I've mentioned before that I am attempting to write this saga in "real time", matching my postings with the calendar and time lines as described in historical documentation of the events.
To ease the fear that you might die of old age before this story concludes, let me just say "we're getting there." And if you had been paying attention to my calendar for March, you would already know the answer of when this story concludes!
Today's episode is about torture. I will be careful not to delve into the deep details about torture, because I find my mind and feelings are too easily injured whenever I read about violence. It literally sickens me. I will leave graphic description to writer's with a less tender heart.
"During the long journey Hannah was secretly planning to escape at the first opportunity, spurred by the tales with which the Indians had entertained the captives on the march, picturing how they would be treated after arriving in Canada, stripped and made to "run the gauntlet"; jeered at and beaten and made targets for the young Indians' tomahawks; how many of the English prisoners had fainted under these tortures; and how they were often sold as slaves to the French.
These stories added to her desire for revenging the death of her baby and the cruel treatment of their captors while on the march, made this desire stronger."
(from The Duston-Dustin Family: Thomas and Elizabeth (Wheeler) Duston and their descendants.)
Odd how little phases pop up in one's casual conversation.
Have you ever said, referring perhaps to Christmas shopping expedition or greeting people at an event, or facing a critical group of people:
"I had to run the gauntlet?"
The phrase now is almost comic, and college fraternities routinely haze new members via "running the gauntlet" past paddle wielding fraternity "brothers."
It's nice to think we as society have come so far as to be able to hear the term without wincing.
Or getting absolutely ill.
Now days, gauntlet running as faced by Hannah strikes us an unthinkable torture that would indicate a truly sick mind. But because we don't have to confront the true meaning via a real person beaten and hacked to a bloody pulp, we can toss the term lightly into any conversation to convey the idea that we had run into some opposition to whatever we had planned.
"Running the gauntlet" was a very real punishment among Roman soldiers, French and German military groups, and the Native American Indians of the Northeastern region.
It was routinely used on captives and others who came to be in the midst of Indians.
Daniel Boone was forced to run the gauntlet, as were most English people whose stories are told in Captive Narratives. A lot of stories we will never know; gauntlet running generally lead to death, either directly from the blows and gashes, or from the resulting infections that would fester and take a life in a horrible drawn out misery.
In my mind (or as some people have called "my over active imagination") I picture Hannah and Mary sitting around the campfire after a long day's trek through snow and muck, and the Indians turning to them and describing the last "fun" gauntlet run that they had attended.
If my imagination could be true, Hannah probably would have been pleased as punch just to be by the fire, and she would not care what the Indians were saying, because at least she would have been warm and had a shot at the food that was on the fire cooking.
Captives usually didn't get to be near the fire, and definitely not near the food that was cooking there.
More likely she was set aside outside the wigwam, and the Indians would be jeering her with more and more elaborate gruesome details of the gauntlet run that was scheduled to occur in her near future.
Reading the retelling of Hannah's story at various times in history is interesting.
Funny how society and cultural focus shifts.
The original telling in the late 1600's focused on the cruelty of the Indians, the means of striking and hitting, and how people died as a result of this treatment.
By the mid-1800s, the retelling focuses on Hannah recoiling from the idea that she would be stripped naked, and her fretting about her possible loss of modesty.
Oh please. Those Victorians...talk about majoring on the minors!
Excuse me while I laugh; I think that Victorian version is hilarious.
I suppose I should re-write Hannah's story for the early 2000's so she can lament her post partum abdominal sag, and stretch marks, and how she quickly began doing sit ups to tighten her buns and her abs, and rubbed a holistic herbal cream on the stretch marks to make them fade away.
I could write something like;
"Carrying each of her twelve precious babies had created those stretch marks, and while she knew as a woman the marks were "a badge of honor", she worried that Thomas would no longer think that she was pretty. She worried what the Indians would think. Reaching for the cream, she rubbed her stretch marks harder."
(Sorry if you are eating while you are reading this. All together now: "Barf!")
At work on Wednesday my co-worker shoved an article at me and suggested I read it, even though it began in a revolting manner.
She was right, it did begin in a horrifying manner describing how in past centuries people would gather for the opportunity to watch the sporting event known as burning cats alive. My co-worker is also a cat person, so I was shocked that she had offered this gut wrenching writing to me.
"Just keep reading" she said evenly.
The rest of the article (and really I did mean to get the citation) concerned the examination of violence in society through the ages. Using various sociological tools as measurements, the article announced that we have reason to rejoice; the times in which we now live are actually the most non-violent time ever in history.
The article went on to explore three historical philosopher's opinion on how a society becomes less and less violent. I think Payne and Locke were two philosophers whose thinking was suggested as explanation for the decrease.
When I stopped to think about it, it is true. There surely is violence still today, but most of our modern societies shun organized violence. Except for soccer, football, and ice hockey of course.
In Hannah's time, violence was all around her. She had watched her baby and her neighbors die in a manner of violence that seems unspeakable.
Hannah knew about violence. Violence was a reality, and that reality was about to encroach on her own flesh.
She made her plan. The gauntlet was not for her. Somehow, she decided, before they reached Canada, she would make her escape.