lucy" followed.
Claes Lock's packet sloop was a monster that could swallow up many of the Mohawks' small craft, and it seemed all mainsail with a big sheet which bellied out with more than a little bag from the long, heavy beam. The sides of the boat, trimmed with gold and red and green and blue stripes, danced a weird reflection back up to the boy, a little like the war paint his people so often daubed on their naked bodies before some battle. Like the night before slaughter, frantic and sweating and writhing under the incessant beat of the drums, the beatings in his breast swelled up and cried out.
From the shore, brother Thanyendanegea waved to him and Squaw Mother lifted her eyes to take a last look. He could make out nothing from his father's face--he could not bear it, so he turned away and hugged the bow to his new silk shirt. Captain Lock directed him to the hatch which led to his room below deck. Cheeseekan, the dead, was being buried in the belly of this flapping monster, and all he had left was the terror that gripped him.
Hate! It raced through his soul and throbbed in his temples and at last broke his heart. Alone, with his face pressed against the salty planks, he wept for the first time in his life.
"Minewawa! Minewawa!" He wailed. "Hurl down your hate on these who have taken life and liberty from Cheeseekan!"
The following day, as Captain Claes Lock put Jon and his new Aunt Lucy ashore from the packet boat, he found himself to be a curious sight, uncomfortable and clumsy in his "civilized clothes," hair still cropped close to his skull and shaved down the center, his lips set into a hard, straight line, his hand gripping his Indian bow and smelling of warm leather and sturgeon and dried salty water.
The enormous VanderPoolen estate rolled itself back from the rocky stretch of the Hudson shoreline to the recesses of a thick, mountainous jungle that only the red man knew, "where nature wore a veil rich and grand, but unpenetrable." The substantial house of red brick, a prosperous Dutch affair rising three stories above the orchard, was not overly imposing. It looked eastward to the fjord of flowing, briny tides of the Hudson River.
Cheeseekan, a little startled, caught his first sight of the tall dark servant standing on the landing. Introduced to Daniel, the man standing on the landing, he judged him to be about his own age, but he was doing something foreign to the Indians' way, he was weeping in public. The tears were trickling down the shiny black face. The man bowed devotedly at the feet of the young lord and master of the VanderPoolen manor. "Jon," was the one word whispered to the Indian. Daniel, with hair and eyes as dark as Jon's were fair, and which spread themselves comfortably over a broad flat nose, Daniel moving about with a bigness of body that was only outsized by the seeming bigness of his heart.
In the days that followed his arrival, there were times when Jon resented this love which was showered upon him day after day from a man whose color his Indian culture found offensive.
Why did Daniel polish those hard boots which Jon hated? The black man looked up at him and continued to rub. "Marse Jon, I love to do this 'cause I loves you." Jon stiffened, his eyes glaring.
It had taken a year of learning and adapting to get even this far. "It's a queer notion of love that enjoys making another suffer," he growled.
"Marse Jon," Daniel replied softly and slowly, letting the rag rest on the pinguid leather, "I do this because it makes me happy rememberin' somethin' I don't want ever to forget." He reached awkwardly into his britches. "See, I still got 'em here."
It was an old pair of small shoes, boy's shoes, worn completely through at the toes, but shined. And Daniel held them tenderly in his fist just as Jon had often fondled his bow on those long nights when the others in the manor were asleep.
"You don' 'member these shoes, does you? No. But I've kep' 'em all these years. You see, they're the presentation shoes you give me when we both jus' three. That's when they give this here Daniel to Marse Jon fo' life. No, you don't remember, and I 'spect I don' remember it so much any more except that my mammy she told me so much. That was jus' befo' we was grieved so when your good folks went home to Glory an' you was swallowed up into da trees with dem savages. Beg your pardon, Marse Jon, but how we cried here. Mammy, she tol' me to always keep these shoes as they was the love cov'nant 'tween you an' me. Lots of times I reads that in the Good Book where it says, 'For whither thou goest I will go; and where thou lodgest I will lodge; thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.' Yes, these li'l shoes, they holds my promise to walk wi' you ever, Marse Jon."
Jon watched the Negro's face light up with a devotion which he found impossible to believe.
"Such oaths deserved a test." he replied. "You say that 'my god' shall be your 'god.' I, Cheeseekan, worship the great Squaw Mother, Minewawa!"
"Your folks, Marse Jon, they worshipped the Great Spirit, the Father of Jesus who is greater than Minewawa."
"I am Cheeseekan. You will worship Minewawa!"
Tears rolled down the black face, but Daniel said nothing and continued clasping the small shoes to his breast.
"Your God makes you a weakling, Daniel. It is like Shawnee who could not answer Chief Garangula's questions. Minewawa makes Cheeseekan strong and great." Jon laughed, a dry wicked laugh at Daniel's tears, which he mistook for weakness. He then grabbed the little shoes and tossed them out through the open window.
"That's what I think of your love and your 'God' who watches over a people of hate!" He strode defiantly out of the room in his bare feet.
Jon, more handsome and daring at age twenty-eight than when he had arrived, at the VanderPoolen manor, was "outside the Fold" of Lucy's church, and he shook his head as well as his heart at the five churches that spread their influence throughout Albany and its environs. There was still much of the old Cheeseekan and the Mohawk in him. And often he still called on Minewawa in the Catskills.
Jouncing over the elegant Post Road the following spring with Daniel at his side, Jon left the reins free and thought over all these new things. Troublesome times had come. Now the men in Albany were sending him to a special Landowners' Meeting down river. Aunt Lucy had become more afflicted in the past years, and he had left her at home, quietly rocking away at the Manor. He was getting adjusted to thinking of this fragile woman as his relative. In fact, he rather liked her and her peculiar ways.
The carriage rattled over the road, lined on both sides with tall poplars and goodly oaks, giving a glimpse now and then of the silvery river as it sometimes twisted itself among the islands in the shadow of the cliffs far below. Now and again the horses were running to try to keep up with the swift flow below them. The distant Catskill Mountains had the appearance of metal in them.
Having already arrived at the town of Coxackie, most of the landowners were gathered at the Inn. The men were dressed in elegance and style, some not as rich as they had once been nor as influential but still noble in bearing, still idealistic as their fathers had been who had fled from Europe to make for themselves and their children a home in freedom.
There was much talking and arguing, and at the closing session the good Dutchmen along with the English settlers were losing many a temper over the situation at home and abroad.
"It's bad news from Boston."
"I say, we'll have none of this 'tax' business. We'll have our rights!" one man shouted.
"We'll stick with England!" Another yelled back. "Maybe they'll forget about the tea."
"I say, Away with the English Redcoats! They're ever searching our houses!"
"Gek! Idioot!" another said. "Are you trying to cut our throats? How do you expect a handful of us to fight the whole of England? We have no navy!"
The Schuylers, Cuylers and Van Rensselaers lined up together with the one word--- "Separate!" The families from down river yelled for peace at any price. Everyone had an opinion and was glad to voice it.
"Hear! Hear!" the leader finally called out, banging down the gavel. "We haven't heard from VanderPoolen as yet! What do you think, Jon?"
He rose and slowly looked the crowd over. In the hush, they looked at the handsome, steel-like face with the short blonde hair that refused the powdered wig.
"I remember when I, Cheeseekan, along with the Mohawks sat in the forest and feared the approaching Huron tribes of the lakes and their white French brothers. And you Dutchmen sat worrying about your fur trade and the war and losing your scalps. And the throne across the waters sent her men in red coats and saved you, and you were thankful then. But now you have forgotten. But my people, the Mohawks, have not forgotten. We will not rise up against our friends."
"Gek! Idioot! They are no longer our friends!" shouted a Van Rensselaer. "They are bleeding us--robbing us and without our having a voice!"
"Hear me! You cannot expect to rise up, your handful, against their trained armies. When you become few, as have my people and the long-gone Mohicans, you learn to submit and to seek peace, or you are no more!"
Jon sat down, but not in peace. Some rose up against him and walked out of the meeting. Nevertheless, the parchment was finally signed and the meeting dismissed.
Jon had no idea of the extent of this rebellion, nor the power of the incensed men until the afternoon a few weeks later when he returned home from hunting deer in the hills, and he found Aunt Lucy collapsed in bed.
"Marse Jon, they done do it!" Daniel told him.
"Who did what? Speak up, man!"
Daniel's broad shoulders were drooped in despair.
"The Rebels---they come and took all the cattle and the ploughs an' ever'thing."
Cheeseekan felt that old feeling of distrust rising again. "I only asked for peace---and these settlers treat me like an enemy!" Jon could only stare in disbelief at his servant and friend. Again he was stripped of everything--years ago of his family and name, and now again of all he had built up in this wilderness. He took his bow down from the mantel where he had just put it.
"Minewawa! Where are you? Don't you care? Or are you asleep on that mountain of yours?" Cheeseekan found himself beginning to doubt Minewawa for the first time in his life.
Despair was written all over the black man's face. "De Rebels, dey come and took all the cattle an' ploughs an' ever'thing else they could use for da' cause fo' 'freedom.' An' it was like borrowin', only it were fo' good and keeps, an' Miz Lucy has had a spell from fright an' worry so what we gwine to do now."
"You mean they really took everything?"
"No. Dey left two cows an' some chickens and two sheep fo' us to eat."
"Well, that was very nice of them!" Jon continued to rage. "How dare they steal my livestock and my farm implements?"
Daniel shook his black head. "Don' be too angry, Marse Jon. Jus' look at it like this, dat the Good Lord give 'em all to you in the first place---an' now He jus' take away fo' someone else."
"The 'Good Lord' never gave me anything but misery!"
"Don' speak like that, Marse Jon, fo' God cares."
Why should this "God" care what Jon said when he didn't believe in this God. He unfolded the paper which lay on the table and recoiled at the glaring injustice of it.
"REVOLUTION," it screamed out. And it listed Jon, the VanLoons, the Jansons, the DuBois and the Wells as "abominable wretches," "murderers," "incendiaries!" That was pretty strong language. Everyone seemed to be against his neighbor, and it was evidently getting worse.
That evening it was Daniel who first spotted the several small craft landing along the waterfront and the noisy crowd with staves and torches bobbing and yelling as they came up the hill toward the manor.
The crowd was calling out threats like "Tory!" "Savage!" "Mohawk!" It was a frightening scene. They were all after blood, his blood.
The crowd before the VanderPoolen Manor was getting louder and more violent.
"Mohawk lover!" some yelled. "You savage Mohawks side with the filthy Redcoats and murder our people!"
"You call the Mohawk people 'savages,'" Jon shouted back at them, "but they are 'gentlemen' compared to you!"
"Maybe it better not to answer them," Daniel cautioned, but it was too late.
A rock crashed through the window and lay in the splintered glass at his feet.
"Come out, you Tory!" another cried. "You Indian traitor! Come out and face us!"
He and Daniel went out onto the verandah. "What have I done against you?"
"Done?" someone sneered. "What dunder! You and the king and his parliament shall swing together!"
"But I only want peace for all of us…"
"Gek! Hear him! Grab the rebel!" They pushed themselves up onto the verandah and tore at him like a vulture picking at a dead carcass.
"Lock him and his slave up so they can't do us any more harm!" their leader shouted. "We'll keep you where you can't help the Redcoats or the Mohawks with your money and influence!"
Ruthless, they pulled both Jon and Daniel down the hill to the water. Most of them agreed to hang him right there. "Lynch the dirty Tory!" someone yelled. "The ship's too good for him and his likes!"
"I say that slow starvation in the rat-hole is better for the likes of that kind," the leader replied.
The river dragged Jon and Daniel to a small boat, and this turned out to be better than being slapped around by the incensed mob on the shore. Jon looked up and thanked Minewawa up in the Catskills for hanging out the moon on this terrible night and for delivering him from these bloody devils.
An old sloop was moored in a cove by Beaver Island, and the men rowed out to that. They soon had the two captives up on the weather-beaten deck and were ordered to put the two down into the hold.
"There, that should keep them quiet for awhile!" one laughed as the hatch was fastened down.
It was so dark below that Jon could see nothing, but he could hear the rats scurrying about. By morning a little light filtered in through the cracks. There was the stench in the small cubicle of dead rotting fish and of human offal that was unbearable to his sensitive nose. Their arms and legs were free, and as he sat there he listened to the low hum that came from Daniel.
"How can you sing at a time like this?" he questioned his dark companion.
"Music can do wonders for the spirit, Marse Jon."
Jon grunted, stretched his legs and got up to look around. The room was small and barren of everything but filth. How he wished for more sun to penetrate the musty darkness and purify what air there was. Daniel seemed almost to read his thoughts.
"Light gives hope and heals de' spirit also."
As the morning passed, a young girl unfastened the latch and came down the ladder, slipping a tray of black bread and water through the tiny hole at the bottom of their door. She came again in the evening with some sort of weak broth. Through a crack, they saw her smile in their direction before she ran back up the ladder.
The next day she ventured to speak to this tall "blond devil," as the men on the deck could be heard referring to Jon. Sometimes he and Daniel heard the men loudly arguing about their fate.
When the girl came again with food, Jon tried to speak to her.
"Hello," she said. "Are you the Jon they speak of?"
"Jon?" he answered. "Some call me that. My real name is Cheeseekan."
"Oh, then you are like they said--you worship a mountain."
"Not a mountain---Minewawa."
"Why don't you worship God?" She asked.
"Because the people who 'worship God' and 'His Son' are liars." He had thought that might bring some sort of reaction from ol' faithful Daniel, but it didn't.
The girl squinted into the dark room, trying to get a better look at this strange man and to comprehend, perhaps, what he might be saying.
"I try not to lie, ever, Cheeseekan," she said very slowly.
"Those men say they love and worship a 'god of love,' but they lie. If their 'god' was a 'god of love,' would they not also love each other and even their enemies?"
"That's what God's Son said once--- 'love your enemies.'" She was losing her fear of them and opened the crack in the door wider, holding out the tray.
"They say that I am their enemy," Jon sighed, "though I don't know what I have done to them except to refuse to be a part of their lies. I refuse to kill people whom I do not see as my enemies. I do not hate the country and the king they are fighting."
"They will keep you here until you change your mind and fight for their cause," she said, "and I do not hate you, Cheeseekan," she said as she relatched the door.
Daniel took the food she offered and they tried to find a clean place to eat. She stood there, silently watching them. "And I do not hate your friend," she added, pointing toward Daniel. "Does he also worship this Minewawa?"
Daniel chuckled. "No, Miss, Daniel loves de Lord God and His Son Jesus."
She smiled for the first time and then turned back to Jon. "Sometime, if you see real love, then you will believe in God."
"Yes, then I might believe," he replied slowly.
"I am not afraid of you. I will leave the upper door latch unbuttoned. Wait until midnight when they are asleep and only one guard is on duty and watching. The signal will be two raps overhead, then go, slip ashore." With that, the girl went quietly out and was quickly gone. They heard a gruff voice asking, "Jane, what took you so long?"
Jon breathed hard. She might still give them away. But tonight, if all went well, he and Daniel would leave this terrible ship and be free again.
Waiting was never so long as waiting for the two taps overhead. But suppose the girl was a liar like the rest and this was only a trap? Was this just a clever scheme enabling them, their captors, to shoot both him and Daniel down in cold blood, and then report that "The prisoners were killed because they tried to escape?"
The girl had not lied. That night she gave the signal she had promised, and in the overcast darkness he and Daniel slipped overboard into the river and finally reached the shore.
The Hudson lay murky and moody as Jon and Daniel retreated back into the thick forest, moving only in the darkness of night and finding shelter in the daytime from the men whom they knew were doggedly seeking them.
They cut their way slowly north over untravelled country, avoiding swamps and deep chasms as only the experienced Jon could do. Keeping watch of Minewawa's stars at night as a compass, they went with improvised torches that kept the hungry wolves away from their heels when it was safe traveling by day, and cutting into the bark of the trees to determine the direction. It was difficult traveling, and their bodies were torn and sore.
The third day Jon lay with his ear to the ground and heard a sound he long dreaded, a runner approaching from the south. He and Daniel quickly slipped out of sight behind a bush and awaited the traveler's approach.
He came quickly, this runner, his brown body tall and spare, breech-cloth and moccasins of leather, blue leggings and short green coat with two silver epaulets and a small laced hat with a feather. He carried a long rifle that glinted in the sun which he suddenly pointed in their direction!
Jon could hardly believe his eyes, and he ran forward with both arms waving wildly.
The Indian stopped and lowered his rifle. "Cheeseekan! What is my little brother doing here?"
It had been twelve years since the brothers had last seen each other, and they had both changed with the years, for they had become leaner and had grown rugged in appearance. Thanyendanegea was more elegant in dress and with more battle scars, Cheeseekan far more confident than the innocent young lad in Chief Garangula's village.
"How is everyone, Thanyendanegea? And Squaw-mother?"
"She is very old and sad these years, Cheeseekan. Father is dead, he was killed at Lake George with King Hendrik. Many of our people are gone. Most of those left of all the Iroquois Nations are fighting along with the British, so I have become their enemy. I am relaying messages between Generals Washington and Schuyler."
"Not so fiery and eloquent, but still wise, still waiting---waiting for peace and love to come." He pointed to Daniel, "And this black man?"
"This is Daniel, my servant, my brother. He helped rescue me from a prison ship."
Thanyendanegea suddenly turned his head to the trail behind him and listened.
"Cheeseekan, we must not stay here. This is a bad spot. I come from the mouth of the Hudson, carrying an important message. While we talk, the Redcoats and Iroquois come."
His warning was too late. There rose up around them piercing yells, and before Thanyendanegea could raise his gun, a singing arrow cut into his breast and he fell. More arrows and whoops came, and big Daniel pushed Jon behind him.
"Marse Jon---river!" Daniel yelled. They both sped down the hill, jumping and twisting to avoid the arrows. A bronze figure rose above the rock ahead, and Jon shouted to Daniel, but the black man instantly stepped in front of him and received the arrow in his shoulder. Jon strained and slid onwards. The last he saw of faithful Daniel he was at grips with the savage, the huge black man with only one good arm and a knife against a bloodthirsty Iroquois and a lowering hatchet. Jon heard the red man's victory howl, which meant he was now free to pursue Jon, snapping and whipping through the underbrush behind him.
Cheeseekan had learned to run for miles without getting out of breath, but now he found he was out of practice, and the Iroquois was gaining on him. Then--the water--he saw it sliding obliquely just ahead of him. Gasping for air, he filled his lungs, cut the cold surface and put as much distance as possible between himself and his enemy, staying for long periods at the bottom of the cold stream.
At last he could neither see nor hear any sound of his pursuers. As evening came on with the sun setting, he quickly left the river for the shadowy darkness of the fanciful pukwidjinnies of his youth and the sparkle and glitter of the Wawahtaysee. Perhaps the enemy had given up the search? He would not have dared to go back if it were not for the terror of the fate of the two he had left behind.
He crept up the bank, listening, hearing sounds which the white man never heard over the wails, hums, and droning of the animal life in the forest . He had swum a long way from the scene of the afternoon, but he picked his way back through the bushes and over the shale and rocks. The field ahead lay empty except for two bodies; the black one near his feet was without a head. There had been a time when such a sight, even of a friend, would not have troubled him, but now his entire soul and body wept and cried: "Daniel! Daniel!" This black man could have saved his own life if he had not deliberately given it in his effort to keep Jon from being killed.
This, then, was the love that Thanyendanegea and Chief Garangula had spoken of so long ago and had longed for.
He walked silently over to the other still figure. In the distance the whippoorwill was giving the lonesome wail of Jeebi. He gently turned over the form and it was still warm, and his brother's eyes looked up into Cheeseekan's face.
"Thanyendanegea." Blood covered the green coat and breechcloth.
His brother's lips moved, and the voice came from far away. "I promised Garangula I would come back someday and tell him and our people of this love he was seeking, and this God whose Son gave His life for us…"
Jon waited while Thanyendanegea gasped for breath.
"This God's Warrior-Son died for us?" Jon quietly asked.
"It is true, my brother. Will you tell our people for me?"
Cheeseekan remembered Chief Garangula's words those many years before in the Council House: "If we find such a love as Shawnee preaches, then, and only then, we might believe." There flashed through his mind the life and death of faithful Daniel and the small shoes, and his promise now fulfilled to follow Jon forever. He had done more than that, for Faithful Daniel, like the Warrior-Son, had loved him enough to give his life.
"Yes, my brother, I will tell Garangula and our people for both of us."
Thanyendanegea painfully reached for his pouch on his belt. "Take this to General Schuyler in Albany…contains important message from General Washington. And God's Book is there for our people."
Cheeseekan held his brother until his head finally dropped, and he then carried his body with the end of the protruding arrow still in the brave breast, and laid it beside the body of Daniel. "Perhaps you will not mind lying together," he said as he began to cover the forms with stones and rocks to keep his loved ones from being torn by the wolves and bears. He removed his own garments and buried them also. He was now symbolically dying with his two brothers. He then put on Thanyendanagea's moccasins and breechcloth with the pouch and found his brother's long rifle.
Finally, he smoothed over the mound and lifted his eyes to the sky, looking beyond the stars and the dark Catskill peaks into the presence of the One he had never before known or wanted. "Father of Warrior-Jesus," he spoke, "I believe like these two who have gone to the Good Hunting Grounds. Through these two we now have that for which we long sought."
Making his way silently and swiftly through the forest, he heard the distant call of the wolf. It was like his own inner cry. Cheeseekan was at the beginning of heart and mind in trying to believe what he could not as yet feel. He did definitely know that his heart, his whole being, along with his feet, were experiencing a new lightness.
As the eastern sky was beginning to show daybreak, the peaks of the Catskill Mountains turned a soft pink in the distance. If possible, he would stop at the Manor and see about Aunt Lucy and get his bow, then hurry on to Albany with the message from the General. After that, he would try to travel undetected westward on the Mohawk River to Garangula's castle and his own people.
He felt the leather pouch at every step that Thanyendanegea had entrusted to him to deliver. Along with the message for the General in Albany, there was also The Book--the message from God to his people. Cheeseekan would take it safely to them, and to Chief Garangula and Squaw Mother. A surge of energy flowed up through him, an expectancy, a vital determination. Yes, he knew a oneness with the God of the Message.
Cheeseekan remembered the solemn words of wise old Chief Garangula, "The bow must be bent to be useful. So it is with our lives. Be a Bent Bow and you will not miss the mark of life." For the first time ever, Cheeseekan realized that in his new life and mission he was indeed becoming that Bent Bow.