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King Philip

After the death of Alexander, Philip became king of the Wampanoags.

His chief seat was in Bristol, where the little peninsula gathers itself up into a high hill, called Mount Hope, which overlooks the waters and islands of Narragansett Bay.

Here, where the sea-breeze gently fanned his brow in summer, and the warm gulf stream tempered the frosts in winter, King Philip dwelt with his wife and child.

If he felt resentment toward the English for the death of his brother, he concealed it from his best friends.

He went to Plymouth to renew the pledges of friendship which Alexander had given, and for five years there was peace.

The white-winged ships brought new settlers every year, until there were more than twice as many white men as red men in New England.

The Indians longed more and more for the cunning inventions, which the English gave in exchange for their lands. Tract after tract was signed away; many more candlesticks were set along the frontiers, and the Puritans prospered greatly.

Then charges were brought against Philip. It was said that he was willing to join the French or the Dutch against the English, to recover the lands which his people had sold.

In April, 1671, he was summoned to court at Taunton, to answer these charges.

He took a band of warriors with him, painted and decorated with all the trappings of barbaric splendor, and armed to the teeth.

He demanded one-half of the meeting-house for himself and his followers. The stern Pilgrims from Plymouth sat on the other side of the house, and they also were armed. Between the two sat commissioners from Massachusetts, who were to act as judges.

King Philip stood up with lofty composure, and spoke in his own defense.

He denied all the charges. He said he was proud of the alliance made by his noble father.

When the Wampanoags had fallen before the plague, like grain before the sickle, the Narragansetts had not dared to attack them, because the English were their friends.

He pictured the weakness of his people, if the English should desert them.

He offered to surrender his arms, and defended himself so well that pledges of friendship were renewed, and he was allowed to go his way.

Three years passed, and rumors came again to Plymouth that the Indians were sharpening their hatchets and mending their guns for the warpath.

Perhaps Philip had listened to the cries for vengeance from the widowed Weetamoe, who dwelt across the bay at Pocasset, and was the beloved sister of Philip's wife.

Perhaps he was urged to war by the young warriors, who had learned the use of the gun, and longed for a trial of skill with the white men's weapons.

However this may have been, charges of treachery were again brought against Philip.

When he was summoned to court, he confessed he had broken his pledges, but professed repentance, and surrendered the arms of some of his people.

This aroused the wrath of his warriors, who had paid for their arms with valuable lands.

So they held a great council fire, and Philip was taunted with his shame. The oldest chief pictured the glory of the past. The youngest warrior painted the future, led Philip's only child, a beautiful ten-year-old boy, into the circle, and foretold his degradation as the white man's slave.

This last was more than the proud spirit of the sachem could bear. He decided on war, and began to collect muskets from the French and the Dutch.

When Philip was again summoned to Plymouth, he went instead to Boston. He was very haughty now. He said that if King Charles, of England, would come and sit on his mat, he would treat with him; but he did not owe obedience to the governor of Plymouth.

Now, there was a young Indian named Sausamon, who had been educated in the college at Cambridge, and had taught school in the praying town of Natick.

But for some reason, Sausamon had gone back to his people. He was intelligent and pleasing in his manners, and Philip made him his private secretary, and learned to love him and to trust him. He told Sausamon all about his plans to unite the Indian tribes, and drive the English back over the morning waters to the land from which they had come.

After a time, Sausamon repented his desertion of the English. He came back to Natick, professed belief in the Christian religion, was baptized and became a preacher.

Then he revealed the plots against the settlements of New England, and very soon after was murdered and thrown into the river through a hole cut in the ice.

An Indian testified that he had seen three of Philip's men kill him, and had fled in fear of his own life.

The three Indians were tried and convicted by a jury of Indians and white men.

One of the Indians afterwards confessed, that he had stood near, while the other two committed the crime. All three were put to death.

The Puritans were now greatly excited over the conflict that was sure to come.

There they were, shut in between the cruel sea and the still more cruel foes; they fancied they heard warnings of dread events about to happen. To their heated fancies, the whistling wind was the sound of bullets whizzing through the air; the crash of a falling tree was the roar of cannon; rocks rolling down the mountain side was the discharge of muskets.

They said the wolves howled more dismally than ever through the trackless forests that skirted the settlements; and they began to think that a punishment was sent upon them for their sins. Some dressed too gayly in ribbons, others drank too much ale; and yet others thought perhaps they were to suffer for their pride in long, curling locks; and some even declared that a judgment was upon them for allowing the Quakers to dwell in their midst.

There was fasting and praying and rubbing up of rusty firearms, through all the colonies of New England.