Mary of Plymouth - James Otis

A Threatening Message

It was not many days after we had learned that we might be hungry before another harvest should come, when a savage, whom we had never before seen, came to Plymouth, asking for our chief. On being conducted to Governor Bradford, he delivered unto him a bundle of arrows which were tied together with a great snake skin.

[Illustration] from Mary of Plymouth by James Otis

It so happened that Squanto was in the village, and, on being sent for, he explained to our people that the sending of the arrows tied in the snake skin was a threat, which meant that speedily those from whom it had come would make an attack upon us. He also declared that the messenger was from the nation of the Narragansetts, of whom I have already told you.

The governor consulted with the chief men of Plymouth as to what should be done, with the result that Squanto was instructed to tell the Narragansett messenger that if his people had rather have war than peace, they might begin as soon as pleased them, for we of Plymouth had done the Narragansetts no wrong, neither did we fear any tribe of savages. Then the snake skin was filled with bullets, as token that the Indians would not find us unprepared when they made an attack, and given to the messenger that he might carry it back to those who had sent him.

That night, when mother mourned because it seemed certain war would soon be made upon us, father spoke lightly of the matter, as if it were something of no great importance. However, both Sarah and I took notice that from the hour the Narragansett messenger left Plymouth carrying the snake skin filled with bullets, there were two men stationed, on top of the fort night and day, and a certain store of provisions taken inside, as if the food might be used there rather than in our homes.

We knew nothing whatsoever about warfare, girls as we were, but yet had common sense enough to understand from such preparations, that our fathers were holding themselves ready, and expecting that an attack would be made by the savages within a very short time.


Front Matter

Why This Story was Written
The Leaking Speedwell
Searching for a Home
After the Storm
Wash Day
Finding the Corn
Attacked by the Savages
Building Houses
Miles Standish
The Sick People
The New Home
Master White and the Wolf
Inside of the House
A Chimney Without Bricks
Building the Fire
Master Bradford's Chimney
Scarcity of Food
A Timely Gift
The First Savage Visitor
Squanto's Story
Living in the Wilderness
The Friendly Indians
Grinding the Corn
A Visit From Massasoit
Massasoit's Promise
Massasoit's Visit Returned
The Big House Burned
The Mayflower Leaves Port
Setting the Table
What and How we Eat
Table Rules
A Pilgrim Goes Abroad
Making a Dugout
Governor Carver's Death
Bradford Chosen Governor
Farming in Plymouth
Cooking Indian Corn
The Wedding
Making Maple Syrup
Decorating the House
Trapping Wolves and Pigeons
Elder Brewster
The Visit to Massasoit
Keeping the Sabbath Holy
Making Clapboards
Cooking Pumpkins
A New Oven
Making Spoons and Dishes
The Fort and Meeting-House
The Harvest Festival
How to Play Stoolball
On Christmas Day
When the Fortune Arrived
Possibility of Another Famine
On Short Allowance
A Threatening Message
Pine Knots and Candles
Tallow From Bushes
Wicks for the Candle
Dipping the Candles
When James Runs Away
Evil-Minded Indians
Long Hours of Preaching
John Alden's Tubs
English Visitors
Visiting the Neighbors
Why More Fish are not Taken
How Wampum is Made
Ministering to Massasoit
The Plot Thwarted
The Captain's Indian
Ballots of Corn
Arrival of the Ann
Little James Comes to Port
The New Meeting-House
The Church Service
The Tithingmen
Master Winslow Brings Cows
A Real Oven
Butter and Cheese
Settlement at Wessagussett
The Village at Merrymount
The First School
Too Much Smoke
Schools Comforts
How Children Were Punished
New Villages
Making Ready for a Journey
Clothing for Salem
Food for the Journey
Before Sailing for Salem
Beginning the Journey
The Arrival at Salem
Sight-Seeking in Salem
Back to Plymouth