THE WHITE AND THE RED
[Dame Gillian Fenn tells the tale to her children, and others of her household,— all seated round a blazing fire,—on Christmas eve, of the Year of Grace 1652, in olden-time Virginia]:
WELL, well! all 's ready for the morrow, thank patience! with making and baking, roasting and toasting, fairly done. And what will ye be having to-night, pray? That same old tale of Indian Simon that I did tell you once afore ? Welladay! if it pleased you so rarely at first time o' hearing, I 'll e'en tell 't again. 'T is no such smooth-tripping a merry-go-round as some folk like best this season, nor hath it merry ending, neither—for all some lives were saved by the turn o't; but 't is only fair, I 'm thinking, that you young ones should be made acquaint with what your forebears did suffer and adventure a-planting this New World. Ye may set yourselves up to do great things, mayhap, i' the days to come—but if e'er ye 've a mind to go bragging, why, look ye first behind. 'T will do you no harm, I warrant. Folk should set proper store by homes so hard-won from the wilderness, nor grudge honest tilling o' the ground that was so well watered with fathers' blood. Aye, aye; 't is peace and good will, this Christmas eve, an' good cheer a plenty, to boot; but as for the winning o't all, that was no such peaceful a matter, as ye may reckon. Howsoever, bless God! we need fear no Indian screechery breaking in, like on that time, to spoil talk to- night. There 's naught worse than the wind outside, or maybe a wolf or two, now and again. Stir ye the coals and pile on the logs,—Dickon, Jacky. We 'll tell it all once more—and he shall have most cakes an' beer at the end, with nuts to crack no less, that proveth the keenest listener.
—Now, 't was after a right strange manner of happening that the lad Simon
Peter did first come to dwell amongst us; which same (for that ye may the better
understand mine own proper tale i' the telling) I will now in brief relate the
ins and outs of. Truly, his descent was from none too good nor too happy a
stock, as nobody might deny. 'T was of that heady and high-stomached tribe
called Pianketank, who rose up to their own undoing 'gainst the old cruel king,
Powhatan, not long afore the coming of the English into Virginia. So that tribe
did he swiftly and most furiously fall upon and slay to the last man (as he then
purposed and believed), with all the rest of his several under-tribes helping
him thereto in vengeance. And when they were all so bloodily done to death, he
did cause to be cut off and stringed on a string, all a-row, the ears of men,
women, and children—and there were they hanged up betwixt two trees in
front of his palace door. A brave sweet sight, i' faith, and a most pleasant for
his royal eyes to gaze on, and also a signal warning 'gainst such like
rebellious offense. There were they seen by no less than Captain John Smith
himself, with others of his company,—to
stnic.188912.002.jpgtheir great mislike and amazement,—as was aftertime writ down by him in his "True Relation" of Virginia matters, and may to this day be read. Howsoever, it happened that, despite this murtherous and savage disposal, there remained yet a very little remnant of the tribe Pianketank, being scarce one score souls in all, who got them away, at the first alarm, in swift flight from the slayers and hid in the dark wilderness till after King Powhatan, in passage of years, died and was buried. E'en then, 't was said, they durst hardly venture out save in a very secret way. But seeing that none molested them, and also that their persecutors' minds had changed with vastly changing times all o'er the land, they came at last boldly forth as any, and settled them upon the woody waste that even to this day lieth uncleared, northward of the road to James City. So there they builded their wigwams on a hillock not far from the way, and no man hindered or anywise denied them needful range for hunting, fishing, and such like getting of wherewithal to live. As for the white men thereabout, they were the rather overkind, I do reckon, as, to such marked unfortunates, one naturally disposeth. Yet, as folk soon 'gan to say, 't was like enough that fault o' the former quarrel with Prince Powhatan was not all on one side. "What 's bred i' the bone will out i' the flesh," as the old saw runneth, and so it came to pass full soon with these poor down-trod and distrest Pianketanks. 'T was not alone an ell they 'd be content with, being given an inch, but a thousand miles, more like. In greedy tricks, malice, pride, laziness, and fierce-mouthed brags, they, waxing ever more insolent, grew daily worse and worse—and as for Jack o' the Feather, he was of them all the most past Christian bearing.
Now his sure-enough Indian name was not Jack, but Nemattanow; only the English called him Jack o' the Feather, because of his saucy tongue, an' because of his being always so finely rigged up with feathers in the wild fashion of his sort. For tho' 't was naught uncommon to see those foolish heathen creatures so bedeckt and set off with plumage of birds by them caught or killed, yet never another one was seen to match this Jack in such outlandish bravery and ornamentation. One day 't would be an eagle's plume, mayhap, the next a turkey-wing—or goodness knoweth what new thing or t' other! There be wiser folk than he in this world that think fine feathers make fine birds, but this same Jack was an ill bird, I do reckon, for all his royal blood. He was next of kin to the chieftain, or king, as they called him (after their high and mighty way), who was killed in the former massacre, that time—so being by blood, as in natural humor, the leader and ruler o' his crew, in mischief as in all else. A king well-nigh without subjects, good sooth! and in right make-a-shift case; yet the lacking in pomp was out-doubled in pride, I trow, and so his fall came round.
Now, it did so chance one day in a busy time of harvest, that Master Thomas Godkyn, his nighest neighbor, would have Jack o' the Feather go an errand for him to Jamestown for one bushel of corn in payment thereof. It was easy earning of good bread, but my royal red gentleman having no mind for such honest humble service, not he, and giving a short and saucy back-answer, No, with some brag of his kingly blood, moreover,—why, then, Master Godkyn, mightily put about and vext by the denial, did burst out scornfully a-laughing at that, saying, "I pray your High Majesty's pardon. I' faith, I did forget your High Majestical state," quoth he, "O fine king o' beggars in a palace o' poles!" Whereupon he laughed again, "Ho, ho!" a-turning on his heel; but as for Jack o' the Feather, he looked a most black an' devilish look, as who would fain strike that other dead with 's tomahawk for very rage, and (crying out fiercely in his Indian speech) said, "Paleface fool! Thou laughest loud to-day, but I will laugh louder to-morrow."
So then Master Godkyn, making that out shrewdly to be threat of evil, did bethink
him that he would look keenly to any such risk. But malice hath many ways to
creep as well as run,—an' who may guard him 'gainst the cruel cunning of
that murtherous red people? 'T was the very next morn, just afore day-breaking,
that he, being waked up from sleep by a most fearsome bellowing and groaning, as
of some great brute-beast in death pain, went out and found'—lo and
behold!—his brave bull, that had cost a pretty price in England, besides
the fetching of it hither, there was it, a-lying i' the meadow,
stnic.188912.003.jpgham-stringed, and in such a case as might not be anywise holpen save with a bullet through the heart for pity's sake.
Now, small need was there for guessing (as everybody said) whose wicked deviltry this might be. And some of the neighboring white people would be for shooting Jack o' the Feather with the same gun wherewith they had dispatched the bull. "Kill him! kill him!" cried these hot-blooded ones, and had well-nigh set off furiously so to do, without judge or trial, only my father—Master Barrow— said nay to that. "We will not so bring blood-guiltiness on us, neighbors," saith he, "for all that such mischief may no longer lodge amongst us. We will but give him fair warning to quit these parts straightway, on pain o' death. Then, if he do prove contrary and resist, his blood be on his head." So, that being agreed on, the warning was given accordingly; and as for that villain, though he did bitterly deny the bloody fact, he durst not tarry long to prove him innocent, in sooth, for by next daybreak he was clean gone, with all his fellows and belongings (as was first supposed), nobody knew which way or whither.
'T was on the even of that same day that my father, a-passing nigh those wigwams, so left standing lonesome and empty, did hear a very little wailing voice right piteously crying. So he stopped and listened, and being distrest thereby (for the sound of it, as I have heard him say a-many a time, would touch heart of stone) he went to find what that might be. And there, lo ! what doth he come across, weeping 'mongst the cold ashes all frighted and alone, but Jack o' the Feather's own child,—and a mere baby lad, at that,—by those most wicked creatures left behind to perish, with neither fire nor victual.
Now, whether he had hid himself away (after the roguish trickery of such very little ones) and so could not be found at time of their hasty setting off, or whether he was so left a-purpose in cold blood from the notion of their flight being by him hampered, Heaven knoweth, not I! Yet there was he, to a certainty, and piteously famished withal; and so my father, being a feeling-hearted man, did fetch him home that night to our house. For mine own self, I was but a little babe in arms that time, but afterward heard tell enough concerning the surprise and wonderment of it—and the vexedness of my poor mother at this turn. Truly she was ever set 'gainst this outside stranger, e'en from the first, but as for Dickon and Francis, they were right well joyed with a new playfellow. Mayhap about three year old did he seem, and nigh Francis in tallness, though not so bigly set. Words had he, a plenty, when that his tears were dried an' he fairly warmed and fed, but all in the barbarous Indian tongue, such as not even my father might make head or tail of, save only here and there. And being asked his name, as was made shift to do, he cried out loud and proudly, a- clapping his two hands together, "Totapotamoi! Totapotamoi! Totapotamoi!" Whereat our lads laughed, for the right strange, curious sound thereof. And my mother, she cried, "Lord ha' mercy upon the wild heathen creature!" But my father said, right soberly, "'T is good enow for a savage, an' hath a pretty ring i' the sound on 't ù an' that 's truth. Notwithstanding," saith he on, "'t is no proper title for any decent tame creature in Christian household." So he named him Simon Peter from that hour—by which name he was soon after brought to christening; and that did we ever call him.
And thus it did hap that he first came to dwell amongst us.
Now, as I have afore said, my mother was ever misliking of it from the very first
thereof. Sore vext was she, poor soul, because that my father would have the
likes o' such brought up 'mongst his own; for she was high-notioned in the
matter of our company-keeping, as is but natural to the gentle-born;—yet
as to my father, he was but a yeoman's son i' the old country and had been a
rough fighter 'gainst ill fortune most o' his days, so set small store by such
comparisons i' quality. And when my mother would be sending Simon to the kitchen
in a servant's place (for we had a fair sizable house, builded all of stone,
with kitchen and offices thereto, separate and orderly as any in old land or
new), why, then the master said stoutly nay to that measure. "What, wife," quoth
he, a-smiling so plaguingly withal, "shall we so serve this prince? Is he not of
the king's blood, forsooth? an' to be so packed off in kitchen 'mongst common
stnic.188912.004.jpgserving men an' maids! Fie, fie! "saith he; whereat the mistress crieth, "A pretty prince, indeed!" and tossed her head, a-looking but scornfully upon the poor Indian finery (with beads, gewgaws, an' such like, all tarnished an' meanly make-a-shift as 't was) of the dark little lad. Then saith she, "What! wilt thou even such a swarth-skin with thine own children, at bed an' board ? As well buy them a blackamoor brother from the Dutch ship, forsooth! I 'm thinking 't would be all of a piece." Yet my father spake in a right grave way, saying, "Nay, wife, if thou canst not see the difference betwixt a blackamoor an' such as this one, I pity thy poor sight. I see God's hand i' this matter," quoth he, "and, if the child is let alone by his own people to bide peaceably amongst us, it shall be share an' share alike. Nay, nay; my young ones shall have no slaves to their ordering, red-skinned or black, to make them saucy an' masterful. I like the look of this Simon Peter right well, for all the father of him being Jack o' the Feather. He shall have fair chance, by St. George !—for I 've a mind to play a game with nature in this business. Aye, we will see where Dame Nature endeth and breeding doth begin—and if his father cometh to claim him some day (for all 't is not likely he 'll be taking any such pains), why, we 'll e'en give the boy his choice, to go or stay, an' see how then."
"Aye, aye!" saith my mother, "we will see." Still, notwithstanding, she made no more ado that time, save to make sure of Simon Peter being shrewdly stript of his outlandish rags and cleaner-washen than e'er he 'd been in his life before, I reckon, for all he did most irefully resist the same with howling. And after that he was drest in a fair change of Francis's clothes, the while his own new ones were a-making.
So this way did it continue as my father said. And we four children, being Dickon and Francis and Simon Peter, with little poor me, that was the one girl to herself 'mongst the lads' gamesome roughness—we four did grow up together as brothers an' sister; scarce anywise remembering (for all we might daily see in outside looks) the difference in blood. Nay, I will tell true an' say out— howe'er some do think it shameth nature—that I loved Simon the best o' the three. He was the kindest and the lovingest to me, I trow; not that the other ones durst be contrariwise,—or would,—but 't was Simon that ever tarried behind with me if I fell back a-weary by hard following after the rest. Sometimes he bore me on his back 'cross the stony ground or thro' the running water—a-holding on for dear life round his neck. And when I 'd a mind to be playing with my doll Queen Bess at a brave feast, with wine in acorn cups and the like child's play-acting foolery, why, 't was ever Frank an' Dicky that mocked and would fain turn all naughtily upside down, to plague me, had not Simon so stoutly stood my part against them.
Now, as to the color of his skin (that some amongst you listening would so
mislike, may-hap), I being used to it life-long, in a manner, was nowise
frighted at that. For the rest, he was comely enough. His eyes, they were of a
very dark blackness, but piercing keen and bright; his hair was black and
straight down-hanging, and not soft to touch, tho' he would be oft a-laying his
head beside me to be stroked with my two hands. Slim-shapen as a maid was he and
fair-featured, like to the pictures of Princess Pocahontas herself, whom some
accounted beautiful—and his hands and feet were scarce bigger than mine
own. Yet, for all thus lightsomely builded, his strength was to the strength of
Francis an' Dickon as steel to wood, be it never so hard wood and heavy, or a
silken cord, hard twisted, to a rude hempen string. There was never a horse that
could throw him after that he was big enough to sit well astride its
back—not even the wildest colt of all on that land—when the lads
would be riding them to water morn and even, or mayhap (for the learning of
horsemanship) around i' the pasture field. Francis an' Dick had many a tumble, I
promise you, but Simon never a one. At running, wrestling, and all such, who but
he? Then surely, I do reckon, there was never another so wondrous quick at
book-learning, so knowledgeable and cunning skillful in all ways. Nay, time
would fail me to tell you the half of his ingenious devisings. Such curious
things as he would oft be cutting with his knife, to be sure!—as beasts,
birds, fishes, and what not,—aye! even human likenesses no less, out of
slate, stone, or wood, or
stnic.188912.005.jpgmaybe naught but a handful of damson seeds; and for snaring of wildwood game or catching of fish, his match was never seen.
Howsoever, despite of these advantagements, and despite of general good behavior in decent Christian manner o' life, yet, crost in humor, was he still (as my mother scrupled not to say out, when by him displeasured) the son o' his father and true child of lawless race. Can one be holden guilty of his birth-shame, good sooth, or cast out the blood that naturally runneth in 's veins ? Nay, not so—meseemeth. Therefore it did sorely hurt me to hear my mother ever blaming Simon with all that went amiss 'twixt him and Francis. She was a good woman, Heaven rest her! and true lover of them she did love, but yet they were precious few so favored, and Simon not one amongst them. Now, with Dickon (he being of a rare sweet humor) did Simon carry it peaceably enow; but with Francis, who was heady and stubborn-tempered as Simon himself,—aye, quicker to make mad, tho' not so fierce i' the end—as for those two, they would be often at odds. And one day, when she did come upon these twain, a-fighting tooth and nail, with Francis undermost an' like to get the worst on 't, then she cried out on Simon, for a heathenish beggar's brat, who would come to hanging or shooting yet, as 't was to be hoped his father had 'fore now. 'T was a right cruel word, there 's no denying; yet was she sorely, vext, for her excuse. However, he turned upon her with so tiger-fierce a look that she, stepping back, cried out, "What, snake-eye! wilt thou murther me as I stand?"
And so he looked a'most ready to do, in sooth; but up cometh my father then, who was a just man to see the rights and wrongs of such quarrels, and quoth he, "Foolish woman, wilt thou put thought o' such evil into him that 's but a passionate child? Was 't not fair fight betwixt them till thou didst stir up this? Look well to thine own willful young one, an' leave the lad to me."
So, after that time my mother was carefuller of such vexing speech; yet she liked Simon Peter no whit more in her heart.
Aye, aye; he was no gentle lamb, in truth, nor neither was our Francis for the matter o' that—but Simon was ever kind and loving enough unto me.
But yet ye must not be thinking that this was ever the way o't with us. We 'd a happy home as any, for all such quarrelings now and again. There was work to be done, a plenty, on the new rugged land, and no negro slaves to tempt white folk into idly looking on the while they be driven as brute-beasts to toil an' moil. Some few had the Dutch ships fetched, e'en then, for trial, but my father would none of them. So when that the lads were grown big enough, they must needs be a-working i' the corn-fields and tobacco ground, whilst I, with my mother and the maids indoors, was learning of house matters, as becometh a proper girl. Yet we 'd no stint of sports, in due season. 'T was gayly and free we were i' the summer evens, I promise you; yet the best of all came round on winter nights, when, the work being all foredone, we might sit us down by the fire so curiously a-listening to our father's talk an' tellings of former times. A many fine tales we heard then, concerning the first comers-over to Virginia, their hardships, trials, and very dreadful sufferings in every sort; and of the great Captain John Smith, that was so bold a fighter, and likewise of the most gentle Princess Pocahontas, who did risk her life for the saving of his, and was afterward, in her loving-kindness, the savior of this whole Virginia from destruction; also concerning the old politic King Powhatan, his state and majestical behavior— and I promise you that Simon would be alway keenly hearkening to that. Also, my father told us about the dark time of the famine at Jamestown, when our people did, for very starving hunger, horridly eat the carcasses of such amongst them as had of hunger died; and that was what Dickon liked best of all to hear; but, for my part, I would the rather choose the wreck of the ship "Sea-Venture," that was casted away on the Bermuda Isles, a-corning to Virginia, and how one Master William Shakspere, 'way off in England, hearing o't afterwhile, did make it into an acting play called "The Tempest"—that is oft played i' London Town to this very day.
So time passed, year after year, till our Dickon was a great lad, with Francis
and Simon turned thirteen year old, and me 'most counting ten;
stnic.188912.006.jpg and then came to pass those strange, curious happenings whereof I will now relate.
Now, all this while that Simon so dwelt contentedly amongst us we did never hear aught to a certainty of Nemattanow, called Jack o' the Feather. One time, or twice, came a bruit from 'way off yonder, as how such an one had espied him here, or another there; and once somebody told it that he had been catched sight of in the great Indian town to northward, on York River, a-ruffling it with the other braves and in high favor with the king, Opechancanough. Howsoever, he troubled us not, all this so long while, and well-nigh had we forgot him, in sooth, till on a luckless day at last we 'd a pretty prick o' the memory!
Now, 't was one fair even in May-month o' the year 1622, when this turn on a sudden came to pass.
I mind me right well, as 't were but yester eve, how the sky did shine all of a rosy golden color, and the little winds did blow so softly, with smell o' May-blooms and sound o' bird-songs every which-a-way. 'T was milking-time, a bit past sundown, and all of us out nigh the cow-pen down i' the meadow. And my father and mother so leisurely looked on whilst the maids milked; yet we children did care naught how much went dairy-way so we 'd only our fill o' the syllabub and our sport with the youngling calves. And there were we, so merrily together, when who doth come walking out of the wood's edge hard by and so boldly into our very midst but an Indian man that I 'd never before set eyes on.
Now, he was of a tall stature, and fierce-appearing withal. His skin was mighty dark and weather-worn. His quiver for arrows was fashioned out of a wolf's hide, with the natural' head right grisly hanging down, having a sort of wild terror i' the look o't. In his right hand he did carry a great bow, and also in the way of warlike arms a tomahawk set in 's leathern girdle. Upon his shoulders, breast, and legs, that were naked and sunburnt to blackness, were painted stripes and rings in divers colors commingled. Round his neck and wrists did hang great strings o' beads, right gaudily colored—and for all his fierce aspect he 'd earrings, like any woman, a-dangling from his ears. Atop of his head the hair stood up bristling in a narrow ridge, after the way of a cockscomb, from brow to nape, but 't was clean shaven away on both sides; and out-topping all—being someway outlandishly stuck i' the very crown o' the ridge—was a prodigiously great and long eagle's feather.
Then all of us stopped short our doings as he drew nigh, for gazing curiously upon him. And in answer to mannerly good-even of us all, he did give, as 't were, a grunt, after the fashion of his people, belike; yet when my father saith to him then, "Sir, what is your business here this even?" he said not a word, only he stood steadfastly looking upon Simon.
So then we did all turn the same way, and behold! Simon had gone ashen-white under his natural brownness; and he stood stone-still, a-staring at that other, like, mayhap, as when one doth see on a sudden the ghost of somebody long dead, and well-nigh forgot, beck to him out o' the darkness. And whiles we all so stood, in wonder, the Indian man, pointing to his own breast, did say, in a harsh voice, "Me father, me father!" and then, pointing to Simon straight, said, "He son, he son!" Which spoken he waved his hand back that way he had come and cried in a louder voice right fiercely, saying, "Son go with father!"
Then Simon answered ne'er a word, but my father spoke up, crying, "Ha! Jack o' the Feather! I thought I had seen thy rascally face before. Darest thou set foot in these parts again? A pretty father thou art, that didst leave thy son to starve! 'T is no thanks to thee, I trow, that he is 'live an' well to-day, an' by right and might I swear he shall not go with thee, fellow, except he himself do so choose!"
Then saith he to the lad, "Simon Peter, this is in truth thy father, of whose kindness to thee thou 'st often heard tell. Wilt thou willingly go with him?"
But yet Simon was as one dumb, speaking no word; only he shook in every limb as
struck by a shaking ague. And Jack o' the Feather, seeing that, saith unto him a
few words, right low, —i' the Indian tongue, I reckon, for they were such
as none among us sensed the meaning of. Now 't was little of that speech that
Simon did by this while remember, save a word o't here an' there, half lost in
's mind. Howsoe'er, when
stnic.188912.007.jpgthat he did hear it now spoken, he looked in a wild way, as when one heareth in dreams a very strange back-drawing voice of witchery that he may scarce resist but is yet death-frighted to follow. In faith, I was like to cry out loud that moment—for I did think by the look o' his eyes then that he was going sure enow. Nevertheless was there no need for such fear, for he on a sudden put his two hands over his face and cried out with a loud voice, "No! no! no! I will not go with thee!"
Now, that hearing, the Indian looked a very black, murtherous look, and laid hand on his tomahawk, but my father, stepping quick afore the lad, saith unto him, "Begone!" in such voice as e'en Jack o' the Feather dare not brook, I ween. Go he did, of a truth, an' that straightway, yet stept he slow and proudly, as in very vexing scorn; and at the wood's edge he turned him round and waved his bow in threating way, as half in mind to shoot. Howbeit, that he did not, but passed into the dark forest, and we saw him no more. And, I promise you, e'en my mother did carry it right lovingly to Simon that night.
Now the chance that did befall Jack o' the Feather that same even, aye, within
the very same hour, was none of our fault, thank Heaven! yet truly scarce more
than his fair desert and no just cause of grieving to anybody. 'T was as he was
making so hardily, and in a swaggering manner o' boldness, along, the open
highway, that whom doth he meet, face to face, but Master Thomas Godkyn! Small
wonder (as was commonly said by all) that Master Godkyn waxed right mad at that
sight. Be that as may, he was ever a passionate man, besides that time somewhat
in liquor, no less, an' there passed sharp words betwixt 'em on that old matter
o' the maimed bull. 'T was Jack o' the Feather that struck first blow (as Master
Godkyn did after-time solemnly swear) and 't was Master Godkyn that slew him in
the fight that so followed. And all the neighbors said 't was no harm, but the
rather a safe riddance o' mischief. As to the manner of that fight, I do
remember it well, having oft with mine own ears heard him, our neighbor, relate
the same. A shrewd tussle it was, he did use to say, an' betwixt two that were
o'erwell matched to make one the easy master; and so a-saying would he shake
head right soberly thereupon, at mere after calling o't to mind. 'T was the red
man that struck first blow, as I said afore. "Mayhap the gallows will be high
enow, Sir Jack, for even your top notions," quoth Master Godkyn, and, hearing
this spoken, lo! that other gave a very brutish, fierce cry, and flinging behind
him his great bow (which same was no ready weapon in such sudden encounter), he
made at Master Godkyn with his tomahawk. Howsoever, that stroke, for all it did
start the blood (and that from no mere skin-scratch, neither), fell somewhat
short, belike,—and e'en whilst he raised the murtherous thing aloft for
another down-come, why, then did Master Godkyn with a swift cunning dash o' the
fist, that he had learnt long agone when a young sporting lad in England, strike
it clean out of his hand. So there was Jack o' the Feather fairly disarmed; but
yet, in sooth, the worst o't was still to come for Master Godkyn; for when he
would essay to draw his good knife from his belt, why, what doth that savage but
clip him on a sudden in 's arms as who would then and there squeeze very heart
and life out of his body. He was a strong proper man as the most, was Master
Godkyn, and stoutly builded, to give blow or withstand, but a many a time have I
heard him say how on the first amaze of this besetment he was but as little
chick in the coil of a black whip-snake. Truly this weakness did in a moment
pass—for the fear of a sudden death maketh strong—and even as Master
Godkyn did feel his breath going from him he made shift to catch it again.
Whereupon 'gan the struggle in good earnest. For that Indian, his arms were as
iron hard, and cruel strong, and his ribs were as brass; yet was the white man
he had thus laid hold on, not one to stand still an' be crushed in any such
devil's-trap. There they had it, for sure, this way, that, an' t' other,—
a-straining and a-tugging for dear life 'gainst foul death. 'T was a right
curious turn o' the mind (so Master Godkyn said afterward), and such as the like
of had ne'er before come unto him, but 't was sure-enough truth, no less, that
he did remember and see plain, 'fore his senses in a moment, nay, in the
twinkling of an eye, that time, all things he had ever done and said of good or
ill, life-long. Also it came to him in a sharp, raging way, as 't were a dagger
stnic.188912.008.jpgthe heart, how many perils he had 'scapen, by land and sea, to fall now, mayhap, by such base means at last. So ran this thought within him, lightning-quick and furious: What! was 't for this he did over-live the sweating-sickness in London Town, and the fight with pirates a-coming 'cross the ocean (wherein so many bold fellows were bloodily cut down), and the wreck of the "Sea-Venture" (for he was one o' that company), an' all the starving-time at Jamestown—with many other notable dangers, past mention—to die not Christianly in his bed at last, but in sudden unbeknown fight with a red Indian knave, and he not even accounted anybody'mongst his own people. Then that was a bitter-black thought, forsooth, but yet, maybe, the saving o' his life, no less; for e'en in the swift passing rage thereof, he bethought him of a wrestling trick well-nigh forgot in 's mind that might avail him at this pinch. Now, by this trick it was that he tripped up and overthrew his adversary, who, falling right heavily undermost upon the stony highway, did perforce somewhat loosen that fell grip; and so it came to pass that Master Godkyn did make out at last to draw his knife, and then, as Jack o' the Feather started up again (like any fierce beast that 's brought to its last bay), why, then[illustration - "Sometimes he bore me on his back thro' the running water.] did Master Godkyn, for defending of his own life, stab him to the very heart so that he fell back an' died.
So that was the end of that encounter. And all the neighbors said 't was no harm,
but the rather a safe riddance o' mischief. And the dead body was given o'er to
two of his kin, who did hap to come a-seeking him, and bore it back with them
that way they came—nor did any man at that time call Master Godkyn to
account for the same; only it seemeth to me always a fearsome thing to have
man's blood on one's
stnic.188912.009.jpghands; neither was I anywise astonished at Simon's taking of the news when my father told it him. Was 't not his natural born father, in sooth, flesh o' his flesh, blood o' his blood—despite of opposing misbehavior? So it seemed as naught strange to me, as to the rest, that he hid himself away from sight of all, that day of hearing it, and for many days afterward had few words to speak to anybody.
Well, well! a right wonderful thing is nature, truly, and it taketh its own way despite of law and gospel and all contrary custom. Now, whether 't was the killing o' his father at that time, or whether the natural turn o' his mind to work darksomely upon itself, that did bring round such change in Simon, God knoweth! but a change there was, for certain. He had ne'er been given to chatter overmuch, but 't was fairly as one tongue-tied he did now appear. As for the daily tasks, them did he do as afore-time, only in a sullen and grievous way, like to any driven slave; yet he sported no more at all, the rather choosing that time to himself for lonesomely walking abroad or brooding in some corner apart. Alackaday! The poor lad! my heart doth ache for him now. 'T was a strange case to be so situate betwixt one's natural race and kindred and such as were bounden enemies (and that past control of will) 'gainst them and theirs forever. Aye, aye; for all I was but a child then, and too little to sense aright the ins and outs thereof, it bath come to me since, I trow; an' small wonder 't is that the blackness of his eyes i' those days was as night without moon or star.
Now, as to his own Indian race and nation, he had ne'er aforetime been curious in asking of questions, for all ever keenly a-listening to aught about them spoken. Neither did he inquire anything by word of mouth in these days whereof I tell, only he would be now always secretly spelling o'er in my father's books what was there writ down concerning the same, by Captain John Smith and others. Also many 's the time I did see him pick up an Indian arrowhead from the ground (for there were many thereabout scattered) and so stand gazing upon it, goodness knoweth how long by the clock! as thinking strange thoughts inside of him, may-hap, and clean forgetting all else in this world. Also, would he oft be walking solitarily and spying 'mongst some two or three ancient ruined wigwams left long empty i' the wood hard by; yet, I promise you, if our lads durst ever anywise plague him concerning this so strange behavior he was as tow to fire. So it passed, day in and out, weeks and months one after t' other, till the summer season o' that year was gone and autumn did come round.
Now, concerning the very dreadful thing that then befell in Virginia, 't was even
as a thunderbolt out of a fair even sky, with not the merest little small cloud
for a warning aforetime. Nay, whoever would in reason have foredreamt it or
supposed it as anywise possible, e'en of that most subtle, secret, and
murtherous Indian people, after so long peace and friendly commingling together!
Surely never in this world was so cruel and barbarous assault so unprovoken; for
as to the killing of Jack o' the Feather, which same mishap, 't was afterward
told, had been made a handle of by the King Opechancanough in stirring up of
wrath 'gainst the English—as to that, but little store did the red people
truly set by him, I do reckon, nor was any white man but the one (being Master
Godkyn himself) concerned in that business. Neither could those Indians anywise
justly complain how the whites had them in a manner dispossest, seeing that
themselves had willingly consented thereto. Was 't they, or their forefathers,
that did 'stablish boundaries, dig foundations, or make any proper decent
settlements? Nay, not so; nor doth he set overmuch value on God's earth, I 'm
thinking, who will sell the same to first-comer for a string o' beads or gaudy
garment. A full ten year and more had peace continued, with kindness and good
neighboring on both sides. And many of the Indians had removed 'way off to
northward into the great woods on York River, but yet a many more were still
tarrying amongst us, aye, not a few in fair houses builded for them, English
fashion, by the settlers. Moreover, not a few, again, had been taken in, even as
Simon, by the whites as children or dear favored servants; and thus, lo and
behold! did it come to pass that these vipers for the most part, being warmed
and filled, did in very natural poisonous malice strike the hand that fed them,
or the rather as under-sappers and miners of the walls
stnic.188912.010.jpgthat sheltered them seek to fetch all down—e'en tho' to their own crushing destruction—by the fell blow of this bloody vengeance. So was the foul plot laid in secret for that massacre, the dreadfulest thing that did ever hap in all Virginia, and such as I pray God will never be again—and of it, as I said before, was no littlest warning given. There be sometimes signs an' signals in nature foretelling such calamity, as have oftentimes been proven. Yea, a-many a one have I myself taken note of for lesser trouble than that. Howsoever, for all our dairy-wench, Dolly Shaw, would be telling afterward about a death-watch ticking in her ear nine nights a-running, and a bloody red sunrise on the Friday morn next afore that woful Christmas day—why, it was all too late, as my mother said, for any such talk then.
And it came to pass, one even in December month, that I did follow Simon on one of his lonesome goings unto those old crumbling wigwams i' the woods, whereof I have told. 'T was little note he had taken of me an' my plays for many a long day, sure enough, but I was a-wearying of mine own company that time, with Francis an' Dick gone a-hunting and my mother and all the maids too busy o'er house matters to speak me even a word. So running after Simon (afar off, yet ever keeping him in sight) I did go along into the dark, thick forest; yet when he reached that place I hardly durst fetch up unto him, but stopped and hid me behind a little cedar bush hard by the path to screw up my courage. And behold! whiles I was standing there a-peeping thro', what did I see but a very tall and fierce-appearing Indian man come out o' the nighest wigwam and fall a-talking with Simon.
So there stood they, face to face; and there stood I—a-looking frightedly —'most ready to run back that way I 'd come, only I durst not, any more than go on. Ne'er a word that they said could I hear, but I saw that the tall Indian spake as 't were earnestly, and with right fierce, uncouth gestures did enforce the same. Also I saw that, at the first of it, Simon did shake head an' turn away—as who mayhap doth say, "No, no, no!" to somewhat or other and will scarce hearken thereto. Whereupon the man, waxing still more vehement, stamped upon the ground and pointed fiercely with 's long cruel-shapen fingers, this way, that, an' t' other—till presently I, making sure that he pointed once straight at me, fell down for very terror where I stood. So I lay a-quaking. And after a while (goodness knoweth how long! but it did seem monstrous long to me) came Simon himself, a-running back,—yet heavily and stumbling as one half blind,—and so espied me there.
Then he stood as one amazed, looking first at me, then back o'er his shoulder fearsomely; but I perceived that the strange Indian had turned away, making off swiftly into the wood. And Simon cried out to me, "Gillian! Gillian didst thou hear what he said? Didst hear?" And I said truly, nay; but that I saw the man. Whereupon I fell a-crying for very fear of I knew not what. And I said, "Oh, Simon! what hast thou to do with the dreadful dark man? Oh, prythee take me home, Simon, lest he should come again!" For truly I was frighted 'most to death at the very thought that, and I held him tight, a-weeping. But he cried out loud, vehemently, "No! no! he will not come. He shall not hurt thee! He shall not! he shall not! They shall ne'er hurt thee in this world, my little sister Gillian!"
So with that he comforted me, saying those same words o'er and o'er again, "Gillian! Gillian! my little sister, Gillian!" And so drying my tears right kindly, as my brother might, he did carry me home (when that I had ceased to weep) afore him in his arms. But he straightly charged me to tell nobody that which I had seen; and I, knowing naught of the harm thereof, did promise to keep it secret.
Now, that was nigh a week before Christmas, which same was the secretly appointed
time. Never before had his mood been so black, I trow, e'en at worst. 'T was as
if an ill disease had him fast, for truly the flesh wasted off his bones from
one day to next, and scarce a morsel of victual would he be eating. I do think
that e'en my mother had more pitied than blamed him that while, but for his
darksome scowls and downcast shunning o' the looks of us all. But as it was, in
sooth, she cried, "He surely hath a devil! Alackaday!" quoth she, "that such an
one, so possest in evil, did ever come into this house!" Aye, even my father
stnic.188912.011.jpgturned 'gainst him then, for saith he, "Is this how he doth repay my kindness to him, life-long! 'T is an ill-conditioned lad," quoth he, "an' my wife hath been wiser than I, all along, in this matter. Let none either chide or coax, but all leave him alone in his foul sulking humor till I find place for him otherwhere than in my house."
So by that command did all abide. In sooth, I do reckon, I was the only one of all i' the house that did anywise yearn to the contrary. But I durst not bespeak Simon a word, and thus was he left to his own thoughts an' devices till the very day came round.
I mind well that Christmas eve, an' for the matter o' that there be few a-living in this Virginia, from then till now, who have forgot the same, I do reck. Such a baking and brewing, such roasting and boiling, such a garnishing an' making ready for next day's feast, as there was with us, to be sure! for howsoever times might pinch in common, my father and mother needs must be making shift to keep Christmas holiday i' the good old English fashion of their young days. I mind how we had a brave pasty that day for dinner, in foretaste o' the morrow, and when we sat down at table, at about one o' the clock, all were there a'ready to eat but Simon. Whereupon my father saith, "Where is Master Doleful Dumps, I pray?" And my mother cried, "Dear heart, I do neither know nor care!" But Dolly Shaw, who stood behind her chair, spake up, saying; "He is in the top loft o' the house, where he hath e'en been well nigh all day, a-sulking." Then Dickon would be asking (for he had e'er a rare sweet humor, had our Dick), "Shall I run tell him o' the pasty?" Howsoever, the master made answer, "No. Let him wait till he be hungry," quoth he, "for I warrant empty stomach needs no coaxing. He will be high in place tho' low in spirit, it doth seem. Fetch him not down."
So then all did go on to eat without more ado; but, for mine own part, the victual seemed to go against me that day.
Now, when that the meal was o'er, some went one way, some another, about their several matters; yet I could do naught in pleasure for thinking of Simon, 'way up yonder, so lonesome and without cheer. In faith, I was always a loving little lass, an' tender-true to them that had showed me kindness; nor could I then deck my doll in holiday fashion, nor look on at the maids i' the kitchen, nor sport with my tame deer, nor anywise content me with this trouble on my mind. Wherefore, as hour after hour did pass, I bethought me how thirsty he must be by that time. 'T was not of hunger I would be thinking, for truly he seemed to have forgot the feel o' that in those days; but all must surely drink to live. 'T was a green Christmas, that (and such as old folk say maketh a fat graveyard), and mighty warm for the season; and I had noted well, at time of breakfast that morn, how Simon, eating no single mouthful, drank scarce one cup o' milk. Moreover, I also bethought me how folk would oft be talking of peace an' good will at Christmas-tide, even as the Bible telleth that angels sang unto those shepherds a-listening on the hill-top; yet, in sooth, that saying did then appear but an idle mock to me, and no peace in mine heart at all, with Simon left out a-cold. And so I said within myself, "'T is surely no harm nor naughty disobedience, nor will my father 'count it any such, if I carry him a drink." Then I took from the mantel-shelf mine own silver cup, that my grandmother Griffin had sent unto me for a christening gift, all the way from England, and fetched it brimming full o' fresh fair water from the spring, unseen by anybody. And I went with it in my two hands so softly (for fear of spilling) up the big stair an' the little steep stair into the great loft room.
Now, 't was the first time that I did ever go alone, of mine own accord, into
that room, for it had ever seemed to me a strange and awesome place, mayhap
resembling some such as we hear tell of in old enchanted houses or the like. Not
that our house had been builded long, or was aught like a grand big castle. Nay!
But in this top room that spread all o'er the bigness o't, it was ever half dark
as twilight, having only one little small window for the whole, and the great
beams o' the roof so heavily sloping down, with cobwebs hanging therefrom. Then
a-many strange things were there stored away for safe-keeping that no place
might be found for i' the house below, such as the skins of divers beasts,
tanned with the fur on,
stnic.188912.012.jpg [illustration - "There they had it, for sure, this way, that, an' t' other."]
stnic.188912.013.jpgas they had been killed from time to time, and hanged up for some-day use; or weapons of warfare, as swords, pikes, bludgeons, and so on, laid by 'gainst troublous times. Also, was there a great bedstead that my mother would be keeping for the fitting of a guest-chamber after-while, with the tall carven posts bewrapt in white linen an' looking like any four ghosts i' their shrouds; with ancient storage-chests, broken tables, chairs, and what not of relics from the Old World, mingled together disorderly with trophies of the New.
Now, at first I saw nothing at all of Simon, and 'gan to think he was there no longer, when presently I did espy him. There was he, sure enough, in a far dim corner, a-sitting dolefully, as 't were, all huddled up on one o' the big chests. Only, his face and hands I could not see, for they were hid in a wolfskin there hanging from a beam o'erhead, even as a child doth cling and hide face in his mother's skirt, mayhap—as I bethought me then and afterward. So I waited a little space, but yet he did not look up nor stir; and then I went softly 'cross the floor, till being come nigh I did hold up the cup an' say, "Simon, I have fetched thee a drink!" Then he let go of the wolfskin and looked up, a-shuddering all o'er his body and appearing, mayhap, like one on a sudden half waken from a very dark, horrid dream, whereby he is still holden an' distrest, not knowing false from true. Yet never a word he spake; only stared so strangely at me as I stood. Whereupon I said again,—for all a bit quaking at the woful blackness o' his gaze,"Art thou not thirsty, Simon? Dost thou not know 't is Christmas-tide? An' wilt thou not drink this fair water in mine own silver cup—for peace an' good will?"
Still he looked at me in a wild way, and all round the room, shaking like as if I had struck him with those words. Yet did he not take the water; and all o' the instant, e'en as I so stood reaching it out unto him—lo! he gave a very dreadful sharp cry, like somewhat had broke within him, and flung him face down on the floor betwixt us.
Now, at that I stood frighted and trembling, till the water was spilled and the cup nigh fell from my hand. And naught durst I say, or could, but "Simon! Simon!" o'er and o'er again. And to that he made no answer, only so a-lying i' the dust did strike on the floor with his hand most dreadfully a-weeping and moaning, for some space; till presently he, looking up, said unto me, "Call the master!"
Then I went down, as fast as I might for legs a-trembling underneath me, and called my father, who did come up hastily and wondering at that summons. Also my mother came a-running behind, and the maids from their cookery, and the lads from cleaning of their guns i' the hall—all in haste and amazedly to see what was toward now. And when my father was come into the room (for those others did but listen on the stair) there was Simon, a-standing straight up, yet shaking as who doth face death.
Then 'fore ever my father might ask e'en, How 's this? he cried out loud, saying, "There is yet time! There is yet time! Strike me dead when I have told it," crieth he, "but listen to me first!" Then saith he on, "They have whetted their knives. They have sharpened their tomahawks—for blood, blood, blood, this night! Opechancanough, the king, hath planned it—all the red men have sworn together. This night by darkfall will the killing begin all o'er Virginia—the killing o' the white people!"
And he, throwing himself down on 's knees afore my father, said in a wild way, "Master! Master! They did promise me not to slay thee, or Gillian, or Dick. I did vow at first to tell, 'less they promised me that. Yet have I seen it 'fore mine eyes, day an' night—the blood and the killing—and the crying was in mine ears. Then Gillian came with the water—and now I prythee strike me dead, for I am false to both sides! I am neither white nor red—an' not anywise worth to live!"
Now, that hearing, my mother and the maids cried out for fear, "God ha' mercy!
What will become of us!" and there came a whiteness even o'er my father's face,
for 't was a fearsome dreadful thing to think of, an' the sun nigh going
down—as from the little window we might see. Howsoever, he laid not his
hand on the lad, but, after that he had bidden the woman take heart o' grace, he
said unto him, "Up, boy, an' get thee down with me. Thou hast been bad enow, God
knoweth;—but 't is our part to save, an' not to kill, this night. I
stnic.188912.014.jpgwill give thee chance a plenty, by St. George! to prove thee yet worthy living."
'T was well we had good horses and strong—aye, an' well-fed—in our stable, for 't was both fast and far they needs must go that even. Good twenty miles were we from Jamestown, as the crow flieth; eighteen miles the way lay to Wyanoke on one hand, nineteen or so was it to Falling Creek on t' other—through wood and swamp, with scarce road or track at all. As for my father, he must needs stay for our defense at home; but on the three fleetest horses the three lads did go to warn and save such as might be. I mind how my mother wept over an' kissed Francis and Dickon as 't were death-parting to see them go—and sooth, poor soul! I reckon she guessed full well how 't would be with them both, if they made not good speed ere sundown. But unto Simon 't was only my father that said good-bye, when he started the Jamestown way, on wild Blackamoor a-riding. "Now, if thou wouldst show human good inside thee," saith he," I charge thee ride thy best." And Simon's face was as any stone set when he heard that word and started forth.
Well, well! 't is over an' done, bless Heaven! this many a year agone, and may we never see the like of such a Christmas e'er again in Virginia, I do pray! Good speed the three lads made in their several ways. 'T was Simon that did first win to the end o' his, for all it was the longest. So was Jamestown saved, and so likewise did those two other settlements 'scape from fire and bloody slaughter. I promise you, those murtherous yelling knaves that came 'gainst our house that night did find my father ready with warmer welcome than they looked for. Yet alas and alas for them who had no such a warning as ours! and alas for all Virginia that bitter, cruel night! Right bloodily the white people wrought vengeance for 't in aftertime. Aye, aye; 't was said they did hunt the Indians like wild beasts, in some parts, with bloodhounds fetched o'er from England a purpose for the business; yet it brought not the dead ones to life again, so killed in sudden horrid massacre. At Warrasqueake, an' Flower de Hundred, and Martin's Brandon, and Westover—nay, where not elsewhere, i' faith, save the three places that our three lads did save! All o'er the land, to tell truth, was foul murther done; with hundreds o' dead corpses that were live and warm at sundown left a-cold ere daybreak, and that unhumanly hacked to bits in a manner not befitting civil ears to hear tell of. I trow the Christmas viands were but funeral meats that woful time, an' Christmas hymns of cheer all turned to dirges. Yea, lads an' lasses here a-listening, ye may e'en thank God on bended knees this night for that these days be not like them agone!
Now as to Totapotamoi, or Simon Peter, as we always called him, we never saw that lad more, nor heard to any certainty what did become o' him. My father found the horse Blackamoor safe enough in James City next morn, but 'mongst all the townsfolk none might know how it had gone with the rider when his message was told. And whether he slew himself in dark despairing mood; or was slain by the Indians in wrath for his betrayal of their wickedness; or whether he doth still live with them, his natural kin and race, in the great woods behind the mountains (as was long aftertime rumored credibly to be the way o't), God knoweth, not I; but it Hath always pleased me to think him still a-living, an' that some day 'fore I died I might set eyes on him again.
'T was many a long day ere my heart would give o'er aching at the thought o' him, for all the folk would oft be a-telling me that time and after, with tears and kisses, that when God himself did put into my head to fetch the Indian lad that water in my silver cup, 't was even (in the saving o' precious lives) as the Bible saith concerning them that so a-doing will not lose their goodly reward.