Illustrated: Rafaello Busoni
Source: Harper & Brothers, Second edition
HTML Markup: For marxists.org in 2001.
The Younger Son
MY GRANDFATHER'S Grandfather was a younger son, and his name was Richard Hammond. He had hair the color of wild cherry bark, and his eyes were as blue as the polished blade of a long Kentucky knife--and sometimes as sharp. He walked with a spring under his heels and with a stride a clothyard long. He laughed more than he sighed, and when he laughed people turned around to listen and to laugh with him.
You may believe me, he was a man for men, and
there was no one in the whole country who could wrestle a fall with him and lay him on his back.
He was the youngest of five sons, and some say the most handsome. In those days, things were different, and it was no unusual matter to have five sons in the same family.
In those days--and it was more than a hundred and fifty years ago--most men were farmers. Our land was young, and there was more plowing than building to be done, more trees to cut down than to plant. A man had to be a man to find three meals a day and to keep a tight roof over his head.
When a father died, his farm would go to the eldest son, for it was his by right of birth. If the farm was a large one with rich black soil and many outbuildings, the eldest son could say to one of his brothers:
"Stay with us and bring a wife here to live. There is enough for both of us."
Well, sometimes the younger brother would stay, and sometimes he wouldn't. They had pride in those days, and they had something else. They had the great unexplored wilderness, the frontier, almost three thousand miles of wild, untouched country
stretching westward as far as a man can imagine. And no one lived there except wild Indians and wilder beasts.
This great stretch of forest was too big for words, too big to think of all at once. The people, in those times, lived for the most part on the coast, in what was known as "The Tidewater Country." Inland from the tidewater was a wilderness--for younger sons and for the strong of all races.
* * *
My grandfather's grandfather was eighteen when he heard the call.
He was not one to bemoan the fact that he had no inheritance, that he was no more than a younger son with empty pockets and only an abundance of the free clean air he breathed. He said to himself:
"Richard Hammond, you are free."
But his eldest brother, Edmund, who was a cautious man, spoke other words. "Look you, Richard," he said. "Take a wife, and I'll help you with the building of a house and give you ten good acres of the valley land."
Ten acres! My grandfather's grandfather laughed and pointed out yonder where there were ten thousand or ten million acres for the taking, where green trees made a house for any man who would lay down beneath them.
His brother increased the offer to twenty acres, and when my grandfather's grandfather still laughed, Edmund called him an empty-headed fool.
Those were troubled times. The land belonged to King George of England, who was as wise or as witless as most kings. England was wary of the free race that had grown up in the New World, that wanted nothing of kings or crowns or titles.
England had seen the freemen in the colonies break loose of France during the French and Indian war, when they allied themselves with the British armies. And after that, she had seen them spread westward, forgetful of the fact that England ruled them. So England set loose the wild Indian tribes beyond the mountains against these free settlers, and men in the thirteen colonies spoke of war and of revolution and of making a new country. There were battles fought at Lexington and Concord, and a declaration of independence was made.
In the thirteen colonies an army was raised to fight for freedom. But westward, beyond the mountains, there was no army, and men had to bolt their doors
and shutter their windows, and take up their long rifles to protect themselves.
* * *
But at the time when my story begins, my grandfather's grandfather thought little of war. He lived in a fair country called Virginia, and for a younger son in Virginia there was sport enough to make life
If it pleased him, he worked, and he could run a furrow straight and true as a surveyor's line. He could take a six-horse team and make it scamper to his voice, or he could take the horses one by one, shoe them if need be, break them, or make harness for their backs.
But if it was sport he wanted, he hunted and rode to hounds. Evenings, he joined the company at the village inn, drank ale--and there is no such ale today as they had in old Virginia--and listened to the stories of men who had wandered into other lands. And of such men there were plenty, for in those times a man needed no more than his own two legs to take him where he willed to go, a rifle and shot to give him food, and a stout heart to bear him on. There were not many hotels in those times, but the
hospitality of the frontier was free and generous, and where the windows of some lonely cabin gleamed, there was always a bed and food waiting.
Now, back of this inn where Richard Hammond went in the evenings, there was a courtyard where they pitched quoits and shot at a mark. They were very proud of their shooting, those Virginia men, and they used the long, blue-barreled rifles that came from the middle valleys of Pennsylvania and shot a bullet the size of a pea farther and truer than any other gun men had. When a stranger came to the inn--if it were still light--they would ask him to try his skill.
It was no easy mark they shot at, a shilling at thirty paces, and if the stranger could strike it fair and clean, they would toast him far into the morning. There was nothing they loved better than to be bested at their own special skill.
But such a thing did not happen often, for there were few strangers who could match a Virginia rifleman, not even the Pennsylvanians in whose land the long rifle had been invented.
One evening, when my grandfather's grandfather sat in the inn, drinking ale and flirting with the rosycheeked barmaid, a stranger entered the place, set
down his saddlebags with a gesture of weariness, and asked for a room, a bed, and a cup of strong tea.
This stranger was a seemingly mild-mannered, middle-sized man, not the sort of man to impress you, unless you judged men by more than the skin
they wore, a man of gentle manners and gentle voice. But he moved with the grace of a deer and he walked like a cat or a panther in the dry-leaf woods, and when he rolled up his sleeves the muscles under his brown skin twisted like snakes. His eyes were honest and looked at you straight, and they were the grayblue color of the sky at evening.
Well, the stranger drank his tea, went to the fire, seated himself, and stretched out his legs gratefully-as if a soft wing chair were a comfort not come by too often and not to be taken lightly. The people of the inn had been watching him, but he was not a talkative man and they had the courtesy not to break in upon his silence until he had rested.
It was still light outside, and finally someone suggested a few shots at the shilling, loser supply the coin. Another rather pointedly suggested that the stranger might like to try his hand, that is if he were a lover of the fine art of shooting. For they had no desire to embarrass a man whose ways might be more peaceful than theirs.
"In a friendly spirit, sir, you understand," they reassured him.
"I shoot a little," the stranger admitted, as if it had just occurred to him, his gray-blue eyes blinking sleepily.
"No easy mark, of course, sir --"
"I'll chance the mark," the Stranger smiled.
They liked his way of going at the wager, and they trooped out into the courtyard, innkeeper, barmaid and all, and they set up a shilling for a mark. By now it was twilight, the soft twilight of Virginia
fall, the melancholy twilight of reddish-brown leaves and lacy clouds across a smoky sky. Already it was difficult to see the shilling clearly, and therefore, courteously, they suggested that the stranger shoot first.
"Not at all, not at all, gentlemen," he smiled, shaking his head, as if it would be putting himself forward, and added:
"I reckon to watch you just a mite, gentlemen. A fine shooting's like pleasure to the eye and pretty music to the ear. And those rifles are beautiful and long as a swan's neck."
There's no doubt he knew how to turn a phrase, and it began to occur to some of them that perhaps he knew how to shoot just as well, for all his quiet ways and slow movements.
So they set about shooting, taking their places one after another, loading very carefully, first the powder poured down the muzzle, just the right measure, then the little ball of lead, then the wadding of soft lint to keep the ball in place, each movement careful and considered and lovingly done; for not since the days of the old English archers have there been men who could shoot so well and so truly. Some of the shots were good, and one or two were bad, but altogether it was such shooting as you would have to go a long way to see.
My grandfather's grandfather hit the mark and so did many others; and several shillings were thus spent, buying nothing but pride of skill in return.
When the time came for the stranger to shoot, it was already too dark to see the shilling clearly; and they wondered whether he would shoot under that disadvantage or whether he had merely delayed to get out of an embarrassing position.
They watched him handle the rifles appraisingly, weighing this one and that one before he made a choice, and some of them concluded then and there that it was not the first time he had held a long Pennsylvania rifle in his hands. Others--and my grandfather's grandfather was not one--suggested wagers, having the advantage ail on their side. But the softspoken stranger good-naturedly declined.
"Gentlemen," he said casually, having finally selected a rifle to his taste, "you might throw that shilling up against the sky where I can see it."
They laughed and admitted that it was somewhat dark, but nobody moved to throw up the shilling. Such a mark had never been heard of; to shoot at a flung shilling would be like shooting at a lark in flight.
The stranger repeated his request, and they shrugged and smiled, as if to presume that if a man was a fool he should have his way. One of them stepped forward and flung the shilling carelessly into the air.
Unhurriedly, the stranger raised his rifle, but he did not fire until the shilling had reached its highest point and was turning lazily before beginning its fall to earth. Suddenly, something grasped at the shilling and flung it aside, and when they crowded to pick it up, they found a hole clean through its middle.
As I said, there was nothing pleased those Virginia men better than to be bested at their own skill, and now they pressed around him, congratulating him and praising him. The stranger blinked his gray-blue eyes, smiled shyly, and said that his name was Daniel Boone.
That was how my grandfather's grandfather came to know Daniel Boone, to go away with him into the wilderness, and to hand down to his son and his son's son a debt, a chore for Johnny Appleseed.
* * *
When I eat an apple now, I save some of the seeds, and my father did that, and his father, and my grandfather's grandfather. And sometime during the last days of March or the first days of April, I plant the seeds.
Not at home, for there are apple trees enough at home, but here and there wherever I happen to be, since the men of my family are more like to be wandering than sitting in one place. All through those days, I keep a pocket full of dry seeds handy for planting.
It's not much of a chore because you can plant an apple seed, not too well, but well enough with hardly any trouble. You kick up the turf, stamp down the seed, and then scrape some dirt over it. Sometimes the seed will grow and sometimes it won't; but whether it grows or not, just planting it is a chore for Johnny Appleseed. You will see why.
Nowadays, most people have never heard of Johnny Appleseed. If they're out hunting in a forest of birch and ash and hemlock, and all of a sudden they happen on a little clearing with a few old apple trees in it, they don't stop to think of how the apple trees got there.
They don't stop to consider that maybe Johnny Appleseed put them there. East and west and north and south they watch the apple trees bear and the
fruit ripen, but they never think twice of how the apple trees got there.
Now my grandfather's grandfather knew. My grandfather's grandfather had a debt to pay, an easy debt without interest mounting way up over his head, but a persistent debt nevertheless. It was the kind of debt that is never paid out, though after a while nobody thinks of it as a debt and nobody minds paying it anymore.
Later, I will tell more of Johnny Appleseed and of how the debt between our family and him came to be; but now there is still much to tell of my grandfather's grandfather and Daniel Boone.
* * *
Boone's home was among the giant trees and he spoke the language of the beasts and the birds. There was no cruelty in him, only deep wonder and a thirst to make the unknown known. He was a teacher, and the whole world was his classroom, and the frontier was the subject he taught. For all that his rifle shot deadly straight and true, he had never killed a man; although in the years afterward there were men who said he had and put a dark memory on his good name.
His way was not to break things apart, but to put them together, and for each white man he called a friend, there was a red man who swore by his strength and courage.
But there in the inn that night after the shooting, they did not know the greatness and courage of Daniel Boone. They only knew that he was a man who could sight a rifle as a hawk's eye drops on its prey.
Bumpers of ale were filled high and foaming, and they sat down around the long table, Boone and the Virginia men. And until the early hours of the morning Richard Hammond listened to Boone's softspoken tales of the wild and wonderful land that lay westward beyond the mountains, the hunting grounds of six great tribes and four lesser tribes, the land of tall grass and canebrake. In that land was none of the backbreaking work of felling trees and rooting out stumps, only soft black earth waiting for the plow to turn a furrow. There the grass was blue, and the coons ate honey from morning until night. Deer ran through the forest thick as rabbits, and the bears were so fat they could hardly climb trees.
"And the name? The name of the place?" they demanded of Boone.
"Kaintuck," he said softly. And then repeated: "Kaintuck. But the Indians have another name for it. They call it the dark and bloody ground."
And Boone went on to tell them of Kaintuck, the far land of lonely name and great deeds. He told them that the men who roamed its forests spoke pridefully of the fact that they were half cat and half alligator. There no Indian tribe lived, but ten tribes came there to hunt, and often as not a scalp was the pelt they hunted.
"I am looking for men to follow me," Boone said. "I have mapped me a road into the wilderness, and I am looking for brave men and strong women to follow on that road and make homes for themselves in the land across the mountains."
"And where does this wilderness road lead?" someone asked.
"Into the tall cane and the dark unknown," Boone replied.
"And what reward does a man find at the end of that road to make him risk his skin and the scalp on his head?" another questioned.
"And why should a man give up a place by the fire to go into a wilderness where men are as savage as beasts?"
Boone answered: "If he be a man alone, a wandering man, a fellow of long strides and longer journeyings, a man with no companion but the tall rifle he holds in his hands, then his reward shall be great or small, as you will and according to his strength, his industry and his courage. For with his own eyes he shall see things no white man has ever seen. With his own feet he shall tread where no white man has ever walked. He will be a free man, and while he has a long rifle in his hands he will never want for food.
"But if he be a family man," Boone went on, "then he shall measure his reward by such a gauge as men know. By the honest sweat of his brow he shall measure the bins stored high with yellow grain. He shall have a roof over his head and the pelts of the black bear and the gray wolf on the walls of his house. The rich earth will be his for as far as he can see, pleading for gentle turning under the blade of his plow."
"Aye, danger enough," Boone said soberly. "I make no mystery of the danger, a full hand of danger, for ten tribes call Kaintuck the dark and bloody ground, and blood enough has stained its soil. But since when have tidewater men shrunk from danger?"
Some laughed at that, but others said: "We reckon the better to sit by a warm fire in Virginia and wear our scalps."
"And many will reckon that way," Boone nodded, no malice in his voice, but a steely glint in his eyes. "Of them I want no part, and they are welcome to their warm fires. For my own, I would reckon it a shame to sleep each night with a roof over my head and a feather bed under me and never hear the wind in the trees or a wolf howling. For me, I hunger to
know what lies beyond the farthest hills, and that's the way I go. And when a man follows me, he comes of his own free will."
My grandfather's grandfather had said nothing until now, but all the time the story was being told, he had leaned forward eagerly, his eyes gleaming, a sign coming over his glowing face. In those times they knew that sign, and Boone, recognizing it, smiled a little.
It was the sign of the wanderer and the mark of the wild. The wild had claimed Richard Hammond, my grandfather's grandfather.
AND the next morning he went away with Daniel
Boone, taking all that was his heritage as a younger son: his long rifle, his powder horn, his pouch, the clothes he wore, his horse, and all his good memories of Virginia.
His brothers, watching him prepare to leave, told him sourly: "You are a fool and go a fool's way. You have listened to that man Boone, and he has bewitched you."
And perhaps that was true, except that a fool's way often leads to rewards wise men never reckon.
Westward over the mountains and into the wilderness beyond, Richard Hammond followed Boone.
His ax sounded through the forest until men said: "Hark to the singing of Hammond's blade!" There was no man to count the number of trees he felled along the Wilderness Road.
In his tracks came rolling ox carts and lumbering Pennsylvania-built covered wagons; in his tracks came cattle and sheep and goats; in his tracks came family men from Maryland and the Carolinas, from Virginia and Pennsylvania, from the Tidewater, from the pine-flats of Jersey and the lowlands of Delaware; in his tracks came firm-faced women and laughing children, young men and old graybeards--all moving into the wild and lonely land of Kaintuck, all thinking of the land they would claim, the houses they would build and the crops they would raise.
But for my grandfather's grandfather, there was no family and no women, but only the wild. The forest had claimed him, and he became a ranger, one of those who could walk great distances, who had no roof over his head and wanted none. And no matter how trackless the forest, he was never lost, for he knew his way as the wild geese know their way from one nesting ground to another.
There were many like him, hunters, guides, free
rangers, homeless men who wore tanned skins and hunted their own meat. They craved the unknown; they wanted always to know what was beyond the next river, what was over the next range of hills.
Boone, too, was counted among them, only greater than the others.
With Boone, there was a difference--in that he could plan a future for others if not for himself. He could close his eyes and see in his mind a time when the wilderness would be wilderness no longer. He could see that these settlers, who depended upon the hunters and wanderers now, would have no use for hunters when their purpose had been served and when the forest had become farm land, without game, the deer, the buffalo and the wild turkey.
He saw much of what would happen, and he knew that hunters and rangers would have no place in a land that is civilized.
So Boone took himself a wife and that wife bore him children, and Boone set his hands to a plow and his heels in the rich black earth. He knew what a hard master the wild is, and he considered himself a free man. He would not be a slave, even to the wilderness, which had made slaves of so many. He would not waste his life in the lonely adventures of
a free ranger, and he told Richard Hammond as much, saying to him:
"Richard, you are no longer a boy of eighteen. Settle down now and take a wife and make a home for yourself."
But my grandfather's grandfather scorned such advice; the very thought of it made him feel like a trapped animal. "With a roof over my head there would be a chain around my legs," he smiled. "And is a feather bed softer than pine boughs?"
"And don't you reckon the article to be worth the price? Go on dancing if you like, only remember that in the end you'll have to pay the piper. On one hand there is nothing, but on the other a life of happiness and in the end a warm hearth with grandchildren about your knee."
"I'm a free man," Richard Hammond grinned. "What woman would have me? And what woman would have any kind of joy with a man with an itch in his heels?"
Boone smiled knowingly, thinking that it had once been that way with him. He knew that for every man, there is a woman to take away his heart.
But Richard Hammond went back to the wilderness, to hunt and wander and play a game of life
and death with the Indians, to shoot the slim deer and the fat black bear--to be a free man.
* * *
Then a woman came to Boone's settlement in the land of Kaintuck. She came with her father from far away Maryland, a fair, tall, proud woman. Her name was Ellen May, and she was the kind that puts strength and tenderness together, the kind that makes a place of its own, a warm, comfortable place, whether it be wilderness or city or farm.
Her father broke ground some little distance from Boone's stockade and built himself a house for shelter and laid plans for a future.
He was a solid farmer, a man who knew his Bible, reckoned with his neighbors, and respected a school teacher or a pastor or a husbandman or a craftsman more than a wandering hunter.
Now, during this time when Ellen May was making a home for her father, Richard Hammond wandered far and wide. A thousand miles and more were grass under his feet, and you may be sure that there are no such walkers today.
He could run a buck deer to death and his pace set the gray wolf panting. He knew the way of making moccasins, for moccasins, more pairs than he cared to remember, wore to shreds under his whispering toes. He measured the land by the horizons, and he reckoned the passage not by miles but by the pairs of foot gear he did to death on the long Indian trails. There were no roads in the west in those days, but only the long trails where the Indians had traveled noiselessly for a thousand years.
Yet men who would wander and always see what is over the next hill and what is on the other side of the next river and what is beyond the next range of mountains, must pay a price. And in the time of my grandfather's grandfather the price was high. The hands of many men, both red and white, were turned against him, and when a man stood in his way Richard Hammond was likely enough to strike that man down and go on.
He fought and others fought back. He learned to walk like the panther, to be as wary as the deer, to strike as hard as the wolf and to fight with the strength of the black bear. He became crafty as a fox, and he glided along the forest trails as softly as the night owl swoops on its prey. More than a match for the red man he became, and that at the red man's
It was a constant battle for existence, yet it may well be that my grandfather's grandfather found pleasure in that battle and cared little enough for the
change it worked inside of him. Perhaps he never realized how hard and bold and ruthless he became.
* * *
When his journeying took him north, he sought out the old towns of Quebec and Montreal, and he traded furs with the Scotch and the French and the Ottawa and the Huron. Those were the days when a man could make a fortune for himself trading furs, standing up an old-time trade musket worth no more than thirty dollars, and receiving in return from the Indians beaver skins piled from stock to muzzle. Or for a silver shilling he could purchase four silver foxes; the skin of the caribou for a penny; the skin of the black bear for an iron knife, and the lush pelt of the lynx for a worthless string of glass beads.
Many fortunes were made in that way in the old times, and many a wilderness rover piled up gold until he was able to build himself a stone house in the city and warm his feet comfortably by his hearth. And others did no work, no hunting, no trapping, themselves, but bought and sold furs until they were wealthier than princes.
But my grandfather's grandfather had no eye for the future. Happy-go-lucky was his way, come and go, dance to every tune and never give a thought to the fact that some day the piper must be paid. Of money he wanted no more than to spend it as his whims and fancies nudged him. When he went out to hunt or set a line of traps, he came back with twice the pelts any other man earned. He sold his furs and he spent the money, and he never bickered about the price.
"Cheat me," he grinned, "and I reckon that another will be along to cheat you."
The Frenchmen said: "That Hammond--he is a gay and a wild young blade. But he hasn't a thought in his head. He will burn himself out like a candle."
But they were wrong. What they mistook for thoughtlessness was only my grandfather's grandfather's fervent love of life.
When he left the north, he circled south and eastward, moving leisurely, for there was much he wanted to see and many places he had never visited before. And then, after years enough of wandering, my grandfather's grandfather returned to the land of Kaintuck.
Smiling and proud, he sat at Boone's fire, and around him gathered the elders of the settlements who had come many miles to listen to his words. You may be sure it was not often that one came to Kaintuck who had been to Boston and New York.
Finally, when he had slept too many times in a soft, feathered bed, when he had eaten too many meals on a hand-hewn board, he prepared to go. He wanted the wild grass under his feet and no other roof than the tall trees. And instead of the sound of children's laughter, he wanted to hear the wolves howl outside his shelter.
Boone said to him: "Tarry a while, Richard. At least break land and plant a crop for your next coming. It is a good feeling for a man to have his roots in somewhere, and it is a better feeling for him to eat his own bread."
"I was never one for bread when there is meat for the taking," my grandfather's grandfather told Boone.
"Tarry just a while," Boone pleaded. "You're my friend, Richard, and I lured you away from the tidewater, but I had no mind to make a wild hunter out
Richard Hammond shook his head, for he was a man who must always wander.
He would go, and nothing could hold him back. He sat by the fire and molded his bullets; he cleaned his rifle and had the women at the fort make him a new shirt of buckskin. He filled his pouch with cornmeal and dried venison, and tied a blanket on his back.
And then he saw Ellen May.
He saw her come into the stockade to buy cloth for a new dress, since with all the matters of making a new home, she had no time for her own spinning; although when there was need she could spin as fine a thread as any woman there.
Richard Hammond stood and watched her. As he saw her handle the homespun, he became a graven image of buckskin, and slowly all thoughts of wandering slid out of his handsome head.
For a long time he stood there, watching her, fixing his eyes on her yellow hair and once catching a glance from her blue eyes. He had wandered far, but never in all his wandering, not among the French of the north nor the planters of the south, had he seen such a bold, bright woman as Ellen May.
Never before had he seen a woman who could catch his wanderer's heart as he had caught the hearts of so many others.
And Ellen May noticed him because my grandfather's grandfather was a man any woman would notice. And even after she had gone, he still stood like a graven image. There was a new look on his face, and in his eyes was something that no man had ever seen there before. He began to smile and to hum a tune that the Ojibway braves sing to their squaws when the full moon shines.
He returned to Boone's house, leaned his long rifle against the wall and said:
"Of a sudden, I am tired of wandering. I'll tarry here a while, Daniel."
Now all his time of wandering, my grandfather's grandfather had lost many of those graces that give charm to a Virginian.
He had met and mingled with all manner of men, the best and the worst. He had hunted and he had killed and he had become hard. He was more used to roasting his meat over the open fire than to eating it from a plate, and he was more comfortable in buckskin leggings than in doeskin breeches and silk stockings.
He had made enemies among the red men, and few white men called him their friend. In a relentless school, he had bested all those who pitted themselves against him. Quarter he had never asked, nor had he given it.
And during that time none of the many women he knew were such women as Ellen May.
So he stayed at Boone's stockade for eight months, bound around like a lion in a cage, fretting, fuming, gathering his courage for the single deed that was somehow beyond him. Often enough he would take up his rifle and say to himself: "I'll go off into the woods and forget this whole matter." But he never went.
Four of those eight weary months went by before he could bring himself to tell Ellen May that he loved her.
In the beginning he met her rarely, coming and going, now in the woods, now in the stockade, now across the green fields. And in the beginning he could
hardly speak to her. She made him dumb, and he could only stand like an oaf and look at her.
But she could hardly help noticing the tall handsome man in buckskin, whose hair was the color of cherry bark. Even in that land of Kaintuck, where men had to be strong or perish, my grandfather's grandfather was stronger and taller than any other. Whereas other men were sunburned from work in the fields, his skin was like brown leather, the color of an Indian's. Only no Indian ever had such eyes, the brightest of bright blue.
Once he met Ellen May going to the creek for water, and he nerved himself to offer to carry her two wooden pails.
"A heavy burden," he said. "Too heavy for a lass like you, I think."
"An easy burden," she smiled. "It's no task to fetch two buckets of water. I did that when I was twelve years old."
"Then time enough for you to stop," he told her gallantly.
And he took up the big wooden buckets, filled them with one easy motion, and slung them up on his shoulder as if they were light as feathers.
"You are strong," she admitted.
But he felt weak and foolish as a baby with her laughing eyes upon him. And after that, he took it as his bounden duty to carry her water from the creek to Thomas May's house.
Somehow, he gained the boldness to come a courting her. He could be as graceful as a panther in the woods, but now he stood like a foolish boy, turning his cap over and over in his hands, saying:
"Good morning, Miss Ellen. I happened to be strolling through the woods, and I minded your house, and I took it that it might not displeasure you for me to call and pay my respects."
It was a long, unwieldy speech, and as he finished it his eyes questioned her carefully, but she laughed merrily, nodding agreement and setting him at his ease.
"It doesn't displeasure me," she said. "For all the bright land Kaintuck is, it's lonely enough, and I don't think a lass could ever have more than enough callers."
"And more than enough you would have," he blurted out, "were the men hereabouts not such dunderheads and blind fools."
"And are they blind, Mr. Hammond?"
"More than blind, sinfully without eyes that they
don't see the fairest thing that ever came across the mountains."
After that, he came to the house more and more often, frequently bringing fresh meat, deer and wild turkey and prime bear ribs, and sometimes staying to eat the meat he had hunted.
Those times when he came, the fire would burn bright in Thomas May's cabin, and the more often he came the more pelts there were to make the walls warm and comfortable. Thomas May and his daughter would sit by their fire and listen to Richard Hammond's tales, for they were homebodies, and he was a man whose feet had known strange lands.
He told them of the Sioux who lived so far away that a swift walker could walk a month and not reach their land. He told them of the fur-clad, slant-eyed men who lived two thousand miles to the north, of the naked Seminoles in their dark, southern swamps, of the lordly Mohawks who fought under an English nobleman, and of the wild horsemen who lived out on the great plains where he had never been, tales told to him by the French Canadians.
I doubt whether there was a man in all America who knew more of the tree country than Richard Hammond.
"And were you never lonely?" Ellen May would ask him.
"Aye, lonely enough."
"And did you never envy men the homes where you stopped for a night? The fireplace and the children and the bed you slept in?"
"Not then, no--but now I have no feeling to wander anymore."
* * *
I don't know what was in Thomas May's mind, but perhaps he thought that such a man as this, tall and strong and knowing the way of the woods, would be a fine husband for his daughter. If he mentioned that to his daughter, she must have smiled a little sadly, for she knew Richard Hammond better than her father did.
She loved Richard, but she wondered whether he could ever love her--or indeed any woman. Sometimes she thought he was in love with the forest, and sometimes she felt it would be hopeless to expect him to settle down and live any other life than that of a free forest ranger.
It happened one day when they were alone, Ellen May and my grandfather's grandfather, walking through the woods hand in hand, and then coming out on a little knell over the river, where they could see below them and away from them all the broad forest lands and waving- canebrake of the Kentucky wilderness.
Through the rusty leaves, the sun made a dappled pattern upon them, and there Richard Hammond told Ellen May that he loved her. Before this, he had found the words hard to come by, but now they came as easily as the singing of wild birds.
"I have been waiting," Ellen May smiled, her throat tight, her eyes wet. "I have waited so long. I thought that in all the time you wandered you had forgotten that such words existed, Richard Hammond. I thought you would never tell me."
"Since that day I first saw you," he said, "there has been no other woman, only you. There was an itch in my heels, and I never thought that I would be hanging my long rifle on the pegs, putting my powder horn by, marrying and breaking land. But believe me, I have changed; it troubles me that I was ever a wanderer; a man who has grass under his feet is no better than a fool."
"You're not a restful man to comfort a woman," Ellen May sighed.
"I would comfort you. I'll put homespun on my back and shoes on my feet."
"As if the shoes or the homespun would make the difference! And then you would leave me when the sap begins to run in the trees. You would leave me and go off on your wandering."
"I will not leave you," he said firmly. "I will hang up my rifle and take the ax in my hands. A man who wanders is a fool, and haven't I said that and don't I know that now?"
She nodded, but he could see that in spite of all her protests she had been his for a long while already. He took her in his arms and comforted her, and in spite of herself, she believed him.
* * *
Then they were married by a parson who rode two hundred miles to make them man and wife. And that was nothing for a parson of those times, upright men who carried the Good Book in one hand and the long rifle in the other, ready for peace or war, just as the occasion might be, gentle at times, but hard and stern when such measures were needed.
Thomas May, knowing that he had only one daughter, gave a great infare, to which every man and woman for a hundred miles around was invited, and you may be sure that some came from two hundred miles and more. Men knew about Richard Hammond, who was Boone's friend.
No guest was to bring meat, for this was a giving and not a taking; and no guest was to come with a low heart, since this was a time of joy, not sorrow. Richard Hammond's long rifle wakened the wilderness, and beasts, feathered and furred, fled with the knowledge that Richard was questing meat. But
there were other beasts that stirred too late for flight, and Richard Hammond staggered home with carcass after carcass across his broad shoulders, calling out to Thomas May:
"And here's another to make them remember the infare where I took me a maid!"
For many years, that infare at the wedding of Richard Hammond and Ellen May was remembered and spoken of. No house could hold the roastings or the guests, so great outdoor spits were set up. Whole carcasses of deer and bear turned slowly, and there were green willow switches without number, each holding two fat drawn partridges. There were old country puddings bubbling in iron caldrons, and there was good home brew, such as one cannot find today.
There were hazel nuts and chestnuts from the forest and there was water ground corn, yellow as butter. There was hot yeast bread and roasted eggs and parsnip swimming in butter and stuffed wild geese and pails of cottage cheese full of chives and apples bubbling in basins of hot ale.
There was dancing all through the night and far into the morning. Never were there such dancers as the hunters of Kentucky, and the story goes that the
devil himself once showed up at an infare, thinking to spoil the proceedings; but he could not resist the music of the pipes which were brought from the old country and over the hills by Fincastle men. Old Nick joined in the dancing, thinking:
"I will step a round and a reel to show these Kentucky men what dancing really is."
"One! Two! Three! Swing your partner!" the caller shouted.
The devil started the clog with Nancy Lee, who could dance fourteen hours and then do her housework as well as another. Then with Jenny Randall. Then with Mary McCune. And when he saw there were no end of Kentucky lasses to wear out his hoofs, he changed his attack and stepped out to wear down the pipers.
But once started, he could not stop, for the Fincastle men were mighty pipers, and the story goes that before dawn they carried the devil out by his tail and his horns and put him where he never bothered Kentucky men again.
At this infare of Thomas May's, there were a bride and a groom such as one rarely sees. The women looked at my grandfather's grandfather and sighed with envy. And the men looked at Ellen May with her light hair and her blue eyes, and said:
"There is the boldest, brightest woman that ever walked in the tall cane."
They were a fine couple, and they danced a round and a reel, not once, not twice, but thirty times. And though the devil had been carried out with the pipes still playing, Richard Hammond and Ellen May made the pipers wheeze and gasp until they cried:
"Hold on--now hold for breath, Richard Hammond! "
* * *
After they were married, for many months, it seemed that the fires which lurked in Richard Hammond's breast had been put out by a woman. He wandered no more, and he shed his buckskin shirt and leggings for good, honest homespun. For it was part of a family man's pride that he should have woolsey on his back and not the skin of wild beasts.
He put his rifle on the pegs and he hung his powder horn beneath it, and instead of beaded, heathen moccasins he wore honest homemade leather shoon.
He cleared the fields, and the black earth spun like a ribbon under the blade of his plow. He put in corn and barley and potatoes, and when he took the black loam in his hands, he would look at it with the eye of
a farmer and forget that he had ever been a homeless wanderer.
His hands were as skillful with the ax and the adz as they had been with the rifle, and he built another room onto Thomas May's cabin, laughing at men who warned him that in these troubled times it was better to live behind stockade walls. When had Richard Hammond needed the shelter of a wall?
"And the Indians?" Ellen asked him.
"Let them come," he smiled. "I know them, and they know me, and I never needed to crouch behind wooden walls. Let them come, and I will give them two for one and better."
At night, he sat by the fire with Thomas May, who was growing old and grizzled, but who was happy now that his daughter had wedded so true a man and so good a provider. They cleaned their rifles and sharpened their flints, and often they entertained some wandering hunter who sought Richard Hammond's hospitality for the night, remembering him from old times. Then the fire would sparkle and glow brighter as Richard Hammond asked wistfully:
"And how goes it in the northland?"
"Well enough, well enough, though I do hear say that the Hurons be on the war trail again."
"And didn't I know that old Black Panther would not sit in his lodge like an old woman. And the Wyandots?"
"They lost a battle at North Fork. Now they're licking their wounds."
"And waiting to make a bond with the Shawnees, I reckon. And tell me, how is the market for beaver skins?"
Thus it went, my grandfather's grandfather listening to the deeds of other men, while he toasted his feet at the hearth. When the wolves howled, he closed his ears that he might not hear, and when the wild geese flew south in the shape of a wedge from the snow-mantled woods of Canada, he turned away his eyes and steeled himself against their lonely honking.
That way, a man might forget that he had ever been a wanderer and a free ranger. But not in a few months. Richard Hammond should have known that years cannot be put away in a few months.
Now a time came when Richard Hammond felt a sudden horror of the wooden walls that closed him in. Like a beast in a trap, he felt a sudden choking in his breast, and he needed space to move in and air to
breathe. His long legs ached for the swift pace of the outside; his cheeks longed for the cold northern winds, and he said to himself:
"I'll go and hunt for meat and stretch my legs. I'11 move about a wee bit, and come back with a deerskin or two."
To Ellen, he made light of it, for what farmer, homebody though he may be, does not go out with his rifle when the larder needs replenishing? He kissed her lightly and told her:
"In a day or in two days, I'll be back with fresh meat and the body of a stag across my shoulders, or perhaps with a brace of wild turkeys hanging from the barrel of my gun. So don't fret and don't worry, but wait for me."
"Would I do other than wait for you, Richard?" Ellen nodded, smiling happily. "What a foolish way to talk when here is my home and my place."
After all, she had won him; he was her man now, and his child would be born to her in six months' time. Anyway, it was right that a man should go out and hunt fresh meat for his wife. He would be gone for a little while, and when he returned her happiness would be all the greater in knowing that he was with her again.
My grandfather's grandfather went out to hunt. A dozen miles from the cabin, he saw three noble stag deer, and his long rifle leaped to his shoulder. But he didn't fire. Instead, a strange and wistful expression came on his face. For a long time he stood there, yet the deer did not move.
He was a creature of the wild, kin to them, and it may be they recognized him for that. And he, in turn, was thinking of all the years when he had been a free man, a wanderer and a hunter, with all the wilderness for his home instead of a cabin--and with no wife to bind him in chains.
Then he lowered his rifle. His face revealed the struggle between Ellen and the memories of his careless and foot-loose days. And then he plunged into the forest--away from his home.
Well, the wilderness lost, and Ellen won. Her face was in front of him, her voice calling him, and after a fortnight went past, my grandfather's grandfather returned to his cabin.
During those days when he had been alone in the forest, the question had been decided, once and forever. He was through with memories and longings, and at last he knew what he wanted. He was going home to his wife, and he would never leave her again.
Across his shoulders he carried the body of a deer, and on his face was a smile of triumph. He was weary, and his clothes were torn in many places from his headlong plunge through the woods. But he grinned
happily, and his smile was the smile of a man who has defeated his greatest enemy.
Ellen would see that smile, and she would not blame him for his long absence. She would know that now he was hers for all time to come.
That was how my grandfather's grandfather returned to his home, walking lightly, for all the great burden he carried, and singing gaily:
"For I am half a panther cat and half an alligator."
Then he came to the clearing where the cabin had stood. The deer slid from his shoulders. His long rifle clattered to earth, and the song died on his lips. And he stood and stared, his face contorted with pain.
WHERE the cabin had been was a pile of blackened wood and ashes, with only the chimney stack rearing up like a lonely, accusing finger. And in front of that was a new grave.
Slowly, his heart beating with a fear he had never known before, he approached the grave and read the words crudely carved on a little wooden cross. His eyes blurred, yet he forced himself to read. There was a name there:
Frantically, he sought for another grave, but he found none. And then for about an hour he roamed like a stricken beast of prey around the heap of black ruins.
He went to Boone's stockade. He walked with dragging steps, and his heart was tight with pain. When he entered the stockade, he went straight to Daniel Boone's home. People made way for him; women wiped their eyes with the corners of their aprons; men's lips were tight and grim; children stared at the ground with sober faces. But no one made any attempt to stop him and no one spoke.
What could they say? They had seen all this before; they would see it again. It was the price paid for the new land, and for men who crossed the mountains there was always the price to be kept in mind.
My grandfather's grandfather faced Boone, and in his eyes was the question he dared not voice. Boone waited until Richard Hammond nodded, and then Boone said:
"I'm sorry, Richard."
"Is she dead?" Richard Hammond asked grimly. "You have no call to spare me, Boone. If she's dead, then tell me and have it over with."
"No--she's not dead, Richard."
"Boone, for the love of God, speak out! Tell me!"
"They took her with them."
My grandfather's grandfather stared at Boone, his eyes cold in the dark skin of his face.
"And you can sit there and tell me that! You are my friend, Daniel Boone! For you I left my home and heritage so many years ago to come over the mountains! I would have died for you, such a trust did I put in the name and honor of Daniel Boone! Yet you let them take her away, and you sat by your fire instead of following after them."
"I followed them, Richard," Boone said gently. "But there are others, the women and children here. They were too many, and we could not leave the stockade undefended."
"You and your stockade!" Boone shook his head sadly.
"Who were the Indians?" Richard Hammond asked.
"A great war party--Wyandot, Huron, Miami, Shawnee, some Ottawa, I think. That is what makes it so difficult, Richard. What are we to reckon? How can we know where they have taken her? How can we follow them without a strong party?
"No, we must wait for them to come back. And they will come back, Richard, and that will be our time to take our revenge. But we must wait."
"My revenge is here," my grandfather's grandfather said grimly, tapping the barrel of his long rifle.
"I ask favors of no man, Daniel; lonely I have been, and lonelier I shall be. But here is my revenge, and God help the Indians who cross my path. They will have something to remember me by, and they will see how easy it is to destroy all I hold dear."
Then he strode out of Boone's stockade and plunged into the forest.
* * *
Those were troubled times. The hatred and terror of war had come to the west, only it was a thousand times more bitter and cruel than war had been in the east. There men had fought far an ideal, but here they fought for house and home and wife and child. Red man slew white and white man slew red, and for each deed done there was a deed of revenge until, north to south, the whole border ran with blood.
People who had built their houses outside of stockades took refuge behind the wooden palisades, and from the blockhouses they saw the smoke of their burning homes. Men worked in the fields with rifles slung over their shoulders, and many who went forth to hunt never returned.
Who was to say when it would stop, when there would be peace and security on the border again?
My grandfather's grandfather sought his wife. Tribe to tribe he searched, and a thousand miles was grass under his feet. His hair that was the color of
cherry bark grew long and loose, and he wore the green buckskin of the wilderness.
He sought her among the Ojibways of the far north, in the place where no trees grow on the stretching tundra, where even the wolves howl mournfully in loneliness, where the caribou stream by from dawn to sunset like brownish-white ghosts.
He sought her among the Biloxi of the deep south, and among the Seminoles who lurked in the depths
of the mysterious Florida Everglades. He wandered in swamps where no white man had ever gone before, and he saw things that no white man had ever seen.
His grief was not something to be measured, but a sharp-edged knife thrust deep into his heart. It gave him no peace, and forgetfulness was not his. For him, in all of time, there would be one woman, Ellen, the daughter of Thomas May.
Yet where he went, north and south, east and west, he saw no sign of her and heard no word of her.
Whenever he stopped at a cabin, to taste for one night the cheerful sound of a woman's voice, the laughter of children, and the warm, husky tones of an English-speaking householder, he would ask:
"A tall, fair woman--her name was Ellen?"
The householder would shrug, knowing something of the trouble and loneliness in the heart of this tall, grim stranger, knowing friends who had had their wives and children taken away.
"There are so many tall, fair women. But one from Kaintuck whose name was Ellen? No, I don't reckon --"
That is how my grandfather's grandfather became a killer of men. That is how the name of Richard Hammond came to be spoken in whispers all up and
down the frontier. He killed Indians, and so many of them fell beneath his hand that his name became a dread word among them. That way, he sinned deeply, and the more he sinned, the deeper the mark of Cain was driven into him. He knew no peace and he knew no rest, and his only comrade was his longbarreled rifle. But a rifle and a knife were poor makeshifts for one who had known the warmth of a home and the comfort of a woman's touch.
But those were sinful days, and the voices of peace were few and faint.
Such a voice was Johnny Appleseed's, and now I must tell you of Johnny Appleseed, and of how my grandfather's grandfather came to know him.
* * *
Many years of weary searching had gone by when Richard Hammond stopped to rest at an outlying frontier cabin. At such cabins, white men were a rare and welcome treat. The more so if they were rangers who could bring news from the four corners of the land.
Meat was set before Richard Hammond, and greens and hot corn dodger, and while he ate, two wide-eyed tow-headed children watched him shyly.
They were awed by this tall, fierce stranger, yet with their eyes they worshiped him, for the hunters and wanderers of the wilderness were their heroes.
And after the children had climbed up to the loft where they slept, he sat by the fire and talked with the news-hungry mother and father. For hours he spoke, telling them every scrap of news that had come his way in months, and finally he asked his eternal question:
"Her name was Ellen? She was a tall, fair-haired woman--?"
"No, can't say that I have---"
They shook their heads sadly. He was used to that. How many thousands of times had he asked that same question, to which the answer was always, "No."
But this time the householder said to my grandfather's grandfather:
"There is naught I can tell you, but there is one man who knows, one man who can find your fair wife if she still lives."
Richard Hammond's face tensed; here was the first cheerful word, the first clue in all his years of wandering.
"Who?" he whispered.
"There is a man who goes in peace among the white men and the red men. We call him Johnny Appleseed."
"Where can I find him?"
"Now that's a point to take reckoning, and God only knows," said the householder. "You might lay eyes on him here or a thousand miles away. A month past he stopped by my hearth for the night, and he planted apple seeds around our house."
"He plants apple seeds?" Richard Hammond demanded, lifting his brows.
"It's his way. He's a religious man, but it's no religion with a name to it, and he talks no Gospel out of the Book. But he speaks to the red men of love and peace, and he goes where he pleases, among all the tribes, and no man's hand is lifted against him. The Indians see into his heart, the way children do. He is not a man you could hate."
"But this planting of apple seeds?" my grandfather's grandfather said, puzzled. "He sounds like a madman."
"He's no madman, be sure of that," the woman broke in. "He's far, far from a madman, be sure, and if more men had his way of thinking, this would be a happier world."
"He's somewhat strange in his own way," the householder admitted. "He goes before the settlers, and he plants apple seeds so that the wilderness will be fruitful to receive them. Man, there's no telling how many thousands of apple trees he's planted."
"But how could he find my wife?" Richard Hammond asked desperately.
"There are no secrets the Indians have from him. And it's said he speaks with the birds and the wild things."
The next day, when my grandfather's grandfather was preparing to leave, the householder's wife took his hand and begged him:
"Find Johnny Appleseed, Richard Hammond. Find Johnny Appleseed--for the sake of your soul's
So the search for his wife became also a search for a man called Johnny Appleseed, and whether Richard Hammond stopped at a blockhouse or a cabin, he asked for word of the strange man.
* * *
Most people had heard of Johnny Appleseed and many people knew him, for he was a wanderer himself. And of all, no one had a word of evil to say about him.
"Yes, he came by this way, a year ago and then three months past."
"Yes, he stopped and he had a bite of bread and a crock of milk."
"Yes, a month past he was here and he played with the children for all an evening. He left my man a pair of shoon, for he has no need of shoon, that one, complaining that they keep his feet from the breast of mother earth."
"Yes, he came and he went."
"Yes, he sat in that very seat, and before he left he planted apple seeds in a path from my house."
So they directed my grandfather's grandfather. They directed him westward and farther westward, and finally to the wild bottom lands of the Mississippi.
"That's his way," they explained. "He sleeps with his head toward the setting sun. Westward he goes, and always westward. He walks before the settlers, so that the fruit of the tree will greet them."
And he heard other tales of Johnny Appleseed, of peace brought to harassed men and women, of lives
saved, of war parties turned back peacefully from the gates of stockades--by the words of a man.
But to hear of Johnny Appleseed was one thing, to find him was another. Another year had gone by,
and my grandfather's grandfather was almost convinced that his wife was dead, and that even if he found Johnny Appleseed, it would make no difference.
He went on seeking because there was nothing else for him to do, because he had no future except to wander on and on.
That was the way it was when one day in the spring of the year he stepped out on a bluff over the Mississippi. He saw the river, mighty and sunsprinkled beneath him, and he saw near him two small trees that were like balls of snow. And when he went close to them, he saw that they were apple trees in blossom.
He lay down on the soft grass beneath them, and as he rested there a man came out of the forest and approached him.
* * *
Now, this man who approached Richard Hammond was Johnny Appleseed, and perhaps my grandfather's grandfather knew, so strange did he appear.
His garb was a tunic of the roughest homespun, gathered with a rope at the waist and falling to the knees. From the tunic, his bare arms and legs protruded, and he wore neither shoes nor moccasins. He was hatless; he bore no arms, only a sack slung over one shoulder and filled with apple seeds, for this was springtime and the best time for planting. His age was not apparent. His hair was long and he wore a full beard. His skin was burned as dark as Richard Hammond's and his eyes were just as blue.
And as he stood there, a strange and wonderful peace came over Richard Hammond's troubled soul. It was such a peace as he had not known for many weary months; it was such a peace as to fit in with the apple trees in blossom and the peaceful river.
"Who are you?" my grandfather's grandfather whispered.
"They call me Johnny Appleseed." The blue eyes blinked and smiled their gentle message of compassion and peace.
"I have a little bread," Johnny Appleseed said. "It's old bread, but bread and salt are two things hard to come by in this lonely wilderness, and I would be happy if you would share it with me."
Then he sat down at the side of my grandfather's grandfather, and they broke bread between them, and Richard Hammond's heart no longer burned with revenge and hate. A bluejay fluttered to the grass before them, and it strutted close without suspicion or fear. Richard Hammond broke some crumbs from the bread, and the bluejay ate boldly from his hand.
For a long while the two men sat there, talking sometimes and sometimes sitting in silence, and in that time my grandfather's grandfather told Johnny Appleseed the story of his search.
"Your heart was filled with hatred," Johnny Appleseed said.
"They killed her father, who had taken me into his house like a son. And they took her away to their dark places."
"But you evened the score with human blood," Johnny Appleseed said gently.
"I killed because my heart was bitter and turned to stone. What else is left for me in the world except to kill?"
"All that is left to any man, and that is much. Now listen to me, Richard Hammond: once it was thus with me, and my heart was filled with hatred for all Indians. And I went among them and killed and sinned. Then once, lost and dying of cold in a snowstorm, an Indian took me in and cared for me. I saw that he was a man like other men. I saw that all men are the same in their love and hate.
"And I saw something else. I saw that this is a country for all men, where some day men of all races and all kinds will live together as brothers. It is a promised land, because it is not God's way to have a promised land only once, but again and again, so long as there are men of good will in this world.
"For that reason, I go before the settlers and plant
these seeds, that the country may be fruitful for all who come."
"That may be as it may," Richard Hammond nodded. "But for me there was one thing in the world, and I lost that thing. My days and nights are made out of loneliness, and my heart is like a stone."
"Will you heed me, Richard Hammond?"
"I'll heed you."
"Then go back to the fair land of Kaintuck and build a new house where the old one stood. Take a handful of these seeds, which I will give you, and plant them around the house. Then wait patiently for the green shoots to break forth from the ground."
My grandfather's grandfather answered: "A man alone would better be a wanderer than to sit by himself in a cabin."
"You have wandered enough," Johnny Appleseed told him. "Go home now."
* * *
Perhaps Richard Hammond was weary; perhaps he longed for his friends, for the canebrake stretches of Kaintuck. So he turned his face to the east, and a thousand miles was grass under his feet.
He took the seeds from Johnny Appleseed, and put them in his pouch and set out through the wilderness that lay between him and the land of Kaintuck.
For many days he traveled, and at last he came to Boone's stockade, laid his long rifle against the wall of Boone's house, and sat with Boone by the fire.
"You're back to stay, Richard?" Boone asked him.
"Back to stay this time," my grandfather's grandfather nodded.
THE CHORE FOR JOHHNY APPLESEED
RICHARD HAMMOND rebuilt the house himself, and it was such a house as you wouldn't see many of in those times. Mighty trees quivered under the blows of his ax and crashed down through the forest to make the great squared logs for the walls of his house. He sought out a huge slab of rock for a hearthstone, and borrowed two teams of horses to drag it to the house. And the hearth itself was big enough to roast a whole deer at one time.
But before he built the house, he planted the seeds, carefully, in two long lines stretching from the front of the house.
When people asked him what he was planting, he answered:
"Well, I reckon now that it's a chore for Johnny Appleseed, and not much more than that."
But he was strangely cheerful, and in his eyes there was a look of peace.
Most people thought he had become a little daft from all the time he had been in the wilderness. And my grandfather's grandfather let them think that, for he himself was not at all certain that he was not becoming a little daft.
Boone begged him to take another wife, knowing that a man should not live alone, for his soul's sake; but Richard Hammond only answered:
"Daniel, we'll see to that after the apple seeds sprout."
And then he waited.
Now I do not doubt that it was a hard and terrible thing for my grandfather's grandfather to be waiting that way, and if you think of how it was, you will see why. For here was a man of action, a hunter and ranger of the wilderness, tied down by the word of a man who might very well be mad.
But Richard Hammond waited. There were many things to occupy his time. He was preparing the cabin, although nobody at Boone's stockade knew for whom. He hunted a great deal, and he cured the skins by a secret process he had learned from the red men of the far north. Lush and full and soft, he laid them over the floors and hung them upon the walls.
He was no mean craftsman, and with little more than an ax and a knife, he carved out a table for the kitchen, chairs and benches, and a bed. He put rows of pegs into the walls, and laid hand-hewn shelves upon them. He could not eat even a small part of the meat he hunted, so he traded most of it at the stockade for iron pots and copper kettles and pewter dishes.
But certain tasty cuts of meat he saved, and soon the rafters were hanging full of smoked haunches and jerked sides of venison.
And still, Richard Hammond waited. Through everything he had that picture of a man of peace, a ragged, bearded man, unarmed, yet free to go among the tribes and preach his message of peace. He waited and he watched the seeds he had planted, and while he watched thus, seeking a sprig of green from where the seeds lay, he had a picture of what might be some day in this wilderness.
He had a picture of a great civilization, many thousands of men living in peace, and everywhere the ruddy fruit of the seeds Johnny Appleseed had planted.
It seems to me that this was the hardest time of his life, yet in that time the hate was bred out of his heart.
* * *
At last a day came when a tiny sprig of green poked up where he had planted an apple seed, just a tiny sprig, almost like a blade of grass, nothing more than that. Yet that night he slept with a peaceful heart.
After that, the waiting was harder than ever. Days passed, and the summer drew to a close. He took in the crops he had planted, and he had the grain milled at the stockade. Meal and flour stocked his larder, and potatoes piled up in his root cellar. He went out to the forest to gather bags of nuts, and he salted away the fish he caught in the river.
In all the fair land of Kaintuck, there was no cabin so tight, so secure, so bursting with plenty as the cabin of Richard Hammond.
Then there came an afternoon when his work was done, and he sat in front of his cabin and he saw come out of the forest two figures, one of them leading a child. And that figure who led the child was a bearded man, clad in rough homespun, and the other was a woman.
Nowadays, the red men and the white men live together, and old legends are forgotten, so who is to say how Johnny Appleseed found the wife of my grandfather's grandfather? It is enough that he found her. Perhaps the birds told him, the same birds that spared his apple seeds for the fruit they would bring to men.
* * *
There was much the man and wife had to say to each other, and while they spoke Johnny Appleseed played with Richard Hammond's child. And when at last they tried to thank him, he was preparing to go.
It was not easy for them, my grandfather's grandfather and his wife, to pour out their thanks; words came hard. They were the kind who find it easier to feel something than to put it into speech. But they made him understand that the debt was great, and they begged him to stay with them, at least for the night.
He shook his head. "There is much planting to do," he said. "Better times are coming, and men and women will be flocking westward." Then he stared at the boy, smiled, and considered; then he said:
"When he comes of age and the fruit is ready for
the picking, let him do a chore for me. Let him plant the seeds of an apple."
Then he shouldered his bag of seeds, smiled gently on them, and went his way.
And my grandfather's grandfather and his wife Ellen watched Johnny Appleseed disappear into the forest.
* * *
So there's the reason why, when I eat an apple
now, I save some of the seeds, and my father did that, and his father, and my grandfather's grandfather. And sometime during the last days of March or the first days of April, I plant the seeds.
It's not much of a chore because you can plant an appleseed, not too well, but well enough, with hardly any trouble. Sometimes the seed will grow and sometimes it won't; but whether it grows or not, just planting it is a chore for Johnny Appleseed.