GREAT DAYS IN AMERICAN HISTORY SERIES
DAYS OF THE DISCOVERERS
Author of "In the Days of the Guild", "Masters of the Guild", etc.
FLORENCE CHOATE and ELIZABETH CURTIS
NEW YORK FREDERICK A. STOKES COMPANY PUBLISHERS
Copyright, 1921, by
FREDERICK A. STOKES COMPANY
All rights reserved, including that of translation into foreign languages
Made in the United States of America
Upon the road to Faerie, O there are many sights to see,— Small woodland folk may one discern Housekeeping under leaf and fern, And little tunnels in the grass Where caravans of goblins pass, And airy corsair-craft that float On wings transparent as a mote,— All sorts of curious things can be Upon the road to Faerie!
Along the wharves of Faerie— There all the winds of Christendie Are musical with hawk-bell chimes, Carillons rung to minstrels' rimes, And silver trumpets bravely blown From argosies of lands unknown, And the great war-drum's wakening roll— The reveille of heart and soul— For news of all the ageless sea Comes to the quays of Faerie!
Across the fields to Faerie There is no lack of company,— The world is real, the world is wide, But there be many things beside. Who once has known that crystal spring Shall not lose heart for anything. The blessing of a faery wife Is love to sweeten all your life. To find the truth whatever it be— That is the luck of Faerie!
Above the gates of Faerie There bends a wild witch-hazel tree. The fairies know its elfin powers. They wove a garland of the flowers, And on a misty autumn day They crowned their queen—and ran away! And by that gift they made you free Of all the roads of Faerie!
PAGE To Foresta v
I ASGARD THE BEAUTIFUL (1348) 1 The Viking's Secret 17
II THE RUNES OF THE WIND-WIFE (1364) 18 The Navigators (1415-1460) 34
III SEA OF DARKNESS (1475) 35 Sunset Song 48
IV PEDRO AND HIS ADMIRAL (1492) 50 The Queen's Prayer 65
V THE MAN WHO COULD NOT DIE (1493-1494) 66 The Escape 80
VI LOCKED HARBORS (1497) 81 Gray Sails 93
VII LITTLE VENICE (1500) 94 The Gold Road 104
VIII THE DOG WITH TWO MASTERS (1512) 105 Cold o' the Moon (1519) 117
IX WAMPUM TOWN (1508-1524) 121 The Drum 133
X THE GODS OF TAXMAR (1512-1519) 134 The Legend of Malinche 148
XI THE THUNDER BIRDS (1519-1520) 150 Moccasin Flower 165
XII GIFTS FROM NORUMBEGA (1533-1535) 167 The Mustangs 181
XIII THE WHITE MEDICINE MAN (1528-1536) 182 Lone Bayou (1542) 195
XIV THE FACE OF THE TERROR (1564) 197 The Destroyers 214
XV THE FLEECE OF GOLD (1561-1577) 215 A Watch-dog of England (1583) 237
XVI LORDS OF ROANOKE (1584) 238 The Changelings 250
XVII THE GARDENS OF HELENE (1607-1609) 252 The Wooden Shoe 269
XVIII THE FIRES THAT TALKED (1610) 270 Imperialism 282
XIX ADMIRAL OF NEW ENGLAND (1600-1614) 284 The Discoverers 299
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
"'I will tell you where there is plenty of it'" (in color) Frontispiece
"'And Freya came from Asgard in her chariot drawn by two cats'" (in color) 4
"Nils marked out an inscription in Runic letters" 30
"The miniature globe took form as the children watched, fascinated" 44
"He proposed that Caonaba should put on the gift the Spanish captain had brought" 78
"A sapling, bent down, was attached to a noose ingeniously hidden" 86
"The natives seemed prepared to traffic in all peace and friendliness" (in color) 132
"Cortes flung about his shoulders his own cloak" 146
"Moteczuma awaited them in the courtyard" (in color) 162
"Cartier read from his service-book" 176
"The creatures darkened the plain almost as far as the eye could see" 190
"'Gentlemen, whence does this fleet come?'" 204
"Drake was silent, fingering the slender Milanese poniard" 226
"If he had to wear her fetters, they should at least be golden" 244
"The Grand Master of the day entered the dining hall" 266
DAYS OF THE DISCOVERERS
ASGARD THE BEAUTIFUL
A red fox ran into the empty church. In the middle of the floor he sat up and looked around. Nothing stirred—not the painted figures on the wooden walls, nor the boy who now stood in the doorway. This boy was gray-eyed and flaxen-haired, and might have been eleven or twelve years old. He was looking for the good old priest, Father Ansgar, and the wild shy animal eyeing him from the foot of the altar made it only too clear that the church, like the village, was deserted.
Father Ansgar was dead of the strange swift pestilence that was called in 1348 the Black Death. So also were the sexton, the cooper, the shoemaker, and almost all the people of the valley. A ship had come into Bergen with the plague on board, and it spread through Norway like a grass-fire. Only last week Thorolf Erlandsson had had a father and mother, a grandmother, two younger sisters and a brother. Now he was alone. In the night the dairy woman and the plowmen at Ormgard farm had run away. Other farms and houses were already closed and silent, or plundered and burned. Ormgard being remote had at first escaped the sickness.
Thorolf turned away from the church door and began to climb the mountain. At the lane leading to his home he did not stop, but kept on into the woods. It was not so lonely there.
Up and up he climbed, the thrilling scent of fir-balsam in his nostrils, the small friendly noises of the forest all about him. Only a few months ago he had come down this very road with his father, driving the cattle and goats home from the summer pasture. All the other farmers were doing the same, and the clear notes of the lure, the long curving horn, used for calling the cattle and signaling across valleys, soared from slope to slope. There was laughter and shouting and joking all the way down. Now the only persons abroad seemed to be thieving ruffians whose greed for plunder was more than their fear of the plague.
A thought came to the boy. How could he leave his father's cattle unfed and uncared for? What if he were to drive the cows himself to the saeter and tend them through the summer? He faced about, resolutely, and began to descend the hill.
Within sight of the familiar roofs he heard some one coming from the village, on horseback. It proved to be Nils the son of Magnus the son of Nils who was called the Bear-Slayer, with a sack of grain and a pair of saddlebags on a sedate brown pony. Nils was lame of one foot and no taller than a boy of nine, although he was thirteen this month and his head was nearly as large as a man's. He had been an orphan from baby-hood, and for the last three years had lived in the priest's house learning to be a clerk.
"Hoh!" called Nils, "where are you going?"
"To the farm to get our cattle and take them to the saeter. There is no one left to do it but me."
"Cattle?" queried the other interestedly, "She will be glad of that."
"She!" said Thorolf, "who?"
"The Wind-wife—Mother Elle, who used to sell wind to the sailors—the Finnish woman from Stavanger. She has gathered up a lot of children who have no one to look after them and is leading them into the mountains. She has Nikolina Sven's daughter Larsson, and Olof and Anders Amundson, and half a score of younger ones from different villages. She says that if it is God's will for the plague to come to the saeter it will come, but it is not there now, and it is in the valleys and the towns. She has gone on with the small ones who cannot walk fast, and left Olof and Anders and me to bring along the ponies with the loads. I'll help you drive your beasts."
Without trouble the lads got the animals out of the byres and headed them up the road. Norway is so sharply divided by precipitous mountain ranges and deeply-penetrating fiords, that it may be but a few miles from a farm near sea level to the high grassy pastures three or four thousand feet above it where the cattle are pastured in summer. The saeter maidens live there in their cottages from June to September, making butter and cheese, tending the herds and doing such other work as they can. The saeter belonging to Ormgard and its neighbors was the one chosen by Mother Elle as a refuge for her flock.
The forest of magnificent firs through which the road passed presently grew less somber, beginning to be streaked with white birches whose bright leaves twinkled in the sun. Then it reached the height at which evergreens cease to grow. The birches were shorter and sparser, and through the thinning woodland appeared glimpses of a treeless pasture dotted with scrubby low bushes and clumps of rushes. A glint of clear green water betrayed a small lake in a dip of the hills. And now were heard sounds most unusual in that lonely place, the high sweet voices of children.
Birch trees, little trees, dwarfed by sharp winds and poor soil, encircled a level space perhaps ten feet across, carpeted with new soft grass, reindeer moss and cupped lichens. Here sat seven or eight children eagerly listening to a story told by an older child as she divided the ration of fladbrod, wild strawberries from a small basket of birchbark, and brown goat's-milk cheese.
"And Freya came from Asgard in her chariot drawn by two cats—"
Nikolina the daughter of Sven Larsson of the Trolle farm was known through all the valley, not only as the sole child of its richest farmer, but for the bright blonde hair that covered her shoulders with its soft abundance and hung to her waist. Her father would not have it cut or braided or even covered save by such a little embroidered cap as she wore now. Her scarlet bodice, and blue-black skirt bordered with bright woven bands, were of the finest wool; the full-sleeved white linen under-dress had been spun and woven and embroidered by skilful and loving fingers. Nikolina had lost the roof from over her head, and a great deal more than that. Now she was giving her whole mind to the little ones of all ages from four to eight, crowding close about her.
"Hi!" called Nils, "where is Mother Elle? See what Thorolf and I have got!"
The children scrambled to their feet and gazed with round eyes, their small hungry teeth munching their morsels of hard bread. Nikolina plucked a bunch of grass for Snow, the foremost cow, and patted her as she ate it.
"The little ones were so tired and hungry," she said, "that Mother Elle said they might have their supper now, while she and Olof and Anders went on to the saeter. This is wonderful! She was saying only this morning that she feared all the cattle were dead or stolen."
Within an hour they came in sight of the log huts with turf-covered roofs that sloped almost to the ground in the rear. A broad plain stretched away beyond, and the new grass was of that vivid green to be found in places which deep snow makes pure. Hills enclosed it, and beyond, a gleaming network of lake and stream ended in range above range of blue and silver peaks. The clear invigorating air was like some unearthly wine. The cows at the scent of fresh pasture moved more briskly; the pony tossed his head and whinnied. Not far from the cottages there came to meet them a little old woman, dark and wiry, with bright searching eyes. Her face was wrinkled all over in fine soft lines, but her hair was hardly gray at all. She wore a pointed hood and girdled tunic of tanned reindeer hide, with leggings and shoes of the same. A blanket about her shoulders was draped into a kind of pouch, in which she carried on her back a tow-headed, solemn-eyed baby.
"Welcome to you, Thorolf Erlandsson," she said, just as if she had been expecting him. "With this good milk we shall fare like the King."
No king, truly, could have supped on food more delicious than that enjoyed by Nils and Thorolf on this first night in the saeter. It is strange but true that the most exquisite delights are those that money cannot buy. No man can taste cold spring water and barley bread in absolute perfection who has not paid the poor man's price—hard work and keen hunger.
When Nikolina, Karen and Lovisa came up with the smaller children the place had already an inhabited, homelike look. There was even a wise old raven, almost as large as a gander, whom Nils had christened Munin, after Odin's bird. The little ones had all the new milk they could drink from their wooden bowls, and were put to bed in the movable wooden bed-places, on beds of hay covered with sheepskins and blankets. All were asleep before dark, for at that season the night lasted only two or three hours. The last thing that Thorolf heard was a happy little pipe from the five-year-old Ellida,—
"Now we shall live in Asgard forever and ever."
For all it had to do with the experience of many of the children the saeter might really have been Asgard, the Norse paradise. The youngest had never before been outside the narrow valley where they were born. Ellida and Margit, Didrik and little Peder, could not be convinced that they were anywhere but in Asgard the Blest.
Norway had long since become Christian, but the old faith was not forgotten. The legends, songs and customs of the people were full of it. In the sagas Asgard was described as being on a mountain at the top of the world. Around the base of this mountain lay Midgard, the abode of mankind. Beyond the great seas, in Utgard, the giants lived. Hel was the under-world, the home of evil ghosts and spirits. Tales were told in the long winter evenings, of Baldur the god of spring, Loki the crafty, Odin the old one-eyed beggar in a hooded cloak, with his two ravens and his two tame wolves, Freya the lovely lady of flowers, Elle-folk dancing in the moonlight, and little rascally Trolls.
The songs and legends repeated by the old people or chanted by minstrels or skalds were more than idle stories—they were the history of a race. Children heard over and over again the family records telling in rude rhyme the story of centuries. In distant Iceland, Greenland, the Shetlands, the Faroes or the Orkneys, a Norseman could tell exactly what might be his udall right, or right of inheritance, in the land of his fathers.
On Nils and Thorolf, Anders, Olof, Nikolina, Karen and Lovisa, who were all over ten years old, rested great responsibility. Mother Elle always managed to solve her own problems and expected them to attend to theirs without constant direction from her. She told them what there was to be done and left them to attend to it.
All were hardy, active youngsters who took to fending for themselves as naturally as a day-old chick takes to scratching. In ordinary seasons the work at the saeter was heavy, for the maidens must not only follow the herds over miles of pasture land, but make butter and cheese for the winter from their milking. The few cows that were here now could be tethered near by; the milk, when the children had had all they wanted, was mostly used in soups, pudding or groet (porridge). A net or weir stretched across the outlet of the lake would fill with fish overnight. The streams were full of trout. Mother Elle knew how to make fish-hooks of bone, bows and arrows, ropes, and baskets of bark, how to weave osiers, how to cure bruises and cuts, how to trap the wild hares, grouse and plover and cook them over an open fire. The children found plover's eggs and the eggs of other wild fowl. They raised pulse, leeks, onions and turnips in a little garden patch. They gathered strawberries, cranberries, crowberries, wild currants, black and red, the cloudberry and the delicious arctic raspberry which tastes of pineapple. Some stores of salt and grain were already at the saeter and the grain-fields had been sowed, before the pestilence appeared in the valley.
In the long summer days of these northern mountains, one has the feeling that they will never end, that life must go on in an infinite succession of still, sunshiny, fragrant hours, filled with the songs of birds, the chirr of insects and the distant lowing of cattle. There is time for everything. At night comes dreamless slumber, and the morning is like a birth into new life.
There was a great deal of singing and story-telling at odd times. A group of children making mats or baskets, gathering pease or going after berries would beg Nils or Nikolina to tell a story, or Karen would lead them in some old song with a familiar refrain. But some of the songs the Wind-wife crooned to the baby were not like any the children had heard. They were not even in Norwegian.
Thorolf was a silent lad, who would rather listen than talk, and hated asking questions. But one day, when he and Nikolina were hunting wild raspberries, he asked her if she thought Mother Elle meant to stay in the mountains through the winter. Nikolina did not know.
"'Tis well to be wise but not too wise, 'Tis well that to-morrow is hid from our eyes, For in forward-looking forebodings rise,"
she added quaintly. "I have heard her say that it is colder in Greenland than it is here."
"Has she been in Greenland?"
"Her father and mother were on the way there when she was little, and the ship was wrecked somewhere on the coast. The Skroelings found her and took her to live in their country. That is how she learned so much about trees and herbs, and how to make bows and arrows and moccasins."
"The little shoes she made for Ellida. And she made a little boat for Peder, like their skiffs."
This was interesting. For a private reason, Thorolf held Greenland to be the most fascinating of all places.
"Can she speak their language?"
"Of course. I asked her to teach me, and she said that perhaps she would some day. The songs that she sings to the little ones are some that the Skroeling woman who adopted her used to sing to her when she cried for her own mother. One of them begins like this:
"'Piche Klooskap pechian Machieswi menikok.'"
"What does it mean?"
"'Long ago Klooskap came to the island of the partridges.' Klooskap was like Odin, or Thor. The priests in Greenland told her he was a devil and wouldn't let her talk about him, but the Skroelings had runes for everything just like the people in the sagas,—runes for war, and healing, and the sea."
"How did she ever get away?"
"Some men came from Westbyrg to cut wood in the forest, and when they saw that she was not really a Skroeling they bought her for an iron pot and one of them married her. But he was drowned a long time ago."
"I wish I knew the Skroelings' language. Some day I mean to go to Greenland."
"Perhaps Mother Elle will teach you. I'll ask her."
The Wind-wife was rather chary of information about the country of the Skroelings until Nikolina's coaxing and Thorolf's silent but intense interest had taken effect. The country, she said, was rather like Norway, with mountains and great forests, lakes and streams, but far colder. There were no fiords, and no cities. The people lived in tents made of poles covered with bark, or hides. They dressed in the hides of wild animals and lived by hunting and fishing. They had no reindeer, horses, cattle, sheep or goats, no fowls, no pigs. They could not work iron, nor did they spin or weave. The man and woman who had adopted her treated her just like their own child.
The stories she had learned from these people were intensely interesting to her listeners. There was one about a battle between the wasps and the squirrels, and another about the beaver who wanted wings. One was about a girl who was married to the Spirit of the Mountain and had a son beautiful and straight and like any other boy except that he had stone eyebrows. Then there was the tale about Klooskap tying up the White Eagle of the Wind so that he could not flap his wings. After a short time everything was so dirty and ill-smelling and unhealthy that Klooskap had to go back and untie one wing, and let the wind blow to clear the air and make the earth once more wholesome.
Wild apples fell, grain ripened, nights lengthened. Long ago the twin-flower, violet, wild pansy, forget-me-not and yellow anemone had left their fairy haunts, and there remained only the curving fantastic fronds of the fern,—the dragon-grass. Then had come brilliant spots and splashes of color on the summer slopes—purple butterwort, golden ragweed, aconite, buttercup, deep crimson mossy patches of saxifrage, rosy heather, catchfly, wild geranium, cinnamon rose. These also finished their triumphal procession and went to their Valhalla. Then one September morning the children woke to hear the wind screaming as if the White Eagle had escaped his prison, and the rain pelting the world.
All summer they had been out, rain or shine, like water-ouzels, but now they were glad to sit about the fire with the shutters all closed, and the smoke now and then driven down into the room by the storm. Before evening the little ones were begging for stories.
"I wish I could remember a saga I heard last Yule," Nikolina said at last. "It was about a voyage the Vikings made to a country where the people had never seen cattle. When they heard the cattle bellowing they all ran away and left the furs they had come to sell."
"Tell all you remember and make up the rest," suggested Karen, but Nikolina shook her head.
"One should never do that with a saga."
"I know that tale," spoke up Thorolf suddenly, although he had never in his life repeated a saga. "Grandmother used to tell it. In the beginning Bjarni Heriulfson the sea-rover, after many years came home to Iceland to drink wassail in his father's house. But strangers dwelt there and told him that his father was gone to Greenland, and he set sail for that land. Soon was the ship swallowed up in a gray mist in which were neither sun nor stars. They sailed many days they knew not where, but suddenly the fog lifted and the sun revealed to them a coast of low hills covered with forest. By this Bjarni thought that it was not Greenland but some southerly coast. Therefore turned he northward and sailed many days before he sighted the mountains of Greenland and his father's house.
"Years afterward returned Bjarni to Iceland, and in his telling of that voyage it came to the ears of Leif Ericsson, who asked him many questions about the land he had seen. There grew no trees in Iceland or Greenland, fit for house-timber, and Leif was minded to find out this place of great forests. Thus it came that Leif sailed from Brattahlid in Greenland with five and thirty men in a long ship upon a journey of discovery.
"First came they to a barren land covered with big flat stones, and this Leif named Helluland, the slate land. Southward sailed he for many days until he saw a coast covered with wooded hills, and there he landed, calling it Markland, the land of woods. Then southward again they bore and came to a place where a river flowed out of a lake and fell into the sea. The country was pleasant, with good fishing. Leif said that they would spend the winter there, and they built wooden cabins well-made and warm.
"Then at the season when the leaves are blood-red and bright gold came in from the woods Thorkel the German, smacking his lips and making strange faces and jabbering in his own language. When they asked what ailed him he said that he had found vines loaded with grapes, and having seen none since he left his own country, which was a land of vineyards, he was out of his senses with delight. Therefore was that country named Vinland the Fair. In the spring went Leif home, well pleased, with a cargo of timber, but his father being dead he voyaged no more to Vinland, but remained to be head of his house.
"Next went Thorvald, Leif's brother, to Vinland and stayed two winters in the booths that Leif built, until he was slain in a fight with the men of that land. His men buried him there and returned sorrowfully to their own land.
"Next went Thorestein, Leif's second brother, forth, with Gudrid his wife, to get the body of Thorvald but he died on the voyage and his widow returned to Brattahlid.
"Next came to Brattahlid Thorfin Karlsefne, the Viking from Iceland, who loved and married Gudrid and from her heard the story of Vinland, and desired it for his own. In good time went he forth in a long ship with his wife, and there went with him three other valiant ships. They had altogether one hundred and sixty men and five women, with cattle, grain and all things fit for a settlement. This was seven years after Leif Ericsson found Vinland. Among the stores for trading was scarlet cloth, which the Skroelings greatly covet, insomuch that one small strip of scarlet would buy many rich furs. But when they came to trade, hearing a bull bellow, with a great squalling they all ran away and left their packs on the ground, nor did they show their faces again for three weeks. Snorre, the son of Thorfin Karlsefne, born in Vinland, was three years old when the Northmen left that land. They had found the winter hard and cold, and in a fight with the Skroelings many had been killed, so that they took ship and returned to Iceland.
"They had gone but a little way when one of the ships, which was commanded by Bjarni Grimulfsson, lagged so far behind that it lost sight of the others. The men then discovered that shipworms had bored the hull so that it was about to sink. None could hope to be saved but in the stern boat, and that would not hold half of them.
"Then stood Bjarni Grimulfsson forth, and said to his men that in this matter there should be no advantage of rank, but they would draw lots, who should go in the boat and who remain in the ship. When this had been done it was Bjarni's lot to go in the boat. After all had gone down into the boat who had the right, an Icelander who had been Bjarni's companion made outcry dolefully saying, 'Bjarni, Bjarni, do you leave me here to die in the sea? It was not so you promised me when I left my father's house.' Then said Bjarni, for the lot was fairly cast, 'What else can be done?' Then said the Icelander, 'I think that you should come up into the ship and let me go down into the boat.' And indeed no other way might be found for him to live. Then answered Bjarni making light of the matter, 'Let it be so, since I see that you are so anxious to live and so afraid of death; I will return to the ship.' This was done, and the men rowing away looked back and saw the ship go down in a great swirl of waves with Bjarni and those who remained.
"This tale my grandmother heard from her father, and he from his, and so on until the time of that Thorolf Erlandsson who sailed with Bjarni Grimulfsson and went down into the sea by his side singing, for he feared nothing but to be a coward."
Thorolf's eyes were as proud and his head as high as were his Viking forefather's when the worm-riddled galley went to her grave with more than half her crew, three hundred and forty years before. In the little silence which followed the fire crackled and whistled, the gusty rain-drenched wind beat upon the little hut. And then Nils repeated musingly the ancient saying from the Runes of Odin,
"'Cattle die, Kings die, Kindred die, we also die,— One thing never dies, The fair fame of the valiant.'"
Some one knocked at the door. A real Viking in winged helmet and scale-armor would hardly have surprised them just then. But it was only a tall man in a traveler's cloak and hat, and they made quickly room for him to dry himself by the fire, and brought food and drink for him to refresh himself.
"I thought that I knew the way to the old place," he said, looking about, "but in this tempest I nearly lost myself. Which of you is Thorolf Erlandsson?"
The stranger was Syvert Thorolfson, a merchant of Iceland, Thorolf's uncle. He brought messages from Nikolina's grandmother in Stavanger, and from the Bishop, who was ready to see that all the children who had no relatives should be taken care of in Bergen. Within three days Asgard the Beautiful was left to the lemming and the raven. Yet the long bright summer lived always in the hearts of the children. Years after Thorolf remembered the words of the Wind-wife,—
"Make friends with the Skroelings—make friends. Friendship is a rock to stand on; hatred is a rock to split on. In the land of Klooskap shall you be Klooskap's guest."
 In old Norse families names alternated from father to son. For example, Thorolf Erlandsson (Thorolf the son of Erland) would name his son after his own father, and the boy would be known as Erland Thorolfsson. A daughter was known by her given name and her father's, as Sigrid Erlandsdatter. In the case of the farm being of sufficient importance for a surname the name might be added, as "Elsie Tharaldsdatter Ormgrass."
 Northern sailors regard the Finns as wizards.
 Fladbrod is the coarse peasant-bread of Norway, made from an unfermented dough of barley and oatmeal rolled out into large thin cakes and baked. It will keep a long time.
 The teredo or shipworm was a serious peril in the days before the sheathing of ships. Even tar sheathing was not used until the sixteenth century.
THE VIKING'S SECRET
In the days of jarl and hersir, while yet the world was young, And sagas of gods and heroes the grim-lipped minstrel sung, With the beak of his open galley in the sunset's scarlet flame, Over the wild Atlantic the Norseland Viking came.
Life was a thing to play with,—oh, then the world was wide, With room for man and mammoth, and a goblin life beside. Now we have slain the mammoths, and we have driven the ghosts away, And we read the saga of Vinland in the light of a new-born day.
We have harnessed the deadly lightnings; we have ridden the restless wave. We have chased the brood of the werewolf back to their noisome cave. But far in the icy Northland, with weird witch-lights aglow, Locked in the Greenland glaciers, is a tale we do not know.
Out of Brattahlid's portal, southward from Herjulfsness, They came to their new-found kingdom, their Vinland to possess. Armored with careless laughter, strong with a stubborn will, The Vikings found it and lost it—it is undiscovered still!
Where did they beach their galleys? How were their cabins planned? Who were the fearful Skroelings? What was the Fuerduerstrand? What were the grapes of Tyrker? For all that is written or said, The Rune Stones hold the secret of the days of Eric the Red!
THE RUNES OF THE WIND-WIFE
Salt and scarred from the northern seas, the Taernan, deep-laden with herring, nosed in at the Hanse quay in Bergen. Thorolf Erlandsson looked grimly up at the huge warehouses. Since the Hanseatic League secured a foothold in Norway, in 1343, most Norwegian ports had been losing trade, and Bergen, or rather the Hanse merchants in Bergen, had been getting it. Between the Danes and the Germans it looked rather as if Norwegians were to be crowded out of their own country.
The Hanse traders not only received and sold fish for the Friday markets of northern Europe, but sold all kinds of manufactured goods. It was said that they had two sets of scales—one for buying and one for selling. Norwegians had either to adapt themselves to the new methods or give their sons to the ceaseless battle of the open sea. From the Baltic and Icelandic fisheries, the North Sea and the Lofoden Islands, their ships got the heaviest and the hardest of the sea-harvesting.
But it takes more than hardship to break a Norseman. In his four years at sea Thorolf had become tall, broad-shouldered and powerful, and at eighteen he looked a grown man. He did more than he promised, and listened oftener than he talked, and his only close friend was Nils Magnusson, who was now coming down to the wharf. They had known each other from boyhood.
Nils had been for three years a clerk in Syvert Thorolfsson's warehouse. While not tall he was neither stunted nor crippled, and easily kept pace with Thorolf. As he set out the silver-bound horn cups to drink skal with his friend in his own lodging, the croak and sputter of German talk sounded in the street below.
"Behold a new Bergen," observed Nils whimsically. "Let us drink to the founding of a new Iceland. Did you go to Greenland?"
"We touched at Kakortok with letters for the Bishop. The people are sick and savage with fighting against the Skroelings."
"Now," said Nils, rubbing his long nose, "it is odd that you say that, for I was just going to tell you some news. The King has given Paul Knutson leave to raise a company to fight against the Skroelings in Greenland—and parts beyond. He sails in a month."
"I wish I had known of it."
"I thought you would say that. This is between us two and the candle, but Anders Amundson is going, and I am going, and you may go if you will."
Thorolf's gray eyes flamed. "What is Knutson like?"
"Well, they may call him Chevalier, but he has the old Viking way with him. I said that I had a friend who had long wished to lay his bones in a strange land, and he answered, 'If your friend sails with me I would prefer to have him bring his bones home again.' He kept a place for you."
Three weeks later Thorolf, looking backward as the Rotge, (little auk or sea-king) stood out to sea, saw the familiar outline of Snaehatten against the sunrise and wondered when he should see it again. Like a questing raven his mind returned to the summer spent at the saeter, and recalled that dark saying of the Wind-wife,—
"In the land of Klooskap shall you be Klooskap's guest."
The galley rode the waves with the bold freedom of her kind. Her keel was carved out of a single great tree. Her seasoned oaken timbers, overlapping, were riveted together by iron bolts, with the round heads outside. Where a timber touched a rib, a strip was cut out on each side, forming a block through which a hole was bored. Another hole was bored in the rib to match and a rope twisted of the inner bark of the linden was put through both holes and knotted. In surf or heavy sea, this construction gave the craft a supple strength. Calking was done with woolen cloth steeped in pitch. The mast, of a chosen trunk of fir, was set upright in a log with ends shaped like a fishtail. The long oarlike rudder was on the board or side of the ship to the right of the stern, called the starboard or steerboard. The lading was done on the opposite side, the larboard or ladderboard. There were ten oars to a side, and a single large triangular sail.
Long and narrow, hardly ten feet above the water-line at her lowest, her curved prow glancing over the waves like the head of a swimming snake, she was no more like the tumbling cargo-ships than a shark is like a porpoise. When they were two days out, Nils said to Thorolf,
"A Viking in such a galley would sail to the end of the world. By the way, did the Skroelings in Greenland understand that language the Wind-wife spoke?"
"I was not there long enough to find out. I once asked a man who knows their talk well, and he said it was no tongue that ever he heard."
The Greenland folk welcomed them heartily. Finding that the white men had not after all been forgotten by their own people, the natives drew off and gave them no more trouble. The Northmen spent the winter in sleep, talk, song, and hunting with native guides. Besides the old man in white fur, as the polar bear was respectfully called, Arctic foxes, walrus, whales and seal abounded. Many of the new-comers became skilful in the making and the use of the skin-covered native boats called Kayaks. Nils had some skill in carving wood and stone, and could write in the Runic script of Elfdal. In the long evenings when winds from the cave of the Great Bear buffeted the low huts, he taught Thorolf and Anders what he knew, and talked with the Skroelings. But none of them understood the runes of the Wind-wife. Their speech was quite different.
Spring came with brief, hot sunshine, and the creeping birches budded on the pebbly shore. Encouraged by the reports from Greenland, new colonists ventured out, and house-building went on briskly. One day Thorolf was summoned to Knutson's headquarters.
"Erlandsson," began the Chevalier, "they say that you have information about Vinland and the Skroelings there, from an old woman who lived among them. What can you tell me?"
Thorolf told the story of the Wind-wife. Knutson looked interested but doubtful.
"I have talked with the oldest colonists," he said, "and they know nothing of any Skroelings but those hereabouts. They say also that Vinland is hard to come at. Boats venturing south return with tales of heavy winds, dense fogs and dangerous cliffs and skerries—or do not return at all. One was caught and crushed in the ice, and the crew were found on the floe half starved and gnawing bits of hide. In the sagas of Vinland the Skroelings are spoken of as fierce and treacherous. To hold such a land would need a strong hand. The old woman may have forgotten—or the stories may be those of her own people."
Thorolf shook his head. "Nay, my lord. She was not a forgetful person—and the language is neither Lapp nor Finn."
"She was very old, you say?"
"I think so. I do not know how old."
"Old people sometimes confuse what they have heard with what they have seen. But I shall remember what you have said."
"If he had known the Wind-wife," said Nils when told of this conversation, "he would have no doubt."
Knutson wrote to the King, but got no reply for a long time. A ship with a cargo of trading stores was sent for, and was wrecked on the Faroes. But in the following spring an expedition to Vinland was really planned. There was no general desire to take part in it. Many of Knutson's party now longed for their native land, where the mountains were drawn swords flashing in the sun, and the malachite and silver waters and flowery turf, the jeweled scabbards. They dreamed of the lure sounding over the valleys, of bright-paired maidens dancing the spring dans. Nevertheless in due season the Rotge left the Greenland shore and pointed her inquiring beak southeast by south. In the Gudrid sailed Knutson and his immediate following, with the trading cargo and most of the provisions. By keeping well out to sea at first the commander hoped to escape the perils of the coast.
This hope was dashed by an Atlantic gale which drove them westward. For two days and two nights they were tossed between wind and tide. Toward the end of the second night the sound of the waves indicated land to starboard. In the growing light they saw a harbor that seemed spacious enough for all the ships in the world, sheltered by wooded hills. If this were Vinland, it was greater than saga told or skald sang.
They landed to take in fresh water, mend a leak and see the country, but found no grapes, no Skroelings nor any sign of Northmen's presence. On the rocks grew vineberries, or mountain cranberries, and Knutson thought that perhaps these and not true grapes were the fruit found in Vinland. He sent a party of a dozen men, Anders and Thorolf leading, to explore the forest, ascend some hill if possible and return the same day. He himself remained with the ships and kept Nils by him. He rather expected that the natives, learning of the strangers' arrival, would be drawn by curiosity to visit the bay.
The scouting party followed the banks of the little stream that had given them fresh water, Anders leading, Thorolf just behind him. Wind stirred softly in the leaves overhead, unseen birds fluttered and chirped, sunshine sifting through the maple undergrowth turned it to emerald and gold and jasper. Once there was a discordant screech from the evergreens, but it was only a brilliant blue jay with crest erect, scolding at them. A striped squirrel flashed up the trunk of a tree to his hole. Then sudden as lightning, from the bushes they had just passed, came a flight of arrows.
Two men were slightly wounded, but most of the arrows were turned by the light strong body armor of the Norsemen. The foe remained unseen and unheard. Nothing stirred, though the men scanned the woods about them with the keen eyes of seamen and hunters.
Thorolf was seized with an inspiration. He went forward a step or two, lifted his hand in salutation, and called,—
"Klooskap mech p'maosa?" (Is Klooskap yet alive?)
There was a silence stiller than death. The Norsemen faced the ominous thicket without moving a muscle. Some one within it called out something which Thorolf did not understand. But no more arrows came. He tried another sentence.
"Klooskap k-chi skitap, pechedog latogwesnuk." (Klooskap was a great man in the country far to the northward.)
This time he made out the answer. In a swift aside he explained to his comrades,—
"'K'putuswin' means 'let us take council.' They want to have a talk."
He managed to convey his assent to the unseen listeners, and every tree, rock and log sprouted Skroelings. They were quite unlike the natives of Greenland, though of copper-colored complexion. These men—there were no women among them,—were tall and sinewy, and wore their coarse black hair knotted up on the head with a tuft of feathers. They were naked to the waist, and wore fringed breeches of deerskin, and soft shoes embroidered in bright colors. Some had necklaces of bears' claws, beads or shells, but the only weapons seemed to be the bow and arrow and a stone-headed hatchet or club. They stared at the white man half curiously and half threateningly.
Then began the queerest conversation that any one present had ever heard. Thorolf discovered the wild men's language to be so nearly like that learned from the Wind-wife that he could understand it when spoken slowly, and in a halting fashion could make them comprehend him. His companions listened in wonder. Not even Anders had really believed in that language.
At last Thorolf held out his hand, and the leader of the Skroelings came forward in a very gingerly manner and took it. Then walking in single file, toes pointed straight forward, the savages melted into the forest as frost melts in sunshine.
With a broad grin, the first he had worn for some time, Thorolf translated.
"He asked why we came here. I told him, to see the country and trade with his people. He says that white men have come here before, very long ago. I think they were killed and he did not wish to say so. He says that the Sagem, the jarl of his people, lives in a castle over there somewhere. I told him to give the Sagem greeting from our commander, and invite him to visit the place where our ships are. He says that it will not be safe for us to go further into the forest until the Skroelings have heard who we are and what we are doing here."
"That is very good advice," said Anders with a wry face, as he plucked some moss to stanch the wound in his arm. The arrow-head which had made it was a shaped piece of flint bound to the shaft with cords of fine sinew. "We are too few to get into a general fight. Besides, that is not in our orders."
They accordingly went back to the ships, arriving a little before sundown. Knutson was greatly interested.
"You have done well," he said. "A boat was hovering about soon after you left. This may have been a scouting party sent through the forest to cut you off."
All the next day they waited, but nothing happened. On the morning after, a large number of boats appeared rounding the headland to the south. In the largest sat the Sagem, a very old man wrapped in furs. The boats were made of birchbark laced on a wooden framework with fibrous roots, like the toy skiff Mother Elle had made for little Peder.
The Skroelings landed, and advanced with great dignity to meet Knutson, who was equally ceremonious. Nils and Thorolf had all they could do to interpret the old chief's long speech, although many phrases were repeated again and again, which made it easier. Knutson made one in reply, briefer but quite as polite, and brought out beads, little knives, and scarlet cloth from his trading stores. The red cloth and beads were received with eagerness, the knives with interest, and after a young chief had cut himself, with some awe. The Sagem in his turn presented the stranger with skins of the sable, the silver fox and the bear. He and a few of the warriors tasted of the food offered them, and all the white men were asked to a feast in the village the next day.
So friendly were the Skroelings, in fact, that Knutson determined to return to Greenland and see what could be done toward founding a settlement here. He would leave part of the men in winter quarters, with the Rotge as a means of further explorations, or if necessary, of escape. Her captain, Gustav Sigerson, was a cautious, wise and experienced seaman. Anders Amundson, as the best hunter of the expedition, was to stay, with Nils as clerk and Thorolf as interpreter. Booths were erected, stores landed, and on a brilliant day in late summer some forty Norsemen and Gothlanders on the shore watched the Gudrid slowly fading out of sight.
In talking with the natives Nils and Thorolf observed that their world seemed to be infested with demons—particularly water-fiends. A reason for this appeared in time. Half a dozen men one day took the stern-boat and went a-fishing. They came back white-faced, with a story of a giant squid with arms four times as long as the boat, that had risen out of the sea and tried to pull them under. Only their skill as rowers had saved them. Nils remembered the kraken, of ancient legends, and thought he could see why the Skroelings never ventured out to sea in their frail canoes. This put an end to plans for exploring along the coast.
The winter was colder than they had expected. This land, so much further south than Norway, was bitten by frost as Norway never was. There is something in intense cold which is inhuman. When men are shut up together in exile by it, all that is bad in them is likely to crop out. It might have been worse but for the fortunate friendliness of the Skroelings. When scurvy appeared in the camp, their first acquaintance, Munumqueh (woodchuck) had his women brew a drink which cured it. He showed the white men also how to make pemmican, the compressed meat ration of native hunters, and how to construct and use a birch canoe, a pair of snowshoes, and a fire-drill. Gustav Sigerson died in the spring, and Nils was chosen captain. He and Munumqueh became great cronies, and exchanged names, Nils being thereafter known to his native friends as the Woodchuck, and bestowing upon Munumqueh the proud name of his grandfather, Nils the Bear-Slayer.
"It will never do for us to sit quiet here until Knutson returns," said Nils when at Midsummer nothing had been seen of the ships. "We shall be at one another's throats or quarreling with the savages." He had been inquiring about the nature of the country, and had learned that westward a great river led to five inland seas, so connected that canoes could go from one to another. Along this chain of waters lived tribes who spoke somewhat the same language and traded with one another. Southward lived a warlike people who sometimes attacked the lake tribes. Beyond the last of the lakes they did not know what the country was like. The waters inland were not troubled with the water-demon so far as they knew. Nils, Anders and Thorolf held a council and decided to explore the wilderness as far as they could go in the Rotge. It was nothing more than all their ancestors had done. Often, in their invasions of England, France and other unknown regions Vikings had gone up one river and come down another, and the Rotge, for all her iron strength, was no more than a wooden shell when stripped.
They set forth, escorted by a flotilla of small canoes, on a clear summer morning, and found their progress surprisingly easy. Fish, game and berries were plentiful, the villages along the river supplied corn and beans, and though it was not always easy to drag the Rotge around the carrying-places pointed out by their native guides, they did not have to turn back. It was a proud moment when the undefeated crew launched their "water-snake" as the Skroelings called her, on the shining waters of a great inland sea.
The journey had been a far longer one than they expected, and to natives of any other country would have been much more exciting than it was to the Norsemen. They had seen cliffs a thousand feet high, cataracts, rapids, a multitude of wooded islands, narrow valleys where floating misty clouds came and went and the sky looked like a riband. But the precipice above Naero Fiord rises four thousand perpendicular feet, and the water which laps its base is thousands of feet in depth. The Skjaeggedalsfos is loftier than Niagara, and the mist-maidens dance along the perilous pathways of a hundred Norwegian cliffs. Nils and Thorolf agreed that the Wind-wife was right when she said that the country of the Skroelings was like Norway but had no end.
"The trouble is," reflected Nils as he set down the day's happenings on a birch-bark scroll, "that nobody will believe us when we tell how great the land is."
At the end of the fifth and largest lake they found people with some knowledge of the country beyond. It seemed that after crossing the Big Woods one came to great open plains where a ferocious and cruel race of warriors hunted animals as large as the moose, with hoofs and short horns and curly brown fur. This sounded like a cattle country. The lake tribes evidently stood in great fear of the plains people, but in spite of their evident alarm the Norsemen determined to go and see for themselves. Leaving the boat with ten of their company to guard it they struck off southwestward through a country of forests, lakes and streams. After fourteen days they stopped to make camp and go a-fishing, for dried fish would be the most convenient ration for a quick march, and they did not intend to spend much more time in exploring.
It seemed to Nils and Thorolf that some mark or monument should be left to show how far they had really come. A small natural column of dark trap rock was chosen, and while the others fished, or made a seine after the native fashion, Nils marked out an inscription in Runic letters, which are suited to rough work. Not far from the place where they found the stone, and about a day's journey from camp, was a small high island in a little lake, the kind of place usually chosen by Vikings for a first camp. The stone, set in the middle of this island, would be easily seen by any one looking for it, and savages would not see it at all. When finished it was rafted across to the island and set up, the inscription covering about half of it on both sides. While Nils and several others were thus busy, the remainder of the party were trying the seine. They reached camp after dark to find their booths in ashes, and Nils with his men murdered a little way off, as they had come up from the Rune Stone.
With fury and horror the Norsemen looked upon the destruction. It was all Thorolf and the cooler heads could do to keep the rest from attacking the first Skroelings they saw. But the mischief had been done, without doubt, by the unknown warriors of the plains, who had been perhaps watching their advance. They sadly prepared to return to their boat. But before they went, Thorolf paddled out to the island on two logs, while the others kept guard, and added some lines to the inscription on the stone.
They never saw their Vinland again. Knutson, finding the King fighting hard against the Danes, gave no further thought to the wilderness. Thorolf and a handful of his men finally reached Bergen; Anders stayed in Greenland. More than five centuries afterward, a Scandinavian farmer, grubbing for stumps in a Minnesota marsh, found overgrown by the roots of a tulip tree a stone with an inscription in Runic letters, took it to learned men and had it translated.
"8 Goths and 22 Norsemen upon journey of discovery from Vinland westward. We had camp by two rocks one day's journey from this stone. We were out fishing one day. When we returned home we found ten men red with blood and dead. AVM save us from evil. have ten men by the sea to look after our ship 14 days journey from this island. Year 1362."
 Skal or skoal was the Norwegian word used in drinking a health.
 The description of the Norse galley is taken from Du Chaillu's "Land of the Midnight Sun," in which the construction of one which was unearthed at Nydam in Jutland is described (Vol. I. 380). The galley "Viking" built in Norway on the model of an actual Viking ship of the early Middle Ages, was taken across the Atlantic in 1893 by a Norwegian crew of fourteen, anchoring in Lake Michigan, after a voyage in which they had no shelter except an awning and cooked their own food as best they could.
 The question of the actual whereabouts of Leif Ericsson's booths and Thorfin Karlsefne's later settlement has never been positively decided. The Knutson expedition to Greenland is an historical fact. It left Norway about 1354 and returned about 1364. It is not positively known that Knutson attempted the rediscovery of Vinland, unless what is known as the Kensington Rune Stone is evidence of it. The writer has adopted the theory that he did take a party southward, landing at Halifax, and left a part of his men there, intending to return with more colonists; that on returning to Norway he found the country in the throes of war and abandoned any thought of further settlement, leaving his men to find their way back as they could.
 The Indian phrases and legends referred to as learned by the Wind-wife are Abenaki.
 According to historians the region along the St. Lawrence and the Great Lakes was for a long time inhabited by tribes belonging to the great Ojibway nation. Their territory extended nearly to the western boundary of what is now Minnesota. Southward were the tribes later known as Iroquois.
 Accounts of the open galleys of the Northmen agree in describing them as small and light compared with the later decked ships. The open "sea-serpent" of forty-two feet, with her mast unshipped was heavier but not much bigger than the largest Indian carrying-canoes such as were used in the fur-trade, and these were taken from the St. Lawrence through the Great Lakes. Vikings landing in Europe were prepared not only to return by a new route but even to take their boats apart or build new ones if necessary.
 Bayard Taylor, visiting the Saguenay and the St. Lawrence immediately after a sojourn in Norway, speaks of his inability to be impressed as others had been, by the height of the cliffs and waterfalls of Canada, although fully appreciating the beauty of the scenery.
[Footnote 8: The Sioux or Dakotas, who occupied the Great Plains, were hereditary enemies of the Ojibways. In the Ojibway language one name for these Plains Indians indicated that they were in the habit of mutilating their victims.]
 The monument known as the Kensington Rune Stone was found near Kensington, Minnesota, and is fully described in the reports of the Minnesota Historical Society. It was the subject of many arguments at first. Well known authorities pronounced it a forgery, while other well known authorities declared it genuine. It was pointed out that the language used was not that of the time of Leif Ericsson, but much more modern; but later it was found that the inscription was exactly such as would have been written about the middle of the fourteenth century, when Knutson's expedition was in Greenland. Aside from the obvious lack of motive for a forgery, investigation showed that neither the farmer nor any one who might have been in a position to bury the stone where it was found had any knowledge of Runic writing. Moreover, if the stone had been a forgery it would seem that the forger would have used the name of some well known leader, whereas no name is mentioned. If Knutson had been with the expedition he would certainly have seen to it that his presence was recorded.
Otter Tail Lake, just north of the place where the stone was discovered, was one of the points marking the boundary between the Ojibway and Dakota country. The position of the runes on the stone is precisely what it would be if the inscription had been finished, or nearly finished, as a guide to future exploration, and the account of the massacre added as a warning.
A song commonly sung at the time of the Black Death contains the lines:
"The Black Plague sped over land and sea And swept so many a board. That will I now most surely believe, It was not with the Lord's will. Help us God and Mary, Save us all from evil."
We were Prince Henry's gentlemen,— His gentlemen were we, To dare the gods of Heathendom, Whoever they might be,— To do our master's sovereign will Upon a trackless sea.
We were Prince Henry's gentlemen, And undismayed we went To fight for Lusitania Wherever we were sent,— The stars had laid our course for us, And we were well content.
We were Prince Henry's gentlemen, And though our flagship lie Where white the great-winged albatross Came wheeling down the sky, Or black abysses yawned for us, We could not fear to die.
We were Prince Henry's gentlemen,— Around the Cape of Wrath We sailed our wooden cockleshells— Great pride the pilot hath To voyage to-day the Indian Sea— But we marked out his path!
SEA OF DARKNESS
"Those things that you say cannot be true, Fernao! How do you know that the sea turns black and dreadful just behind those heavenly clouds? If there are hydras, and gorgons, and sea-snakes that can swallow a ship, and a great black hand reaching up out of a whirlpool to drag men down, why do we never see them here? Look at that sea, can there be anything in the world more beautiful?"
The vehement small speaker waved her slender hand with a gesture that seemed to take in half the horizon. The old Moorish garden, overrun with the brilliant blossoms that drink their hues from the sea, overlooked the harbor. Across the huddled many-colored houses the ten-year-old Beatriz and her playfellow Fernao could see the western ocean in a great half-circle, bounded by the mysterious line above which three tiny caravels had just risen. The sea to-day was exquisite, bluer than the heavens that arched above it. The wave-crests looked like a flock of sea-doves playing on the sunlit sparkling waters. Fernao from his seat on the crumbling wall watched the incoming ships with the far-sighted gaze of a sailor. Portuguese through and through, the son and grandson of men who had sailed at the bidding of the great Prince Henry, he felt that he could speak with authority.
"Of course I am telling you the truth. You are very wise about the sea—you who never saw it until two weeks ago! Gil Andrade has been to places that you Castilians never even heard of. He has seen whales, and mermaids, and the Sea of Darkness itself! He has been to the Gold Coast beyond Bojador, where the people are fried black like charcoal, and the rivers are too hot to drink."
"Then why didn't he die?" inquired the unbelieving Beatriz.
"Because he didn't stay there long enough. And there are devils in the forest, stronger than ten men, and all covered with shaggy hair—"
"I will not listen to such nonsense! Do you think that because I am Spanish, and a girl, I am without understanding? Tio Sancho, is it true that there is a Sea of Darkness?"
Sancho Serrao was an old seaman, as any one would know by his eyes and his walk. For fifty years he had used the sea, as ship-boy, sailor, and pilot. His daughter Catharina had been the nurse of Beatriz, and he had brought coral, shells and queer toys to the little thing from the time she could toddle to his knee.
"What has Fernao been saying to thee, pombinha agreste?" (little wood-dove) he asked soberly, though his eyes twinkled ever so little. He seated himself as he spoke, on an ancient bench that rested its back against the wall just where the wind was sweetest. Under the fragrances of ripening vineyards and flowering shrubs there was always the sharp clean smell of the sea.
"He believes all that Gil Andrade and Joao Pancado tell him as if it were the Credo," Beatriz began, her words flung out like sparks from a little crackling fire. "He says that there is a Sea of Darkness out away beyond the Falcon Islands, where ships are drawn into a great pit under the edge of the world. And he says that ships cannot go too far south because the sun is so near it would burn them, and they cannot go too far north because the icebergs will catch them and crush them. If I were a man, I would sail straight out there, into the sunset, and show them what my people dared to do!"
Old Sancho was not all Portuguese. In his veins ran the blood of the three great seafaring races of southern Europe—the Genoese, the Lusitanian and the Vizcayan—and their jealousies and rivalries amused him. He had spent most of his life in the feluccas and caravels of Lisbon and Oporto, because when he was young they went where no other ships dared even follow; but he did not believe that the last word in discovery had been said even by Dom Henriques at Sagres, or the Mappe-Monde of Fra Mauro in Venice.
"Not so fast there, velinha (small candle)" he cautioned, raising a whimsical forefinger. "So said many of us in our youth. And when we had sailed for weeks, and all our provisions were mouldy or weevilly, and our water-casks warped and leaking so that we had to catch the rain in our shirts, we began to wonder what it was we had come for. The sea won't be mocked or threatened. She has ways of her own, the old witch, to tame the vainglorious. And 't is true enough," the old pilot went on with a quizzing look at Fernao on his insecure perch, "that sailors have a bad habit of doubling and trebling their recollections when they find anybody who will listen. I don't know why they do it. Maybe it is because having told a perfectly true tale which nobody believed, they think that a little more or a little less will do no harm. For this you must remember, my children,—that at sea many things happen which when told no one believes to be true."
"I would believe anything you told me, Tio Sancho," promised Beatriz, all love and confidence in her little glowing face.
"Ay, would you now? What if I said that I have seen a ship with all sail set coming swiftly before the wind, in a place where no wind was, to stir our hair who beheld it—and sailing moreover through the air at the height of a tall mast-head above the sea? And a mountain of ice half a league long and as high as the Giralda at Seville, floating in a sea as blue as this one, and as warm? And islands with mountains that smoke, appearing and disappearing in broad daylight? Yet all of these are common sights at sea."
"But is there a Sea of Darkness, verily, verily, tio caro?" persisted Beatriz. The old man shook his head, with a little quiet smile.
"I'll not say there is not. And I'll not say there is. I saw a Sea of Darkness on the second voyage that ever I made, but that's all."
"Oh, tell us all the story!" begged Beatriz, and Fernao silently slid from the wall and came closer.
"The commander of our ship was Gonsales Zarco, one of Dom Henriques' gentlemen. Years before he'd been caught by a gale on his way to Africa, and driven north on to an island that he named because of that, Puerto Santo (Holy Haven). So when he came that way again he stopped to see how the settlement that was planted there prospered, and found the people in great trouble of mind. They showed him that a thick black cloud hung upon the sea to the northwest of the island, filling the air to the very heavens and never going away; and out of this cloud, they said, came strange noises, not like any they had heard before. They dared not sail far from their island, for they said that if a man lost sight of land thereabouts it was a miracle if he ever returned. They believed that place to be the great abyss, the mouth of hell. But learned men held the opinion that this cloud hid the island of Cipango, where the Seven Bishops had taken refuge from the Moors and the Saracens.
"Certainly the cloud was there, for we all saw it, and when the Commander said that he would stay to see whether it would change when the moon changed, we liked it not, I can tell you. And when we learned that he was minded to sail straight into the darkness and see what lay behind it, why, there were some who would have run away—if they could have run anywhere but into the sea.
"But we had a Spanish pilot, Morales, who had once been a prisoner in Morocco, and there he knew two Englishmen who had sailed these seas in time past. Their ship had been lying ready to sail for France, when late at night Robert Macham, a gentleman of their country, came hurriedly aboard with his lady love whom he had carried off from her home in Bristol, and between dark and dawn the captain weighed anchor and was off. Then being driven from the course the ship was cast on a thickly wooded island with a high mountain in the middle, where they dwelt not long, for the lady died, and Macham died of grief. The crew left the island and were wrecked in Morocco and made slaves. All this was many years before, for the Englishmen had grown old in slavery, and Morales himself had grown old since he heard the tale.
"It was the belief of Morales that this was the island of which they told, and that the cloud which hung above the waters was the mist arising from those dense woods which covered it. The upshot was that the commander set sail one morning early and steered straight for the cloud.
"The nearer we came the higher and thicker looked the darkness that spread over the sea, and we heard about noon a great roaring of the waves. Still Gonsales held his course, and when the wind failed he ordered out the boats to tow the ship into the cloud, and I was one of those who rowed. As we got closer it was not quite so dark, but the roaring was louder, although the sea was smooth. Then through the darkness we beheld tall black objects which we guessed to be giants walking in the water, but as we came nearer we saw that they were great rocks, and before us loomed a high mountain covered with thick woods.
"We found no place to land but a cave under a rock that overhung the sea, and that was trodden all over the bottom by the sea-wolves, so that Gonsales named it the Camera dos Lobos. The island, because of its forests, he called Madeira. When we came back, having taken possession of the island for the King, he sent a colony to settle upon it, and the first boy and girl born there were named Adam and Eva. The people set fire to the trees, which were in their way, and could not put out the fire, so that it burned for seven years and all the trees were destroyed. And the King gave our commander the right to carry as supporters on his coat-of-arms two sea-wolves."
Beatriz drew a long breath. "Weren't you very scared, Tio Sancho?"
"Sailors must not be scared, little one. Or if they are, they must never let their arms and legs be scared. We knew that we had to obey orders or be dead, so we obeyed. I have been glad many a time since that I sailed with Gonsales and old Morales to the discovery of Madeira."
"What are sea-wolves?" asked Fernao.
"Like no beast that ever you saw, my son. They have the fore part of the body like a dog or bear, the hind part ending in a tail like a fish, but with hair, not scales, on the body; the head has a thick mane, and the jaws are large and strong. They are no more seen on that island, for they went there only because it was never visited by men."
"Did they try to drive the people away?"
"No; they do not fight men unless men attack them. But the settlers were once driven off Puerto Santo by animals, and not very fierce animals at that." The old pilot grinned. "They were driven away by rabbits. Somebody brought rabbits there and let them loose, and in a few years there were so many that everything that was planted was eaten green. The people who live on that island now have made a strict rule about rabbits."
The children's laughter echoed the dry chuckle of the old man. Then Fernao, unwilling to abandon his authorities,—
"But if the Sea of Darkness and the great abyss are not in the western ocean, why haven't they found out what really is there?"
"That, my son, is more than I can tell you," said Sancho Serrao, getting up. "I sailed where I was told, and I never was told to sail due west from Lisbon. But here is a man who can answer your question, if any one can. Welcome to my humble dwelling, Senhor Colombo! Shall we go into the house, or will you find it pleasanter in the garden?"
The new-comer was a tall man of middle age, although at first sight he looked older, because of his white hair. The fresh complexion, alert walk, and keen thoughtful blue eyes were those of a man not old in either mind or body. He smiled in answer to the greeting, and replied with a quick wave of the hand. "Do not disturb yourself, I beg of you, my friend. The garden is very pleasant. I have come on an errand of my own this time. Did you ever see, in your voyages to Africa or elsewhere, any such carving as this?"
He held out a curious worm-eaten bit of reddish brown wood, rudely ornamented with carved figures in relief. Old Sancho took it and turned it about, examining it with narrowed attentive eyes.
"Where did it come from?" he asked, finally.
"From the beach at Puerto Santo. My little son Diego picked it up, the day before I came away from the island."
"Now that is curious. I was just telling the young ones about an adventure of my youth, when Gonsales Zarco touched there on his way to Madeira. With your good permission I will leave you for a few minutes and rummage in an old sea-chest, and see whether there is any flotsam in it to compare with this."
Left alone with the stranger, Fernao and Beatriz looked at him with shy curiosity. They had seen him before, and knew him to be a mapmaker in the King's service, but he had never before been within speaking distance. He seemed to like children, for he smiled at them very kindly and spoke to them almost at once.
"And you were hearing about the discovery of Madeira?"
"Ay, Senhor," Beatriz answered with demure dignity.
"I live not very far from that island. It seems like living on the western edge of the world."
"Senhor," asked Fernao with sudden daring, "what is beyond the edge of the world?"
"There is no edge, my boy. The world is round—like an orange."
In all their fancies they had never thought of such a thing as that. Beatriz looked at the tall man with silent amazement, and Fernao looked as if he would like to ask who could prove the statement. The stranger's smile was amused but quite comprehending, as if he was not at all surprised that they should doubt him.
"See," he went on, taking an orange from the basket that stood by, "suppose this little depression where the stem lost its hold to be Jerusalem, the center of our world; then this is Portugal—" he traced with the point of a penknife the outline of the great western peninsula. "Here you see are the capes—Saint Vincent, Finisterre, the great rock the Arabs call Geber-al-Tarif—the Mediterranean—the northern coast of Africa—so. Beyond are Arabia and India, and the Spice Islands which we do not know all about—then Cathay, where Marco Polo visited the Great Khan—you have heard of that? Yes? On the eastern and southern shore of Cathay is a great sea in which are many islands—Cipangu here, and to the south Java Major and Java Minor. We are told in the Book of Esdras that six parts of the earth are land and one part water, so here we cut away the skin where there is any sea,—"
The miniature globe took form, like fairy mapmaking, under the cosmographer's skilful fingers, and the children watched, fascinated.
"But," cried Beatriz wonderingly, "a ship could sail around the world!"
Colombo nodded and smiled. "So it was written in the 'Travels of Sir John Maundeville' more than a hundred years ago. But no ship has done so."
"Why not?" asked Fernao.
"Chiefly, perhaps, because of tales like that of the Sea of Darkness and Satan's hand. And it is true that a ship venturing very far westward is drawn out of its course, as if the earth were not a perfect round, but sloped upward to the south. My own belief is,"—he seemed for a moment to forget that he was talking to children, "that it is not perfectly round, but somewhat like this pear,—" he selected a short chubby pear from the basket, "and that on this mountain may be a cool and lovely region which was once Paradise."
"Oh!" cried Beatriz, her face alight with the glory of the thought. The geographer smiled at her and went on.
"Also you see that the ocean is on this side of the earth very much greater than the Mediterranean. We do not know how long it would take to cross it. I have lately received a map from the famous Florentine Toscanelli which—ah!" he interrupted himself, "here comes our good friend Master Serrao."
It had taken the pilot longer than he expected to hunt over his relics of old voyages, and there was nothing, after all, like the piece of wood cast ashore by the Atlantic waves. Old Sancho turned it over, examined the edges of the carving, and shook his head.
"No; that is not African work; at least it is not like any work of the black men that I have ever seen. They can all work iron, and this was made without the use of iron tools; that I am sure of. Some of our men were shipwrecked once where they had to make stone and shells serve their turn, and I know the look of wood that has been worked with such tools. And the wood itself is not like anything I have from Africa. It is more like the timber of the East."
Now the stranger's eyes lighted with keener interest.
"You think it may be Indian, do you?"
"It may. But how in the name of Sao Cristobal did it come here? Besides, the people of India understand the use of metal as well as we do, or better."
"May there not be wild men in remote islands of the Indian seas?"
"That might be. Gil Andrade has been in those parts, and he says there are more islands than he could count. I have sometimes had occasion to take his stories with a pinch of salt, but if there are islands where wild people live they would make such things as this. And now I think of it, I once picked up a paddle myself, floating off the Azores, that was some such wood as this, but not carved. But the queerest thing I ever found was this nut. Look at it."
It was part of a nutshell as big as a man's head and as hard as wood. "The inside was quite spoiled," went on the old seaman, "but so far as I could judge it was no kin to the palm nuts we get. I kept the shell, and I have never found any merchant who could match it. Now the current sets toward our coast from the west at a certain point, and that is where all these odd things come ashore."
The guest nodded. "My brother-in-law and I have talked much of these matters. One of his captains saw some time ago the floating bodies of two men, brown-skinned, with straight black hair, not like the natives of any part of Europe or Africa. Another thing which is strange, though I hold it not as important as they do, is that the people of Madeira persistently declare that they see a great island appear and disappear to the westward. According to their description it has lofty mountains and wooded valleys, and some say it is Atlantis and some Saint Brandan's Isle. No ship sailing that way has ever landed there, however."
Sancho's eyes turned seaward. "It is marvelous," he said after a pause, "what things men think they see. And you think, senhor, that the world is not yet all known to us?'"
"I do not know." Colombo stood up to take his departure. "If God hath reserved any great work to be done, He hath also chosen the man who is to do it. His tasks are not done by accident, or left to the blind or the selfish. Toscanelli thinks that since the world is round, we should reach the Indies by sailing due west from this coast, but in that case India would seem to be far greater than we have believed. If I had the ships and the men I would venture it. But at this time the King is altogether taken up with the eastward route to the Indies. It was said of old time, 'He that believeth shall not make haste.'"
"But you will sail to Paradise some day, will you not, senhor?" asked Beatriz, treasuring the tiny globe in one careful hand while the other shaded her eyes from the level rays of the evening sun.
"There is only one way to Paradise, little maid. That is by the will of our Lord. And if you, my lad, are the first to sail round the world, remember that the sea is His, and He made it. Man makes his own Sea of Darkness by ignorance, and hate, and fear."
 Prince Henry of Portugal, often called "Henry the Navigator" built the first naval observatory in Europe at Sagres. He may be said to have laid the foundation of the Portuguese and later Spanish discoveries. In the time of Columbus the Mappe-Mondo or Map of the World of a Venetian monk was considered the most complete map yet made.
 The statement has been carelessly made in some juvenile books dealing with the age of discovery, that in the time of Columbus nobody knew that the world was round. This of course is not even approximately the case. The conception of the earth as a sphere was generally set forth in what might be called books of science, and even in some popular works like that of Sir John Maundeville, who died in 1372. Its acceptance by the public, however, may be said to have followed somewhat the course of the Darwinian theory in the nineteenth century. Long after evolution was admitted as a truth by scientific men there were schools and even colleges which refused to teach it, and in fact it was not accepted by the public until the generation which first heard of it had died.
Down upon our seaward light, Swept by all the winds that blow, Birds come reeling in their flight— (Ay de mi, Cristofero!) Petrels tossing on the gale, Falcons daring sleet and hail, Curlews whistling high and far, Waifs that cross the harbor bar Borne from isles we do not know— (Ay de mi, Cristofero!)
Round our island haven blest Waves like drifted mountain snow Break from out the shoreless West— (Ay de mi, Cristofero!) Cast ashore a broken spar Born beneath some alien star, Broken, beaten by the wave— In what far-off unknown grave Lie the hands that shaped it so? (Ay de mi, Cristofero!)
Sails upon the gray world's edge Like mute phantoms come and go,— Life and honor men will pledge— (Ay de mi, Cristofero!) For the pearls and gems and gold That the burning Indies hold. Or the Guinea coast they dare With its fever-poisoned air For the slaves they capture so (Ay de mi, Cristofero!)
In our chamber small to-night, Fair as love's immortal glow, Shines our silver censer-light— (Ay de mi, Cristofero!) What is this that holds thee fast In old histories of the past? Put the time-stained parchments by, Men have sought where dead men lie For the secret thou wouldst know— All too long, Cristofero!
PEDRO AND HIS ADMIRAL
Juan de la Cosa, captain of the Santa Maria, was prowling about the beach of Gomera in a thoroughly dissatisfied frame of mind. His own ship, the Gallego before the Admiral re-christened her and made her his flagship, was riding trim as a mallard within sight of his eye. She would never have kept the fleet waiting in the Canaries for a little thing like a broken rudder.
It was the Pinta that had done this, and it was the veteran pilot's private opinion that she would behave much better if her owners, Gomez Rascon and Christoval Quintero, had been left behind in Palos. But what can you do when you have seized a ship for the service of the Crown, and turned her over to a captain who is a rival ship-owner, and her owners wish to serve in her crew and not elsewhere? They cannot be blamed for liking to keep an eye on their property!
"Capitano!" piped a voice at his elbow. He looked around, and then he looked down. An undersized urchin with not much on but a pair of ragged breeches stared up at him boldly, hands behind his back. "Do you know what ails your ship over there?" He nodded sideways at the disgraced Pinta.
The accent was that of Bilbao in the captain's own native province, Vizcaya. Ordinarily he would have cuffed the speaker heels over head for impudence, but the dialect made him pause. Besides, he wanted to hear something to confirm his suspicions.
"She is no ship of mine," he growled, "and anyway, what do you know about it?"
"I know much more than they think I do. The calkers did not half do their work before she left port. I'd like to sail in her if she were properly looked after. But when a man goes out on the dolphins' track he likes to come home again, you know."
"A man! Do babes take a ship round Bojador? And who may you call yourself, zagallo (strong youth)?"
"I am Pedro, son of Pedro who was an escaladero (climber) at the siege of Alhama. He was killed on the way home, and my mother died of grief, so that I get my bread where the saints put it. People say that they unlocked all the jails to get you your crew for the Indies, and now I see that it is true."
Juan de la Cosa knew the untamable sauciness of the Vizcayan breed, and knew as well the loyalty that went with it. "Son," he said seriously, "what do you know of this matter?" The boy put aside his insolence and spoke gravely.
"I know that these fellows who have been commanded to serve your Admiral hate him, and will make him lose his venture if they can. I would sooner put to sea in a meal-tub with myself that I can trust, than in a Cadiz galley manned with plotters. When they hauled this fine ship up on the beach I asked for a job, and the lazy fellows were glad enough of help. I never minded doing their work if they hadn't kicked me. When I heard them planning I said to myself, 'Pedro, mi hidalgo, a crow in hand is worth two buzzards in the bush waiting to pick your bones.' Your Admiral may have to go back to Castile and eat crow.
"They have agreed that they will sail seven hundred leagues and no more, since that is the distance from here to the Indies if your map is true. If the Admiral refuse to turn back in case land is not found they will pitch him into the sea and tell the world that he was star-gazing and fell overboard, being an old man and unused to perilous voyages. He should get him another crew—if he can."
This was important information. Yet to go back might be more dangerous than to go on. The expedition had already been delayed a fortnight with making a rudder for the Pinta, stopping her leaks, and replacing the lateen sails of the Nina with square ones, that she might be able to keep up with the others. Another week must pass before they could sail. If they returned to Palos it was doubtful whether they could get any men at all to replace the disloyal ones. Too much delay might cause the withdrawal of Martin Pinzon and his brother Vicente, owners of the Nina; and if they went, most of the seamen who were worth their salt would go also. La Cosa himself in the Admiral's place would go on and take the chance of mutiny, trusting in his own power to prevent or subdue it.
"Pedro," he said, "have you told this to any one else?"
"Not a soul."
"Would you like to sail with us?"
"Will a wolf bite? Why do you suppose I told you all this?"
"Bite your tongue then, wolf-cub, until I have seen the Admiral. Where shall I find you if I want you?"
"Tia Josefa over there lets me sleep in the courtyard."
"Very well—now, off with you."
The Admiral said exactly what the pilot had thought he would say. He knew himself to be looked upon with envy and dislike, as a Genoese, and the Spaniards who made up his three crews had been collected as with a rake from the unwilling Andalusian seaports. It was decided that the mutinous sailors should be scattered so that they could not easily act together. Pedro was taken on as cabin-boy, for he was thirteen, and wiser than his age.
On that May day when Christoval Colon, the hare-brained foreigner whom the King and Queen had made an Admiral, read the royal orders in the Church of San Jorge in Palos, there was amazement, wrath and horror in that small seaport. Queen Ysabel had indeed been so rash as to pledge her jewels to meet the cost of this expedition; but the royal treasurers, looking over their accounts, noted that Palos owed a fine to the Crown which had never been paid. Very good; let Palos contribute the use and maintenance of two ships for two months, and let the magistrates of the Andalusian ports hunt up shipmasters and crews and supplies. The officers of the government came with Colon to enforce this order.
In vain did the Pinzon brothers, who had really been convinced by the arguments of Colon, use all their influence to secure him a proper equipment. Even after they had themselves enlisted as captains, with their own ship the Nina, they could not get men enough to go on so doubtful a venture. The royal officers finally took to the reckless course of pardoning all prisoners guilty of any crime short of murder or treason, on condition of their shipping for the voyage. At least half the sailors of the three ships were pressed men.
The Santa Maria, largest of the three caravels, was ninety feet long and twenty broad. She was a decked ship; the others had only the tiny cabin and forecastle. A caravel was never intended for long voyages into unknown seas. Her builders designed her for coasting trade, not for a quick voyage independent of wind and tide; but on the other hand she was cheaper to build and to sail than a Genoese galley. The Admiral believed that in the end the smallness of the ships would be no disadvantage. Among the estuaries, bays and groups of islands which he expected to find, they could go anywhere. Including shipmasters, pilots and crews the fleet carried eighty-seven men and three ship-boys, besides the personal servants of the Admiral, a physician, a surgeon, an interpreter and a few adventurers. The interpreter was a converted Jew who could speak not only several European languages but Arabic and Chaldean.
"A retinue of servants indeed!" observed Fonseca, the bishop, when the door had closed upon the Admiral of the Indies. "Since all enlisted in the expedition are at his service, why does he demand lackeys?"
But the head of the Genoese navigator had not been turned by his honors. No man cared less for display than he did, personally. He knew very well, however, that unless he maintained his own dignity the rabble under his command might be emboldened to cut his throat, seize the ships and become pirates. The men whom he could trust were altogether too few to control those he could not, if it came to an open fight,—but it must not be allowed to come to that. It was not agreeable to squabble with Fonseca about the number of servants he was allowed to have, but he must have personal attendants who were not discharged convicts.
On the open seas, removed from their lamenting and despondent relatives, the crews gradually subsided into a state of discipline. The quarter-deck is perhaps the severest test of character known. Despite themselves the sailors began to feel the serene and kindly strength of the man who was their master.
With a tact and understanding as great as his courage and self-command Colon told his men more than they had ever known of the Indies. The East had for generations been the enchanted treasure-house of Europe. Arabic, Venetian, Genoese and Portuguese traders had brought from it spices, rare woods, gold, diamonds, pearls, silk, and other foreign luxuries. But the wide and varied reading of the Admiral had given him more definite information. He told of the gilded temples of Cipangu, the porcelain towers of Cathay, rajahs' elephants in gilded and jeweled trappings, golden idols with eyes of great glowing gems, thrones of ebony inlaid with patterns of diamonds, emeralds and rubies, rich cargoes of spices, dyewood, fine cotton and silk, pearl fisheries, the White Feast of Cambalu and the Khan's great hall where six thousand courtiers gathered. Portugal already was reaching out toward these Indies, groping her way around the African coast. Were they, Spaniards and Christians, to be outdone by Portuguese and Arab traders? No men ever had so great a future. Not only the wealth of the Indies, but the glory of winning heathen empires to abandon their idols for the Christian faith, was the adventure to which they were pledged; and he strove to kindle their spirits from his own.
To Pedro the cabin-boy, listening in silence, it was like an entrance into another world. When he asked to be taken on he had been moved simply by a boy's desire to go where he had not been before. Now he served a demigod, who led men where none had dared go. The Admiral might have the glory of rediscovering the western route to the Indies; his cabin-boy was discovering him.
The sea was beautifully calm, and there was time for talk and speculation. A drifting mast, to which nobody would have given two thoughts anywhere else, was pointed out as an evil omen. Pedro grinned cheerfully and elevated his nose.
"Do you not believe in omens, Pedro?" asked the Admiral, somewhat amused. He had not found many Spaniards who did not.
"One does not believe all one hears, my lord," the youngster answered, coolly. "Tia Josefa saw ill omens a dozen times a week, all sure death; and she is ninety years old. A mast drifting with the current is usual. When I see one drifting against it I will begin to worry."
The jumpy nerves of the sailors were easily upset. They might have been calmer if the sea had been less calm. It is hard for Spanish blood to endure inaction and suspense together. Day after day a soft strong wind wafted them westward. Ruiz, one of the pilots, bluntly declared that he did not see how they could ever sail back to Spain against this wind, whether they reached the Indies or not.
"Pedro," said the Admiral quietly, "what do you think?"
Pedro hesitated only an instant. "My lord," he answered boldly, "if we cannot go back we must go on—around the world."
"So we can," smiled the Admiral. "But it will not come to that." And Ruiz, reassured and rather ashamed of his fears, told the other grumblers if they had seen as much rough weather as he had they would know when they were well off.
But after a time even the pilots took fright. The compass needle no longer pointed to the North Star, but half a point or more to the northwest of it. They had visions of the fleet helplessly drifting without a guide upon a vast unknown sea. It was not then known that the action of the magnetic pole upon the needle varies in different parts of the earth, but the quick mind of the Admiral found an explanation which quieted their fears. He told them that the real north pole was a fixed point indeed, but not necessarily the North Star. While this star might be in line with the pole when seen from the coast of Spain, it would not, of course, be in the same relative position when seen from a point hundreds of miles to the west.
On September 15 a meteor fell, which might be another omen—nobody could say exactly what it meant. Then about three hundred and sixty leagues from the Canaries the ships began to encounter patches of floating yellow-green sea-weed, which grew more numerous until the fleet was sailing in a vast level expanse of green like an ocean meadow. Tuna fish played in the waters; on one of the patches of floating weed rested a live crab. A white tropical bird of a kind never known to sleep upon the sea came flying toward them, alighting for a moment in the rigging. The owners of the Pinta predicted that they would all be caught in this ocean morass to starve, or die of thirst, for the light winds were not strong enough to drive the ships through it as easily as they had sailed at first. The Admiral, quite undisturbed, suggested that in his experience land-birds usually meant land not very far away.
Colon always answered frankly the questions put to him, but there was one secret which he kept to himself from the beginning. Knowing that he would be likely to have trouble when he reached the seven-hundred-league limit his crews had set for him, he kept two reckonings. One was for his private journal, the other was for all to see. He took the actual figures of each day's run as set down in his private record, subtracted from them a certain percentage and gave out this revised reckoning to the fleet. He, and he alone, knew that they were nearly seven hundred leagues from Palos already, instead of five hundred and fifty. According to Toscanelli's calculation, by sailing west from the Canaries along the thirtieth parallel of latitude he should land somewhere on the coast of Cipangu; but the map of Toscanelli might be incorrect. If the ocean should prove to be a hundred or more leagues wider than the chart showed it, they would have to go on, all the same.
Even after they were out of the seaweed there was something weird and unnatural in the sluggish calm of the sea. Light winds blew from the west and southwest, but there were no waves, as by all marine experience there should have been. On September 25 the sea heaved silently in a mysterious heavy swell, without any wind. Then the wind once more shifted to the east, and carried them on so smoothly that they could talk from one ship to another. Martin Pinzon borrowed the Admiral's chart, and it seemed to him that according to this they must be near Cipangu. He tossed the chart back to the flagship on the end of a cord, and gave himself to scanning the horizon. Ten thousand maravedis had been promised by the sovereigns to the first man who actually saw land. Suddenly Pinzon shouted, "Tierra! Tierra!" There was a low bank of what seemed to be land, about twenty-five leagues away to the southwest. Even for this Colon hesitated to turn from his pre-arranged course, but at last he yielded to the chorus of pleading and protest which arose from his officers, set his helm southwest and found—a cloud-bank.
Again and again during the following days the eager eyes and strained nerves of the seamen led to similar disappointments. Land birds appeared; some alighted fearlessly on the rigging and sang. Dolphins frolicked about the keels. Flying-fish, pursued by their enemy the bonito (mackerel), rose from the water in rainbow argosies, and fell sometimes inside the caravels. A heron, a pelican and a duck passed, flying southwest. By the true reckoning the fleet had sailed seven hundred and fifty leagues. Colon wondered whether there could be an error in the map, or whether by swerving from their course they had passed between islands into the southern sea. Pedro, as sensitive as a dog to the moods of his master, watched the Admiral's face as he came and went, and wondered in his turn.
The pilots and shipmasters were cautious in expressing their fears within hearing of the sailors, for by this time every one in authority knew that open mutiny might break out at any moment. On the evening of October 10 a delegation of anxious officers came to explain to the Admiral that they could not hold the panic-stricken crews. If no land appeared within a week their provisions would not last until they reached home; they had not enough water to last through the homeward voyage even now. The Admiral knew as well as they the horrors of thirst and famine at sea, particularly with a crew of the kind they had been obliged to ship. What did he intend to do?
The Admiral, seated at his table, finished the sentence he was adding in his neat, legible hand to his log, put it aside, put the pen in the case which hung at his belt, closed his ink-horn. His quiet eyes rested fearlessly on their uneasy faces.
"This expedition," he said calmly, "has been sent out to look for the Indies. With God's blessing we shall continue to look for them until we find them. Say to the men, however, that if they will wait two or three days I think they will see land."
Next morning Pedro was engaged in polishing his master's steel corslet and casque, while near by two or three sailors conferred in low tones.
"We have had enough of promises," growled one. "As Rascon says, we are like Fray Agostino's donkey, that went over the mountain at a trot, trying to reach the bunch of carrots hung on a staff in front of his nose."
There was a half-hearted snicker, and one of the men pointed a warning thumb at Pedro.
"Oh!" said the speaker. "You heard, you little beggar?"
"I did," said Pedro.
"Well, I was waiting for the end of the story. As I heard it the Abbot charged the old friar with deceiving the dumb beast, and he said he had to, because he was dealing with a donkey!"
Pedro slung the pieces of gleaming plate-mail to his shoulder and added as he turned to go, "You need not be afraid that I shall tell the Admiral what you were saying. I am not a fool, and he knows how scared you are, already."
More signs of land appeared—river weeds, a thorny branch with fresh berries like rose-hips, a reed, a piece of wood, a carved staff. As always, the vesper hymn to the Virgin was sung on the deck of the flagship, and after service the Admiral briefly addressed the men. He reminded them of the singular favor of God in granting them so quiet and safe a voyage, and recalled his statement made on leaving the Canaries, that after they had made seven hundred leagues he expected to be so near land that they should not make sail after midnight. He told them that in his belief they might find land before morning.