THE INDIAN PRINCESS.
The chief having made up his mind to visit the English, was eager to set off; he was attended by fifty of his braves, dressed in their gayest costume; he marching, however, on foot, while his daughter was conveyed in a litter, cushioned with skins, and canopied with boughs to shield her from the hot rays of the sun.
Very different was her lot from that of the other women of her tribe, who were, the Englishmen observed with no little disgust, compelled to labor hard from morning till night, while their lords and masters lolled in the shade and smoked their pipes.
While Captain Smith marched in front with the chief, Harry Rolfe often found himself by the side of Pocahontas, with whom in her own language he managed to converse. He told her of the wonders of the ocean, of the mode by which the ships found their way across it, of England, of its great cities, its magnificent palaces, its superb temples, its armies of horse and foot, with their guns, dealing death and destruction among their foes, and capable of battering down strong walls. The Indian maiden listened with wondering ears; for some time she spoke not, at length she sighed.Rolfe inquired what grieved her.
"That I can never hope to see the wonders you speak of. Till now, I thought my father the most powerful king on earth, and you have shown me that our people are but children compared to those existing beyond the mighty ocean."
To the latter remark Rolfe made no reply, as he did not wish further to wound the maiden's vanity. "Would you desire to visit those distant lands and see the wonders I have been describing?" he asked.
"I cannot leave my father and my people," she answered. "But go on - tell me more about your country - I will try to bring the scenes you describe so well before my eyes."
Rolfe continued, as desired; and the Indian girl seemed never weary of listening to him. Thus, whatever others might have done, he found the journey too speedily brought to an end.
The governor received the Indian chief in a becoming manner, with all the pomp he could assume. Banners were flying, music playing, and guns firing. The sound of the artillery especially seemed to affect the chief; and when he saw a shot fired across the river strike a tree and tear off a large branch, he lifted up his hands in wonder, and exclaimed, "Who can stand against a people so armed?"
Vaughan had hastened home with a sad heart, to break the intelligence of Gilbert's loss to his mother. At her house he found Captain Layton, who had already heard through the forethought of Roger what had occurred.
"Do not be cast down, Mistress Audley," he said, after Vaughan had given her the account; "we have certain notice from Gilbert himself that the Indians did not kill him and Fenton when they were first seized; and the savages well know that it will be more to their interest to preserve their lives than to take them; and as they tell me that the great chief who has just come to the settlement has no small power among the people of this country, we may trust to his being able to recover them before long.
"I have much hope, also, that with his assistance we may at length find your husband. I had determined, on the return of my son, to sail along the shore of the Chesapeake, and to make inquiries among all the natives I can meet with. Should Powhattan not be able to help us as we hoped, I shall forthwith carry out my plan.
"My two seamen have now come back; I will question them afresh. And now that they have seen more of the country, they may be able to say whether it was here or elsewhere they met with poor Batten; would that he had lived - he would have helped us more than they have done, or are likely to do."
While Mistress Audley's spirits were somewhat revived by Captain Layton's assurances, she received a message from the governor, requesting her to act the hostess to the Indian princess just arrived with her father.
This she could not refuse; and Lettice and Cicely were well pleased with the thoughts of having the Indian maiden under their care.Accordingly word was sent to the governor that they were willing to receive her as their guest. In a short time Pocahontas arrived, still seated on her litter, with Harry Rolfe by her side. Mistress Audley, with Lettice and Cicely, went forth to meet her, and taking her hand as the bearers placed the litter on the ground, helped her to rise, and led her into the house, followed by Harry Rolfe, who seemed unwilling to give up the charge of the damsel even to them.
The beautiful young savage, for such, in the presence of the English matron and the two young maidens, she truly seemed, cast looks of admiration at their fair features, and their dresses, which appeared to her of wondrous texture.
Although they could exchange but a few words with her, they were able with the assistance of Harry Rolfe to answer her questions; and in a short time she appeared perfectly at home with them.
At length she asked whether they were Harry's sisters, and hearing that they were not so was silent, looking up first to one, and then to the other, and then towards Harry himself; and it could be easily seen that her brain was busy though her tongue was silent.A hut had been prepared for the chief, suitable to his wants, though bearing little resemblance to a royal palace. He came the next day to see his daughter, and appeared to be so well pleased with the treatment she received that he intimated to the governor his intention of leaving her for a while with her new friends. His proposal was gladly accepted, as it proved his good feelings towards the English, and the confidence he placed in them.
Captain Layton and Vaughan, with the assistance of Harry Rolfe, had a long talk with him. Regarding Captain Audley he promised to make inquiries among the tribes of his nation.
While they were speaking, the head of the party sent out to follow the trail of the Indians who had carried off Gilbert and Fenton arrived. He and his people had traced them, he said, far to the north, when they found themselves in the country of a hostile tribe, from among whom they had great difficulty in escaping.
On hearing this, Powhattan was exceedingly wroth, and threatened to punish the Annaboles, the tribe spoken of, who owed him, he affirmed, allegiance. Rolfe, however, entreated that he would employ mild measures lest the Annaboles might retaliate on their two prisoners.
This information was on the whole unsatisfactory. Gilbert and Fenton might, it was hoped, be still alive, but that they had been carried to a distance was certain, and their recovery would be difficult, as Powhattan, notwithstanding his boasted power, could, it was clear, afford them no assistance.
"It seems to me, Vaughan, that we must trust to our own strong arms and mother-wit to recover the two lads," observed Captain Layton, when they had parted from the chief. "What say you, Roger?"
"I hold to your opinion, father; if we could get together some thirty trusty fellows, and the means of carrying our provisions, we would march from one end of the country to the other, and compel those knavish Indians at the point of our swords to deliver up their prisoners," answered Roger; "we might then, perchance, fall in also with Captain Audley, if he is, as I trust, still in the land of the living."
"Those 'ifs' and 'ans' are stubborn things," observed the captain.
"We might, however, manage to carry provisions on our shoulders for a week or more," said Roger, "and thus be enabled to march for three or four days inland from the shore, and back again without the need of hunting, provided we could keep in the open country, and not get entangled among forests or rocky defiles where our foes might pick us off without our being able to reach them."
"I know not whether we should gain much by that, unless we could manage to surprise an Indian village, and capture some of their chief men to hold as hostages till they agreed to give up their captives. These Indians are very different to the cowardly tribes we have been wont to meet with on the Spanish Main, as experience should already have taught you," observed the captain: "still, with discipline and determination we shall be able, I doubt not, to tackle them. I like your proposal, however, and as soon as we can get a crew together, we will sail up the Chesapeake and try what we can do."
Vaughan, grieved by the long, though unavoidable, delay which had already occurred, was willing to take part in any plan his friends proposed, and they accordingly at once set to work to collect a crew for the expedition.
They had, however, except the promise of good pay, no inducements to offer. Had they proposed an expedition to the Spanish Main they would speedily have collected as many men as they required; but as only hard knocks were to be expected, without the chance of prize-money, those who would have had no objection to the two combined, hung back.
The captain at length, in despair, promised that if men would come forward, and they should succeed in their enterprise, he would take a cruise in search of Spaniards, and that the prizes taken should be divided equally among all hands.
This offer was likely enough to have succeeded, when a party who had been out hunting returned full of excitement, with the news that they had discovered a vein of gold, or as some said a mine, at a stream some six miles distant from James Town.
The news spread like wildfire through the settlement, and everyone was eager to be off with spades and pickaxes to gather up the golden treasure.
The seamen who had engaged to serve on board the Rainbow were among the first to be off; those who were laboring in the fields left their ploughs; the few who had opened shops closed their doors and set out, for there were no buyers of their wares.
The governor and admiral, and a few other officers, remained at their posts. Captain Layton, in very vexation of spirit, refused to go even to look at the mines, declaring that "all is not gold that glitters;" and it might be, after all, this seeming gold was no better than dross; or that if gold it was, it would stay there till he had time to go and fetch it.
Roger and Vaughan were of his opinion; indeed, neither would have left those they were bound to protect, were it to prove as rich as the mines of Peru and Mexico.
Some days had passed away, when some of the explorers came dropping in, their backs heavily laden with sacks full, as they said, of gold-dust.
"Mixed with not a little dross, I guess," observed Captain Layton, who met Ben Tarbox staggering along under as heavy a load as he had ever attempted to carry in his life.
"Let us see, let us see thy precious gold-dust," he exclaimed.
Ben, letting the sack drop on the ground, produced a handful. The evening sun was shining brightly, and the dust undoubtedly glittered.
"I have seen stuff like that before," observed Roger, who just then came up, "and what do you think it was worth, lads? not the pains of moving from where it lay."
"They say it be gold," exclaimed Ben, looking aghast; "gold glitters, and so does this."
"There the resemblance ends, my lad," observed Captain Layton. "If no better gold is to be got out of the mine up there than thy sack contains, the settlers have lost many a day's work, and the colony is so much the poorer; though, from all accounts, it is not seldom they have thrown away their time before."
"Then what can I do with this sackful of stuff?" exclaimed Ben, who, having unbounded confidence in his captain, fully believed what he said.
"Sell it to the first fool who will buy it of thee for what he thinks it is worth," answered the captain, laughing. "Make thy bargain when the sun shines, though, or he may chance to set a low value on it."
Ben, it was supposed, followed his captain's advice, for the next day at noon he appeared on board the Rainbow without his sack, but chinking some Spanish pesos in his pocket.
Captain Layton, as did the governor, the admiral, and Master Hunt, the chaplain, warned those who returned of the utter worthlessness of the stuff they had brought, but they were not believed; and the idea got abroad that their object was to appropriate it, and thus to gain the benefit of their labors.
Most of them, therefore, as soon as they had deposited their treasure in such places of security as they could find, set off for a fresh supply; while the boldest speculator proposed to charter two or three of the remaining ships, and send them home loaded with the precious dust.
The first addressed himself to Captain Layton, offering him a cargo for the Rainbow.
There are two reasons against accepting your proposal, good sir," answered the captain; "the first is that I have other occupation for my ship, and the second is that I have no wish to become the laughing-stock of people at home, should I arrive with a shipload of dust not worth carting on shore."
Thereat Master Jarvis turned away, highly indignant, remarking, "Fools know not their own interest."
The captain smiled, but replied not, recollecting that to answer an angry man is but adding oil to the fire.
Master Jarvis was more successful with the captains of two other ships, which, as fast as the toiling settlers could bring in their sacks of dust, took them on board, the vessels being filled up with sassafras and other woods, and a few small packages of tobacco, all deemed, however, but of little value compared to the glittering dirt, as Captain Layton called it. There was no lack of volunteers to man the ships, as all were promised shares in the proceeds of the cargoes.
Not till they had sailed could Captain Layton obtain a crew for the Rainbow.
He summoned the remaining mariners in the settlement, who, already grown weary of tobacco-planting and digging, and their backs aching with the sacks of dust they had brought from the mine, were ready for any fresh adventure proposed to them.
"Lads," he said, "there are two things I have set myself to do: first, to look for the honorable gentleman who has been held captive for many years by the Indians; as also for his son and young Master Fenton; and when we have found them, to go in search of two or more Spanish ships, which will put more gold into the pockets of each one of us than will all the dust you have just sent home."
It might be that the remarks of the governor and admiral, and more especially those of Captain Smith, had by this time begun to open the eyes of the settlers as to the real value of the said dust.
One thing was certain, that had they devoted their labors to the production of corn instead of to the digging and carrying of the glittering soil, they would not have been so hard-pressed as they now were.
Those who had come from the Bermudas recollected the ample supply of provisions those islands afforded. The good admiral, Sir George Summers, offered, though now sixty years of age, to sail in the Patience, the stout pinnace he had built, and to bring back a supply for the benefit of the colony.
He asked but for a score of men to accompany him; a few faithful hearts obeyed his call, and with the hopes of finding their wants speedily relieved, the colonists saw that true knight sail away on his hazardous voyage.
Alas! they were to see him no more; overcome by the hard toil he had so long endured for the good of others, he had not long arrived when he yielded up his brave spirit at those islands, which were rightly, for many years, called after his name.
The appeal made by Captain Layton was not in vain. Ben Tarbox was the first volunteer, and others followed his lead.
"And what, Seņor Nicholas, are you not going to join us?," asked Ben of his old messmate Flowers, who winced, Ben observed, whenever thus addressed. "Art not to be tempted by the prospect of fighting the Dons, man, and pocketing some of their gold? Thou canst speak their lingo, for I have heard thee talk it in thy sleep."
"I have had enough of fighting in my time, and have come out here to end my days in peace," answered Flowers.
"Thou, wouldst end them with a better conscience by repenting of thy misdeeds and doing a worthy act to prove thy sincerity," answered Ben.
His arguments, however, could not move his former messmate, who refused to the last to accompany him.
Vaughan was doubtful whether he ought to stay for the protection of his mother and sister and Cicely, seeing that Captain Layton was going away, or to accompany him in search of his father and brother; but the governor and Captain Smith promised to defend them whatever might happen, and even Mistress Audley urged him to go.
Captain Layton could ill spare one good man and true, for with all his exertions he had been able to collect barely a sufficient number of followers for his object; and Vaughan, though brought up at college, had a strong arm and a stout heart, and he might, should the first part of the enterprise prove successful, return to the settlement without the necessity of sailing forth again to fight the Spaniards.
Thus the Rainbow sailed down the river, under the command of Captain Layton, with Roger and Vaughan as his lieutenants; and young Oliver Dane, who had begged hard to be allowed to go.
In the meantime, the Indian princess, as the settlers called her, was rapidly learning English and becoming accustomed to English ways and manners; but the period during which her father had promised to allow her to remain was drawing to a close, when he had said he would return to take her back to her home.
Harry Rolfe was a frequent visitor at the house, as also was Captain Smith, who, owing his life to her, could not fail to regard her with gratitude, if with no other feeling; but she was in age compared to him a mere child, and might have been his daughter. Still, when he came to the house, Mistress Audley had some doubts as to the sentiments he entertained towards the Indian girl; nor could she discover how Pocahontas regarded him. Still, it did not become her to speak to him on the subject; but when the story became known of the way Pocahontas had saved the life of the brave captain, it was generally reported that he would certainly; should Powhattan permit it, make her his wife, and Harry Rolfe often heard the matter discussed.
The governor was naturally well pleased at the thoughts of such an event taking place, as it would, he hoped, secure the friendship of Powhattan, and the active support of his tribe. Harry Rolfe had at first been struck by the unusual beauty of the Indian girl, and had become deeply enamored.
How matters would have gone had Lettice regarded him with that affection he once sought, it is hard to say; but his cousin, though she received him in a friendly manner, treated him, it was evident, with indifference, and at length he was fain to acknowledge that his happiness depended on making the Indian girl his wife.
Could he, however, hope to win her, should his commander, the bravest and wisest man in the settlement as all acknowledged, regard her with affection; if so, he might yield to him who had the prior claim, and he would go on board the first ship sailing, to make war on the Spaniards, or would engage in any desperate enterprise afoot.
It happened that day that Pocahontas, who, though an Indian princess, had the fancies and foibles of many of her sex, had taken it into her head that she would be dressed as her companions. Cicely's gown was too short and somewhat too wide; and Lettice, willing to please her, dressed her in the best she possessed; putting on her a hat with feathers in it.
Scarcely had the three damsels appeared in the parlor, when who should arrive but captain Smith, Mistress Audley coming in directly afterwards. He gazed with more astonishment than admiration at the young Indian, for the costume, though becoming enough to the fair complexion of Lettice, sat but ill on the Indian girl, accustomed to the free play of her limbs; its color harmonizing worse with her dark skin.
Forgetting the progress Pocahontas had made in English, he said with slight caution to Mistress Audley, in his blunt fashion, "You will spoil the little savage, Madam, if she is thus allowed to be made ridiculous by being habited in the dress of a civilized dame. I owe her a debt of gratitude for saving my life; but that does not blind me to her faults, and the sooner she is sent back to her father the better for her, I opine."
"My daughter simply wished to please her, and it is but a harmless freak," answered Mistress Audley, "though I acknowledge that her Indian costume becomes her best."
Pocahontas, who had understood something of what was said, casting an angry look at the captain, burst into tears - then, taking the hand of Lettice, she rushed out of the room.
"I had no intention of offending her," said Captain Smith, "but her manner proves that if she stays much longer here she will be spoilt."
"Heaven forbid!" said Mistress Audley; "our great wish is not only to instruct her in English manners, but to teach her the simple truths of the Gospel, that she may assist in imparting them to her benighted countrymen, and for that purpose I would fain keep her here as long as her father will allow her to stay. Master Hunt is assisting us in the work, which God's Grace alone can accomplish, we being but weak instruments in His hands."
"That alters the case," observed the captain. "If you have any hope of success, by all means keep her with you, but let her not indulge the fancy that a silk dress will enable her to become like an English maiden of high degree."
Mistress Audley promised to follow the captain's advice. Cicely put in a word in favor of their guest.
"Well," observed the captain, "I leave it with you, kind ladies, to make my peace with her;" and before Pocahontas returned he had taken his departure. Soon afterwards Harry Rolfe appeared; the agitation of her feelings had brought the color into the face of the Indian girl, who he thought looked more lovely than ever, habited as she now was in her native costume. His eye showed this, if his words did not, and she understood him.
"You would not laugh at me," she said, in her artless way; "if I were to dress as your country-women; and such I wish to become;" and Rolfe told her honestly that in his eyes she would be lovely however habited. She showed her satisfaction in a way he could not mistake; he left the house convinced that her heart was his. Soon afterwards, meeting Captain Smith, he frankly told him of his love for the Indian maiden, adding, "But should you, my dear friend, entertain thoughts of her, I am resolved to quit the country and seek my fortune elsewhere."
"Stay and be happy with her," was the answer, "if wedding with one who is half a savage can make you so."
Whereat Master Rolfe, thanking the captain from his heart, assured him that so rapid was the progress she had made that ere many weeks were over she would be fit company for the proudest dames in England, and much more of the same nature; at which the captain smiled, and patting him on the back, assured him that it mattered not, provided Mistress Audley and her fair daughter, who were the proudest dames in Virginia, were content to treat her as their friend.
So Harry Rolfe went back and asked Pocahontas in plain language to become his bride, to which she willingly consented, telling him to let her settle the matter with her father. Harry Rolfe looked forward with no little anxiety to the arrival of the king, who came at length, attended by fifty warriors; at which the prudent governor, not knowing how many might be behind, got all the men in the settlement under arms, as if to do him honor, but secretly keeping a strict watch on his movements.
He was convinced, however, that the king's intentions were honest, the more so when, after visiting his daughter, he announced that she had his full permission to marry the English chief, Harry Rolfe.
As Master Hunt, after consulting with the governor, was willing to perform the ceremony, the marriage took place before Powhattan quitted James Town, much to the satisfaction of all the colonists. The long harangue delivered by Powhattan need not be repeated, nor need the replies of the governor, Captain Smith, and the happy bridegroom.
He, being no sluggard, had built a house for himself, to which he at once took his bride. Flags were hoisted, guns were fired, and the bell of the church (hung to the bough of a tree, as there was no steeple yet built) rang right merrily, and the people shouted till their were hoarse, believing that from henceforth war with the Indians was at an end, and that they might go on and prosper in the land.