“Beneath the gloom
Of overshadowing forests, sweetly springs
The unexpected flower.”

Some of the noblest attributes of humanity are sometimes exhibited by the wild children of the forest. These attributes, in such cases, seem, like trees in the remotest wilderness, to have gained, by their spontaneous growth, surprising height, symmetry and beauty.

A lovelier character than Pocahontas, daughter of Powhatan, king of the country where the first white settlement in Virginia was made, is rarely found among any people. She was lovely in the broadest as well as noblest sense of that word – lovely in features, lovely in disposition, lovely in the highest adornments of’ Christian grace. She was, in 1607, “a girl of ten or twelve years of age, who, not only for feature, countenance and expression, much exceeded any of the rest of her people, but for wit and spirit was the only nonpareil of the country.” Such was Pocahontas, as described by the first white man, probably, who ever saw her, and in whose behalf, at the above date, she displayed the tenderness and true grandeur of her nature.

The colonists, writes Mr. Hildreth, in his new History of the United States, “were specially instructed to seek for a passage to the South Sea; and it was thought that possibly the Chickahoming might lead thither. Having ascended as high as he could in his barge, Captain Smith followed up the stream in a canoe, with two colonists and two Indians for companions; and when the canoe would float no longer, he left the two colonists to guard it, and struck inland with a single Indian as a guide. Set upon unexpectedly by a large party of natives, who had already surprised and killed the two men left to guard the canoe, Smith bound his Indian guide to his arm as a buckler, and made a vigorous defence, killing three of the assailants; but as he retreated backward, he presently sank into a miry swamp, and was taken prisoner. His captors would have killed him, but he amused them with a pocket compass. Carried in a sort of triumph through several villages, he was taken before Powhatan, the same chief whom he had visited in company with Newport. An attempt was made to engage his services- at least so Smith understood it- in surprising the colonists at Jamestown. Having failed in this, after much consultation, it was resolved to put him to death. He was dragged to the ground and his head placed upon a stone; Powhatan raised a club to dash out his brains”- and now view the highly dramatic scene which follows, as pictured by Mrs. Sigourney in a few lines of masterly coloring:

   The sentenced captive see -his brow how white!
Stretched on the turf, his manly form lies low,
The war club poises for its fatal blow,
   The death-mist swims before his darkened sight;
Forth springs the child, in tearful pity bold,
Her head on his reclines, her arms his neck enfold,

“The child! what madness fires her? Hence! Depart!
   Fly, daughter, fly! before the death-stroke rings;
Divide her, warriors! from that English heart.”
   In vain, for with convulsive grasp she clings:
She claims a pardon from her frowning sire;
Her pleading tones subdue his gathered ire,
   And so, uplifting high his feathery dart,
That doting father gave the child her will,
And bade the victim live and be his servant still.

After Smith had been an inmate of Powhatan’s wigwam awhile, he was permitted to leave the Indians. Sometime after this the savages, becoming alarmed by witnessing Smith’s wonderful feats, “laid a plan to get him into their power under the pretence of wishing an interview with him in their territory. But Pocahontas, knowing the desire of the warriors, left the wigwam after her father had gone to sleep, and ran more than nine miles through the woods to inform her friend Captain Smith of the danger that awaited him, either by stratagem or attack.”

Subsequently the colony at Jamestown was threatened with famine, when, accompanied by a few companions, she was accustomed to go to the fort every day or two with baskets of corn, and thus her

            –“generous hand vouchsafed its tireless aid
            To guard a nation’s germ.”

At the age of seventeen or eighteen, Pocahontas married a pious young English officer, named Thomas Rolfe, and went with him to England, where she was baptized and called Rebecca, and where she soon died. Well may it be said of her, in the language of the poet, slightly altered,

            It is not meet such names should moulder in the grave.


Excerpted from Noble Deeds of American Women
(Patriotic Series for Boys and Girls)
Edited by J. Clement
With an Introduction by Mrs. L. H. Sigourney
BOSTON: Lee and Shepard, Publishers
Entered by Act of Congress, in the year of 1851,
by E. H. Derby and Co., in the Clerk’s Office of the Northern District of New York

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