Read CHAPTER V of Three Young Pioneers A Story of the Early Settlement of Our Country , free online book, by John Theodore Mueller, on ReadCentral.com.

A WONDERFUL JOURNEY

Mr. Bradley was glad that he had his old reliable clerk with him in America, for he was anxious to leave the colony, and establish trading posts along the Connecticut River, west of the Massachusetts Colony.

Already the year before, in the summer of 1685, many settlers had left the Boston Colony and gone west through the unbroken wilderness to the Connecticut River. They were courageous men and women, for the journey was very tedious and dangerous, and by no means inviting.

Yet they were dissatisfied with many things in the Colony, especially with the farms allotted to them, for they were sterile and did not produce rich crops.

Every one had the pioneer spirit in full measure; for the men who had come from England, braving many dangers, would not linger helplessly in a place where they did not find what they wanted.

The country was immensely large, and opportunities welcomed them everywhere. The first adventurers, who blazed the trail, reported rich and fertile lands along the Connecticut River, with fine opportunities for fishing and trading; for this river, which in the North divides the two states of Vermont and New Hampshire, flows through Massachusetts and Connecticut, where it pours rich deposits of silt into the ocean.

For the early settlers the rivers were means of travel and traffic, and we need not be surprised that so many of the Boston Colony left their homes and sought out this new country.

In the course of time three settlements were made, the towns of Windsor, Whethersfield, and Hartford. The last is now a flourishing city and the capital of the state of Connecticut.

As soon as John Rawlins had acquainted himself with the intricacies of Mr. Bradley’s business, and knew all the prices of the various articles, and could converse somewhat in the language of the Indians, Mr. Bradley prepared for the expedition.

At first he wanted to go alone, but after a while he decided to take Fred with him, who was well acquainted with the interior of the country. Agnes begged so long, until she, too, was permitted to go. Then Matthew hung his head and looked sorrowful, because he had to remain behind. So he, too, was included. Finally Mrs. Bradley insisted on going also, and so, what was originally planned as a little trip of one, became, in the words of John Rawlins, a “huge earthly pilgrimage.”

After all, however, Mr. Bradley would not have permitted the family to go, had the expedition been connected with serious dangers, or had the fur season been on. But as it was, the season was dull, and John Rawlins did not have many customers.

He was one of the singular men of whom it is said that to know them is to love them. His age gave him a certain dignity, and his height made him tower above the heads of all ordinary persons. The Indians called him the “tall oak,” a name of which he was quite proud. He was kind to the poor and humble but a terror to the bully, who tried to bluff him. Every one who came to the store was treated with cordiality and fairness, and Mr. Bradley knew that as long as John Rawlins was in charge of the business, the management was in safe hands.

So on one bright morning in August the party started out on the expedition. Two large, faithful dogs ran ahead, barking and jumping with glee. Then came Fred and Matthew who knew the trail somewhat, though for safety’s sake they had secured a reliable Indian guide, who walked alongside the boys. Next came Agnes and Mrs. Bradley, while Mr. Bradley followed in the rear, superintending the five pack horses, which were in charge of three trustworthy Indian servants. All the white men were armed, and even Agnes carried her gun at the side of the saddle.

Besides the muskets they had also bows and arrows, which were useful for shooting birds and light game of which the forests were full. On these they depended for their provisions, for the large amount of wares which Mr. Bradley carried with him, prevented them from loading on the pack horses rich supplies of food. Nor was this necessary, for on the way they passed through many Indian villages, and in these they could purchase corn meal, which besides meat was the staple food of the pioneers when away from home.

The distance to Hartford, for which the expedition was bound, was about one hundred and fifty miles, which Mr. Bradley hoped to cover within a week’s time. This made the journey quite comfortable, though at times it was arduous enough, since often the trail was very narrow, and many streams and rivers had to be crossed.

Toward evening the expedition would halt. The Indian guides would unload the pack horses, and start a huge fire. Fred and Matthew then erected the tent for the ladies, while they laid around it rich fur blankets on which the men slept. The Indians camped near by, one of them watching over the horses which grazed on the tender grass, with their front feet tied so that they could not roam away too far.

While the men were busy preparing the camp, the women cooked the food in a large kettle which hung over the fire. This usually contained a turkey or partridges shot by one of the men on the way. In addition, there were primitive spits on which were broiled huge pieces of meat, while in the hot ashes Mrs. Bradley skillfully baked small loaves of delicious corn bread. In a smaller kettle Agnes cooked the tea, of which the pioneers were very fond, and which was the only beverage the white people drank while on the journey. For while the Indians drank freely of the streams, the pioneers were careful to refrain from it, as it might prove a cause of sickness, which would delay the trip.

After the meal was finished, Mr. Bradley read from the Bible, which was the constant companion of the Puritans, and after that the whole company joined in singing a hymn or two.

The service was simple, but sublime, and the Indians listened with delight to the pious worshipers.

Fred and Agnes, who spoke the Mohican language as fluently as their mother tongue, would then explain to the Indians the contents of the chapter read, in their native language, and sometimes Agnes would sing one of the fine songs which she had cleverly translated into their language.

Finally, when the service was over, the ladies crept into their tent, the men stretched out on the warm blankets, and with the exception of the Indian guard and Fred or Matthew, who watched over the camp, all were soon fast asleep.

Through the thick foliage the stars gleamed down upon the quiet world, and Fred, looking up to the heavens, was absorbed in deep thought as he listened to the breezes that rocked the crowns of the trees, or to the strange, weird noises that came from out of the forest in which beasts of prey were looking for their food. On the other side of the camp the Indian servant watched over the horses, while the Indian guide, ever wary and cautious, would at times raise his head as he listened to strange sounds like the hooting of the owls, or the weary wail of the whippoorwill.

And over all rested that strange peace of God which is found in the forest or on the prairie, where God is near and wicked men are far away.