King Philip - John S. C. Abbott

Landing of the Pilgrims

On the 11th of November, 1620, the storm-battered Mayflower, with its band of one hundred and one Pilgrims, first caught sight of the barren sand-hills of Cape Cod. The shore presented a cheerless scene even for those weary of a more than four months voyage upon a cold and tempestuous sea. But, dismal as the prospect was, after struggling for a short time to make their way farther south, embarrassed by a leaky ship and by perilous shoals appearing everywhere around them, they were glad to make a harbor at the extremity of the unsheltered and verdureless cape. Before landing, they chose Mr. John Carver, "a pious and well-approved gentleman," as the governor of their little republic for the first year. While the carpenter was fitting up the boat to explore the interior bend of the land which forms Cape Cod Bay, in search of a more attractive place of settlement, sixteen of their number set out on foot on a short tour of discovery. They were all well armed, to guard against any attack from the natives.

Cautiously the adventurers followed along the western shore of the Cape toward the south, when suddenly they came in sight of five Indians. The natives fled with the utmost precipitation. They had heard of the white men, and had abundant cause to fear them. But a few years before, in 1605, Captain Weymouth, on an exploring tour along the coast of Maine, very treacherously kidnapped five of the natives; and took them with him back to England. This act, which greatly exasperated the natives, and which led to subsequent scenes of hostility and blood, it may be well here to record. It explains the reception which the Pilgrims first encountered.

Captain Weymouth had been trafficking with the natives for some time in perfect friendship. One day six Indians came to the ship in two canoes, three in each. Three were enticed on board the ship, and were shut up in the cabin. The other three, a little suspicious of danger, refused to leave their canoe, but, receiving a can of pease and bread, paddled to the shore, where they built a fire, and sat down to their entertainment. A boat strongly manned was then sent to the shore from the ship with enticing presents, and a platter of food of which the Indians were particularly fond. One of the natives, more cautious than the rest, upon the approach of the boat, retired to the woods; the other two met the party cordially. They all walked up to the fire and sat down, in apparent friendship, to eat their food together. There were six Englishmen and two naked, helpless natives. At a given signal, while their unsuspecting victims were gazing at some curiosities in a box, the English sprang upon them, three to each man. The natives, young, vigorous, and lithe as eels, struggled with herculean energy. The kidnappers, finding it difficult to hold them by their naked limbs, seized them by the long hair of their heads, and thus the terrified creatures were dragged into the boats and conveyed to the ship. Soon after this Captain Weymouth weighed anchor, and the five captives were taken to England. He also took, as trophies of his victory, the two canoes, and the bows and arrows of these Indians. Sundry outrages of a similar character had been perpetrated by European adventurers all along the New England coast. The Pilgrims were well aware of these facts, and consequently they were not surprised at the flight of the Indians, and felt, themselves, the necessity of guarding against a hostile attack.

The English pursued the fugitives vigorously for many miles, but were unable to overtake them. At last night came on. They built a camp, kindled a fire, established a watch, and slept soundly until the next morning. They then continued their course, following along iii the track of the Indians. After some time they came to the remains of an Indian wigwam, surrounded by an old corn-field. Finding concealed here several baskets filled with ears of corn, they took the grain, so needful for them, intending, should they ever meet the Indians, to pay them amply for it. With this as the only fruit of their expedition, they returned to the ship.

Soon after their return preparations were completed for a more important enterprise. The shallop was launched, and well provided with arms and provisions, and thirty of the ship's company embarked for an extensive survey of the coast. They slowly crept along the barren shore, stopping at various points, but they could meet with no natives, and could find no harbor for their ship, and no inviting place for a settlement. Drifting sands and gloomy evergreens, through which the autumnal winds ominously sighed, alone met the eye. They discovered a few deserted dwellings of the Indians, but could catch no sight of the terrified natives. After several days of painful search, they returned disheartened to the ship.

It was now the 6th of December, and the sold winds of approaching winter began to sweep over the water, which seemed almost to surround them. Imagination can hardly conceive a more bleak and dreary spot than the extremity of Cape Cod. It was manifest to all that it was no place for the establishment of a colony, and that, late as it was in the year, they must, at all hazards, continue their search for a more inviting location. Previous explorers had entered Cape Cod Bay, and had given a general idea of the sweep of the coast.

A new expedition was now energetically organized, to proceed with all speed in a boat along the coast in search of a harbor. The wind, in freezing blasts, swept across the bay as they spread their sail. Their frail boat was small and entirely open, and the spray, which ever dashed over these hardy pioneers, glazed their coats with ice. They soon lost sight of the ship, and, skirting the coast, were driven rapidly along by the fair but piercing wind. The sun went down, and dark night was approaching. They had been looking in vain for some sheltered cove into which to run to pass the night, when, in the deepening twilight, they discerned twelve Indians standing upon the shore. They immediately turned their boat toward the land, and the Indians as immediately fled. The sandy beach upon which their boat grounded was entirely exposed to the billows of the ocean. With difficulty they drew their boat high upon the sand, that it might not be broken by the waves, and prepared to make themselves as comfortable as possible. It was, indeed, a cheerless encampment for a cold, windy December night. Fortunately there was wood in abundance with which to build a fire, and they also piled up for themselves a slight protection against the wind and against a midnight attack. Then, having commended themselves to God in prayer, they established a watch, and sought such repose as fatigue and their cold, hard couch could furnish.

The night passed away without any alarm. In the morning they divided their numbers, one half taking the boat, and the others following along upon, foot on the shore. Thus they continued their explorations another day, but could find no suitable place for a settlement. During the day they saw many traces of inhabitants, but did not obtain sight of a single native.

They found two houses, from which the occupants had evidently but recently escaped. The following is the description which the adventurers gave of these wigwams, in the quaint English of two hundred years ago:

"Whilest we were thus ranging and searching, two of the Saylers which were newly come on the shore by chance espied two houses which had beene lately dwelt in, but thee, people were gone. They having their peaces and hearing no body entered the houses and tooke out some things, and durst not stay but came again and told us; so some leaven or eight of us went with them, and found how we had gone within a slight shot of them before. The houses were made with long young Sapling trees bended and both ends stucke into the ground; they were made round like unto an Arbour and covered down to the ground with thicke and well wrought matte, and the doors were not over a yard high made of a matt to open; the chimney was a wide open hole in the top, for which they had a matt to cover it close when they pleased. One might stand and go upright in them; in the midst of them were four little trundles knockt into the ground, and small stickes laid over on which they hung their Pots, and what they had to seeth. Round about the fire they lay on matts which are their beds. The houses were double matted, for as they were matted without so were they within, with newer and fairer matts. In the houses we found wooden Boules, Trayea & Dishes, Earthen Pots, Hand baskets made of Crab shells, wrought together; also an English Pail or Bucket; it wanted a bayle, but it had two iron cares. There was also Baskets of sundry sorts, bigger and some lesser, finer and some coarser. Some were curiously wrought with blacke and white in pretie workes, and sundry other of their houshold stuffs. We found also two or three deeres heads, one whereof had been newly killed, for it was still fresh. There was also a company of deeres feete stuck up in the houses, harts hornes, and eagles clawes, and sundry such like things there was; also two or three baskets full of parched acorns, peaces of fish and a peece of a broyled herring. We found also a little silk grasse and a little Tobacco seed with some other seeds which wee knew not. Without was sundry bundles of Flags and Sedge, Bullrushes and other stuffe to make matts. There was thrust into a hollow tree two or three pieces of venison, but we thought it fitter for the Dogs than for us. Some of the best things we took away with us, and left their houses Standing still as they were. So it growing towards night, and the tyde almost spent we hastened with our things down to the shallop, and got aboard that night, intending to have brought some Beades and other things to have left in the houses in signe of Peace and that we meant to truk with them, but it was not done by means of our hasty coming away from Cape Cod; but so soon as we can meet conveniently with them we will give them full satisfaction."

As they returned to their boat the sun agar went down, and another gloomy December night darkened over the houseless wanderers. No cove, no creek even, opened its friendly arms to receive them. They again dragged their boat upon the beach. A dense forest was behind them, the bleak ocean before them. As they feared no surprise from the side of the water, they merely threw up a slight rampart of logs to protect them from an attack from the side of the forest. They again united in their evening devotions, established their night-watch, and, with a warm fire blazing at their feet, fell soundly asleep. Through the long night the wind sighed through the tree-tops and the waves broke upon the shore. No other sounds disturbed their slumber.

The next morning they rose before the dawn of day and prepared anxiously to continue their search. The morning was dark and stormy. A drizzling rain, which had been falling nearly all night, had soaked their blankets and their clothing; the ocean looked black and angry, and sheets of mist were driven by the chill wind over earth and sea. The Pilgrims bowed reverently together in their morning prayer, partook of their frugal meal, and some of them had carried their guns, wrapped in blankets, down to the boat, when suddenly a fearful yell burst from the forest, and a shower of arrows fell upon their encampment.

The English party consisted of but eighteen; but they were heroic men. Carver, Bradford, Winslow, and Standish were of their number. Four muskets only were left within their frail entrenchments. By the rapid and well-directed discharge of these, they, however, kept the Indians at bay until those who had carried their guns to the boat succeeded in regaining them, notwithstanding the shower of arrows which fell so thickly around. The thick clothing with which the English were covered, to protect themselves from the cold and the rain, were almost as coats of mail to ward off the comparatively feeble weapons of the natives. A very fierce conflict now ensued. The English were almost entirely unprotected, and were exposed to every arrow. The Indians were each stationed behind some large forest-tree, which effectually sheltered him from the bullets of his antagonists. Under these circumstances, the advantage was probably, on the whole, with the vastly outnumbering natives. They were widely scattered; their bows were of great strength, and their arrows, pointed and barbed with sharp flint and stone, when hitting fairly and in full force, would pierce even the thickest clothing of the English; and, if striking any unprotected portion of the body, would inflict a dreadful wound.

For some time this perilous conflict raged, the forest resounding with the report of musketry, and with the hideous, deafening yell of the savages. There was one Indian, of Herculean size and strength, apparently more brave than the rest, who appeared to be the leader of the band. He had proudly advanced beyond any of his companions, and placed himself within half musket shot of the encampment. He stood behind a large tree, and very energetically shot his arrows, and by voice and gesture roused and animated his comrades. Watching an opportunity when his arm was exposed, a sharp-shooter succeeded in striking it with a bullet. The shattered arm dropped helpless. The savage, astounded at the calamity, gazed for a moment in silence upon his mangled limb, and then uttering a peculiar cry, which was probably the signal for retreat, dodged from tree to tree, and disappeared. His fellow-warriors, following his example, disappeared with him in the depths of the gloomy forest. Hardly a moment elapsed ere not a savage was to be seen, and perfect silence and solitude reigned upon the spot which, but a moment before, was the scene of almost demoniac clamor. The waves broke sullenly upon the shore, and the wind, sweeping the ocean, and moaning through the sombre firs and pines, drove the rain in spectral sheets over Sea and land. The sun had not yet risen, and the gray twilight lent additional gloom to the stormy morning. Both the attack and the retreat were more sudden than imagination can well conceive. The perfect repose of the tight had been instantly followed by fiend-like uproar and peril, and as instantly succeeded by perfect silence and solitude.

Pilgrim Landing


The Pilgrims, as soon as they had recovered from their astonishment, looked around to see how much they had been damaged. Arrows were hanging by their clothes, and sticking in the logs by the fire, and scattered everywhere around, but, to their surprise, they found that not one had been wounded. Anxious to leave so dangerous a spot, they immediately collected their effects and embarked in the boat. Before embarking, however, they united in a prayer of thanksgiving to God for their deliverance. They named this spot "The First Encounter."  The rain now changed to sleet of mist and snow, and the cold storm descended pitilessly upon their unprotected heads. A day of suffering and of peril was before them. As the day advanced, the wind increased to almost a gale. The waves frequently broke into the boat, drenching them to the skin, and glazing the boat, ropes, and clothing with a coat of ice. The surf, dashing upon the shore, rendered landing impossible, and they sought in vain for any creek or cove where they could find shelter. The short afternoon was fast passing away, and a terrible night was before them. A huge billow, which seemed to chase them with gigantic speed and force, broke over the boat, nearly filling it with water, and at the same time unshipping and sweeping away their rudder. They immediately got out two oars, and, with much difficulty, succeeded with them in steering their bark.

Night and the tempest were settling darkly over the angry sea. To add to their calamities, a sudden flaw of wind struck the boat, and instantly snapped the mast into three pieces. The boat was now, for a few moments, entirely unmanageable, and, involved in the wreck of mast, rigging, and sail, floated like a log upon the waves, in great danger of being each moment engulfed. The hardy adventurers, thus disabled, seized their oars, and with great exertions succeeded in keeping their boat before the wind. It was now night, and the rain, driven violently by the gale, was falling in torrents.

The dark outline of the shore, upon which the surf was furiously dashing, was dimly discernible. At last they perceived through the gloom, directly before them, an island or a promontory pushing out at right angles from the line of the beach. Rowing around the northern headland, they found on the western side a small cove, where they obtained a partial shelter from the storm. Here they dropped anchor. The night was freezing cold. The rain still fell in torrents, and the boat rolled and pitched incessantly upon the agitated sea. Though drenched to the skin, knowing that they were in the vicinity of hostile Indians, most of the company did not deem it prudent to attempt a landing, but preferred to pass the night in their wet, shelterless, wave-rocked bark. Some, however, benumbed and almost dying from wet and cold, felt that they could not endure the exposure of the wintry night. They were accordingly put on shore. After much difficulty; they succeeded in building a fire. Its blaze illumined the forest, and they piled upon it branches of trees and logs, until they became somewhat warmed by the exercise and the genial heat. But they knew full well that this flame was but a beacon to inform their savage foes where they were, and to enable them, with surer aim, to shoot the poisoned arrow. The forest sheltered them partially from the wind. They cut down trees, and constructed a rude rampart to protect them from attack. Thus the explorers on the land and in the boat passed the first part of this dismal night. At midnight, however, those in the boat, unable longer to endure the cold, ventured to land, and, with their shivering companions, huddled round the fire, the rain still soaking them to the akin.

When the morning again dawned, they found that they were in the lee of a small island. It was the morning of the Sabbath. Notwithstanding their exposure to hostile Indians and to the storm, and notwithstanding the unspeakable, importance of every day, that they might prepare for the severity of winter, now so rapidly approaching, these extraordinary men resolved to remain as they were, that they might "remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy." There was true heroism and moral grandeur in this decision, even though it be asserted that a more enlightened judgment would have taught that, under the circumstances in which they were placed, it was a work of "necessity and of mercy" to prosecute their tour without delay. But these men believed it to be their duty to sanctify the Sabbath; and, notwithstanding the strength of the temptation, they did what they thought to be right, and this is always noble. To God, who looketh at the heart, this must have been an acceptable sacrifice. For nearly two hundred years all these men have now been in the world of spirits, and it may very safely be affirmed that they have never regretted the scrupulous reverence they manifested for the law of God in keeping the Sabbath in the stormy wilderness.

With the early light of Monday morning they repaired their shattered boat, and, spreading their sails before a favorable breeze, continued their tour. Plymouth Bay opened before them, with a low sand-bar shooting across the water, which served to break the violence of the billows rolling in from the ocean, but which presented no obstacle to the sweep of the wind.

It was an unsheltered harbor, but it was not only the best, but the only one which could be found. Cautiously they sailed around the point of sand, dropping the lead every few moments to find a channel for their vessel. They at length succeeded in finding a passage, and a place where their vessel could ride in comparative safety. They then landed to select a location for their colonial village. Though it was the most dismal season of the year, the region presented many attractions. It was pleasantly diversified with hills and valleys, and the forest, of gigantic growth, swept sublimely away in all directions. The remains of an Indian village was found, and deserted corn-fields of considerable extent, where the ground was in a state for easy and immediate cultivation.

The Pilgrims had left England with the intention of planting their colony at the mouth of the Hudson River; but the Dutch, jealous of the power of the English upon this continent, and wishing to appropriate that very attractive region entirely to themselves, bribed the pilot to pretend to lose his course, and to land them at a point much farther to the north; hence the disappointment of the company in finding themselves involved amid the shoals of Cape Cod. Though Plymouth was by no means the home which the Pilgrims had originally sought, and though neither the harbor nor the location presented the advantages which they had desired, the season was too far advanced for them to continue their voyage in search of a more genial home. With this report the explorers returned to the ship.

On the 15th of December the Mayflower again weighed anchor from the harbor of Cape Cod, and, crossing the Bay on the 16th, cautiously worked its way into the shallow harbor of Plymouth, and cast anchor about a mile and a half from the shore. The next day was the Sabbath, and all remained on board the ship engaged in their Sabbath devotions.

Early Monday morning, a party well armed were sent on shore to make a still more careful exploration of the region, and to select a spot for their village. They marched along, the coast eight miles, but saw no natives or wigwams. They crossed several brooks of sweet, fresh water, but were disappointed in finding no navigable river, They, however, found many fields where the Indians had formerly cultivated corn. These fields, thus ready for the seed, seemed very inviting. At night they returned to the ship, not having decided upon any spot for their settlement.

The next day, Tuesday, the 19th, they again sent out a party on a tour of exploration.. This party was divided into two companies, one to sail along the coast in the shallop, hoping to find the mouth of some large river; the other landed and traversed the shore. At night they all returned again to the ship, not having as yet found such a location as they desired.

Wednesday morning came, and with increasing fervor the pilgrims, in their morning prayer, implored God to guide them. The decision could no longer be delayed. A party of twenty were sent on shore to mark out the spot where they should rear their store-house and their dwellings. On the side of a high hill, facing the rising sun and the beautiful bay, they found an expanse, gently declining, where there were large fields which, two or three years before, had been cultivated, with Indian corn. The summit of this hill commanded a wide view of the ocean and of the land. Springs of sweet water gushed from the hillsides, and a beautiful brook, overshadowed by the lofty forest, meandered at its base. Here they unanimously concluded to rear their new homes.

As the whole party were rendezvoused upon this spot, the clouds began to gather in the sky, the wind rose fiercely, and soon the rain began to fall in torrents: Huge billows from the ocean rolled in upon the poorly-sheltered harbor, so that it was impossible to return by their small beat to the ship. They were entirely unsheltered, as they had brought with them no preparations for such an emergency. Night, dark, freezing, tempestuous, soon settled down upon these houseless wanderers. In the dense forest they sought refuge from the icy gale which swept over the ocean. They built a large fire, and, gathering around it, passed the night and all the next day exposed to the fury of the storm. But, toward the evening of the 21st, the gale so far abated that they succeeded in returning over the rough waves to the ship.

The next morning was the ever memorable Friday, December 22. It dawned chill and lowering. A wintry gale still swept the bay, and pierced the thin garments of the Pilgrims. The eventful hour had now come in which they were to leave the ship, and commence their new life of privation and hardship in the New World. It was the birthday of New England. In the early morning, the whole ship's company assembled upon the deck of the Mayflower, men, women, and children, to offer their sacrifice of thanksgiving, and to implore divine protection upon their lofty and perilous enterprise.

"The Mayflower on New England's coasts

Has furled her tattered sails,

And through her chafed and mourning shrouds

December's breezes wail."

"There were men of hoary hair

Amid that Pilgrim band;

Why had they come to wither there,

Away from their childhood's land'

"There was woman's fearless eye,

Lit by her deep love's truth;

There was manhood's brow, serenely high,

And the fiery heart of youth.

"What sought they thus afar

Bright jewels of the mine?

The wealth of seas—the spoils of war?

They sought a faith's pure shrine.

"Ay, call it holy ground,

The soil where first they trod:

They have left unstained what there they found—

Freedom to worship God."

The Pilgrims, though inspired by impulses as pure and lofty as ever glowed in human hearts, were still but feebly conscious of the scenes which they were enacting. They were exiles upon whom their mother country cruelly frowned, and though they hoped to establish a prosperous colony, where their civil and religious liberty could be enjoyed, which they had sought in vain under the government of Great Britain, they were by no means aware that they were laying the foundation stones of one of the most majestic nations upon which the sun has ever shone. As they stood upon that slippery deck, swept by the wintry wind, and reverently bowed their heads in prayer, they dreamed not of the immortality which they were conferring upon themselves and upon that day. Their frail vessel was now the only material tie which seemed to bind them to their fatherland. Their parting hymn, swelling from gushing hearts and trembling lips, blended in harmony with the moan of the wind and the wash of the wave, and fell, we cannot doubt, as accepted melody on the ear of God.

These affecting devotions being ended, boat-load after boat-load left the ship, until the whole company, one hundred and one in number, men, women and children, were rowed to the shore, and were landed upon a rock around which the waves were dashing. As the ship, in the shallow harbor, rode at anchor a mile from the beach, and the boats were small and the sea rough, this operation was necessarily very slow.

They first erected a house of logs twenty feet square, which would serve as a temporary shelter for them all, and which would also serve as a general store-house for their effects. They then commenced building a number of small huts for the several families. Every one lent a willing hand to the work, and soon a little village of some twenty dwellings sprang up beneath the brow of the forest-crowned hill which protected them from the winds of the northwest. The Pilgrims landed on Friday. The incessant labors of the rest of the day and of Saturday enabled them to provide but a poor shelter for themselves before the Sabbath came. But, notwithstanding the urgency of the case, all labor was intermitted on that day, and the little congregation gathered in their unfinished store-house to worship God. Aware, however, that hostile Indians might be near, sentinels were stationed to guard them from surprise. In the midst of their devotions, the alarming cry rang upon their ears, "Indians! Indians!" A more fearful cry could hardly reach the ears of husbands and fathers. The church instantly became a fortress and the worshipers a garrison. A band of hostile natives had been prowling around, but, instructed by the valiant defense of the first encounter, and seeing that the Pilgrims were prepared to repel an assault, they, speedily retreated into the wilderness.

The next day the colonists vigorously renewed their labors, having parceled themselves into nineteen families. They measured out their house lots and drew for them, clustering their huts together, for mutual protection, in two rows, with a narrow street between. But the storms of winter were already upon them. Monday night it again commenced raining. All that night and all of Tuesday the rain fell in floods, while the tempest swept the ocean and wailed dismally through the forest. Thus they toiled along in the endurance of inconceivable discomfort for the rest of the week. All were suffering from colds, and many were seriously sick Friday and Saturday it was again stormy and very cold. To add to their anxiety, they saw in several directions, at the distance of five or six miles from them, wreaths of snake rising from large fires in the forest, proving that the Indians were lurking around them and watching their movements. It was evident, from the caution which the Indians thus manifested, that they were by no means friendly in their feelings.

The last day of the year was the Sabbath. It watt observed with much solemnity, their store-house, crowded with their effects, being the only temple in which they could assemble to worship God.

"Amid the storm they sang,

And the stars heard and the sea;

And the sounding aisles of the dim woods rang

To the anthem of the free."

Monday morning of the new year the sun rose in a serene and cloudless sky, and the Pilgrims, with alacrity, bowed themselves to their work. Great fires of the Indians were seen in the woods. The valiant Miles Standish, a man of the loftiest spirit of energy and intrepidity, took five men with him, and boldly plunged into the forest to find the Indians, and, if possible, to establish amicable relations with them. Ike found their deserted wigwams and the embers of their fires, but could not catch sight of a single native. A few days after this, two of the pilgrims, who were abroad gathering thatch, did not return, and great anxiety was felt for them. Four or five men the next day set out in search for them. After wandering about all day unsuccessfully through the pathless forest, they returned at night disheartened, and the little settlement was plunged into the deepest sorrow. It was greatly feared that they had been waylaid and captured by the savages. Twelve men then, well armed, set out to explore the wilderness, to find any traces of their lost companions. They also returned but to deepen the dejection of their friends by the recital of their unsuccessful search. But, as they were telling their story, a shout of joy arose, and the two lost men, with tattered garments and emaciated cheeks, emerged from the forest. They gave the following account of their adventures:

As they were gathering thatch about a mile and a half from the plantation, they saw a pond in the distance, and went to it, hoping to catch some fish. On the margin of the pond they met a large deer. The affrighted animal fled, pursued eagerly by the dog they had with them. The men followed on, hoping to capture the rich prize. They were thus lured so far that they became bewildered and lost in the pathless forest. All the afternoon they wandered about, until black night encompassed them. A dismal storm arose of wind and rain, mingled with snow. They were drenched to the skin, and their garments froze around them. In the darkness they could find no shelter. They had no weapons, but each one a small sickle to cut thatch. They had no food whatever. They heard the roar of the beasts of the forests. They supposed it to be the roaring of lions, though it was probably the howling of wolves. Their only safety appeared to be to climb into a tree; but the wind and the cold were so intolerable that such an exposure they could not endure. So each one stood at the root of a tree all the night long, running around it to keep himself from freezing, drenched by the storm, terrified by the cries which filled the forest, and ready, as soon as they should hear the gnashing of teeth, to spring into the branches.

The long winter night at length passed away, and a gloomy morning dimly lighted the forest, and they resumed their search for home. They waded through swamps, crossed streams, were arrested in their course by large ponds of water, and tore their clothing and their flesh by forcing their way through the tangled underbrush. At last they came to a hill, and, climbing one of the highest trees, discerned in the distance the harbor of Plymouth, which they recognized by the two little islands, densely wooded, which seemed to float like ships upon its surface. The cheerful sight invigorated them, and, though their limbs tottered from exhaustion, they toiled on, and, just as night was setting in, they reached their home, faint with travel, and almost famished with hunger and cold. The limbs of one of these men, John Goodman, were so swollen by exertion and the cold that they were obliged to cut his shoes from his feet, and it was a long time before he was again able to walk. Thus passed the month of January. Nearly all of the colonists were sick, and eight of their number died.

February was ushered in with piercing cold and desolating storms. Tempests of rain and snow were so frequent and violent that but little work could be done. The huts of the colonists were but poorly prepared for such inclement weather, and so many were sick that the utter destruction of the colony seemed to be threatened. Though the company which landed consisted of one hundred and one, but forty-one of these were men; all the rest were women and children. Death had already swept many of these men away, and several others were very dangerously sick. It was evident that the savages were lurking about, watching them with an eagle eye, and with most manifestly unfriendly feelings. The colonists were in no condition to repel an attack, and the most fearless were conscious that they had abundant cause for intense solicitude.

On the 16th of this month, a man went to a creek about a mile and a half from the settlement a gunning, and, concealing himself in the midst of some shrubs and rushes, watched for water-fowl. While thus concealed, twelve Indians, armed to the teeth, marched stealthily by him, and he heard in the forest around the noise of many more. As soon as the twelve had pissed, he hastened home and gave the alarm. All were called in from their work, the guns were loaded, and every possible preparation was made to repel the anticipated assault. But the day passed away in perfect quietness; not an Indian was seen; not the voice or the footfall of a foe was heard. These prowling bands, concealed in the dark forest, moved with a mystery which was appalling. The Pilgrims had now been for nearly two months at Plymouth, and not an Indian had they as yet caught sight of, except the twelve whom the gunner from his ambush had discerned. Toward evening, Miles Standish, who, upon the alarm, had returned to the house, leaving his tools in the woods, took another man and went to the place to get them, but they were no longer there. The Indians had taken them away.

This state of things convinced the Pilgrims that it was necessary to adopt very efficient measures that they might be prepared to repel any attack. All the able-bodied men, some twenty; five in number, met and formed themselves into a military company. Miles Standish was chosen captain, and was invested with great powers in case of any emergency. Rude fortifications were planned for the defense of the little hamlet, and two small cannons, which had been lying useless beneath the snow, were dug up and mounted so as to sweep the approaches to the houses. While engaged in these operations, two savages suddenly appeared upon the top of a hill about a quarter of a mile distant, gazing earnestly upon their movements. Captain Standish immediately took one man with him, and, without any weapons, that their friendly intentions might be apparent, hastened to meet the Indians. But the savages, as the two colonists drew near, fled precipitately, and when Captain Standish arrived upon the top of the hill, he heard noises in the forest behind as if it were filled with Indians.

This was the 17th of February. After this a month passed away, and not a sign of Indians was seen. It was a month of sorrow, sickness, and death. Seventeen of their little band died, and there was hardly strength left with the survivors to dig their graves. Had the Indians known their weakness, they might easily, in any hour, have utterly destroyed the colony.