The next time that Dancing Light stood at her door, she didn’t smile or nod. Suzanne, sensitive to her friend’s unaccustomed gravity, quickly motioned for her to enter. Aware now of the minister’s new suspicion of spies, Suzanne hadn’t considered that Dancing Light might be facing the same charges from her tribe. They’d have to be doubly discreet.
Suzanne looked to both sides. Fortunately, her helper was in the garden with the children. They hadn’t seen her. “Meegwich,” Suzanne said. “Come in, quickly.”
Dancing Light nodded and slid through the door. “I come to talk.” Dancing Light motioned toward the table boards, raising her eyebrows in question.
Suzanne caught her meaning. “Yes. Please. Sit. Let’s talk. What have you heard?” Suzanne took her place at the table across from her. “Can I get you drink? Food?”
Dancing Light waved her hand. “No. I come to say Nashua are friend of English. Tribe not fight with English. Always friend of English. Wampanoag enemy to Nashua.”
Suzanne understood the urgency with which her friend stated this. “I am happy to hear it.”
“You tell pastor. You tell town. Nashua want no trouble with English.”
“Has anyone in Groton said there is trouble?”
“No. Monoco. He say English start war with Indians. Indians must fight. Nashua not fight. Not hearing Monoco.”
Suzanne was uncertain at first, wondering if this exchange couldn’t be construed as spying. In the end, she reasoned that she must trust her friend first. “Monoco. Is that the same as One-Eyed John? Lives in Lancaster?”
“Major Willard knows him. Captain Parker, too. They say he can’t be trusted.” Suzanne had heard the Indians did start the war. King Philip (she knew Metacom by his Christian name) had executed a Christian Indian he’d employed as his counselor for spying, a betrayal that bordered on treason. This provoked the governor of Plymouth to seek justice for the murder of the Christian Indian. When the militia found the two murderers and brought them to Plymouth, the magistrates tried them in court. They hanged the guilty men. That’s how Indians came to harass towns near Seekonk, burning houses and killing cattle in retaliation.
“Nashua have saying. Kill someone and start war, they lose war.” Dancing Light held her attention, not blinking once. She insisted. “Indian not start war. Not Indian way. Indian raid. Indian burn. Indian not kill.”
Suzanne was puzzled. Dancing Light seemed to be talking about a different event than the Governor’s just punishment of two killers. “Indians raiding? When?”
“In Seekonk. Indians burn field. Steal cows. Father and son come. Father tells boy don’t shoot. Boy afraid. Not listen to father. He shoot and kill Indian.” Dancing Light shook her head, saddened by what anyone can see is an accident. She would not hold a child responsible for such a rash act.
“And the war begins.” Suzanne whispered the words, now wondering if anyone could step outside blame. Set free, certain that they’d not begun the war, the Indians could unleash their fury. The raiding and marauding Indians had now attacked three towns in Plymouth and Rhode Island, killing randomly as they raided.
“The Nashua people friend to English,” Dancing Light reassured her. “Not fight English. Wampanoag fight English, fight Nashua.”
“The Christian Indians don’t fight the English.”
“English say Christian Indians join Metacom. Say truth.”
“What? They will fight English?”
“Some Christian Indian fight. Wampanoag kill Christian Indians not fight. Yes. Some not fight. But our custom: Indian protect Indian family. You tell pastor, Nashua not fight.”
Suzanne agreed, assuring Dancing Light that she would get the word to the town council. When her guest stood to make her way to the door, she turned at the last and said, “I not see you, maybe long time.”
Suzanne nodded in relief, agreeing it would be best. Before she stepped from the door, Suzanne took her hands and held them. “My friend, go safely.”
Dancing Light nodded and made her way unseen into the woods.
That night, Joseph brought Uncle John, Timothy Cooper, and Sam Church home with him to make plans for the family. The men sorted out their certain conscription, could talk only of the coming conflicts.
Suzanne, who heard them from the bedroom, hastily pulled her apron from the hook and after putting it on, tied on her cap. Entering the room, she saw Joseph stride into the great room. He piled the weapons he’d been carrying on one end of the table. He nodded to Suzanne. “We’re hungry. Do we have enough?”
“What a question,” she exclaimed. “When have we turned away guests?”
Satisfied, he turned to help Sam Church, who followed him in after stamping the mud from his boots. Joseph pulled a stool over and helped him put aside his guns and ammunition. He bristled like a porcupine with the ammunition strapped to his body: the rifle, the sword, the powder bags strung on straps across his chest and the bag of lead bullets. He leaned his pike against the wall, continuing their previous conversation. “You aren’t going to wait for the captain to conscript you, are you? If the colony needs men, who could refuse?”
Unburdened, Sam flexed his arms, shaking out the stiffness in his shoulders. “It's not that; I’ll fight with the best of them. I just resent going to battle with the Indians when it's the magistrates in Boston who brought this on us. They’re stupid. Who taught the Indians to use guns? Who sold them the guns? Who invited them to all the musters and trained them to fight? So how do they expect a peaceful result?”
Uncle John and Timothy Cooper stamped their feet at the threshold, then crossed the hall to pile their gear next to the pile beside Sam Church. Suzanne nodded at them.
Uncle John commented. “You’ll be happy those Indians mustered with us when you go to battle against warriors counting coup on your scalp. The only mistake I see the English making is underestimating them. I hear some poor sheep bugger bragging the English infantry is so superior to naked painted warriors, I gotta’ laugh.” Uncle John pulled up the settee and plopped down, twisting his hips into a comfortable position.
“I agree with you Uncle John.” Joseph turned to help Suzanne ladle ale into the mugs. “If it weren’t for the friendly Indians at Seekonk, there’d been more casualties.”
“Rightly said, son. I know it’s not a popular view, but we’d do best to keep them on our side if we can. Suzanne, you heard from Dancing Light? Here, sit down.” He cleared a space for her on the settee.
Suzanne pulled her skirts tight and sat next to him. “She told me that Monoco, One eyed John, is leading a band of warriors against the English, but wanted me to tell Reverend Willard that the Nashua on the river are our friends. They will not join Monoco.’
“She know why he’s rising against the English?”
“She said the English started the war and they feel they have no choice but to fight back.”
“Started the war?” Sam Church swore. “That’s a lie.”
Suzanne ignored him and continued. “She told me it’s a rule with Indians. They believe that if they start a war by killing someone, they are destined to lose that war.”
Uncle John snorted. “Probably true. So they harassed the settlers, burning houses down, killing cattle to get a rise out of them. So when the boy who doesn’t know better shoots and kills a warrior, that clears them. Then it's outright war. Sounds about right.”
“They’ve killed eighteen!” Sam exploded.
Uncle John winked at Timothy, who had frowned at Samuel’s outburst, then turned to Samuel. “You’re right. The Indians killed first. Metacom sent his warriors to kill the Plymouth spy.”
Timothy’s sympathies compelled him to speak. “He was Metacom’s adviser, a Christian Indian, not a white man. Metacom must have thought the man treasonous. The Governor would do the same if the man betrayed him.”
Uncle John ignored Timothy’s remarks. “A Christian Indian is as good as a white man. Plymouth didn’t want war, just justice. The governor tried the culprits who killed his Christian friend. Hanged them. For the governor, that was the end of it. Justice done. Might have worked, too, but he demanded Metacom’s guns.”
Timothy tried to reason with him. “Justice! One Indian executed and two Indians hanged. And you say they killed the first man to start a war?”
Uncle John smirked. “Well, you have a point there.”
Timothy continued. “The English assume the natives are going to behave like Englishmen. Suzanne, would you make that assumption? Do you think Dancing Light is going to follow our laws, has our sense of justice?”
Timothy was getting too close for comfort and Suzanne side-stepped his que
stion. “All right!” Suzanne rose, smoothing her skirts and turned to the hearth. “If you want to eat, you’ll have to put your mouths to better use.”
“I’m for eating,” Uncle John laughed. He stood and followed Suzanne to the table boards. As he passed Sam, he couldn’t help ribbing him. “Sam Church, you going to use that pike in the woods? You think the Indians are going to be riding horseback on an open field? Pshaw.”
His teasing started humorously enough, but the teasing didn’t let up and took a more menacing tone. Suzanne knew Uncle John didn’t much like Samuel, and Samuel’s self-defense wouldn’t help.
“I’m a pikesman! Any Indian comes in range, I’ll have his hide. Captain Parker will know where to use me.”
“Well, get ready. Maybe you can use that pike like a hatchet when you need to hack through thickets. Or a cane when your clambering over treefall. Or not. Long as that pike doesn’t tangle in the branches. Long as it stops you sinking up to your knees when you slip off a log and slog through the swamp. How many fields you see in Massachusetts?”
Joseph came to his defense. “Uncle John, I know you fought the Pequot. But settlements have grown and fields around towns are commonplace. Captain Parker is training pikesmen in our troop for a reason.”
Sam Church was not a town council member, nor even a freeman, and he needed defending. He looked gratefully at Joseph. “If it comes to that, like you say, I still have my rifle and sword. Nothing stopping me from tossing the pike. I’m infantry.”
“As I am,” Timothy cut in. He sent Uncle John a reproving look as he climbed over the bench, taking his seat at the table.
Suzanne, who’d already eaten with her children, passed steaming trenchers of stew to the men and strode to the back door. There, she took in the last sunrays, listening to the screeches and laughter of the children playing in the yard. She had the unsettled feeling that their merriment couldn’t last. What will become of us? she thought.
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