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

The Battle with the Skrellings

Leif Ericson was a large man, but he was as agile as could be. Dodging the whizzing shaft, he ran quickly to the new-made house and there seized his own bow and arrow, his spear and his breast-plate.

"Come, my Vikings!" he cried. "I f these natives intend to drive us from the land, let us make it well worth their while."

"Hurrah!" shouted his followers, as they, too, ran to seize their bows, their arrows, and their spears. "We will show these Skrellings that the Vikings are not easily frightened."

A shower of darts and arrows was coming from the woods, as the Norsemen made ready to defend themselves. A series of shrill and startling cries rose from the timber; but, although an occasional arrow whizzed through the air from the direction of the dense forest, no heads of the enemy were exposed, and it was impossible to guess what was the size of the attacking party.

Biarne was at first quite frightened; but when he saw the unconcern with which Leif took the whole affair, he regained his composure. Strapping around his body one of the many breastplates which the Vikings had brought with them, he took up a bow and arrow and stood near the gallant Leif, who seemed not at all afraid of the yelping natives, whose war-like cries echoed from the dense underbrush.

The Vikings now ranged themselves in battle array and prepared to defend themselves, should the Skrellings, or natives of Vinland, debouch from the bush and make an onrush upon them. But no attack came. Instead, while the wild war-whoops continued, and an occasional arrow issued from the forest, the natives seemed to have no intention of issuing forth to engage in a hand-to-hand encounter.

"Let us advance into the woods," said Leif, at this juncture, "and show our yelping foes that the Vikings are men of red blood. Come, Norsemen, to the attack!"

Suiting the action to the words the brave Norse adventurer started for the woods, and, penetrating into the glade, drew his bow and shot an arrow at the head of one of the Skrellings, which he saw just above the side of a giant log. He missed the object of his attack by full a yard.

The rest of the Vikings now burst into the woods with a wild "hullo," and were met with a shower of arrows. Nothing daunted, they rushed forward and quickly routed the enemy from their hiding-places.

And what manner of men were these Skrellings? They were sometimes called Smaellingar, or small men. The red Indians did not then inhabit the coast of America, and these white people, small and squat in stature, but with heavy hair upon their bodies, were the owners of the land. The Indians said that the Great Spirit gave them the country after he had wrested it from the Skrellings.

They were a warlike race, and fought with spears, with bows and arrows, and with stone axes. They had skin boats, whereas the red Indians who followed them, used birch-bark canoes, or boats fashioned out of logs. They wore armor of deer and moose skin, and had shields fashioned from the same material.

The Skrellings held their ground only for a few moments. Apparently they had no relish for a hand-to-hand encounter with their giant invaders, who had on such curious-looking things that made their arrows bounce away when they struck them. So, after a terrific yelping, they turned and ran pell-mell into the forest, followed by the spears and arrows of the Vikings. Not a single Norseman had been dangerously wounded, although many of them had been struck by the flint-leaded arrows of the Skrellings; several, indeed, had been pierced through the thighs and calves of their legs; but, as the arrows were not poisoned, they did not seem to mind the injury.

The Vikings had been more accurate in their aim. The bodies of two of the Skrellings lay pierced by many arrows. As the Norsemen gazed upon these curious men of the new country, they found them to be swarthy and sinewy creatures with hairy faces and long black locks. They seemed, also, to be well fed and fairly well clothed, although the heavy skins, which they wore, had been unable to keep the arrows which the Vikings had shot from penetrating to their bodies and dealing them a death blow.

"See, Biarne," said Eric, as he gazed upon the countenance of one of the dead Skrellings, "these fellows not only had on good clothing, but they also had splendid shields."

He reached over, as he spoke, and picked up a round shield of thick skin, upon which was painted the body of a beaver.



"And they belonged to the tribe of men, no doubt," answered Biarne, "who worshiped this animal with a thick tail."

"It certainly is a curious-looking beast," said Eric. "I never saw anything like this in either Greenland or Iceland."

But the boys were to see plenty of beaver in Vinland before they went home to their far distant land in the north Atlantic Ocean.

Leif Ericson seemed to be well pleased with the turn which the fight had taken.

"These Skrellings," said he, "will not attack us again in a hurry. We have given them a good drubbing and they have learned what it is to attempt to frighten the Vikings. I'll warrant that we will have little more trouble with them in the future. Come, boys, back to our camp and catch some salmon for our supper."

All now returned to the beach, and, while some resumed work on the house, others jumped into the boats, paddled down the stream, and, with fish-hooks and lines, attempted to catch fish for the evening meal. The smoke ascended from the fires upon the shore: the axes and hammers rang; and the Vikings made this once dull place look animated, indeed. The fight was soon forgotten; the Skrellings, in fact, seemed to have retired far inland, where, no doubt, lay their camp, or their houses. At any rate no fierce war-whoops came from the dense woodland; instead, the beautiful notes of a wood-thrush echoed tunefully from the somber pines and hemlocks, sounding as if some organ were being piped by the talented and invisible hands of a true musician.