Stories of the Pilgrims - M. B. Pumphrey

Plymouth Bay

A storm of wind and snow came up as the Pilgrims sailed along near the shore. The sea was very rough, and the boat seemed in danger of being upset by the waves which tossed it from side to side. The rudder was broken, and the mast was split in three pieces by the heavy wind.

It was growing dark, and the men rowed hard to reach the bay which they could see ahead. There was an island near the mouth of the bay, where they hoped to land, but when they came near it, the night was so dark they could not see to steer between the great rocks along the shore.

[Illustration] from Stories of the Pilgrims by M. B. Pumphrey

The "Mayflower" in Plymouth Harbor

As the storm grew worse the waves rose higher and higher. Through the darkness the men could sometimes see a flash of white foam which showed where the waves were breaking over the rocks.

The wind and water swept them on, and now the giant stones rose close on every side. Again a great wave lifted the little vessel high upon its crest; every moment the men expected to be dashed against the cruel rocks. They grasped the sides of the boat and waited for the crash which would probably end life for them all.

Yet the boat was not dashed to pieces. When the wave rolled back into the sea it left the vessel upon a bit of sandy beach between the rocks. The moment the men felt the boat touch the sand they leaped out and pulled it high upon the shore out of reach of the waves.

The men gathered brushwood and, in the shelter of a great rock, built a roaring fire and camped for the night. Before they slept the Pilgrims knelt upon the ground and gave thanks to God for guiding them through the storm and darkness. Then they repeated a beautiful old song from the Bible, beginning:

"O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good; for His mercy endureth for ever."

The next morning the Pilgrims walked about the island, but they found no houses or people there. They climbed the hill to a great rock from which they could see all over the island. There were woods, ponds, and little streams, but no fields, nor any signs of life.

The island was not large enough to be a good place for their settlement. There would not be wood or game enough on it to last many years, and they needed more land for their farms.

The Pilgrims looked about for a tall, straight tree from which to make a new mast for their boat, and soon the chips were flying from a fine young cedar, as the men stripped off its branches and bark. When the new mast was in place and the rudder repaired, the boat was ready for another journey.

But the next day was Sunday, so the Pilgrims rested quietly on the island.

When Monday morning dawned the sea was still rough, but in the bay the water was smooth and blue. As they sailed slowly along near the shore, the Pilgrims sometimes stopped to measure the depth of the water. Here it was deep enough to float the largest ships.

One large rock lay at the edge of the water, and the men rowed the boat to it. They stepped out upon the rock and looked eagerly about them.

There was space enough on that sunny hillside for all their fields. At the foot of the hill flowed a brook of clear, sweet water.

After drinking from the brook the men walked up the hill to the woods. From the top of the hill they could see a long distance up and down the shore.

"If we build our village here, this high hill will be just the place for our fort," said Miles Standish.

The Pilgrims thought the matter over carefully, for there must be no mistake in choosing a place to settle.

Here were a deep, safe harbor and plenty of running water. The earth seemed to be rich and free from stones and stumps. It looked as though the Indians had once raised corn here. Perhaps they had cleared the land.

Since the forest was at the top of the hill, it would not be hard to get logs for their houses. What better place could they find?

So the men sailed back to the "Mayflower" to tell the other Pilgrims the good news. How glad they were to know that a good place had been found for their homes!

"If I am not mistaken," said Governor Carver, "the little bay where we landed has been called Plymouth Bay."

The Pilgrims decided they would keep the name. It would remind them of the town of Plymouth in England, where many of them had friends.

The Pilgrims were eager to begin their houses at once, so the "Mayflower" sailed into the deep, quiet waters of Plymouth Bay. When it was within a stone's throw of the shore, it could go no farther, and the smaller boat was made ready to carry them to the land.

The men were not the only ones to go. Several of the women wished to see the place which had been chosen for their home. So the boat carried Mistress Brewster, Mary Chilton, Mistress Carver, and a number of others besides the men.

They rowed up to the large rock by the shore. It was the only dry landing place on the beach, for the water was very shallow there.

As the boat reached the rock, and almost before it came to a standstill, out sprang Mary Chilton upon this famous stone, saying with a laugh, "I will be the first woman to step foot in our new town." And so she was.

The rock upon which she stepped is still near the ocean where it was when the Pilgrims came. It is called Plymouth Rock, and each year many go to the town of Plymouth and look at the place where the Pilgrims landed.

When all had landed, Mary Chilton, Priscilla, and the Allerton girls tripped along the beach, stopping now and then to pick up a shell or a pretty stone. As they came near a little thicket of trees hung with wild grapevines, Mary stopped to listen.

"I hear the sound of running water," she said. "There must be a spring near by." The girls all stood still and listened to the trickling water. It was like sweet music to their ears.

They hurried on and soon came to a rocky nook where the water bubbled and sang as it escaped from the dark earth.

Never had water tasted so good, the girls thought, as they dipped it up in their large shells. Not in all the years they lived in Holland had they tasted water fresh from a cold spring.

"Here are some wild plum and crab apple trees. What a beautiful spot this will be next May when these trees are in bloom!" exclaimed Remember Allerton. Then the girls tried to think how this bleak hillside would look next summer when it would be dotted with cottages, and the fields were green with growing corn.

"I am afraid there will not be any bright gardens such as we had in Leiden," said Priscilla, "for I doubt if there is a flower seed on the ship."

"Oh, yes, there is," answered Mary Chilton. "I thought about that last summer, and gathered ever so many seeds. Each of us can have a little flower bed. We will save the seeds again and by another year we will have enough to make the whole village gay with blossoms."

A sharp, cold sleet now began to fall, and summer and blossoms seemed far away. The women hurried back to the boat, but some of the men stayed to plan for the new town.