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Chapter 2

1634: A Day of Rest?

On a bright late-spring morning, Eliezer awoke with a start. Something had been nagging him, but the itching reminder had been calling from the midst of a crowd of yammering priorities. He sat straight up.

"It's Sunday!"

"Mmmm," Arrow said. Thunder didn't stir in her nighttime crib

"I missed last week. I never even thought about it. It wasn't as if I didn't know. I took the time to find out what day it was when we were in New Amsterdam. At sea, Who knew?”

"What are you going on about?" She had a habit of reverting to her native Oneida when half-asleep. She'd been teaching him the Iroquois language; he understood her well enough.

"It's Sunday!"

"And you woke me up for that?" Dark, emotional clouds began to form over her head. "What's that supposed to mean to us?" She switched to English, their original common language.

"The Puritans forbid almost all activity on Sunday. It's so important they'll whip people caught working Sunday."

"So we're Puritans now?" Arrow wasn't some wholehearted, baptized convert. She sometimes found her husband religion incomprehensible. "Then, were not allowed to work today?"

"No, we're not Puritans. They're like the Pharisees who plotted to kill Jesus. They're too tied up in the outward commandments to listen to the Spirit. God created everything in six days and rested on the seventh day. The two of us need a day of rest. We're not God. Sunday is called the 'Lord's Day' over in Revelation. It's just a good choice for a day for rest."

"Pah! No work, huh? Just what were you planning to eat today?"

"Oh, we can do lesser things, but a person needs to clear the mind and body once in awhile. I'm going to sit under a tree and peel poles for the longhouse frame. I'll read my Bible and sharpen my ax, but I'll hold off any new attack on the forest until tomorrow. The stumps and big rocks are safe today. Rest, Like I said."

"You're a moron, like I said! We can't afford a day of no work. I'm going to take the hoe and work on the bean rows. You, Mr. Sit-in-the-Shade, are going to watch Thunder. When she dirties herself and wets herself, you're going to clean her up!" She was prepared for a fight, but it just didn't happen.

"Fine. Should I nurse her when she gets hungry?" Her face turned a darker red as she surged out of the half-completed longhouse. He watched her seize the hoe and stamp toward the beans. She'd batted the bearskin door-flap so hard that it stayed open. Leaning slightly to one side, he watched her. God pity the weed that met an angry Arrow and her hoe. She felt about invading weeds and grass the same way the Oneida felt about a Mohican raiding party on Iroquois hunting grounds.

Soon, a sheen of sweat was reflecting the morning light from her forehead. Her pox-marks were still there, but he'd been looking past them for so long that they could as well have been at the ocean's bottom. How he loved her! He was always astounded by that. She was like the handcrafted flintlock pistol he'd inherited from Sir Edmond St. Clair: smooth and beautiful; a work of art. Still, you didn't want to be standing in front of it when the flint sparked the pan. Her red-brown face made European women seem pasty by comparison. She was young and strong. She'd have been near the Iroquois ideal of beauty, had the smallpox not scarred her.

Thunder stirred and whimpered. He hurried to pick her up. He sighed: Cleaning a wet, stinky baby wasn't his specialty, but he’d agreed to do the job (through self-preserving inertia). He stumbled through the cleanup, but his (male) blacksmith's hands weren't really meant for the task. Only the wettest sphagnum moss needed removed from the baby-carrier. She was still fussy; she was hungry. He picked up his daughter.

His daughter had been fathered by an unknown white man, probably an English ship's doctor. Her half-white features would leave her adrift in society, not just English or Dutch society, but Pequot and Iroquois as well. The only tribe that she'd always be a part of was the three-person tribe at the smithy on the Hudson. Arrow seemed determined to generate her own, larger tribe, anyway. He held the tiny girl gingerly, half-fearful of damaging her with his strength.

He loved her with the same strength of affection that he held for Arrow. He'd read enough of the New Testament to know that the apparent contradiction of full love for one, but also full love for others, was no contradiction at all. Love, like that with which the Son of God was filled, never failed, never got used up, could always stretch even more. Eliezer wouldn't have hesitated for a second to lay down his life for Arrow or Thunder. He'd finally come to understand the Son's ultimate sacrifice. He'd died for all three of the St. Clair tribe already. Eliezer knew that he didn't quite understand the part about a love so great that He could die for sinners and evil men, just as He'd died for good men and good women and little girls.

He carried the baby out to the garden. He and Arrow had been together long enough so that no words need be spoken. Any words spoken might have pulled her trigger, anyway. She dropped the hoe and unlaced her bodice. Thunder began to nurse happily as Arrow walked to a nearby beech tree's shade, holding the baby-carrier. Shade trees were always close in their new area. Eliezer strolled over to a section of the same shade. He continued to study the pair, shooting love at them like invisible arrows. He wondered what they saw when they looked at him.

Eliezer was tall and muscular, more brown now than red. Some of his blacksmith musculature had faded in Hamburg, aboard ship, and in New Amsterdam. Now, it was all back, and more. His hair was a black thatch. Arrow had cut it short in New Amsterdam, after likening him to a ragged bear on the day after their wedding. His face was neither handsome nor ugly, but it wasn't scarred. Most of his generation would've been marked by war, just as smallpox had marked Arrow.

He watched for a time and then left for a few minutes. He returned with his axe, hatchet, and hunting knife. He made a second trip for a large bundle of green poles. Sitting with a sandstone and his axe, he began to take the nicks and dulled spots out of its edge. Thunder finished her meal. Satisfied, she was ready to stare at her own new-found hands for awhile. Arrow watched her daughter briefly. A firstborn always received more attention. She rose from her shady seat and walked to Eliezer. She presented the baby at him the way she would a nonliving object. He had to drop his axe and sharpening stone because he might have fumbled Thunder. Arrow strode back to her garden and attacked the weeds with the hoe. If a pestiferous plant came within arc of her digger, it ceased to live.

Even that angry aggression did no good. Her heart wasn't in it. The weeds began to succumb more and more slowly. Finally, she threw her hoe down and marched over to Eliezer. Thunder, out of her carrier, was wriggling and crawling all over her father's shoulders, smiling.

"She'll soon be sleepy again. I'll bring her sleeping-basket. I'll clean her." She could create even simple sentences as if the words entered a space where everything was his fault.

"I know what's happened to you." He was careful not to gloat.

"Oh, you do, O Mighty Shaman? What has your magic revealed to you?"

"You've been remembering."


"Yes. You've been thinking about all the times we sat by that little window in Hamburg. I'd read the Bible to you; you'd sit and sew the clothes for the three of us. Each of those may not have been a whole 'day of rest,' but it had the same Spirit." Perhaps a white woman might have understood him; perhaps not. When a native woman heard about a spirit, she listened. Arrow squirmed.

An up-timer would have shouted, "Gotcha!" Eliezer valued his life too much to be that foolish. Being right during a difference of opinion with Arrow was far more dangerous than being wrong. She folded her arms, but she was trembling. Without warning, she almost bolted into their mostly completed longhouse.

Whatever she was doing took some time. After a delay, she returned with Thunder's sleeping-basket. Somehow, Eliezer's King James Bible, a gift from the Baptist Pastor Green, was riding in it. She must have been especially clumsy because the Bible had fallen on top of her bundle of sewing. The mishandling must have upset her, because her eyes were red

"Give me Thunder," she said, brooking no argument. Eliezer had lived with her during the months of her stormy pregnancy. They'd been married for a few months, from just after their arrival in the New World. He could read his wife as probably no other man alive could. The smart move was to hand the baby over and keep his mouth shut. He'd survived another encounter.

Arrow snorted and set about cleaning the baby to her specifications. Her every choppy move stated, "I'm doing this, but there's no possible way you could have made me do this."

Thunder, fine Iroquois baby that she was, fell asleep without preliminary. Arrow glared at him until he moved the Bible and the sewing bundle out of her way. Thunder never stirred in the spotted shade falling on her basket and carrier. He placed the bundle close beside him and began to thumb through his Bible, as she sat down.

She watched him for any sign that he might even be trying to make something of his victory. His thumb continued to roam the pages, but his lips wisely stayed immobile. She had few options. She could return to her hoe, or she could quietly pick up her sewing in the shade. On any day, very little about hoeing weeds was enticing. She sat down and began to work on a set of small moccasins for Thunder, for next winter. He was off the hook.

Ha! He'd relaxed too soon, too confident in his successful restraint.

"Well, are you going to read to me, or not?" He recovered quickly

"Certainly. Let's start in the Book of John this time. I'll read you what it says, and you’ll tell me how an Oneida would say that. Then, I'll give you an easy verse to read, and I'll try to translate it. I'll help you with your reading; you'll help me when I stumble with the Iroquois tongue.

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