Lew Wallace: Boy Writerby Martha E. Schaaf
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The world-famous novel of ancient times, Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ, was written by Lew Wallace, who grew up in the early 1800s roaming the fields and streams of Indiana. Young readers will meet the renowned author as a child whose daring exploits, coupled with a deep religious faith, foreshadowed the Civil War general, governor of the New Mexico Territory, United States ambassador, and author he would become. Children will delight in young Lew’s rescue of his brother from a runaway carriage, feel a kinship with the boy and his passion for art as he draws portraits of his schoolmates with his “magic pencil,” and share his fascination for the exotic places he reads about in the books he loves. Action-packed illustrations enhance a fascinating story that will draw kids into the life of the young country boy who grew up to write one of the best-loved Christian novels ever penned.
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By Martha E. Schaaf, Harold Underdown, Cathy Morrison
Patria Press, Inc.Copyright © 2001 Martha E. Schaaf
All rights reserved.
"Wake up, my little dreamer!" A tall woman knelt beside her young son, asleep in a trundle bed.
"Wake up," she whispered again. It was early, earlier than her son usually woke up. The boy stirred slightly. He felt her hand gently brushing back his hair. "Come, Lewis, get up! We are moving today!"
His dark eyes opened wide, and he sat up suddenly. Now he remembered his father had said they would be going with the big, white-topped wagons this trip!
Lewis Wallace liked to watch the wagon trains as they came rumbling through their town, Brookville, Indiana, on the road leading west. Sometimes they stopped at his grandfather's inn.
"Are we going in a wagon?" Lewis asked.
"No, we will go in the carriage, Lewis," Mrs. Wallace replied. "It is already harnessed and packed. Get into your clothes."
Lewis heard his younger brothers, three-year-old John and Baby Edwin, in the next room.
"William is already up," his mother called, as she hurried to the younger children.
"Of course he is," Lewis thought. Older brother William always did everything right. Lewis loved his brother Bill and tried to be like him, but Lewis was different.
Now he was thinking of the wagons. He listened for their sound — bells on the harness tinkling in rhythm with the clomp, clomp of the hoof beats. He could hear them coming.
"Ready, Lewis?" his mother called.
"Almost," he answered, quickly pulling on the homespun trousers. They felt scratchy but he was pleased he no longer had to wear a dress. Lewis had grown into trousers on his fifth birthday, a few weeks past. When asked his age, he would proudly reply, "I am five. I was born on April 10, 1827, and I am grown-up! See my trousers?"
Now dressed, Lewis went over to the open window to look for the wagons. Upstairs here, in their tall brick house, he was a giant looking over the world below him.
The sun was coming up over the hills to the southeast, touching everything with gold. The river was splashing over the wheel of one of the mills. The gold eagle on top of the Court House steeple caught his eye. The Court House bell reflected the golden rays.
His father spent much of his time there. Mr. Wallace helped people who needed a lawyer.
Lewis wondered if there would be a court house where they were moving. He looked at the hills to the west. They looked golden, too. Then he glanced down.
Yes, the carriage was waiting below, with trunks and bundles piled on top. The horses were tied to the hitching post. They pulled and strained at it, impatient to be off.
He looked at the heavy rear wheels of the carriage. A stone was propped under one of them as an extra brake. Slowly the stone began to move, tugged by a small hand.
Lewis' heart stood still.
"John must be under the carriage," he thought, "playing by the big wheel!"
"John, John," Lewis screamed, as he saw his little brother so close to danger. Dashing out of the room, Lewis slid down the banister, ran out the door, and stooped under the back of the carriage. (Image 1.1)
With all his strength, Lewis pulled John away, just as the stone loosened. The carriage jolted forward. John yelled. The horses reared and jerked free of the post. The horses were running away with the loaded carriage! Lewis ran after the carriage.
"Stop the horses! Stop the horses!" he yelled.
Heads popped out of the stately houses along the street. Almost breathless, Lewis kept running and shouting. The horses were at the corner of the Town Square now. With two roads to choose from, the horses slowed.
In the second that they seemed to pause, a tall man leaped in front of them. He tugged at the reins to stop them.
"Whoa, Ball, whoa. Easy now," he commanded firmly.
The horses reared. The carriage reeled, shook, and came to a sudden stop.
Lewis ran to catch up with them. The horses were in front of Grandfather Wallace's inn, at the southeast corner of the Square. The man who had stopped the runaways was his grandfather!
"Grandfather!" Lewis shouted, "You stopped the horses!"
"I heard you from the doorway. When I came out I saw you pull John from under the carriage," Grandfather Wallace explained.
Grandmother Wallace appeared at the door. "What is all the commotion, Andrew?"
"I heard Lewis shouting to his brother. The next thing I knew, the carriage was racing down the street headed this way. I just ran out and stopped it."
"Wasn't Grandfather brave?" exclaimed Lewis.
"Lewis, you were the brave one," Grandfather Wallace replied. "I saw you rescue John."
"Well, bravery just runs in the family!" Grandmother Wallace exclaimed. "Our Lewis might be as famous as brave Uncle John, someday," she said, smiling down at her grandson.
Hearing those words, Lewis found his breath, and his chest swelled with pride. He dreamed of being a hero like his great-great-uncle John Paul Jones — a real hero!
Lewis's grandmother interrupted his thoughts. "Is my little hero hungry? Come in and have a bite of breakfast, Lewis. There'll be none at your house this morning. Your mother must have all the kettles packed by now." Grandmother bustled off into the Inn.
Lewis grinned. He always liked to eat at his grandfather's inn, and to watch the square dancing. He glanced at the sign over the door: THE BROOKVILLE HOTEL. ANDREW WALLACE, PROPRIETOR.
"And what may I serve you, my good man?" Grandfather was treating him like a traveler, bowing and ushering him inside.
"Bed and board, sir, and lodging for my horses." Lewis remembered the words of the travelers. "And how much is the fare?" he added. He enjoyed pretending to be a real guest.
"Seventy-five cents for both of you, and the food is the best known in this part of the country. Come, sit down and I will call the boy to bring your breakfast."
Lewis sat on a bench at the long plank table, in the rear of the big room. A group of travelers was having breakfast here.
"They are talking about land again," Lewis thought. He preferred hearing tales of adventure, like those about Daniel Boone, or George Rogers Clark, or perhaps his father's favorite, William Henry Harrison. Lewis knew that those men met at an inn like his grandfather's, and planned campaigns while they ate.
Suddenly the young traveler felt hungry. He looked up at the fat hams and bunches of herbs, which hung from the rafters. Smells of buckwheat cakes came from the kitchen hearth.
"Good morning, Lewis," the hotel boy said, as he set a plateful of the steaming cakes in front of Lewis.
Grandfather Wallace came to sit down beside Lewis.
"Grandfather, will there be any Indians where we are going?" Lewis asked while he ate his breakfast. His grandfather always knew everything. In Cincinnati he had published books and a newspaper.
"Black Hawk is around somewhere — trying to stir up the friendly Indians. The West isn't won yet. You may help tame it someday!" replied Grandfather Wallace.
The boy's eyes sparkled. "Will we live in a wigwam?" he asked.
"Not a wigwam — more likely a cabin. There will be no fine houses like these in Brookville. But you might be living in the governor's mansion in a few years," Grandfather suggested.
"Gov-er-nor's man-shun? What's a governor's mansion?" Lewis was quite interested.
"Oh, a fine house, something like the Noble house here, or even your own, where your grandfather Test lived before he left. Those were the days! Brookville was the biggest town in Indiana when I came here," Grandfather replied.
"That was only fifteen years ago, in 1817, the year after Indiana became a state. Brookville was booming. The court house was just being built, and houses, too; brick houses right here next to the wilderness. Mills were humming night and day along the Whitewater River."
"Why are people leaving now, Grandfather?"
"The Government Land Office was moved — everybody's after more land, and money," Andrew Wallace explained with a sigh. "Some of the mills have closed because there are no roads or canals to carry the products to market, and the river's too shallow since the trees have been cut."
"Is there a river and a court house where we are going?" inquired Lewis.
"Oh, yes, your father couldn't practice law without a court house. Covington is the busiest town on the Wabash, the biggest river in Indiana, but you might be living in Indianapolis soon."
"Ind-i-an-a-po-lis?" Lewis pronounced the big word slowly.
"Yes, Indianapolis is the capital of Indiana. Your father is lieutenant governor of Indiana now. That's only one step from being governor. You might be living in the governor's mansion, and then —"
"Who is talking about a governor's mansion?" A strong, clear voice interrupted. It was the lieutenant governor himself.
David Wallace usually dressed properly in black broadcloth, with a stiff white shirt front. Today Lewis saw that his father wore a hunter's buckskin jacket. He would be driving the heavily loaded carriage.
"Well, son, where have you been? You missed the excitement a while back," Andrew Wallace said.
"I was at the Court House to pick up my books, but I heard the noise and looked out. By the time I reached the window, the carriage was too far down the street for me to stop it. I knew my good horse Ball would go back to her stable here. You did well to stop the carriage, father."
"What do you mean, I did well? Your son did well. John might have been killed, if not for him. Little John was playing under the carriage, pulling the stone braking the rear wheel. Lewis saw John's danger and pulled John away from under the wheels," Grandfather Wallace explained.
"Why, Lewis, that was quick thinking."
Grandmother looked in from the kitchen. "Is that all you can say about your son?" she exclaimed. "Lewis is a little hero!"
The Little Hero looked down at his feet for a moment, then jumped up.
"Come on, Father, let's get started!" he said.CHAPTER 2
The sun was high over the Court House when the Wallace family finally started.
"May I ride on top with you, Father?" Lewis asked. His father boosted Lewis to the driver's seat of the carriage and climbed up himself. Bill traveled inside the carriage, helping his mother with John and the baby.
"Don't forget us," one of the neighbors called out.
"We'll put this town on the map again," the Lieutenant Governor replied, as he tapped the horses. The carriage went at a brisk pace, and the town was soon hidden by the hills.
Lewis looked ahead. There were many travelers on the road today. Stagecoaches and wagons wheels rolled over the dusty, corded road. Through creek beds and stump-littered trails they went. Fields of ripening wheat, green meadows, and deep forests still untouched by ax and plow lay before them.
"Father, how long will our journey be?"
"The stagecoach makes the trip to Indianapolis in two days now. That is hard driving, and just half way to Covington. We have more than a week of rough travel to get there. In a few years, though, we will build canals and roads that will make traveling easier. The map already shows them. Here, son, look at it," answered Mr. Wallace.
David Wallace took a folded paper from his pocket. "The Traveler's Guide Through Indiana," he announced. "See if you can find Covington, but be very careful with the map, son."
Lewis slowly unfolded it. Everything with print on it was important to Father and Mother. Like Bill, Lewis already knew the alphabet.
He looked intently at the map. The biggest words caught his eyes first. "P-U-T-A-W-A-T-O-M-I-E." He spelled the letters carefully.
"Oh, that is the Putawotomie Indian Reservation," Mr. Wallace explained.
"Indians? Are we going there?" Lewis asked.
"No, they still hold those lands, and will stay — unless the squatters force us to send them west," his father explained. "Look farther down the page for Covington."
"K-A-N-K-A," Lewis started to spell. The letters seemed to jump up and down with the jogging carriage.
"Kankakee, Lewis, another Indian word. The Kankakee Pond and River are the Indians' fishing grounds."
Lewis liked the sound. He thought he would like to fish there, too. "Kankakee, Kankakee, Kankakee," he repeated, in rhythm with the horses' hoofbeats.
Suddenly shouts and bellows interrupted his singsong chant. As the carriage rounded a curve, a great cloud of dust came toward them.
"It's a herd of cattle being driven to market in Cincinnati," his father yelled.
Instantly he steered the carriage to one side. The wheels hit a stump, and the carriage shook wildly. Lewis almost bounced from his seat. He looked around excitedly at the passing herd. Cattle drovers were calling and singing out to the noisy, bellowing mass.
Lewis glanced back to watch the end of the procession. The carriage started with a jerk, as his father steered it into the road again.
Just then the boy noticed a package topple from the rest of the luggage, and slide toward the rear. He jumped up, landing on top and reaching for the bundle, just as it started over the side.
"Father! Stop the carriage!" Lewis shouted.
His father reined in the horses sharply, and the sudden stop sent both boy and bundle tumbling into the dusty road.
"My books!" his father exclaimed with surprise, as he jumped from the carriage and saw the bundle's contents scattered about. "You saved my books, Lewis. Are you hurt?"
"I'm alright," he replied.
"What is the matter, David?" Mrs. Wallace called from the carriage door. Then she saw her dusty boy. "Goodness, Lewis, let me clean your face! You had better come inside. Bill can ride on top awhile."
Lewis did not care much about being clean. Travelers always looked dusty, and he climbed inside reluctantly. It seemed warmer there than sitting under the sun.
John and Baby Edwin were asleep. Lewis rested his head on the high, black woolen seat. It was hot and dusty. Soon he was nodding with the motion of the carriage, and his head felt very hot and heavy.
He wished Grandmother Wallace were here to tell him a story. She always began the same way. He could almost hear her. Soon sleeping, and dreaming, he heard her in his dreams: (Image 2.1)
"When I was your age, Lewis, George Washington rocked me on his knee and told me about his adventures. He was a wonderful man, just like my Uncle John.
"Your great, great-uncle John Paul Jones, was strong and brave. He hated slavery, and he quit his job as chief mate on a slave ship."
Lewis thought he would hate slavery too.
"John Paul Jones raised the first American flag at sea, and whipped the enemy." Grandmother always ended with the Admiral's famous words: "Sir, I have not yet begun to fight."
Lewis liked to repeat them. "Grandmother, I have not yet begun to fight, but I will — I will — I will —"
The rest of his journey was filled with feverish dreams. Wagon wheels and hoofbeats pounded and thumped in his head. He was deathly sick for days with the dreaded illness scarlet fever.
"Lewis, Lewis." His mother's voice seemed far away. Dimly he saw her bending over him. Had she been crying? Her eyes brimmed with tears.
"Here, drink this," she said, giving him a cup of saffron tea. He felt her hand on his forehead. "The fever is broken at last! Oh, Lewis, you fought it so bravely!"
"We are here, in Covington," Bill said as he came over to the bedside. "But John is not," he added, swallowing hard.
Lewis looked at his mother. "What did Bill mean, John is not?"
"Oh," she said hesitantly. "You and John had scarlet fever on the trip. John did not get well. God is taking care of him now." She smiled at her son. "I am so glad He left you with us."CHAPTER 3
Voice of the River
On the first Sunday in their new home, Lewis explored the attic. He was certainly glad to be out of the boarding house where they had stayed since coming to Covington. This small frame cottage was not as fine as their house in Brookville. Covington was a town on the frontier, where many buildings were built of logs.
Earlier that day the family had gone to the little church, where his mother was the only woman who knelt during prayer. Everything seemed different from Brookville.
"Only the sky and the trees are the same," he thought, while looking out of the small attic window. Now he could see a silver streak through the treetops. He wondered if it was the river and decided to go find out.
Quickly he climbed over trunks and boxes and scurried down the steep attic stairs. His mother was writing at the table in the front room. Her foot was gently rocking Baby Edwin, asleep in the low cradle beside her. Lewis missed John.
Lewis glanced out the open doorway. The sun made a bright carpet on the plank floor and shone on the book shelves along the opposite wall. A Wabash bedstead stood in one corner. His father's desk and easy chair were in another.
Excerpted from Lew Wallace by Martha E. Schaaf, Harold Underdown, Cathy Morrison. Copyright © 2001 Martha E. Schaaf. Excerpted by permission of Patria Press, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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