The Silence Broken

: Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land

It was in 1734 that Joist Hite moved from Pennsylvania to Virginia, with

his wife and boys, and helped to make a settlement on the Shenandoah

twelve miles south of Woodstock. When picking berries at a distance from

the village, one morning, the boys were surprised by Indians, who hurried

with them into the wilderness before their friends could be apprised.

Aaron, the elder, was strong, and big of frame, with coarse, black hair,
and face tanned brown; but his brother was small and fair, with blue eyes

and yellow locks, and it was doubtless because he was a type of the hated

white race that the Indians spent their blows and kicks on him and spared

the sturdy one. Aaron was wild with rage at the injuries put upon his

gentle brother, but he was bound and helpless, and all that he could do

was to encourage him to bear a stout heart and not to fall behind.

But Peter was too delicate to keep up, and there came a day when he could

go no farther. The red men consulted for a few moments, then all of them

stood apart but one, who fitted an arrow to his bow. The child's eyes

grew big with fear, and Aaron tore at his bonds, but uselessly, and

shouted that he would take the victim's place, but no one understood his

speech, and in another moment Peter lay dead on the earth, with an arrow

in his heart. Aaron gave one cry of hate and despair, and he, too, sank

unconscious. On coming to himself he found that he was in a hut of

boughs, attended by an old Indian, who told him in rude English that he

was recovering from an illness of several weeks' duration, and that it

was the purpose of his tribe to adopt him. When the lad tried to protest

he found to his amazement that he could not utter a sound, and he learned

from the Indian that the fever had taken away his tongue. In the dulness

and weakness of his state he submitted to be clothed in Indian dress,

smeared with a juice that browned his skin, and greeted by his brother's

slayers as one of themselves. When he looked into a pool he found that he

had, to all intents, become an Indian. In time he became partly

reconciled to this change, for he did not know and could not ask where

the white settlements lay; his appearance and his inability to speak

would prevent his recognition by his friends, the red men were not unkind

to him, and every boy likes a free and out-door life. They taught him to

shoot with bow and arrow, but they kept him back if a white settlement

was to be plundered.

Three years had elapsed, and Aaron, grown tall and strong, was a good

hunter who stood in favor with the tribe. They had roamed back to the

neighborhood of Woodstock, when, at a council, Aaron overheard a plot to

fall on the village where his parents lived. He begged, by signs, to be

allowed to go with them, and, believing that he could now be trusted,

they offered no objection. Stoic as he had grown to be, he could not

repress a tear as he saw his old home and thought of the peril that it

stood in. If only he could give an alarm! The Indians retired into the

forest to cook their food where the smoke could not be seen, while Aaron

lingered at the edge of the wood and prayed for opportunity. He was not

disappointed. Two girls came up through the perfumed dusk, driving cows

from the pasture, and as they drew near, Aaron, pretending not to see

them, crawled out of the bush with his weapons, and made a show of

stealthily examining the town. The girls came almost upon him and

screamed, while he dashed into the wood in affected surprise and regained

the camp. The Indians had heard and seen nothing. The girls would surely

give the alarm in town.

One by one the lights of the village went out, and when it seemed locked

in sleep the red marauders crept toward the nearest house--that of Joist

Hite. They arose together and rushed upon it, but at that moment a gun

was fired, an Indian fell, and in a few seconds more the settlers, whom

the girls had not failed to put on their guard, were hurrying from their

hiding-places, firing into the astonished crowd of savages, who dashed

for the woods again, leaving a dozen of their number on the ground. Aaron

remained quietly standing near his father's house, and he was captured,

as he hoped to be. When he saw how his parents had aged with time and

grief he could not repress a tear, but to his grief was added terror when

his father, after looking him steadily in the eye without recognition,

began to load a pistol. They killed my boys, said he, and I am going

to kill him. Bind him to that tree.

In vain the mother pleaded for mercy; in vain the dumb boy's eyes

appealed to his father's. He was not afraid to die, and would do so

gladly to have saved the settlement; but to die by his father's band! He

could not endure it. He was bound to a tree, with the light of a fire

shining into his face.

The old man, with hard determination, raised the weapon and aimed it

slowly at the boy's heart. A surge of feeling shook the frame of the

captive--he threw his whole life into the effort--then the silence of

three years was broken, and he cried, Father! A moment later his

parents were sobbing joyfully, and he could speak to them once more.