Stories of the Pilgrims - M. B. Pumphrey

A Savage People

It grew colder and colder every day, but still the Pilgrims had not found a good place to build their homes.

So Governor Carver, William Bradford, Captain Standish, and others again sailed away in their boat. They carried guns and axes, blankets, and food enough to last them many days.

It was December now, and the bay was full of ice. The driving snow and sleet cut their faces and froze on their clothing. Some of the men nearly died of the cold.

Every day they went ashore to see if there was a good place to settle. There were so many things to be thought of.

They must find a place near the woods so they could get logs for their houses and wood for their fires. Yet the forest must not be too near, for they must have a clear space in which to plant their grain.

There must be a deep, safe harbor, and above all, a stream of clear, fresh water.

They landed again and again, but it was hard to find a place which had all these things. They would search all day and at night make a camp in the forest.

One night after a hard day's tramp, they built a great fire and cooked their supper. They could get plenty of fresh meat in the forest, and they had brought bread, beans, and dried peas from the ship.

After they had eaten their supper and had prayers, all went to sleep except the two men who were to watch.

The light from the flames fell upon the tired faces of the men as they lay in a circle about the fire. It touched lightly the trunks of the tall trees, and stretched long, dark shadows across the hard frozen ground.

Sometimes they saw shining eyes peering at them from the darkness, but the animals were all afraid of the fire and soon slunk away.

About midnight the watchmen heard a long, loud cry in the distance. It sounded like the yell of Indians.

"To arms! To arms!" they cried.

The Pilgrims sprang to their feet and seized their guns. A long time they waited and listened, but no Indians came. "Perhaps it was only the howl of wolves or foxes," said the men, as they lay down again.

The Pilgrims were up before the sun, next morning, cooking their breakfast and preparing to sail farther along the shore. While some cooked the meal, others carried blankets and guns down to the boat.

While they were sitting about the fire eating their breakfast, they heard a frightful sound near by.

"Woach! Woach! Ha! Ha! Woach!" came the cry.

The Pilgrims sprang to the boat for their guns. They fired several shots into the forest thinking to frighten the Indians, but on they came.

Nearer and nearer sounded the cry. "Woach! Woach! Ha! Ha! Woach!"

In the faint morning light the Pilgrims saw the forms of many savages slipping from tree to tree. Then whiz! whir! whir! sounded the arrows, as they flew thick and fast. Two of them stuck in John Howland's coat, and one struck Captain Standish above the heart, but he had his armor on and the arrow did no harm.

The Pilgrims quickly sprang away from the light of the fire. They tried to protect themselves in the dark shadows of the forest.

Whiz-z-z! Whir-r-r-r! The arrows were flying from every direction, but not an Indian was to be seen. They, too, were well hidden behind trees and bushes.

The Pilgrims kept very still. Then the Indians grew bolder. They crept silently toward the camp, their dark forms looking like dim shadows in the forest.

This was just what the Pilgrims were waiting for. Bang! Boom! roared the muskets. One of the bullets struck the Indian chief in the arm. He could not draw his bow again. With an angry yell the savages fled into the forest.

The Pilgrims followed them a short distance, shouting and firing their muskets. When they returned to the camp, they picked up many arrows. Some were pointed with a sharp bit of deerhorn, and some with eagles' claws. These arrows the Pilgrims sent to England when the "Mayflower" returned.