THE FAMOUS CHICKAHOMINY VOYAGE
We now enter upon the most interesting episode in the life of the gallant captain, more thrilling and not less romantic than the captivity in Turkey and the tale of the faithful love of the fair young mistress Charatza Tragabigzanda.
Although the conduct of the lovely Charatza in despatching Smith to her cruel brother in Nalbrits, where he led the life of a dog, was never explained, he never lost faith in her. His loyalty to women was equal to his admiration of them, and it was bestowed without regard to race or complexion. Nor is there any evidence that the dusky Pocahontas, who is about to appear, displaced in his heart the image of the too partial Tragabigzanda. In regard to women, as to his own exploits, seen in the light of memory, Smith possessed a creative imagination. He did not create Pocahontas, as perhaps he may have created the beautiful mistress of Bashaw Bogall, but he invested her with a romantic interest which forms a lovely halo about his own memory.
As this voyage up the Chickahominy is more fruitful in its consequences than Jason’s voyage to Colchis; as it exhibits the energy, daring, invention, and various accomplishments of Captain Smith, as warrior, negotiator, poet, and narrator; as it describes Smith’s first and only captivity among the Indians; and as it was during this absence of four weeks from Jamestown, if ever, that Pocahontas interposed to prevent the beating out of Smith’s brains with a club, I shall insert the account of it in full, both Smith’s own varying relations of it, and such contemporary notices of it as now come to light. It is necessary here to present several accounts, just as they stand, and in the order in which they were written, that the reader may see for himself how the story of Pocahontas grew to its final proportions. The real life of Pocahontas will form the subject of another chapter.
The first of these accounts is taken from “The True Relation,” written by Captain John Smith, composed in Virginia, the earliest published work relating to the James River Colony. It covers a period of a little more than thirteen months, from the arrival at Cape Henry on April 26, 1607, to the return of Captain Nelson in the Phoenix, June 2, 1608. The manuscript was probably taken home by Captain Nelson, and it was published in London in 1608. Whether it was intended for publication is doubtful; but at that time all news of the venture in Virginia was eagerly sought, and a narrative of this importance would naturally speedily get into print.
In the several copies of it extant there are variations in the titlepage, which was changed while the edition was being printed. In some the name of Thomas Watson is given as the author, in others “A Gentleman of the Colony,” and an apology appears signed “T. H.,” for the want of knowledge or inadvertence of attributing it to any one except Captain Smith.