Among the young men of rank and education at Jamestown was John Rolfe, of an excellent English family, who became enamored of Pocahontas, and to him
"She was a landscape of mild earth Where all was harmony and calm quiet, Luxuriant, budding."--BYRON.
Pocahontas reciprocated Rolfe's passion, and they agreed to be wedded. But one thing troubled the soul of the young Englishman. He was a Christian; she was a Pagan. "Is it not my duty," he said to himself, "to lead the blind into light?" Then came to his mind the Bible story of the visitation of the sons of Levi by God in his anger, because they sanctified strange women. But love conquered. He resolved to labor for her enlightenment and conversion. The young princess was an apt scholar, and very soon, in the little chapel at Jamestown, whose columns were rough pine trees from the forests, and its rude pews were of sweet-smelling cedar, and its rough communion-table and pulpit of black walnut, that dusky convert stood before a font "hewn hollow between like a canoe," and there received the rite of Christian baptism with the name of Rebecca, at the hands of Mr. Whittaker. She was the first Christian Indian in Virginia.
Very soon Pocahontas again stood before the chancel of the little chapel, now as a bride. It was a charming day in April, 1613. Her father's consent to her marriage had been easily obtained, and he had sent his brother Opachisco to give away his daughter according to the Christian ritual, for he would not trust himself with the English at Jamestown. Over the "fair, broad windows" hung festoons of evergreens bedecked with wild flowers, with the waxen leaves and scarlet berries of the holly. The communion table was covered with a "fair white linen cloth," and bore bread from the wheat fields around Jamestown, and wine from the luscious grapes from the adjacent woods. All the people at Jamestown were spectators of the nuptials. There were Sir Thomas Gates, and Master Sparks who had been co-embassador with Rolfe to the court of Powhatan. Young George Percy and Henry Spilman were there; and near them, an earnest watcher of the ceremony, was the elder brother of Pocahontas, with her younger brother and many youths and maidens from the forest. There, too, was Mistress John Rolfe, Mrs. Easton and child, and Mistress Horton and grand-child with her late maid-servant, Elizabeth Parsons, who, on Christmas Eve previously, had married Thomas Powell. These were all the English women then in Virginia, and all returned to Europe.
When all things were in readiness, the bride and groom entered the chapel. Pocahontas was dressed in a simple tunic of white muslin from the looms of Dacca. Her arms were bare even to her shoulders; and hanging loosely to her feet was a robe of rich stuff presented to her by Sir Thomas Dale, and fancifully embroidered by herself and her maidens. A gaudy fillet encircled her head, and held the gay plumage of birds and a veil of gauze, while her wrists and ankles were adorned with the simple jewelry of the native workshops. Rolfe was attired in the gay clothing of an English cavalier of that period, and upon his thigh he wore the short sword of a gentleman of distinction in society. He was a noble specimen of manly beauty and dignity in form and carriage, and she of womanly modesty and lovely simplicity. Upon the chancel steps, where no railing interfered, the good Whittaker stood in sacerdotal robes, and, with impressive voice, pronounced the marriage ritual of the Anglican Church, there first planted on the American continent. The governor, sitting on his right on a richly-carved chair of state, with his ever-attendant halberdiers with helmets, at his back, heartily said Amen! at the conclusion of the ceremony.
So were wedded the Rose of England and the Totem or Indian symbol of nationality, giving promise of a friendly union of races in Virginia. It brought present peace, and Powhatan was ever afterward the fast friend of the English. Rolfe and his spouse "lived civilly and lovingly together" until the departure of Governor Sir Thomas Dale for England in 1616, whither they, with several others of the settlement and all the English women there, accompanied him. There the "Lady Rebecca" received great attentions from the court and all below it. The Lord Bishop of London entertained her with "festival and pomp," and at court she was treated with the ceremonious respect due to the daughter of monarch. The silly bigot on the British throne was angry because one of his subjects had dared to marry a lady of royal blood; and Captain Smith, for fear of the royal displeasure, would not allow her to call him "father" as she desired to do. Her simple, tender heart was grieved because of his seeming want of affection for her. The king, in his absurd dreams of the royal prerogative, imagined that Rolfe or his descendants might lay claim to the crown of Virginia, in behalf of his royal wife! And it was considered in council whether he had not committed treason!
Pocahontas remained in England about a year; and when she was about to embark for America with her husband and son, and Tomocome, her father's chief councillor, she sickened and died at Gravesend in June, 1617, when she was not quite twenty-two years of age. She left a son, Thomas Rolfe, who became a distinguished man in Virginia, and whose descendants have been numbered among the honorable citizens of that commonwealth.
Return to Our Country, Vol. I