A STORM of wind and snow came up as the Pilgrims sailed along near the shore. The sea was very rough, and the boat seemed in danger of being upset by the waves which tossed it from side to side. The rudder was broken, and the mast was split in three pieces by the heavy wind.
It was growing dark, and the men rowed hard to reach the bay which they could see ahead. There was an island near the mouth of the bay, where they hoped to land, but when they came near it, the night was so dark they could not see to steer between the great rocks along the shore.
The “Mayflower” in Plymouth Harbor
As the storm grew worse the waves rose higher and higher. Through the darkness the men could sometimes see a flash of white foam which showed where the waves were breaking over the rocks.
The wind and water swept them on, and now the giant stones rose close on every side. Again a great wave lifted the little vessel high upon its crest; every moment the men expected to be dashed against the cruel rocks. They grasped the sides of the boat and waited for the crash which would probably end life for them all.
Yet the boat was not dashed to pieces. When the wave rolled back into the sea it left the vessel upon a bit of sandy beach between the rocks. The moment the men felt the boat touch the sand they leaped out and pulled it high upon the shore out of reach of the waves.
The men gathered brushwood and, in the shelter of a great rock, built a roaring fire and camped for the night. Before they slept the Pilgrims knelt upon the ground and gave thanks to God for guiding them through the storm and darkness. Then they repeated a beautiful old song from the Bible, beginning:
“O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good; for His mercy endureth for ever.”
The next morning the Pilgrims walked about the island, but they found no houses or people there. They climbed the hill to a great rock from which they could see all over the island. There were woods, ponds, and little streams, but no fields, nor any signs of life.
The island was not large enough to be a good place for their settlement. There would not be wood or game enough on it to last many years, and they needed more land for their farms.
The Pilgrims looked about for a tall, straight tree from which to make a new mast for their boat, and soon the chips were flying from a fine young cedar, as the men stripped off its branches and bark. When the new mast was in place and the rudder repaired, the boat was ready for another journey.
But the next day was Sunday, so the Pilgrims rested quietly on the island.
When Monday morning dawned the sea was still rough, but in the bay the water was smooth and blue. As they sailed slowly along near the shore, the Pilgrims sometimes stopped to measure the depth of the water. Here it was deep enough to float the largest ships.
One large rock lay at the edge of the water, and the men rowed the boat to it. They stepped out upon the rock and looked eagerly about them.
There was space enough on that sunny hillside for all their fields. At the foot of the hill flowed a brook of clear, sweet water.
After drinking from the brook the men walked up the hill to the woods. From the top of the hill they could see a long distance up and down the shore.
“If we build our village here, this high hill will be just the place for our fort,” said Miles Standish.
The Pilgrims thought the matter over carefully, for there must be no mistake in choosing a place to settle.
Here were a deep, safe harbor and plenty of running water. The earth seemed to be rich and free from stones and stumps. It looked as though the Indians had once raised corn here. Perhaps they had cleared the land.
Since the forest was at the top of the hill, it would not be hard to get logs for their houses. What better place could they find?
So the men sailed back to the “Mayflower” to tell the other Pilgrims the good news. How glad they were to know that a good place had been found for their homes!
“If I am not mistaken,” said Governor Carver, “the little bay where we landed has been called Plymouth Bay.”
The Pilgrims decided they would keep the name. It would remind them of the town of Plymouth in England, where many of them had friends.
The Pilgrims were eager to begin their houses at once, so the “Mayflower” sailed into the deep, quiet waters of Plymouth Bay. When it was within a stone’s throw of the shore, it could go no farther, and the smaller boat was made ready to carry them to the land.
The men were not the only ones to go. Several of the women wished to see the place which had been chosen for their home. So the boat carried Mistress Brewster, Mary Chilton, Mistress Carver, and a number of others besides the men.
They rowed up to the large rock by the shore. It was the only dry landing place on the beach, for the water was very shallow there.
As the boat reached the rock, and almost before it came to a standstill, out sprang Mary Chilton upon this famous stone, saying with a laugh, “I will be the first woman to step foot in our new town.” And so she was.
The rock upon which she stepped is still near the ocean where it was when the Pilgrims came. It is called Plymouth Rock, and each year many go to the town of Plymouth and look at the place where the Pilgrims landed.
When all had landed, Mary Chilton, Priscilla, and the Allerton girls tripped along the beach, stopping now and then to pick up a shell or a pretty stone. As they came near a little thicket of trees hung with wild grapevines, Mary stopped to listen.
“I hear the sound of running water,” she said. “There must be a spring near by.” The girls all stood still and listened to the trickling water. It was like sweet music to their ears.
They hurried on and soon came to a rocky nook where the water bubbled and sang as it escaped from the dark earth.
Never had water tasted so good, the girls thought, as they dipped it up in their large shells. Not in all the years they lived in Holland had they tasted water fresh from a cold spring.
“Here are some wild plum and crab apple trees. What a beautiful spot this will be next May when these trees are in bloom!” exclaimed Remember Allerton. Then the girls tried to think how this bleak hillside would look next summer when it would be dotted with cottages, and the fields were green with growing corn.
“I am afraid there will not be any bright gardens such as we had in Leiden,” said Priscilla, “for I doubt if there is a flower seed on the ship.”
“Oh, yes, there is,” answered Mary Chilton. “I thought about that last summer, and gathered ever so many seeds. Each of us can have a little flower bed. We will save the seeds again and by another year we will have enough to make the whole village gay with blossoms.”
A sharp, cold sleet now began to fall, and summer and blossoms seemed far away. The women hurried back to the boat, but some of the men stayed to plan for the new town.
THE FIRST WINTER IN PLYMOUTH
THE Pilgrims could hardly wait until morning to begin the town. It was scarcely daylight when they loaded their axes, guns, saws, and hammers on the boat and rowed to shore.
“First we will build a large log house at the foot of the hill,” said Governor Carver. “It will be strong and safe, and we can all live there while we are building our own houses.”
While some measured the space for the common-house, others went to the forest to cut trees. You could hear their axes ring from morning till night. They had no horses to help them, and their hands must do all the work. So they dragged and rolled the logs from the forest.
John Howland called Giles Hopkins, Francis and John Billington, Love Brewster, and several others. “Come, boys,” he said, “bring your sharp knives and we will go to the pond and cut rushes to thatch the roof.”
William Bradford saw them start, and he shouldered his gun and went with them. If Indians should come, one man could not protect so many children. When they came to the pond, they cut the long rushes and tied them in bundles to carry back to the men. Once they heard the wild yell of Indians, and sometimes the howl of wolves in the forest, but they did not come near. It was Christmas day when the first logs were cut and in three weeks the common-house was finished. It was a rough building, with its thatched roof and unplastered walls. The windows were made of oiled paper instead of glass. But it was their own, and the Pilgrims felt very happy when it was done.
They made a wide street from the shore to the top of the hill. It was named for their old home in Holland and is still called Leiden Street.
When the common-house was finished, the Pilgrims began to build their little cottages on each side of Leiden Street. There were nineteen families for which to provide. John Alden was to live with Captain Standish and help him build his house. Other men who were alone would live with those who had families.
The winter grew colder and more bitter. There were many days so stormy no work could be done on the houses. Food was scarce, and every day some of the men tramped through the deep snow in search of game. Often they returned nearly frozen, and with empty game bags.
The Pilgrims were often wet and cold, and they did not have proper food. Do you wonder that many of them became sick and died?
Rose Standish was the captain’s young wife. Her sweet face and gentle, loving manner had made her very dear to the Pilgrims. If any were homesick and lonely, Rose seemed to know best how to cheer them. She was always planning little comforts or pleasures for others.
But Rose was not so strong and well as the others. Miles Standish sighed as he saw her grow more weak and pale every day. “My poor little Rose!” he said. “You are too frail a flower for this rough, wild life.”
“I shall be better when I can leave the ship and breathe the sweet, fresh air of the earth and woods,” she said.
So, as soon as the common-house was finished, Miles Standish gently lifted Rose into the smaller boat and took her to the shore. He carried her in his strong arms to the new log house and laid her upon a little cot.
The brave captain trembled with fear as he saw her flushed face and held her fevered hand. He knew an enemy had come which he could not conquer.
A few more days of suffering, and then Miles Standish was left alone.
Soon William Bradford became very ill, and then Goodman White, Mistress Allerton, and many others. In the common-house were long rows of white cots where lay suffering men and women.
At last there came a time when there were but seven well enough to hunt for the food, care for the sick, and bury the dead.
All day Priscilla moved quietly about, bathing fevered faces, or with cool hand rubbing the pain from some aching head. Or she bent over the coals of the fire making broth or toast for the sick, or cooking for those who nursed them.
At night when only a dim candle lighted the room, Doctor Fuller or Miles Standish went from bed to bed, giving a cool drink to one, or turning a heated pillow for another. Often a cup was placed in the hand of one of the weary nurses and Priscilla would whisper, “Drink this hot broth. It will give you strength to wait upon others.”
If it were their white-haired elder who was on watch, she would beg him to lie down and rest for an hour while she took his place.
“No, no, Priscilla,” he would say, “you can not work all day and watch at night. Take your rest, child, you need it much.”
Then she would go back to her bed, stopping to smooth a pillow or speak a cheery word to some one too ill to sleep.
But even tender nursing could not bring health and life to all. Every day there was a new grave to be made on Cole’s Hill.
At last came a morning when Priscilla could not rise. She was burning with fever and in her sleep talked of her old home in France. She thought she was a little girl playing with baby Joseph. She could not even know when, one by one, her mother, father, and brother were laid under the snow on the hill.
The Pilgrims were afraid to have the Indians see so many graves. Perhaps they would attack the town if they knew there were so few of the white men left.
So late at night a little group of men carried their sad burden up the hill. When the grave was filled, they covered it over with snow that the Indians might not see it so easily.
In a few weeks half of the little band of Pilgrims lay buried on Cole’s Hill.