He studied the Sagamores further and thought. I know the Indian mind so well, and how to deal with them. He ceased his study and rubbed his forehead. Beware the barrister so full of his bounty, for he will yield nothing. Hoare moved back to his limp satchel. But I will not fail.
When Hoare arrived two days earlier, the satchel had teemed with ransom for Mary’s release. Such a welcoming; gunshots whistled under his horse, accompanied by ear curdling whoops and eye shocking gestures. Hoare thought then the offer of negotiations was but a ruse. But if it had been, he would be dead and the entire ransom would be gone. No, the welcoming was just the opening salvo. But Mary, upon hearing the commotion, must have believed her hope of release had been snuffed out before the negotiations started.
Most of the ransom, tobacco, trading cloth and twenty shillings, had been stolen in the night. Hoare wondered again if it was a ruse, or just an Indian custom of immediately enjoying the rewards of negotiation. The Sagamores were still discussing among themselves, a few utterances were decipherable, but reading expressions was useless. The only certainty was there wasn’t unanimity. Mary’s captor would hold the most sway, and he had to be convinced to release her.
Her captor had dressed for the feast the night before in a Holland shirt with silvery buttons and white stockings. Shillings jangled from his garters and wampum rattled from his chest as he danced in the night. His squaw danced, too, in a kersey coat, red stocking, and wampum girdles from the loin up, with jingling bracelets and swaying necklaces. The Indians drummed on kettles throughout the night to sustain the frivolity.
Now as twilight moved in, Hoare slipped his hand into his satchel. He pushed aside a protecting cloth and fumbled for the feel of glass. It was his last hope. He looked back to the Sagamores, who were in animated discussion. He glanced skyward and thought. Am I Daniel in the lion’s den? Is it thy providence for an angel to shut these savages’ hungry mouths or will they devour me once they’ve tasted Satan’s evil? He slipped a glass flask into his waistcoat and was led to the wigwam of Mary Rowlandson’s captor.
As he entered, her captor arose and stood, unsmiling and seemingly still fatigued from the night before. Hoare offered him the spirits as negotiated earlier. He gulped and then shuddered. “Thou art a good man, John Hoare,” he said. His good English dialect, which he had previously learned from missionaries before leaving them, was still prevalent. He sat on the ground and motioned for Hoare to do likewise.
Hoare’s rheumatism had returned during the ride from Concord, so sitting, ankles crossed, would be difficult. But not to comply might foil the negotiations. He struggled to the ground, pulled his ankles together, and splayed his legs. The intermittent gulping continued, and Hoare’s doubts increased with each swig. The quiet was unnerving and finally Hoare broke it. “Where is Reverend Joseph Rowlandson’s Goodwife?”
Mary’s captor raised the flask, and Hoare hoped it meant in due time. Hoare’s Indian escorts had assured him Mary would be released if he offered alcohol to him. He trusted them, but the gulps were now savoring sips. Were the spirits taking hold? thought Hoare. “I demand to see Mary Rowlandson, before thee take another swig,” he said.
“Thou art a rogue, John Hoare,” and the Indian eased the flask to his lips. He licked the rim and sipped. His head lunged forward, and Hoare recoiled. Several more menacing gestures came, followed by a laugh and another sip. As the Indian muttered, Hoare waited with the patience of Job. “Thou should be hanged John Hoare. Thou art a rogue.”
Hoare wrung his hands and shifted his bottom to ease his knotting leg muscles. The flask was emptying, and once gone, indeed, maybe he would be hanged. The Indian’s muttering turned to shouts in his native tongue. As his rant continued, Mary and his squaw entered the wigwam. The pint was pointed in Mary’s direction, and the Indian’s words slurred forth. “Thou hast served me and my squaw well. Thou art a good woman.”
Mary stood trembling and turned to Hoare. She wanted a nod or any sign of assurance from him. But Hoare had none to give as he was as uncertain as her. Mary’s captor continued to talk, now with civility, and her trembling eased. After another sip, his squaw spun away and left the wigwam. Mary’s captor struggled while arising. He steadied his teetering and weaved out of the wigwam. Mary and John remained quiet, listening to the commotion from outside, occasionally looking to one another and allowing their facial expressions to be their communication.
The commotion ended, and Mary said, “Ye spirits have certainly had an effect.”
“Ye spirits were given in good faith,” said Hoare.
“I know, but there are so many to please; King Philip, the Sagamores, my master, my mistress. I sold the tobacco you brought to please Philip.”
“My satchel is nearly bare. Thy ransom hath all but been consumed. I know not what comes with the morn.”
“As with every morn, John Hoare, Esquire, God’s divine providence will come.”
“Thy words are apt. They could only have been spoken by the Goodwife of an honored Reverend.”
Hoare and Mary spent the rest of the night wondering if their ordeal would end.
The next morning, Hoare’s Indian escorts came with two horses. John Hoare’s most difficult negotiation of his life had been successful. Two English people rode through the wilderness and reached Lancaster by sundown. Mary’s infant child had died while in captivity, and her two older children had been separated from her. Lancaster, which lay deep in the wilderness, and where her husband came to be its first Reverend, was now an unoccupied rumble of ashes – more of God’s divine providence. Mary’s one consolation was her husband had been in Boston when the attack occurred eleven weeks earlier.
As news of Mary Rowlandson’s rescue swept across the Colonies, a sense of triumph came to Concord. For Lydia Law, who had lived Mary’s ordeal, it was liberation from her self-imposed anguish. John Law now was re-energized and undertook his annual spring chores readily. His sons sensed their parents’ optimism and renewed enthusiasm, and their outlook changed too. Stephen’s nightmares ended, and John Junior no longer had to pretend to be a brave older brother.