The Pot-herb That Sailed With The Pilgrims
from Things To See In Springtime
"Come," said the Guide, "to-day I am going to show you a Pot-herb that came from England with the Pilgrim Fathers and spread over the whole of America. There is a story about it that will keep it ever in your memory."
The Pilgrim's Pot-herb
The Pilgrims had landed in Massachusetts, and slowly made farms for themselves as they cleared off the forest. They had a very hard time at first, but the Indians helped them; sometimes with gifts of venison, and sometimes by showing them which things in the woods were good to eat.
There was a Squaw named Monapini, "the Root-digger," who was very clever at finding forest foods. She became friendly with a white woman named Ruth Pilgrim, and so Ruth's family got the benefit of it, and always had on the table many good things that came from the woods.
One day, long after the farms were cleared and doing well, the white woman said, "See, Mother Monapini, thou hast shown me many things, now I have somewhat to show thee. There hath grown up in our wheat field a small herb that must have come from England with the wheat, for hitherto I have not seen it elsewhere. We call it lamb's-quarter, for the lamb doth eat it by choice. Or maybe because we do eat it with a quarter of lamb. Nevertheless it maketh a good pot-herb when boiled."
The old Indian woman's eyes were fixed on the new plant that was good to eat: and she said, "Is it very good, oh white sister?"
"Yes, and our medicine men do say that it driveth out the poison that maketh itch and spots on the skin." After a moment Monapini said, "It looketh to me like the foot of a wild goose."
"Well found," chuckled Ruth, "for sometimes our people do call it by that very name."
"That tells me different," said the Indian.
"What mean you," said Ruth.
"Is not a goose foot very strong, so it never catcheth cold in the icy water?"
"And this hath the shape of a goose foot?"
"Then my Shaman tells that it is by such likeness that the Great Spirit showeth the goose foot plant to be charged with the driving out of colds."
"It may be so," said the white woman, "but this I know. It is very good and helpeth the whole body."
The Indian picked a handful of the pot-herbs, then stared hard at the last; a very tall and strong one.
"What hast thou now, Monapini?" The red woman pointed to the stem of the lamb's-quarter, whereon were long red streaks, and said: "This I see, that, even as the white-man's herb came over the sea and was harmless and clean while it was weak, but grew strong and possessed this field, then was streaked to midheight with blood, so also shall they be who brought it—streaked at last to the very waist with blood—not the white men's but the dark purple blood of the Indian. This the voices tell me is in the coming years, that this is what we shall get again for helping you—destruction in return for kindness. Mine inner eyes have seen it." She threw down the new pot-herb and glided away, to be seen no more in the settlements of the white men.
And Ruth, as she gazed after her, knew that it was true. Had she not heard her people talking and planning? For even as the weed seed came with the wheat, so evil spirits came with the God-fearing Pilgrims, and already these were planning to put the heathens to the sword, when the Colony was strong enough.
So the Indian woman read the truth in the little pot-herb that sailed and landed with the Pilgrims; that stands in our fields to this day, streaked with the blood of the passing race—standing, a thing of remembrance.
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