A CURIOUS COMBAT

The settlement is reduced to order and industry–The renegade Dutchmen
and their friends in the fort–Smith stalks a traitor through the
forest–Captures him and brings him back to be hanged–The Chief of the
Paspaheghs enters upon a dangerous enterprise–He finds Smith ready
to try a conclusion with him–The Indian giant and the Englishman
engage in a wrestling match–The bout ends in the discomfiture of
the Paspahegh–He cuts “a sorry figure squirming like a toad under a
harrow”–He is carried captive to the fort and held for exchange with
the traitorous Dutchmen–But Smith’s heart is touched by the appeal of
the warriors and he releases the Chief.

The uncompromising attitude of the President had a good effect upon
even the worst members of the colony who, even though they were not
moved thereby to honest endeavor, were at least restrained by fear
from active interference. There was now in the public store enough
provision to carry the settlement, with prudent use, over to the time
of harvest. Their minds were therefore relieved of what was usually
the most pressing anxiety, and they were free to devote their labors
to internal improvement. Smith divided the settlers into squads of
ten or fifteen, to each of which was assigned a particular duty every
day. Six hours a day, with the exception of the Sabbath, were given to
work. The remaining time was consumed in pastimes which tended to cheer
the spirits whilst preserving the health of the men. Smith himself
was constantly on duty and seemed to have a hundred pair of eyes,
for nothing escaped his notice. Passing from one group of laborers
to another, he directed their work, cheered the weak, praised the
industrious, reproved the unhandy and punished the shirkers. Under the
new regulations, the erection of public buildings and the construction
of fortifications progressed rapidly and at the same time the health
and temper of the colonists greatly improved.

Smith was of course ere this fully informed of the defection of the
three Dutchmen whom he had sent to Powhatan, but he had yet to learn
that these renegados had many sympathizers and some active confederates
at Jamestown among the seventy foreigners exported by the company.
For some time after the institution of the new regulations, it had
been apparent that a clever system of thievery was being carried on
in the fort. Arms, ammunition and tools disappeared from time to time
and no trace of the offenders could be had. The persons entrusted by
Smith with the task of detecting the thieves having utterly failed
to discover them, he determined to undertake the matter himself. It
was certain that the stolen articles were conveyed out of the fort
after dark, and Smith therefore took to spending his nights on watch.
At length his vigils were rewarded by the sight of five men scaling
the palisades over which they hauled a number of heavy packages.
He followed them stealthily. They took the rough road leading from
Jamestown to the glass factory, a mile distant, which they reached in
about half an hour. As they approached the house, a number of Indians
came out to meet them, and among these Smith recognized by his voice
a certain Franz, who was painted and bedecked to represent a redskin.
Smith lay concealed close at hand during the transfer of the goods and
heard the entire conversation of the conspirators. The party from the
fort wasted no time in returning, and Smith let them go upon their way
without interference. His mind was set on capturing the traitor Franz.

After the Dutchmen had left, the Indians distributed the burden among
themselves and set out in the opposite direction. Smith rightly
surmised that they would not go far before encamping, and that, knowing
that there was no party abroad from the settlement, they would not deem
it necessary to maintain a guard when they slept. But he kept well in
the rear for fear of alarming them, for the savage is alive to the
breaking of a twig or the rustling of a leaf on a still night. Their
camp-fire would guide him to them when they stopped.

The band proceeded along the trail for a few miles and then suddenly
struck into the depths of the forest, but soon halted and prepared
for the night by building a fire. Round this they sat for a while
talking and eating dried venison and bread. One by one they stretched
themselves out by the blazing wood until at length all were sunk
in deep slumber. Smith had crept near before this and had marked
the position of Franz who, being more susceptible to cold than his
companions, was wrapped in a long fur. For fully an hour after the
last man had lain down Smith waited patiently with his eyes fixed on
the fur-robed figure of the Dutchman. At last he thought it safe to
advance, and gradually stole forward until he stood over the recumbent
form of the traitor. It would have been an easy matter to stab the
sleeping man to the heart, but, although he richly deserved such a
fate, the thought was repugnant to our hero, who preferred, even at the
risk of his own life, to make the other captive.

Had Smith attempted to seize Franz, or in any other way to awaken
him suddenly, no doubt the man would have alarmed his companions.
Smith, therefore, proceeded with calm deliberation to bring his victim
gradually to his senses. Kneeling beside him, with a cocked pistol in
one hand, he set to brushing his face lightly with a wisp of grass.
The sleeping man began to breathe more rapidly as the slight irritation
excited him, then he turned restlessly several times and at last slowly
opened his eyes upon Smith and the threatening pistol. The Captain’s
eyes, readable in the light of the fire, spoke more eloquently than
words could have done. Franz realized that death would follow the first
sound he should make. In obedience to the signs of his captor he rose
quietly and stepped out of the ring of light into the gloom of the
surrounding forest. Smith’s hand grasped his hair whilst the pistol
was pressed against the nape of his neck. In his character of Indian,
Franz had carried no weapons but a bow and arrow and these lay where
he had slept, so that he was quite powerless to resist. When they had
proceeded cautiously until safely beyond earshot, Smith urged his
prisoner forward with all speed and within an hour after his capture
had him safely lodged in the jail of the fort.

The proof of this Dutchman’s guilt being so absolute, the jury before
whom he was tried found him guilty without hesitation and he was hanged
forthwith. It would be interesting to know how the Indians accounted
for the complete disappearance of the disguised Dutchman who had lain
down to sleep with them. They may have supposed that he had wandered
from the camp in the night and lost his way. It is quite as likely,
however, that they decided that the god of the English angered at
his perfidy had carried him off. Of course it was not long before
they learned the truth, but Smith took immediate measures to suppress
the illicit dealings that had been carried on between the Indians and
the traitors in the fort. A blockhouse was erected at the neck of the
peninsula upon which Jamestown stood and neither redman nor white was
thereafter permitted to pass it during day or night without giving an
account of himself. But the affair of Franz was not the end of the
trouble with the foreign settlers, as we shall see.

Shortly after the incident of Franz, the German, or the Dutchman, as
the early writers called him, Smith received a message from the Chief
of the Paspaheghs, who declared that he was in possession of a number
of stolen articles which he desired to return to the white Werowance
in person. He proposed that the latter should meet him at a designated
place some miles from Jamestown and take over the purloined property.
Smith was getting a little tired of these transparent subterfuges, but
as they invariably turned to his advantage it seemed to be inadvisable
to neglect such an opportunity. Accordingly he went to the appointed
place, taking with him a guard of ten men fully armed. There they
found the Chief, attended by fifty warriors. He was a man of gigantic
stature, being even taller than Opechancanough. Smith wished to come
at once to the purpose of the meeting, but the Chief seemed disposed
to palaver and consume time. At length he expressed a desire to speak
to the Captain privately and apart. To this request Smith acceded and
walked aside with the Paspahegh, keeping a sharp lookout the while.

It would seem that this Indian, who had only encountered our hero
in his most genial moods, was sufficiently bold and enterprising to
venture upon an attempt to dispose of him single handed. The idea may
have been suggested to his mind by noticing that Smith, contrary to
his custom, was on this occasion armed only with a falchion. No doubt
the Paspahegh had a right to rely greatly upon his superior size but
had he consulted Opechancanough before entering upon this hazardous
undertaking, he might have received some deterrent advice.

The two leaders continued to walk away until they were completely
beyond the sight of their followers. Smith had instructed his men not
to follow him, feeling confident that as long as he had the Chief
within arm’s length he could control the situation, and with that idea
he kept close by the Paspahegh’s side. The Indian seemed to find the
proximity unsuited to his plans, for he attempted several times to
edge away. These attempts were not lost upon Smith who took care to
frustrate them, for the Chief carried a bow and arrows which he could
not use with effect except at some distance from his intended victim.

At length the Paspahegh lost patience, or gave up hope of eluding the
vigilance of his companion. Suddenly he sprang to one side and turned
on Smith with his bow drawn taut and an arrow fitted in it. But before
he could loose the shaft our hero was upon him and had grasped him in
a wrestler’s hold. The Chief dropped his useless weapon and addressed
himself to the task of overthrowing his antagonist. He dared not cry
for help, for to do so would be to bring the English to the assistance
of their leader. Smith, on the other hand, was not inclined to court
interference. To “try a conclusion” by single combat was always to his
liking, and he thoroughly enjoyed the present situation.

For a while the clasped figures swayed to and fro, the Indian striving
by sheer weight to crush his smaller adversary to the ground. Smith, on
his part, contented himself at first with the effort necessary to keep
his feet, but, when he felt the savage tiring from his great exertions,
decided to try offensive tactics. The Indian was no wrestler and,
moreover, he had secured but a poor hold. Smith held his antagonist
firmly round the waist where he had seized him at the onset and now
he suddenly dropped his hold to the savage’s knees. With a tight grip
and a mighty heave upwards he threw the Paspahegh over his head and
turned to fall upon him. But the Indian was agile despite his great
size. He had broken his fall with his hands, and, regaining his feet
quickly and without injury, immediately grappled with Smith. It was
no eagerness for the combat that prompted the Paspahegh to re-engage
with such alacrity but the knowledge that unless he closed at once his
opponent might draw his sword and run him through. Smith would rather
have continued the duel on equal terms, but the chivalrous instinct
that could prefer such a condition to slaying a helpless enemy was
entirely beyond the comprehension of the savage.

The struggle was now renewed with vigor. The Indian, moved to frenzy
by fear, put forth such strength that for a space of time Smith was
powerless to withstand him. Nearby was a stream and towards this the
Indian dragged our hero, doubtless with the hope of getting into deep
water where his much greater height would have given him an advantage.
As they neared the bank, Smith contrived to get his foot between the
other’s legs and trip him. The Paspahegh loosed his hold and stumbled
forward for a pace or two. He quickly recovered and faced about to
receive a stinging blow on the chin, and as he reeled under it Smith
sprang at his throat and got it in a tight grasp. It was in vain that
the Indian struggled to shake off that iron grip. Smith’s clutch did
not relax until the savage exhausted and breathless sank to the ground.

[Illustration: IT WAS IN VAIN THAT THE INDIAN STRUGGLED TO SHAKE OFF
THAT IRON GRIP]

Smith allowed his fallen foe a few minutes to recover himself somewhat
and then, drawing his sword and twisting the Indian’s scalp-lock
about his left hand, he made him rise and march back to the place where
their respective followers awaited them. The Paspahegh was over six
feet in height and Smith of only medium stature, so that the former had
to stoop in order to accommodate himself to his captor’s grasp. Thus he
cut a very sorry figure when he came within the view of his warriors
squirming like a toad under a harrow. Smith now demanded the articles
for the recovery of which he had been induced to meet the Indians,
and their deceit was proved when they failed to produce them. Much to
their relief, the thoroughly cowed warriors were permitted to depart
unharmed, but they were obliged to return without their Chief, who was
conveyed a prisoner to the fort.

The Paspahegh seems to have been the most manly of the chieftains
with whom Smith came in conflict. He accepted his imprisonment with
uncomplaining dignity and calmly awaited the fate which he had every
reason to believe would be death. Smith, however, had never entertained
thought of killing his captive. It was in his mind to hold the chief
for exchange with the Dutchmen but, with his usual clemency, he
allowed him to depart with a deputation of his tribesmen who shortly
appeared at the settlement. These professed repentance and promised
good behavior in the future. They declared that their chief had been
instigated to treachery by another–meaning Powhatan. That he had
always been kindly disposed towards Smith and at the time of his
captivity had been one of the few chiefs in favor of sparing his life.
Finally they agreed to clear and plant an extra field of corn for the
English against the next harvest. Smith yielded, assured them of his
future friendship as long as they deserved it and giving to each a
present sent them upon their way contented.