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1 Ice and Fire

Something Quincy Four Stars found on the beach changed his life forever. It was, to be sure, the beached iceberg. That was ordinary stuff. The island was always catching them as they drifted south.

No, this was entirely different.

Almost every day, except when it was too cold or stormy, though he ordinarily dressed in an old fleece-lined coat and no shirt and was innocent of underwear, he pulled on fisherman boots and an oilskin cap picked off a wrecked salmon boat. Then he combed the shoreline off what used to be Southampton, Long Island, for bottles and agates. He shared accommodations with his mother in an octagonal, Dutch windmill-style tower of the mansion on the former rich whiteman's estate. His father drowned when a storm wave overturned his small boat when he was out fishing for cod off Montauk Point.

They were self-sufficient, or nearly so. What they didn’t have, they could get by barter. His mother kept a pantry and root cellar beneath the tower well-stocked with preserves of all kinds, the fruits of the long-gone richman's garden and orchard. Even in the short summer growing season, working together they were able to grow most of their food. They heated with a wood stove, and having only themselves and a few aged relatives to look after occasionally, they made do. Lastly, he did some gardening and wood chopping for neighbors which paid him back with some flour or eggs. Sometimes a “stray” Dutch chicken or rabbit happened to pass by and ended up in a stew.

Four Stars would have gone on this way to the end except for an event happening in the night: a kayak grounded. The kayak had drifted too close and got hung up on shore. It was happening more and more, as the Inuit people of the polar regions migrated southward, to keep ahead of the moving glaciers.

Caught in gales at sea, many kayaks arrived tragically empty, as this one did. Just the same, its sealskin coverings were valuable leather and sea-going kayaks were much-prized finds to Indian fishermen along the coasts of New Netherlands. The kayak could not miss being seen by the tribe’s keenest eye.

Clarence Flying Cloud of the keen eye--a rag-bottle-and-bone dealer who gadded about the whole Eastern land and knew everybody, it seemed--told Four Stars he had better go look soon as he could, or everybody would pick it clean and he might not get his share. “But, brother, “ said Four Stars, “we have enough here, it is yours.”

Flying Cloud smiled and pointed beachward with the Indian race’s flattest but sharpest nose. “No, you go. I’ve hauled enough of those up off beaches in my day. You younger men can handle the kayaks.”

For a big sack of bottles from Four Stars, Flying Cloud paid with a coin from something called "United States of America." He had found it among the roots of the maples as he was coming down a forest path once a road called First Neck Lane. Four Stars knew of no such country, and the silver was spoiled by a sandwich filling of copper. He thought Flying Cloud was trying to cheat him again, but there wasn't anything he could do. He bit the coin several times, then put it in his pocket. When he was in his own house again, he thought about what Flying Cloud had told him. He was always first to know when something happened. You couldn't chop down a tree for firewood or lose a relative or do anything the least bit out of the ordinary without him knowing.

Four Stars often wondered why Flying Cloud wasn't named Long Nose, but what was most annoying, he was almost always right. Perhaps, he thought, he ought to go and take a look down at the beach. Maybe he would find something that would make up for the loss on the bottles.

Just then, Jonathan Wounded Flipper, early bird agate collector, came by. He had been the proud owner of a rifle in his day. Eventually even fine old things wore out and now he was looking pretty much like any other beach comber in his cast-offs. Something big and glistening shone in his outstretched hand. Four Stars and his mother (who was boiling lobsters at the stove-oven), both stared at an agate encased in crystal. It was the size of a Dutch cabbage. What made it more valuable, the pattern was a distinct cat's eye.

Just then Flying Cloud came in and saw what Wounded Flipper was holding. The huckster immediately became all business. He offered Wounded Flipper money for the cats-eye, but the proud discoverer wouldn't sell. He said he hoped to get more by going in person to the big city. That could only mean New Amsterdam where most all the Coast Dutch lived and traded. "Suit yourself, brother. You could have saved yourself a pair of moccasins," said Flying Cloud as Wounded Flipper made signs of going. "Besides, everyone knows I pay good money, and you'll just get cheated by those smart big city white folks. You have only yourself to blame if you come back without your shirt. Oh, see that kayak on the beach?"

Wounded Flipper solemnly nodded. “Yes, but a big wave took it back off the beach just as I was going to claim it.”

When he was gone, the dealer shook his head. "He's not even been down this morning. Got no gun to shoot ringed seal, that's why. No easy pickings now. So where's he been all this morning? He's been home, sleeping off too much Dutch rotgut!

Wounded Flipper, who purposely hadn't gone far enough to miss what was said, slipped back in, but his face had fallen somewhat when he turned to Flying Cloud. “How do you know that, Old One? I had my door shut.”

The nonplussed Flying Cloud shrugged. “It’s my business to know my customers.” That seemed to satisfy Wounded Flipper and he left, this time for good.

Though Flying Cloud stayed on for some fresh boiled lobster, Four Stars went to inspect the beach, though now he had no hope of finding anything so spectacular after what he had seen in Wounded Flipper’s hand. Elders say lightning never strikes but once in the same place," he was thinking as he climbed down to the beach where a mean Atlantic surf was pounding the gravel and rocks to sand.

It was not a particularly good day to be out. That was why he had skipped this particular morning’s beach-combing. Hard, cold spray struck him in the face from big waves. A bit too far out, he could not see it but he could hear the roar of the breakers as they charged like mad bulls through channels in the ice. Then when the water hit the beach, it pushed up a lot of the grounded ice so there was an immense, growling, snapping, crunching, and even a high-pitched keening sound as the whole lot came crashing back together. A kayak would not have much chance of getting though all that without grave damage, he knew.

The ground shook for a few moments and the air was thick with driven spray and ice pellets--yet another shock wave of some far-off earthquake. Four Stars, however, was instantly alert. Even minor quakes triggered big waves that could sweep him out to sea if he wasn’t careful. Sure enough! As he watched, water churned and boiled up on the beach, rolling solid with rotten ice and big ice chunks half his size. It took several minutes for the sea to “calm” down.

The light was fading--another spring storm was soon coming in. Thinking he had better get off the beach, he started moving away from the ugly-looking waves heaving ice balls at him. Then he saw a gleam as water swept around his boots. Dark-red, it looked like a lump of ordinary glass with ice coating it. He picked it up. Suddenly, ice and fire passed like waves through his whole body and his hand clenched on the stone. He lost all further interest in finding the kayak at that moment.

Marty Jumping Weasel, who had a real nose for the best rocks, was coming his way. Heading up his lanky, swift-moving body, his teeth gleamed in a big grin--which was the first thing you really noticed about him. He saw Four Stars and a moment later had pounced on him. "Hey, seen the kayak yet? The kind they use up north? There's one just down the beach. It’s in beautiful condition. Most we get around here are all busted up from the ice and no good, but you should take a look at it. Someone must have spent a lot of time on it, building and keeping it up like that. But you better hurry. The others will probably be there by now. Still, there might be some skin left you could use for patching that bad leak in your roof."

“Yes, I have seen it. No good for anything. Well, I must go now.” Four Stars immediately moved off, his stone out of sight in a leather pouch he used for carrying pocket money. Jumping Weasel was always finding really valuable things on the beach and would probably have a good laugh if he showed him what he'd just found--or so Four Stars told himself. Was it glass or something else? He could not tell. But who could he trust? He thought hard for several minutes--going through the three hundred soul roster of the tribe.

Finally, torn with apprehension, he took it to a neighbor, Delbert Screaming Gull who collected driftwood and carved totem lamps for occasional English tourists. Screaming Gull suspected it was something valuable. Then, with a gloomy look, thought it might possibly be bad for people. “Maybe it’s the thing the Old Ones called the Red Dog Stone, which was supposed to come along in the latter times and change everything--though I have yet to see it happen.”

Despite how he already felt about it, Tall Chief couldn't swallow that, but he took it along with his agates to the whiteman dealer in the Dutch hamlet of Schuylerburg when he delivered his week's "catch." Maybe Mr. Van Horn could tell him what it was.

2 Singer of the Stone

Since Four Stars hadn't been sleeping well lately, his eyes were red and he didn't feel his usual self. He had been dreaming strange dreams in which he had been chosen some kind of chief of chiefs, some whiteman emperor or king--and that, naturally, upset his stomach and kept waking him up. After several nights of this he was beginning to wonder if his mind were going. He could see concern growing in his mother's eyes, though she wasn't the type to say anything before he did.

Red eyes or not, he went in to town with his agates. Past a row of false-fronted structures, half of them boarded up, he came to a “jewelry shop” window with costume jewelry agates of all kinds, and even some ancient artifacts displayed, including several marked NEW YORK WORLD’S FAIR OF 1939. As always, the Schuylerburg dealer inside was busy and wasn't one to waste words in greeting an Indian he saw every week.

Mr. Van Horn seemed to take a big electric jolt the moment he grabbed the red stone, for suddenly blue sparks forked from his shoe buckles. Four Stars had not intended for him to touch it, but it had happened before he could stop him.

“Powerful! Must be magnetic,” said Mr. Van Horn, and the amazed Indian nodded. Then Van Horn did a strange thing after a single, long look. He drew the curtains and examined it more carefully with a jeweler's eye-piece. Finally, his eyes squinting very narrow at Four Stars (in fact, the Indian couldn't see his eyes anymore), he acknowledged that it was of some value. "I'll pay you something for it," he said.

"Are you sure it isn't just glass?" Four Stars said, hoping he would get it back now that he had seen its strange power demonstrated.

Van Horn gave him a sharp look and it took him a long time to answer. His mouth seemed to get smaller and smaller, just like his eyes. "Yeah, I'm sure. You blame fool Indians I can take advantage of any time I want and you'd never know. But I'll give you a fair and square Dutch deal, after deducting the regular 85% for the appraisal, of course. But first I have some more important things to attend to, so if you don't mind--"

Four Stars felt strange and empty after seeing Van Horn was going to keep the red stone. But outside the shop, in the open air again, the feeling went away gradually and he turned toward home. But he didn't forget his dreams.

A few days passed and the agate dealer called Four Stars back in. He had sent word via Flying Cloud, the first time Van Horn had done that. Naturally Flying Cloud wanted to know what was up, but since Five Stars had no idea the rag-bottle-and-bone dealer had to let it go at that. As for the red stone, Four Stars had not forgotten it. Anyway, not even whitemen's prison could have made him tell Flying Cloud, though he had put him on to it.

When Four Stars appeared at the shop, Van Horn did not take one look at the agates he brought. And he moved around a lot for an old man, particularly with his long, pale hands, snatching things away from Four Stars’s vicinity after he motioned him to sit down on a chair. "Well, here's your wampum, Hiawatha," he said, letting it set on his desk for a while before pushing it toward him. "Go and spend it on booze and womans, but, remember, just because you’ve made some big money I don’t need you telling everyone you found something unusual."

Four Stars at first stared at the crisp, newly printed Royal Bank of New Netherlands banknotes. He didn't know what to think. And he had never handled paper money before. "But, Meinheer, you didn't go through and weigh them!" Four Stars said, meaning his latest bucket of agates.

Mr. Van Horn shook his head and soon straightened him out. It was the red “magnetic” stone he was buying, not his agates.

Four Stars was still dumbfounded as he picked the money up. Not only was it the most substantial sum he had ever seen--amounting to a dollar--but he couldn't fathom why he was paying him so much, when he said himself it wasn't anything special as agates go. Furthermore, he hadn’t intended to sell it. “No, Meinheer--” he began.

“Take your money before I change my mind,” growled Van Horn. “And don’t you dare argue with me, you blame fool Redskin!”

For a moment it was a dangerous, tense situation for both of them. Four Stars was more than a match, and he wanted the stone back, more than he wanted anything. Just as determined to keep it, Van Horn had moved slowly to his desk and had his hand in an open drawer. Both men eyed each other. Until then, though not generous, Four Stars had always thought him honest and fair for a Dutch whiteman. “Take your money and go!” the dealer repeated, his eyes like steel, and his hand in a drawer where he kept a firearm for cases so unruly clientele. The shop and town were not a place where an Indian could win, and both knew it.

Four Stars went as ordered. He stepped outside the shop, and only then began breathing hard. Only after a minute did he realize he was just standing there, the money still in his hand. Since he was attracting attention, he quickly slipped it in his money bag and moved off.

The next week Four Stars came to the shop in the village as usual with his agates. It had been agony for him to wait so long, but he didn’t want to show his hand. Unfortunately, the shop was black at the window--all the displayed items gone--and boards nailed across the door. A horse’s shadow fell across the Indian. Van Horn's was closed up, he was told by a policeman.

The following day, it was still closed. "Move on, Redskin, what are you snoopin' around for?" said Van Fonke the mounted policeman. "He's probably stolen somethin', " somebody cried, and he was shoved face down in the mud of the only street. Kicked when he tried to get up, he sprawled again. When he did get to his feet he faced as big a group as the village could muster--thirty or so adults, men, women, and bartender from the nearby speakeasy.

"I seen 'im before," acknowledged one, spitting to the side. "He's been goin' in to old Horn's and comin' out with his wampum bag stuffed full. He done that so many times I don’t have teeth in my head to match. Must be an awful rich savage by this time!" There was an angry mutter at the thought of a rich Indian getting richer by the moment at Dutch expense.

Four Stars was edging back away while all this was said. But he bumped right into Van Horn's store front and could go no further.

"Maybe he's the dirty, thieving skunk who done po'r old Van Horn in and stole his fortune in jools!" a rhinestone-bedecked barmaid shrieked. Everyone in the group took up her idea at once, though the jeweler had vanished, leaving nobody to prove he had been murdered. "Let's lynch him and teach 'em a lesson!" shouted someone else. "We can't just let 'em come in here and take everything we got! What does he think he is--British? We gotta stop this 'fore it gits outa hand!"

The agreement was general and Four Stars began to grow as cold as the stone had felt in him.

"Naw jist one minute," interposed Officer Van Fonke. "We got law and order here in Schuylerburg. And we's all 'spectable Dutch, ain't we? Well, then, the Redskin's goin' to jail, and we let the judge decide in the mornin'!" A disappointed roar went up. They began to rough Four Stars up until the constable decided he better be kept alive for the trial. "Aw, yer fur spoilin' all the fun!" the bartender said for them all. But the constable had his way and Four Stars was flung into a small shed down the street and locked up for the night. The place was ordinarily used for plucking chickens and butchering a hog now and then no one wanted assessed by the tax collector, so it smelled bad. But except for a few bruises and cuts, a missing boot and his shirt half torn off his back, he was okay, though he couldn't say that for some of his tormentors.

"Returned to the scene of the crime, I see," observed the judge when the case came up the next day in chambers not much better than the chicken-hog shed. Officer Van Fonke who had brought Four Stars in then whispered a few words to the magistrate, who raised his gavel. "For the cold-blooded murder of Burgher Cornelius Van Horn and armed robbery, breaking and entering, arson, malicious destruction of property, and yesterday's disturbing the peace and assaulting citizens of the town, not to mention resisting arrest by Officer Van Fonke, I find you, Mr. Stars--"

But yer expedacious Honner--" protested Flying Cloud, who had come in quietly and stood at the back until Four Stars was brought in the courtroom.

"Out of order! Flying Cloud, you have no right to speak in a Royal Dutch court and if I hear anything out of you again you'll go to jail too!" ruled the judge, and he was starting to pronounce sentence when the well-known dealer again rose.

"Well, then I'll go to jail. But I jist want to say one thing for the record, he's innocent because there's at least a hunnerd of us who can testify he's been on Indian land the whole time the crime took place. And they happen to be standing outside, all one hunnerd painted savages mighty pleased to testify, yer exalted, respectacious Honner! All I have to do is give a little toot on this here savage Redskin whistle and--"

The judge hurriedly conferred head to head with the officer. He excused himself and crept to the door and opened it a crack. With horror on his face, Van Fonke slammed it and stood, his back against the door and gun drawn. Four Stars was released for payment of a stiff fine. It was fortunate he still had the dollar on him or there might have been a serious riot that so small a Dutch community might not have survived.

Four Stars went home and after that never visited anything but tribal societies. He had lost the only dollar he had in life, but he started orally composing poems and sayings about the “Red Dog Stone,” as he called it, which had come and changed his life.

Eventually, word went around and he became something of a “crazy, horn-tooting Angel Gabriel” to them, since no one knew what had happened to the stone he claimed was so powerful.

Even Flying Cloud, though he knew everyone, white or Indian, was not able to track Van Horn. All he could find out, and it was just a word from a passing Gypsy who offered to sell him some ‘Royal Dutch chickens’ that someone looking like Van Horn was seen headed for New Amsterdam on a nag covered with lather.

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