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The New McGuffey Fourth Reader
by William H. McGuffey, Compiler

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By John Esten Cooke


Captain Smith was born at Willoughby, in England, in the month of

January, 1579. His parents died when he was a mere child, and he

was left alone in the world without any one to take care of him.

Yet he was a brave and independent boy, and he soon showed that

he was well able to make his own way in the world. He was fond of

adventure, as most boys are; and while he was still a youth he

wandered away to Holland, and spent some time with the English

army which was there.

When he came back to England, he began to train himself for the

life of a soldier. Instead of passing his time in idleness with

other young men of Willoughby, he went out to the woods near by

and built a sort of house for himself of the boughs of trees.

Here he intended to stay; and as for food, he meant to shoot

deer, and live on the venison. In this "Bower," as he called it,

he got together as many books on warlike matters as he could

find; and he spent the greater part of his time in studying them.

Young John Smith had a horse and lance with which he practiced

every day, riding swiftly and trying to strike a ring or other

object from the bough of a tree to which it had been hung. He

also practiced with his sword to make his eye keen and his wrist

tough; and he fired at trees with his pistol, to become a good

marksman. By such means as these he fitted himself for the life

of a soldier; and then he set out in search of adventures.

He crossed the English Channel and landed in France; but three

Frenchmen who had come over with him in the ship treated him very

badly. They saw that he was but a mere boy, and stole the trunk

in which were all his clothing and his money. They left him in

great trouble, for he was in a strange country without friends.

But he kept a brave heart, and soon showed that he could take

care of himself. He wandered on through France, meeting many kind

persons on the way who helped him, until at last he came to the

city of Marseilles on the Mediterranean Sea.

As his plan was to go and fight the Turks, he went on board a

ship bound for Rome, which was on his way. The ship set sail, but

soon a great storm arose, and the vessel was tossed about, and in

danger of being wrecked. Some of the men on board said that

Smith, being a stranger, had brought them bad luck, and that the

only way to escape the storm was to get rid of him; so they

seized him and threw him into the sea.

The waves were running very high at the time, and there was great

danger of his being drowned. But he was a good swimmer, and

struck out for the nearest land. This was a small island, called

the Isle of St. Mary's, not far from the coast of Nice, and here

he was thrown on shore by the waves. The weather was very cold,

and he had nothing to eat. But soon another ship came in sight;

he was seen by the crew; and a boat was sent to take him off of

the island. As he went on board the ship he was overjoyed to find

that the captain was an old friend of his.

The ship was bound for Egypt; but as Smith was in search of

adventures, he cared nothing for that. He agreed to go to Egypt,

and as usual something happened to him on the way. They met with

an enemy's ship; a sharp fight took place, and the enemy's ship

was taken. As young Smith had fought bravely, he received about

two thousand dollars in gold as his share of the prize money.

This made him quite rich, and he resolved to go on in search of

further adventures. The captain of the ship put him ashore, and

he set out for Transylvania, east of Austria, where there was

fighting between the Christians and the Turks. He had to pass

through a rough, wild country, but he did so safely, and at last

reached the Christian army, and was enrolled as a soldier in it.

He soon proved to his friends that he was no common soldier.


The Turks had shut themselves up in a strong castle, where they

were closely besieged by the Christians. From the castle a

Turkish lord sent word to the Christian camp that he was ready to

fight any soldier that might be sent against him. The Christians

accepted the offer, and drew lots to see who should meet him. The

lot fell on John Smith, and when the day came he rode forward to

meet his enemy.

The Turk was ready. The two enemies rushed upon each other, but

the fight was soon over. Smith's lance struck the Turk in the

forehead and hurled him dead to the ground. Smith then leaped

from his horse and cut off the Turk's head, and the whole

Christian army shouted with joy.

Very soon a second Turk came out to avenge his friend, and he and

Smith rode at each other. Both their lances were shivered in

pieces, but Smith fired his pistol and broke his enemy's arm. He

fell from his horse, and Smith, leaping down, struck off his

head, as he had struck off that of the first Turk.

The young soldier was now in high spirits, and he sent a

challenge to the Turks. The challenge was accepted by a famous

Turk called Bonnymulgro. It was agreed that they were to fight

hand to hand with swords, pistols, and battle-axes. They rushed

at full gallop toward each other. After firing their pistols they

began to use their battle-axes.

Bonnymulgro was a strong man and a dangerous enemy. He struck

Smith so heavy a blow on the head that he reeled in his saddle

and dropped his ax. At this a loud shout rose from the Turks on

the walls, and they shouted louder still, as they saw Smith wheel

his horse and fly, with the big Turk after him. But this was only

a part of Smith's plan. As soon as the Turk caught up with him

and raised his ax, the young soldier quickly wheeled his horse

and ran his sword through Bonnymulgro's breast. The Turk fell

from the saddle, still trying to fight. But Smith struck him down

and cut off his head, which he held up to show that the fight was ended.

John Smith was now a distinguished soldier, but he was soon to

find that war is not entirely made up of brave deeds and rich

rewards. A day came when ill-fortune befell him. In a great

battle in which the Christians were beaten, John Smith was

wounded and left on the field. He lay there until night, when

some thieves, who had come to rob the dead bodies of whatever

they could find upon them, heard him groaning from the pain of

his wound, and stopped. He had on a very rich suit of armor, and

from this they supposed that he was some great lord. Hence they

did not kill him, but resolved to carry him away and keep him

prisoner until he paid a large price for his freedom.

John Smith did not tell them that they were mistaken in this, as

his life depended on his saying nothing. They carried him to a

city called Axiopolis, and here they found that he was only a

poor soldier. He was, therefore, sold in the slave market as a

common slave, and was sent to a Turkish officer called a tymor,

who lived near the Sea of Azov.

The tymor was a very hard master. He stripped off Smith's clothes

and ordered him to put on coarse sheepskins. He next shaved his

head and put an iron ring round his neck, after which he ordered

him to go to work with the rest of his slaves. Smith's life was

now very miserable. He therefore made up his mind to escape as

soon as possible.

His work sometimes took him to a lonely barn on the tymor's

estate, where his business was to thresh out grain with a flail.

One day while he was at this labor the tymor came to the barn. He

was in a very bad humor, and when he saw Smith he began to offer

him every insult. This made the young soldier very angry. He

looked around him. No one was in sight, and he had in his hands

his heavy flail. At last the tymor struck him with his riding

whip, at which John Smith returned a deadly blow with his flail.

The great thing now was to get away, and the young fellow did not

stop long to think. He took off his coarse sheepskins and clothed

himself in the tymor's suit, then he leaped on that officer's

horse and rode off at full gallop. He meant to make his way to

Russia where he was sure that he would be safe; but he did not

know the road.

After wandering about for many days, he came at last to a Russian

fortress. There he was received with the greatest kindness; the

iron ring was struck from his neck, and not long afterward he

went on his way toward England, "drowned in joy," as he said, at

his escape.


Young John Smith soon found that London was no place for a man

like himself. He could not remain idle, and he began to long for

new adventures. He had seen life in Europe and Asia, and now his

thoughts were turned toward America. But little was then known of

that country, and many strange and exciting stories were told

about it. Now and then sailors had visited it; and when they came

back they reported that the earth was full of gold and precious

stones, and that the rivers ran over golden sands.

James I., who was King of England at that time, gave the right to

Sir Thomas Gates and others to form a settlement in the New

World; and in December, 1606, three small vessels set sail for

the shores of America. John Smith was on board one of the

vessels. The ships, with one hundred and five men in them,

crossed the ocean in safety, and reached the West India Islands.

They then sailed northward along the coast of Florida and the

Carolinas, looking for a good harbor.

When they reached the mouth of Chesapeake Bay they were tossed by

a terrible storm' but managed to sail into a harbor without being

wrecked. This was in April, 1607, and some time was spent in

looking for a place to make a settlement. Before them was a broad

river, which was called Powhatan by the Indians, and this they

sailed up, delighted with the beautiful prospect before them.

Some Indians came down to the shore and stared at the ships as

they sailed by, but the settlers went on up the broad current

until they reached a sort of island close to the shore. Here, on

the 13th of May, 1607, the ships cast anchor, and here a

settlement was made, and was called, in honor of the king,

Jamestown. To-day there is nothing to mark the spot, except an

old ruined church.

King James had not told any one the names of the men who were to

rule over the settlement. The paper containing their names was

sealed up in a box which was not to be opened until the ships

reached the end of their voyage. But the time had now come: the

box was opened, and the name of John Smith was found among those

who were to be councilors.

The colonists soon saw that Smith had more sense and energy than

all the rest. He was the real leader. Nobody had any respect for

the councilors, who were a poor set at the best. They passed

their time in eating and drinking and idleness. They had seen

little of the Indians, and very foolishly seemed to care nothing

about them. Besides this, but very little was done toward raising

corn for food. Smith knew that the woods were full of Indians,

and also that the food in the ships would not last always. He,

therefore, set out with a few men to visit the king of the Indian

tribes, who lived some distance farther up the river.

The name of the Indian king was Powhatan, and he ruled over all

the Indians in eastern Virginia. He received Captain Smith with

great show of kindness, and the two talked together by means of

signs; but Smith saw at once that he had a cunning enemy to deal with.

Having finished his visit, Captain Smith and his men rowed back

down the river; but when they reached Jamestown they found that

some Indians had made an attack upon the place. No doubt but

that Powhatan had sent them as soon as he knew that Smith was not

there. One of the settlers had been killed by an arrow, and

several had been wounded. But a cannon shot had been fired from

one of the ships, and as it crashed through the woods the

frightened Indians fled and did not return.


King James had ordered that the country of Virginia should be

explored, and in the fall, Smith, with a few men, set out for

this purpose. As they were rowing up the Chickehominy River some

Indians came down to the bank and made signs of friendship. They

told Smith that if he wanted a smaller boat to go up higher they

would give him one, and also guides to show him the way.

Smith accepted the offer, and the canoe was brought. He got into

it with one of his men and some Indians; and then, ordering the

rest of his men not to leave the big boat nor to go ashore during

his absence, he set off in his canoe to explore the river higher

up. He was hardly out of sight when the men disobeyed him and

went on shore. The Indians attacked them suddenly, driving them

back to the boat, and taking one of them prisoner. Then they

hastened up the river after Smith.

They soon overtook him; for, after going some distance, he had

stopped and landed, and, taking one of the Indian guides with

him, he had set out on foot to look at the country.

He was going through the woods with his guide when a flight of

arrows came from behind some trees, and the Indians rushed upon

him. He was, indeed, in great danger. He fired his gun at the

Indians, and this frightened them so much that he might have

escaped had he not run into a swamp. The ground was so soft that

before he knew it he sank to his waist. The Indians then rushed

quickly upon him and took him prisoner.

Things now seemed hopeless. He was in the hands of his enemies,

and had very little doubt that they would put him to death. He

tried what he could do with their chief. It chanced that he had a

small pocket compass with him, and this he explained to the

chief, and made a present of it to him. By this means he gained

some time, and also the favor of the chief. When, at last, the

warriors bound him to a tree and bent their bows to shoot him,

the chief came forward, waving the compass, and ordered them

to stop.

After this he was carried through many Indian villages, and was

at last led before Powhatan, their king. His case was soon

decided. The Indians hated the whites, and now that they had

their leader in their hands they resolved to put him to death. A

large stone was brought in and Smith's head was laid upon it.

Then, at an order from the king, a tall savage raised a club to

beat out his brains. In a moment the club would have fallen, and

Smith would have died; but a kind Providence watched over him.

An Indian girl, twelve or thirteen years old, sprang toward him.

From her dress, it was plain that she was a princess. The large

feather in her black hair was like that worn by Powhatan, and her

moccasins were embroidered like the old king's. On her arms were

bracelets of shells, and from her shoulders fell a robe of

doeskin, covered with the feathers of birds, and lined with down

from the breasts of wild pigeons.

This girl was Pocahontas, the favorite daughter of the old king.

She was filled with pity for the poor prisoner, and ran and threw

her arms about him, looking up to her father as she did so. The

heavy club did not fall. The blow would have killed Pocahontas,

as Smith's head was clasped to her breast; and Powhatan ordered

that the prisoner's life should be spared. He was, therefore,

unbound, and Powhatan soon showed him that he had nothing to

fear. In a few days he was allowed to go back to Jamestown.

Captain Smith had many other adventures while he was in Virginia,

but at last a painful accident changed all his plans. As he was

rowing down James River one day some powder in his boat took

fire, and he was terribly burned. His clothes were all in flames,

and he jumped into the water in order to put out the fire. But he

was so overcome by the pain that he could not swim, and he was

almost drowned before his men could help him back into the boat.

There was no surgeon in Jamestown to dress his wounds, and he

made up his mind to go to England and find one. A ship was about

ready to sail, and he at once took passage for home.

That was the last that was seen of John Smith in Virginia. He had

come over in the spring of 1607, and he went back in the autumn

of 1609. It seems a very short time--not three years in all; but

in this time he had laid, broad and deep, the foundations of the

Commonwealth of Virginia.

--From "Stories of the Old Dominion."


Venison, the flesh of deer.

Ducats, gold coins worth nearly seven dollars each.

Tymor, a Turkish officer.

Flail, a wooden club used for beating out grains


On the map trace John Smith's various journeys in Europe.

Find England, Holland, the English Channel, France, Marseilles, the Mediterranean Sea, Rome, Nice, Egypt, Austria, Transylvania, Turkey, Constantinople, Sea of Azov, Russia, Paris, Spain, London.

Trace the course of John Smith's first voyage to America.

Find the West Indies, Florida, the Carolinas, Chesapeake Bay, James River, Chickahominy River.



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