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

The Pirate Ship


"What is it, Eric?"

"There is trouble in the wind!"

"Eh! What!"

"Yes, trouble, I say; much trouble, for the ravens have been croaking, and there is a strange sound from out the mist."

A thick fog lay over the winding river which coursed through the lake into the sea, and rolled across the marshes upon its border. It enveloped the Valhalla  as she swung gracefully at anchor, and it hid from view the great log house, which Leif and his men had constructed upon the shore.

Biarne listened, and, sure enough, away down at the mouth of the lake, where it emptied into the sea, could be heard a muffled noise.

"What do you suppose it is, Eric?" said he.

"A bittern, perhaps!"

"It's too loud for that!"

"A flock of geese!"

"Oh, no, they are far north upon their breeding grounds and have not yet flown southward."

"Then, what?"

As Biarne spoke, the sun began to burn off the fog and great rifts commenced to appear in the bank of mist. Finally the far distant shore of the bay was visible, and, peering intently into the distance, the two young Vikings saw a strange and astonishing sight. Another Viking ship—in fact, the very counterpart of the Valhalla—with gleaming oars and large, square sail, lay at the end of that inland sea. What a thrill it sent through the two young adventurers.

But the ship had been seen by others. There was a wonderful bustle and confusion near the camp of the Norsemen; there was a dashing and running about; a seizing of weapons; a curious peering into the far distance, where the strange visitor lay ominously near the stronghold of these sturdy adventurers. Captain Leif made haste to put on his armor.

"My Vikings," said he, "we will soon have a more desperate affair than that fracas with the Skrellings."

Drifting slowly along in the slight southerly breeze lay the stranger; dark in hull, ominously menacing, her sail flapping wearily, her great curving prow cutting the blue water with a ribbon of white. With the wisps of vapor eddying around her in the gentle southerly breeze, she looked like a grim phantom, hovering near, with the black hand of death at the helm.

The Vikings were soon prepared for battle. Quickly incasing themselves in their breast-plates, and seizing their shields, bows, and spears, they crowded to the boats and were paddled to the sides of the Valhalla. The anchor was hauled from the sandy bottom, the sail was run aloft, and, dipping the long oars into the brine, the great ship bore down upon the stranger, which still lay there, drifting, idling along, as if prepared for any encounter.

"Look well to your slings and arrows, my friends," shouted Leif, as he firmly seized the helm. "We will find a foe, here, well worthy of our steel, I'll warrant."

"That's the truth," spoke Eric, as he buckled on his breastplate. "She looks to me like a pirate ship."

"And will she stand?" asked Biarne, curiously.

"That she will," answered a grizzled Viking, as he affectionately ran his fingers down his sword blade. "She will stand, for you notice that her crew are making no effort to paddle her to the harbor's mouth."

On, on forged the Valhalla, and still the stranger did not attempt to escape. On, on sped the Norsemen under Captain Leif, until they drew so close to the great, brown hulk in the offing that they could see the oarsmen on the deck.

As the Vikings eagerly peered at the visitors they saw brown, sunburnt and tawny-bearded faces beneath high caps of steel. Breast-plates flashed and glistened in the sun, spears reared their pointed heads from behind the high gun-whales. The visitors were apparently from the coast of France, or perhaps from the land lying upon the German Ocean. They rolled out a fierce song of war and shook their fists vindictively at the oncomers.

"It will be a battle royal," said Biarne.


An arrow whizzed from some sturdy hand upon the deck of the newcomer, and a sharp barb flew by Biarne's ear, only to bury itself in the stout, oak planking near the mast.

Leif had been in many a fierce battle before and he stood at the helm with perfect calmness, directing his men with the ease and confidence of a veteran.

"Bear in close," he cried to those at the starboard oars. "Back water," to those on the port side. "We will reach the side of yonder pirate and have hand-to-hand fighting at once. It is the only way to handle these men of iron."

The Valhalla  sheered off sideways, and bore down, steadily yet swiftly, upon the stranger. Her sail was flapping as she sped along, and, although the sail of the visitor had filled away, her helmsman bore up into the wind, so that she was bow on. Leif had steered in many another such encounter. He gently played with the rudder, and, as the Valhalla  sped onwards, suddenly turned her bow so that she ranged along the side of their opponent. In a moment the grappling hooks sped through the air and the two sea warriors were linked together in the grip of death.

It did not take long for the Vikings to clamber over the rail and meet the foe in hand-to-hand battle. The arrows flew, axes crashed against steel and iron, blows rang upon cuirass and helmet, groans and sharp cries of battle sounded above the grinding of wood as the two great hulks rubbed against each other.

The strangers were a fierce and warlike crew. They fought well.

"Men, either you must conquer," cried Leif, "or we must all leave our bones in Vinland."

But the enemy were no match for the Norsemen. Several of the latter had already fallen, it is true, for the strangers shot accurately with their bows and struck out right valiantly with sword and with battle-axe. In spite of this, the Vikings drove them back to the stern of the ship, where, holding their shields before them, they ranged themselves in a circle, back-to-back, determined to battle until the last gasp.

Leif, himself, now took part in the fray. Leaving the helm in the charge of Thorwald, he leaped across the gunwale, and, with ax in hand, rushed into the thick of the fight. It was not long before the circle of steel had been broken, before these valiant invaders had been all either killed or disarmed, and the wild songs of the Vikings sounded shrill and clear above the groans of the wounded and dying. The Norsemen had conquered.