All the boy's spirit had not been crushed out of him, and he dared to answer, "I certainly would have been there now had I really wished it."
Again he tried to escape, and again he was caught, and this time he was brought directly to the King. The father stared at his son as though he were some wild beast, and then said angrily: "Why did you attempt to desert?"
"I wanted to escape because you never treat me like your son, but like some common slave."
"You're a cowardly deserter," said the King, "without any feelings of honor."
"I have as much honor as you have," answered Fritz, "and I've done only what I've heard you say you would have done if you had been treated as I have."
The King, maddened beyond description, drew his sword, and would have struck the boy had not a general in attendance thrown himself between them, exclaiming: "Sire, you may kill me, but spare your son."
The boy was taken out of the room and locked in prison, where he was guarded by two sentries with fixed bayonets. The King proclaimed him a deserter from the army, and ordered him tried for that crime. It is small wonder that Fritz declared he would have been glad to exchange his place for that of the poorest serf in Prussia.
Fritz was placed in a strongly barred room like a dungeon, with no furniture in it, and lighted by a single slit in the wall so high that the boy could not look out of it. The coarsest brown clothes were given him to wear. He was allowed only one or two books. His food was bought at a near-by butcher-shop, and was cut for him, for he was not allowed a knife. The door of his prison was opened three times a day for ventilation, and he was provided with a single tallow candle which had to be put out by seven o'clock in the evening. This was the way the Crown Prince of Prussia lived when he was nineteen years old, and if the father did not actually succeed in breaking all the boy's spirit, he was at least changing this lovable, gentle-natured youth into a stern and gloomy young man.
Eventually the boy was released from his prison, but as long as his father lived he was treated with all the harshness the King's mind could devise. His sister Wilhelmina was kept away from him, and finally married to a man for whom she cared little. Fritz was cut off from all interests save that of the army, but gradually he began to acquire something of his father's interest in creating a splendid fighting machine.
In time he became King of Prussia himself, free at last to do as he would. He sought out men of genius, musicians, poets, and thinkers. He offered Voltaire, the great Frenchman, a home with him, and his happiest hours were spent in his company, or listening to music, or playing the flute he had loved as a boy. But that was only one side of him, and the side which was least seen. On the world's side he was the grasping ruler, the great general who forced war on all his neighbors, and who came to be known as the conqueror of Europe.
The boy Fritz of Prussia might have become one of Europe's greatest sovereigns, for he was naturally endowed with a love of all the finer things of life. Instead he became a despot who plunged Europe for years into the horrors of useless war. For this misfortune his father was responsible. The loving mother and sister could not counterbalance the terrible severity of the cruel King. Gradually Fritz changed from the sunny lad who had played in the gardens of Potsdam with Wilhelmina to a severe and arbitrary monarch.
His father had taught him that a country's greatness depended on its soldiers, and so Fritz made Prussia an army and compelled the world to admit the might of his troops. To Europe he was the ambitious tyrant, Frederick the Great. It was only to Wilhelmina and a few friends that he showed a little of that softer nature which had been his as the boy of Potsdam.
At the Charlottenburg Palace hangs the famous portrait of him playing upon the drum. It was a long step from that boy to the man Frederick the Great.
The Boy of the Old Dominion: 1732-1799
A few miles below Mount Vernon, on the Potomac River, was the beautiful estate of Belvoir, belonging to an English gentleman of rank named Lord Fairfax. The broad Potomac wound about the base of the lawn that sloped gently downward from the old colonial mansion which sat upon a height looking out across the exquisite Virginia country.
The Potomac was not a busy river then, and the only trade that came up it was such as was needed to supply the rich planters on the shores with food and clothing. From the porch of Belvoir one might see an occasional sailing vessel dropping up with the tide, lately come from England to make a tour of the seaboard states, and to take home cotton and tobacco in exchange for the silks and satins brought out to the colonies.
A great man in both England and America was Lord Fairfax; he owned many estates in both countries, but his favorite was this of Belvoir, not only because of its great natural beauty, but because he liked the company of the Virginia planters, who joined a certain frankness and simplicity of life with all the charms of European refinement.
Lord Fairfax kept up all the old English customs in his Potomac home. He had a passion for horses and for hunting, and his pack of foxhounds was the best in the colony. Sometimes he had the company of men of his own age to hunt with him, but he was always sure that he could count upon the fellowship of a certain boy, the son of a neighbor, named Washington. Whenever the hunting season arrived, Lord Fairfax sent word to Mrs. Washington that he would be glad of the company of her eldest son George, and a day or two later the boy would appear at Belvoir, keen to mount horse and be off for the chase.
On one such winter day Lord Fairfax and his friend George were hunting alone. They had had a good run and caught their fox, and were returning home in a leisurely fashion across the rolling country south of the hills. They were a curious couple.
The Englishman was nearly sixty years old, more than six feet tall, very gaunt and big-boned, with gray eyes overhung by bushy brows, sharp features, and keen, aquiline nose. He had been a great beau in his youthful days in London, and there was no mistaking the mark of authority that sat upon him.
The boy who rode by his side was not yet sixteen years old, and yet he scarcely seemed a boy, nor would his manner have led one to treat him as such. He was unusually tall and strong for his years, and he had so trained himself in a strict code of conduct that a singular gravity and decision marked his bearing. This might have had much to do with the bond of affection between the man and the youth. Lord Fairfax was not ashamed to listen seriously to the opinions of young George Washington, and he had learnt that those opinions were not apt to be trivial, but the result of deep observation and thought.
As they rode home the man asked the boy what he was planning to do. He knew that Mrs. Washington was poor and that her son would have to make his own way in the world.
"What should you like to be, George?" he inquired. "I dare say you've had enough schooling by this time."
"The sea was my first choice, sir," was the answer. "My brother Lawrence got me a commission in the navy, but at the last minute mother asked me not to leave her. She has had hard times bringing us all up, and I felt, as the eldest, that I ought to stay at home; so I gave up my commission."
"That was hard," said Lord Fairfax, "and yet I think you did well. There should be openings for a young man in the colonies. It seems to me I heard that you were very fond of the surveyor's work."
The boy looked up quickly, and his bright eyes flashed. "So I am, sir. I have made surveys of all the fields near school, and have got the figures in my books at home. I should like very much to be a real surveyor."
"Well, George," said Lord Fairfax, "perhaps I can help you then. I've bought lands out west, the other side the Appalachians. It's a big tract I own, but I know little about it, and I'm told that men are settling out there and taking it up themselves. I should like to have it surveyed, and I think you're just the one to do it."
"I should like it above all things," said the boy, "if you think you can trust me to do the work properly."
Lord Fairfax smiled slightly as he looked down at his companion. He was apt to be somewhat amused at Washington's serious modesty. "I'll show you the plans after dinner. I almost wish I could go out there with you."
They were now nearing Belvoir, and the man put spurs to his horse and dashed across the intervening fields. The boy followed close behind, sitting his horse to perfection. Just before they reached Belvoir they came to a high hedge. Lord Fairfax put his horse at it and went flying over. A second later George had followed him. There was no feat of horsemanship to which he was not equal.
A little later dinner was served in the big dining-room at Belvoir. Lord Fairfax had his brother's family living with him, and with one or two friends who were apt to be staying at the house they made quite a large party. The long polished mahogany table gleamed with silver and glass. Candles on it and in sconces about the white paneled walls shed a pleasant lustre over the dinner party.
It was a time when men and women paid great attention to dress. The ladies wore light flowered gowns, and the men brilliant coats and knee-breeches, with lace stocks and white powdered hair. Their manners were of the courts of Europe, polished in the extreme, and they had all been trained to make an art of conversation. Negro servants waited on the table, and the noble lord presided at its head with something of the majesty of a medieval baron in his castle. There were young people present, and George sat with them, paying gallant speeches to the girls and telling stories of sport to the boys. He was a popular youth, having a singularly gentle manner which made him a great favorite with those of his own age.
After dinner Lord Fairfax took George to his study, and spread out the plans of his western estate. He told the boy just where to go and what to do, and George made notes in a small pocketbook, asking questions now and then which showed a remarkable knowledge of the surveyor's work.
"When can you start?" Lord Fairfax asked, as he finished with the plans.
"At once," said the boy, "if mother can spare me, and I think she can."
"Good. I'd like another hunt with you before you go, but when there's work afoot a man shouldn't tarry. The sooner you start the better."
A little later George was sleeping soundly in the guest-room above-stairs dreaming of the adventures he hoped soon to have.
On a March day in 1748 Washington set out with young George Fairfax, a nephew of the English lord, to make the surveying expedition. Their road led by Ashley's Gap, a deep pass through the Blue Ridge, that picturesque line of mountains which had so far marked the boundary of civilized Virginia.
When they reached the pass they found at its base a rapidly rising river. The melting snow which still lingered on the hilltops had swollen the stream and in places had made the road almost impassable. The two horsemen, by searching for fords, managed to make their way through the pass, and came out into the wide, smiling valley of Virginia, bounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Alleghanies. Here flowed that picturesque river called by the Indian name of Shenandoah, which means "the Daughter of the Stars."
The first stop the travelers made was at a rough lodge house where one of Lord Fairfax's bailiffs lived, and here the actual work of surveying began. Spring was rapidly coming, and young George Washington was by no means blind to the beauties of the country in that season. He tried, however, to look about him with a practical eye. He studied the valley for building sites. He examined the soil. He made carefully measured maps and drawings, after using his surveyor's rod and chain. When he had learned all that he wanted of this locality, he followed the valley down toward the Potomac, he and Fairfax camping out at nights under the trees, sleeping beside a watch-fire, and keeping ever on the alert for attack by Indians or wild animals.
When they had reached the river they found it so swollen with spring floods that there seemed no way of crossing it. Finally, however, they met an Indian with a birch-bark canoe and bargained with him to take them across. In this way, swimming their horses, they reached the Maryland side, and set out again westward.
Shortly after they had left the river they came to a planter's house where they stayed over night. The next day they were surprised by the arrival of a war party of thirty Indians carrying scalps won in battle. The planter knew how to treat the Indians, and soon made friends with them by offering them whiskey. George had seen little of the red men and begged them to hold a war-dance.
The white men and the red went out into a meadow and there built a fire, round which the braves took their seats. The chief made a speech telling of the tribe's deeds of valor, and calling on the warriors to win new triumphs. Gradually one by one the reclining members of the band rose and circled about the fire in a slow swinging step. Two Indians at a little distance beat upon a rough drum made of wood covered with deerskin and half filled with water.
As the chief's voice rose higher and higher and the music grew louder and louder, more and more men joined the dance, until finally all the tribe was dancing about the fire, and their pace grew ever faster. Now, from time to time, one would leap in the air uttering savage cries and yells, then another, and finally all seemed absolutely lost in a sort of demon's frenzy. Suddenly, at a sharp command from the chief, the dance and the music ceased, and the warriors came up to their white friends smiling and asking for more whiskey.
The scene made a deep impression on George Washington. So far he had lived only among white people, and knew little of the Indian in his native haunts, but from the date of this war-dance he began to study the red man's character, and before long he had become an expert in the art of dealing with these people.
For a month George and young Fairfax traveled through the land that belonged to the latter's uncle, and at the end of that time the boy had made practically a complete survey of the region. By the middle of April he was back at Belvoir. His plans were examined and approved, and he was well paid for his services.
So pleased was the Englishman with George's work that he used his efforts to get him the appointment of Public Surveyor. The position pleased the boy, who at once started to make maps of the whole region lying along the Potomac. He divided his time between his mother's simple house, the big house which his older half-brother, Lawrence, had built at Mount Vernon, and Lord Fairfax's seat at Belvoir. The strongest friendship had grown up between the nobleman and the boy, and George unquestionably profited greatly by his talks with this man, who was very fond of literature and art, and who had known the most distinguished men and women of Europe.
Belvoir had a fine library, and George spent much of his spare time there reading with special eagerness the history of England and Addison's essays in the Spectator. His only schooling had been that which he had gained at a very primitive log schoolhouse, where an old man named Hobby, originally a bondsman, taught the children of the plantations reading, writing, and arithmetic. George, however, was not the boy to be content with such a simple education, and he had made up his mind that if he could not go to William and Mary College he would at least learn all he could from Lord Fairfax's well-stocked library.
Young Washington's work as a surveyor was shortly cut in upon by the outbreak of trouble with France. In looking over the youths of the neighborhood who were likely to make good soldiers, attention was almost at once attracted to him. Everybody knew he had a great sense of responsibility, and his feats as an athlete were equally well known.
As a small boy he had been unusually big and strong for his age, and had always delighted in any kind of contest of strength. He could outrun, outride and outbox any boy of either side the Potomac, and had proved it in many contests of skill. When he was at Hobby's school he had liked to form his mates into companies at recess time, with cane stalks for rifles and dried gourds for drums, and drill them in the manual of arms. They had fought mimic battles, and Washington always commanded one side. He had really learned a good deal of the art of war in this way, and so when men were casting about for likely young officers they naturally thought of the boy surveyor.
His brother Lawrence had sufficient influence to procure him an appointment as District Adjutant General, and had him make his headquarters at Mount Vernon, where he immediately began to drill the raw recruits of the countryside. But in the midst of these military operations Lawrence fell ill and had to make a sea voyage to the West Indies, taking his young brother George with him as company.
In the West Indies George caught smallpox, but he made a quick recovery and after a short convalescence began to enjoy the tropical life which was so entirely new to him.
Unfortunately Lawrence Washington did not grow stronger, and finally came back to Mount Vernon to die under his own roof. He was very young, very high-spirited and accomplished, and immensely popular with all Virginians. George had looked up to him as to a second father, and his loss was a tremendous blow to him. Lawrence for his part must have realized the very unusual qualities of character in his young half-brother. He left his great estate of Mount Vernon together with other property to his wife and daughter, and in case they should die then to his mother and his brother George. George was asked to take charge of the estates, and although he was still only a boy in years he showed such splendid ability and judgment in business matters that the whole care of the family interests soon fell upon his shoulders.
We have already seen how deeply this boy impressed older men with his rare judgment, and it is scarcely strange to find that he was soon after picked out by the governor of Virginia to command an expedition sent through the wilderness to treat with the Indians and French. This required physical strength and firm purpose, the courage to deal with the Indians and shrewdness to treat with the French. Washington was known to have all these qualities. His youth was the only thing against him, and that the governor was glad to overlook.
It was a rough and perilous expedition, made partly in frail canoes down the great rivers, and partly by fighting a way through the unbroken woods. Washington met the Indians whom the French had tried hard to win over to their side, and by the most skilful diplomacy induced the chiefs to send back the wampums which the French had given them as tokens of alliance. He had studied the Indian character and knew the twists and turns of their peculiar type of mind. He was frank and outspoken with them, and as a result won their confidence, so that for a great part of his journey chiefs of the Delawares, the Shawnees and other tribes traveled with him.
Besides his success with the red men, George Washington, with his surveyor's knowledge, made a careful study of the country through which he passed, the result of which study was of the greatest value in later years when he commanded an army in that region.
He picked out the place where the Alleghany and Monongahela Rivers meet as an admirable site for a fort and made a report of its advantages from a military point of view. Only a year or two later French engineers proved the correctness of his judgment by settling on the spot as the site of Fort Du Quesne, which is now Pittsburg.
Successful as he had been with the Indians, Washington was scarcely less successful with the civilized French commander. This man, like those at Belvoir, recognized at once the self-command, the extreme intelligence, and the modesty of the youth who appeared before him. The old officer and the young pioneer met as equals and fought diplomatically across the table as to which nation should win the alliance of the red men. The negotiations were extremely difficult, enough to try the skill of a man grown old in diplomatic service, but Washington completed his mission successfully, and at last set out to retrace his steps home.
Now they had much more difficulty with the Indians and with the elements. Some of their guides turned traitors, and they had to watch their arms by night and day. Ceaseless vigilance had to be used, and time and again the little band had to make forced marches and change their course on the spur of the moment to throw off bands of pursuing savages. When they reached the banks of the Alleghany River they found that it was only partly frozen over and that great quantities of broken ice were driving down the channel in the middle.
Washington knew that a band of hostile Indians was at his heels, and he had to plan some way of crossing the Alleghany. He decided to build a raft, but had only one poor hatchet with which to construct it. The men set to work with this, and labored all day, but night came before the raft was finished. As soon as they could they launched it and tried to steer it across with long poles. When they reached the main channel the raft became jammed between great cakes of ice, and it seemed as if they would all be swept down-stream with it. Washington planted his pole against the bottom of the stream and pushed with all his might, in hopes of holding the raft still until the ice should have gone by. Instead the current drove the ice against his pole with such force that he was jerked into the water and only saved himself from being swept down the roaring channel by seizing one of the logs.
They found it impossible to reach shore. The best they could do was to get to an island near which the raft had drifted. Here they passed the night, exposed to extreme cold, in great danger of freezing; but in the morning the drift ice was found so tightly wedged together that they were able to cross over on it to the opposite bank of the Alleghany.
This was but one of many adventures that befell the little party on its homeward way. Through all kinds of dangers Washington led his men, and finally he had the satisfaction of bringing the expedition safely back to Williamsburg, where he gave the governor a full report of his remarkable mission. It was practically the first expedition of its kind in Virginian history, and the story of it soon spread far and wide through the Old Dominion.
Everywhere men spoke of the remarkable skill the young man had shown in dealing with fickle Indians and crafty French. Report was made of the trained eye with which the young commander had noticed the military qualities of the country and of the courage he had shown in all sorts of perils. More than that, the governor of Virginia and other men in power realized that Washington had prudence, good judgment, and resolution to a remarkable degree, and told each other that here was a man worthy to uphold the interests of the colony. From the date of this trip George Washington became a prominent figure. It was not long before he was to be the mainstay of Virginia.
Every one knows the story of Washington's life. From being the mainstay of Virginia and fighting with General Braddock against the French and Indians, he became the mainstay of the United Colonies and fought through seven long and trying years against the veterans of England. Who can overestimate the great patience and courage and determination that heroic struggle required of him?
We see him taking command of the raw recruits at Cambridge, leading his men in victory at Trenton, sustaining them in defeat at Monmouth, cheering them through the desperate winter at Valley Forge. Later we see him as first President of the United States guiding the new republic through its first troubled years, and later still as the simple gentleman of Mount Vernon, glad to escape to the peace of the river and fields he loved.
There are few figures in history quite so self-reliant as that of this "Father of his Country." The qualities which made him so remarkable a boy were the same as those which made him so great a man.
The Boy of the Frontier: 1735-1820
Many people were riding to the big red barn that belonged to a Pennsylvania farmer who lived on the outskirts of the little town of Oley in Berks County. It was a Sunday morning early in the summer of 1742, and people from all the neighborhood were heading for that barn. Almost all of them came on horseback, sometimes man and wife riding separate steeds, sometimes the woman seated behind the man, her hands grasping his coat. A few families, father, mother and a flock of children, covered the road on foot, the father with a gun usually strapped across his back. A very few people drove up in primitive carriages, something like old-fashioned English chaises. Those who drove were very proud, because such elegant carriages were rarely seen outside of Philadelphia, and betokened much social prominence.
The big doors of the red barn stood wide open, and as soon as the horses were properly tethered the country people streamed inside. Most primitive benches had been placed in rows facing a broad platform at the farther end, and men, women and children filed into the seats with all the solemnity of people entering church. As soon as they had settled themselves on the benches they all stared at the platform.
Five swarthy, red-skinned Indians stood on the raised place, and a little in front of them stood a tall, strong-featured white man. The Indians wore their native buckskin clothes, and had chains of bright beads about their necks, but their faces were as quiet and peaceful as that of the white man in front of them. One of them, he who looked the youngest, wore a single brilliant red feather in his long black hair. All the men stood there patiently until the barn was filled.
Down in front, close to the platform, sat a small boy, his eyes fixed on the young Indian who wore the scarlet feather. The boy was about eight years old. His hair was dark and rather long, his blue eyes looked from under light yellowish eyebrows, his mouth was very wide but his lips were thin and straight. He looked alert and interested.
Presently the white man on the platform, who was a widely-known Moravian missionary named Count Zinzendorf, raised his voice in prayer. The farmers, their wives, and children knelt on the floor of the barn. When the prayer was ended the Count stated that at this meeting, or synod, as he called it, they were to hear from five Delaware Indians, lately converted to Christianity. One after the other the red men stepped forward and spoke, slowly, and sometimes hesitating over long English words, but with a fine earnestness that was accented by their strong, dignified bearing and their firm, well-cut features.
The boy in front listened attentively, although he could not understand everything they said. He liked Indians, and, as long as he had to go to church, he was glad he could look at these Delawares.
The synod came to an end, and the congregation filed slowly out of the barn. Those who had ridden mounted again, and went their homeward way at the slow and decorous pace suitable to Sunday. Squire Boone, who had been sitting on the front bench with his wife Sarah, and nine of his eleven children, gathered the latter together, and guided them, much like a flock of sheep, to his log cabin home near Oley. One of them, the fourth boy, Daniel by name, had lingered behind. He had waited until the five Delawares were leaving, and then had gone up to the youngest of the Indians, and touched his hand.
The Indian looked down at the small boy, and smiled. "How?" he said encouragingly.
"Is the feather in your hair a flamingo feather?" asked the boy.
The Delaware nodded. "Yes, him flamingo."
"How did you win it?"
The young man smiled again. "Once the Delawares must have rescue from the Hurons. A chief sent me with others to take word. We must go through Iroquois country to get Hurons. Iroquois bad people, war with us. Other Delawares killed, I take word in safe. Hurons go back with me, and help my people. Chief give me flamingo feather."
Admiration shone in the boy's eyes. "I like the Delawares," said he.
"Delawares like you people," replied the Indian. "What you name?"
"Daniel Boone. Some day, when I grow up, I'll come and visit you."
"Good," said the other. He held out his hand as he was used to seeing white men do. The boy put his palm in the Indian's, and they shook hands. Then Daniel turned and scampered down the road after his father.
The boys of the Boone family had a very good time. They lived on what was then the frontier between civilization and the wilderness. They learned to hunt and fish, and to know the habits of the animals of the woods and fields. Moreover they were almost as used to seeing Indians as to seeing white people, and had none of the fear of them which kept so many of the settlers farther east continually uneasy.
The boys and girls had plenty of work to do. Squire Boone had a big farm, and kept five or six looms working in his house, making homespun clothes for his large family and to sell to his neighbors. He owned a splendid grazing range some little distance north of his home, and sent his cattle there early each spring.
Shortly after that Sunday of Count Zinzendorf's missionary meeting Daniel's mother told him that he and she were to take the cattle north to this range, and watch them during the summer. Squire Boone was needed at the farm, the older girls were to tend the loom, and the mother had chosen her favorite son to go north with her.
At the beginning of summer they drove the cows to the range, and stayed there with them until autumn. Mrs. Boone and Daniel lived in a small cabin, far from any neighbors. Near the cabin, over a spring, was a dairy-house. The sturdy woman worked here, making fine butter and cheese, while Daniel kept guard over the cattle, letting them wander over the hills and through the woods as they would, but driving them back to their pen near the cabin at sunset.
This duty of herdsman left Daniel much time to himself. He spent this time in studying woodcraft. He grew passionately fond of everything belonging to the wilderness; he knew birds and beasts, the trails through the forest and the course of streams as well as any Indian. He set traps of his own making, and brought his captures proudly home at night to his mother.
At first he had to make his own weapons, and invented a curious implement, simply a slim, smooth-shaved sapling, with a bunch of twisted roots at the end. This he learned to throw so skilfully that he could readily kill birds, rabbits, and small game with it. A little later, however, his father gave him a rifle, and he became an expert marksman, able to provide his mother with plenty of game for food.
It was a wonderful life for a boy who loved the country. All summer he herded the cattle and roamed through the almost untrodden wilderness. In the winter his father let him hunt as soon as he had learned to handle a gun. Daniel roamed far and wide across the Neversink mountain range to the north and west of Monocacy Valley. He kept his family supplied with great stock of game, and he cured the animals' skins. When he had a sufficient store of skins he set out to market them in Philadelphia.
The city William Penn had founded on the banks of the Delaware was then a small but prosperous village. It had been designed on the plan of a checker-board, and most of the houses were surrounded by well-kept gardens and flourishing orchards. Primitive as it was, the country boy looked at it with wondering admiration. The houses, which were really very simple, were palaces to him, when he thought of his father's log cabin. The men and women, dressed in the latest importations brought from London by sailing vessels, were figures of surpassing style and elegance.
Life in Philadelphia seemed very rich to Daniel Boone; he liked to loiter along the streets and look in at the wide gardens and the comfortable white porches, and he liked to stop and watch a city chaise drive by, with a man in a claret or plum-colored suit and a woman in a bright taffeta gown. They were almost a different race from the buckskin-clad people of the wilderness from whom he came.
Yet the frontier was in fact very near to Philadelphia. A few outlying fields about the town alone separated it from the wild forest; guards were ever ready to give warning of danger from Indians on the war-path, and friendly Indians were constantly met with on the streets. There were many fur-traders, too, who brought their goods to market as Daniel did, and one was constantly meeting some rough-clad trapper in from the wilds for a few days of city life.
Daniel wandered about slowly, enjoying everything he saw with a boy's delight in the unusual, and finally exchanging the skins he had brought with him for things he needed in his hunting,—long, sharp-edged knives, flints, powder and lead for his gun.
When Daniel was fourteen his older brother married a young Quakeress who had received a better education than any of her neighbors. She liked Daniel and began to teach him to read and to figure. He was not a brilliant scholar, but he learned enough to do rough surveying work, and to write letters which expressed what he meant although spelled on a plan of his own. At about the same time Squire Boone started a blacksmith shop, and Daniel added this work to what he already did as herdsman and hunter. The work in iron gave him a chance to plan and carry out new ideas of his in regard to guns and traps.
The Pennsylvania country was gradually filling up, and in 1750, when Daniel was fifteen, Squire Boone began to wonder where his eleven children would find farming land. Directly westward rose the Alleghany Mountains, a high barrier to pioneers, and report said that the Indians who lived just beyond them were particularly fierce. Southwest, however, lay alluring valleys, broad meadows between the Appalachian ranges that stretched from Pennsylvania through Virginia and the Carolinas into far-off Georgia. Men who wanted new and bigger lands went south into the Blue Ridge country, and some near neighbors of the Boones had pushed on to the Yadkin Valley which lay in northwestern North Carolina. Reports came back of the splendid lands they found there.
Squire Boone was by nature a pioneer, a man who loved to explore new lands and build new settlements, and so he decided to venture into this new and promising country. There is a world of romance in such a journey as this the Boones now undertook, and they were but one of many thousand families who were pushing west and south, laying the foundations of a great land.
Mrs. Boone and the younger children were safely stowed away in canvas-covered wagons, such as were later known as "prairie schooners," and Squire Boone with Daniel and the older boys rode horseback, driving the cattle before them, and forming an armed guard about the caravan. They crossed the ford at Harper's Ferry and went on up the rich Shenandoah Valley. At night camp was pitched by a spring and the wagons drawn up in a circle about the cattle. A camp-fire was built and the game which Daniel as huntsman had shot was cooked for supper. Sentries were posted, and all night long father and sons took turns guarding against attack from Indians.
Think what a prospect lay before the pioneers! A vast tract of the fairest and richest land in the world waiting to be claimed from the wilderness. They had only to choose and take. But the zeal for exploration led them on, over the table-land of western Virginia, through the primeval forests, up the currents of the many rivers that flow toward the Ohio, and so on to the south and west.
As they neared the Yadkin they came to a splendid stretch of land; a high prairie, with fine grass for cattle, and near at hand streams edged with cane-brake. Daniel saw such fish and game as he had never seen before, fruit to be had for the taking, and a cattle range only bounded by the distant western mountains. But as he rode into the splendid prairie he thought more of those distant blue-topped heights than of the near-by meadows; he knew that on and on westward lay a great unknown country and already he felt it call to him to be explored.
Squire Boone chose land at a place called Buffalo Lick near the Yadkin River, and built a home there. Daniel now spent little time about the farm, for he had learned the value of skins in the Atlantic cities. Buffalo were plentiful all about the settlement, and he could kill four or five deer in a day. It was in truth a hunter's paradise. In a single day he could kill enough bears to make a ton of what was called bear-bacon; there were numberless wolves, panthers, and wildcats; turkeys, beavers, otters and smaller animals ran wild all about him, and from morn till night he was out hunting in the woods.
But life was not all sport for the young Boones. Various Indian tribes, the Catawbas, the Cherokees, and the Shawnese hunted not far away, and although they were often on friendly terms with the whites, and came to the settlement to trade, sometimes they put on their war paint, and descended on the small frontier homes with full fury.
As the French came down from the north disputing this new land with the English settlers they made the Indians their allies, and the border warfare grew more bitter. Finally the English general Braddock decided to march west himself and try to teach the French and Indians a lesson.
It was not likely that such a sturdy youth as Daniel Boone could resist the desire to march against the French. The expedition promised him a chance to push farther into that wild western country, if nothing else, and so he joined Braddock's small army with about a hundred other North Carolina frontiersmen. Daniel was made chief wagoner and blacksmith.
General Braddock knew nothing of Indian warfare, and the little expedition proved an easy target for their enemies. The cumbersome and heavily laden baggage wagons were a great handicap to them. The English regulars, the frontiersmen, and the baggage train were caught in the deep ravine of Turtle Creek, a few miles away from Pittsburg, and suddenly set upon by ambushed Indians commanded by French officers. Many of the drivers, caught in the trap, were killed. Daniel, however, contrived to cut the traces of his team, and mounting one of the horses, escaped down and out of the ravine under a fire of shot and arrows.
The Indians pursued the fugitives, laying waste the borders of Pennsylvania and Virginia, but not following as far south as the Yadkin. Daniel reached home, and set to work to strengthen the settlement's ties of friendship with the two tribes of the neighborhood, the Catawbas and the Cherokees. With their aid he was able to provide sufficient safeguard against the Northern tribes.
While he was with Braddock's army Daniel had met a man named John Finley, who fired his imagination with stories of his wanderings in the west. He was a fur-trader, and his passion for hunting had already led him into the Kentucky wilderness as far as the Falls of the Ohio River, where Louisville now stands. He had had countless adventures with Indians, with wild animals, and with the perils of stream and forest. Young Boone drank in the stories eagerly, and resolved that some day he would himself go out to explore the west.
Daniel had now come to manhood. For a time he stayed in the Yadkin Valley, but the call to follow the trail of the buffaloes and the westward moving Shawnese was clear in his ears. Dangerous days of Indian fighting on the border held him close at home, but the time came when he could resist the call no longer. He left home and took his way through the uncharted hills and forests to Kentucky.
At times he fought for his life with roving Indians, and at times he captained some small English garrison beset by the same red men. He won great renown as an Indian fighter, as a hunter, as an intrepid explorer. The little town of Boonesborough was named for him, and he defended it through a long and perilous siege. But so soon as men came and built homes and staked out farms Boone must be moving west. What he sought was the wilderness; he was happiest in the great recesses of the woods, or blazing his own trail across untrodden prairies.
He led the vanguard into North Carolina, into West Virginia, into Kentucky, and then into Missouri. He is a splendid example of the man who must go first to prepare the way for others, in every way the best type of those brave, hardy pioneers who were claiming the continent for English-speaking people. The things he had most desired as a boy he most desired in manhood, the rough life of a new country and the struggle to overcome the perils of the wild.
John Paul Jones
The Boy of the Atlantic: 1747-1792
The summer afternoon was fair, and the waves that rolled upon the north shore of Solway Firth in the western Lowlands of Scotland were calm and even. But the tide was coming in, and inch by inch was covering the causeway that led from shore to a high rock some hundred yards away. The rock was bare of vegetation, and sheer on the landward side, but on the face toward the sea were rough jutting points that would give a climber certain footholds, and near the top smooth ledges.
On one or two of these ledges sea-gulls had built their nests, tucked in under projecting points where they would be sheltered from wind and rain. Now the gulls would sweep in from sea, curving in great circles until they reached their homes, and then would sit on the ledge calling to their mates across the water. Except for the cries of the gulls, however, the rock was very quiet. The lazy regular beat of the waves about its base was very soothing. On the longest ledge, below the sea-gulls' nests, lay a boy about twelve years old, sound asleep, his face turned toward the ocean.
Either the gulls' cries or the sun, now slanting in the west, disturbed him. He did not open his eyes, but he clenched his fists, and muttered incoherently. Presently with a start he awoke. He rubbed his eyes, and then sat up. "What a queer dream!" he said aloud.
The ledge where he sat was not a very safe place. There was scarcely room for him to move, and directly below him was the sea. But this boy was quite as much at home on high rocks or in the water as he was on land, and he was very fond of looking out for distant sailing vessels and wondering where they might be bound.
He glanced along the north shore to the little fishing hamlet of Arbigland where he lived. He saw that the tide had come in rapidly while he slept, and that the path to the shore was now covered. He stood up and stretched his bare arms, brown with sunburn, high over his head. Then he started to climb down from the ledge by the jutting points of rock.
He was as sure-footed as any mountaineer. His clothes were old, so neither rock nor sea could do them much harm; his feet were bare. He was short but very broad, and his muscles were strong and supple. When he came to the foot of the rock he stood a moment, hunting for the deepest pool at its base, then, loosing his hold, he dove into the water.
In a few seconds he was up again, floating on his back; and a little later he struck out, swimming hand over hand, toward a sandy beach to the south.
A young man, wearing the uniform of a lieutenant in the British navy, stood on the beach, watching the boy swim. When the latter had landed and shaken the water from him much as a dog would, the man approached him. "Where on earth did you come from, John Paul?" he asked with a laugh. "The first thing I knew I saw you swimming in from sea."
"I was out on the rock asleep," said the boy. "The tide came up and cut me off. And oh, Lieutenant Pearson, I had the strangest dream! I dreamt I was in the middle of a great sea-fight. I was captain of a ship, and her yard-arms were on fire, and we were pouring broadsides into the enemy, afraid any minute that we'd sink. How we did fight that ship!"
The young officer's eyes glowed. "And I hope you may some day, John!" he exclaimed.
"But the strangest part was that our ship didn't fly the English flag," said the boy. "At the masthead was a flag I'd never seen, red and white with a blue field filled with stars in the corner. What country's flag is that?"
Pearson thought for a moment. "There's no such flag," he said finally. "I know them all, and there's none like that. The rest of your dream may come true, but not that about the flag. Come, let's be walking back to Arbigland."
Although John Paul's father came of peaceful farmer and fisher folk who lived about Solway Firth, his mother had been a "Highland lassie," descended from one of the fighting clans in the Grampian Hills. The boy had much of the Highlander's love of wild adventure, and found it hard to live the simple life of the fishing village. The sea appealed to him, and he much preferred it to the small Scotch parish school. His family were poor, and as soon as he was able he was set to steering fishing yawls and hauling lines. At twelve he was as sturdy and capable as most boys at twenty.
Many men in Arbigland had heard John Paul beg his father to let him cross the Solway to the port of Whitehaven and ship on some vessel bound for America, where his older brother William had found a new home. But his father saw no opening for his younger son in such a life. All the way back to town that afternoon the boy told Lieutenant Pearson of his great desire, and the young officer said he would try to help him.
The boy's chance, however, came in another way. A few days later it chanced that Mr. James Younger, a big ship-owner, was on the landing-place of Arbigland when some of the villagers caught sight of a small fishing yawl beating up against a stiff northeast squall, trying to gain the shelter of the little tidal-creek that formed the harbor of the town.
Mr. Younger looked long at the boat and then shook his head. "I don't think she'll do it," he said dubiously.
Yet the boat came on, and he could soon see that the only crew were a man and a boy. The boy was steering, handling the sheets and giving orders, while the man simply sat on the gunwale to trim the boat.
"Who's the boy?" asked the ship-owner.
"John Paul," said a bystander. "That's his father there."
Mr. Younger looked at the man pointed out, who was standing near, and who did not seem to be in the least alarmed. "Are you the lad's father?" he asked.
The man looked up and nodded. "Yes, that's my boy John conning the boat," said he. "He'll fetch her in. This isn't much of a squall for him!"
The father spoke with truth. The boy handled his small craft with such skill that he soon had her alongside the wharf. As soon as John Paul had landed Mr. Younger stepped up to the father and asked to be introduced to the son. Then the ship-owner told him how much he had admired his seamanship, and asked if he would care to sail as master's apprentice in a new vessel he owned, which was fitting out for a voyage to Virginia and the West Indies. The boy's eyes danced with delight; he begged his father to let him go, and finally Mr. Paul consented. The twelve-year-old boy had won his wish to go to sea.
A few days later the brig Friendship sailed from Whitehaven, with small John Paul on board, and after a slow voyage which lasted thirty-two days dropped anchor in the Rappahannock River of Virginia.
The life of a colonial trader was very pleasant in 1760. The sailing-vessels usually made a triangular voyage, taking some six months to go from England to the colonies, then to the West Indies, and so east again. About three of the six months were spent at the small settlements on shore, discharging goods from England, taking on board cotton and tobacco, and bartering with the merchants.
The Virginians, who lived on their great plantations with many servants, were the most hospitable people in the world, always eager to entertain a stranger, and the English sailors were given the freedom of the shore. The Friendship anchored a short distance down the river from where John Paul's older brother lived, and the boy immediately went to see him and stayed as his guest for some time.
This brother William had been adopted by a wealthy planter named Jones, and the latter was delighted with the young John Paul, and tried to get him to leave the sailor's life and settle on the Rappahannock. But much as John liked the easy life of the plantation, the fine riding horses, the wide fields and splendid rivers, the call of the sea was dearer to him, and when the Friendship dropped down the Rappahannock bound for Tobago and the Barbadoes he was on board of her.
Those were adventurous days for sailors and merchants. Money was to be made in many ways, and consciences were not overcareful as to the ways. The prosperous traders of Virginia did not mind taking an interest in some ocean rover bound on pirate's business, or in the more lawful slave-trade with the west coast of Africa. For a time, however, young John Paul sailed for Mr. Younger, and was finally paid by being given a one-sixth interest in a ship called King George's Packet.
The boy was now first mate, and trade with England being dull, he and the captain decided to try the slave-trade. For two years they made prosperous voyages between Jamaica and the coast of Guinea, helping to found the fortunes of some of the best known families of America by importing slaves.
After a year, however, John Paul tired of the business, and sold his share of the ship to the captain for about one thousand guineas. He was not yet twenty-one, but his seafaring life had already made him fairly well-to-do. He planned to go home and see his family in Scotland, and took passage in the brig John o' Gaunt.
Life on shipboard was full of perils then, and very soon after the brig had cleared the Windward Islands the terrible scourge of yellow fever was found to be on the vessel. Within a few days the captain, the mate, and all of the crew but five had died of the disease. John Paul was fully exposed to it, but he and the five men escaped it. He was the only one of those left who knew anything about navigation, so he took command, and after a stormy passage, with a crew much too small to handle the brig, he managed to bring her safely to Whitehaven with all her cargo. He handled her as skilfully as he had the small yawl in Solway Firth.
The owners of the John o' Gaunt were delighted and gave John Paul and his five sailors the ten per cent. share of the cargo which the salvage laws entitled them to. In addition they offered him the command of a splendid full-rigged new merchantman which was to sail between England and America, and a tenth share of all profits. It was a very fine offer to a man who had barely come of age, but the youth had shown that he had few equals as a mariner.
Good fortune shone upon him. He had no sooner sailed up the Rappahannock again and landed at the plantation where his brother lived than he learned that the rich old Virginian, William Jones, had recently died and in his will had named him as one of his heirs. He had always cherished a fancy for the sturdy, black-haired boy who had made him that visit. The will provided that John Paul should add the planter's name to his own. The young captain did not object to this, and so henceforth he was known as John Paul Jones.
Scores of stories are told of the young captain's adventures. He loved danger, and it was his nature to enjoy a fight with men or with the elements. On a voyage to Jamaica he met with serious trouble. Fever again reduced the crew to six men, and Jones was the only officer able to be on deck. A huge negro named Maxwell tried to start a mutiny and capture the ship for his own uses. He rushed at Jones, and the latter had to seize a belaying-pin and hit him over the head. The man fell badly hurt and soon after reaching Jamaica died.
Jones gave himself up to the authorities and was tried for murder on the high seas. He said to the court: "I had two brace of loaded pistols in my belt, and could easily have shot him. I struck with a belaying-pin in preference, because I hoped that I might subdue him without killing him." He was acquitted, and soon after offered command of a new ship built to trade with India.
The charm of life in Virginia appealed more and more strongly to the sailor. He liked the new country, the society of the young cities along the Atlantic coast, and he spent less time on the high seas and more time fishing and hunting on his own land and in Chesapeake Bay. He might have settled quietly into such prosperous retirement had not the minutemen of Concord startled the new world into stirring action.
John Paul Jones loved America and he loved ships. Consequently he was one of the very first to offer his services in building a new navy. Congress was glad to have him; he was known as a man of the greatest courage and of supreme nautical skill.
On September 23, 1779, Paul Jones, on board the American ship Bon Homme Richard, met the British frigate Serapis off the English coast. A battle of giants followed, for both ships were manned by brave crews and commanded by extraordinarily skilful officers. The short, black-haired, agile American commander saw his ship catch fire, stood on his quarterdeck while the blazing spars, sails and rigging fell about him, while his men were mowed down by the terrific broadsides of the Serapis, and calmly directed the fire of shot at the enemy.
Terribly as the Bon Homme Richard suffered, the Serapis was in still worse plight. Two-thirds of her men were killed or wounded when Paul Jones gave the signal to board her. The Americans swarmed over the enemy's bulwarks, and, armed with pistol and cutlass, cleared the deck.
The captain of the Serapis fought his ship to the last, but when he saw the Americans sweeping everything before them and already heading for the quarterdeck, he himself seized the ensign halyards and struck his flag. Both ships were in flames, and the smoke was so thick that it was some minutes before men realized his surrender. There was little to choose between the two vessels; each was a floating mass of wreckage.
A little later the English captain went on board the Bon Homme Richard and tendered his sword to the young American. The latter looked hard at the English officer. "Captain Pearson?" he asked questioningly.
The other bowed.
"Ah, I thought so. I am John Paul Jones, once small John Paul of Arbigland in the Firth. Do you remember me?"
Pearson looked at the smoke-grimed face, the keen black eyes, the fine figure. "I shouldn't have known you. Yes, I remember now."
Paul Jones took the sword that was held out to him, and asked one of his midshipmen to escort the British captain to his cabin. He could not help smiling as a curious recollection came to him. He looked up at the masthead above him. There floated a flag bearing thirteen red and white stripes and a blue corner filled with stars. It was the very flag of his dream as a boy.
Thus it was that the sturdy Scotch boy, full of the daring spirit of his Highland ancestors, became the great sea-fighter of a new country, and ultimately wrote his name in history as the Father of the American Navy.
The Boy of Salzburg: 1756-1791
The great hall of the famous musical society of Bologna in Italy was filled with musicians on the afternoon of October 9, 1770. They had gathered to welcome a small boy who had recently come with his father from the town of Salzburg in Austria. The most marvelous stories of his genius as a composer had preceded him, and his travels through Europe had been one long success. Yet it scarcely seemed possible that a boy of fourteen could know so much about music as this one was said to. That was why the learned men of Bologna had gathered together this afternoon. They were going to test Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's skill.
It was about four o'clock when the usher at the door announced Leopold Mozart and his son Wolfgang. The members of the society faced the newcomers. They saw a tall, fine-looking man accompanied by a slim, fair-haired boy with smiling eyes and mouth. The boy was richly dressed, with much gold lace upon his coat and trousers. He was perfectly self-possessed, and when he saw the eyes of all the men in the room fixed upon him he made a low bow. It was gracefully done, and a murmur of welcome rose from the members. So this was the boy of whom all the musicians of Europe were talking.
The skill of the young composer was now to be put to the test. Three men approached the boy, the president of the society and two experienced Kapellmeisters, or choirmasters. In the presence of all the members the boy was given a difficult anthem, which he was invited to set to music in four parts. He was then led by a beadle into an adjoining room, and the door locked. There the boy set to work on his composition.
Just half an hour later the boy knocked on the door in signal that the music was finished. The beadle opened the door, and the boy presented his completed score to the president. The latter examined the score carefully, then handed it to the Kapellmeisters. They in turn examined it, and passed it on to the other members. Each man as he looked at the composition showed his surprise. Finally it had made the circuit of the room. Then a ballot-box was passed, and each member was asked to cast either a white or a black ball, depending on whether he thought the newcomer was worthy to be admitted to the distinguished society of Bologna. Every ball cast was white.
Young Mozart was then recalled to the room. When he entered this time he was greeted with cheers. The president met him, and informed him of his election. Then the members pressed about him, eager to praise his work. He had been set a very difficult type of composition, and had accomplished in half an hour greater results than any other candidate had ever reached in three hours.
The musicians of Bologna decided that the judgments of the European courts as to this boy's genius were correct.
Father and son proceeded on their journey south through Italy. They reached Rome during Holy Week, and learned that the celebrated music of the "Miserere" was being given in the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican. It was very difficult to gain admittance to the Chapel, as the Pope and many of the Cardinals were there. The rich dress of the two visitors, the German they spoke, and the singular air of authority which the boy showed, convinced the Swiss guards at the door that these were people of importance. One soldier whispered to another that this was a young German prince traveling with his tutor. They were allowed to enter, and the boy, accustomed from infancy to the life of courts, immediately walked to the Cardinals' table, and placed himself between the chairs of two of those Princes of the Church.
One of the latter, Cardinal Pallavicini, surprised at the boy's assurance, beckoned to him, and said, "Will you have the goodness to tell me in confidence who you are?"
"Wolfgang Mozart of Salzburg," answered the boy.
"What!" cried the Cardinal. "Are you really that famous boy of whom so many men have written to me?"
Mozart bowed in assent. "And are you not Cardinal Pallavicini?" he asked in turn.
"Yes," said the prelate. "Why do you ask?"
"My father and I have letters to your Eminence," said the boy, "and are anxious to wait upon you with our compliments."
The Cardinal was delighted at the boy's arrival, had a seat placed for him, and talked to him in the intermissions of the service. He complimented him on learning Italian so quickly, saying that he could speak very little German. When the music was over Wolfgang kissed the Cardinal's hand, and the latter, taking his red biretta from his head, invited the boy to make a long stay at the Papal court.
The boy was very much impressed by the music of the "Miserere," and when he left the Chapel asked where he could get a copy of it. To his dismay he was told that the music was considered so wonderful that the Papal musicians were forbidden on pain of excommunication by the Pope to take any part of the score away, or to copy it, or allow any one else to copy it.
Mozart, however, was determined to have a copy of that music, even if he had to pay the penalty of being excommunicated. He soon hit on a plan.
The next morning the boy arrived early at the Sistine Chapel, and devoted all his thought to remembering the music. It was exceedingly difficult, performed as it was by a double choir, and full of singular effects, one of which was the absence of any particular rhythm. The task of putting down such music in notes was tremendous. Yet, when Wolfgang left the Chapel he went straight home to the lodgings his father had taken, and made a sketch of the entire music. He went again on Good Friday morning, and sat with his copy hidden in his hat. In that way he corrected and completed it. When it was finished he told his father of it, and the news soon spread through Rome that this wonderful boy had actually stolen the complete score of the "Miserere" exactly as it was composed by Allegri.
The feat was said to be unheard of, and many considered it impossible. Certain men of importance called to see Wolfgang's father about it, with the result that the boy was obliged to show what he had written at a large musical party held for that special purpose. The musician Christofori, who had sung in the choir in the Chapel, pronounced the copy absolutely correct. Every one was amazed, and then so much delighted at the marvelous skill of this boy of fourteen that the penalty of excommunication was entirely forgotten. Princes, Cardinals, all that part of Rome which loved art and music, had only wondering admiration for the young German musician.
There had never been any doubt among those who had met the boy Mozart that he was a genius. At fourteen years of age he had already been playing the clavier and the violin for a number of years. His father, himself a musician, was attached to the court of the Archbishop of Salzburg, and had written a great deal of music. But when he discovered the amazing genius of his two children, his son and daughter, he devoted himself entirely to training them.
The boy was born January 27, 1756, and was christened John Chrysostom Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, quite a large collection of names. The girl, Maria, was four years older. When Maria was seven years old her father began to give her lessons on the clavier, which was an instrument very much like the piano, and the girl soon won the highest reputation for her playing. When she began to play, her small brother Wolfgang, or Woferl as he was called in nickname, although only three years old, constantly watched her, and whenever he had the chance tried striking the keys himself. At four he had shown the ability to remember solos from concerts he was taken to, and it then first occurred to his father that his son was a genius. Before long Wolfgang was composing pieces which his father wrote down for him.
It was only a year or two later that Leopold Mozart, coming home with a friend one day, found the boy very busy with pen and ink.
"What are you doing there, Woferl?" asked the father.
"Writing a concerto for the clavier," answered the small boy. "The first part is just finished."
His father smiled. "It must be something very fine, I dare say; let us look at it."
"No, no," said Woferl, "it isn't ready yet."
Leopold however picked up the paper, and he and his friend began to laugh as they looked at the rudely scrawled notes. The paper was also covered with blots, for the boy had kept jabbing his pen to the very bottom of his inkstand, and often wiped the clots of ink across the paper. But after a moment's examination Leopold stopped laughing, and both men looked hard at the sheet. There were ideas in music scrawled there which even a grown man found it difficult to understand.
"See," said the father in amazement, "it is written correctly and regularly, though it can't be used because it's so difficult we couldn't find any one who could play it."
The boy looked up quickly. "It's a concerto, father, and must be practiced a long time before it can be played. It ought to go this way." He began to play it as best he could on the clavier, but could give them only the barest outline of it. As a matter of fact the boy had written the music with a full score of accompaniments, ready to be played by a full orchestra.
At six Mozart knew the effect of sounds as shown by notes, and could compose unaided by any instrument.
Leopold Mozart could not keep the story of his children's great talents to himself, and in a very short time news of their remarkable ability had spread through Austria. Invitations poured in upon the father asking him to bring the boy and girl to different courts, and he decided to take them on a concert tour.
The children played at all the chief cities of the empire, and everywhere they were welcomed as infant prodigies. The Emperor and Empress took special delight in them, loaded them with presents, and insisted on having them treated with all the respect given to grown artists. Little Woferl appeared at court in a suit of white and gold, very resplendent with lace, ruffles, and ornaments of all sorts. His small sister, in white brocaded taffeta, was dressed exactly like an archduchess in miniature.
It is a wonder that both children were not hopelessly spoiled by the treatment they received, but fortunately both had much good sense, and they enjoyed their travels without becoming conceited.
Leopold and his children went from Austria to Paris, and then to London. Everywhere their concerts met with the same success. In London the most difficult pieces by Bach and Handel were put before the boy, but he played them at sight, and without the slightest mistake. Bach was at that time music-master to the English Queen, and he took special delight in young Mozart. He would take the boy on his knees, and play a few bars, and then have the boy continue them, and so, each playing in turn, they would perform an entire sonata, as if with a single pair of hands.
The trip to England set a final seal on Woferl's fame. His father wrote home: "My girl is esteemed the first female performer in Europe, though only twelve years old, and ... the high and mighty Wolfgang, though only eight, possesses the acquirements of a man of forty. In short, those only who see and hear can believe; and even you in Salzburg know nothing about him, he is so changed."
After a year or two of travel the family returned home. It was now decided that the boy should try his hand at an opera. Genius, however, is apt to inspire jealousy, and Mozart was now so well known that many of the leading musicians of Germany plotted against him. It was galling to their pride to find that a child knew so much more than they. As a result they planned to avoid hearing the boy if they could, so that when asked they could say they doubted his ability, and thought his great skill most likely sham.
The father laid a plan to catch one of these men, a well-known Viennese musician. He learned privately of a place where this man would be present on a certain occasion, and had Woferl go there, and took with him an exceedingly hard concerto which the man had written. During the afternoon this concerto was placed before the boy, and he played it perfectly. The musician could not help but show his delight at hearing his own music so wonderfully given. He had to speak the truth. Turning to the people present he said, "I can say no less as an honest man than that this boy is the greatest man in the world; it could not have been believed."
But in spite of such occasional confessions the boy had a hard time to succeed. Every possible obstacle was put in the way of his opera. The manager who had agreed to produce the opera was influenced to change his mind, the singers complained of their parts, and said that the music was too difficult for them to sing, the copyists so altered the scores that the boy did not recognize his own work at rehearsals. Finally father and son had to agree that the opera be withdrawn, realizing that if it were played it would be so wretchedly done that it would bring more blame than praise to its composer.
Yet this boy was not to be daunted. Although his opera which was a very long work, containing 558 pages, was not to be given, he instantly set to work again, and in little more than a month had finished three new works for a full orchestra.
Seeing how much the jealousy of other musicians in Germany and Austria hurt his work, the young Mozart turned his eyes toward Italy. That country was the home of the arts, and each city had its band of citizens who were as devoted to music as they were to poetry and the stage.
Fortunately at about the same time an invitation came from the Empress Maria Theresa inviting the young musician to compose a dramatic serenade in honor of the wedding of the Archduke Ferdinand in Milan. It was a great compliment to pay so young a man, and Mozart gladly accepted.
Going to Milan, he set to work on the composition. In contrast to the way in which he had lately been treated in Austria he found every one in Milan eager to be of help. The singers liked the music, and did their best with it. When the serenade was finally publicly given it made a great impression. The Archduke was delighted with it. For days afterward Mozart was kept busy receiving callers who wished to offer their congratulations. The Italians proved that they at least were not unwilling to admit his greatness.
Great honors had come to the young composer of Salzburg, but very little money. Most musicians of that time were simply music-masters or choirmasters at the different courts. Their support depended almost entirely upon finding some prince who would keep them at his court. Mozart cast his eyes over Europe and saw no place that offered him much promise. The world was willing enough to shower its praises on him, but not to provide him with his daily bread.
There was no place open in Italy, and so, although with regret, he had to turn homeward to Salzburg. Unfortunately a new Archbishop had just been elected for that city, and he was devoted almost entirely to hunting and sports, cared nothing for music, and could not understand why young Mozart was entitled to any special favors from him.
Under such circumstances Mozart could not stay at home; he had to accept such chances as were offered him to make a living. Being asked to write an opera bouffe for the carnival at Munich, he agreed, and again met with success. The night the opera was given the theatre was so crowded that hundreds had to be turned away at the doors. At the close of each air there was a tremendous outburst of applause, and calls for the composer. Afterward Mozart was presented to the whole court of Munich, and received their thanks for the great honor he had done them.
Singularly enough the Archbishop of Salzburg happened to be in Munich at the same time, and was very much surprised at being congratulated on every hand at possessing such a genius at his home. Some of the nobles called upon him and paid him their solemn congratulations, and he was so embarrassed that he could make no reply except to shake his head and shrug his shoulders.
Such trips as that to Munich however were now of rare occurrence. Wolfgang, now about nineteen, went back to Salzburg, and set to work harder than ever. His skill was tested in many different ways. He wrote compositions for the church, the theatre, and the concert-chamber; he played brilliantly on the clavier; he was a wonderful organist at all festivals of the church, and showed the greatest skill on the violin.
The Archbishop had to have the services of a musician on certain state occasions, and never failed to call on Mozart when he needed him. Yet all that he paid Mozart was a nominal salary, which was actually less than six dollars a year. What was true of the Archbishop was now almost equally true of all the court at Salzburg. The nobles there had never undervalued his services until he wanted to be paid for them. Then he was told that his abilities had been greatly overrated, and was advised to go to Italy and study music seriously there.
At last their neglect forced him to start forth again upon his travels to see whether he could find a prince who would accept his services at something nearer their real value.
In vain the youth wandered from court to court; then for a time he returned to Salzburg, where the Archbishop treated him as a showman might a performing dog, using his great genius in tests of skill before royal visitors.
Later he went to the Emperor's court at Vienna, and there at last he began to receive something of his due. Not only other musicians, but the public generally admitted his great gifts. He wrote operas, "Don Giovanni," "The Magic Flute," and "The Marriage of Figaro," being the most popular of them. Finally he was able to do somewhat as he pleased, instead of writing only to suit the order of a prince or noble who could pay him with some position in his court or at his home.
The world acknowledged Mozart's genius from the time when, a small boy of six, he and his sister played the clavier. But the life of a musician in those days, no matter how great his genius, was a hard one, and the world was not very kind to the youth when he grew up and had to make his own way. Perhaps his happiest days were those when his sister and he traveled with their good father, and had nothing to think of but the pleasure they could give with their great gifts.
The Boy of Versailles: 1757-1834
Marie Antoinette, the little Queen of France, was giving a fete at the royal palace of Versailles, outside of Paris, and the beautiful gardens of the palace, world famous for their wonderful statues and fountains, flowers and groves, presented an amazing sight on that midsummer night. A hundred elves and fairies, hobgoblins and wood-nymphs danced in and out about groups of strangely dressed grown-up people, who were neither in court costume nor in real masquerade. The older lords and ladies of the court were trying to humor their young Queen's whim without parting with any of their dignity, and the result of their attempt was this very curious sight—tall, stiff goblins, wearing elaborate, powdered wigs and jeweled swords, stout wood-nymphs with bare arms and shoulders, and glittering with jewels.
Never had the court of France thought itself so absolutely absurd, and never had the children of that famous court enjoyed themselves so much. They played all sorts of games about the dignified people scattered over the grounds, until the latter were quite ready to believe that the days of elves and fairies had really returned.
The boy Marquis de Lafayette led the revels. It was he to whom the little Queen had appealed for help when she first planned her garden party. Her boy husband, Louis XVI, was more interested in machinery than in anything else. He was fond of taking clocks to pieces and putting them together again, and in working over old locks and keys, and so had left his young Queen very much to herself ever since he had brought her from Austria to France.
Marie Antoinette was passionately fond of fun, and the stiff lords and ladies of her husband's court bored her extremely. They were anxious above everything else to keep up their old ceremonies, and to make life simply a matter of rules. So it was that the girl turned to the young boy Marquis, who was almost as fond of sports as she was, and with his help gathered a band of boys and girls of her own age about her.
Then one summer day, while Louis was busy in his workshop, Marie Antoinette plotted with Lafayette to hold a fete champetre in the gardens which should be very different from anything the court of France had seen before. She said that all her guests should appear either as goblins or as nymphs. They would not dance the quadrille nor any other stately measure, but would be free to romp and play such jokes as might occur to them. When he heard these plans Lafayette shook his head doubtfully.
"What will the lords in waiting say to this?" he asked, "and your Majesty's own ladies of the court?"
The Queen laughed and shrugged her pretty shoulders. "Who cares?" she said. "As long as Louis is king I shall do what pleases me."
Then she clapped her hands as a new idea occurred to her. "I shall go to Louis," she added, "and have him issue an order commanding every one who attends the fete to dress either as a goblin or a nymph. He will do it for me, I know."
When the King heard her request he good-humoredly agreed, for he found it hard to deny his pretty young wife anything, and so the order was issued. Imagine the horror of the grown-up courtiers when they heard the command! Unbend sufficiently to dress as goblins and nymphs? Never! The saucy young Queen and her friends must be taught a lesson. As soon as she knew of their disapproval she would of course give up her scheme.
On the contrary, the Queen did nothing of the sort. She made Lafayette master of ceremonies, and gave strict orders that no one should be admitted to the gardens on the night of the fete unless they were dressed as commanded. In the meantime the boys and girls were planning the costumes they would wear and rehearsing the play they were to act.
But the court party was not to be beaten so easily, and the Royal Chamberlain and the Queen's Mistress of the Robes hunted up the King in his workshop and told him that such a performance as was planned would shame the French court in the eyes of the whole world. Louis listened to them patiently and said he would consider the matter. Then he sent for his wife and Lafayette and the other ringleaders. Between them they described how absurd the courtiers would look with such good effect that Louis laughed until he cried. Then he dismissed the whole matter from his mind and went back to the tools on his work-table, which were the only things that seriously concerned him.
Now that the garden party was at its height, Lafayette was the undisputed leader of the youths. It was he who swooped down upon the stately Mistress of the Robes and ordered his band of hobgoblins to carry her off to the summer-house on the edge of the woods, and keep her a prisoner there, while they sang her the latest ballads of the Paris streets. It was he who had a ring of fairies dance about the Lord Chamberlain until that haughty person was so dizzy that he had to put his hands to his eyes and run as rapidly as dignity would let him to a place of safety. The boy took his orders from the beautiful Queen of the Fairies, Marie Antoinette, who, more radiant and lovely than ever, sat on the rustic throne and sent her messengers to the different groups in the gardens. Beside her stood the young King Louis, laughing and admiring the ingenuity of her plans.
Next day, however, came the retribution. The courtiers were up in arms. They had managed to go through one such evening, but they did not propose to stand another. The most important people in France went to the King and placed their grievances before him. Louis loved peace, so that now he was willing to take the side of the courtiers, and as a result the day of the children was over.
Marie Antoinette, fond of pleasure above everything else, tried to have her way for a short time, but before a month had passed, the weight of its old time formal dignity had fallen on Versailles, and the children were again made to pattern after their elders.
Fond as the young Marquis had been of the good times with playmates of his own age at Versailles, he could not endure the stiff court nor look with any satisfaction to the formal life which most of the young men of the time led. He was naturally too independent to bow and scrape as was required. In spite of his careful training he found that he had not acquired the endless flow of frivolous talk which was popular at court. He was usually silent in company, and more and more given to going away by himself, in order to escape the affectations of the life about him. His only chance seemed to lie in the army, and therefore he spent a great deal of his time with his regiment of Black Musketeers, and began to plan for a military career.
He had been made a cadet of the old French regiment called the Black Musketeers when he was only twelve years old. Then he was a slight little chap with bright reddish hair and very fair complexion, and much too small to carry a man's arms; but he was so fond of the splendid-looking set of men that whenever they paraded he was sure to be somewhere near at hand to watch them. The boy's name had been placed on the Musketeers' rolls, though not as a regular cadet, very soon after his birth, because his great-uncle had been a member of the regiment and was eager to have his family name connected with it.
It happened that this twelve-year-old cadet was already a very important person in the kingdom of France. He had been baptized by the names of Marie Paul Joseph Roche Ives Gilbert de Mottier, and held the title of Marquis of Lafayette. His father had been killed at the battle of Minden when he was only twenty-four years old, but had already won a great name for bravery. His mother died soon afterward, and so the young Marquis was left almost alone in his great castle of Chavaniac in the Auvergne Mountains of southern France.
He must have been very lonely with no playmates of his own age and only masters and governesses about him. He was what people called "land poor," which meant that although he owned a large part of French territory, it brought him in but small profit, and he had little money to spend.
To make up for his lack of playmates, his masters spent much time drilling the boy Marquis in the etiquette of the French nobility. High-born French youths at that time had many things to learn, but they were such things as would make the boy an ornamental piece of furniture at court. He must be able to enter a drawing-room with perfect dignity, to compliment a lady, to pick up a fan, to offer his arm with an air of gallantry, to take part in the formal dances of the period, to draw his sword in case his honor should require it.
The little boys and girls of Louis XVI's reign were dressed in stiff court clothes almost as soon as they were old enough to talk, and were taught bows and curtsies, gallant words and dancing steps when other children would have been playing out-of-doors. As a result they grew up much alike, most of them merely fashion plates to decorate the royal palace at Versailles.
Fortunately for the boy his lonely life in the mountains ended when he was twelve years old. Then his great uncle sent for him to come to Paris, and placed him at the College du Plessis, where a great many other young courtiers were being educated. The school taught him very little of history, of foreign languages, or sciences, but a great deal about riding and fencing and dancing, and how to write a letter which should be full of worldly wisdom. At about the same time his grandfather died, and he inherited a very large fortune, so that the small boy bore not only one of the oldest titles in the kingdom but possessed enough money to do exactly as he pleased. There was only one course open to him—the life of a courtier at Versailles.
In that age of ceremony marriage was quite as much a formal matter as other affairs of life. The young Marquis's guardians, according to the custom of the time, immediately looked about for a girl of equal rank who might marry their boy. They decided on little Marie Adrienne de Noailles, daughter of a great peer of France. The girl was only twelve years old, and her mother was very unwilling to have her married to a boy whose character was unformed, and whose fortune would allow him to become as wild as he chose. Her father, however, liked the match, and her mother finally agreed, insisting, however, that the children should wait two years before their wedding.
When these arrangements had all been made and the engagement was formally announced, the boy Marquis was taken to call at the house of his future wife, and was presented to her in the garden. Formal paths wound under a row of chestnut-trees, carefully tended flower-beds were arranged with mathematical precision, a few peacocks strutted across the lawn, and here and there a marble statue or a great stone jar from Italy gave a classic touch to the scene.
The small boy, dressed in court clothes of velvet, his fair hair in long curls, his three-cornered hat held beneath his arm, his court rapier hanging at his side, bright silver buckles at knees and on shoes, advanced down the walk to the little lady who was waiting for him. She was in flowered satin, her long, yellow hair falling to her shoulders, her light-blue eyes looking timidly at the boy, and her pale cheeks flushing as he approached. As he stood before her, she held out her hand, and he delicately lifted it with his and touched his lips to her fingers. She blushed redder, then he paid her a few stately compliments, and they walked down the path laughing shyly at this new intimacy. She had seen few boys before, and he had known few girls, and yet their guardians had destined them for man and wife.
It was a curious, old-world picture that the two children made, but the scene was quite characteristic of the age.
At the time he lived at Versailles and made one of the group about the little King and Queen, the guardians of the young Marquis expected to find him growing more and more popular with the royal court, and they were very much surprised when they learned how reserved he was becoming and how little he seemed interested in the pursuits of his age. When they heard of his being one of the ringleaders at the Queen's party, they were horrified. They determined to try and make him more like themselves, and so sought to get him a place in the household of one of the royal family, the Duc de Provence.
Lafayette was very much disturbed at the thought, and secretly determined to defeat the plan. Before the position was finally offered him he went to a masked ball, and learning which was the Duc de Provence in disguise, went up to him and spoke republican sentiments which were not at all to the nobleman's liking. Then the boy allowed the masked man to recognize him. The Duc said sharply that he should remember the interview. Thereupon young Lafayette made him a profound bow and replied calmly that memory was often called the wit of fools. This, of course, ended the chance of his preferment in the royal household, and the boy was freed from what he considered an irksome task.
As a result however he was no longer popular at court, and soon asked that he might be allowed to go back to his distant castle in Auvergne until he was old enough to take his place in the army. His guardians were glad to have him safely out of the way for a time, and granted his request.
So for a year the little Marie Jean Paul de Lafayette went back to his mountain home and browsed in his father's library and rode over his estates. He liked the peasants in the country. They were a brighter race, not so sullen and discontented as the people in the streets of Paris, but even here, far from Versailles, the boy heard much of the frightful poverty of the people and the gross extravagance of the court. It made him think, and the more he considered the matter the more he thought the people's claims were just.
At the end of a year the boy went back to Paris and married the girl to whom he had been betrothed. He was sixteen, she fourteen, but the Duchess considered that the boy had shown that he was neither a spendthrift nor a fool, and that her daughter could be trusted to him. So the two, scarcely more than school children, opened their residence in Paris, and took their place in that gay world which was riding so rapidly to its downfall.
Meanwhile news was constantly coming to France concerning the glorious stand which the American colonists were making against England. The love of liberty was strong in the boy's heart, and the desire to help the colonists soon came to be his greatest wish. Beneath his reserved manner and his silent habits there lay the greatest enthusiasm, and the most determined character.
He soon had concluded that there was little hope of winning laurels in the regiment of Black Musketeers, and he cast his eyes longingly across the seas to where real fighting was taking place; but when he told his wish to his friends they all opposed him. He went to an old general who had long been a friend of his family, and urged him to help him in his plan to go to America.
"Ah, my boy!" said the general, "I have seen your uncle die in the Italian wars. I saw your father killed at Minden. I will not help in the ruin of the last member of your family. You would only risk life and fortune over there without any chance of reward."
That was exactly what Lafayette was anxious to do, and he would not give up his plan. He crossed the Channel to London, and there met some of the men who were interested in the colonial cause. He went to a secret meeting, and heard them discuss plans to help the Americans. They, on their part, at first looked askance at the tall, slender, reddish-haired young Frenchman, who had so little to say himself, and who seemed so easily embarrassed. But when they learned that he had a great fortune, and that if he should aid their cause other young noblemen would follow him, they did their best to win his help. They little knew how invaluable his rare spirit would prove in winning freedom for their land.
As he was an officer in the French army, the young Marquis found it very difficult to leave France without the consent of the government, and this he could not gain. He and a friend, named Baron de Kalb, made their plans to escape secretly from Paris to Bordeaux. When he reached the port he found that his ship was not ready, and before he could sail two officers arrived from court, bearing peremptory orders forbidding him to go to America or to assist the colonists.
He would not give up his great desire, and so although he pretended that he was willing to obey the command, he planned secretly to escape across the Spanish border and sail from a Spanish port. He and a friend left Bordeaux in a post-chaise, announcing that they were on their way to the French city of Marseilles. As soon as their carriage reached the open country the young Marquis stepped out, and, now disguised as a courier, mounted one of the horses and rode on ahead, ordering the relays. When they reached the road which led toward Spain they changed their course. The officers who had been set to spy upon him, however, now were giving chase, and at the next inn Lafayette was obliged to hide in the straw of a stable until the pursuers should pass.
It so happened that he had ridden over that road a little time before, and the innkeeper's daughter knew him by sight. When he rode into the courtyard she exclaimed, "There comes the Marquis de Lafayette!" and he was much alarmed, lest some of the bystanders should give away his secret. He made them understand, however, that he was traveling in disguise, so that when the pursuers arrived and asked questions, the people of the inn all agreed that no such gentleman as Lafayette had been seen in the neighborhood.