“Where are we?” asked Tommy.
“Marblehead, just outside of Salem” said Sarah. “about 17 miles from Boston.
“Are we near New Jerusalem?” asked Tommy.
Sarah looked at Little Bear, who shrugged as if to say ‘leave me out of this. These are white man’s names’ “Salem. Salem is short for New Jerusalem. When Salem was founded, they wanted to create a new holy land for Puritans. I’ve never heard anyone call it that before. Where did you hear that?”
“That is what the pirates call it. They have a plot they are hatching.”
“I knew it!” Sarah thumped Little Bear on the shoulder in triumph. “What is their plot?”
Just then, a shot rang out in the woods. It was the middle of the night, and the sound was as foreign as the sight of an elephant would have been. “give me the pistol” whispered Tommy. Little Bear handed it over as the children instinctively made for cover in the woods in the opposite direction of the gunfire. It had only been a single shot, and it had echoed long in the subsequent silence.
Once safely in the cover of the brush, Tommy began drying the inside of the pistol, and produced from his boots powder & lead balls from oilskin pouches. Sarah began to wonder what this magician would produce next.
“They will hear of your escape, and how you were aided by us.” Little Bear said. “They will come looking for us.” Sarah had not considered this.
“They have other concerns more pressing.” said Tommy.
“we shall see. We had best get back to our homes before we are missed” Little Bear said. “You are welcome at my campfire. I believe I can find an extra blanket for you”
Tommy smiled. “That would be much appreciated, Friend. I’ve not slept as a free man for some time.”
As Sarah walked home, she wondered about the turns her life had taken. She had grown to trust Little Bear, and really enjoyed their time together. He showed her secret places in the woods that were beautiful and fascinating. He taught her Indian ways such as moving quietly, reading animal tracks & being able to tell when a storm is coming. She was teaching him to read and do math. They compared religious and superstitious beliefs.
But Tommy was different. He was… dangerous. He spoke Little Bear’s language, he could use a sword, he carried ammunition in his boot! He had an air to him of someone who was hiding something. Why had the pirates locked him up? How had they captured him? How did he fit into whatever was going on? Sarah wasn’t sure she would have believed whatever plot he would have told them about.
She was glad to get home, out of her damp clothes, and into her warm bed.
“Boy! Am I glad to see you two! Quick, throw those keys over here!” the boy said, as if he had been expecting Sarah, and Little Bear. He was dressed all in black, which was not unusual For Massachusetts, but his collar wasn’t fastened all the way to the top, giving him a cavalier appearance. He was lean and tan, and his blond hair fell around his face unkempt. “Do you want those pirates to throw me to the sharks?” he asked. This brought Sarah out of her reverie. It was counter to her upbringing to free a prisoner on his command, but this wasn’t a town drunk in the stockade, he was imprisoned by people who aught to be in prison themselves; ergo, he should be set free, right? She moved to the cell door and unlocked it. “Many thanks. Name’s Mellvill. Tommy Melvill.” He bowed.
“Sarah Good.” Sarah said with a curtsy. “This is my friend, Little Bear.”
Tommy said something to Little Bear in Wampanoag that Sarah couldn’t make out. Little Bear grunted in return. “Let’s get out of here before they come back, eh?” suggested Tommy.
Sarah & Little Bear didn’t need to be told twice. They were up on deck & ready to jump into the water when they heard a drunken shout, “What in the name of the Devil’s tale is going on up here?” As Sarah turned, she saw a pirate coming forward from the stern with a sword in one hand and a pistol in the other. She froze and felt the blood drain from her face. What had been a lark was suddenly deadly serious.
“A savage and a towny?” said the pirate assessing the situation. A lecherous smile came across his face. “Well, let’s have some fun, eh? Come here missy, let’s have a look at ye!” Sarah was close enough to the rail to disappear overboard, but she froze at the sight of the pistol. Little Bear moved between the man and Sarah, and the scalawag lifted his gun and aimed waveringly at them. He fired.
The shot was loud and blinding. There was an instantaneous following thunder as the ball sundered the deck to Sarah’s right about two feet from where she stood, leaving a hole about two inches around. She looked up to see that Tommy had spoiled the pirate’s aim by pulling his arm from behind with a deck mop. The same motion had spun the buccaneer around to face Tommy and he was now swinging his cutlass at the lad with ferocity. Instead of dodging, Tommy leaned into the pirate, jabbing him with the mop handle in the gut.
Little Bear had taken this moment to close the distance to come to Tommy’s aid. The native leaped onto the scalawag’s back, and got him in a headlock. Tommy punched the pirate in the face, and he lost his balance falling backward. Little Bear leaped free before the pirate fell on him. As he hit the deck, he lost his sword, and Tommy scooped it up.
Tommy pointed the cutlass in the pirate’s face. “I’ll have that, Matey.” he said of the empty pistol, which the scalawag dropped onto the deck near Little Bear’s feet. Little Bear picked it up.
“Let’s get out of here!” Sarah said.
“That,” said Tommy, “is the best idea I have heard all day!” and the three of them plunged into the sea.
“I cannot believe that I let you talk me into this, Little Bear!” Sarah managed to say between gasping coughs as she tried not to swallow the water that kept splashing over her head.
“Be quiet!” Hissed Little Bear, who could tell that Sarah was mad by the way she called him by his first name. It was little wonder; she was quite literally out of her element. “They will hear you!” Little Bear was actually amused; Sarah was rarely flummoxed.
“You said,” Sarah’s voice came in an approximation of a yelled whisper, “that there would be no one on board! That is why we have chosen to swim out into the Atlantic Ocean in the middle of the night to board a pirate ship!” Each phrase was given special emphasis to demonstrate the compounded danger in their excursion.
“It would be foolish to be unnecessarily noisy” Little Bear said. The moon provided ample light, and they came along side the black silhouette of the ship. Little Bear felt along side the hull until he found some netting slung over the side, low enough for them to reach. “Try not to make any noise.” he said.
He had to give her credit; there were few people Little Bear knew of that would have come with him to the pirate ship, whether they were men, boys, women, girls, Indians, or Pilgrims. Sarah was brave indeed. Once onto the deck, they saw that the ship did indeed seem deserted. Why were the pirates in Salem? Little Bear had little interest in the goings on of the colonists, but this was intriguing. Pirates usually kept to the south. On the rare occasion that they ventured north, it would be to nearby Boston that they would go.
“Let us go below to see if we can find a clue to their plans.” said Little Bear. Of course, he did not know that such plans would probably be in the captain’s quarters which were aft and above, not below the main deck. Nevertheless, what they would find below would answer some of their questions, and create even more…
Sarah was dripping wet. They had argued over what she would wear on the swim out to the ship. Sarah had been swimming before, but not at night, with a boy so far to a pirate ship. Her usual skirt, apron, and several layers of undergarments would have been impractical. In the end, she had decided to wear stripped stockings, over this went her under bloomers, and her old blouse that she had stopped wearing when it had torn on a thorn last summer. The tear was in the back over the kidney, and wouldn’t be noticed; nevertheless, she had been compelled to get a new one and discard the old one in her dresser, until tonight. She felt she was dressed a bit like a pirate herself.
As they crept below, the hold was lit by lanterns which threw lurching shadows as the ship tilted back and forth on the tide. The smell was a combination of sweat, seawater, wet wood, and smoke. They both stopped short and froze when they heard the sound of a human voice.
“Are you going to show your coward faces or not!?” came the call from behind a door. The two children wanted to run, and in fact they had both begun to do just that, when something made Sarah stop in her tracks again. She pulled on Little Bear’s arm and he followed more from not wanting to think a girl was braver than him, than anything else.
The door was locked; however, they noticed the key was hanging on the wall next to it. Sarah pulled the key off its hook and unlocked the door. As it creaked open, Sarah saw what she had suspected from the timbre of the voice. What she had not expected was that the voice would belong to someone behind bars.
She and Little Bear stared into the ship’s brig at the face of a boy not much older than them, standing for all the world like he was in charge of everything.
Sarah and Little Bear met near the shoreline where the woods ended and the beach began. There had been talk of a strange ship bearing no flags sailing towards Boston, but one of the hunters at Little Bear’s campfire spotted it anchoring just out of site of town and Sarah and L. B., as she had come to call him, wanted to see for themselves.
Concealed from the shore, the two were surprised to see that the ship had sent a party ashore not 50 yards from where they looked out onto the beach. The men had made a small fire and sat around it passing around a bottle of dark glass. The men were filthy and obviously drunk though it was only 9 in the morning on Tuesday!
“What sort of fools are these?” L.B. wanted to know. “They are hiding but they make a fire for all to see. They post no guards, but they all are armed heavily. They are dressed in tatters, but once those clothes were fine. It makes no sense”
“They’re Pirates!” hissed Sarah in sudden realization. She hadn’t noticed the weapons or that their tattered clothes were fancy, but it was indeed so. L.B. was good at spotting things like that right away. She had come to find that the natives weren’t stupid or savage. Sarah was learning that many of the things the town elders said were simply lies.
“What is a ‘pirate’? A wandering band of drunkards?”
“Well there’s more to it than that. They’re thieves. They attack merchant ships at sea and plunder them and then waste their booty on women and drink. They are bound straight for Hell for sure. But in general, the English ones attack Spanish ships and vice versa.”
“There are raiders among our people too, but they raid tribes we are at war with to weaken them, and the bounty goes to all the people to strengthen the tribe of the raiders. I have never understood the difference between stealing and raiding.”
The two instinctively hushed crouched low as a few of the men wondered up the beach near their hiding place. They were indeed quite drunk, and Sarah could smell the rum from where she hid and wrinkled her nose as the alcohol stung her nostrils. There were three of them, and they whispered conspiratorially amongst themselves. The tallest of them was doing the talking, “Suppose the old git has word of what we’re on about? What then?” he said. Sarah noticed he had a tattoo of a woman wearing only a brassiere and a skirt of some kind of twine through which a thigh emerged most immodestly. Sarah blushed to see an Englishman with such a mark upon him.
“He won’t hear nothin’ unless one of you two goes and blabs it around!” Said the short, stocky one, who appeared to be wearing a stripped sock on his head. When he said, “around” he stretched out the “round” part and made a circle with his finger for emphasis. Then he pulled out a dagger that was long and filthy. Anyone blabs and they will have a visit from the surgeon!” he said.
“Yes, well; that would include you, Mr. Guernsey.” said the third man. Of them all, he was the least tattered, the least drunk, and was of middle height, and middle disposition. “Now put that thing away before it flies out of your hand and into the woods.”
Guernsey reddened, “It’s not going to fly out of my hands…” was as far as he got before the Middleman, with lightning speed and no warning slapped it out of his hands, and as predicted, into the woods. Although it landed some distance from Sarah and L.B., they both cringed and disappeared down lower into the bushes they were using for cover. It took Guernsey a good 5 minutes to find his knife, during which, neither of them so much as twitched. His companions had already gone back to the fire by the time the short buccaneer had quit the woods, and Sarah and Little Bear wasted no time hightailing back towards Salem.
That morning, Sarah had dressed herself properly after bathing with the fine ewer her father had only recently succumbed to letting her use. Previously he claimed that she was too young to use it, and might break the expensive porcelain. But she was older now and her father had consented to her bathing with it some months ago. In her estimation she was becoming a proper young lady, and would one day be the talk of all Salem. She had made sure her soft golden hair was modestly secured beneath her starched linen cap.
After helping with the morning chores, she had sat down to a light breakfast of bacon, porridge, eggs, fresh milk, & bread. Her mother had commented on the beauty of the rising sun as she broke her fast with her parents. It had been a typical morning with the promise of a new and enchanting day lain before her.
Now she enjoyed a morning constitutional walk as she had some free time before the afternoon chores. A mist had settled on the coastal village in the night, and it was presently lifting as Sarah followed a well worn path into the woods surrounding the village. She loved to hear stories of the hunters and trappers and their encounters with wild animals and wild natives. The stories were frightening and thrilling, and it scandalized Sarah to imagine herself embroiled in one of these adventures. There were stories of pirates and Indians; even cutthroats from the colonies themselves! They were surely the devil’s servants as the minister said. At least the natives and the beasts were ignorant of the fruit of the tree of good and evil. Only the children of Adam bore the sin of their forefathers. Some said the natives were men and in need of salvation, others said they were little more than beasts themselves. Sarah’s grandfather said the great Calvin had surmised that only a select few could earn passage to paradise, most were consigned by the Lord Himself to damnation from birth. Surely the naked savages were among the damned.
The fog was thicker in this part of the woods. Sarah couldn’t see her house from here. She couldn’t see any houses. Was that a war whoop she heard? Just a bird, surely. These trees; they hung on to winter longer than the others. Their long, leafless fingers seemed to beckon to her. Perhaps this part of the forest was enchanted? Sarah thought she had best not think such thoughts but they came to her unbidden. Had she no control over her own mind? Perhaps she should be getting back to the house. Through the whispering mists emerged a beautiful purple bush. What plant was this? It was like lavender, but smelled differently. What lovely flowers! Sarah had never seen any blossom so tempting! They must be safe, they weren’t apples as had tricked Eve and Adam so. Maybe with some nutrients in her stomach she could make sense of her surroundings. She picked several blossoms and gathered them in her skirt like she did when harvesting from the garden. She had seen the cunning folk gathering herbs out this way. Maybe these were some of their healing plants.
With something in her stomach, Sarah felt better. She began to hum a tune to herself that she had heard her mother sing. It was a mournful song about the Angels coming to gather a dying man to heaven. Though they sang a Capella, Sarah could hear the soft, distant drums of the natives and subconsciously sang in time to the earthy rhythm.
Sarah emerged into a thicket of ferns that were strikingly green after such deadened terrain. Sarah heard the crunch of a branch nearby, and let a gasp escape her lips. After a moments hesitation, she saw a boy her own age emerge from a crouch where he had been hiding. He was a native Wampanoag, naked except for a slim strip of leather which hung between his legs. Sarah could see it did little to cover the boy. He was dark brown and his skin glistened in the hazy light. His eyes were deep black and so beautiful! He had lashes like a girl, thought Sarah. His straight black hair framed his face and his lips parted in an unspoken question. Had he been following her?
“Were you spying on me?” she asked. She put her hands on her hips trying to take charge of the situation the way her mother did. She gripped her hips to steady her shaking hands. She wondered if the naked savage could hear her heart pound in her chest. As her mind whirled at the huge consequences this could have for her, she involuntarily took a breath to scream. The boy brazenly leaped right up to her and put his hand over her mouth, making her panic more acute. With his free hand, he put his finger to his lips and she could see that he was about as scared as she was. He took his golden hand away and motioned for her to crouch down as he did the same. He pulled aside a fern branch and she saw a group of naked savages armed with bows, knives and spears creep silently away. These were grown men on the hunt, she realized and this boy had just saved her from being discovered by them.
“Wuneekeesuq,” he whispered to her.
“Hello,” she replied. Everyone spoke a few words of Algonquin, and most of the savages spoke a little English too. He pointed in the opposite direction from the way the hunters were headed and the two crept silently in that direction. Sarah was fascinated by the naked boy. She had dreamt many times of meeting a native, and now that she had she could hardly believe it. He smelled of earth & pine; clean but aromatic somehow at the same time.
After a time, they came to a copse with a little hidden clearing in the middle hidden from view. Sarah felt safe here. “I’m Sarah” she said, motioning to herself.
“Little Bear,” said the boy, mimicking her motion.
“How come you’re naked?” she said in a scandalized whisper.
“How come you are not?” asked Little Bear.
This was a ridiculous question, Sarah knew, but as she was about to say this, she realized that it must be what all the Indians thought about the Puritans. “God has commanded that we cover our selves to hide our nakedness!” She hissed. She was sure that she would get a lickin’ for having such a conversation with a boy, let alone a naked savage boy. She was thrilled.
“The Great Grandfather of all has not shared this instruction with our people.” said Little Bear, “But most of the women do wear the two hide dress.” he conceded. “We all wear clothes in the winter.” A moment went by and the children began to look around for something to talk about. After a moment, the boy said, “Want to see some magic?” Sarah’s heart did a flip flop. She was both fascinated by and scared to death of real magic. This was a compelling blend of emotions that seemed to coming to her in wave after wave today. She swallowed in her suddenly dry throat and managed to nod. They sat facing each other with a little space between them. He reached behind her and pulled a leaf off of a plant and showed it to her. Little Bear put the leaf in the palm of his left hand and then cupped his right hand over it. “Aquit, Nees, Nis.” he said. “Now blow!” He held up his cupped hands for her to blow into, which she dutifully did.
Little Bear opened his hands and a butterfly with leaf shaped winds flew out and fluttered away. Sarah gasped and clapped her hands. “That is wonderful!” she said. Little Bear beamed happily.
“Now you.” he said.
“Me?” asked Sarah. “O.K.” she said. She thought for a moment. She didn’t know any real magic. But she had played games with her friends behind the neighbor’s barn after supper sometimes. The girls liked to cast the future and see who they were going to marry. Sarah drew a circle in the dirt between them. “Spit.” she commanded. She had learned from these games that it was important to act the part when it was your turn to cast a fortune. Little Bear spit into the circle causing an irregular, organic shape to form on the packed, damp earth. Sarah stared at the circle wondering what she should say. Boys liked mystery over romance, she was pretty sure. Indians sought adventure and glory.
“You will grow to be a powerful warrior.” she said. She saw his chest swell and he smiled. He was magical. “Your people will hold you in high regard. But there is one who will be your enemy. You will be rivals for the same woman. I cannot see who will win. You will face many dangers. In your old age you will be a tribal elder but you will still be bitter that you never vanquished the rival of your youth.” Sarah looked up to see the boy looked stunned. In fact, he was a little bit frightened. “Well,” she said, “What did you think?”
“That is almost word for word the same fortune the old shaman told me at my last birthday.” Little Bear said. He looked pale. There was another awkward silence. “I had better return to camp.” he said.
Sarah suddenly became aware that time had passed. But she also felt she had done something wrong. She hadn’t meant to frighten him. “Will I see you again?” she asked.
“Yes. Tomorrow. Same time if you can.” He was getting up to go.
“How do I get back home?” she asked.
“Your village lies toward the setting sun” he said smiling, and was gone.