King of the Beggars - Chapter XII

Chapter XII

He Escapes Again and is Taken in by the Indians

            The captains acquainted Mr. Carew, that the unfriendly Indians were not the only enemies he had to fear, for he must expect to encounter with great dangers and difficulties, as rattle-snakes, horn-snakes, black-snakes, lions, leopards, bears, wolves, and wild cats. However this did not dishearten our hero, for he was resolved to attempt regaining his liberty, let the consequence be what it would. The captains then gave him a pocket-compass to steer by, a steel and tinder-box, a bag of cakes, a cheese, and some rum, telling him, he must leave the three-notched road a little way off, and steer to his left hand; (in Maryland they distinguish the roads by letters or notches cut on the trees;) that he must travel by night, and lie concealed in the day, for forty miles, and then he would come to a part of the country quite uninhabited; from thence he would enter the Indian country. They likewise told him, that all the wild beasts were afraid of fire, so that his best defence would be to strike a light and kindle some sticks whenever he was apprehensive of being attacked by any of them.

            Our hero having received these and some other necessary instructions, and having returned his generous benefactors many thanks for their kindness, bidding them farewell with tears, set out on his dangerous journey about three o'clock in the afternoon. He had not travelled far, before he began to reflect on his melancholy condition, alone, unarmed, unacquainted with the way, galled with the heavy yoke, exposed every moment to the most imminent dangers, and dark tempestuous night approaching with all its horrors, increased its terrors; his ears were now assailed with the dismal yells and crying of wild beasts of different sorts, but, remembering the instructions he had received from the captains, he soon struck fire, and kindled some sticks, and was obliged the whole night to swing a fireband round his head; the sight of which kept the wild beasts from coming near, for, though they often came and looked at him, yet they soon turned tail again, seeing the fire.

            However it was with great joy he saw day-light appear, at first dawn of which he was quite freed from those troublesome guests; he had nothing to do but to seek the thickest tree he could find, and, climbing up into it, he took some refreshment of sleep, which he had great need of, having travelled hard all night. He afterwards eat sparingly of his cheese and biscuit, fearing they might not last till he could get a fresh supply, and then took a very large dram of rum, with which, finding his spirits much refreshed, and night coming on, he began his journey again, travelling in the same manner as the preceding night, with a firebrand whirling round his head. In this manner travelling by night, and concealing himself by day, he went on four days, when he reached the Blue Mountains, where he thought himself out of all danger of pursuit, or being stopped for want of a pass. He now travelled by day, meeting with great multitudes of buffaloes, black bears, deer, wolves, and wild turkeys, the latter being so large as to weigh thirty or forty pounds; none of these creatures offered to attack him; but walking one day on the side of a small rivulet, almost lost in thought, he was suddenly alarmed by something he heard plunging into the water, and turning his head to the side from whence the noise came, he was struck with the sight of a great white bear, which, being likewise disturbed, raised itself immediately and made towards him. Our hero now thought there was no way to escape; however, with great presence of mind, he stepped aside to a furze bush, and, striking a light with all the haste he could, set it on fire; at the sight of which the bear, who was now within a very small distance of him, turned about, and went away roaring hideously.

            Some time after this he was comically alarmed by an inoffensive animal; as he was walking along a deer-track, he chanced to spy a very fine tortoise-shell box, as he imagined, though he could not conceive how it could be dropped there; and, thinking he might make good advantage of it among the Indians, claps it into his pocket; he had not gone far before he heard a hissing noise, which seemed to be very near; he immediately thought it to be some venomous snake, and endeavoured to avoid it by going out of the path he was in; but still the noise seemed to pursue him; at last looking down, he sees a little ugly black head peeping out of his pocket, which he found came out of what he had picked up for a box: he with much ado slips his fingers into his pocket, takes out his supposed box, and flings it to the ground, when the creature, opening the upper from the under shell, marched away; this was, as he afterwards found, no other than a land-tortoise.

            He found his journey very often obstructed by rivers and rivulets, which he was obliged either to wade through or swim over. At length, after many days' tiresome travel, being grievously galled by his yoke, or collar, he discovered several tracks of the Indians. Never did more different passions agitate the breast of any man than did the breast of our hero at this time; on the one side he was overjoyed at the sight of the track of any human creature, thinking he should now get rid of his heavy collar, as well as get some refreshment of provisions, his own having been exhausted for almost two days past; but he had not pleased himself long with this reflection before the idea of the barbarous and unfriendly Indians struck into his mind, for he was quite uncertain whether the footsteps he discovered might lead him to the good and friendly Indians, or to those barbarous and inhuman wretches; he now represented himself as set upon by these, against whom he had no arms to defend himself, cruelly tormented, and at last slain as a victim in some of their bloody sacrifices.

            It was about the evening when he discovered these footsteps, and he passed the whole night in this tormenting suspense. Very early in the morning he discovered five Indians at a distance; his fears represented them in the most frightful colours; they seemed of a gigantic stature, that he thought he could perceive their faces to be very flat and broad, which was the characteristic or mark of the unfriendly Indians. This struck him with unusual dread, and he now gave himself over for lost, when he saw they had espied him, and were making towards him: they coming nearer, he perceived them to be clothed in deer skins, their hair to be exceeding long, hanging down a great way over their shoulders; and, to his inexpressible joy, he distinguished they had guns in their hands, which was a sure sign they were the friendly Indians. This raised his spirits, and he approached them in a suppliant manner, making signs that he craved their assistance. The Indians accosted him with clapping their hands on their heads, and crying hush me a top, which in their language signifies good-morrow; then taking hold of his collar, they repeated one to another, in broken English, a runaway! a runaway! Presently after came up two more Indians, one of whom was a person of fine majestic appearance, whose dress was by far more magnificent than any of the others. His habit being a most beautiful panther's skin faced with fur: his hair was adorned with a great variety of fine feathers, and his face painted with a great many colours. By these marks of distinction, Mr. Carew supposed him to be their king or prince, and indeed such he was; he spoke very good English, and accosted him as the others had done before. He then brought him to the wigwam, which is a name they give their houses, which are no more than stakes driven into the ground, covered over with deer or other skins. Here, observing that our hero was grievously hurt by his collar, this good king immediately set himself about freeing him from it; but, as he had no proper tool for that purpose, he was at a great loss how to execute it; but at last, taking the steel of Mr. Carew's tinder-box, he jagged it into a kind of saw, with which he cut off his collar, but not without much labour, his majesty sweating heartily at the work. He then carried him into his own wigwam, which appeared very handsomely furnished. Here he ordered some Indian bread, and other refreshments, to be set before Mr. Carew, who ate very heartily. During this the prince acquainted him his name was George Lillycraft; that his father was one of those kings who were in England in the reign of Queen Anne; and then showed him some fine laced clothes, which were made a present of to him by the late king George of England (meaning his late majesty king George the First); he expressed a great affection for his brother kings of England, as he called them, and for the English nation in general. Soon after came in the queen, dressed in a short jacket, leading in her hand a young prince, who both repeated the word runaway twice.

            Next day the king presented him to the wisos, or chief men of the town, who received him with a great deal of civility, and tokens of high esteem. He ate every day at the king's table, and had a lodging assigned to him in his wigwam, and grew every day more and more in esteem among them, being consulted in all matters of difficulty. Thus sudden are the scenes of life shifted and changed; for a brave man will never despair under whatsoever misfortunes; for our hero, who but a few weeks before was treated like a beast of burden, heavily loaded, cruelly whipped, coarsely fed, and all by the insolence and inhumanity of his own countrymen, is now seated, in a strange country, with kings and princes, and consulted by a whole nation.

            King Lillycraft, who was a man of very good natural sense, used to discourse with, and ask Mr. Carew many questions of the customs and manners of his brother kings in England. Being told one day that the king of England never stirred abroad without being surrounded with a great number of armed men, whom he paid for defending him, and fighting for him, he very simply asked whom he was afraid of? or whether he was constantly at war with any neighbouring king, who might fall upon him unawares? Being told to the contrary, he expressed very great surprise, and could not conceive of what use these armed men were, when the king had no enemy, adding, when I am at war, my people are my guard, and fight for me without being paid for it, and would each of them lay down his life to defend mine; and when I am at peace, I can fear no evil from my own people, therefore I have no need of armed men about me. Being told another time that the king of England kept himself generally in his wigwam, or palace, surrounded by certain officers, who permitted no one to come near him but by their permission, which was the greatest difficulty in the world to obtain, and that not a thousandth part of the people, who lived in the town where the palace was, had ever seen him in their lives, he turned away from Mr. Carew in a passion, telling him, He was certain he deceived him, and belied his good brother of England: for how, added he, can he be the king of a people whom he hath no knowledge of? or how can he be beloved by his subjects who have never seen him? how can he redress their grievances, or provide for their wants? how can he lead his people against their enemies? or how know what his subjects stand in need of, in the distant parts of the kingdom, if he so seldom stirs out of his wigwam? Being told that the king of England was informed of, and transacted all this by means of the officers that were about him, he replied, It might be so; but if he should ever chance to go to England, he should talk with his good friend the king upon these matters, as he could not clearly apprehend how they could be. For my part, added he, I know and am known by all my subjects. I appear daily among them, hear their complaints, redress their grievances, and am acquainted with every place in my kingdom. Being told the people of England paid their king, yearly, vast sums out of the profits of their labour, he laughed, and cried, O poor king! adding, I have often given to my subjects, but never received anything from them. [Note: The Indian kings are obliged to provide for the subsistence of their people]

            Hunting being the principal employment and diversion of the Indians, at which they are very expert, Mr. Carew had an opportunity of gratifying, to the utmost, his taste for this diversion, there scarcely passing a day but he was a party amongst them at some hunting match or other, and most generally with the king himself. He was now grown into such great respect among them, that they offered him a wife out of the principal families of the place, nearly related to the king; but our hero, notwithstanding these honours, could not forget his native country, the love of which glowed within his breast; he had therefore, for some time, formed the design of leaving them, and, very soon after, found an opportunity of doing so.

            One day, being out a hunting, they chanced to fall in company with some other Indians, near the river Delaware. When the chase was over, they sat down to be merry together, and having got some rum amongst them, they drank pretty freely, and fell to singing and dancing after their country fashion.

            Mr. Carew took this opportunity of slipping away, and, going down to the river side, seized one of the canoes. Though he was entirely unacquainted with the method of managing them, he boldly pushed from shore, landing near Newcastle in Pennsylvania; the place he crossed over being called Duck's Creek, which communicates with the great Delaware. Mr. Carew being now got, as it were, among his countrymen again, soon transformed himself into a Quaker. [Note: Most of the inhabitants of Pennsylvania are Quakers]. Pulling off the button from his hat, and flapping it on every side, he put on as demure and precise a look, as if his whole family had been Quakers, and he had never seen any other sort of people. Here, reader, it will be necessary to remark, that, as our hero is no longer amongst simple honest Indians, neither polite, lettered, nor deceitful, but among polished people, whose knowledge has taught them to forget the ways of nature, and to act everything in disguise; whose hearts and tongues are as far distant asunder, as the North from the South pole, and who daily over-reach one another in the most common occurrences of life; we hope it will be no disgrace to our hero if among such he appears polished as the best, and puts on a fresh disguise as often as it suits his convenience.

Prev   Next