Chapters 29 and 30

SAMOSET

AT 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 Indians 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.

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“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.”

THE TREATY OF PEACE

THE next day passed and no Indians came to the village. The day after this was Sunday, and the Pilgrims were always careful to make Sunday a holy day. They met in the common-house to sing and pray to God, and to listen to Elder Brewster’s sermon.

When their service was over, they started quietly toward their homes. Before them marched Captain Standish with his gun, ready to give the alarm if he saw any danger.

Suddenly five great Indians came out of the forest. They wore suits of deerskin, and their faces were streaked with gay-colored paints. In their hair they wore long eagle feathers, and each man carried a roll of fine furs.

“It is Samoset and his friends. That means five more hungry men to feed,” said Priscilla to Mistress Brewster.

“I think we have plenty of food to share with them,” answered Mistress Brewster. “We will set the table for them in the common-house, and they need not come into our houses at all. It frightens the children to see them looking in at the doors.”

After the Indians had eaten their dinner, they spread their furs upon the table. Then they [140] motioned to bowls and kettles, and knives, and other things which they wanted in return for their rolls of furs.

“No, Samoset, this is Sunday. This is our Lord’s Day. Tell your friends we cannot trade with them on the Lord’s Day. Come to-morrow and we will be glad to buy your furs.”

Samoset could not see why one day was any better than another, but he told his friends what the Pilgrims had said. So the Indians rolled up their furs and without another word walked out of the village.

Several days passed and the Indians did not return. The Pilgrims began to wonder if the natives were angry because they had not taken the furs on Sunday.

The men were again in the common-house drawing plans for the fort to be built upon the hill, when Francis Billington and Love Brewster rushed into the room. They were pale with fright and out of breath with running.

“Indians! Indians!” they gasped. “We were down by the brook—gathering willows—to make whistles—and we saw—at least a hundred Indians—come out of the woods.”

But Miles Standish did not wait to hear the end of their story. He ran to the door and looked toward the forest. Yes, the boys were right, there was a large band of Indians on the hill near [141] by. They talked together and pointed toward Plymouth village.

Quickly Captain Standish turned and gave his orders. Each man knew just where he was to stand and what he was to do in case of an attack.

Then Samoset and another Indian left the band and came slowly down into the village. Miles Standish and Edward Winslow went forward to meet them.

“This is Squanto, friend of English,” said Samoset.

“You are both welcome to our village,” answered Edward Winslow. “We hope you have brought many furs to trade with us to-day.”

“No furs,” replied Samoset. “Massasoit, the Great Chief of red men, comes to meet the White Chief. Massasoit would be the White Chief’s brother.”

When the Pilgrims learned that the king of many tribes waited to see them, they wished to show him honor. Governor Carver prepared some gifts for the chief, and Edward Winslow, wearing his finest armor, went with Squanto to the place where the Indians waited.

Massasoit looked very like a king as he rested his long bow upon the ground and stood to receive the white man. He was very tall and straight. His garments of deerskin were beautifully trimmed with shells and shining quills, and he wore a band [142] of eagle feathers which reached from the top of his head to the ground.

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“Massasoit looked very like a king”

Upon the grass before Massasoit, Edward Winslow spread a red blanket of fine wool, upon which he placed strings of bright beads, a knife, and a long copper chain.

When he had slowly and carefully arranged [143] all these things, Winslow arose and said to Massasoit, “My chief sends to you these gifts and invites you to his house. He would be your friend.”

When Squanto had told Massasoit these words, the chief motioned Winslow to stay there until he returned. Then taking twenty of his warriors, he went to the village, led by Squanto.

Captain Standish, Master Allerton, and six other soldiers dressed in their bright armor met Massasoit and his men at the brook and escorted them to the common-house. Here a large rug was spread and cushions were laid for the chief and his braves.

Soon the sound of drum and fife was heard, and Governor Carver entered, followed by the rest of the little army.

Then meat and drink were brought, and, after the company had eaten together, Governor Carver and Massasoit made a treaty of peace.

Massasoit arose and in his own language promised that the Indians would not harm the white men, and, if other Indian tribes made war upon Plymouth, Massasoit would help the Pilgrims.

He promised that his tribes should not bring their bows and arrows into the white men’s settlement.

When Samoset had told in English what Massasoit had said, Governor Carver spoke. He said the Pilgrims would not harm the Indians, [144] or carry their guns into the Indian villages when they went there to visit. He promised Massasoit they would always pay the Indians a fair price for the furs and other things they bought of them.

When the governor’s words had been told to Massasoit by Squanto, a treaty of peace was signed. The Indian chief could not write, but, instead, he made a little cross. Massasoit did not understand the signing of the paper. When Indians make a treaty of peace the two chiefs always smoke a peace pipe. So the governor and the chief smoked the great stone peace pipe which Samoset brought to them. “Now are the white men and the red men always brothers,” said Samoset.

Then Massasoit unrolled the gifts he had brought to his white brother, Governor Carver. There were the finest of furs, a bow and arrows like his own, and a necklace of bears’ teeth.

When Massasoit and his company were ready to return to their camp, Captain Standish and his soldiers escorted them as far as the brook, to show them honor.

This treaty of peace between the Pilgrims and the Indians was kept for fifty years. In all this time they did not break their promises to each other.

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