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Stories of the Pilgrims by  Margaret B. Pumphrey


 

 

SAMOSET

[134]

A
T last spring came bringing health and hope to the Pilgrims. Again the axes rang out in the forest, and the half-built cottages were soon finished. The snow melted from the sunny hillsides, and the ice in the streams broke away and floated into the sea.

One morning the men of Plymouth met in the common-house to make plans for their little army. "On the top of the hill we will build a large, strong fort, and mount our cannons upon it so they will point in every direction," said Captain Miles Standish. "If the Indians make trouble, we will bring the women and children to the fort for safety. "

As he spoke there was a frightened scream from the children at play outside. The next moment a tall, half-naked Indian stood in the door before them.

Three eagle feathers were braided into his long black hair. Lines of red and black were painted upon his face. In his hand he carried a long bow, and a quiver of arrows hung between his bare shoulders.

The Pilgrims sprang to their feet, seizing their guns and swords. Perhaps he was only one of many who were already in the village.

[135] The Indian did not move from his place, though he laid his hand upon a little hatchet at his belt. How sharply his bright eyes glanced from one to another of the men!

"Welcome, Englishmen!" said he.

"What! Do these savages speak English?" said William Bradford.

"Look to your guns, men," said Captain Miles Standish in a low voice. "He may not be so friendly as he seems."

Perhaps the Indian understood the Captain's words, for he said quickly, "Samoset friend of Englishmen. He come to say welcome."

Elder Brewster stepped forward and gave his hand to the strange visitor. "Thank you for your kind words, friend. Where did you learn our language?"

"Samoset is chief in little land in the sea. Many English come there to fish and buy furs. Samoset much good to Englishmen."

"How far away is your island?" asked the elder.

"Come big wind in ship, one day. Or canoe to shore, then walk, five days," answered the chief.

"And which way did you come, Samoset?"

"Samoset come in ship eight moons ago. English friend give Samoset and other chiefs long ride in his ship."

Then the Pilgrims asked the Indian to sit down in the common-house with them. They brought [136] him food and drink, and as he ate they asked him many questions.

"Are your Indian friends near here?" asked Captain Standish.

"Many Indians in forest," answered Samoset. "They bring many furs to trade with white men. Indians great hunters. White man not know how to make good traps like Indian."

The Pilgrims looked at William Bradford and smiled. He, too, was thinking of the Indian deer trap in which he had been caught one day.

"Samoset have Indian friend named Squanto. Him speak good English," said Samoset, as he took another leg of roast duck.

"Why did not Squanto come with you?" asked Elder Brewster.

"Squanto wise like fox. Him put his paw in trap one time. Him much afraid of white man now."

"Did the white men not treat him well?" asked Bradford.

Then Samoset laid down his bone and told them Squanto's story. He said, "Sailor-man tell Squanto to come have little ride in his white-winged canoe. Then he take Squanto and twenty other Indians to land of the sunrise, across the Big-sea-water. He sell them to be slaves.

"After many snows Squanto run away. Good fisherman bring him back home. He learn English in the white man's country."

[137] Samoset did not seem in any hurry to leave the village. He walked about looking in at the doors or windows of the cottages. He knew the women and children were all afraid of him, and he seemed to enjoy their fright.


[Illustration]

"The women and the children were all afraid of him"

When night came he was still in the village. Some thought he was a spy sent to find out how strong the settlement was. They were afraid they would make him angry by sending him away.

"What shall we do with him?" they asked, as bedtime drew near.

"I believe he is a friendly Indian. He may stay in my house to-night," said Master Hopkins.

So Mistress Hopkins made a bed for him on a cot in the kitchen. But Samoset would not sleep on the cot. He spread a deerskin on the floor and slept before the fireplace. His dark skin glistened in the firelight as he slept.

But Master Hopkins did not sleep. All night long he lay and watched the Indian on his hearth. He dared not close his eyes for fear he would awake to find his family killed and his house in flames.

Very few of the Pilgrims slept well that night. If they heard an owl hoot or a wolf howl in the forests, they thought it was the yell of Indians come to destroy their town.

But the night passed in safety, and in the morning Samoset bade his new friends good-bye. The [138] Pilgrims gave him some beads and an English coat which pleased him very much.

"Come again to-morrow and bring your friends," said William Bradford, as he walked with Samoset to the edge of the town. "Tell the Indians to bring their furs and we will pay for them, but you must not bring your bows and arrows, knives or hatchets into our settlement."


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