A Celebration of Women Writers

"Part II, Chapter 16." by Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall (1876-)
From: This country of ours; the story of the United States by Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall (1876-) New York, George H. Doran company, 1917.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom


CHAPTER 16
HOW POCAHONTAS TOOK A JOURNEY OVER THE SEAS

AT peace with the Indians, the colonists could till their fields without fear of attack. And now, besides corn, they began to grow tobacco.

 

You remember that Columbus had noticed how the natives of his "India" smoked rolled-up dried leaves. But, no one paid much attention to it. Then the men of Raleigh's expedition again noticed it. They tried it themselves, found it comforting, and brought both tobacco and the habit home with them. And soon not only the seafaring adventurers but many a man who was never likely to see the ocean, or adventure beyond his native town, had taken to smoking. That, too, despite his king's disgust at it. For James thought smoking was "a custom loathsome to the eye, hateful to the nose, harmful to the brain, dangerous to the lungs, and in the black smoking fumes thereof nearest resembling the horrible Stygian smoke of the pit that is bottomless." He indeed wrote a little book against it, which he called "A Counterblaste to Tobacco." But no one paid much attention to him. The demand for tobacco became greater and greater, and soon the Virginian farmers found that there was a sale for as much tobacco as they could grow, and that a crop of it paid better than anything else.

Tobacco

Up till now the colony had been a constant disappointment to the "adventurers"–that is, to the people who had given the money to fit out the expeditions–the shareholders we would now call them.

 

Most of them had adventured their money, not with any idea of founding a New England beyond the seas where men should settle down as farmers and tillers of the soil. They had adventured it rather for the finding of gold and pearls, jewels and spices, so that it might be repaid quickly, and a hundredfold. But year by year passed, and all these glittering hopes were doomed to disappointment. No gold was found. The adventurers saw their money being swallowed up for nought. They grew discontented and grumbled, some of them refused to pay any more, refused to throw more away on an empty dream. They little knew that they were helping to found a new State which in time was to become one of the world's greatest powers. They little knew that in days to come their money should produce a harvest a thousand, thousandfold, and that from the broad land, of which they had helped to settle a tiny corner, was to come wealth such as in their wildest imaginings, they had never dreamt.

The adventurers discontented

Meanwhile, anything a Virginian wanted he could buy with tobacco. Indeed, after a time the Virginians threw themselves with such complete enthusiasm into the growing of tobacco that they were reproached for neglecting everything else because of it.

 

The English were not the only people who had set forth to find golden wealth and broad lands beyond the seas. Both the French and the Dutch had carried their standard across the ocean, and planted it upon the further shores. Already, too, the struggle for possession began.

 

Captain Argall, in one of his many expeditions, sailing northward to the Bay of Fundy, found a French colony settled there. Argall swooped down upon them, and claiming the whole continent by right of Cabot's discovery, he utterly destroyed the colony, burning the houses to the ground, and carrying off the cattle.

Argall destroys a French colony

Argall next found a Dutch colony on the Hudson River. Here he contented himself with ordering the Governor to pull down the Dutch flag and run up the English one. To save his colony the Dutchman did as he was commanded. But as soon as the arrogant Englishman was out of sight he calmly ran up his own flag once more.

 

Meanwhile under Sir Thomas Dale Virginia continued to prosper. Then after five years' rule Sir Thomas went home and the colony was left to a new ruler. With him went John Rolfe and his wife Pocahontas, together with their little baby son.

 

Now began a wonderful new life for the beautiful Indian. Only a few years before she had been a merry, little, half naked savage, turning cart wheels all over the Jamestown fort, and larking with the boys. Now she found herself treated as a great lady.

Pocahontas goes to England, 1616

In those days the people in England had very little idea of the life out in the wilds. The Powhatan, they had heard, was a king, a sort of emperor, indeed, and they doubtless pictured him as living in a stately palace, wearing a golden crown and velvet robes. That a "king" should be a half-naked savage, living in a mud hut, wearing a crown of feathers on his head, and a string of beads about his neck, they could not imagine. As the Powhatan was a king then his daughter was a princess, and as such must be treated with all respect.

 

It is even said that John Rolfe was roundly scolded by King James for daring to marry a princess without first asking leave.

 

"For," he gravely pointed out, "if the Powhatan was a king and Pocahontas his daughter, when the Powhatan died Rolfe or his baby son might become King of Virginia. It was not meet or right that a commoner should thus lightly take upon himself to marry the daughter of a brother sovereign."

 

Every one, then, was ready to treat Pocahontas with deference. Besides this John Smith wrote to the Queen relating all that she had done for the Colony of Virginia and begging her to be kind to the Indian girl who had done so much for England. For that or some other reason the Queen took an interest in the little dusky Princess. Pocahontas was presented to her, and was often seen at the theatre or other entertainment with her. The ladies of the court were made to treat Pocahontas with great ceremony. They addressed her as "Princess" or "Lady," remained standing before her, and walked backwards when they left her presence; famous artists painted her portrait; poets wrote of her, and in one of his plays Ben Johnson calls her

                              The Blessed
Pokahontas, as the historian calls her
And great King's daughter of Virginia.

The Queen is kind to her

In fact she became the rage. She was the talk of the town. Even coffee-houses and taverns were named after her,–La Belle Sauvage (the beautiful savage). And it is interesting to remember that a great publishing house in London takes its name from one of these old taverns. Books go out to all the world from the sign of La Belle Sauvage, thus forming a link between the present and that half-forgotten American "princess" of so long ago.

She becomes the rage

In spite of all the homage and flattery poured upon her, Pocahontas yet remained modest and simple, enchanting all who met her. And among all the new delights of England she had the joy of seeing once again the great White Chief she had loved and called her father in days gone by.

 

Her joy was all the greater because she had believed him to be dead. When Smith first came to see her her feelings were so deep that at first she could not speak. She greeted him in silence, then suddenly turning away she hid her face and wept. But after a little she recovered herself, and began to speak of the old days, and of how she had thought he was dead. "I knew no other," she said, "until I came to Plymouth."

She meets John Smith again

In many ways Pocahontas showed her joy at again recovering her old friend. But when she found that Smith was not going to treat her as an old friend, but as if she were a great lady, and call her Princess like all the others round her, she was hurt.

 

"You did promise the Powhatan that what was yours should be his, and he did promise the like to you," she said. "A stranger in his land you called him father, and I shall do the same by you."

 

"Lady," replied Smith, "I dare not allow that title, for you are a King's daughter."

 

But from the man who had known her in those strange, wild days in far-off Virginia, from the man she had looked upon as a great and powerful chief, Pocahontas would have no such nonsense. She laughed at him.

 

"You were not afraid," she said defiantly, "to come into my father's country, and cause fear in him, and in all his people save me. And fear you here that I should call you father? I tell you then I will. And you shall call me child. And so I will be forever and ever your countryman."

 

Pocahontas took all the strangeness of her new surroundings very simply. But some of her attendants were utterly overwhelmed with wonder and awe at the things they saw. One man in particular, who was accounted a very clever man among his own people, had been sent by the Powhatan to take particular note of everything in England. Among other things he had been charged to count the people! So on landing at Plymouth he provided himself with a long stick and proceeded to make a notch in it for every man he met. But he met so many people that he could not make notches fast enough; so in a very short time he grew weary of that and threw his stick away.

The Indian's astonishment at the wonders of England

Coming to London he was more amazed than ever. Never had he seen so great a city nor so many folk all gathered together, and among them not one familiar face. So he welcomed Captain John Smith like an old friend, and eagerly questioned him as to the wonders of this strange country. More especially he asked to see God, the King and Queen, and the Prince.

 

Captain Smith tried as best he could to explain to the poor heathen about God, telling him He could not be seen. As, to the King, he added, "you have seen him."

 

"No," said the Indian, "I have not seen your great King."

 

Then when Captain Smith explained that the little man with a jeweled feather in his cap and sword by his side, who had one day spoken to him was the King, the Indian was much disappointed.

 

"You gave Powhatan a white dog," he said, "which Powhatan fed as himself. But your King gave me nothing."

 

However if the old Indian was disappointed with the manner in which the King had received him he was much made of by others. For every one was eager to see this wild savage. And often to please these new friends he would sing to them and make their blood creep by his wild dances.

 

Pocahontas loved England where she was so kindly treated. She took to the new life so well that it is said she soon "became very formal and civil after our English manner." But she who had been used to roam the wild woods could not live in the confinement of towns, and soon she became very ill. So she made up her mind at length, sorely against her will, to go back to Virginia with her husband. Captain Argall was about to return there as Deputy Governor. So Pocahontas and her husband took passages in his boat.

Pocahontas loves England;

But Pocahontas was never again to see her native shore. She went on board Captain Argall's boat, the George, and indeed set sail from London, but before she reached Gravesend she became so ill that she had to be taken ashore, and there she died. She was buried in the chancel of the Parish Church. Later the Church was burned down, but it was rebuilt, and as a memorial to Pocahontas American ladies have placed a stained glass window there, and also a pulpit made of Virginian wood.

her death, 1617

John Rolfe returned alone to Virginia, leaving his little son Thomas behind him in the care of an uncle. He remained in England until he was grown up, and then went to his native land. There he married, and had a daughter, and became the ancestor of several Virginian families who are to this day proud to trace their descent from beautiful Pocahontas and her English husband.

 

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Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

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Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom