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Authors: Lynda Durrant

The Beaded Moccasins

BOOK: The Beaded Moccasins
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The Beaded Moccasins
The Story of Mary Campbell
Lynda Durrant

New York

Clarion Books
a Houghton Mifflin Company imprint
215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10003
Text copyright © 1998 by Lynda Durrant

The text for this book is set in 11.5/15-point Caslon.

All rights reserved.

For information about permission
to reproduce selections from this book,
write to Permissions, Houghton Mifflin Company,
215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10003.

Printed in the USA

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Durrant, Lynda, 1956—
The beaded moccasins / Lynda Durrant.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references.
Summary: After being captured by a group of Delaware Indians and given to
their leader as a replacement for his dead granddaughter, twelve-year-old Mary
Campbell is forced to travel west with them to Ohio.
ISBN 0-395-85398-2
1. Campbell, Mary, fl. 1764—Juvenile fiction. [1. Campbell, Mary, fl. 1764-
Fiction. 2. Indians of North America—Ohio—Fiction. 3. Delaware Indians—Fiction. 4. Indian captivities—Fiction. ] I. Title. PZ7.D93428Be 1998


BP 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

To Dinah and Carol, who fanned the flames


1. Westering 1

2. May 11, 1759 14

3. The Warning 28

4. The Allegheny 40

5. Walking 47

6. The Cuyahoga 59

7. Strength 70

8. Strength Again 87

9. Sequin 97

10. Mrs. Stewart 114

11. Questions 127

12. Changes 138

13. Deluge 152

14. Woman-Who-Saved-the-Corn

 165 Afterword

 173 Glossary

 179 Sources 181

1. Westering

, that's no way to card wool." My mother takes the carding boards from my hands. "Watch me again."

I sigh my very best martyr's sigh. We are sitting by the fireplace on a beautiful morning in May. Gray barn kittens practice their pouncing on my bare feet. They bite, scratch, and kick while their mother stretches in comfort by the fire.

"Ow! Lady Grey," I say sharply, "take your kittens back to the barn, please." But she just closes her eyes and pretends she can't hear me. I sigh again.

A kitten has climbed into the wool basket and it overturns, spilling raw fleece onto the floor. A draft catches bits of wool in a tumbling dance, and the kittens give chase. One catches a bit of fluff in her teeth; the fuzzy wool gets into her nose and makes her sneeze. I
get up to pull the fleece out of her mouth. More bits of wool drift across the floor, and the kittens pounce on them as though they were tiny mice.

The front door is open to let in light and fresh air. A green mist of tiny spring leaves covers the trees that remain on our claim. Our sweet-smelling fields are still moist from the April showers.

Sit down. You're not even paying attention."

"I'm watching."

The carding boards are made of wood with slender, sharp nails poking out in even rows on one side. My mother takes them in her hands again. She places a lump of raw wool on one of the boards, seizes the handles, and pulls one board against the other. The impurities (the dirt, sheep dung, and twigs) that were bound up in the fleece fall to the earthen floor. She pulls and pulls until the lump of raw wool has combed clean into thin, even threads.

"Now you try, Mary dear."

She watches me carefully whilst I pull and pull at a lump of wool. Dirt and dried sheep dung fall as a powder into my lap. The only good thing about wool carding is the lanolin, in my opinion. That's the oil on the fleece. My hands and forearms will ache tonight, but they'll feel as soft as a princess's after carding wool all day.

Even so, carding wool is the last thing I want to do. "I want to go outside," I complain, "into the lovely May. Tomorrow's my birthday. It's not to be borne."

My mother's mouth is a tight, thin line-a line I've
seen before. "Mary, dear, who's going to card and spin the thread for this year's clothes? Your brother has outgrown everything he owns."

"Dougal can card his own wool," I grumble, just loud enough for her to hear me.

The winter has been a hard one, and I have a most direful case of spring fever. I ache to be outside; my blood feels just like the sap in the trees, all restless and rising.

A column of sunlight filled with dust motes shines through the cabin window, the motes floating gently through the air. Dougal is reading out loud from our Bible. His feet are as restless as a colt's as he stumbles badly over the words. Just as I do, he glances out of doors every chance he gets.

"Matthew Five: And the multiply ... the
came to hear the serpent on the mount.'"

I laugh so hard, I drop my carding boards. "The serpent on the mount," I shriek. "The
on the mount!" Kittens scatter like frightened birds.

Dougal's jaw is set as hard as a horseshoe. "There
a serpent," he says stubbornly. "It says so right here."

"Dougal, dear, surely that isn't right," my mother says gently. "There was a serpent in Eden with Adam and Eve. I think you mean the Sermon on the Mount."

Dougal squirms on his bench.

"What did the serpent say?" I shout from the fireplace. "Tell us what the serpent said!"

Dougal grumbles, "I don't care an owl's hoot about reading and figuring. I want to go outside and find more arrowheads."

"Dougal, dear, that's enough. You're fourteen; you should have learned to read years ago."

"I can read-just not the hard words."

She hesitates. "Wait for your father to come back from plowing. He'll help you."

"So I can leave now?" Dougal snatches up his musket and lunges for the door.

"No, dear," she says firmly. She gets up, seizes Dougal's musket, and puts it on the mantelpiece. "Read until your father returns. Copy the words you don't understand."

"Awww," Dougal mutters. "I don't know them. I'll learn 'em wrong. That's worse than not learning 'em at all."

"But Dougal—" My mother falters.

"No!" I shout. "It's not to be borne!"

"We'll read tonight," Dougal says quickly. "We'll study together, Pa 'n' me."

Dougal and I wait, holding our breaths. Dougal is hunched like a wildcat, ready to spring.

"All right, Dougal dear," my mother says. "As long as you promise to read tonight with your father."

Dougal fetches up his musket from the mantelpiece. "Thank you! Thank you!" He gives her a big kiss and races out the door before she has a chance to change her mind.

"That boy!" My mother shakes her head, but her face is lit up in pleasure. She's never looked at me that way. I hear him clumping down the porch steps.

Now it's my turn. "I can card the wool tonight too. We can card together."

"No, we can't," my mother snaps back. "We'll be spinning tonight. You need the sunlight now, to card out the impurities in the wool."

"But Dougal has your leave. Why must I remain and breathe impurities?"

Mother ducks her head and smiles. "Dougal needs to practice hunting, Mary. He's working, just like you."

"He's not working," I say bitterly. "He's outside sporting." We can hear him crashing through the underbrush, whooping and hollering like an Indian.

"Not another word."


"Men have their work, and we have ours. The two seldom meet."

"He's not working," I mutter under my breath. "You know he's not working." My mother pretends she can't hear me.

"I hate Pennsylvania," I say with a stamp of my foot. A kitten has curled herself around my instep. She growls and bites my ankle in retaliation.

I scream, "Blood! She's drawn blood!"

"Mary," my mother says sharply. "You're much too young to be so hateful. All you have to show for it is a sore ankle and a vexed spirit. Not another word. We've carded enough wool for a bit of spinning. That's a welcome change."

I walk stiff-legged to the spinning wheel, growling kittens clamped fiercely to my ankles. I pull them off like burrs.

I plump down on the spinning-wheel seat just as hard as I can, hoping it will break. It doesn't. I thread the
wheel faster than a pig eats a piecrust, heave another sigh, and set to.

My right foot stamps the pedal and sets the spinning wheel into a whirling blur. As the wool ravels in, my mind ravels out.

Cumberland, Pennsylvania, is beautiful and wild, but I was born in a proper town-Fairfield, Connecticut-a stone's throw from Long Island Sound. Fairfield's clapboard houses crowded around the town square so prettily, like dinner guests in their Sunday best around a table. There were two churches, with steeples poking into the sky like candlesticks.

There were tea shops and bakeries. Two drapers offered the best fabrics from England and France. Our next-door neighbor was Fairfield's only dressmaker and a wondrous gossip.

Now instead of gossip we hear wildcats screaming in the night. Instead of pretty houses we see bear tracks round our door in the morning.

Dougal loves living in the western wilderness. Once he came back from the woods too excited even to speak. His hands were full of arrowheads. Not five years ago Indians lived where our cabin stands today.

Stamp, stamp, stamp,
my foot pounds the spinning-wheel pedal.

I look up, startled to see my mother watching me from across the cabin. Her mouth is a tight, thin line again.

"I want to go home," I say softly.

"This is your home. Home is your family."

"But Connecticut—"

"We're a westering family, Mary dear," my mother says firmly. "You're to make the best of it."

Westering. How I hate that word. More than a year ago I'd seen the westering look on my father's face. He had that restless, dreamy gaze in his eyes and that stubbornness round his mouth as he watched the sun set beyond our town.

I cried myself to sleep that night because I'd seen that look on plenty of menfolk's faces already. That look meant sobbing on the shoulders of girl friends and then watching their families leave Fairfield for the western frontier. Christmas last, I heard my father say in a low voice to my mother, "Elizabeth, good land to be had in central Pennsylvania, now that it's safe."

So a year ago March first it was the Campbells piling our belongings onto an overloaded wagon and saying good-bye. At the Crown's land office in Philadelphia my father laid claim to four hundred acres of land along the Susquehanna River.

All he had to do was show a profit in five years' time and the four hundred acres would be his. But the river bottomlands were clogged with oaks, the roots clinging willfully into the earth. He said some of those oaks were two hundred fifty years old, maybe older. Perchance that's why the roots were so stubborn about letting go. It took my father, Dougal, and our neighbor, Mr. Stewart, one month to cut the trees down. They tore the trunks out with our yoked oxen; the roots they dug out with felling axes and their bare hands.

And why were the Campbells cutting down oaks that
had been mere saplings at the time of Columbus? To grow pumpkins and corn.

I remember thinking: Where will the birds build their nests? But my father looked so proud, talking about turning the wilderness into a proper plantation, that I kept my thoughts to myself.

Three days later the fence was finished-pig tight, horse high, and bull strong. Our cabin was next, then the barn. The cabin is less than half the size of our Connecticut house. My room was on the second floor with a window facing the bright blue of the Sound. We had oak-planked floors instead of just packed earth. And rugs.

I sigh again.

We card and spin all day, stopping for a quick repast of tea and corn bread as the shadows lengthen against the eastern wall.

I lay the carding boards in the near-empty wool basket. My hands ache, my neck has a crick in it, my eyes sting. Lady Grey has taken her kittens outside.

"I need to go outside after our tea," I say in my best ladylike voice, "into the woods. If only for a moment."

"All right, Mary, return in a moment."

As I dash for the door, my mother moves toward the fireplace. Usually I help with supper. I tell myself not to think about her, cooped up in the house all day and now with a meal to prepare all by herself.


Freedom! I walk into the pasture, drinking in the cool air of late afternoon as though it were icehouse cider.

This year's pasture is a good ten acres. Next spring my father and Dougal will cut down another ten acres for the spring lambs and calves. They'll clear-cut ten again, and ten again, year after year.

Patches of wild strawberries grow amid the timothy and clover. I must remember to pick some.

Dougal is sitting on a rock in the middle of the pasture. Penn's Creek, which we named for William Penn, winds its way around the rock and toward the Susquehanna.

"Mary, look at this," he calls to me.

He unrolls a parchment map onto his lap. As I study it, the cattle and sheep gather round for a closer look.

"Go on, git." Dougal throws creek pebbles at the livestock, who gather up their clumsy dignity and scatter. "Durn cows, git.

"Look, Mary." Dougal points to the map. "This is Lake Huron, one of those great lakes in the French claim. And this is the Ohio River, and here's where the Ohio empties into the Mississippi River. Way out west, that's the Missouri River. That's where I aim to go, be a trapper along the Mississippi and the Missouri rivers. Folks say there're places along the Mississippi where it's seven miles wide. You can't even see the other side. On the Missouri the beaver are as big as those sheep."

"But that's French land," I say to him. "French and Spanish. They argue over the Mississippi and Missouri rivers all the time."

"Who cares about them? The Mississippi's so big, they won't even notice."

BOOK: The Beaded Moccasins
3.98Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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