Must we, then, give up the legend altogether, on account of the exaggerations that have grown up about it, our suspicion of the creative memory of Smith, and the lack of all contemporary allusion to it? It is a pity to destroy any pleasing story of the past, and especially to discharge our hard struggle for a foothold on this continent of the few elements of romance. If we can find no evidence of its truth that stands the test of fair criticism, we may at least believe that it had some slight basis on which to rest. It is not at all improbable that Pocahontas, who was at that time a precocious maid of perhaps twelve or thirteen years of age (although Smith mentions her as a child of ten years old when she came to the camp after his release), was touched with compassion for the captive, and did influence her father to treat him kindly.
SMITH’S WAY WITH THE INDIANS
As we are not endeavoring to write the early history of Virginia, but only to trace Smith’s share in it, we proceed with his exploits after the arrival of the first supply, consisting of near a hundred men, in two ships, one commanded by Captain Newport and the other by Captain Francis Nelson. The latter, when in sight of Cape Henry, was driven by a storm back to the West Indies, and did not arrive at James River with his vessel, the Phoenix, till after the departure of Newport for England with his load of “golddust,” and Master Wingfield and Captain Arthur.
In his “True Relation,” Smith gives some account of his exploration of the Pamunkey River, which he sometimes calls the “Youghtamand,” upon which, where the water is salt, is the town of Werowocomoco. It can serve no purpose in elucidating the character of our hero to attempt to identify all the places he visited.
It was at Werowocomoco that Smith observed certain conjurations of the medicine men, which he supposed had reference to his fate. From ten o’clock in the morning till six at night, seven of the savages, with rattles in their hands, sang and danced about the fire, laying down grains of corn in circles, and with vehement actions, casting cakes of deer suet, deer, and tobacco into the fire, howling without ceasing. One of them was “disfigured with a great skin, his head hung around with little skins of weasels and other vermin, with a crownlet of feathers on his head, painted as ugly as the devil.” So fat they fed him that he much doubted they intended to sacrifice him to the Quiyoughquosicke, which is a superior power they worship: a more uglier thing cannot be described. These savages buried their dead with great sorrow and weeping, and they acknowledge no resurrection. Tobacco they offer to the water to secure a good passage in foul weather. The descent of the crown is to the first heirs of the king’s sisters, “for the kings have as many women as they will, the subjects two, and most but one.”