Sarah Orne Jewett

York Garrison, 1640

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The long hill slope, the river's course,
The high tide sleeping there—
I see them all in sunshine soft;
September days are fair.

The wild birds sing in Brixham woods,
Far off the sea waves call;
In Scotland garrison but one
Keeps watch and ward for all.

One woman at her spinning stands
There in the lookout high,
Now glances at the woodland's edge,
And now spins busily.

She bends to touch the whirling wheel,
Or mend the thread that flies,
Then wakes from sweet day-dreams of home
And seeks with eager eyes

Her own and only little child,
Lest she should stray too far
From where the captain and his men
Out in the clearing are.

There steadily the brave men work,
Nor sigh for what they miss;
A memory of English farms
Would shame a wild like this.


All unafraid of Indian foes,
Forgetting, every one,
The stories told to frighten her,
Is Polly Masterson.

There, by the brook, such lovely flowers
Have bloomed to make her glad,
Such scarlet splendors tall and gay
Old England never had!

Her prim Dutch doll is in her arms,
And Polly hums a tune
To match the brook that leads her on
This pleasant afternoon.

The mother, busy at her wheel,
The father at his plough,
Forget to keep her safe in sight,
Nor dream of dangers now.

Yet suddenly a piercing call
And all the work is done.
"Come in! come in!" the watcher cries,
"Quick! to the garrison!"

Only one word the farmers need;
With beating hearts they climb
The hill, and reach the open door
And shut it just in time.

Out from the woods the Indians steal
Like tigers lithe and strong.
A merciless and awful cry
Rings out and echoes long.

"All safe, thank God!" says Masterson,
"Now let the siege begin—
Our walls are strong." Then wails his wife,
"Did you bring Polly in?"

A sudden silence in the fort;
A fearful hum without—
And by the brook the scarlet flowers
That tempted Polly out.


She hears the crackling of the boughs;
Strange whispers come and go;
Oh, Polly Masterson, run quick!
Your little feet are slow!

Alas, she hears the savage cry.
Where has her father gone?
He cannot have forgotten her,
His Polly Masterson.

She hurries by the scarlet flowers,
She holds her dolly fast,
She sees the crested, snake-like heads—
The danger knows at last.

The Indians! oh the woods are full
Of dreadful shapes of men!
Across the open field can she
Get safely home again?

They see her come, the little girl.
Alas, she trips and falls!
Oh anxious faces looking down
From the stockaded walls!

They fear to see her captured now
Before their very eyes—
The awful march to Canada
Brings fearful memories.

The father turns away his face,
He prays to God aloud.
The mother stands as still as stone
To watch the savage crowd.

For just beyond, so short, so small,
The breathless Polly tries
To hurry to the fast-barred gate
And "Father! Father!" cries!

Who can go out? The strong men look,
But cannot speak; they know
That certain death is his who dares
To meet the foes below.

And no one fires a gun; they stand
And watch the little child,
They hear her voice so faint and shrill,
They see her apron, piled

With posies, and her arm still holds
The dolly safe and fast.
There! there she is! The Indians see,
They laugh as she runs past.

They must not murder Polly where
An hour ago she played!
Oh will they drag her to the North
A wretched captive maid?

What blessed mercy sudden shone
And covered many a sin!
The Indians shouted merrily
And Polly safe went in.

No tomahawks were thrown at her
And no one gave her chase;
Perhaps it touched their savage hearts—
That frightened little face!

The story seems for those dark times
A gleam of sunshine bright;
I hope they called the Indians friends
And gave them food that night.

But one thing I am sure about
(And then my story's done)—
That all the women and the men
Hugged Polly Masterson!

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Sarah Orne Jewett