John Smith becomes interested in American colonization–Devotes
his money and his services to the Virginia venture–Sails with an
expedition to the New World composed of an ill-assorted company of
adventurers–They fall into dissensions at the outset–Each is jealous
of others and all of John Smith–He is placed under arrest and a
gallows erected for his accommodation–The emigrants grow weary of the
adventure–When almost within sight of the continent they plan to put
about and return to England–A storm decides the matter by sweeping
them into Chesapeake Bay–A party is landed and has an early conflict
with the Indians.

The life of John Smith naturally divides itself into two parts, each
covering about twenty-five years. We have followed him through the
former period with its exciting episodes and varying scenes. During
this term he is the soldier of fortune, seeking to satisfy his love of
adventure and to gain knowledge and experience. Beyond these motives
he has no definite purpose in view. He is ready to enlist in any cause
that offers opportunity for honorable employment. This early stage of
his activity has developed his mind and body and strengthened that
stability of character for which he was distinguished. He returns to
England, bronzed and bearded, somewhat disgusted with the horrors
of war and dissatisfied at the futility of the life of the mere
adventurer. His energy is in no degree abated but he longs to find some
purposeful direction for his enterprise. Fortunately for him, for his
country, and for us, the opportunity awaited the man.

Up to this time, all the efforts of Englishmen to plant colonies in
America had resulted in failure. The movement began with the voyages
and discoveries of the Cabots in the reign of Henry the Seventh and for
a century was pursued with difficulty in the face of the superior naval
strength of Spain, which nation claimed exclusive right to the entire
continent. The defeat of the “invincible Armada” afforded freedom of
the seas to English navigators and marked the beginning of a new era
in American exploration and settlement. The majority of the men who
engaged in this field of enterprise were actuated by no better motive
than the desire to gain wealth or satisfy a love of adventure. There
were, however, not a few who entered into the movement with patriotic
motives and of these the gallant and ill-fated Raleigh is the most
conspicuous. He devoted his fortune to exploration of the Western
Hemisphere and spent in this endeavor more than a million dollars.
In 1584 his vessels under Amidas and Barlow made a landing in the
Carolinas, took possession in the name of Queen Elizabeth, and called
the country “Virginia.” In the following year a colony of one hundred
and eight men was sent out under Sir Ralph Lane. A settlement was
made upon the island of Roanoke but the enterprise was soon abandoned
and the colonists returned to England. In 1586, Sir Richard Grenville
left fifty men at the deserted settlement, only to be massacred by
the Indians. But Raleigh persisted in his efforts. Another party
of emigrants was sent out and this time it was sought to encourage
home-making in the new land by including women in the colonists. The
fate of these pioneers who are commonly referred to as the “Lost
Colony” is a blank. A later expedition found the site of the settlement
deserted and no trace of its former occupants could ever be discovered.

The unfortunate results of these efforts dampened the ardor for
American colonization and for twelve years there was a cessation of the
attempts to people Virginia. Raleigh had exhausted his means and his
later explorations were made with borrowed money and directed to the
discovery of gold mines in Guiana. In 1602, Bartholomew Gosnold made
a successful voyage to Virginia, returning with a cargo of sassafras.
Several other expeditions followed which, although they made no
settlements, revived public interest in the American possession and
made the route a comparatively familiar one. When John Smith returned
to his native land he found the colonization of Virginia occupying
a prominent place in the minds of his countrymen. It was a project
precisely fitted to satisfy the nobler ambition which now fired him to
devote his talents and energies to his country’s service. It promised
to combine with a useful career a sufficient element of novelty and
adventure, and he lost no time in allying himself with the chief
promoters of the movement.

The territory of Virginia had been granted to Sir Walter Raleigh by
Queen Elizabeth. The latter died in 1603, the year before Smith’s
return to England, and her successor, James the First, imprisoned
Raleigh on a charge of high treason and confiscated his possessions. In
1606, the King issued a charter for the colonization of Virginia to a
company, which Smith joined with five hundred pounds of his own money.
But previous to this he had been one of the most diligent workers in
the promotion of the scheme, inducing merchants and noblemen to support
the project with capital and persuading desirable men to volunteer
as colonists. Neither object was easy of attainment and the latter
was the more difficult. Numerous broken-down gentlemen of indifferent
character were eager to embrace the chance of retrieving their fortunes
in a new land, and hundreds of dissolute soldiers out of employment
offered their services to the promoters. But the need was for farmers,
mechanics, and laborers, and few of these could be induced to leave
their homes in the prosperous state of the country at that time.
Consequently the organizers of the expedition had to content themselves
with a poor assortment of colonists who, but for the presence of
Captain John Smith among them, would assuredly have added one more to
the list of failures connected with North American colonization. It was
due to him mainly, and almost solely, that the settlement at Jamestown
survived and became the root from which branched the United States of

The expedition, when at length it was organized, consisted of three
vessels carrying, aside from their crews, one hundred and five
colonists. The largest of the ships, named the _Susan Constant_, was
barely one hundred tons burden, the second, named the _Godspeed_, was
somewhat smaller, and the third, the _Discovery_, no more than twenty
tons. Their commanders were Captain Christopher Newport, Captain
Bartholomew Gosnold and John Ratcliffe respectively. Other important
members of the expedition were Edward Wingfield, a man with little
but his aristocratic connections to recommend him; Robert Hunt, a
clergyman, whose name should be linked with that of John Smith as one
of the saviours of the colony, and a few whose introduction we may
defer until circumstances bring them prominently upon the scene. For
the rest, forty-eight were gentlemen of little account, about thirty
were men of lower estate, but no greater usefulness, and only a
score belonged to the artisan and mechanic class. Smith had engaged
and fitted out a few men with whose quality he had some acquaintance,
including Carlton and Robinson, the only two Englishmen of his own
command who had escaped from the disaster in the Valley of Veristhorne.

In the last days of the year 1606, this ill-assorted company sailed
out of the Thames under conditions calculated to create dissensions
from the outset. King James, one of the most feeble monarchs who ever
occupied the English throne, had reserved to himself the right to
select the Council by which the colony should be governed, allowing to
that body the privilege of electing its President. But for some reason,
which it is impossible to surmise, the choice of the monarch was kept
secret and names of the Council enclosed in a box which was to be
opened only when the party reached its destination. Thus they started
upon the voyage without a commander or any recognized authority among
them, and each man of prominence, feeling satisfied that the King could
not have overlooked his superior claims to a place in the Council,
assumed the tone and bearing of an accepted leader whilst resenting
similar action on the part of others.

The need of acknowledged authority was felt from the outset. Newport,
Gosnold, and Ratcliffe, were, for the nonce, merely sailing masters
and had as much as they could well do to fulfill their duties in
that capacity. The expedition emerged from the Thames to encounter
contrary winds and stormy weather, so that it was forced to beat about
off the coast of England for weeks without making any progress. The
emigrants began to quarrel, and among the principal men of the party
there broke out a spirit of jealousy which was never allayed. This was
directed chiefly against Captain Smith. His companions were forced
to admit to themselves that this self-possessed and confident young
man was their superior in all those qualities that would be of most
account in the strange land for which they were destined, and they
had sufficient discernment to realize that no matter who might become
the nominal President of the colony, John Smith would be its master
spirit and actual leader. This was made manifest in these first few
weeks of trying delay. Did one of the ship-captains need assistance?
John Smith was a practical navigator and could both handle a vessel and
read the charts. In the dispositions for defence in case of attack, he
had to be relied upon as the best gunner and leader of fighting men
among them. When the voyagers became troublesome none but John Smith
could effectually quiet them. A few words in his calm firm tones would
quickly quell a disturbance. Some of these men had served under him and
had learned to respect his character. The others instinctively felt
that he was a man of sense and strength–one of those rare creatures
who rise to every emergency and lift their subordinates with them.

Men of broad and generous minds would have rejoiced to think that
they had among them one who was capable of steering them through all
their difficulties and whose experience would help them to avoid many
a pitfall and disaster. There were a few among the gentlemen, such as
George Percy, Parson Hunt and Scrivener, who took this sensible view of
the situation. On the other hand, Wingfield, Kendall, Ratcliffe, Archer
and several more, conscious of their own inferiority, became possessed
by an insane jealousy of our hero. This grew with the progress of the
voyage and constant discussion of their silly suspicions, until at
length they had fully persuaded themselves that Captain John Smith
was a dark conspirator who entertained designs against themselves and
contemplated treason against his King and country. They believed,
or professed to believe, that he had distributed creatures of his
own throughout the three vessels with the intention of seizing the
expedition and proclaiming himself king of the new country as soon
as they should arrive at it. With this excuse they made him a close
prisoner when the vessels were in mid-Atlantic.

When the party charged with this disgraceful office approached him
on the deck of the _Susan Constant_, Smith handed to them his sword
without a word and went below smiling grimly. He had long since
fathomed the weakness and the incompetence of these self-constituted
leaders. He knew that the time would come when his services would be
indispensable to them and he was content to abide it in patience. They
should have realized that, if their suspicions were just, he had but
to raise his voice and the vessels would be instantly in mutiny. But
they had not sufficient intelligence to perceive that if John Smith
was the dangerous character they assumed him to be their best course
was to propitiate him rather than to arouse his enmity. Instead of
being impressed by the self-confident manner in which he yielded to
confinement in the hold they gained courage from the incident and
actually thought that they might go to any extreme without resistance
on his part. So, when the vessels made land at the West Indies, these
masterful gentry erected a gallows for the purpose of hanging our hero,
or, perhaps, of frightening him. Now we know that they could not have
undertaken a more difficult task than that of attempting to strike fear
into the heart of John Smith, and as to actual hanging, whilst he had
a considerable sense of humor, it did not carry him so far as taking
part in a performance of that sort. When they brought him on deck and
solemnly informed him that the gallows awaited him, he laughed in their
faces and told them that it was a shame to waste good timber, for he
had not the remotest thought of using the contrivance. In fact, he
took the matter with such careless assurance that they wisely concluded
to abandon the project and sailing away, left their useless gallows

Steering for that portion of the mainland where the former ill-fated
colonies had been planted, the vessels were soon out of their reckoning
and beat about for several days without sight of land. They had been
already four months upon a voyage that should have occupied no more
than two and had made serious inroads into the stock of provisions
which was calculated to furnish the store of the settlers. They began
to grow fearful and discontented. Many wished to put about and sail
homeward, and even Ratcliffe, the captain of the _Discovery_, favored
such a course. Whilst they were debating the proposition, a violent
storm arose and luckily drove them to their destination. On the
twenty-sixth day of April, 1607, they entered the Bay of Chesapeake.

Eager to see the new land of promise, a party of the colonists went
ashore that day. They wandered through forest and glade, cheered by the
genial warmth of the southern clime and delighted with the beautiful
scenery and luxuriant vegetation. But before they returned to the ships
they were reminded that this natural paradise was in possession of a
savage people who could hardly be expected to respect King James’s gift
of their land to strangers. As the exploring party made their way back
to the shore they fell into an ambush–the first of many which they
were destined to experience. They had not seen a human being since
landing, and the shower of arrows that proclaimed the presence of the
Indians came as a complete surprise. Neither redman nor paleface was
quite prepared for intimate acquaintance at this time, and the sound of
the muskets sent the former scurrying to the hills whilst the latter
hurried to the shelter of the ships, carrying two men who had been
severely wounded.

Thus the Jamestown colonists came to America. How little they were
qualified for the work before them we have already seen. As we
progress with our story we shall see how often they brought misfortune
upon themselves and how the wisdom and energy of one man saved the
undertaking from utter failure.



The President and Council are established and a settlement made at
Jamestown–Newport and Smith go on an exploring expedition–They
meet Powhatan, the great Werowance of the country–They are feasted
and fêted by the old Chief–A quick return to Jamestown and a
timely arrival–The Indians attack the settlers and take them
unawares–Gallant stand made by the gentlemen adventurers–The
appearance of Newport and his men prevents a massacre–A fort and
stockade are hurriedly erected–Smith is tried on a charge of treason
and triumphantly acquitted–Captain Newport returns to England with the
two larger ships.

It was, indeed, a fair land to which the white men had journeyed from
over the seas. Smith says of it: “Heaven and earth never agreed better
to frame a place for man’s habitation. Here are mountains, hills,
plains, rivers, and brooks, all running most pleasantly into a fair
bay, compassed, but for the mouth, with fruitful and delightsome land.”
The country was covered, for the most part, with virgin forest. Here
and there a small clearing afforded a site for a cluster of wigwams
around which lay fields of maize or other cereals. The birds and
animals that we prize most highly as table delicacies abounded in the
wilds, and the waters swarmed with fish.

A very small proportion of the land was occupied. The Indian villages
were few and miles apart. The country round about the Jamestown
settlement was in the possession of the Algonquin tribe, divided into
many bands, generally numbering not more than a few hundred souls,
each band under its own chief and all owning allegiance to a king or
werowance named Powhatan. There was constant intercourse between the
villages, and their men joined together for purposes of war, or the
chase. Rough forest trails formed the only roads between the different
centres, whilst blazed trees marked by-paths that led to springs,
favorite trapping grounds, or other localities of occasional resort.

The royal orders permitted the opening of the box of instructions as
soon as the colonists should have reached Virginia, and they lost
no time in satisfying their anxiety to learn the membership of the
Council. It appeared that the King had selected for that distinction
and responsibility, Edward Wingfield, Bartholomew Gosnold, Christopher
Newport, John Ratcliffe, George Kendall and John Smith. The last named
was still in irons and his fellow-councilmen were, with the possible
exception of Newport, unfriendly to him. It was decided that he should
not be admitted to the body, and the remaining members proceeded to
elect Wingfield, Smith’s arch-enemy, to the position of President.

For the next two weeks and more, the colonists remained upon the ships.
Meanwhile they explored the surrounding country for a favorable site
on which to settle. The Indians with whom they came in contact during
this time treated them with the utmost kindness, freely furnishing food
and tobacco, which latter few of the settlers had ever smoked, although
Raleigh had introduced the leaf into England some years earlier.
Everything was so strange to the adventurers, many of whom were absent
from their native land for the first time, that they forgot for a while
their discontent and jealousies in the interest and wonder excited by
new sights and scenes.

We can imagine, for instance, the mixed sensations of the strangers
when a band of Rappahonacks marched towards them, headed by their chief
playing upon a reed flute. They were all fantastically trimmed, we will
say, for their only dress was a coat of paint. The chief, as befitted
his rank, was the most grotesque figure of all, but the effect was
equally hideous and awesome and the Englishmen were divided between
merriment and fear. On one side of his head the chief wore a crown of
deer’s hair dyed red and interwoven with his own raven locks; on the
other side, which was shaven, he wore a large plate of copper, whilst
two long feathers stood up from the centre of his crown. His body
was painted crimson and his face blue. Around his neck was a chain of
beads, and strings of pearls hung from his ears which were pierced to
hold bird’s claws set in gold. He and his followers each carried a bow
and arrows and a tomahawk with stone head.

At length it was decided to settle upon a little peninsula jutting into
the river. There was a great deal of disagreement about this site.
Smith favored it, mainly because its comparative isolation made it
easier to defend than a location further inland, but he was allowed no
voice in the selection. It was, however, an unfortunate choice, for
the ground was low and marshy and no doubt a great deal of the later
mortality was due to the unhealthy situation of the infant settlement
of Jamestown. Here, however, the colonists landed on the thirteenth
day of May and set up the tents in which they lived for some time
thereafter. There is too much to be done to justify the absence of an
available strong arm and Smith, although virtually a prisoner still,
is allowed to join in the general labor and this he does cheerfully
without any show of resentment on account of his past treatment.

The President gave evidence of his incapacity from the very outset.
Relying implicitly upon the friendly attitude of the Indians he refused
to allow any defences to be considered, and even went so far as to
decline to unpack the arms which had been brought from England,
declaring that to do so would be a display of distrust which the
savages might resent. The latter, who were permitted to go in and out
of the camp with their weapons, were no doubt for a time divided in
mind as to whether the white men were superhuman beings invulnerable to
arrows or only a species of foolish and confiding fellow-creatures such
as they had never known. Wingfield had most of his men busy felling
trees and making clapboards with which to freight the vessels on their
return, for it must be understood that these colonists were practically
employees of the company that had been at the expense of sending them
out and which expected to make a profit on the investment. It was
necessary therefore to secure cargoes for shipment to England, but the
position should have been fortified and houses erected before all else.

Newport was anxious to have more extensive information of the country
to report to his employers who entertained the belief–absurd as it
seems to us–that by penetrating one or two hundred miles farther
westward the settlers would come upon the Pacific and open a short
route to India. Newport therefore organized an expedition to explore
the river. He took twenty men and was glad to include Smith in the
party. There was no opposition on the part of the Council to the
arrangement. Indeed, it was entirely to their liking. None of them was
over keen to penetrate the unknown with its possible dangers and each
was reluctant to leave the settlement for the further reason that he
distrusted his fellow-members of the Council and was jealous of them.
As to Smith, they had made up their minds to send him back to England
a prisoner, to be tried on charges of treason, conspiracy, and almost
anything else their inventive minds could conceive.

So Captain Newport and his party proceeded slowly up the river in their
shallop, greeted kindly by the Indians in the various villages along
the banks and feasted by them. The travellers in their turn bestowed
upon their entertainers presents of beads, nails, bottles, and other
articles, trifling in themselves but almost priceless to the savages
who had never seen anything of the kind. At length the party arrived
at a village named Powhatan. It was located very near the present
situation of Richmond, and perhaps exactly where the old home of the
Mayo family–still called “Powhatan”–stands. This village was governed
by a son of the great Werowance. The capital of the latter was at
Werowocomico, near the mouth of the York River, but he happened to be
at Powhatan at the time of Newport’s arrival. I say that he happened to
be there, but it is much more likely that he had been informed of the
expedition and had gone overland to his son’s village with the express
intention of meeting the strangers, about whom he must have been keenly

Powhatan was the chief of all the country within a radius of
sixty miles of Jamestown, and having a population of about eight
thousand, which included two thousand or more warriors. Although over
seventy years of age, he was vigorous in mind and body. His tall,
well-proportioned frame was as straight as an arrow. His long gray hair
flowed loose over his shoulders and his stern and wrinkled countenance
expressed dignity and pride. The English learned to know him for a keen
and subtle schemer, to whom the common phrase, “simple savage,” would
be altogether misapplied. He was sufficiently sagacious to realize from
the first that in the white men he had a superior race to deal with and
he made up his mind that the most effective weapon that he could use
against them would be treachery.

On this occasion, he dissembled the feelings of anger and fear that
he must have felt against the intruders and received them with every
sign of amity. To his people, who began to murmur at their presence and
displayed an inclination to do them harm, he declared:

“They can do us no injury. They desire no more than a little land
and will pay us richly for it. It is my pleasure that you treat them

In the meanwhile, his keen penetrating glance was taking in every
detail of his visitors’ appearance, scrutinizing their weapons and
dress, and closely examining their faces as they spoke, for the
settlers had picked up a little of the language.

When the voyagers, after being feasted and fêted at the village of
Powhatan, continued their journey up the river, the “Emperor,” as the
early writers call him, furnished them with a guide, whose chief duty
doubtless was to act as spy and report their movements to him. Newport
proceeded up the river until it became too shallow to admit of further
progress. He then turned and commenced the descent. He had not gone
many days’ journey when he began to notice a change in the attitude of
the Indians which prompted him to hasten on to the settlement with all
speed. It was well that he did so for the settlers were in a critical

We have seen that Wingfield altogether neglected to place the colonists
in a position to defend themselves from attack. During the absence
of the exploring expedition he had so far departed from his foolish
attitude as to permit Captain Kendall to erect a paltry barricade of
branches across the neck of the little peninsula, but this was the
only measure of safety he could be induced to take. The Indians were
permitted to come and go as freely as ever and the arms were left in
the packing cases. Of course it was only a matter of time when the
Indians would take advantage of such a constantly tempting opportunity
to attack the newcomers.

One day, without the slightest warning, four hundred savages rushed
upon the settlement with their blood-curdling war-whoop. The colonists
were utterly unprepared and most of them unarmed. Seventeen fell at
the first assault. Fortunately the gentlemen habitually wore swords,
these being part of the every-day dress of the time, and many of them
had pistols in their belts. They quickly threw themselves between the
unarmed settlers and the Indians and checked the latter with the fire
of their pistols. Wingfield, who though a fool was no coward, headed
his people and narrowly escaped death, an arrow cleaving his beard.
Four other members of the Council were among the wounded, so that only
one of them escaped untouched.

The gallant stand made by the gentlemen adventurers only checked the
Indians for a moment, and there is no doubt that every man of the
defenders must have been slain had not the ships created a diversion
by opening fire with their big guns. Even this assistance effected but
temporary relief, for the Indians would have renewed the attack at
nightfall, with complete success in all probability, but the appearance
of Newport at this juncture with his twenty picked and fully armed
men put a different complexion on affairs. The reinforcement sallied
against the attacking savages and drove them to retreat.

It is hardly necessary to state that all hands were now engaged with
feverish zeal in erecting a fort and stockade. Some demi-culverins were
carried ashore from the ships and mounted. The arms were uncased and
distributed and certain men were daily drilled in military exercises,
whilst a constant guard was maintained throughout the day and night.
From this time the intercourse between the whites and Indians was
marked on both sides by caution and suspicion.

When the defences had been completed, Captain Newport made preparations
for an immediate departure and then the Council informed Smith that he
was to be returned to England a prisoner for trial. Fortunately for
the future of the colony, our hero rebelled against such an unjust
proceeding, saying, with reason, that since all persons cognizant of
the facts were on the spot, it was on the spot that he should be tried,
if anywhere. His contention was so just, and the sentiment in his favor
so strong, that the Council was obliged to accede to his demand. He
protested against a moment’s delay, declaring that, if found guilty by
a jury of his peers, he would willingly return to England in chains
with Captain Newport and take the consequences.

The trial resulted in a triumphant acquittal. There was not one iota of
real evidence adduced against the prisoner. Wingfield and others had
nothing but their bare suspicions to bring forward. It did transpire,
however, in the course of the proceedings that the President had not
only been moved by malice but that he had endeavored to induce certain
persons to give false evidence against his enemy. On the strength
of these revelations, the jury not only acquitted Captain Smith but
sentenced the President to pay him two hundred pounds in damages, which
sum, or its equivalent, for it was paid in goods, our hero promptly
turned into the common fund.

Smith accepted his acquittal with the same calm indifference that had
characterized his behavior since his arrest and showed a readiness
to forget past differences and encourage harmony among the leaders.
Mr. Hunt also strove to produce peace and goodwill in the settlement
but the efforts were useless. When Newport left them in June, the
colony was divided into two factions, the supporters of Wingfield and
those of Smith, who was now of course free of his seat at the Council
board. And so it remained to the end of our story–jealousy, meanness,
incompetence and even treachery, hazarding the lives and the fortunes
of the little band of pioneers who should have been knit together by
common interests and common dangers.



The colonists experience hard times and a touch of starvation–Fever
seizes the settlement and one-half the settlers die–The entire charge
of affairs devolves upon Captain Smith–President Wingfield is deposed
and Ratcliffe appointed in his place–Smith leads an expedition in
search of corn–Returns to find trouble at Jamestown–The blacksmith
to be hanged for treason–At the foot of the gallows he divulges a
Spanish plot–Captain Kendall, a Councilman, is involved–His guilt is
established–He seizes the pinnace and attempts to sail away–Smith
trains a cannon upon the boat and forces the traitor to land–He is

Just before the departure of Captain Newport with the two larger
ships–the pinnace, _Discovery_, was left for the use of the
colonists–Mr. Hunt had administered the communion to the company in
the hope that the joint participation in the holy sacrament might
create a bond of amity between them. On that occasion Captain Smith
had modestly addressed the assembled settlers, urging them to forget
past disagreement, as he was ready to do, and address themselves
energetically to the important business of the community.

“You that of your own accord have hazarded your lives and estates in
this adventure, having your country’s profit and renown at heart,” he
said with earnestness, “banish from among you cowardice, covetousness,
jealousies, and idleness. These be enemies to the raising your honors
and fortunes and put in danger your very lives, for if dissension
prevail among us, surely we shall become too weak to withstand the
Indians. For myself, I ever intend my actions shall be upright and
regulated by justice. It hath been and ever shall be my care to give
every man his due.”

The plain, frank speech moved his hearers, but in the evil times that
quickly fell upon them good counsel was forgotten and strife and
ill-nature resumed their sway.

The colonists had arrived too late in the year to plant and they soon
began to experience a shortage of provisions. The grain which had lain
six months in the holds of leaky vessels was wormy and sodden, unfit
for horses and scarcely eatable by men. Nevertheless, for weeks after
Newport left, a small allowance of this formed the principal diet of
the unfortunate settlers. The woods abounded in game, it is true, but
they were yet unskilled in hunting and dared not venture far from their
palisades, whilst the unaccustomed sounds of axe and hammer had driven
every beast and most of the birds from the neighborhood. They must
have starved but for the sturgeon that they secured from the river.
On these they dined with so little variation that their stomachs at
last rebelled at the very sight of them. One of this miserable company,
describing their condition, says with melancholy humor: “Our drink was
water; our lodgings castles in the air.”

But lack of food was only one of the hardships which befell the poor
wretches. There were but few dwellings yet constructed, and being
forced to lie upon the low damp ground, malarial fever and typhoid
broke out among them and spread with such fearful rapidity that not
one of them escaped sickness. Hardly a day passed but one at least
of their number found a happy release from his sufferings in death.
Fifty in all–just half of them–died between June and September.
The unaccustomed heat aided in prostrating them, so that at one time
there were scarce ten men able to stand upon their feet. And all this
time the Indians kept up a desultory warfare and only refrained from
a determined attack upon the settlement for fear of the firearms. Had
they assaulted the stockade, instead of contenting themselves with
shooting arrows into it from a distance, the colonists could have made
no effective defence against them.

Shortly, the whole weight of authority and the entire charge of the
safety of the settlement fell upon Captain Smith. He was sick like
the rest, but kept his feet by sheer strength of will, knowing that
otherwise they would all fall victims to the savages in short order.
Gosnold was under the sod. Wingfield, Martin and Ratcliffe were on the
verge of death. Kendall was sick and, moreover, had been deposed from
his place in the Council. In fact, all the chief men of the colony
were incapacitated, “the rest being in such despair that they would
rather starve and rot with idleness than be persuaded to do anything
for their own relief without constraint.” In this strait the courage
and resolution of one man saved them as happened repeatedly afterward.
He nursed the sick, distributed the stores, stood guard day and
night, coaxed and threatened the least weak into exerting themselves,
cunningly hid their real condition from the Indians, and, by the
exercise of every available resource, tided over the terrible months of
July and August.

Early in September, Wingfield was deposed from the presidency. His
manifest incompetency had long been the occasion of discontent which
was fanned to fever heat when the starving settlers discovered that the
leader, who was too fine a gentleman to eat from the common kettle, had
been diverting the best of the supplies from the public store to his
private larder. The climax which brought about his downfall, however,
was reached when it transpired that the President had made arrangements
to steal away in the pinnace and return to England, leaving the
settlement in the lurch. Ratcliffe was elected to fill his place. He
was a man of no greater capacity than his predecessor, but it happened
that conditions improved at about this time and the undiscerning
colonists were willing to give him credit for the change.

Early fall brings ripening fruit and vegetables in the South. The
Indians, who fortunately had no idea of the extremity to which the
colony had been reduced, began to carry corn and other truck to the
fort, glad to trade for beads, little iron chisels or other trifles.
Wild fowl came into the river in large numbers and, with these welcome
additions to their hitherto scanty diet, the sick soon began to recover
health and strength. Smith, so soon as he could muster a boat’s crew,
made an excursion up the river and returned with some thirty bushels of
corn to famine-stricken Jamestown. Having secured ample supplies for
immediate needs, our hero, who was by this time generally recognized
as the actual leader of the colony, put as many men as possible to
work building houses and succeeded so far as to provide a comfortable
dwelling for every one but himself.

Our adventurers, convalescent for the most part, now experienced a
Virginia autumn in all its glory. The days were cloudless and cool.
The foliage took on magic hues and presented patterns marvellously
beautiful as an oriental fabric. The air, stimulating as strong wine,
drove the ague from the system and cleared the brain. The fruits of
the field stood ripe and inviting whilst nuts hung in profusion from
the boughs of trees amongst which fat squirrels and opossums sported.
Turkeys with their numerous broods wandered through the woods whilst
partridges and quail abounded in the undergrowth. Where starvation had
stared them in the face the colonists now saw plenty on every hand
and, with the appetites of men turning their backs upon fever-beds,
ate to repletion. With the removal of their sufferings, they dismissed
the experience from their minds and gave no heed to the latent lesson
in it. Not so Captain Smith, however. He realized the necessity of
providing a store of food against the approach of winter, without
relying upon the return of Newport with a supply ship.

The Council readily agreed to the proposed expedition in search of
provisions, but it was not in their mind to give the command to Captain
Smith. Far from being grateful to the man who had saved the settlement
in the time of its dire distress and helplessness, they were more than
ever jealous of his growing influence with the colonists. None of
them was willing to brave the dangers and hardships of the expedition
himself nor did they dare, in the face of Smith’s popularity, to
appoint another to the command. In this difficulty they pretended a
desire to be fair to the other gentlemen adventurers by putting a
number of their names into a lottery from which the commander should
be drawn. The hope was that by this means some other might be set up
as a sort of competitor to Smith. There were those among the gentlemen
who penetrated this design and had sufficient sense to circumvent it.
George Percy, a brother of the Earl of Northumberland, and Scrivener,
were among our hero’s staunch adherents. Percy contrived that he should
draw the lot from the hat that contained the names. The first paper
that he drew bore upon it the words: “The Honorable George Percy.”
Without a moment’s hesitation he showed it to Scrivener, as though for
confirmation, and crumpling it in his hand, cried:

“Captain John Smith draws the command,” and the announcement was
received with a shout of approval.

“Thou hast foregone an honor and the prospect of more,” said Scrivener,
as they walked away together.

“Good Master Scrivener,” replied the young nobleman, with a quizzical
smile, “one needs must have a head to carry honors gracefully and I
am fain to confess that I deem this poor caput of mine safer in the
keeping of our doughty captain than in mine own.”

It was early in November when Smith, taking the barge and seven men,
started up the Chickahominy. The warriors were absent from the first
village he visited and the women and children fled at the approach of
his party. Here he found the store-houses filled with corn, but there
was no one to trade and, as he says, he had neither inclination nor
commission to loot, and so he turned his back upon the place and came
away empty-handed. Now, if we consider the impression that must have
been made upon those Indians by this incident, we must the more keenly
regret that so few others were moved by similar principles of wisdom
and honesty in their dealings with the savages. In his treatment of the
Indian down to the present day the white man appears in a very poor
light, and most of the troubles between the two races have been due to
the greed and injustice of the latter. John Smith set an example to
later colonists which, had they followed it, would have saved them much
bloodshed and difficulty.

Proceeding along the narrow river, the expedition arrived at other
villages where the conditions better favored their purpose. The Indians
seem to have gained some inkling of the impoverished state of the
Jamestown store, for at first they tendered but paltry quantities of
grain for the trinkets which Smith offered to exchange. But they had
to deal with one who was no less shrewd than themselves. The Captain
promptly turned on his heel and marched off towards his boat. This
independent action brought the redskins crowding after him with all the
corn that they could carry and ready to trade on any terms. In order
to allay their suspicions as to his need, Smith declined to accept
more than a moderate quantity from any one band, but by visiting many,
contrived without difficulty to fill the barge and, as he says, might
have loaded the pinnace besides if it had been with him.

We will now leave Captain Smith and his party bringing their boat down
the river towards home and see what is going on at Jamestown in the
meanwhile. We shall find throughout our story that the master spirit of
the colony never leaves the settlement but that some trouble breaks out
in his absence. This occasion was no exception to the rule. One day,
shortly before the return of the expedition, Ratcliffe, the President,
fell into an altercation with the blacksmith, and in the heat of
passion struck the man. The blow was returned, as one thinks it should
have been, but in those days the distinction between classes was much
more marked than in these and the unfortunate artisan was immediately
clapped in jail.

To have struck a gentleman was bad enough, but the hot-headed
north-country blacksmith had raised his hand against the representative
of the sacred majesty of the King and that constituted high treason.
A jury of his fellows found him guilty and he was sentenced to be
hanged without delay. A gallows was quickly erected and the brawny
blacksmith, after receiving the ministrations of Mr. Hunt, was bidden
to mount. But the condemned man craved the usual privilege of making a
dying speech, and the request was granted. To the consternation of the
assembled colonists he declared that he was in possession of a plot
to betray the settlement to the Spaniards, and offered to divulge the
details on condition that his life should be spared. This was granted.
Indeed, it is difficult to understand how the colonists could have
entertained the design to hang almost the most useful man among them.

In order to appreciate the blacksmith’s revelation, we should
understand that although Spain had some years previously entered into
a treaty of peace with England, she remained keenly jealous of the
growing power of the latter nation and never ceased to employ underhand
methods to check it. Spanish spies were numerous in England and were
to be found among all classes, for some of the Catholic nobility were
not above allowing their religious zeal to outrun their sense of
patriotism. In particular was Spain concerned about the new ardor for
American colonization, of which one of the earliest manifestations was
the settlement at Jamestown, and it is more than probable that she had
sent several of her secret agents out with the expedition from England.
However that may be, Captain Kendall, erstwhile member of Council, was
the only one accused by the reprieved man. A search of the traitor’s
quarters disclosed papers that left no doubt as to his guilt.

The searching party had just returned to the Council room with the
incriminating documents when Captain Smith landed his party and entered
the fort to find the settlement in the greatest state of excitement.
He at once joined the Council and was in deliberation with the other
members when a man burst in upon them shouting:

“Captain Kendall hath seized the pinnace and is about sailing away in

The Councilmen rushed from the chamber without ceremony and made
towards the shore. There, sure enough, was the pinnace in mid-stream
and Captain Kendall hoisting her sail to catch a stiff breeze which
was blowing out of the river. The spectators stood open-mouthed in
speechless dismay, or bewailed the escape that they seemed to consider
accomplished. That was not the view of Captain Smith. He took in the
situation at a glance and as quickly decided upon counteraction.
Running back to the fort he had a gun trained on the pinnace in a trice
and shouted to its occupant to come ashore or stay and sink and to make
his decision instanter. One look at the determined face peering over
the touch-hole of the cannon sufficed the spy. He brought the boat
ashore and within the hour was shot.



Peace and plenty at the settlement–Smith sets out to discover the
source of the Chickahominy–He falls into an ambush and has a running
fight with two hundred warriors–Walks into a swamp and is forced to
surrender–Opechancanough the chief of the Pamaunkes–Smith is put to a
test of courage–He figures in a triumphal procession–Has suspicions
that he is being fattened for the table–He sends a timely warning to
Jamestown and diverts a projected attack by the Indians–Smith is dealt
with by the medicine men–A strange, wild ceremony enacted by hideously
painted and bedecked creatures.

The close of the year 1607 found the settlement in good circumstances.
The store was well stocked with maize, peas and beans, smoked venison
and fish, dried fruits and nuts. Warm coats and coverings had been made
from fur and feathers and a large quantity of wood had been cut and
stacked for fuel. There did not appear to be any danger of hardship
in Jamestown during the ensuing winter, although such a careless
and incompetent lot as our settlers were apt to create trouble for
themselves out of the most favorable conditions. There were only
three persons in authority–Ratcliffe, Martin and Smith. The first
was a man of mean ability and doubtful integrity. Martin, honest and
well-meaning, was a constant invalid and incapable of any degree of
activity. Smith was by this time recognized by all as the true leader
of the colony and the only man in it who could secure obedience and
maintain discipline. When he was in Jamestown, order prevailed and
work progressed. When he left, the settlers scarcely pretended to heed
the orders of the other members of the Council. Indeed, Percy and
Scrivener, who were known to be in full accord with Smith, had greater
influence with the rank and file than Ratcliffe or Martin. In fact the
north-country nobleman and the Londoner played the part of faithful
watchdogs during the Captain’s absence, and it was arranged that one at
least of them should always remain at Jamestown when Smith went abroad.

As we know, inaction was positively abhorrent to our hero and,
the settlement being now thoroughly quiet and quite prepared for
the winter, he determined on an expedition designed to trace the
Chickahominy to its source. Exploration was one of the chief duties
of the colonists and Smith, as he tells us, hoped that he might soon
discover “some matters of worth to encourage adventurers in England.”
The Indians along the river had been so friendly during his foraging
trip the month before that he felt safe in making the present journey,
but his military training and natural prudence would not permit him
to relax his usual precautions. But there was one important feature
of Indian tactics with which the American colonists had not become
familiar. They had yet to learn how large bodies of redskins would
watch a settlement, or track a party on the move, for days and weeks
without allowing their presence to be known. Ever since their landing,
the settlers had been under the sleepless eye of spies lying hidden in
grass or behind trees, and from the moment Captain Smith left Jamestown
his progress had been flanked by a body of savages moving stealthily
through the woods.


The barge proceeded fifty miles up the river without incident, but
presently the stream became too shallow to admit of its going farther.
A canoe was secured from a village in the vicinity, with two Indians to
paddle it. In this Smith decided to push on to the head of the river,
taking with him two of his men. The remainder he left in the barge,
instructing them not to go on shore and to keep a sharp lookout until
his return. Twenty miles onward the canoe travelled when an obstruction
of fallen trees brought the party to a halt. It seemed probable that
the source of the stream could be but a few miles beyond and Smith
determined to seek it on foot accompanied by one of the Indians. The
other and the two Englishmen he left in the canoe, cautioning them to
keep their matches burning, and at the first sign of danger to fire an

Smith had hardly gone a mile through the forest when he was suddenly
startled by a shrill war-whoop. He could see no one and he had not
been warned of danger by his men as agreed. He concluded, therefore,
that they had been surprised and killed with the connivance of the
guide. Even as the thought flashed through his mind he grappled with
the Indian beside him and wrenched the bow from his grasp. It was done
in an instant, and as quickly he bound an arm of the savage to his own
with one of his garters. He had not completed the act when an arrow
half spent struck him on the thigh and a moment later he discerned two
dusky figures drawing their bows upon him. These disappeared at the
discharge of his pistol, and he was congratulating himself on having
routed them so easily when two hundred warriors, hideous in paint and
feathers, rose from the ground in front of him. At their head was
Opechancanough, the chief of the Pamaunkes.

The situation would have suggested surrender to the ordinary man.
There could be no use in Smith’s contending against such numbers and
to retreat to the river would be no less futile, since his men in the
canoe must have been captured. It was not, however, in our hero’s
nature to give up until absolutely obliged to do so. He could see
no possibility of escape but he proposed to make it as difficult as
possible for the savages to capture him. With this thought he placed
the guide before him as a shield and prepared, with a pistol in each
hand, to meet an onrush of the warriors. But they had no mind to rush
upon those fearful fire-spitting machines and kept off, discharging
their arrows from a distance that rendered them harmless. Seeing this,
Smith began to retire, keeping his face towards the enemy and holding
his human buckler in place. The Indians responded to this movement by
cautiously advancing and at the same time they sought to induce the
Englishman to lay down his arms, promising to spare his life in case he
should do so. Smith positively declined the proposition, insisting that
he would retain his weapons but promising not to make further use of
them if he should be permitted to depart in peace; otherwise he would
use them and kill some of his assailants without delay. The Indians
continuing to advance upon him, Smith let go both his pistols at them
and took advantage of the hesitation that followed to retreat more

Of course this combat was of the most hopeless character and our hero
must ultimately have been shot to death had not an accident suddenly
put an end to his opposition. Still stepping backward and dragging his
captive with him he presently walks into a deep morass and reaches the
end of his journey in more than one sense, for it is in this swamp that
the Chickahominy rises and he has fulfilled his undertaking to find
the head of the river. It was at once clear to the dauntless explorer
that he must yield, and that quickly, for he and his Indian were fast
sinking in the icy ooze of the bog. He threw his pistols away in token
of surrender and his savage adversaries rushed up and extricated him
from his perilous situation.

It was with feelings of curiosity and interest on either side that
Captain John Smith, the leader of the colonists, and Opechancanough,
the chief of the Pamaunkes, confronted each other. Both men of noble
bearing and fearless character, they must have been mutually impressed
at the first encounter. The chief’s erect and well-knit frame towered
above the forms of his attendant warriors and, together with the
dignity and intelligence of his countenance, marked him as a superior
being. In later years he played an important part in colonial history
and met a shameful death by assassination whilst a captive in the hands
of the authorities of Virginia.

Smith, whose presence of mind never deserted him, immediately addressed
himself to the task of diverting the chieftain’s mind from the recent
unpleasant circumstances and with that end in view produced his pocket
compass and presented it to the savage. The Pamaunke was readily
attracted by the mystery of the twinkling needle which lay in sight but
beyond touch, and when our hero showed how it pointed persistently to
the north, the wonder of the savage increased. Having thus excited the
interest of his captors, Smith went on to hold their attention with a
more detailed explanation of the uses of the instrument. He described,
in simple language and with the aid of signs, the shape and movement
of the earth and the relative positions of sun, moon and stars. This
strange astronomical lecture, delivered in the depths of the forest,
at length wearied the auditors and they prepared to set out on the
return journey, for they had no thought of killing the captive at that
time. He was a man of too much importance to be slain off-hand and
without learning the pleasure of the great Powhatan in the matter. They
did, however, tie him to a tree and make a pretence of drawing their
bows upon him but, as the paleface met the threatened death without
so much as blinking, the savages derived little satisfaction from the
amusement. Before taking the march, Smith was given food and led to a
fire, beside which lay the body of Emery, one of the men he had left in
the canoe, stuck full of arrows.

The return of Opechancanough to the settlement of the Pamaunkes was in
the nature of a triumphal procession. As the band approached a village
they gave vent to their piercing war-whoop and entered it chanting
their song of victory. In the midst of the procession walked the Chief
with Smith’s weapons borne before him and the captive, guarded by eight
picked warriors, following. A ceremonial dance took place before the
party dispersed to their various lodgings for the night. The captive
was well treated and had an excellent opportunity to study the natives
and their habits, for Opechancanough carried his prize on a circuit of
many villages before finally bringing him to the capital of Powhatan.
Nor did the peril of his situation prevent our hero from exercising his
usual keen powers of observation, for he has left us a minute account
of his strange experiences during these weeks of captive wandering.

Every morning bread and venison were brought to the Englishman in
sufficient quantity to have satisfied ten men. His captors never by
any chance ate with him and, remembering the reluctance of Eastern
peoples to partake of food with those whom they designed to harm,
this fact excited his apprehensions. These Indians were not cannibals
but he had not that consoling knowledge, and the insistent manner in
which they pressed meat upon him raised a disagreeable suspicion that
they were fattening him for the table. The thought of death–even
with torture–he could endure calmly, but the idea of being eaten
afterwards caused him to shudder with horror. We can not help thinking,
however, that the sinewy captain might have visited his enemies with a
posthumous revenge had they recklessly subjected him to such a fate and
themselves to such grave hazard of acute indigestion.

But the captive’s concern for the settlement at Jamestown outweighed
all other considerations. He surmised with reason, that having him
in their power, the Indians would endeavor to overcome the colonists,
whose natural incapacity to take care of themselves would be enhanced
by the belief that their leader was dead. He was racking his brain
to devise some means of communicating with them, when chance threw
an opportunity to him. It seems that in the encounter preceding his
surrender to Opechancanough Smith had seriously wounded one of the
Indians. He was now called upon to cure his victim and replied that he
might be able to do so if in possession of certain medicine which could
be obtained from Jamestown. The Chief agreed that two messengers should
bear a letter to the settlement, although he could not believe that
a few lines scrawled upon paper would convey any meaning, much less
elicit the desired response.

The messengers journeyed to the fort with all speed, and as they were
not permitted to approach closely, left the note in a conspicuous place
and there received the reply. Of course Smith took the opportunity
to warn the settlers of the projected attack, and prayed them to
be constantly on their guard. He also suggested that some show of
strength, as a salvo from the big guns, might have a salutary effect
upon the messengers. The latter, after they had received the medicine
requested, and turned homewards, were treated to such a thunderous
discharge of cannon and musketry that they ran for miles in terror of
their lives and arrived at the village well-nigh scared out of their
wits. Their account of this terrible experience decided the Indians
not to attempt a descent upon Jamestown and their respect increased
for a man who could convey his thoughts and wishes by means of such a
mysterious medium as a letter appeared to them to be.

Although the Indians had Smith unarmed and completely in their power,
they were not at all satisfied of his inability to harm them, and the
question seems to have caused them considerable anxiety. The medicine
men of the tribe undertook by incantations and other species of
deviltry to ascertain whether the captive’s intentions towards them
were good or otherwise. Smith was led in the morning to a large house
in the centre of which a fire burned. Here he was left alone, and
presently to him entered a hideous creature making unearthly noises in
his throat to the accompaniment of a rattle, whilst he danced about the
astonished Englishman in grotesque antics. This merry-andrew’s head was
decorated with dangling snake-skins and his body painted in a variety
of colors. After a while he was joined by three brother-priests who
set up a discordant chorus of shrieks and yells, whirling and skipping
about the house the while. They were painted half in black and half
in red with great white rings round their eyes. Shortly these were
joined by three more medicine men equally fantastic in appearance
and actions. The ceremony was maintained by these seven throughout
the day, much to the disgust of Smith, who soon found it tiresome and
uninteresting and particularly so as it involved an absolute fast from
dawn to sundown. In the evening women placed great mounds of food
upon the mats of the house and invited Smith to eat, but the priests
refrained from doing so until he had finished.

This performance was repeated on the two successive days, but we are
not told what conclusion was reached by all the fuss.



After a weary circuit of the Indian villages Smith is brought to
Werowocomico–He is received by Powhatan in the “King’s House”–The
chiefs in council decide to put him to death–He is bound and laid out,
preparatory to being killed–Pocahontas intervenes at the critical
moment–Powhatan’s dilemma and Opechancanough’s determination–“The
Council has decreed the death of the paleface”–“I, Pocahontas,
daughter of our King, claim this man for my brother”–The Indian maiden
prevails–Smith is reprieved and formally adopted into the tribe–They
wish him to remain with them and lead them against his own people.

One morning, shortly after the episode of the medicine men, Captain
Smith learned, to his great relief, that commands had been received
for his removal at once to the capital. He had no idea what, if any
fate had been determined upon for him, but he was heartily tired of the
weary wanderings and suspense of the past weeks and ready to face the
worst rather than prolong the uncertainty. Werowocomico, the principal
seat of the “Emperor” Powhatan, was short of a day’s journey distant,
and Opechancanough, with his illustrious prisoner, reached the town
as the early winter night was setting in. The capital of the Werowance
consisted of about thirty large wigwams, or “houses,” as the earlier
writers called them, and a number of smaller ones. These for the nonce
were reinforced by the tepees, or tents, of the many Indians who had
come in from distant villages for the occasion which was no ordinary
one. The large wigwams were made in the form of the rounded tops of the
wagons called “prairie schooners,” which in the days before railroads
were used upon the continent of North America for long-distance travel.
These wagon tops were sometimes taken off and placed upon the ground
to serve as tents, when the occupants would be lying in a contrivance
exactly like the ancient wigwam in shape. The latter was commonly big
enough to contain a whole family and sometimes harbored an entire band
of fifty or sixty natives. In that case it had two rows of apartments
running along the sides and a common hall in the middle. The structure
was composed of a framework of boughs covered with the bark of trees or
with skins–sometimes a combination of both.

Smith’s captors approached the capital in triumphal fashion, chanting
their song of victory and flourishing their weapons in exultant pride.
The town was prepared to give them the reception usually accorded
to victorious warriors returning from battle. Great fires burned at
frequent points illuming the scene with a garish light in which the
bedaubed and bedizened savages looked doubly hideous. Chiefs and people
were attired in all their fantastic finery and even the children made
some show of tawdry ornament. The women had prepared food with even
more than ordinary profusion and had laid the mats in anticipation
of the prospective feasting. A double line of fully armed and foully
painted warriors–“grim courtiers,” Smith calls them–formed an avenue
to the “King’s house” along which the captive passed into the presence
of the great Werowance, whilst the spectators “stood wondering at him
as he had been a monster.”

At the farther end of the wigwam, upon a platform, before which a
large fire blazed, reclined the aged but still vigorous chieftain,
upon a heap of furs. On either side of him stood the principal chiefs
and medicine men of the tribe, whilst the women of his family grouped
themselves behind. Two dense walls of warriors lined along the sides of
the wigwam leaving a space in the centre which was covered by a mat.
Upon this Smith took his stand and calmly surveyed the scene which
was not without an element of rude beauty. A loud shout had greeted
his entrance. In the profound silence that followed, two women–“the
Queen of Appamatuck and another”–came forward with food which they
placed before him and signed to him to eat. Our hero’s appetite and his
curiosity never failed him under any circumstances. He had a habit of
living in the present moment and not concerning himself unduly about
the uncertain future. So, in this crisis, when the ordinary man would
have been too much preoccupied with the thought of his fate to attend
to the needs of his stomach, Smith addressed himself in leisurely
fashion to the pile of food and at the same time studied the details
of his surroundings with a retentive eye. Meanwhile, the savages stood
silent and stock still as statues until he had finished.

When at length our hero rose refreshed and ready to face his fate,
Powhatan also stood up and beckoned to him to approach the royal dais.
Powhatan was arrayed in his state robe of raccoon skins. A band of
pearls encircled his brow and a tuft of eagle’s feathers surmounted his
head. Smith was impressed by the dignity and forcefulness of the old
chief who addressed him in a deep bass voice.

“The paleface has abused the hospitality of Powhatan and requited his
kindness with treachery,” said the chieftain in slow and solemn tones.
“The paleface and his brethren came to Powhatan’s country when the
summer was young and begged for food and land that they might live. My
people would have slain them but I commanded that grain be given to
the palefaces and that they be allowed to live in peace in the village
which they had made. Was this not enough? Did not Powhatan thus prove
his friendship and good will to the strangers in his land?”

We know that all this was a mixture of falsehood and sophistry. As
such Smith recognized it, of course, but, as he did not wish to arouse
the chief’s anger by contradicting him, he decided to keep silence and
an immovable countenance. After a pause, during which he endeavored
without success to read the effect of his words in the prisoner’s face,
Powhatan continued:

“Powhatan’s people have given the palefaces abundance of food–venison
and fowls and corn. They have furnished them with warm furs. They have
shown them the springs of the forest. They have taught them to trap the
beasts and to net the fish. And the palefaces, scorning the kindness of
Powhatan and his people, turn their fire-machines upon them and slay
them. You–their werowance–they send to spy out the land of Powhatan
so that they may make war upon his villages in the night time. Now my
people cry for your blood. What shall I say to them? How shall I again
deny my warriors whose brothers you yourself have slain?”

“The Powhatan mistakes the purpose of myself and my people,” replied
Smith. “It is our wish and intent to treat our red brothers with
justice and friendliness. If we have killed some it hath been in
defence of our own lives. Our fire-machines have spoken only when the
bow was drawn against us. It is not in our minds to make war upon the
great Powhatan nor yet to rob him of his lands. Whatsoever we ask at
his hands we are ready to pay for. If the great Werowance allows the
clamor of his warriors for my life to override his own good judgment,
so be it. But I would warn Powhatan and his chiefs that my death will
be the signal for relentless war against their people, for I am the
subject of a mighty king whose rule extends over lands many times
greater than those of Powhatan, whose soldiers are as numerous as the
stars in the heavens and whose ships sail the seas in every direction.
He will surely avenge my death with a bitter vengeance.”

Smith had no idea of committing himself to an argument and wisely
contented himself with a brief statement of the facts, adding a
threat that he hoped might give the savages pause. It was clear from
Powhatan’s remarks that he was determined to place the prisoner in the
wrong, and contradiction could have no good effect. Finding that his
captive had nothing more to say, the Werowance sent him to a nearby
wigwam with instructions that he should be made comfortable and allowed
to rest. Meanwhile, the chiefs went into council over his fate.

Smith’s words had made a strong impression upon Powhatan, who was
the most sagacious Indian of his tribe. He was altogether averse to
putting the prisoner to death because he was forced in his mind to
acknowledge the white men as superior beings with whom it would be
dangerous to evoke a war. Doubtless they would soon send another chief
to replace Smith and more would be gained by holding him for ransom
than by killing him. But Powhatan’s wise conclusions were not shared by
the other members of the council. With hardly an exception they were
in favor of Smith’s death by the usual torturous methods. One of the
chiefs was a brother of the man who had died as the result of a pistol
wound inflicted by Smith in the skirmish preceding his capture. He was
implacable in the demand for the usual satisfaction of a life for a
life, and was warmly supported by Opechancanough who, to the day of his
death at their hands, maintained an unappeasable hatred for the whole
race of white men. Now Opechancanough was, after the great Werowance,
the most influential chief in the tribe, and rather than incur his
displeasure and that of the others, Powhatan yielded against his better
judgment. He did this, however, only after having expressed his opinion
to the contrary, and the real respect which he felt for Smith led him
to stipulate that the captive should not be put to the torture but
should be executed by the more humane and speedy means employed by the
savages with members of their own tribe.

This conclusion of the council having been reached, Smith was brought
again into the king’s house and informed of it. He bowed with courage
and dignity to the decision which he felt that it would be futile
to protest against and calmly held out his arms to the warriors who
came forward to bind him. Whilst these tightly bound his hands to his
sides and tied his feet together, others rolled into the centre of
the wigwam a large stone. When this had been placed, the prisoner was
required to kneel and lay his head upon it. This he did with the serene
self-possession that had not been shaken in the least during this
trying ordeal. At the same time he silently commended his spirit to his
Maker, believing that the next moment would be his last on earth. The
executioners stood, one on either side, their clubs poised ready for
the signal to dash out his brains.

Powhatan was in the act of raising his hand in the fatal gesture that
would have stamped our hero’s doom, when a young girl, as graceful as
a doe and not less agile, burst through the throng that surrounded
the Werowance and sprang to the prisoner’s side. Waving back the
executioners with the haughty dignity derived from a long line of noble
ancestors, she drew her slim and supple figure to its full height and
faced the group of chieftains with head erect and flashing eyes.

“Pardon, Powhatan! Pardon, my father!” she cried in a rich voice
quivering with emotion. “Pocahontas craves the life of the captive, and
claims the right to adopt him as a brother according to the immemorial
custom of our tribe.”

Powhatan was in a quandary. Pocahontas was his favorite daughter, his
pet, and the comfort of his old age. He had never denied her anything,
nor ever thought to do so. He had a strong inclination to grant her
request, but as he looked round the circle of angry faces and heard the
subdued mutterings of his chiefs he hesitated to incur their discontent.

“The Council has decreed the death of the paleface. It can not be, my
daughter,” he said. But there was an unusual trace of indecision in his

“It _must_ be, my father!” cried the girl, with spirit. “Is a princess,
and your child, to be denied the right that every woman of our tribe
enjoys? Any woman of the Powhatans may redeem a condemned prisoner by
adopting him, and I–I, Pocahontas, daughter of our king, claim this
man for my brother.”

Powhatan was deeply moved by the dignified and earnest plea of the
girl and was about to accede to it when Opechancanough leaned forward
and whispered in his ear. The words of the Chief of the Pamaunkes,
whatever they were, seemed to be decisive, for Powhatan, with a gesture
of mingled annoyance and regret, signed to the executioners to perform
their task. The eyes of Pocahontas had been anxiously fixed upon her
father during this pause in the proceedings and, as she saw his sign of
submission to the argument of the Pamaunke, she threw herself upon the
head of Smith and entwined her arms about his neck.

She had nothing further to say, realizing that words would have no
effect, but, with the quick wit of a woman, she had advanced an
argument which was unanswerable. The executioners dropped their clubs
and looked perplexedly towards the Werowance. The assembled warriors
gazed expectantly in the same direction. The affair had reached an
_impasse_. None there dared lay a hand on the girl save the Powhatan,
and he had no thought of doing so. He gazed at her with proud
satisfaction for a few moments, whilst a presentiment took possession
of his mind that this slip of a girl had unwittingly saved her tribe
from a world of possible troubles.

“Let be!” he said with an air of weariness. “The paleface shall be
adopted into the tribe to make hatchets for me and beads for his little

With that Smith was unbound and taken to a wigwam where they brought
him food and left him to wonder at the marvellous workings of
Providence and pass a peaceful night.

The next morning our hero was led to one of the larger houses which
was divided in the middle by a partition. Smith was instructed to seat
himself and to await events. Presently, from the other side of the
screen came the most hideous howls and shrieks he had ever heard, but
Smith had got beyond the point of being disturbed by anything that
might occur. For half an hour or more the strange sounds continued,
when Powhatan and his chiefs entered, accompanied by Smith’s old
friends the noisy medicine men. He was informed that the ceremony
which had just taken place was that of his adoption into the tribe
and Powhatan formally addressed him as “son.” From this time Smith
was treated with the utmost consideration and those who had been
the most eager for his death, with the exception of the implacable
Opechancanough who departed to his village in high dudgeon, now vied
with each other in efforts to secure his good-will. Powhatan and Smith
held many conferences together in which each learned a great deal from
the other and grew to regard his erstwhile enemy with feelings of
respect and friendship.

The savages had entertained the hope that after the adoption Smith
would remain with them and they even thought to induce him to lead
them against Jamestown. It is needless to say that he firmly declined
to do either. Powhatan being at length convinced of Smith’s friendly
intentions agrees to his return but, in satisfaction of his own desire
as well as to appease the disappointment of his people, he exacts
a ransom to consist of two of the largest guns in the fort and the
biggest grindstone.



Powhatan by excessive greed overreaches himself–Smith is allowed to
return to the settlement–He finds the colonists, as usual, disturbed
by dissensions–Arrives just in time to prevent Ratcliffe and others
from deserting–Newport arrives with the “first supply”–The Indians
continue to treat Smith as a tribal chief–Fire destroys Jamestown
completely–Newport and Smith visit Powhatan–The purple beads
“fit only for the use of Kings”–The astute Indian Chief meets his
match in Captain John Smith–The settlers are smitten with the gold
fever–Captain Newport sails for England with a wonderful cargo.

Had Powhatan been less specific in his demand, or less greedy in his
desire, Captain Smith might have found it difficult to agree to his
proposal. But, when the Werowance made a point of exacting the “two
largest guns and the biggest grindstone” in the fort, Smith had no
hesitation in saying that he would permit Powhatan’s messengers to
carry away the articles mentioned. This point having been settled to
their mutual satisfaction, the Chief detailed twelve men to guide and
guard our hero on the road to Jamestown which, being but twelve miles
from Werowocomico, they reached by easy marches. The Indian escort was
treated with all the kindness Smith could command for them. Each was
given a present and they were charged with the delivery of a package to
Powhatan, containing a number of the things most highly prized by the
savages. When the time for their departure came they asked for the guns
and grindstone which they were to carry back to their Chief.

“Certes! They be yours if you can carry them,” replied Smith, pointing,
with a quizzical smile, at two demi-culverins each weighing more than
four tons and a huge grindstone which four men could hardly raise
on edge. The baffled savages looked on these ponderous things with
dismay and had to admit that they could not be carried to Werowocomico
though the whole tribe came after them. Smith was not willing that his
visitors should leave without gaining some impression of the power as
well as the size of the ordnance and so he loaded one of the guns with
small stones and discharged it into the trees where the icicle-laden
boughs were thickest. The smoke and racket that followed filled the
Indians with terror and they took their leave hurriedly, doubtless glad
that the roaring, fire-spitting monster was not to accompany them.

The great majority of the settlers welcomed Captain Smith, whom they
had never expected to see again, with genuine joy. Once more he had
arrived just in the nick of time, for the affairs of the colony had
been going from bad to worse during his absence and were now on the
point of a crisis that, had it not been averted, would have probably
effected the ruin of the colony. There had been no improvement in the
government. Ratcliffe had become justly unpopular in the presidency and
Archer, a pettifogging lawyer and mischief-maker, had been admitted
to the Council. Martin, feeble in health and mind, had fallen under
the complete domination of the other two and with them and other
malcontents had entered into a conspiracy which the return of Captain
Smith was just in time to frustrate. He no sooner heard of their plot
to sail to England in the pinnace and desert the settlement than he
bearded them in the Council room.

“So,” he cried, indignation and contempt showing in every tone and
gesture. “So! These be the gallant gentlemen who contended among
themselves for leadership of our enterprise! By my halidame! A fine
pack of leaders–tufftaffaty humorists rather! Ye mind me of one
Falstaffe–a cowardly, gluttonous braggart he–I once saw depicted
at the Globe playhouse. Not one of you has hazarded his skin beyond
musket-shot of the fort but now, having fattened and reposed yourselves
through the winter, ye would return to England and brag of your brave
deeds and feats of arms. But–and I mistake not–we shall find a
different conclusion for your plot. I hold the King’s commission to
maintain the flag of England in this country and whilst my arm and
brain serve me that will I do in good faith and count all such as
oppose the commands of His Most Gracious Majesty, enemies of the realm
and traitors to their country. Take heed then how ye proceed in this
matter, for I will see to it that the guns are manned day and night by
good and true men with instructions to sink the pinnace at the first
show of sinister design.”

With that Smith clapped his hat upon his head and strode out of the
Council room.

If the conspirators had entertained any thought of pursuing their
project in the face of Captain Smith’s opposition, the ringing shout
with which he was greeted by the waiting crowd outside was sufficient
to banish it. Word of what was going forward had drawn the settlers to
the Council House and much of Smith’s harangue, delivered in a voice
strong with anger, had penetrated to them. They were almost to a man
in sympathy with him, for the cowardly plotters belonged exclusively
to the “gentleman” class among the colonists, men who arrogated to
themselves superior privileges and rights whilst unwilling to bear even
their share of hardship and toil. These poor creatures should not be
considered representative of the gentlemen of England, who in those
stirring times produced many of the bravest and most self-sacrificing
leaders in the chronicles of Christendom.

The settlers had almost begun to despair of Newport’s return when one
day, in early January, he sailed into the river with a well-laden
ship and upwards of one hundred new colonists. His appearance put
an end to a pretty scheme which the attorney Archer had concocted
to encompass Smith’s downfall. Direct from England, with authority
superior to that of any man in Jamestown, Newport instituted an inquiry
into the government of the colony during his absence and determined
that Wingfield and Archer should return with him, to answer to the
Company. Scrivener he appointed to the Council and thus assured Smith
of one firm ally in that body. Newport had started for America with
two vessels. These became separated in mid-ocean and the _Phœnix_,
commanded by Captain Francis Nelson, did not arrive until considerably

The relations between the Indians and the colonists now became
very friendly, owing to the adoption of Smith by the tribe. After
his return to Jamestown, Pocahontas and some of the other women of
Werowocomico came to the settlement twice or three times a week
laden with provisions, these being Smith’s share, as a chief, of the
tribal stores. On these occasions, men would also bring foodstuff to
be disposed of in trade. These supplies were very timely, for the
settlement had again approached the verge of starvation when Smith
returned after his seven weeks of captivity, and Captain Newport’s
arrival did not greatly mend that matter, for the larger part of the
edible supplies sent from England were upon the tardy vessel. In the
barter with the savages, Smith established a scale of exchange based
upon the values set by the Indians themselves upon the wares of the
foreigners. This was of course fair enough, but his enemies, more than
ever jealous of the great influence he evidently enjoyed with the
Indians, sought to undermine it by giving them very much more than they
asked for their grain and venison. The result was that in a short while
a pound of copper would scarce purchase as much as an ounce had secured
under Smith’s regulation. The schemers had the satisfaction of seeing
Smith fall in the regard of the Indians, who naturally thought that he
had been cheating them.

The newcomers were of course a welcome accession to the depleted
colony, but they brought misfortune upon it at the outset. They had
been little more than a week within the stockade when one of them
through carelessness set fire to the house in which he was lodged. The
flames spread and in a few short hours all the buildings and even the
fortifications were consumed. Nothing could be saved but the clothes
upon the men’s backs, and the supplies which Newport had landed went
with the rest. In this extremity the settlers must have perished of
cold and starvation, or fallen under the arrows of the savages, but for
the amicable relations which had been brought about by Captain Smith.
As it was, the Indians hastened to bring furs and food to the relief of
the miserable white men who were prostrated body and soul by the sudden
misfortune. They sat about the ruins of Jamestown, bewailing their lot
and praying Captain Newport to carry them home to England. This would
have been impossible at the time, even had he a mind to do so, for
there was not enough food on the ship to serve such a numerous company
as far as the West Indies.

Smith was ashamed at the cowardice of his countrymen and fearful
lest their puerile exhibition of weakness should lower them in the
estimation of the Indians, many of whom were on hand, for the flames
of Jamestown had been plainly visible at Werowocomico. Seconded by
Mr. Hunt, Newport, Percy and Scrivener, he went among the whimpering
colonists persuading, threatening, cajoling–in short, using any means
to make them bestir themselves.

“See yonder dominie, good Master Hunt, how, with exhortation, he
hearteneth the afflicted,” he cried seeking to shame them by the
exhibition of a good example. “Yet no man among us hath suffered so
great loss as he. For not only his chattels and clothes have been
destroyed but also his books on which he set more store than upon
gold or aught else. Yet hath no moaning or complaint issued from him,
but he beareth himself bravely and with composure as becometh a true
gentleman and a servant of God.”

These efforts at length moved the settlers to action and, with the
aid of the sailors and some Indians who were hired to assist, rude
structures were hastily raised in sufficient numbers to afford shelter
to all. The work of rebuilding Jamestown in a permanent fashion was
necessarily deferred.

Smith now proposed that Newport should pay a visit to Powhatan. During
his captivity our hero had taken pains to impress the Chief with an
idea of Newport’s importance and power. Indeed, he had addressed
himself to this task with such enthusiasm that the savages conceived
of Newport as “Captain Smith’s God,” and by that title he was known
among them. Taking an escort of forty men, Smith, Newport and Scrivener
reached Werowocomico without any mishap and received a warm welcome.
Powhatan awaited them in the same “long house” which had been the scene
of our hero’s stirring adventure. It was a state occasion, as Smith’s
former appearance there had been, and the assemblage presented much the
same aspect. But now, in place of scowling faces and angry mutterings,
Smith and his companions were met with smiles and cries of friendly
greeting. After formal salutations had been exchanged, a great feast
was set out in which they all partook. This was followed by dancing,
singing, and mimic combats.

Smith’s prime object in suggesting this visit of Newport to the Chief
of the Powhatans lay in a hope that it might tend to cement the
friendly relations existing between the redmen and the settlers. He
was not, however, forgetful of the needs of the settlement, always
on the verge of starvation, and proposed to take advantage of the
opportunity to secure as much food as possible from the ample stores
of Werowocomico. He warned Newport to part with his wares on the
best terms obtainable and to show but few things at a time and those
with a pretence at reluctance. But Newport’s eagerness to play the
part of “big chief” and Powhatan’s shrewdness came near to upsetting
Smith’s plans. When Newport had presented a very generous gift to the
Werowance, intimating that the rest of the goods were to be disposed of
in trade, the wily Powhatan decided to circumvent him by an appeal to
his pride.

“It is not seemly,” he said, “that two great Werowances such as you and
I should haggle over the details of trade. Lay out your wares then,
that I may see them and what pleases me I will take, paying to you a
fair price according to my judgment.”

Smith could scarce keep a straight countenance when he heard this
_naïve_ speech of the old chieftain, but his amusement soon gave way
to deep concern as he saw the infatuated Newport spread out his entire
stock before Powhatan.

Smith had serious cause for apprehension. The influence of the settlers
over the Indians and, indeed, their very lives depended upon the
copper, glass, beads and similar trifles which the Indians coveted so
greedily. If these became cheapened in their eyes, the colonists would
have nothing with which to propitiate them, nor with which to pay for
the provisions so constantly needed. And here was the reckless Newport
permitting Powhatan to help himself on condition of paying what he
pleased for what he should take. The rates of exchange set by Smith had
already, as we know, been ruinously enhanced in favor of the Indians,
and this transaction was calculated to still more greatly raise them.
He did not dare to protest, for fear of arousing Powhatan’s anger, but
fortunately his quick wit enabled him to save the situation without
creating any unpleasantness.

Among the many things displayed for the inspection of the great
Werowance, Smith noted some beads of a different tint to any others
there. He quietly abstracted the package, taking care that Powhatan
should see him do so. When at length the Chief had indicated all the
things he wished to retain, he fixed a price on them which, as Smith
had anticipated, was not more than one-tenth as much as the Indians had
usually paid for such articles. Having settled that business to his
entire satisfaction, the greedy Chief turned to Smith and asked to be
shown the package which the latter had put aside. Powhatan suspected
that it contained something of unusual value and Smith cunningly
confirmed this suspicion by pretending the greatest reluctance to
exhibit the articles. Presently, however, he showed them, saying:

“These be as you see different in color from all the other beads. They
be purple–the royal color in the countries beyond the seas–and fit
only for the use of kings.”

Of course Powhatan was consumed with a desire to possess them and
equally of course Smith did not readily yield to him. At last the
Werowance received the coveted purple beads on the payment of six
times as much for them as he had given for all the things secured from
Newport. It was immediately decreed that purple beads might only be
worn by the Powhatan and his family but Opechancanough was allowed a
few as a mark of special favor.

After five days of entertainment and friendly intercourse, the
Englishmen returned to the settlement. It was Newport’s intention
to load up his vessel with cedar and depart for England as soon as
possible. Just at this time, however, a trivial accident gave an
entirely new and unfortunate turn to the affairs of the colony. One of
the settlers discovered some yellow dust shining in the bottom of a
stream near the settlement. Immediately, the whole colony was smitten
with the gold-fever. Neglecting all else they gave themselves up to the
pursuit of the precious metal. As one of them says: “There was no talk,
no hope, but dig gold, wash gold, refine gold, load gold; such a bruit
of gold that one mad fellow, a wag, desired to be buried in the sands
lest they should, by their art, make gold of his bones.” The outcome of
all this was that, after several weeks delay, Newport sailed away with
a ship laden with _mica dust_.



Captain Nelson arrives in the Phœnix with reinforcements and
supplies–Powhatan becomes disgruntled–Smith yields to Pocahontas what
he had refused to her father–Smith sets out to explore Chesapeake
Bay–The expedition meets with storm and shipwreck–The party is
led into an ambush–They find the Indians everywhere unfriendly and
learn of Powhatan’s treachery–The Susquehannocks and their giant
chief–They propose to make Smith the head of the tribe–Ratcliffe is
deposed and Scrivener assumes the Presidency–The colony is put in good
condition–Newport returns bent on fanciful schemes–The coronation of

Smith, Scrivener and a few other men of balanced minds had escaped the
gold-fever. They doubted in the first place whether the stuff was worth
anything and realized that, even if it should prove to be gold indeed,
the time occupied in the search of it had better have been employed in
the urgent affairs of the settlement. They were very glad, therefore,
to see Newport at last take his departure, and immediately set men
at work rebuilding the town and fortifications and breaking ground
preparatory to planting corn. The settlers were thus engaged when,
quite unexpectedly, the _Phœnix_ arrived with Captain Nelson and one
hundred and twenty emigrants. As usual, the reinforcement included two
or more gentlemen for every laborer or artisan. Smith’s disappointment
on this account was, however, offset by the fact that Captain Nelson
brought six months’ provisions which were sorely needed by the settlers.

Hardly had Newport gone than the colony began to reap the fruit of
his unwise traffic with the Indians. Smith had always been careful
to prevent the natives from securing any of the European weapons, or
even pieces of iron from which they might fashion swords. Newport
was less cautious, perhaps because the consequences could entail no
hazard to himself. Just before his departure he gave Powhatan twenty
cutlasses for as many turkeys, despite the earnest protests of Smith.
Powhatan was not long in learning the superiority of these weapons
over his own and, thinking to secure more of them, he sent messengers
to Smith, asking for swords in exchange for fowls. It is needless to
say that the demand was flatly refused, although Smith was loath to
displease the chieftain. Powhatan was keenly disappointed, for he had
thought that, as a member of the tribe, Smith would be more amenable
to his wishes. He was also seriously offended, and sought to gain
his point by stealth. Some of his people were sent to the settlement
with instructions to steal whatever they could and, in particular, to
purloin as many weapons as possible.

As Indians were frequent visitors to Jamestown and of late had been
permitted to go about the settlement freely, it was comparatively easy
for Powhatan’s emissaries to carry on their pilferings for some time
without detection. At length, however, several of them were caught in
the act and imprisoned. Fearing that they were about to be put to death
they revealed a conspiracy against the colony on the part of Powhatan
and his principal chiefs. Thus forewarned of the intended treachery,
Smith hastened the work on the defences of the place and kept a
vigorous guard day and night. In the meanwhile he held possession of
his prisoners much to the uneasiness of the great Werowance. Repeated
requests for their release were denied, although the messengers came
laden with presents. Opechancanough came in person but had no better
success. At length Powhatan sent Pocahontas with expressions of his
regret for the untoward actions of his subjects and assurances of his
future goodwill. This appeal was effective. Smith yielded, not to the
Chief but to the girl who had saved his life.

There had been a great deal of discussion about the freighting of
the _Phœnix_. Ratcliffe, Martin, and, in fact, the majority were for
loading the vessel with the delusive dust which had formed Newport’s
cargo. Smith and Scrivener protested against another shipment of
what they strongly suspected to be no more than “glittering dirt.”
Captain Nelson took the same view of the matter and in the end the
_Phœnix_ sailed out of the James with an honest lading of good Virginia
cedar. This was on June the second, 1608. The same day Smith left the
settlement in an open barge of three tons’ burden, accompanied by
fifteen men. Most of these were newcomers, who were not a little set
up on account of an experience they had gained with Newport during his
recent visit. That able seaman generally contrived to make himself
ridiculous when he transferred the scene of his activities to dry
land. He had brought out a large boat in five sections designed to be
carried across the mountains in his projected journey to the South Sea.
The expedition started with a great flourish of trumpets and after
being gone two and a half days returned to Jamestown and abandoned
the enterprise. Now those of Smith’s force who had been in Newport’s
company thought that the latter’s expedition was a fair sample of
exploration. They were eager for adventure and very much feared
that Smith, in an open boat committed to the sea, would not journey
far enough to satisfy their appetite. The leader heard these doubts
expressed and promised himself some amusement at the expense of his
eager adventurers.

Smith’s determination was to thoroughly explore Chesapeake Bay. It was
no light undertaking. The region was quite unknown to him and peopled
by Indian tribes with which he had not yet come in contact. The mere
matter of navigation involved grave dangers, for the Bay being wide
and open, is subject to almost the full force of wind and tide. But in
the face of all these difficulties, and many more that arose with the
progress of the exploration, Smith accomplished his purpose and that
so effectually that his map of the Bay was the best in existence until
recent times, and is still acknowledged to be an excellent one. The
work was at that time of course of the utmost importance and, although
it took the authorities at home some time to see it, information of
the country and inhabitants of Virginia was of much greater value than
fanciful stories of gold mines and short cuts to the South Sea.

Our adventurers soon found that exploring with Captain Smith was a very
different thing from a picnic expedition with Captain Newport. They
encountered rough weather from the outset. Their hands blistered and
their backs ached with rowing against a strong wind. The briny waves
drenched their clothes and soaked their bread. Their water keg was
broached by some accident and before they could replenish it they came
so near to being famished that they “would have refused two barrels of
gold for one of puddle water.” This was their condition when a terrible
storm struck them, carrying away their masts and sails. By good
fortune, rather than any effort of their own, they contrived to gain
the shelter of an uninhabited island where they went ashore.

The men who had been fearful lest Captain Smith should not venture far
enough, were now all for returning to Jamestown, but their leader had
no mind to turn back. Opposition and difficulty ever increased his
determination and nerved him to greater effort.

“Gentlemen,” said Smith to the disheartened company, “remember the
example of Sir Ralph Lane’s company in worse straits, how they begged
him to proceed in the discovery of Moratico, saying that they had
yet a dog that would sustain them for a while. Then what shame would
it be to us to return, having ample provision of a sort, and scarce
able to say where we have been, nor yet heard of that we were sent to
seek. You can not say but I have shared with you in the worst that is
past; and for what is to come, of lodging, diet, or whatsoever, I am
content you allot the worst part to me. As to your apprehensions that
I will lose myself in these unknown large waters, or be swallowed up
in some stormy gust, abandon these childish fears, for worse than is
past is not likely to happen, and to return would be as dangerous as to
proceed. Regain, therefore, your old spirits, for return I will not–if
God please–till I have seen the Massawomekes, found Patawomek, or the
head of this bay which you imagine to be endless.”

They remained two days upon the island, and when the storm abated
resumed their journey with fresh sails fashioned from their shirts.

The exploring party had been out just two weeks when they came across
the mouth of the Potomac–or Patawomek, as Smith called it. They
sailed thirty miles up the river without sight of human being, when
two Indians appeared from nowhere, after their mysterious manner, and
offered to serve them as guides. Pretending to take them to a village
at the head of a creek, the wily savages neatly led them into an
ambuscade. Suddenly the English found themselves in the centre of three
or four hundred Indians, “strangely painted, grimed and disguised,
shouting, yelling and crying, as so many spirits from hell could not
have showed more terrible.” Had they discharged their arrows at once,
instead of wasting time in capering about, the explorers must have been
killed to a man. But these Indians, who had not yet become acquainted
with the dreadful “spit-fires” of the strangers, thought that they had
them entirely at their mercy and doubtless proposed to reserve them
for the torture. Smith ordered his men to fire a volley in the air and
the effect of the discharge of fifteen muskets at once was all that
could be wished. Many of the savages fled into the forest, others threw
themselves prone upon the ground and all cast aside their weapons in
sign of surrender. Smith learned that messengers from Powhatan had
instigated these people to attack the expedition and had urged upon
them, above all, to secure the white men’s weapons. Had they known
the terrible nature of those weapons they certainly would not have
indulged in any such foolishness and they did not think kindly of
their brothers, the Powhatans, for having egged them on to it. Smith
established friendly relations with these people who never occasioned
further trouble.

In their progress the voyagers found the Indians almost everywhere in
arms and ready to attack them, having been prompted thereto by the
emissaries from Werowocomico. In most cases, however, the natives were
converted to peaceful good-will without bloodshed, the flash and report
of the fire-arm proving to be a powerful pacifier. Wherever they went,
the explorers heard of the Massawomekes. They seem to have been a
particularly warlike tribe, situated near the head of the bay, who were
dreaded and hated by all their neighbors. Smith was very anxious to see
these people and proceeded up the bay with the intention of visiting
their country. But his men were succumbing so fast to the fatigue and
exposure that, when at length there were but five left fit for active
service, he deemed it wise to defer the exploration of the head of the
bay. Before turning homeward, however, he sent a messenger inland to
the country of the Susquehannocks who had the reputation of being a
tribe of giants.

After a delay of a few days a deputation of sixty warriors from the
Susquehannocks visited the camp of the Englishmen. They were bigger
and more warlike than any Indians that the settlers had encountered up
to that time, and it was agreeable to Smith to find that they had come
prepared to make an alliance with him and, indeed, to adopt him into
the tribe as a chief. In token of their good-will they presented him
with a bear’s skin cloak, such as was only worn by great Werowances,
eighteen mantles, a chain of beads weighing six or seven pounds and a
number of other gewgaws. Their chief was a man of extraordinary size,
even for a Susquehannock. Smith thus describes him:

“The calf of his leg was three-quarters of a yard about, and all the
rest of his limbs so answerable to that proportion that he seemed the
goodliest man we had ever beheld. His hair on one side was long, the
other shorn close with a ridge over his crown like a cock’s comb.
His arrows were five quarters of a yard long, headed with flints or
splinters of stone in form like a heart, an inch broad and an inch and
a half or more long. These he wore at his back in a wolf’s skin for his
quiver, his bow in the one hand and his club in the other.”

These people proposed that Smith should assume the headship of the
tribe and lead them in war against the Massawomekes and other enemies.
Had our hero entertained any such ambition as that with which he
was charged by Wingfield and his supporters, here was an excellent
opportunity to set up a kingdom. The Susquehannocks were not only
exceptionally warlike, but also one of the most numerous tribes in
that part of America. No doubt, with a man like Smith at their head,
they could soon have established sovereignty over hundreds of miles of
territory. It is needless to say, however, that the offer was declined
as tactfully as possible and the expedition turned homeward.

Smith arrived in Jamestown just as another crisis in the affairs of
the colony had been reached. Ratcliffe, the President, had shamefully
abused his office for some time past. He had taken for his private use
the best things in the public stores, he had beaten several of the
settlers, with little or no provocation, and had diverted a number
of laborers from useful employment to the task of building him a
pleasure-house in the woods. Smith appeared on the scene when the wrath
of the colonists had almost risen beyond bounds. Had he not arrived
when he did they would probably have taken Ratcliffe’s life. As it was,
they would hear of nothing short of his deposition and invited Smith
to take his place at the head of the government. Smith, however, who
was the active instrument in disposing of the obnoxious officer, hardly
thought that he could accept the proposal with a good grace and so
persuaded them to allow him to substitute Scrivener for himself. So,
with this change, the summer passed in peace, and satisfactory progress
was made in the rebuilding of the settlement.

The colony had never been in a better condition than now to make good
progress. The settlers were well content with the rule of Smith and
Scrivener, who always knew just what they wanted to do and how to do
it. Work and rations were fairly apportioned. Gentlemen were required
to take their turn at labor with the rest. A military company was
formed and drilled, and the Indians were kept in check by the practice
of diplomacy and a show of force. This happy state of things was
completely upset by the return of Newport with instructions from his
employers to discover the South Sea, to bring back gold, and to search
for the survivors of the lost Roanoke colony. But this was not the sum
of Newport’s mad mission. He was also charged with the coronation of
Powhatan, to whom King James sent a present of a wash-basin and pitcher
and an Elizabethan bed with its furnishings. Newport failed to bring
the food and other things of which the settlers stood in such constant
need, but instead landed seventy Dutchmen and Poles for the purpose
of establishing manufactories of “pitch, tar, glass and soap-ashes.”
By this time, Smith had been regularly elected President. He was
thoroughly disgusted with the foolish instructions of the London
company, and when Newport undertook to undo much of the good work that
had been accomplished with so great trouble, even going so far as to
restore Ratcliffe to the presidency, Smith bluntly gave him his choice
of immediately taking himself and his ship off, or of being detained
for a year that he might gain the experience that he was sadly in
need of. Newport wisely chose the former alternative and sailed away,
having, as before, sown the seeds of trouble from which the colonists
were to reap a bitter crop before long.



Smith goes on a foraging expedition and engages in a contest of
wits with Powhatan–Doctor Russell and Captain Smith get into a
tight place–And get out again–Powhatan plans to murder his adopted
son–Pocahontas warns the Captain of the intended treachery–The feast
and the disappointed waiters–How eight designing Indians afford goodly
entertainment to three Englishmen–And how they are neatly laid by the
heels by their intended victims–“The English sleep like the village
dog, with one eye cocked”–How the ambushers were ambushed and the
captors captured–“If there be one among you bold enough to essay a
single combat, let him come out!”

With the approach of winter the colony of Jamestown found itself in
hardly better condition than at the same time in the previous year.
It is true that their health was now better but they had many more
mouths to feed and rather less chance of obtaining provisions from the
Indians. These, as we know, had been unfriendly for some months past,
due to Newport’s reckless generosity towards them and particularly
to his foolish gift of swords, which Smith refused to duplicate. The
more experienced among the settlers had protested strongly against
the crowning of Powhatan, fearing that the savage would interpret
the ceremony as a measure of propitiation and a sign of dread on the
part of the English. And this proved to be the case. It was soon
evident that the great Werowance had risen mightily in self-esteem
in consequence of the silly coronation and that his respect for the
settlers had fallen in proportion. The neighboring bands, acting on
his orders, refused to furnish corn on any terms, and messengers sent
to Werowocomico returned empty handed, telling of having been treated
with a high-handed contempt. After Scrivener and Percy had made futile
expeditions, it became clear that, as usual, Smith must attend to the
matter in person if the colony was to be saved from starvation.

Smith immediately began preparations for a visit to the capital of
Powhatan, whose spies doubtless gave him early information of the fact,
for, just at this time, an embassy arrived from the newly-crowned
“emperor” demanding workmen to build him an English house to contain
the gorgeous bedstead that his brother, the King of England, had sent
to him. He also asked for fifty swords, as many muskets, a cock and
hen, a large quantity of copper and a bushel of beads. This modest
requisition he expected would be filled forthwith, and in return for
his compliance he promised to give Captain Smith a shipload of corn,
provided he came for it in person. Here was a very palpable trap and
something like a veiled defiance. Smith was as little prone to shirk
danger as he was to decline a challenge, and he returned answer that he
should presently be at Werowocomico. In the meanwhile he was sending
three Germans and two Englishmen to build the projected palace, but,
for the rest of the request, he thought that he had better bring
the things mentioned by the Chief himself, for he feared that the
messengers might hurt themselves with the swords and muskets.

Leaving Scrivener in charge of the settlement, Smith, with forty-six
volunteers, embarked in the pinnace and two barges. George Percy
commanded one of the latter and Francis West, brother of Lord Delaware,
the other. The journey by water was a tolerably long one for open
boats, and they broke it by a stay of two or three days at Kecoughten,
a village occupying the site of the present town of Hampton. The
Chief received them with genuine friendliness and warned Smith that
Powhatan contemplated treachery. Here the party “kept Christmas among
the savages, where they were never more merry, nor fed on more plenty
of good oysters, fish, flesh, wild fowl and good bread; nor never had
better fires in England than the dry, smoky houses of Kecoughten.” The
enthusiasm with which the chroniclers among the colonists expatiate
upon such simple comforts as these when it happens to be their good
fortune to experience them, gives us a very good idea of the miserable
condition that generally prevailed at Jamestown.

When at length the party arrived at Werowocomico, they found the river
frozen over to a distance of half a mile from shore. Smith overcame
this obstruction by leaving his boats and wading to land with a squad
of men. The entire absence of welcome was a sinister indication, but
Smith, unabashed, took possession of a deserted wigwam on the bank and
sent messengers to Powhatan for provisions. These were forthcoming, and
the chieftain agreed to meet the English captain the next morning in a
formal pow-wow.

Before noon the following day, Captain Smith and his handful of men
went up to the town, putting a bold face on what they all believed
to be a very bad matter. Once more the two chiefs met in the famous
“king’s house.” Powhatan received Smith with the utmost coolness, and
it was noticeable that he did not address him by his tribal name. When
the matter of food supplies came up, he declared that he had so little
to spare that he was loath to exchange it for copper which his people
could not eat. As a special favor to the English and in consideration
of their great need he would stretch a point to let them have thirty
bushels in exchange for as many swords, but he was really not at all
anxious to make the trade. Indeed, so short was the food supply at
Werowocomico that he hoped that the English would speedily depart for
he could ill afford to entertain so many hungry stomachs.

“As to that,” replied Smith, “we have come at your invitation, and will
delay no longer than is necessary to effect our purpose, which is to
secure, at a fair price, so much corn and venison as you can readily
spare from the well-filled stores of Werowocomico.”

Each had intimated that he was well acquainted with the actual
conditions at the headquarters of the other, but Smith was at a loss to
determine whether Powhatan had merely guessed at the urgent needs of
the colonists, or whether he was really informed of the state of things
at Jamestown. As yet he had no suspicion of the truth, which was that
the Dutchmen sent to build the Chief’s house had betrayed the colony.
Tempted by the abundant food and comfortable lodgings at the capital of
the Powhatans, they had secretly sold their allegiance to the Chief,
intending to remain with the Indians and marry into their tribe.

Powhatan continued the negotiations in the same independent tone,
declaring that he would exchange corn for swords and muskets and for
nothing else. At length this persistent attitude provoked Smith to a
decisive reply.

“Let me speak the Werowance plain as I would that he should speak to
me. We will part with our swords and muskets no sooner than we will
with our clothes. Why, indeed, should we do so, when by a use of these
same we can readily get all the corn we want and still retain them? We
came here as honest and well-meaning men to get provisions and get them
we will, if not by fair means then by foul. If blood be shed in this
matter, upon your head be it, for I am, and ever have been, willing, in
good faith, to uphold the friendship which we plighted to one another.”

This language was too plain to be misunderstood and Powhatan proceeded
upon another tack. He assured his dear son that his intention in the
matter had been misunderstood. There were, it was true, no spare
supplies in Werowocomico, but messengers should at once be sent into
the surrounding country to collect foodstuff and the English Werowance
would in good time be furnished with as much as he desired. Of course
this was only a ruse to gain time, and as such Smith recognized it, but
he was not himself averse to postponing conclusions, since his boats
and men could not join him for some days. He immediately set gangs of
Indians to work in breaking up the ice, explaining that he would need
the pinnace to load his supplies upon when they arrived. Powhatan was
not in the least deceived by this explanation and himself sent to the
various chiefs under his dominion for reinforcements. In the meantime,
wishing to establish an alibi in connection with the murder of Captain
Smith, which he had planned, he withdrew to a neighboring village.

The next day, there were few Indians in evidence, although several
hundreds of them lay concealed within arrow shot. Smith’s men were
engaged on the bank of the river, whilst he and Doctor Russell were
consulting together in a wigwam at some distance. Suddenly they became
aware of the approach of scores of silent savages from every direction.
They were armed, and a glance was sufficient to perceive that their
intentions were evil. Two or three carried torches with which they
proposed to fire the wigwam and then brain the white men as they should
run out. Russell was for instantly rushing upon the foe, but Smith, who
never lost his head in any emergency, checked him.

“Nay,” he said, laying his hand upon the other’s arm. “Rest we here
until they be close upon the house when they durst not shoot their
arrows for fear of slaying one the other. Then will we sally against
them and fend ourselves from their tomahawks as best we can.”

The advice was excellent, for had they exposed themselves otherwise
they must have been killed at the first discharge. Each had his pistols
with him, and these they quietly primed and with composure awaited
the oncoming savages. At length they were within a few yards of the
house, and at the word from Smith, Doctor Russell sprang out at his
side. Four Indians fell at the discharge of the pistols which were
fired in their very faces. Those in front hastily leaped out of the
line of the smoking weapons, making a lane into which the Englishmen
dashed, swinging their swords right and left. The sortie was so sudden
and unexpected that Smith and his companion were clear through the
circle of savages and speeding towards the river before the Indians
could recover from their surprise. They might easily have overtaken
the Englishmen, being much more fleet of foot, but the appearance of
Smith’s men, who had been warned by the pistol reports, checked all
thought of pursuit.

This episode made it evident that Powhatan had determined upon
desperate measures, and it also satisfied Smith that he could no longer
look for any immunity on account of his membership in the tribe. The
next morning Powhatan, his plot having failed, returned to the town and
sent a messenger to Smith with a strip of wampum in token of peace.
He was exceedingly sorry that some of his people had rashly taken
advantage of his temporary absence on the business of the captain’s
supplies to attack their brother chief. The culprits, fearing his
wrath, had taken to the woods, but on their return they should be
severely punished. Tomorrow Powhatan would load the ship of the English
Werowance with corn and he hoped that they would part good friends.
To all of this Smith contented himself by replying that he should be
ready to receive the corn when it arrived and to pay a fair price for
it in any commodity but weapons.

Smith thought it hardly possible that Powhatan would venture another
attack now that the pinnace with reinforcements was close at hand,
and he might have been taken by surprise but for a timely warning. As
he lay in his wigwam late that night, thinking over the many weighty
affairs depending upon his disposition, he heard his name called
softly as out of the ground. At length he realized that some one was
whispering under the edge of the wigwam. Going out cautiously, he found
Pocahontas awaiting him. She had come at the risk of her life to warn
him, for she declared that if her father learned that she had betrayed
his secret, he would kill her with his own hand. In agitated whispers,
broken by her tears, she informed her adopted brother that it had been
arranged to delay the loading on the following day, so that Smith
would be unexpectedly compelled to spend another night on shore. That
after dark, a feast would be borne to him by eight men who would wait
upon him and the two gentlemen who usually supped with him. That, at a
favorable opportunity, the attendant Indians would seize the arms of
the Englishmen and give a signal to the band of warriors by whom the
wigwam would be surrounded. Having told her story, the Indian maiden
vanished silently into the night.

Smith of course laid his plans to circumvent his astute adoptive
father, but he made no effort to expedite the loading which was delayed
as he had been led to expect, so that night fell before it had been
completed. Smith, Doctor Russell and George Percy sat down to supper
as usual that night, just as eight unarmed, but stalwart, Indians,
who looked little like waiters, came to the wigwam laden with viands
which Powhatan begged his dear son and friends to accept. They were
pleased to do so, and proceeded to attack the bountiful supply of
good things without delay. But, to the dismay of the waiters, the
Englishmen did not lay aside their arms. On the contrary, each of them
had four pistols in his belt and a fifth cocked and primed by his side
upon the ground. Furthermore, they lined themselves with their backs
against the side of the wigwam, so that they constantly faced their
anxious attendants who had thus no chance to spring upon them unawares.
The Indians were plainly nonplussed and disconcerted. The feasters,
whilst eating leisurely, enjoyed to the full the discomfiture of their
intended captors. Smith vowed that it was the goodliest entertainment
he had had since landing in Virginia. When our adventurers had filled
their stomachs, they quietly levelled their pistols at the waiters and
signed to them to keep silence and to lie down. They then bound each
with cord, allowing them sufficient freedom of the legs to hobble.
Pushing two of these before him as a shield, Smith threw back the skin
flap and stood in the entrance of the wigwam.

“Warriors of the Powhatans!” he cried, addressing the concealed
savages, to whom he knew that the light of the fire at his back made
him plainly visible. “Warriors of the Powhatans! The English sleep like
the village dog, with one eye cocked, but you think to find us snoring
like old women when you steal upon us in the night. We also have
learned something of the ambuscade since coming among you. What ho, my

An answering shout ran along in the rear of the line of lurking
savages, conveying to them the uncomfortable announcement that they had
lain shadowed by a band of English.

“Back to your wigwams, valiants!” continued Smith derisively, “and
dream of conquests that ye are not fit to achieve. If there be one
among you bold enough to essay a single combat let him come out with
his club and I with my bare hands will meet him. No? Then away with
you! Your brother assassins will I hold in surety of a peaceful night’s
slumber.” With that he re-entered the wigwam, pulling his bound Indians
after him.

The pinnace was loaded without hitch the next morning. Indeed, the
Indians, who appeared to be much depressed, had no greater desire
than to see the strangers depart. When all was ready, Smith handed
to them a liberal recompense for the provisions they had supplied,
although their repeated treacheries would have fully justified him,
one would think, in refusing payment. The barges were yet empty and
Smith determined to go on to Pamaunke, the seat of his old enemy
Opechancanough, and see if he could not induce that chief to complete
the supply.

The expedition had no sooner left Werowocomico, than two of the
renegade Dutchmen journeyed with all haste to Jamestown. There they
purported to deliver a message from the President, and by means of this
ruse secured a number of weapons, tools, and other useful articles,
besides persuading six of their countrymen to desert the colony and,
like themselves, throw in their lot with the Indians.



Smith pays a visit to Opechancanough and declines to walk into
a trap–“Drop your arms on the instant or your Chief’s life is
forfeit”–Smith affords the Pamaunkes an object lesson and reads them
a lecture–A messenger with sad news from Jamestown–Smith loses an
old friend and a faithful ally–The Indians set a trap for the White
Werowance and fall into it themselves–Smith loads his boats and
returns to Jamestown–He finds the settlement in a condition of anarchy
and threatened with starvation–And promptly proceeds to restore law
and order–The colonists are given to understand that “he that will not
work shall not eat.”

At Pamaunke, Opechancanough resorted to the same species of dalliance
and subterfuge that Powhatan had practised so ineffectually. He claimed
to have but a few bushels of corn to spare and set the price up so
high that Smith laughed in his face. This fencing was carried on for
several days, the real object being to permit the return of a number
of warriors who happened to be absent from the village, likely enough
being part of the reinforcements that Powhatan had summoned from his
under-chiefs. When these had arrived, Opechancanough promised to have
a more satisfactory quantity of supplies for the English captain on
the following day. Smith, accompanied by sixteen men, accordingly went
up to a large house at the time appointed, prepared to negotiate the
exchange. Opechancanough received the party with the appearance of
utmost cordiality and declared that he had at great pains collected a
large quantity of provisions for his guests. In token of his friendship
to Smith he had prepared for him a personal present contained in a heap
of baskets stacked up outside the wigwam. The Chief invited his white
brother to step out and inspect the gift. Smith went to the door and
looked around. His quick eye, sharpened by suspicion, detected a score
or more of arrow heads projecting from over the top of a fallen tree at
about twenty yards distance. The bows were drawn ready to let fly at
him as soon as he appeared in the open.

Smith turned to the treacherous chief and in no uncertain terms
taxed him with his perfidy. He asked him if he were not ashamed to
stoop to such dirty tricks, so ill-becoming a man and a brave. He
professed himself willing to believe that Opechancanough possessed the
courage that repute gave him credit for and proposed to afford him
an opportunity to prove it. Let them two, suggested Smith, go upon a
barren island in the middle of the river and settle their difference
whilst yet their people had not come to blows. Each should take the
goods about which they experienced so much difficulty in coming to an
understanding and the victor would be entitled to the whole. In this
way might they reach a conclusion like honorable gentlemen and avoid
much needless trouble. This proposal was not at all to the liking of
the Indian, who desired nothing so little as to harm his brother the
Werowance of the English, whose groundless suspicions deeply pained him.

“Opechancanough!” replied Smith to these lying protestations, “it is
not meet that we should waste time in idle badinage, for whether your
words be spoken in jest or mere deceit they do not serve to further
my purpose. Your plenty is well beknown to me and a reasonable part
of it I must have and am willing to pay you therefor a reasonable
compensation. When last I visited Pamaunke you promised to provide me
with all the provisions I might ask when I should come again. Now I
claim the fulfillment of that promise, nor will I abide any refusal
though it be couched in honeyed words. Here are my wares. Take you your
choice of them. The rest I will barter with your people on fair terms.”

Smith had hardly completed this politic and not unreasonable speech,
when Doctor Russell, who had been left with the boats, hastily entered
the house, and going to Smith’s side warned him that the place was
surrounded by hundreds of armed warriors, who were evidently only
awaiting a signal to make an attack. Smith looked at Opechancanough who
was evidently disconcerted by Russell’s appearance and the whispered
conference that followed. There was no doubt whatever in the Captain’s
mind about the Indian chieftain’s evil intentions. To parley farther
would be worse than useless. To sally forth in the face of the awaiting
bowmen would surely be to lose some of his men. Decisive action was
necessary and that without an instant’s delay. Smith’s mind was quickly
made up and his design executed with equal celerity.

On one side of the wigwam were grouped the Englishmen. On the other
Opechancanough stood in the midst of forty of his tallest warriors,
himself towering above them all. Whilst Smith had carried on his
hurried conversation with the doctor, the Pamaunke engaged in excited
debate with his braves. Smith watched his formidable adversary like
a hawk and at a favorable opportunity bounded into the midst of the
surrounding warriors and, before a hand could be raised, had the Chief
fast by the scalp-lock and a pistol presented at his breast. Not an
Indian dared interfere as Smith dragged his captive to the other side
of the house whilst he cried to Percy and West to guard the doors.

“Drop your arms on the instant or your Chief’s life is forfeit!” cried
Smith to the amazed warriors. They obeyed with little hesitation and
the Englishmen gathered up their weapons.

Still with his fingers entwined in Opechancanough’s hair, Captain
Smith drew him out of the house and into the presence of the warriors
waiting in ambush. Some of his men carried out the seized weapons and
threw them in a heap before the captain and his captive, whilst the
disarmed braves were made to form a group behind them. This humiliating
spectacle had an instantaneous effect upon the spectators. Overcome
with shame and apprehension they bowed their heads in despair and
allowed their weapons to drop from their hands.

“Pamaunkes!” said Smith, addressing them in stern tones. “You have
gone about to compass my death. What have I done that you should
meet my honorable offices with such foul treachery? I promised you
my friendship as your Chief promised his to me. In what manner hath
he kept that promise? But, despite your presumption, I am willing to
overlook that which is passed and take you again into my favor. Now,
mark me well! for I speak you in all earnestness! If you repeat your
treacheries or shoot but one arrow to the hurt of any of my people,
then will I surely visit the Pamaunkes with a bitter vengeance. I am
not now powerless, half drowned and frozen, as when you captured me.
Yet for your good usage and sparing of me then, am I kindly disposed
towards you. In all friendliness I came to barter with you and you
undertook to freight my ship. That shall you do, receiving therefor a
proper recompense.”

The Indians expressed their willingness to abide by these conditions
and declared that every soul in the band should be immediately engaged
in the task of loading the vessel, leaving the matter of payment to be
decided by the English Werowance later.

“So be it!” said Smith. “Your Chief and brethren are free. They may
take their weapons and go. But beware! For if again you play me false I
shall show no such mercy upon you.”

The band now set to work to load the barges with all possible speed,
for, like the men of Werowocomico after trying conclusions with our
Captain, they were only too anxious to have the English begone. They
were just at the point of departure when there arrived a tattered and
footsore white man, pinched with hunger and cold. He had reached the
extremity of his endurance when he staggered into the camp of his
people at Pamaunke. This brave fellow was Master Richard Wyffin, one of
the gentlemen adventurers who had arrived with Captain Nelson in the
_Phœnix_. After being fed and warmed, he told his story to Smith. It
appeared that some two weeks previous Scrivener, the acting President,
together with Captain Waldo and Anthony Gosnold, newly appointed
members of the Council, and eight men, had left the settlement on
a visit to Hog Island, where the colonists kept some swine that had
been imported from the West Indies. A sudden storm overtook the party
and capsized their boat. All were drowned and their bodies some days
later were recovered by Indians. Wyffin, at the grave hazard of his
life, had set out alone to carry the sad tidings to the President.
After wandering out of his way for several days, the messenger
reached Werowocomico, where he expected to find Smith. Here he would
have fallen a prey to the vengeance of Powhatan’s warriors had not
Pocahontas hidden him and, when opportunity served, set him upon the
road to Pamaunke. Smith was much affected by the news of the death
of Scrivener, for whom he had a strong regard and whose value to the
colony he fully appreciated.

During the loading of the barges Smith had had a heart to heart talk
with Opechancanough. That chief, now thoroughly subdued in spirit
and persuaded that frankness might better serve his interests than
deception, gave the Englishman a fairly truthful account of the actual
state of affairs. From this and his own observation, Smith reached the
conclusion that the stores of Pamaunke could not well stand the strain
of freighting both his barges. He decided, therefore, to be satisfied
with one barge load, determining to return to Werowocomico for the
second. This he felt quite justified in doing, for it was well known
to him that Powhatan’s garners were always overflowing, for the great
Werowance exacted a heavy tribute from the minor chiefs of the tribe.
Moreover, Smith was willing to punish his adoptive father as the author
of all the trouble that had befallen the expedition. Accordingly, after
leaving Pamaunke, the boats turned their prows upstream and started
back to Werowocomico.

Towards evening the expedition, turning a bend in the river, came
suddenly upon a place where a number of people were assembled on the
bank, evidently awaiting their coming. They were men and women, quite
unarmed, and each bearing a basket of corn. Smith chuckled when he
beheld the palpable trap.

“Surely they take us for barn-yard fowls and think that we will run to
a handful of grain held out in a sieve. The grain we will take but in
no such simple fashion.”

He had no doubt that a hundred or more stout bowmen lay hidden behind
the innocent looking crowd which greeted him with eager offers to
trade. Dissembling his suspicions, Smith declared that the day was too
far spent for trading. He would lie-to for the night, he said, and in
the morning would come ashore unarmed as they demanded.

When darkness had set in Smith picked twenty-five men and placed them
under the commands of Percy and West. These officers were directed to
take the force in one of the barges several miles farther up the river
and there to land twenty of them. The remaining five were to bring
back the boat that its absence might not excite the suspicions of the
savages on the morrow. Percy and West were then to proceed through
the forest with their men and dispose them before daylight in the
rear of the Indian ambuscade. It was quite dark when the barge, with
muffled oars, pulled upstream, but some hours later a clear moon arose,
enabling the party to carry out its instructions to the letter.

The next morning, the unarmed Indians were on the bank as before with
their baskets of corn, and Smith went ashore as he had promised with
a squad of men, all of whom had left their weapons in the pinnace. No
sooner had they set foot on land than the would-be traders scattered
and fled into the surrounding forest, leaving their baskets upon the
ground. At the same instant a band of warriors rose from the cover in
which they had lain hidden and drew their bows upon the English.

“Stay your hands, Powhatans, and look to your backs!” cried Smith with
extended forefinger.

The warriors glanced behind them to see Percy’s men drawn up with
levelled muskets. Uttering a howl of dismay, they plunged into the
thicket and disappeared. The baskets of corn were carried aboard the
barges and the party continued its journey.

They found Werowocomico completely deserted. Powhatan had fled, taking
his renegade Dutchmen and emptying his stores. However, thanks to
the attempted ambuscade, Smith had now nearly as great a quantity
of provisions as his boats could carry and he returned to the fort.
The expedition had been absent six weeks. In that time its members
had been exposed to much hardship and many dangers of which we have
made no mention. They had relieved the settlement, during a period of
great stringency, of the keep of forty-six men and now they returned
with five hundred bushels of corn and two hundred pounds of meat.
Furthermore, not a man was missing from the party. This was, indeed, an
achievement to be proud of, but it was not of the kind to impress the
proprietors at home. Had Smith come back with empty boats and the loss
of some lives, so that he had learned some fanciful rumor of a gold
mine in a mythical country, they would have been better pleased with

The President found the colony in a bad way. The food supply was
almost exhausted and the settlers were within sight of starvation. The
councilmen, who should never have all left Jamestown at the same time,
had been drowned together. In the absence of all authority, discipline
naturally disappeared and disaffection spread. This as we shall see
later had developed into treason and conspiracy before the President’s
arrival. There had been some attempted desertions and doubtless would
have been more but for the contemplation of the fate of Scrivener and
his companions. Work of all descriptions had entirely ceased and the
men spent their days in loafing and quarrelling.

Smith took the situation in hand with his usual decision and firmness.
He determined to check the demoralization at any cost but wisely
decided to employ genial measures where they would avail. Calling the
settlers together, he gave them a clear understanding of his attitude
at the outset. Standing on the steps of the Council House, he addressed
them in the following words, his tone and gesture carrying conviction
to his hearers.

“Countrymen! The long experience of our late miseries should be
sufficient to persuade everyone to correct his errors and determine
to play the man. Think not, any of you, that my pains, nor the
adventurers’ purse, will maintain you in idleness and sloth. I speak
not thus to you all, for well I know that divers of you deserve both
honor and reward, but the greater part must be more industrious or
starve. It hath heretofore been the policy of the Council to treat
alike the diligent and the idle, so that a man might work not at all
yet was he assured of warm lodging and a full belly–at least as much
of these comforts as was enjoyed by them that toiled for the betterment
of the colony. Such a condition will not I maintain. You see that
power now resteth wholly in myself. You must obey this now for a law,
that he that will not work–except by sickness he is disabled–shall
not eat. The labors of thirty or forty industrious men shall not be
consumed to maintain a hundred and fifty idle loiterers. That there is
disaffection among you I know. I hope that it will cease forthwith,
but if not, I warn you that I shall hesitate not to take the life of
any man who seeks to sow the seeds of treason in this His Majesty’s
colony of Virginia. I would wish you, therefore, without contempt of
my authority, to study to observe the orders that I here set down,
for there are now no more Councillors to protect you and to curb my
endeavors. He that offendeth, therefore, shall most assuredly meet due