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Stories of the Pilgrims by  Margaret B. Pumphrey


 

 

TIT FOR TAT

[172]

D
O any of you know where Squanto is? asked Miles Standish, coming into the common-house where Governor Bradford and Edward Winslow sat writing. "I can see an Indian running down the beach toward the town; I suppose he is a messenger."

"Squanto has gone to the forest to hunt deer, and will not be home until night," answered the governor. "Bring the Indian here and perhaps Winslow can understand his message."

So Miles Standish left the room, and soon returned with the Indian, who carried in his hand a bundle of arrows wrapped round with the skin of a large snake.

The Indian did not return the governor's friendly greeting. Throwing the bundle of arrows upon the table, with an ugly rattle, he gave them his message. But Governor Bradford and Miles Standish did not know what he said, and Edward Winslow could understand a word only now and then.

When the Indian had finished speaking, he turned to leave the village, but Governor Bradford would not let him go. "You must wait until Squanto comes to tell us your message," Winslow explained to him.

[173] Captain Standish was given charge of the Indian, and he took his unwilling guest home to dinner. But the messenger had heard wonderful tales about the "Thunder Chief," as the savages called Captain Standish. Many of the Indians believed he had the deadly black sickness buried under his cabin and could send it upon his enemies if he wished. The Indian was too frightened to eat, and insisted upon returning to his people.


[Illustration]

"He . . . filled the snake skin with
powder and shot"

Night came, and Squanto had not returned. Governor Bradford came over to the captain's cottage and found the Indian walking angrily up and down the room.

"It is not right to hold a messenger against his wish," said the governor. "We will have to let him go." So the Indian was set free and he quickly sped out of the town.

The next morning when Squanto returned, the snake skin of arrows was shown to him. "What do you understand these arrows to mean?" asked the captain.

Squanto's eyes flashed with anger. "Arrows say, 'Come out and fight.' Soon many arrows fly in this village. Many white men die."

"Our bullets fly farther than arrows. We are not afraid," answered Bradford. He threw the arrows upon the ground and filled the snake skin with powder and shot. Handing it to Squanto, he said, "Take that to the chief. Tell him we have done him no harm, but we are ready to fight if he comes."

Two days later Squanto reached the village of the chief who had sent the arrows. These Indians did not own Massasoit as their king. They had never been friends with the white man. From a safe hiding place they had seen the second ship land its company of Englishmen upon their shores. "We will make war upon them, and kill them all now while they are so few," said their chief.

[175] Squanto went at once to the wigwam of the chief. "The white men send you their thunder and lightning," he said, handing the chief the glistening snake skin.


[Illustration]

"The white men send you their thunder
and lightning"

The Indians had heard of the deadly weapon of the white man. A few of them had even heard its thunder, but none of them had ever touched a gun or seen powder and shot.

The Indians crowded around to see the strange bundle, but not one of them would touch it. The chief would not have it in his wigwam a minute. He ordered Squanto to take it back to Plymouth, but he would not. "There is plenty more there," said Squanto. "When you come you shall have it." Then he turned and left the village.

The chief then called another messenger and told him to take the hated bundle away, anywhere out of his country. So the messenger carried it to another tribe, but they would have none of it. It was passed from one Indian village to another, leaving terror in its path. At last, after many weeks, the snake skin of powder returned unopened to Plymouth.

That was all the Pilgrims ever heard of war with those Indians. But they thought it wise to protect their town better, so a high fence of pointed posts was built all about the town. For many weeks a watchman was kept at the gate night and day.


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