The Latchkey Was Out
Long ago doors were fastened with a heavy wooden latch. The door could be opened from the outside by a thong made of deerskin. When this latch was pulled inside, no one could open the door. So friendly people used to say, “Come and see me soon. The latchstring is out.” That meant that guests were welcome.
Once, when the city of Cincinnati, Ohio was just a frontier fort, the Indians went on the warpath. Most of the settlers grew frightened, left their homes and rushed inside the fort for safety.
But there was one family that stayed on in its log cabin outside of the fort. They had come from William Penn’s colony in Pennsylvania and were called Friends or Quakers. William Penn had taught them that when the Indians were treated kindly, as God wants all men and women to be treated, they would be peaceful and friendly. Penn had proved that this was right, for in Pennsylvania there were no Indian wars.
So the family in the cabin decided to try Penn’s way. They did not even have any guns ready.
One night the man grew a bit frightened and put the latchstring on the inside. He and his wife could not go to sleep. Finally she said, “John, that latchstring on the inside makes me feel uneasy.”
“I feel that way too, Mary,” he replied. So he got up and put the latchstring outside again.
Before long they heard Indians coming. Soon they surrounded the little cabin with wild cries and war whoops. They tried the door and saw that it would open, but they did not come in. Then, after a while, they grew quiet and began to steal away. Mary and John crept on hands and knees to a window and watched them.
On the edge of the forest the Indians sat down in a circle. They seemed to be holding a council to talk things over.
“What do you suppose they’re going to do?” Mary whispered.
“Sh-h-h,” said John. “Remember God has promised us, ‘I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.’”
Soon they saw a tall chieftain in war paint leave the circle. Slowly he walked back to the cabin alone. In his right hand he carried a long white feather. He fastened the feather to the top of the cabin door. Then all the Indians left.
There the white feather stayed for a long time. The hot summer sun shone on it. It swayed in the winter winds that swept the prairie. John and Mary never took it down, for a friendly Indian told them, “The white feather means: ‘This is the home of a man of peace. Do not harm him.’”
All of this happened long ago, but God has not changed. He still wants us to be kind and fair to all men and then trust Him to take care of us.
Anna Pettit Broomwell