Front Matter A Name to be Proud of Ready for Sea The King's Gift Why I am an Adventurer The Signal for Departure A Lad's Portion The Allotment of Land An Unexpected Delay Our Arrival at Cowes We Put to Sea The Dove Disappears A Second Tempest An Unseemly Christmas The Port of Barbadoes The Arrival of the Dove Under Sail Again The Land of America The Land Given by the King Fear of the Brown Men Where to Build the City Taking the Island A Voyage of Discovery Visiting the Indians An Unexpected Meeting Captain Fleet's Story An Indian Werowance Indian vs. English Claims Seeking a Place for the City The Bargain The Village of Yaocomico What the Indians Look Like Indian Weapons and Tools Landing the Goods Counting Our Blessings The Susquehanoughs A Land of Abundance Buying Cattle Storehouse and Fort A Visitor from Virginia A Talk with the Indians Running up the Colors Settling Down Master William Claiborne Lord Baltimore's Claims Stirring up the Indians Winning Back the Indians Busy Times Indian Women as Servants Making a Canoe A Boat of Bark Indian Money A Generous Harvest Trouble at Plymouth Strange Religious Service The Dance Begins An Odd Ceremony William Claiborne's War Settlement on Kent Island We Prepare for War The Army leaves St. Mary's In Command of the Guard A Flag of Truce Captain Fleet Repents The First Prize of War A Battle is Fought The Return of the Fleet William Claiborne's Flight The City of Saint Mary's A Cruel Murder Mystery Remains Unsolved Master George Evelin A Fatal Accident Preparing for Action Ready for a Man's Duty I Wear the Uniform My New Name On Board the Pinnance Indians in War Paint The Arrival at Kent Island The Capture of the Fort Butler and Smith Captives Back to Claiborne's Fort I am Assigned New Duties A Narrow Escape Words of Praise

Calvert of Maryland - James Otis

A Strange Religious Service

Before I come to that part of my story relating to the war which did break out between us and William Claiborne of Kent Island, I am minded to tell you of a queer religious service that I saw among the Indians of Yaocomico shortly after the harvest.

On a certain day one of the brown-skinned lads came to me with much secrecy, saying that his people were about to have their annual corn and fire dance, and asking if I would go with him to see it.

[Illustration] from Calvert of Maryland by James Otis

There is little need for me to say that I much the same as jumped at such a chance, and after gaining permission from my father to be absent from home until late in the night, the lad and I set out through the forest to a certain place not above five miles distant from St. Mary's, where we found more than four hundred brown men, women, and children gathered as if to take part in some festival.

Now to understand better what I saw, you must bear in mind that these savages worship one God, as do we who are Christians, and they also make offerings to an evil spirit whom they call Okee, believing it is necessary to do so in order to prevent harm from coming to them.

While believing there is but one God who rules over everything, they pay homage to a lot of little gods, such as Corn, Fire, and Water, all of which are in some way, I cannot understand well how, supposed to have an influence upon their lives, and in honor of which they dance at certain times of the year.

It is an odd kind of faith, and the longer I puzzle over it the less clear does it appear; but I am bound to admit that these brown-skinned people strive to serve faithfully all these little gods.

Now this festival, or religious service, or whatsoever you may call it, to which I had been invited, was given in honor of Corn, most like because our harvest had been so plentiful.

[Illustration] from Calvert of Maryland by James Otis

When we were come to the meeting-place, we found a great fire feeding upon a stack of tree trunks that had been thrown up as high as the foremast of the Dove, and around this, forming complete circles, were all the people, with the children nearest the burning wood, and the elders in the outer rows.

Save for the crackling of the flames, the silence was profound when the Indian lad and I came up. All the people were sitting facing the fire, immovable as statues, and I gazed intently at them a full two minutes without seeing so much as a hand lifted or a head turned. I am not overly timorous; but there came what was much like a chill along my spine as I gazed at the motionless brown people, many of whom were painted most hideously, and save that the Indian lad would know of my faint-heartedness, I should have fled homeward.