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




The Fate of the Treasure

As the bright sun came over the hemlock trees, in the early morning, Eric and Biarne sprang up and joyfully prepared their breakfast.

"We will go a few more miles up the river and then will return home," said Eric.

Just as they were about to push off the canoe, something made Eric look down at the sandy soil, and what he saw there made him start backward. There were the prints of a man's naked foot.

"Biarne!" said he in a startled manner. "Yes."

"Look there!"

Biarne's eyes grew as big as two saucers. Could it be one of the Skrellings, he thought. They must be careful.

"Eric, we must start down stream immediately."

"You are quite right, Biarne. Here, help me shove the canoe into the water!"

The canoe was soon lifted from the shore and floated upon the surface of the river. Both boys clambered aboard, after hastily putting in their belongings. Then the bow was turned down stream, the paddles were seized, and they started away at a rapid pace. As they turned a bend, a fierce cry sounded from the bank and they knew that the Skrellings had seen them.

"Paddle, oh, paddle!" cried Biarne. "I am afraid that they will head us off, for it is very shallow here."

Eric said nothing, but dug his paddle into the water with a right good will and the boat fairly flew along. Again sounded the cry, and, as the boys swung the canoe around a bend in the stream, an arrow whizzed by the ear of poor Biarne, whose hair was fairly standing up from his head.

On, on paddled the boys, startling a great blue heron which flapped away, squawking dismally, and almost running into a flock of black ducks, which had alighted on the peaceful river on their way to the North. On, on they went, and farther and farther behind them echoed that warlike cry. They did not dare look behind them, but kept on manfully, while the perspiration ran down their brows.

At length they turned a great bend hi the river and Eric took in his paddle.

"Goodness, Biarne, but that was a tight squeeze," he said. "I believe that if we had not shoved off when we did we would have been captured by the Skrellings, for they must have been all around us."

Biarne looked furtively over his shoulder.

"You are quite right, Eric," said he. "We had a very narrow escape. But, after all, I do not believe that the Skrellings are such bad people. They might have treated us very well, indeed."

Eric laughed.

"Certainly what I saw of them hi the woods did not give me too high an opinion of them," he answered. "They looked to me like wild men."

The boys now chattered and laughed quite happily, for they felt that the danger was over. A bobolink rose from the bushes and flooded the air with beautiful cascades of melody; the sun shone upon the rippling water with brilliancy, and, as they floated along by some high rushes, a red-winged blackbird sang "Congaree! Congaree!" All was peace and beauty along the lovely river.

Running the canoe into the bank, the boys went ashore and ate their luncheon. Little did they think that a great Norse town, called Norumbega, later would be built where they were seated. It was to have walled docks and wharves, a dam, a fishway, and miles of stone walls along the Charles River, below. Later a town called Watertown, was to come into being on this spot. As the boys lay idly upon the bank, they had not the slightest idea that many Norsemen, in after years, would have their homes here, and would interest themselves in fishing, in cutting wood, and in building houses for their friends and their kinsfolk.

"I heard Thorwald say that we would begin the journey to Greenland very shortly," said Eric, as he lay upon his back, idly gazing into the air. "We had better dig up our treasure, to-morrow, Biarne. What say you?"

"I certainly agree, Eric. We must get it stowed away in sacks, and, if any one asks us what it is, we will say that it is the result of our trapping expeditions with old Staumfroid."

Viking canoes

WATCHED THEM, WITH ONE FOOT IN THE AIR AND HEAD ERECT.


"I hardly think that would fool them."

"Well, we must take our chances."

The noon-day rest was now over, so, again entering their canoe, the boys continued their journey down stream. They felt that there was now no danger from the Skrellings, so took things easily.

Floating along gently and quietly, they startled a great, red buck deer as he was drinking from the stream. The animal started to run, as they whirled by, but stopped for a moment and watched them, with one foot in the air and head erect.

"Doesn't he look like a statue?" said Eric.

Biarne laughed.

"Yes, I'd like to have a picture of him just as he is."

The buck seemed to blow out his breath as if whistling; then turned, and, with a few bounds, was off into the forest.

The boys paddled onwards, and, just as dusk was appearing, reached the neighborhood of the huts which Leif had erected. They could see the smoke ascending from the chimneys, and dark forms moving on the beach, so they knew that all was well with the Vikings. They neared the place where they had buried their treasure, and quite unconsciously, Eric cast his eye in that direction. Something in the look of the ground made him uneasy, so he paddled towards the spot. As he drew nearer, a cry of dismay issued from his lips.

"Biarne, paddle on quickly!" he cried.

Biarne drove his paddle into the water and the bow of the canoe fairly shot through the blue river until the bank was reached. As Eric leaped to the shore, a cry of anger and dismay came from his lips.

"Biarne! Oh, Biarne! The treasure is gone!"

Biarne was too stunned to answer. As he looked before him, two great holes were in the beach; stone, sand, and gravel was thrown up on every side. Their precious possessions had vanished. Only one thing remained. This was a stake driven in the ground upon which had been affixed a board. On this had been written with a burned stick the word: "Skrelling."

The two boys sat down upon the sand and sobbed bitterly. Their treasure, their wonderful treasure, which they had thought of so fondly, and so often, had been stolen.

But they had little time for reflection, as all were preparing for the return trip to Greenland.