Our Little Viking Cousin of Long Ago - C. H. Johnston




Back to Greenland

Flood tide.

The great, ebbing, surging blue current of the river rolled onward past the log huts of Leif and his adventurers. Tortuous, twisting, singing, crooning, and sweeping great brown pieces of seaweed along in its mad flight, it passed by the spot where later would stand the home of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the inspired poet, the man of sweetness and benevolence. It eddied and gurgled beyond the green marshes which lay near the future habitation of James Russell Lowell, that mystical dreamer of beautiful dreams at Elmwood. It was now deserted and silent, save for the occasional splash of a leaping fish, but almost a thousand years later its surface was to be dotted with the shells of many crimson-shirted oarsmen, who were to find healthful exercise upon its fresh and gurgling surface, and recreation, after the hours of study in the halls of the college which would spring into being near its sloping banks.

A bustle and confusion was now upon the shore, for Leif Ericson had given orders to get everything ready for the return journey to Greenland. The gray geese had begun to fly north again; their V-shaped lines had gone "honking "over the green marshes which lay before the low huts of the Vikings; the white-throated sparrows were trilling in the bushes, now verdant with the first, young flush of spring, and the soft notes of the hermit thrush sounded from the silence of the forest.

Flood tide.

The Valhalla  swung at her moorings; and beside her lay the great pirate ship, her high prow topped with a dragon's head, jutting far out from the blue water. The river was dotted with the boats and skiffs of the Vikings, as they carried their belongings to the vessels and made preparations to go back to far distant Greenland. The huts were being rapidly dismantled, and the woods echoed with the laughter and shouting of the Norsemen.

Biarne and Eric had assisted in loading the Valhalla  with lumber and with dried grapes; they had also placed a considerable amount of timber in the hold of the pirate ship. During the winter they had helped to dry a great many fish, and these had been stowed away in the hold. They also had killed some deer, had dried their hides, and were taking these back to their friends and relatives as a proof of their skill with the bow and arrow.

At last all was ready; the treasure had been stowed away; and the oars were dipped into the waters of the blue river. Eric and Biarne had not mentioned what had happened to their own portion, for they hoped that they would discover the thieves on the return trip. The anchors were drawn from the muddy bottom, the square sails were hoisted aloft, and the prows of the two Viking ships were turned towards the rounded basin through which the river flowed into the sea.

Captain Leif stood at the helm of the Valhalla, while old Staumfroid was at the tiller of the captured ship. As the wind filled the fluttering sails of the two graceful ships, they careened over to leeward, and a wild "Huzzah "came from the throats of the oarsmen. Their oaken oars splashed in unison, the two vessels drew onward, and began to slip towards the far distant Atlantic.

Eric stood near his friend, Captain Leif, and, as the Valhalla  dropped down the winding stream, he gazed back wistfully at the log huts which had served them as such comfortable homes during the winter. Although the Vikings had put out most of the fires, some one had left one burning in the larger hut, where a thin wisp of smoke curled from the chimney into the air. Not a sound came from the green forest, which stretched backward as far as the eye could see into the blue distance. Vinland was being left to the Skrellings, the moose, the beaver, and the bear.

Farewell to Vinland!

A towhee bunting trilled a matin song from the edge of the great abysmal forest, as the ships went gliding past; a song sparrow sent cascades of sweet melody into the clear air; a squirrel chattered and scolded at the staunch adventurers from his perch on a pine-tree, as the square sails slapped in the increasing wind.

Farewell to Vinland!

The waves now danced and played with a thousand white-caps around the ships of the Norsemen, as they left the river, and, propelled by strong arms and oaken oars, forged ahead into the open bay. As Eric looked sadly and sorrowfully behind him, a great blue heron rose from the marshes at the head of the beautiful stream, and, flying upward with grace and precision, seemed to beckon good-by to the venturesome mariners, with his great flapping wings. The roar of the surf now came to the ears of the lad, as he wistfully gazed astern at the fast disappearing shore, and the lapping waves seemed to speak in accents of sadness and regret, "Farewell to Vinland!"