From The Hundredth Town by Harriette
Merrifield Forbes, 1889, pp. 32-35.
One of the stories that the old people a hundred years ago told
to their grandchildren was about Edmund Rice’s capture by Graylock, an old
Indian living in the forests around Westborough, who occasionally made raids on
the settlers. The women during the day were clustered together in the garrison-houses,
while the men, with their guns near by, cleared their farms.
Edmund Rice was a young man, fitted by nature and circumstances
to be a pioneer in a new country. He was bold and fearless, convinced that,
whatever trouble might come upon others, he would live to make for himself a
name in the annals of the new town. He would like to see the Indians attempt to
capture him! Let Graylock come, — he might get the worst of it!
One morning Rice was swinging his scythe through the tall grass,
with no suspicion of the dusky form creeping stealthily towards him.
With one quick, agile spring, Graylock was between him and his
gun. He himself was armed, and all that Rice could do was to take in silence
the trail pointed out to him, his captor following with levelled gun.
So they went for some distance, Rice, on the way, picking up a
stout stick, upon which he leaned more heavily as they advanced on their
There was but one chance of escape for him, and with his usual
boldness and intrepidity he took it. Turning around quickly, when he saw that for
a moment Graylock was looking in another direction, he felled him to the ground
with his heavy stick. Leaving him dead, he ran back lightly over the fresh
trail, and went on with his morning’s work.
This was probably before 1704, when the Indians revenged the
death of Graylock by killing one of Mr. Rice’s sons and capturing two others. This
massacre occurred near the garrison-house of his brother, Thomas Rice, which
was situated on the Christopher Whitney estate, on Main street, then the “old Connecticut way.”
The account of this raid was written by Rev. Peter Whitney, the
old Northborough minister and friend of Mr. Parkman. The latter doubtless heard
the full particulars of the story from Timothy Rice, one of the boys. He
“On August 8, 1704, as several persons were busy in spreading
flax on a plain about eighty rods from the house of Mr. Thomas Rice (the first
settler in Westborough, and several years representative of the town of
Marlborough in the General Court), and a number of boys with them, seven, some
say ten, Indians suddenly rushed down a wooded hill near by, and knocking the
least of the boys on the head (Nahor, about five years old, son of Mr. Edmund
Rice, and the first person ever buried in Westborough), they seized two,
Asher and Adonijah, — sons of Mr. Thomas Rice, — the oldest about ten, and the
other about eight years of age, and two others, Silas and Timothy, sons of Mr.
Edmund Rice, above-named, of about nine and seven years of age, and carried
them away to Canada.”
In about four years Asher was redeemed. Adonijah married and
settled in Canada, while Silas and Timothy mixed with the Indians, had Indian
wives and children, and lost all knowledge of the English language. Timothy
became one of their chiefs. They called him Oughtsorongoughton. In September, 1
740, he returned to Westborough and made a short visit. Mr. Parkman writes:
“They viewed the house where Mr. Rice dwelt, and the place from whence the children
were captivated, of both which he retained a clear remembrance, as he did likewise
of several elderly persons who were then living, though he had forgot our
language.” They then visited Governor Belcher. Timothy, as chief of the
Cagnawagas, was quite prominent in the history of the time, and influential in
keeping the Indians from joining the English during the Revolution. The
Cagnawagas were the principal tribe of the Canadian Six Nations. They
“peremptorily refused” to join the king’s troops in Boston, saying, that if
they are obliged to take up arms on either side, “that they shall take part on
the side of their brethren, the English in New England.” Both brothers were
living in 1790.
* * *
Note: In 2016, Jillian Hensley published In This Strange Soil, a novel about the capture of the Rice brothers. The book is available at the Westborough Public Library both in the Local Author collection and in the Westborough Center for History and Culture.
From The Hundredth Town by Harriette
Merrifield Forbes, 1889, pp. 27-30.
After the white man became somewhat established in the land, the
Indians themselves were often called by English names. A few places still bear
these adopted names of their Indian owners. The most interesting in Westborough
is Jackstraw hill.
In his day, Jack Straw was a famous man, — the first Indian baptized in the English colonies, taken to England from Virginia, in ”Sir Walter Raleigh’s service,” proving himself a faithful friend of the white man, always ready to help him by strength or stratagem; but after all, finding that his Indian nature was the strongest part of him, he returned to this country, according to Governor Winthrop, and “turned Indian again.” (Winthrop’s Journal, I., 52.) Accepting the name he so little deserved, of Jack Straw, after one of “the greatest rebyls that ever was in England,” he continued occasionally to serve the English as servant and interpreter, and probably ended his days within the limits of this town.
So much we learn from the histories; from tradition, only that an old Indian named Jackstraw once owned all the land in the vicinity of the reservoir and No. 5 school-house, and that he had his wigwam on the summit of the hill, more than a quarter of a mile west of the school-house. He was soon forgotten, but Jackstraw hill is his monument; and so it happens that his name is spoken in .town every day. His land was granted, in the latter part of the seventeenth century, to the widow of Richard Beers, who fell, bravely defending Deerfield against the savages. This grant of land, described as being “at a place called Jack Straw’s Hill,” embraced the present town reservoir and District No. 5 school, and farms in that vicinity. (Hist. of Worc. Co., II., 1336.) There were three hundred acres in the farm.
In 1675 a party of eleven Indians attacked the house of Mr.
Thomas Eames, of Framingham, he being absent, killed his wife and some of his
children, and carried the rest away. In this company there were three — father
and two sons — bearing the name of Jackstraw. They lived in Hopkinton. They
were probably son and grandsons of the Westborough Jack Straw. They were tried,
convicted, and executed, in spite of the pathetic petition which they addressed
to the Court of Assistants, in which they said: “You were pleased (of your own
benignity), not for any desert of ours, to give forth your declaration, dated
the 19th of June, wherein you were pleased to promise life and liberty unto
such of your enemies as did come in and submit themselves to your mercy, and
order, and disposal;” and they further claimed that they took no active part in
Sewall, in his Journal, thus makes record of their death: ”September 21, 1776, Stephen Goble, of Concord, was executed for the murder of Indians. Three Indians for firing Eames, his house, and murder. The weather was cloudy and rawly cold, though little or no rain. Mr. Mighil prayed; four others sat on the gallows, — two men and two impudent women, one of which, at least, laughed on the gallows, as several testifieth.” (Temple’s Hist. of Framingham, p. 78.)
This seems to have been the last mention of the Jackstraws in
this vicinity. About 1845, a young Indian from Maine came to Hopkinton, and worked
for Elbridge G. Rice. He was savage and ugly, and bore the name of Enoch Straw.
In the northern part of Northborough there is a sheet of water,
ninety by seventy-five rods, called “Solomon’s pond,” “from the circumstance,”
says Peter Whitney, in his “History of Worcester County,” published in 1793, “of an Indian of that
name being drowned therein, by falling through a raft on which he was fishing.”
In the early part of this century an Indian’s canoe was found sunk in the pond.
It was supposed to have belonged to this Solomon.
An Indian has been said to be responsible for the old name of
the pretty rounded hill on the left-hand side of the Northborough road, just
before reaching the village. It was called, in deed and grants, “Licor hill,”
before 1662. In 1836 it was rechristened Mount Assabet. The story about the Indian and his bottle is here given, copied from a small paper published
at that time by the boys of Dr. Allen’s school.
“There was formerly, at the foot of this hill, a tavern where an
Indian stopped. On his return home he passed over the hill, and sat down under
a tree to take another refreshing draught, not being able to resist the
temptation any longer. When he had drunk until he was entirely disabled from
proceeding any farther, his bottle (one of the ancient form, in the shape of an
old keg), by some unhappy accident, slipped from his grasp and rolled down the
hill. The Indian eyed it wistfully on its rapid course, and, hearing the
peculiar sound of the liquor issuing from its mouth, called after it, ‘Ay,
good, good, good! I hear you, but I can’t get at you.’”
There were, as early as this, a few Indians in this vicinity who
spoke English, but probably no tavern was built on the “cow commons” of Marlborough.
The Indian, doubtless, had brought his bottle farther than the above historian
Besides these few names, there are no traces of the early Indians, except arrow-heads and spear-points turned up by the farmer’s plough, or found on the shore of North pond in Hopkinton, in the fall, when the water is low.
From The Hundredth Town by Harriette Merrifield Forbes, 1889, pp. 146-153.
Of Ruth Buck’s ancestry we know nothing, nor was she associated
with any particular locality. The Town Records mention her first in 1763, about
seventy-one years before her death. In the warrant for the town-meeting, May 9,
1763, one article was, “To see what ye Town will do with respect to Ruth Buck,
which ye Selectmen of this Town have sent to Southboro’, for ye Selectmen of
Southboro’ refuse to take y’e sd Ruth Buck as their proper charge.” They “voted
not to stand Toyal (trial) with Southboro’ with respect to Ruth Buck.” In
October of the same year, Mr. Samuel Allen prayed “that ye Town would Relieve
Him someway or other with respect to Ruth Buck and her child.” They afterwards
appropriated money for her support, and so in the early days of her unfortunate
motherhood she became a town charge.
What became of the little one whose babyhood was so overshadowed
with trouble and want we do not know. The fact of his existence faded from the
minds of most. In 1778 Ruth appeared before the church, confessed her sin, and was
“admitted into full communion.” Of the next years of her life we know nothing;
perhaps they were the best years, spent in the care of her boy.
Full communion with the church did not mean full social
fellowship with the good people of the town. It is not long before we find her
regarded with distrust, though still going from house to house, following her
profession of tailoress, looked upon with fear by the little children, and by
many of their elders as a social outcast and witch.
What she herself thought has come down to us in a very negative
way. Old David Fay, a rough, eccentric man, called out to her one morning as
she was passing his house: —
“Well, Ruth, they say you are a witch.”
“If I’m a witch,” she answered, as she trudged on, “you are the
She is remembered as a very stout woman, with large, strong
features. Her temper was uncertain, and many a sharp retort came from her lips.
It was a bad thing to arouse her opposition, and feel the sting of her venomous
She always wore a cap or handkerchief on her head, sometimes of
white material, more commonly of plaid. Below it was seen a bit of the lobe of
each ear, with a little gold knob fastened into it. She was never seen without
this covering, and it was said and believed that she had a very good reason for
wearing it. One day she had asked a farmer to do some ploughing for her. His
refusal displeased her, and she angrily said, “You will have trouble with your
oxen to-day.” The farmer found she was right; the usually docile beasts refused
to move. At last, feeling sure that they were bewitched, he resorted to the
usual method of letting out the evil spirit, and cut off the tops of their
ears. From that time dates Ruth’s wearing of the head covering, and it was
generally understood that the few who, in some unguarded moment, had obtained a
glimpse beneath it had seen that her ears were cropped.
Across her throat she had a long purple mark, which she covered
with a handkerchief crossed in front. There was a farmer living in Grafton
whose sheep one day showed the familiar and unmistakable signs of being
bewitched, not onlv by their erratic actions, but even more by the blindness
which had suddenly come upon the whole flock. At last he resorted to the “sharp
medicine” of the knife, cutting the throat of the worst one. He had no more
trouble with them; but, until her death, Ruth was marked with a livid line just
where the farmer’s knife had cut the bewitched sheep.
She seems to have oftener used her uncanny influence over inanimate
things. One day she met Mr. Joseph Belknap, soon after he had started from his
farm at Rocklawn, to “go below,” as was the phrase commonly used of a trip to
Boston, with a large number of eggs for the market. She asked for some; but he
refused to sell them, as his box was even, full, and closely packed. “Well, as
you please,” she answered; “but you will never get those eggs safe to the market.”
In some unaccountable way, near the end of his long drive, the
board in the back of his wagon came out, and the box of eggs slid to the
ground. Every one was broken.
Another time, a farmer, against whom she had previously vowed
vengeance, passed her as he was carrying a load of wood to the school-house,
now known as No. 2, near the H. A. Gilmore farm. She told him he would never
reach there safely with his load. She passed on, but the oxen refused to move;
he took off part of the load, but, after a short distance, they stopped again.
This was repeated, until, just before reaching his destination, he threw off
the last stick, and the oxen, starting on a dead run, rushed by the
There were innumerable slight annoyances to which the good woman
of the house was subjected, against whom Ruth Buck had a spite. When she
lighted her candles, she found that all below the rim of the old-fashioned
candlestick was gone; only the wick was left. These candlesticks were made with
a long socket, which held more than half the candle; a small slide raised or
lowered at will made it possible to burn them almost the entire length. She
believed the witch had come in an invisible shape and eaten the candles.
Mrs. Samuel Grout was one of the ladies most annoyed by Ruth’s
pranks: her bread wouldn’t rise; it refused to bake, no matter how hot the oven
might be; the butter wouldn’t come, and many other things went wrong in her
work. One day, after churning for a long time, she tried, on a large scale, the
remedy mentioned by Whittier in his New England Legend, —
“The goodwife’s churn no more refuses
Its wonted culinary
Until with heated
The witch has to her place
and dropped a hot brick into the offending cream. The butter
soon came, but not long afterwards a neighbor ran in saying that Ruth Buck had
been dreadfully burned.
Mrs. Grout, seeing Ruth soon after with her hand in a poultice,
asked her what the matter was.
“You know what is the matter,” was her answer, “and you’ll find
yourself well paid.”
The same day, one of. Mr. Grout’s cows was found with a broken
leg, with no apparent reason for the accident.
This was not the only burn that Ruth received. One day Mrs.
Beeman was very much troubled with the behavior of her spinning-wheel. It
refused to turn, the thread broke, and the good-woman’s patience was well-nigh
exhausted. She took an old horseshoe, heated it red-hot, and laid it on the
wheel. Everything went smoothly after that, but Ruth bore the scar for many a
This woman, so the farmers’ wives thought, had the power of
knowing when she was talked about, and hearing what was said. Perhaps the low
tones thcy thought necessary to use when telling each other about the
afflictions she had brought upon them, may account in part for the lasting
impression of curiosity and awe which her character left on the little children
of the day, now most of them past their eightieth year.
One day she was trudging up a long hill in Upton, when a girl
named Lackey looked out from one of the windows of a house on top of the hill,
and saw her coming. “Oh dear,” she said to her mother,” here comes Ruth Buck. I
hope she isn’t coming to stay.”
Ruth came on, made a pleasant call, but refused all their
invitations to lay aside her wraps. When she stepped over the threshold after
bidding them good-by, her expression changed. Looking sharply at her late
hostesses, she said: “Oh dear, here comes Ruth Buck. I hope she isn’t coming to
stay. Won’t you take off your things? I don’t want you to stay.”
She went off repeating these words to herself.
The last years of her life she was obliged, to a great extent,
to give up her wandering habits. After the manner of dealing with paupers in
the early part of this century, she was knocked down at auction to the person
offering to board her for the least sum, and so fell to the thrifty hospitality
of John Fay, who lived about two miles from the station, on the North Grafton
She finally, in 1834, at the age of ninety-two, ended her days
in the poor-house.
Since her day there has been no one in town invested with her
* * *
From More Old Houses in Westborough, Mass. and Their Occupants, Westborough Historical Society, 1908.
At this house [Morse
Homestead] Ruth Buck came to make the boys’ clothes and Patty was so afraid to
sleep alone that she willingly ran the risk of being bewitched by her bed
fellow. But grandmother said though she watched closely, Ruth never removed her
turban either night or day in her presence. Patty was dying of curiosity to see
for herself whether Ruth’s ear-tips were gone, cut off, as tradition said, when
she was a pig.
Written by Grace W. Bates,
* * *
References to Ruth Buck in Historical Records
1778 July 30
(Thursday). Ruth Buck desires to be propounded in
Order to her Humiliation and joining with the
Church, is Examined.
1778 August 2 (Sunday).
Ruth Buck was propounded.
1778 August 3
(Monday). Mrs. [Jemima Hardy?] was here with Objections
against Ruth Buck. I [advised?] Mrs. Hardy to go to her,
and discourse with her. [illegible] She said she had Seen and
spoke with her. [But to?] little [effect?].
1778 August 11
(Tuesday). Capt. Morse here in Defence of Ruth
Buck against Mrs. Hardy; and insists on her (the
latter) being distracted.
1778 August 12
(Wednesday). [I then went?], and Mr. Elijah Hardy with
me, to Mr. Isaac Parker’s where dwells the widow Jemima
Hardy, that I might direct her with respect to Ruth Buck.
But I found her much out of her Head, and incapable of any regular
Conversation. Dr. Stimson has been here, is soon going
to settle at Great Barrington.
1778 August 15
(Saturday). Miss Ruth Buck came with her Confession
and Relation; and it proved a yet greater Interruption, as I was obliged to new
methodize and wholly transcribe her writings for the public Reading of
them. But there is no material Objection against her.
1778 August 16
(Sunday). At noon Miss Ruth Buck was here, and I read and
She signed the Address she is about to make to the Church.
* * *
Blake’s Worcester County, Massachusetts, Warnings
1763 May 10. Buck, Ruth, from Southborough. March 16, ’63.
[From p. 10: “The legend of this pond was written by Hon. Horace
Maynard for the ‘Horae Collegianae,’ published by the undergraduates of
Amherst, in 1838. He says it was told to him ‘by an old Indian, the last of his
tribe.’ This was probably old Andrew Brown, of whom more hereafter. With some
omissions, it is as follows: —”]
“‘And this is my wedding-night,’ said the beautiful lano, as she
stood contemplating her lithe and graceful form, mirrored in the glassy rivulet
which forms the outlet of the Hobomak. Her beads and wampum were most daintily
entwined about her neck and arms; her hair hung negligently on her shoulders,
confined only by a fillet of wildflowers; a neatly wrought moccasin concealed a
wanton little foot and ankle; and a mantle of bear-skin completed her attire.
She was the belle of her tribe, and, like all belles, an incorrigible coquette.
All the young warriors had in turn sued for her hand, and all had been rejected
except the chief, Sassacus. He had remained a long time unsusceptible to her
charms; or, if he had been moved, his emotions were kept locked up within his
own breast. Even when he had inwardly re- solved to wed the proud and volatile
creature, he refrained from communicating his sentiments, but adopted a course
of policy which has succeeded in bringing many a flirt into the arms of her
lover since those times. Somebody has said, — caustically enough, to be sure, —
that if the suitor would cease to pursue his mistress, she would turn and give
chase to him. Whether this be truth, or a mere epigram intended for effect, our
regard for the sex will not allow us to decide; such, certainly, was the
experience of Sassacus. He stood aloof from the fair one till she began to pine
in secret for his love. Often would she watch him as he sat in council, or
joined in the wild measures of the war-dance. She fed upon his looks till he
became her soul’s ideal of beauty, — such steadfast limbs, such a massive chest,
such a noble gait, such a lofty, commanding brow! All her arts of fascination
had failed; and a sigh of mingled vexation and despair would escape from the
very bottom of her heart, as she saw him from day to day sporting with the other
and less beautiful maidens of the tribe.
“The keen-eyed chief let none of these things escape his notice;
and when he had sufficiently humbled the proud spirit of the girl, he changed
his demeanor. By a few trifling presents and an occasional flattering word he
kindled a feeble spark of hope in the breast of the fair despondent, but, at
the same time, without allowing her to presume on his affection. In this way he
inveigled her completely into his power, and extorted a full confession of
love, before he had given her the least proof of his ow^n attachment. He now
began to play the lover in real earnest. Having stipulated with the parents of
the maid for the price of her ransom, and all the other preliminaries being
duly settled, he made preparation for the marriage festival. lano had reached
the very pinnacle of happiness. Her step was the lightest among the maidens as
they tripped it through the glades of the forest; her canoe danced gayest as
they glided cheerily over the water. She longed for the hour when the priest
should bind herself and her lover in the mystic girdle. And what betrothed
damsel will not sympathize? Thus she stood by the brook meditating her
approaching happiness, now readjusting her ornaments, and studying the effect;
now patting the water with her tiny foot, and watching the ripples as they
circled out of sight, till the sun had dropped behind the hills, and night had
begun to fling her gray shadows over the earth. In the ecstasy of her joy her
disposition for frolic returned. She had never ventured to play her pranks upon
the stern Sassacus, but the temptation was too great to be resisted; she could
not give up her maiden freedom without one more act of enjoyment. ‘The young
men are assembling,’ she continued, soliloquizing; ‘I hear them laugh. I’ll give
them the slip for one night.’
“The wedding-party had indeed assembled. The warriors were
there, each with all the scalps and wolf-locks he and his ancestors had ever
taken from the foe or secured in the chase. These trophies marked their rank
more truly than the purest heraldic emblazonry; and, reckoned by this rule, Sassacus
was found abundantly deserving the post of chief. He was the bravest of his
nation; no arrow was more certain in its flight, whether winged at man or
beast; and no tomahawk cleft its victim with a more deadly aim than his. On
this occasion he was decked with unusual splendor. The string of fish-bones —
the insignia of royalty — depended from his neck ; a triangular breast-plate,
wrought from the fangs of the catamount, adorned his front; shells of small turtles
dangled from his ears ; a circlet, into which were fastened the tails of
rattlesnakes, entwined his brow, making music as he walked ; a tuft of eagle
feathers crowned his head; while over his left shoulder was carelessly thrown a
robe of wolf-skins, fringed with human scalps, a few of which were still green
from the head of the fallen Pequot. Thus arrayed, he took his seat at the
sacred fire, and on either side of him his warriors, according to rank. The
seat at his right hand was vacant.
“‘Where is Wequoash?’” inquired he, glancing his eye over the
company. As no one could answer him, all remained silent. He then propounded
the question to each one in turn, and, by way of reply, he got an abundance of conjecture
and much information touching the precious whereabouts of the missing; but, as
far as any valuable, or in the least available, intelligence was concerned, his
inquiries ended just where they began. The person in question was the second in
rank to Sassacus, and his rival in war. For a long time he had been the avowed,
and, as he supposed, the accepted, lover of the fair lano. The wreath that
decked her brow his hand had woven; the fur robes that covered her lovely form
were the spoils of his bow. In secret, indeed, she had cherished his hopes,
intending to accept him at last should she fail in attracting Sassacus, though
in public she had always treated him with the same cold indifference which
marked her conduct towards the rest of her admirers. Thus fed, his passion
increased in strength and violence, till it was too late to check its growth or
to transfer it to another object. . . . In his anguish he had vowed eternal
hate, and now awaited with his native indifference a favorable opportunity to
wreck his purposed vengeance. By rank he was expected to be present at the marriage
and to assist at the customary sacrifices, and the ardor with which he had
superintended the preparations made his absence appear strange and unaccountable.
“On the north shore of the Hobomak is a plain stretching away to
the distance of several miles, skirted on the western side by a high range of
hills, whose declivities, lined as they are with jutting masses of rock and a
few scattering old trees, are, even at this day, sufficiently solemn and
gloomy.” The most prominent of this range is Boston hill, so called, because it
was supposed to be as thickly populated with rattlesnakes as Boston with
people. “Here and there yawns a cavern whose frightful depths few have
courage or inclination to penetrate, so are left to be the abode of serpents
and toads, and all such creatures as flee the face of man. Among these dismal
haunts Wequoash, desirous to appear at the wedding signalized by some recent
achievement, had been searching all day for the lurking-place of a panther
which for a long time had infested the neighborhood. After an active and
patient search, he found a crevice between two overhanging rocks that opened
wider and deeper than the rest, and plunged into it without hesitation. On
reaching the bottom he descried a narrow passage which branched off in a
lateral direction under the base of the hill. Along this he crept upon his
hands and knees for several hundred feet, till at length it terminated in a
spacious cavern, the size of which, perfectly dark as it was, he found it
difficult to determine. In this perplexity he gave a shrill cry, to try the
effect of the reverberations. A low, faint echo died along the distant walls,
followed by the hoarse growl of a wild beast. The experienced ear of the Indian
instantly told him that he had hit upon the object of his search, and,
directing a glance to another part of the vault, he discovered the eyes of the
animal glaring like meteors in the midst of the surrounding darkness. . . .
“Wequoash quickly saw that he was discovered. He could perceive
the gleaming eyes gradually making towards him, till, crouching within a few
feet, the animal appeared on the point of making the fatal spring. It was a
moment requiring all the nerve for which he was distinguished even among his
own stout-hearted race. He had left his bow behind him, not supposing that he
should require its service in the bosom of the hills; and his tomahawk, hanging
at his side, was his only weapon of attack or defence. To move from his position,
in a place with which he was wholly unacquainted, would be attended with great
hazard, and to retreat through the narrow aperture by which he had entered
would expose him to the attack of his foe at still greater disadvantage. Amidst
these perplexities the cool-headed Indian formed his plan of action as
deliberately as if the merest trifle had been staked upon the issue. Seizing
his hatchet from his belt, he hulled it with an instinctive aim, and bounded
from the floor of the cave. In his descent he fell prostrate upon the body of
the beast. The deadly missile had cleft his skull, and, by vaulting from his
position, the hunter avoided the fatal spring which the creature sometimes
makes upon its enemies, in the agonies of death. With much effort he drew his
booty to the mouth of the cavern, and, throwing it over his shoulder, commenced
his return, night having long since fallen.
“The volatile lano could not resist the temptation to play the
truant to her betrothed, and to disappoint, for one night at least, the
assembled youth of the tribe. At the farther extremity of the Hobomak was a
huge old willow, mantled by an enormous wild grape-vine whose branches depended
so as to form a beautiful natural arbor. Thither she was fond of retiring with
one or two of her companions, and they, in honor of her, had named it lano’s
bower. In this charmed retreat she determined to pass the night, even at the
risk of forever alienating her lover. So, unmooring her canoe, she stepped into
the toppling thing, and darted from the shore. Away, away it flew dancing over
the water, so light as scarcely to leave a ripple on the tranquil surface.
Before she had reached the middle, the harvest-moon arose and threw its
full-orbed light directly upon her. Hearing the sound of a light, stealthy
footstep, and fearing that she should be discovered, she turned her canoe
towards the nearest shore, and took refuge under the shadows of the overhanging
“Wequoash was hastening homeward with his game, anxious lest he
should be too late to participate in the cheer of the festival ; for it ill
assorted with his ideas of manliness, as well as with his dark system of
policy, to appear wanting in merriment and good-nature on an occasion so joyous
to his rival and so humiliating to himself. As he neared the shore of the pond
he descried a canoe skimming gracefully over the water, the moonbeams glancing
from the paddle as it rose in light and even strokes, which the rower would now
and then suspend, and look cautiously about her as if suspecting danger.
“‘It is the canoe of the False-hearted,’ said he to himself; ‘no other of our girls can dip her oars so lightly.’ She was alone, and he could wish for no more favorable opportunity to accomplish the pent-up purpose of his breast. The demon of vengeance had seized fast hold upon him, and every other consideration was forgotten. Seeing her approach the shore, he cast off his hunting-dress, dropped into the water a little before the bark, and swam softly beneath the surface till he was within a few feet of it. Just then the vigilant fugitive let fall her paddle, and applied her ear close to the water that she might detect more readily the footsteps of her pursuers, little dreaming that so deadly a foe lurked at the very bow of her skiff. To seize her by her floating tresses and drag her down required but little effort. A thrilling shriek of agony, a few frantic struggles, and all was over. She sunk like lead when released from the powerful grasp of the warrior. The canoe he dragged to a little distance, threw into it a large stone, which secured it firmly at the bottom, thus obliterating every trace of his victim. He regained the shore, resumed his dress, bore away his game to a place of concealment, and, plunging into the forest, quickly was out of sight.
. . . . . . . . . . . .
“The maidens who had been appointed to escort the bride into the
presence of her lord sent one of their number with a message that lano had
disappeared a little before sunset, and could nowhere be found. A suspicion
flashed across every mind that her disappearance was some way connected with
the absence of Wequoash. All knew the strength of his former attachment and suspected
the depth of his disappointment, and they were well assured that his haughty
and irascible spirit would never brook an injury. Seizing their hatchets and
bows, Sassacus and his young men sprang off into the woods to discover, if
possible, the delinquent bride. Long and diligent was their search; every glade
and dell was explored, but all to no purpose. Her canoe was gone, and no traces
of it or of her could be found. Silent and dejected, they returned to the scene
of their festivity; all but Sassacus. He came not. For hours they awaited him,
indulging a feeble hope that he had been more successful; but even this, faint
as it was, was dashed by the approach of the chief, wearing a look of despair.
He had seen his bride unmoor her skiff, and, guessing her intention, had run
along the shore, keeping parallel with the course, intending to surprise the
fair fugitive by seizing her in his arms just as she should spring to the land.
She had eluded his sight by rowing under the cover of the woods on the opposite
shore, and he began to fear she had given him the slip, after all his
vigilance, when a narrow opening in the trees let in the moonbeams upon her,
enough to project the out- line of her form. All at once he saw her drop her
oar, bend her ear to the water in the act of listening, then sink heavily
beneath the wave. He remembered the heartless sacrifice, and his native
superstition overcame him. His bride had perished by the unseen power of the
. . . . . . . . . . . .
“After two days had elapsed, Wequoash had appeared in the
village bearing the body of the panther. He was received by the aged and the
children, the women and the warriors, with yells of delight; for his burden
explained the cause of his absence, and, as usually happens when men find they
have been indulging in groundless suspicions, their regard for him rose to a
higher pitch than before. On learning the miserable fate of lano, he was
smitten with deep apparent grief; he smote his breast, and uttered the most
frantic exclamations, like one distracted. Recovering at length, he applied
himself with unwearied assiduity to console the unhappy Sassacus, and by
degrees the chief became more and more cheerful, till he appeared to have quite
forgotten his sorrow. His gladness was but temporary, for heaviness and
depression of spirits again stole over him, which terminated soon after with
his life. Wequoash had now obtained complete revenge; his rival and his
false-hearted mistress were both sleeping in the arms of death, and no one suspected
his agency in destroying them. He assumed the command of the tribe, and having
mourned a decent interval over the dead body of his predecessor, he sought to
obliterate his memory from the minds of the people by leading them out to
battle against the brave Narragansetts. Since, among savages, personal prowess
is the only basis of distinction, his bravery and address in war soon rendered
him a universal favorite.
‘”The thirteenth moon had just begun to wane when Wequoash,
returning one evening from a hunting expedition, seated himself upon a fallen
tree near the shore of the Hobomak, and not far from the spot where, the year
before, he had taken such vengeance upon the solitary maiden. . . . As he sat
thus in troubled contemplation, a flame appeared streaming from the water just
over the place where the bones of the maiden slept, and casting upon everything
around a blue mephitic light, of all, the most fearful. Presently a canoe
arose, and floated straight towards him, as if animated by an invisible agency.
Urged by an irresistible influence, he entered it, and was wafted directly to
the strange illumination, which gradually resolved into a form like the form of
the murdered lano, only the expression was more sad and pensive. The spirit
gazed intently upon him for a long time, unable as he was to resist the
fascination; then, uttering a piercing shriek, melted away from his sight. He
fell in a state of insensibility; on recovering, he found himself lying by the fallen
tree, suffering from extreme exhaustion, and with much difficulty crept home
“Another revolution of the seasons brought another similar
night. The lightnings gleamed vividly in the far-off horizon; the fireflies
flitted over the morass; stillness reigned; the blue flame arose; the skiff
came to the shore; the chieftain was again impelled to embark; the sorrowful
form of the dead again appeared before him, and, exclaiming ‘Only once more,’
again vanished into the abyss of waters.
“Deep melancholy now pervaded the mind of Wequoash. For days he
would roam the forest without food, and shunning the faces of his fellow-men. .
. . In this manner the year wore away, and the fatal night returned. This time
he assembled the tribe by the shore, and, in a long and pathetic harangue,
disclosed to them how that it was by his hand the canoe of lano had sunk; how
that he had poisoned the sorrowing Sassacus under the pretence of administering
exhilarating draughts. He then recounted his interviews with the unavenged
spirit of the injured girl, and darkly alluded to the fate that there awaited
him. Petrified with fear, they saw him enter the approaching canoe, and move passively
to the mysterious flame. A form arose, but it was not the form of lano. Her
gentle spirit could not come for vengeance. It was the form of Sassacus, dark,
terrific, confounding. ‘This is my hour,’ it said. Wequoash drew his robe
closer about him, and folded his arms in token of resignation. A black cloud
hovered over him; a vivid flash, a stunning thunder-peal, a few big rain-drops,
— all was over; thick darkness succeeded; the chieftain was seen no more.
“The season was afterwards celebrated by the tribe for many generations, and a song was composed, which the maidens sung at their marriage festivals, — a mournful thing, descriptive of the character and fortunes of the rival chiefs and the too-much-loved lano. Whenever they crossed the Hobomak, they each carried a stone and sunk it at the fatal spot, till at length the pile rose above the water. It has since fallen away by the action of the waves, but even now it may be seen when the surface is perfectly tranquil. A mysterious dread still attaches to it, and if the fisherman chance to strike it with his oar, he hurries away as from a place to be avoided.”