The evil implanted in man by nature spreads so imperceptibly, when the habit of wrong-doing is unchecked, he himself can set no limit to his shamelessness. — Cicero

Story of the Thirteen Colonies - Helene Guerber

Smith's Adventures

Sir Walter Raleigh was in favor as long as Elizabeth lived, but when she died he was accused of treason and put in prison by James I. While in his cell this brave man wrote a history of the world for young Prince Henry, who often visited him, and longed to free him. He once said: "Only such a king as my father would keep such a bird in such a cage." The same monarch finally ordered Raleigh to be put to death. Mounting the scaffold, the prisoner asked to see the ax, and, running his finger along its edge to test its keenness, said: "This is a sharp medicine, but a cure for all evils."

Before going to prison Raleigh had given up all his claims in America to English merchants. They formed two bodies, the London Company and the Plymouth Company, and persuaded the king to give each of them a piece of land in North America one hundred miles square.

This matter being decided, the London Company sent out a shipload of settlers, who, in 1607, sailed into Chesapeake Bay. They called the capes on either side Charles and Henry, in honor of the two princes; then, passing up a river, they landed on a marshy cape, where they founded the first lasting English colony in the United States. River and town were both named after King James, who had selected their officers and made their laws.

The Jamestown colonists were nearly all gentlemen, who had come without their families because they intended to stay only long enough to get rich. As there were only four carpenters among them, these men were kept very busy. But, instead of building comfortable houses, and plowing and sowing, the rest of the settlers spent all their time looking for gold. The result was that their supplies gave out, and as the Indians were unfriendly and would not give them food, they were soon in danger of starving. Besides, Jamestown was on low, damp ground, and the water was so bad that the ill-fed people suffered from malaria, and about half of them died.

Among the Englishmen who had come to Virginia there was Captain John Smith. This man had been a soldier, had traveled a great deal, and had visited France, Italy, and Egypt.

We are told that while he was on his way to Egypt a great storm once overtook his ship. The pilgrims on the vessel cried out that there must be a wrongdoer, or a Jonah, among them, and in their terror proposed to draw lots. Finding out thus that Smith was the guilty person, they hastily pitched him overboard. But although there was no whale to swallow him, Smith managed to swim ashore, and some time later, longing for more adventures, he went to fight in Hungary.

Here he declared that the teachings of Christ were far better than those of Mohammed, and offered to prove it by fighting three Turks. He killed them all, but, being wounded, was soon made a prisoner and sold as a slave. One day, when Smith was threshing in the field, his cruel taskmaster beat him severely, although he had done nothing wrong. Indignant at this unjust treatment, Smith suddenly raised his flail, and struck the Turk such a hard blow that the man fell to the ground dead.

Seeing a chance to escape, Smith now quickly exchanged clothes with the dead man, hid the latter's body under the straw, filled a bag with corn, and jumping on a horse rode rapidly away across the plains. After many days of hard riding, he came to a place where his chains were struck off, and thence continued his journey home.

After several other journeys and adventures, Smith joined the newly formed London Company, proposing to go out himself with the colonists. On the way to Virginia he was falsely accused of crime, and nearly hanged; but when he reached land his innocence was proved, and he soon became the leading spirit of Jamestown.

Through all the sickness and famine Smith alone seemed brave and strong. Hoping to secure food for the colonists, he once set out to find the Indians and trade with them for corn. But at the approach of the English, we are told that the savages ran away in such haste that they left their dinner on the fire. The colonists, drawing near; saw that the Indians had been roasting oysters, and, tasting them for the first time in their lives, were delighted to discover a new and delicious kind of food. After shooting a few turkeys, the English overtook these Indians, from whom they managed to get quite a supply of corn in exchange for trinkets and a copper kettle.

In another expedition Captain Smith was surprised by the Indians while he stood in a marsh, picking berries. He seized one of the savages and held him fast, using him as a shield against the arrows of the rest until surrounded and made a prisoner.

Instead of showing anger or resisting, Smith now followed his captors quietly, allowing them to touch and examine him as much as they pleased. He also tried to interest them by showing them his compass and explaining its use. Besides, he made friends with the Indian children and whittled playthings for them. All the prettiest ones, however, were set aside for Pocahontas, the twelve-year-old daughter of the Indian chief Powhatan; and it seems she was specially pleased with the wooden doll he made for her.

Smith and Pocahontas

We are told that Pocahontas soon grew very fond of Captain Smith, and that when the Indians once tried to kill him, she stood between him and their raised tomahawks, pleading so hard for his life that her father declared the white man should not be slain. But this story is also told of several other explorers, and we do not know if it is quite true.


Front Matter

Our Country Long Ago
The Barbarous Indians
The Mounds
Where the Northmen Went
The Northmen in America
Queer Ideas
Prince Henry the Navigator
Youth of Columbus
Columbus and the Queen
"Land! Land!"
Columbus and the Savages
Home Again
Columbus Ill-treated
Death of Columbus
How America Got its Name
The Fountain of Youth
"The Father of Waters"
The French in Canada
French and Spanish Quarrels
The Sky City
Around the World
Nothing but Smoke
Smith's Adventures
The Jamestown Men
Smith Wounded
Pocahontas Visits England
Hudson and the Indians
The Mayflower
Plymouth Rock
The First Thanksgiving
Snake Skin and Bullets
The Beginning of Boston
Stories of Two Ministers
Williams and the Indians
The Quakers
The King-Killers
King Phillip's War
The Beginning of New York
Penn and the Indians
The Catholics in Maryland
The Old Dominion
Bacon's Rebellion
A Journey Inland
The Carolina Pirates
Charter Oak
Salem Witches
Down the Mississippi
La Salle's Adventures
Indians on the Warpath
Two Wars with the French
Washington's Boyhood
Washington's Journey
Washington's First Battle
Stories of Franklin
Braddock's Defeat
Wolfe at Quebec
England and her Colonies
The Stamp Tax
The Anger of the Colonies
The Boston Tea Party
The Minutemen
The Battle of Lexington
Bunker Hill
The Boston Boys
The British leave Boston
Declaration of Independence
A Lady's Way of Helping
Christmas Eve
The Fight at Bennington
Burgoyne's Surrender
Winter at Valley Forge
The Quaker Woman
Putnam's Adventures
Indian Cruelty
Boone in Kentucky
Famous Sea Fights
The "Swamp Fox"
The Poor Soldiers
The Spy
A Traitor's Death
Two Unselfish Women
Surrender of Cornwallis
British Flag hauled down
Washington's Farewell