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The annals of profane history, civilized and savage, may be challenged to produce a parallel to the story of Pocahontas. It has all the stirring elements of romance genially blended with the grave simplicity of truth and nature. Like an unexpected oasis in the midst of the interminable desert like a solitary star of the first magnitude, beaming suddenly out from a cloudy sky the person and history of the daughter of Powhatan stand out in bold and surprising beauty on the severe page of aboriginal life. Her story, as an eloquent writer has said, is ” that exquisite episode in the history of the New World, which, appealing equally to the affections and the imagination, has never lost the charm of its original loveliness and freshness, even though a thousand iterations have made it the most familiar of all our forest stories. It is one of those tales, which, combining several elements of the tender and the tragic like that of the Grecian daughter like that of the Roman Virginius more certainly true than either of these legends, and not less touching and beautiful, the mind treasures up, naturally and without an effort, as a chronicle equally dear to its virgin fancies and its sweetest sensibilities.”
History has not furnished. a full-length delineation of the life of Pocahontas. She appears, in the scanty chronicles of Virginia’s first settlement, not in a continuous drama, of which every act and scene is made to develop some new grace of person, or trait of character, till, at the fall of the curtain, the whole stands out in complete and life-like symmetry; but in e series of bold and striking tableaux vivants, in each one of which she is revealed in full-length life and completeness.
We are first introduced to her, in the heroic act of saving the life of Captain John Smith. She was then a child about twelve years old. Smith, having been taken captive by some of the subjects of Powhatan, carried from place to place, and feasted and fatted for sacrifice, is brought into the presence of the forest monarch, to be tried as an enemy. The hall of judgment is an open area in the forest. Its columns are the tall majestic oaks and pines, which centuries of thrifty growth have been rearing and shaping to be fitting supporters of its “o’erarching dome of blue.” Reclining upon his couch, in the midst, and surrounded by his warriors and his household, the aged monarch maintains a most dignified and royal bearing. Threescore suns have passed over his head. But his figure is nobly erect and athletic, and his eye keen, searching, and severe. His prisoner is before him. His story is familiar to all the counselors of the king. He is known as the master spirit of that band of intruders, which has recently landed on their shores, and taken forcible possession of a portion of their territory.
The consultation is brief and decisive. The prisoner is doomed to death, and the execution is ordered to take place on the spot. Two great stones are brought in, and placed in the midst. Upon these he is laid and bound as upon an altar. The monarch alone is deemed worthy to strike down so distinguished a foe. His warriors and counselors await his action. The victim composes him self to die like a Christian hero. Why does the royal executioner delay? He attempts to rise from his couch, but is held back by a tiny arm embracing him, and a gentle voice whispering in earnest entreaty in his ear. It is Pocahontas, his eldest daughter. But she pleads in vain. Shaking her gently off, he takes his huge war-club, and, advancing to the block, raises Ms arm for the fatal blow. With a shriek of agony, and an impulse of energy and devotion known only to woman’s heart, Pocahontas rushes forward, throws herself between the victim and the uplifted arm of the impassioned avenger, beseeching him to spare, for her sake, that doomed life.
In what page of her voluminous annals does history record a spectacle of such exquisite beauty? What grace, what feminine tenderness and devotion, what heroic purpose of soul what self-sacrificing resolution and firmness! And that in a child of twelve years old and that child an untaught savage of the wilderness, who had never heard the name of Jesus, or of that gospel which teaches to love our enemies, and do good to them that hate us!
Forgiveness was never an element in the red man’s creed. Every article breathed the spirit of revenge. The attitude of the royal princess is an inexplicable anomaly. It has no precedent in Indian law or legend. It comes upon the assembly like a revelation a voice from the Great Spirit, which they dare not resist. Awe subdues rage. Admiration takes the place of savage ferocity. The deadly weapon drops from the hand of the monarch, his arm
falls powerless to his side, and he turns to his couch,
Like a sick eagle fainting in his nest.”
The victim is unbound, and given to his deliverer. His sentence of death is commuted, by royal prerogative, to that of perpetual bondage; and that again, a short time after, is fully remitted. The doomed enemy is pardoned and loaded with favor. The captive is set free.
After an absence of nearly seven weeks, the brave Smith was permitted to return to Jamestown, with many promises of favor from the hitherto hostile chieftain of Werowocomo. For a time, these promises were faithfully observed an amicable intercourse between the parties being attended, as usual, with a profitable interchange of commodities. In this traffic, the women of the natives took part as well as the men, and the preserver of Captain Smith was often seen at Jamestown, in company with her female attendants.
Whether any special notice was taken of her, or any favor shown to her, in consequence of her heroic act, does not appear. The first days of an infant colony, on a wild shore, are not likely to be much more distinguished by the refinements of etiquette than by the comforts and luxuries of civilized life. But gratitude for such a deliverance would require neither courtly phrase nor public pageant. It is often expressed, in the course of his various letters and journals, in terms that sufficiently testify, at the same time a grateful affection, and a deep paternal regard. Of the depth and power of this sentiment Powhatan was fully aware, and he made free use of it, with the art of an experienced diplomatist, in much of his sub sequent intercourse with the English. Though but a child, Pocahontas was the principal ambassadress between her wily father and his more practiced and sagacious neighbors.
During seasons of scarcity, when the struggling colony was in fearful danger of being cut off by famine, her angel visits were neither few nor far between. Unsent, if not forbidden, of her own heaven-born impulse, she traversed the woods, day after day, with her train of attendants and companions, bearing to the hungry strangers supplies of corn and meat, regarding neither the hardships and dangers of the way, nor the frowns and threats of her own unforgiving, implacable race, in the sweet satisfaction of relieving human distress, and saving the life of a suffering fellow-creature. It is the testimony of Captain Smith, in his Annals, as well as in his letter to the Queen, that, during a period of two or three years, the child, Pocahontas, “next under God, was the instrument of preserving the colony from death, famine, and utter confusion.”
With a strong presentiment, a sort of prophetic foresight, that the success and growth of the English colony could only be secured by the destruction of himself and his people, Powhatan, not with standing his promises of friendship, had never ceased to meditate its overthrow. Believing that its chief strength was in the prowess and skill of Captain Smith, who had hitherto baffled all his plans for the mastery, lie resolved, by some means, fair or foul, once more to get possession of his person. To this one object all his thoughts and energies were directed.
Smith, on the other hand, knowing the reverence of the Indians for their king, and feeling the necessity of establishing with them such new relations as would secure to the colony a steady supply of food, was equally resolved on seizing the person of Powhatan, and holding him as a hostage a means of exacting the supplies which, with all his persuasions, he could not induce them to sell.
The fire-arms of the English captain gave him such an immeasurable advantage over the dusky monarch of the forest, that the latter could never be induced, though often persuaded, to visit the fort, or, in any way, expose his person to the power of the enemy. Conscious of his superiority in this respect, and naturally fearless of personal danger, Smith sought an interview with Powhatan, in his own forest home. The wily king was prepared for his coming, and resolved that he should never go back alive. Gathering many hundreds of his warriors about him, and concealing them in the neighboring forest, he endeavored, by fair speeches and flattering promises, to disarm the vigilance of his visitor, and thus to over whelm him with a sudden blow. Coming up, one by one, with stealthy tread, they surrounded the place of conference, where Smith, with only one attendant, had been exchanging courteous speeches with the king. Powhatan withdrew, for a moment, and Smith, looking about him, perceived his danger, and the snare that had been drawn imperceptibly around him. Nothing daunted by the fearful odds that stood against him, he faced that tawny multitude, and laying about him, right and left, with his trusty sword, broke through their ranks unharmed, and made his escape to the shore, where his boats were in waiting.
Declaring that the assemblage which Smith had looked upon as hostile was occasioned only by the curiosity of his people to see and hear so great a chief, Powhatan made a new effort to detain him, sending him a large quantity of provisions, and preparing a great feast, with the intention of attacking his whole company while they were eating From this plot he was delivered by the interposition of Pocahontas, warning him of his danger. Smith’s own account of this interview is simple and eloquent: ” The eternal, all-seeing God did prevent him, and by a strange means. For Pocahontas, his dearest Jewell and daughter, in that dark night came through the irksome woods, and tolde our captaine great cheare should be sent us by and bye; but that Powhatan, and all the power he could make, would after come and kill us all, if they that brought it could not kill us with our own weapons when we were at supper. Therefore, if we would live, she wished us presently to be gone.”
Grateful to God, and to his youthful deliverer, for this second interposition to save his life, at the hazard of her own, the fall-hearted captain would have loaded her with presents, of “such things as she delighted in. But, with the tears running down her cheeks, she said she durst not be seen to have any; for, if Powhatan should know it, she were but dead; and so she ran away by herself as she came.”
“Nothing of its kind,” says the eloquent Mr. Simms, “can well be more touching than this new instance of deep sympathy and attachment, on the part of the strangely interesting forest child, for the white strangers, and their captain. To him, indeed, she seems to have been devoted with a filial passion much greater than that which she felt for her natural sire. The anecdote affords a melancholy proof of the little hold which power, even when rendered seemingly secure by natural ties, possesses upon the hearts of human beings. Here we find the old monarch, who had just declared him self the survivor of three generations of subjects, betrayed by his own child, and by one of his chiefs, while in the pursuit of his most cherished objects. We have no reproaches for Pocahontas, and her conduct is to be justified. She obeyed the laws of nature and humanity, of tenderness and love, which were far superior, in their force and efficacy, in a heart like hers, to any which spring simply from the ties of blood. But, even though his designs be ill, we can not but regard the savage prince, in his age and infirmities, thus betrayed by child and subject, somewhat as another Lear. He, too, was fond of his Cordelia. She was ‘the Jewell,’ ‘the nonpareil,’ we are told, of his affections. Well might he exclaim, with the ancient Briton, in his hour of destruction,
“How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is
To have a thankless child !’ ”
But, of her humane treason, for its motive was beyond reproach, Powhatan knew nothing. Smith kept her secret. He profited by her intelligence, and escaped.
Newport had returned to England, and Smith was President of the Colony. While absent from Jamestown, on a foraging, or rather a trading expedition, an accident occurred, in which eleven of the colonists were drowned, including Captain Waldo, Vice President in the absence of Smith. A calamity so serious must be immediately communicated to the President, and Richard Wyffin volunteered to go alone on the difficult and dangerous mission. Going directly to the dwelling of Powhatan, he found them making the greatest preparation for war. His own life was in imminent danger. He was not to be permitted to return, to bear tidings of what he had seen and heard. His doom was sealed, and he would have fallen a victim to his generous zeal in the public service, if Smith’s good angel had not been near to protect him. Silently, and unnoticed, he was drawn aside by Pocahontas, concealed in a place of safety, guarded and fed with tender care. The alarm was given, the most diligent search was made for their victim by men trained and practiced in the arts of concealment, detection, and escape, arid urged to their utmost diligence by the strenuous command of the king. But all in vain. They were baffled and outwitted by the sagacity and coolness of a mere child. She put them upon the wrong scent. She sent his pursuers off in one direction, while, under cover of the night, she directed him, in the other, how to find his friends.
Sick, weary, and almost disheartened, Smith has returned to England. Dale is Governor of Virginia. The relation between the colony and Powhatan is that of open hostility. Fire and sword have ravaged the native villages. The Indians, become fierce, revengeful, implacable, have resolved to withhold entirely their wonted supplies, and starve out the remorseless intruders. Pocahontas, having, by her unchanging sympathy for the white men, and her constant interference in their behalf, lost the confidence, and estranged the affections of her father, has left her home, and is living in comparative retirement with her cousin, the chief of Potomac. Just emerging from youth to womanhood, she can no longer, as when a child, mingle personally in the strife or sports of men, or expose herself, unprotected, to their rude and admiring gaze. Her mission as messenger and active intercessor is at an end. The breach between the contending parties requires more, than temporary and fitful acts of mediation to heal it. No arm, not even that of “his dearest Jewell and daughter,” can arrest the summary vengeance which the savage Powhatan has resolved to visit upon the head of any white man found in his domains. He has decreed the utter extermination of the intruding race a decree which Providence defeats, by the interposition of Pocahontas, in a new character, and without her own consent.
Her retreat at Potomac becoming known to Governor Dale, Captain Argal is dispatched, with a vessel, to seize her, and bring her to Jamestown. Bribed by the present of a copper kettle, her trusty guardians, the king and queen of Potomac, betray her into the hands of her captors. Pretending a deep curiosity to see the great canoe, the queen prevails on Pocahontas to accompany her on board the English ship. When there, she is coolly informed that she is a prisoner, and must go as such to Jamestown.
What a return for all her acts of kindness, her heroic self sacrifices in behalf of the strangers her frequent exposures of her life in their behalf, and her voluntary forfeiture of all that was dear in the confidence and affection of a doting father, or the cherished as sociations of home! If Pocahontas could not, with confidence, and a sense of personal security, go on board an English ship, or traverse the streets of the English colony, as if it were her own domain, what reliance could be placed in human gratitude, or human honor ? Her tears and her entreaties are equally vain. The ship is immediately got under way. The king and queen of Potomac are set on board their canoe, and paddle off, yelling piteously, with mock lamentations, over the loss of their beautiful protégé, and at the same time grinning at each other with real delight, as they gaze at the shining utensil for which they had sold her.
The purpose of Governor Dale, in taking possession of the young princess, was, by her means, to secure a more favorable relation between the colony and the natives. He immediately sent to Powhatan, by an Indian messenger, to inform him that Pocahontas was his captive, and that her treatment there would depend upon the future conduct of her father. If he continued to seek the destruction of the colonists, her life would be the forfeit. But, if he would make a treaty of amity, and faithfully keep it, at the end of a year she should be set at liberty.
The heart of the monarch fainted when he received these tidings. He had laid out and matured, together with the chiefs of the neigh boring tribes, most of whom acknowledged his supremacy, a plan of operations which was to overwhelm, and annihilate the colony. Upon the accomplishment of this plan, all his thoughts were centered. It was this only which reconciled him to the temporary estrangement and absence of his ” darling daughter and dearest Jewell.” Her presence, her gentle soothing influence, her profound reverence and tender regard for the white man, and her never-failing interposition, by council, or by stratagem, to rescue them from his power, interfered, on all sides, with his determined plan, and paralyzed his darling purpose. He was, therefore, willing to part with her, for a season, and rejoiced that, in her secluded retreat, she would be sheltered from the storm of war which was gathering over her home, and ignorant of all its horrors, till they were consummated in the destruction of his enemies. To that issue his plans were fast ripening. He burned with intense eagerness for their execution. The day of doom was at hand. The instruments of vengeance were prepared. The arm of the executioner was about to fall, when, lo! interposed between him and his victim, “the Jewell of his crown, the angel of his heart, the dearest daughter of his house” not as when, six years before, in the simple eagerness and passionate resolve of childhood, she flung herself upon the body of a solitary captive in her father’s tent, and warded of the deadly blow but, passively, herself a prisoner involuntarily, like a shield forced to stand between the assailant and the assailed, she is there, in the budding beauty of early womanhood, in her modest, timid, retiring gentleness, a foil to the vengeance of her father and her race, and the guardian angel of the doomed colony.
Paralyzed with disappointment and rage, Powhatan received in sullen silence the tidings of his daughter’s captivity. For many weeks, he sent no full reply to the message of the Governor, informing him that he held her as a hostage, and demanding concessions, as the price of her ultimate enlargement. So dear was she to his heart, to his people, and to all the tribes of his wide domain, that they could not find a vote in the council to proceed with the work of ruin, in which she was to be involved. At the same time, the proud and fretted monarch could not submit to the terms demanded for her ransom. He sent back seven English prisoners, whom he had doomed to sacrifice, each with an unserviceable musket, which had been stolen by the Indians. He promised them, upon the re lease of his daughter, to make full satisfaction for all past injuries; to enter into a treaty of peace with them, and to give them five hundred bushels of corn. This was not enough. The Governor demanded a surrender of all the swords and fire-arms, which had been obtained by the Indians, either by purchase or theft. They were becoming expert in the use of them, and, in proportion as they did so, were losing their sense of the white man’s superiority. This demand was too much for the ambition of the king. He indignantly refused to answer it, and broke off the negotiation.
Determined still to carry his point, Governor Dale, at the head of one hundred and fifty armed men, went up the bay to Werowocomo, with Pocahontas in his train, and proposed to the king to restore her to his arms on the same terms as before. This proposal he answered with scorn and fight. He refused to see the Governor, or his daughter. At his command, the Indians attacked the intruders, but were driven back with loss, and some of their houses were fired . Two of the brothers of the fair captive went on board the English ship, and had an affecting interview with their sister, whom they tenderly loved. But nothing was accomplished. The only issue of the adventure was an increase of hatred and hostility on the part of the savage monarch, and a firmer resolve to hold no intercourse or traffic with the enemy.
Returning to Jamestown, still a prisoner and a hostage, the daughter of Powhatan was treated with all the consideration and kindness due to her rank and character, and to the services she had rendered the colony. She was taught to read, and carefully instructed in the truths of religion. Apt to learn, and tenderly susceptible to every good impression, she received, with eagerness and avidity, the glad tidings of the gospel. They met at once, and fully supplied, the longings of a heart that yearned for something purer and higher than the cold and dreamy superstitions of her native mythology. They gave full scope to the aspirations of a soul panting for an immortality till then unrevealed. With wonder and awe she contemplated the character of the one only living and true God to her, till then, the unknown God. With inexpressible gratitude, and rapturous delight, she listened to the story of a Savior’s death, and the way of salvation thus opened to the transgressor. With simple faith, and unhesitating confidence, she received the crucified One as her Redeemer and portion, rejoicing in the hope of forgive ness through his blood. A new world was opened to her view. A new life was revealed to her ravished thought. A whole immortality, bright, ineffably bright, with visions of glory and blessedness which eye had not seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, burst upon her willing faith, like the splendors of noonday upon one born blind, yet always yearning for light. Pocahontas became a new creature, as truly so in a spiritual and religious sense, as in the outward and entire transformation from an uncultivated child of the forest, to a refined, intelligent woman the trophy and the ornament of Christian civilization.
The extreme loveliness of her person, the amiableness of her heart, the almost faultless purity of her life, together with the noble of us of her history, had won the admiration of her teachers. Baptized with the name of Rebecca, and received into the Christian church, she was an object of just pride, as well as the tenderest regard, to all the colony the first fruits of the western wilderness a precious exotic, transplanted from the wilds of America to the garden of the Lord.
Rejoicing, “with joy unspeakable,” in the new-found liberty of the gospel, and perceiving that she was performing, in her captivity, a mission of peace between her race and the white man, which, in her freedom, she was powerless to accomplish, Rebecca became not only reconciled to her position, but grateful and happy to be made, in any way, the means of averting from those she loved, the horrors of war, and weaving for them a bond of amity which should never be sundered.
Among the youthful adventurers, who sought a new home in the infant colony, there were some gentlemen of good family, polished education, and high Christian worth. Of these, John Rolfe, of London, was one of the most distinguished, for the excellence of his character, and the firmness of his principles. Brought into close affinity with the young Indian maiden, entrusted, perhaps, in part, with the oversight of her education, and witnessing the rapid development of her mental powers, and the rich treasures of a heart, formed for the purest refinements of social life, the regard he had felt for her gave place to admiration, and admiration soon brightened into love. Worthy even of Rebecca, his character had inspired her with a similar sentiment. Their love was reciprocal. It received the approbation of Governor Dale, who, mingling views of policy with those of personal regard for the parties who were dear to him, hoped, by a bond so close and inseparable, for ever to disarm the dreaded hostility of the red man.
Time, reflection, and the kindly influence of daily intercourse, and profitable commerce, had softened the rage of the forest monarch, and turned away the current of his thoughts from his old purpose of revenge. He readily consented to the marriage of his daughter with the white man, and formed upon that bond, a treaty of perpetual amity with the English, sending to the Governor a chain of pearls, as the pledge of his fidelity. Unwilling to venture, in person, within the precincts of the colony, he sent his brother, Opachisco, and two of his sons, to witness the solemnities, and sanction them on his behalf. Opachisco, as the representative of Powhatan, gave the bride to her husband. Her brothers confirmed the compact by such tokens of assent and affection as were deemed most appropriate and expressive, whether of wampum-belt, forest wild-flower, feather- wrought mantle, or charmed sea shell, the faithful annals condescend not to explain.
In this auspicious event, the whole mission of Pocahontas was fulfilled. The first heroic act of her childhood, when she flung her self between the main-staff and hope of Virginia, and the remorseless vengeance of her father, was but the type and foreshadowing of this, in which she links herself, her fortunes, her hopes, indissolubly with the intruders, and becomes a perfect bond of union and peace between the hostile races.
The chronicles of that day delight not in the details of social or civil life. They amplify only the dangers and hardships of war fare, the fears and horrors of famine and disease, or the “toils and tricks, the gains and losses of an unequal traffic. We consequently know little of the married life of the “Lady Rebecca.” Whether she visited often the forest home of her childhood, receiving the blessing of her aged father, and breathing into his ear, with the blandishments of filial love, the healing, life-giving promises of the gospel what advances she made in knowledge, and in the accomplishments of civilized life what efforts she made to win her kindred to the faith of Jesus, and the usages of civilization what joy she felt in the birth of a son, and what added strength the presence and name of that son gave to the ties that seemed to be binding the two races together we are not told.
In the spring of 1616, about three years after the marriage, Mr. Rolfe, with his wife and child, accompanied Governor Dale to England. Powhatan was too much involved in difficulties at home, arising from the machinations of Opechancanough, a neighboring and a tributary chief, to see his daughter before her departure. He never saw her again. His affections were garnered up in a younger daughter, whom the English Governor had vainly endeavored to obtain from him, in the hope of thus adding another link to the chain of friendship a twofold cord of national alliance and family affinity by which to secure the unchangeable friendship of the king and his people. The proposal was as impolitic as it was unkind, It well nigh destroyed the hold they now possessed upon the old sachem’s regard. It touched the only chord in his iron heart that vibrated to a tone of tenderness. That chord had been rudely struck, and almost broken, when Pocahontas was torn from him by the hand of violence. This second attempt to disturb his domestic peace, and wrench from him his only household treasure, the child of his old age, the idol of his affections, who had already begun to fill the aching void occasioned by the loss of his first and “dearest Jewell,” filled him with bitterness and proud indignation. It might have wholly estranged him from his cruel friends, if his faith had not been pledged by the chain of pearl he had sent them at the time of his daughter’s marriage. He demanded that chain from the messenger, as the stipulated credential of his mission. “But,” said he, “urge me no further. Seek not to bereave me of my darling child, or to exact any new pledge of fidelity from me or my people. We have had enough of war. Too many have fallen already in our conflicts. With my consent there shall not be another. I have the power here, and have given the law to my people. I am old. I would end my days in peace and quietness. My country is large enough for both, and though you give me cause of quarrel, I will rather go from you, than fight with you. This is my answer.”
And this was his only answer. How full of force, of pathos, of dignity, of honor to the barbarian prince, of merited reproach to the grasping Christian Governor!
Arrived in England, Pocahontas became the object of general regard and attention. The fame of her character, her deeds of heroism, her personal beauty, and her unaffected piety had gone before her. She was treated with great respect and kindness by the nobility, as well as by the religious of all ranks her title as the daughter of a king giving her free access to palace and court, and her heroic devotion to the welfare of the colony giving her a claim, which was universally recognized, to the hospitality of the nation.
Captain Smith was still in England; and, just at this time, was making preparations for another voyage to America. As soon as he heard of the arrival of his “dearest Jewell,” he wrote to the Queen, in the following terms, commending the lovely stranger to her royal favor.
‘To the most high and virtuous Princess, Queen Anne of Great Britain.
“Most Admired Queen:
|“The love I beare rny God, my king, and my countrie, hath so oft emboldened mee in the worst of extreme dangers, that now honestie doth constraine me presume thus farre beyond myselfe, to present your majestic this short discourse: if ingratitude bee a deadly poyson to all honest vertues, I must be guiltie of that crime if I should omit any means to be thankful.”So it is, that some ten years agoe, being in Virginia, and taken prisoner by the power of Powhatan, their chief king, I received from this great salvage exceeding great courtesies, especially from his son, Nautaquaas, the manliest, comeliest, boldest spirit I ever saw in a salvage, and his sister, Pocahontas, the king’s most dear and well-beloved daughter, being but a child of twelve or thirteen years of age, whose compassionate, pitifull heart, of desperate estate, gave me much cause to respect her: I being the first Christian this proud king and his grim attendants ever saw, and thus enthralled in their barbarous power, I cannot say I felt the least occasion of want that was in the power of those, my mortal foes to prevent, notwithstanding all their threats. After some six weeks fatting amongst those savage courtiers, at the minute of my execution, she hazarded the beating out of her own brains to save mine; and not oriely that, but so prevailed with her father, that I was safely con ducted to Jamestowne, where I found about eight and thirtie miserable, poor, and sick creatures, to keepe the possession of all those large territories of Virginia; such was the weaknesse of this poore commonwealth, as, had the savages not fed us, we directly had starved.”And this relyfe, most gracious Queen, was commonly brought us by this lady, Pocahontas; notwithstanding all these passages when inconstant fortune turned our peace to warre, this tender virgin would still not spare to dare to visit us, and by her. own fuires, have been oft appeased, and our wants still supplyed; were it the policie of her father thus to employ, or the ordinance of God thus to make her his instrument, or her extraordinarie affection to our nation, I know not; but of this I am sure when her father, with the utmost of his policie and powers, sought to surprise me, having but eighteen with me, the darke night could not affright her from comming through the irkesome woods, and with watered eyes, gave me intelligence, with her best advice, to escape his furie; which, had he knovvne, he had surely slaine her. Jamestovvne, with her wilde traine, she as freely frequented as her father’s habi tation; and, during the time of two or three yeares, she, next under God, was still the instrument to preserve this colonie from death, famine, and utter confusion; which, if in those times, had once become dissolved, Virginia might have laine as it was at our first arrivall to this day. Since then, this business having been turned and varied by many accidents from that I left it at; it is most cer-tairie, after a long and most troublesome warre after my departure, betwixt her father and our colonie, all which time she was not heard of, about two years after she herself was taken prisoner,, being so detained neare two yeares longer, the colonie by that meanes was relieved, peace concluded, and at last, rejecting her barbarous condition, was married to an English gentleman with whom at this present she is in England; the first Christian ever of that nation, the first Virginian ever spake English, or had a child in marriage by an Englishman; a matter, surely, if my mean ing be truly considered and well understood, worthy a Prince’s understanding.
“Thus, most gracious ladie, I have related to your majestic, what at your best leasure our approved histories will account to you at large, and done in the time of youre majestie’s life, and how ever this might bee presented you from a more worthie pen, it can not from a more honest heart. As yet I never begged any thing of the state, or of any, and it is my want of abilitie, and her exceeding desert, your birth, meanes, and authorise, her birth, vertue, want, and simplicitie, doth make rnee thus bold, humbly to be-seeche your majestic to take this knowledge of her, though it bee from one so unworthie to bee the reporter as myselfe, her husband’s estate not being able to make her fit to attend your majestic; the most and least I can doe, is to tell you this, because none so oft hath tried it as myselfe. And so I humbly kisse your gracious handes.”
Whether Pocahontas was indebted to this warm hearted and eloquent appeal, for the attentions lavished upon her at court, and in all the high places of the land, we are not informed. She was received with signal favor by the Queen and the pedantic James, her royal husband. For her sake, and in consideration of her rare virtues, and her signal services to the suffering subjects of the crown, her husband, though a commoner of moderate pretensions as to birth, was forgiven the almost treasonable presumption of aspiring to the hand of a royal princess a trespass upon the “divine right,” which few would be more ready to notice and resent, than the sapient son of Mary Stuart. .
To the unsophisticated mind of the ” Lady Rebecca,” these princely favors and courtly attentions made no amends for the seem ing neglect and coldness of Captain Smith, whom she regarded with all the reverence and affection of an only child. His singular prowess, his wonderful exploits, his almost supernatural courage and power, had filled her young imagination, and inspired her with sentiments of admiration, awe, and love, due to a superior race of beings. With a love as free from passion as it was from selfishness, she had many times jeopardized her life for his. From his lips she had first heard the name of God, and the voice of prayer; and him, above all other men, she regarded as the beau ideal of greatness and goodness, whose presence and smiles were of more worth to her than all the favors of the court, or the flatteries of the titled thou sands that surrounded it. She longed to see him and embrace him as a father.
But, so jealous was the English monarch of the prerogatives of rank, and the etiquette of caste, that the hardy old soldier dared not salute the Lady Rebecca, the daughter of King Powhatan, except in that stately, reserved, and deferential manner, which was prescribed in the court rubrics. He bowed and touched her hand with cold and distant respect. He gave no expression by look or word, to the fond and grateful affection with which he regarded her. She felt it deeply. It went, like steel, with an icy coldness, to her heart. Without uttering a word, she turned away her face, and wept. For several hours, she refused to speak, she seemed overwhelmed with disappointment, chagrin, and a sense of unutterable desertion. At length, recovering from her dejection, she sought “the great captain,” and gently reproached him for his cold reception of his adopted child, who had long yearned to see and embrace him.
“You did promise Powhatan,” she said, “that what was yours should be his, and he made a like promise to you. You, being in his land a stranger, called him father, and by the same right, I will call you so.”
When it was objected that she was a king’s daughter, and it would displease Us king if he should fail to treat her with the high respect due to her rank, she replied, “Were you not afraid to come into my father’s country, and cause fear in him and all his people but myself, and do you fear that I shall call you father here? I tell you that I will call you father, and you shall call me child, and so it shall be for ever.”
The ice thus broken never closed up again. She had frequent interviews with Smith, and never had cause to complain that he was less to her than a father; while he had infinite satisfaction in witnessing her daily improvement, and the unaffected ease, and grace, and dignity, with which she bore her part in the new sphere to which she had been so suddenly introduced. She met and surpassed every expectation. And they, who, before her arrival, had heard the fame of her beauty, her wit, her loveliness, and her virtue, were free to confess that “the half had not been told them.”
Having remained about a year in England, Mr. Rolfe, with his royal bride, prepared to return to Virginia. But Providence, in inscrutable wisdom, had ordered it otherwise. The mission of Pocahontas was fulfilled. She sickened and died at Gravesend, as she was preparing to embark. The summons was sudden, but it found her fully ready. With the calmness of Christian resignation, and the triumph of Christian faith, she welcomed the messenger, which was sent to call her to her home and crown in heaven. She left to her bereaved husband, and the sorrowing friends around her, the sweetest and fullest testimony that her name was written in the Lamb’s book of life.
Mr. Rolfe returned in widowhood and sorrow to his desolate home in America. His son, Thomas Rolfe, was educated by his uncle, in England, arid afterwards rose to eminence and wealth in his native land. From him are descended some of the first families of “the Old Dominion,” who, with a just and honorable pride, trace back their origin to the daughter of Powhatan.
The character of Pocahontas exhibits a wonderful symmetry and fullness of proportions, in which, from childhood to the mature woman, there is neither lack nor excess in a single trait. At twelve, she had the heroism, the endurance, the constancy of a woman at twenty-two, the modesty, the gentleness, the artless simplicity, the impulsive ingenuous earnestness, and the transparent truthfulness of a child.
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