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Stories of New Jersey
The Story Of Penelope Stout
Period, prior to 1669.)

By Frank R. Stockton

Originally published in 1896
This Web version, edited by GET NJ, COPYRIGHT 2003

There she was taken care of. Food and drink were given her. Her wounds were dressed and treated after the Indian fashion. In due course of time she recovered her health and strength, and there – living in a wigwam, among the women and children of the village, pounding corn, cooking food, carrying burdens as did the Indian women – she remained for some time, not daring even to try to escape; for in that wild country there was no place of safety to which it was possible for her to flee.

Although there was a good deal of bad feeling between the Indians and the whites at that time, they still traded and communicated with each other; and when, in the course of time, it became known in New Amsterdam that there was a white woman held as a prisoner in this Indian camp, there was every reason to suppose that this woman was the young wife who had been left on the seacoast by the survivors of the wreck. Consequently some of the men who had been her fellow-passengers came over to the Indian camp, which was not far from where Middletown now stands. Here, as they had expected, they found Penelope, and demanded that the Indians should give her up.

After some discussion, it was agreed that the matter should be left with Penelope herself; and the old Indian who had saved her life went to her, – for of course, being an inferior, she was not present at the conference, – and put the question before her. Here she was, with a comfortable wigwam, plenty to eat and drink, good Indian clothes to wear, as well treated as any Indian woman, and, so far as he could see, with everything to make her comfortable and happy; and here she might stay if she chose. On the other hand, if she wished to go to New Amsterdam, she would find there no one with whom she was acquainted, except the people who had rowed away and left her on that desolate coast, and who might have come in search of her a long time before if they really had cared anything about her. If she wanted to live here among friends who had been kind to her, and be taken care of, she could do so; if she wanted to go away and live among people who had deserted her, and who appeared to have forgotten her, she could do that.

Very much to the surprise of this good Indian, Penelope declared that she should prefer to go and live among people of her own race and country ; and so, much to the regret of her Indian friends, she departed for New Amsterdam with the men who had come for her.

A year or two after Penelope had gone back to New Amsterdam, being then about twenty-two, she married an Englishman named Richard Stout, who afterwards became an important personage. He, with other settlers, went over to New Jersey and founded a little village, which was called Middletown, not far from the Indian camp where Penelope had once been a prisoner. The Indians still remained in this camp, but now they appeared to be quite friendly to the whites; and the new settlers did not consider that there was anything dangerous in having these red neighbors. The good Indian who had been Penelope's protector, now quite an old man, was very friendly and sociable, and often used to visit Mrs. Stout. This friendship for the woman whom he had saved from death seemed to have been strong and sincere.

One day this old Indian came to the house of Mrs. Stout, and, seating himself in the room where she was, remained for a long time pensive and silent. This rather unusual conduct made Penelope fear that something had happened to him; and she questioned him, asking him why he was so silent, and why he sighed so often. Then the old man spoke out and told her that he had come on a very important errand, in which he had risked his own life at the hands of his tribe; but, having saved her life once, he had determined to do it again, no matter what might happen to himself.

Then he told her that the good will of the Indians toward their white neighbors had come to an end, and that it had been determined in council that an attack should be made that night upon this little village, when every person in it – men, women, and children – should be put to death, the houses burned, and the cattle driven away. His brethren no longer wanted white people living near them.

Of course, this news was a great shock to Penelope. She had now two little children, and she could not get far away with them and hide, as she herself had once hidden from Indian foes. But the old man told her that she need not be afraid: he could not save all the people in the village, but he was her friend, and he had arranged to save her and her family. At a certain place, which he described so she could not fail to find it, he had concealed a canoe; and in that she and her husband, with the children, could go over to New Amsterdam, and there would be plenty of time for them to get away before the Indians would attack the place. Having said this, and having urged her to lose no time in getting away, the old Indian left.

As soon as he had gone, Penelope sent for her husband, who was working in the fields, and told him what she had heard, urging him to make preparations instantly to escape with her. But Mr. Stout was not easily frightened by news such as this. He pooh-poohed the whole story, and told his wife that the natives over there in their camp were as well disposed and friendly as if they had been a company of white settlers, and that, as these red men and the whites had lived together so long, trading with each other, and visiting each other with perfect freedom, there was no reason whatever to suppose that the Indians would suddenly determine to rise up and massacre a whole settlement of peaceable neighbors, who had never done them any harm, and who were a great benefit to them in the way of trading. It would be all nonsense, he said, to leave their homes, and run away from Indians so extremely friendly and good-natured as those in the neighboring camp.


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