Thursday, July 21, 2016

Thursday Novel Excerpt (starving time)

A fourth excerpt
The excitement over John Smith's departure did not last long. George Percy was a far more enjoyable leader of the community, but a far less capable one. The natives had respected and feared John Smith. Now, as their own food supplies became sparse, the colonists only seemed pathetic and weak.

One group, led by Captain Martin, was found dead with bread stuffed in their mouths by the natives, as if to say, "You want bread? We'll give you bread." Only Martin himself escaped, and was viewed as a coward from then on in James Towne.

Far more serious was what happened to Captain Ratcliffe, the second president of the settlement. He went on a similar trip to trade for provisions from Chief Powhatan. His men were killed and he was tied up and stripped naked. Then women proceeded to flay and dismember him piece by piece, throwing each body part in a fire while he watched... until he was dead of course.

Three boys who were Thomas' friends watched Ratcliffe die from the woods. Thomas Savage, a boy on the very first ship, had been given to Powhatan from the beginning. Thomas Spelman was of course the one John Smith had tried to sell to one of Powhatan's sons. Then there was another Dutch boy with them named Samwell.

The next few months were the worst of Thomas' life. For most of the winter, the fort was surrounded by natives. Anyone who tried to get out to find food put their lives in serious danger. A number who fled in desperation to live with the surrounding tribes were never seen again. Francis West snuck off with one of the ships, presumably returning to England.

As they became hungrier and hungrier, they began to kill off all the animals within their reach. First it was the horses recently brought from England. Then the pigs and chickens. More and more desperate they became--dogs, cats,  then rats, snakes, leather.

Then it took a darker turn. They began to dig up dead bodies and eat them. Some licked the blood of individuals as they were bleeding to death. A gentleman named Collins even killed his pregnant wife and ate her.

The boys were savvier. The natives did not seem to pay them as much attention and they learned the languages more quickly. Thomas and the other boys managed to slip unnoticed down the river to fish throughout the winter.

In June of 1609, Percy finally loaded up as many people as he could on one of the remaining ships, planning to close down the settlement and sail back to England. Thomas was not one of the ones lucky enough to get on board. But it didn't matter. Percy returned to the fort the same day he left. In what everyone believed was an act of God, three ships with provisions arrived in the Chesapeake Bay that very day, a new governor with them.

From that point on, the future of the Virginia Settlement was secured.

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