The Redskins - Or, Indian And Injin
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
This is a story of the anti-rent troubles in New York State in 1840-1847, growing out of the looseness of views regarding property peculiar to the semi-barbarous conditions of a new settlement. After the Revolution a large proportion of the land in the settled parts of the State was held much like feudal manors in Europe, the cultivators occupying their farms on leases, for one or more lives, stipulating for the payment of rents, dues, and services, as in similar tenures in England and Holland. Associations were early formed to get rid of these burdens, the members of which became known as anti-renters, who, in the disguise of Indians, patrolled the country and committed many outrages. The scene of the story is on the estates of Ravensnest and Mooseridge, in what is now Washington County. The writer is supposed to be Hugh Roger Little-page, grandson of Mordaunt Littlepage.
MY uncle Ro and I had long been traveling in the East, having been absent from home fully five years when we reached Paris. For eighteen months neither of us had had a line from America, and our interest may be imagined when we sat down to examine our mail, consisting of several hundred newspapers and quite a hundred letters.
Hugh Roger Littlepage, my uncle, born in 1786, was the second son of my grandfather, Mordaunt Littlepage, and of Ursula Malbone, his wife. My own father, Malbone Littlepage, was the eldest child of that connection; and he would have inherited the property of Ravensnest, in virtue of his birthright, had he survived his parents; but, as he died young, I succeeded him in my eighteenth year. My uncle, whose name was the same as my own, was called Roger, Ro, or Hodge, as circumstances rendered the associations sentimental, affectionate, or manly, while I was always called Hugh. He owned both Satanstoe and Lilacsbush. When I left college at twenty he proposed that I should finish my education by traveling, and we had left America just after the panic of 1836-37, when our property was in tolerable security and our stocks safe.
Our letters brought no ill news from the family, but advices from Dunning, our agent in New York, were anything but satisfactory. The anti-rent troubles, which we supposed had been suppressed by Governor jay, had broken out afresh, and bodies of men, clad in mock-Indian dress, calico shirts thrown over their other clothes and calico masks on their faces, had resisted the bailiffs' processes and prevented the collection of rents. These men were armed mostly with rifles, which in several cases they had not hesitated to use. The legislature did nothing until blood had actually been spilled, when a law was passed making it a felony to appear armed and disguised. But Dunning informed us that this law was openly disregarded in some counties, and that bodies of "Injins," in full costume and armed, numbering as many as a thousand men, had endeavored to prevent levies or sales. The contagion had spread to our own county, and many of the tenants of Ravensnest had joined the association and were getting to be as bad as any of the rest of them, though they still paid their rents. The latter circumstance was ascribed by our agent to the fact that many leases were about to fall in, and it would be in my power to substitute more honest and better disposed successors for the present occupants.
My uncle and I at once decided to return, and we took measures to quit Paris, so as to reach home late in May. Uncle Ro had letters also from his two wards, the Misses Henrietta Coldbrooke and Anne Marston. Both were heiresses, and my uncle, as guardian, had done his best to get me interested in one or the other. I had also received matrimonial advances on the part of Miss Opportunity Newcome, daughter of Ovid, son of Jason Newcome, the first of the name at Ravensnest. Opportunity had a brother, Seneca or Seneky, as he himself pronounced it, a lawyer.
Both of us deemed it best to keep our return a secret, so we shipped at Havre incognito. A fellow passenger, an intelligent New Yorker, gave us even more information concerning the situation at home than we had gathered from our letters, and assured us that it was dangerous, in many cases, for landlords to be seen on their estates, as they were liable to insult, personal degradation, and even death.
While it was all-important for us to visit Ravensnest in person, it might therefore be hazardous to do so openly. Fortunately, our return was not expected until autumn. Each of us had a town house, but it was decided that neither would go near his dwelling; so we looked up Jack Dunning, who had a bachelor establishment in Chambers Street.
Dunning's surprise was great when we presented ourselves before him in his library. He listened attentively when my uncle explained our intention of visiting Ravensnest incognito, but seemed uncertain whether to dissent or approve, so the matter was postponed for further consideration.
"What of the girls, Jack, and my honored mother?" asked Uncle Ro.
"She—noble, heroic woman!—she is at Ravensnest at this moment, and the girls are all with her."
"And you permitted them to go unattended into a part of the country in open rebellion?"
"Come, come! Hodge Littlepage, this is sublime as a theory, but not so clear when reduced to practise. I did not go with them for the very good reason that I did not wish to be tarred and feathered."
"So you leave them to run the risk in your stead?"
"Say what you will, Ro, about the cant of freedom and of American knavery, covetousness, and selfishness, but do not say that a woman can be in serious danger among any body of Americans, even if they are anti-renters and mock-redskins into the bargain."
"I believe you are right, Jack. Pardon my warmth; but I have been living lately in the Old World, where women not long since were sent to the scaffold on account of their politics."
"Your mother is in no serious danger, though it needs nerve in a woman to be able to think so. She would brave the anti-renters, and the three girls, Miss Coldbrooke, Miss Marston, and your niece, Martha Littlepage, are with her. I have had three letters from her since she went up."
"Did she mention the Indian and the negro?"
" Jaaf and Susquesus? Yes—both are living and both are well. The Indian is highly scandalized at the miserable imitations of his race now abroad."
"How is Opportunity?" I inquired. "Does she take any part in this movement?"
"A decided one, I hear. She is anti-rent, but wishes to keep on good terms with her landlord—trying to serve God and Mammon."
"The modern Seneca is of course against us?"
"Seneky wishes to go to the legislature, and is of course on the side of the voters."
"Well, let us now talk of our visit thither, for I am deter-mined to go up there and see for myself."
"Take care of the tar-barrel and the pillow-case of feathers, Roger!"
The result was that we fitted ourselves with wigs and suit-able clothing and set out for Ravensnest disguised as Germans, my uncle with a box of cheap watches and gilded trinkets and I in the character of a music-grinder. We evaded the felony law by carrying no weapons.
I made my first essay as a musician in public under the windows of the principal inn in Troy. Among the curious who looked out were two whom I took to be father and daughter. The man, who was in the garb of a Church clergyman, beckoned me to come nearer and invited me in.
"Walk in, young man," he said in a benevolent tone, "I am curious to see that instrument. What do you call it?"
"Hurty-gurty," I answered.
"From what part of the world do you come, my young friend?"
" Vrom Charmany; vrom Preussen, vere did reign so late de goot Koenig Wilhelm."
"What does he say, Molly?"
So the pretty creature beside him bore the name of Mary. I liked the Molly—it sounded as if these good people had the aplomb of position and conscious breeding. She explained, calling him father—which sounded refreshing too.
"And this is a hurdy-gurdy?" continued the clergyman. "What have we here—the name spelled on it?"
"Dat ish de maker's name—Hochstiel fecit."
"Fetid" repeated he. "Is that German?"
"Nein—dat ish Latin : facio, jai, factum, facere— feci, fecisti, fait. It means `made,' as I suppose you know."
The parson looked at me, and at my dress and figure with open surprise, and smiled as his eye glanced at his daughter. Mary shrank back a little; a blush succeeded, but the glance of the soft blue eye that followed seemed to set all at rest as she leaned on her father's arm.
"You understand Latin, then?" he asked, examining me over his spectacles from head to foot.
"In my coontry, efery man is obliget to be a soldier, and them t'at knows Latin can be made sergeants and corporals." "Is Latin much understood among you?"
"In Charmany it ish not so. We all larnts somet'ing, but not eferyt'ing."
"In this country it is not usual to find persons of your condition who understand the dead languages."
"It isht my condition dat misleats you, sir. Mine vater wast a shentlemans, and he gifet me a goot etication." "Have you any knowledge of Greek?"
"Certainly; Greek ist mock study in Charmany."
"And the modern languages—do you understand any of them?"
"Yah, I speak the five great tongues of Europe—French, German, Spanish, Italian."
"These make but four," said Mary.
"De yoong laty forgets de Englisch," I replied, smiling. "Oh! yes, English!" she exclaimed, pressing her lips together to prevent laughing in my face.
"I feel an interest in you as a stranger," said the father, "and am sorry we have to part so soon. Which way do you go from here, my young friend?"
"I go to a place called Rafensnest."
"Ravensnest!" exclaimed both father and daughter. "Why that is where I live. I am the Protestant Episcopal clergyman there."
This then was the Rev. Mr. Warren, rector of St. Andrews, a man whom I knew to be of excellent connections, and some education, but of no fortune whatever. As a preacher his success had not been great, but for the discharge of his duties no man stood higher or more respected. My letters had told me that Mr. Warren was a widower and that Mary was his only child. She was described as a sweet-tempered, modest, sensible, and well-bred girl, who had received, through the liberality of a widowed sister of her mother's, a far better education than her father's means would have permitted him to bestow. She was a most charming neighbor and her presence at Ravensnest had made my sister Martha's annual visits thither actually pleasant. Indeed, I think Pattie, or Patt as we usually called her, loved Mary Warren better than any of her uncle's wards.
We were in the public parlor of the inn, and who should come in but Opportunity Newcome. I recognized her at once and trembled for my disguise, for Opportunity had once made a dead set for me and knew my features well. But after a glance at me, she tossed her head, seated herself, and opened her budget of news without any regard to my presence.
"Sen is enough to wear out anybody's patience. We have to quit Troy in half an hour, and I ought to make several visits, but I can't get him near me. I declare, Mr. Warren, I believe Seneky will go crazy unless the anti-renters soon get the best of it; he does nothing but think and talk of rents and aristocracy from morning till night."
"Your brother is then occupied with a matter of the last importance to the community," said the clergyman gravely.
"I wonder, now!" exclaimed Opportunity. "I'm surprised to hear you say this, Mr. Warren, for generally you're thought to be unfavorable to the movement. Sen says he believes the tenants will get their lands throughout the State before they've done with it. He tells me we shall have Injins enough at Ravensnest this summer. The visit of old Mrs. Littlepage has raised a spirit that will not easily be put down, he says."
"Why should the visit of Mrs. Littlepage to the house of her grandson raise a spirit, as you call it, in anyone?"
"Oh! we all know how you Episcopals feel about such matters. But, for my part, I don't think the Littlepages are a bit better than the Newcomes. I don't think they are any better than you, yourself; why, then, should they ask so much more of the law than other folks?"
"I am not aware that they do," replied Mr. Warren; "and if they do, I'm sure they obtain less."
"Sen says he can't see why he should pay rent to a Little-page, any more than a Littlepage should pay rent to him."
"I am very sorry to hear it, since there is a very sufficient reason for the former, and no reason at all for the latter."
"But what reason is there that these Littlepages should go on from father to son, from generation to generation, as our landlords, when we're just as good as they? It's been so, now, hard upon eighty years—for three generations among us."
"High time, therefore, Opportunity, for a change," said Mary, with a demure smile.
"Oh! you're so intimate with Marthy Littlepage, I'm not surprised at anything you think or say."
The entrance of Seneca Newcome gave a new turn to the discourse. Opportunity upbraided him for not coming sooner, but he took it in good part, for he was in high good-humor.
"Something has happened to please me," he answered, to Opportunity's inquiring look, "and I'd as lief Mr. Warren should know what it is as not. Things go ahead finely among us anti-renters, and we shall carry all our p'ints, before long. We're gaining strength among the politicians. Ah! yonder is the traveling jeweler I fell in with this morning. Walk in, Mr. Dafidson, since that is your name. Come in, and open your box. My sister may fancy some of your trinkets."
My uncle entered and placed his box on a table near which I was standing, the whole party immediately gathering around.
We thus made the acquaintance early of several of those most interested in the matters I have to relate. We all traveled together on the train to Saratoga, where Mr. Warren and his friends found conveyances, with their own horses, to take them to Ravensnest, whither we promised to follow in a few ways.
"Well," said my uncle, after he had parted from them, "I must say one thing in behalf of Mr. Seneky. " I believe him to be one of the biggest scoundrels the State holds. Why, Hugh, the villain actually proposed that you and I should enlist, and turn ourselves into rascally mock-redskins."
The next day found us at Ravensnest, and as soon as we could we sought the cabin where Susquesus and Jaap or Yop lived, in hope of getting news of the family. The two old fellows were sunning themselves on a bench outside.
"Sago—sago," said my uncle, drawing near. "Dis charm-in' mornin'; in my tongue, guten tag."
"Sago," returned Trackless, in his deep, guttural voice, while old Yop looked at each of us in turn, but said nothing. After a long talk, in which we gathered the news we wanted, I began to play a lively tune on my hurdy-gurdy. Susquesus looked on with a shade of contempt on his dark features, but the negro showed his delight by a spasmodic twitching of his limbs, as if he would like to dance. While I was playing a carriage came along and stopped within ten feet of us. My heart went into my mouth, for I recognized in it my grand-mother, my sister, my uncle's two other wards, and Mary Warren.
"There are the two pedlers I told you about," said Miss Warren.
"Good morrow, Susquesus," said my grandmother. "I hope this fine day agrees with you. Good morrow, Jaaf."
"Sago," returned the Indian, without rising. "Weadder good—Great Spirit good. How squaws do?"
But old Jaap or Jaaf rose tottering and making a low obeisance, said :
"T'ank'ee, Miss Dus. Pretty well to-day; but ole Sus, he fail, grow ol'e an' ol'er desp'ate fast."
"What friends have you with you, Jaaf?" inquired my grandmother, inclining her head to us graciously, a salutation that we rose to acknowledge.
"Dese be pedler, ma'am. Dey's got box wid somet'in in him, an' a new kind ob fiddle. Gib Miss Dus a tune—a libely one."
"Oh! not that thing; the flute!" cried Mary Warren, as I was about to take up the hurdy-gurdy.
I bowed respectfully and began playing the newest airs from a favorite opera. My grandmother listened with profound attention and the girls appeared enchanted. When I had finished my grandmother leaned forward and extended her hand to me. I received the dollar offered and, unable to command my feelings, raised the hand to my lips. I saw a flush in my grandmother's cheek, as the carriage moved off. My uncle had turned away with old Jaaf, probably to conceal the tears that came into his eyes, and I was alone with the Indian.
"Why no kiss face of grandmodder ? " asked the Onondago, coolly and quietly.
I could not have been more astonished if it had been a clap of thunder. The disguise that had deceived my nearest relations and that had baffled Seneca Newcome, had failed with this aged Indian.
"Is it possible that you know me, Susquesus?" I asked, making a sign of caution toward the negro.
"Sartain," answered he calmly, "know as soon as see him. What eyes good for if don't know ? "
"But you will not tell others, Susquesus. My uncle and I must not be known for a few days. You will keep our secret not even let Jaaf know ?"
The Trackless simply nodded his head in assent, and we took our leave of the two, promising to come soon again.
I must pass over rapidly the events of the next few days, during which we visited the village, attended anti-rent meetings, went among the disguised "Injins," and learned their secrets. At last we could stand it no longer, and let the family and the Warrens into our secret. One day when we were returning from a meeting in the village we were followed by about twenty armed men, and we fully expected to be stopped on the road; but as we neared a cross-road we saw coming along it, walking in Indian file, a party of sixteen or eighteen real red men, accompanied by a white man as interpreter. We had been talking with one Holmes, an anti-renter, and when he saw the party approaching, he exclaimed, "What, is the Governor sending out ra-al Injins agin us, in order to favor the landlords? There can be no harm in asking. Sago! where do you red men come from, an' where can ye be goin' ? "
"Come from setting sun—been to see Great Father at Washington—go home. Come here to find red man. Ole now, like top of dead hemlock."
"By George, Hugh," whispered my uncle. "They are in search of old Susquesus." Then, entirely forgetting his assumed character in his astonishment, he said hastily:
"I can help you. You are looking for a warrior of the Onondagoes; his name is Susquesus."
"And who in natur' be you?" demanded Holmes, looking at my uncle in astonishment.
"You shall know who I am," answered Uncle Ro, taking off his wig, an action I at once imitated. "I am Roger Little-page, the late trustee of this estate; and this is Hugh Littlepage, its owner."
Holmes was confounded. He looked at my uncle and then at me, but said nothing. The Indians uttered a common "Hugh!" as they saw two men thus scalp themselves.
While Holmes set out to join the sham Injins in the rear, the interpreter, after inquiring who we were, informed us that the Indians knew all about us and about our fore-fathers, as well as our kindness in providing the Withered Hemlock with a wigwam and keeping it supplied with food and fuel.
We invited the Indians to return home with us, and gave them comfortable quarters in the old farmhouse. It is scarcely necessary to say that the two pedlers received a joyful welcome at Ravensnest by all the family, including Mary Warren, who was staying there.
The next day the warriors from the West had a notable interview with Susquesus, who, informed by us of their coming, had dressed in full Indian costume, with all his ornaments and medals—two of the latter from George II and George III, and two from the republic. The. chiefs sat long in silence gazing upon the old man, smoking the pipe of peace, and then each made a speech, which was translated for our benefit by Many-Tongues, the interpreter.
That night my uncle and I spent under my own roof. But I felt little inclination to sleep; the day had been full of excitement, and I sat awhile at my window, after all had gone to bed, looking out on the peaceful scene. Presently I saw a horse coming up the path and, to my surprise, a woman dismounted, secured the animal under a tree, and came rapidly toward the house. I went on tiptoe down to the door, and found Mary Warren there before me. "Did you see her?" she asked. "It is Opportunity Newcome."
I let her in, and we went into the library, where I lighted a lamp.
"This has been a dreadful day, Mr. Hugh," she began. "Who could have thought that the musician was yourself and the watch-pedler Mr. Roger."
"It was a foolish adventure, perhaps; but it has let us into some important secrets."
"That's just the difficulty. My brothers are dreadfully worked up about it. They say it was ungenerous for you to come in that way and steal their secrets. You know I have always been your friend, and I have come to tell you that some injury will be attempted this night. I can't tell you what it is, but remember that a teakettle of water, if used soon enough, would have put out the last great fire in York."
I accompanied Opportunity out to her horse, thanked her, and squeezed her hand at parting, telling her how much I was indebted to her; but she seemed very nervous and anxious to get away, and, striking her horse a smart blow, disappeared.
I went at once to the quarters of my red guests and apprized them of the situation. They promised to aid, and I explained to them that there must be no violence and that arms must be used only in the last extremity; but that prisoners might be taken, the main object being to save the buildings. In five minutes the Indians were all off about the grounds, principally in pairs, and I went into the house, got my rifle and pistol, and put out my light. Mary Warren appeared again as I was slipping out. I hastily explained the matter to her, and suggested that she should pass occasionally from window to window, and if she discovered anything should quietly open a leaf of her shutter. A half-hour later, when I saw this signal given, I reentered the house and again met Mary Warren.
"Come quickly," she said. "they are in the kitchen and are kindling a fire on the floor."
I asked her to run to the beech-tree and get Many-Tongues to join me, but she said, "No—no—you must not go to the kitchen alone. There are two of them----I will accompany you."
I could easily have shot the rascals through the window, but felt averse to taking human life. So I waited for them to come out, when I discharged my rifle in the air, then dubbed it and felled the foremost man to the pavement, and grappled with the other. The fellow was the stronger and would have got the better of me if Mary had not put my rifle between his bent arms and his back and used it as a lever. This relieved me and enabled me to draw my pistol, when the villain begged me not to shoot him. Just then a stream of redskins came in, attracted by the sound of my rifle, and the prisoners were securely bound. The fire was then extinguished and the house saved. I must confess that I was surprised and shocked to find that the prisoners were Seneca Newcome and Joshua Brigham, the latter one of my own hired men.
There is little more to be told. The next afternoon our lawn was invaded by about two hundred armed and disguised men, whether for the purpose of injuring us and our property or of rescuing the prisoners we did not know. The Indians, with Susquesus and Jaap, had been holding a meeting under the trees, and for safety's sake we asked them to take positions on the piazza in front of the house, while the two prisoners were brought bound into the library. We had plenty of rifles in the house, and could have made a stout resistance, if necessary. Just as we had made these arrangements, the sound of a galloping horse was heard and Opportunity Newcome rode up to the house. Her salutations were hasty as she entered. She glanced around and seeing the condition of Seneca said:
"What in the name of wonder do you mean to do with Sen? You are standing over an earthquake, Mr. Hugh, if you did but know it."
Meanwhile matters had reached a crisis outside. I had made a speech to the mob, and ordered them off the premises, but they were sullen and began to advance toward the house, brandishing their rifles in a threatening manner. When blood-shed seemed inevitable, we were all surprised by the appearance on the piazza of the sheriff of the county accompanied by Jack Dunning and a dozen or more armed men, who had come up the cliff path and entered in the rear. When the sheriff called on the rioters to disperse, they, seeing that we were prepared for them, fell back in confusion and shortly went down the road in a scampering flight. When we looked for our prisoners they were nowhere to be found. Opportunity, who had observed the entrance of Dunning and his party in the rear, had unbound them and pointed out the same avenue of escape. Seneca and his companion were never again seen in our part of the county, and so no charge of arson was made against them.
When, some weeks later, Mary Warren and I were married in St. Andrew's Church, I heard that Opportunity Newcome had talked of suing me for breach of promise; but as nothing came of it I doubt the story.