Our Empire Story - H. E. Marshall

How Lief the Son of Eric the Red Sailed into the West

Many hundred years ago, Lief, the son of Eric the Red, stood upon the shores of Norway. His hair was fair and long, and his eyes as blue as the sea upon which he looked. And as he watched the sea-horses tossing their foam-manes, his heart longed to be out upon the wild waves.

For Bjarne the Traveller had come home. He had come from sailing far seas, and had brought back with him news of a strange, new land which lay far over the waves towards the setting of the sun. It was a land, he said, full of leafy woods and great tall trees such as had never been seen in Norway. Above a shore of white sand waved golden fields of corn. Beneath the summer breeze vast seas of shimmering grass bowed themselves, and all the air was scented with spice, and joyous with the song of birds.

"I will find this land," cried Lief Ericson, "I will find this land and call it mine."

All day long he paced the shore, thinking and longing, and when the shadows of evening fell he strode into his father's hall.

Eric the Red sat in his great chair, and Lief, his son, stood before him. The firelight gleamed upon the gold bands round his arms and was flashed back from his glittering armour. "Father," he cried, "give me a ship. I would sail beyond the seas to the goodly lands of which Bjarne the Traveller tells."

Then Eric the Red poured shining yellow gold into the hands of Lief, his son. "Go," he cried, "buy the ship of Bjarne and sail to the goodly lands of which he tells."

So Lief bought the ship of Bjarne the Traveller, and to him came four-and-thirty men, tall and strong and eager as he, to sail the seas to the new lands towards the setting sun.

Then Lief bent his knee before his father. "Come, you, O my father," he cried, "and be our leader."

But Eric the Red shook his head. "I am too old," he said. Yet his blue eyes looked wistfully out to sea. His old heart leaped at the thought that once again before he died he might feel his good ship bound beneath him, that once again it would answer to the helm under his hand as his horse to the rein.

"Nay, but come, my father," pleaded Lief, "you will bring good luck to our sailing."

"Ay, I will come," cried Eric the Red. Then rising, the old sea-king threw off his robe of state. Once again, as in days gone by, he clad himself in armour of steel and gold, and mounting upon his horse he rode to the shore.

As Eric neared the ship the warriors set up a shout of welcome. But even as they did so his horse stumbled and fell. The king was thrown to the ground. In vain he tried to rise. He had hurt his foot so badly that he could neither stand nor walk.

"Go, my son," said Eric sadly, "the gods will have it thus. It is not for me to discover new lands. You are young. Go, and bring me tidings of them."

So Lief and his men mounted into his ship and sailed out toward the West. Three weeks they sailed. All around them the blue waves tossed and foamed but no land did they see. At last, one morning, a thin grey line far to the west appeared like a pencil-streak across the blue. Hurrah, land was near! On they sailed, the shore ever growing clearer and clearer. At length there rose before them great snow-covered mountains, and all the land between the sea and the hills was a vast plain of snow.

"It shall not be said that we found no land," said Lief; "I will give this country a name." So they called it Hellaland.

Then on again they sailed. Again they came to land. This time it was covered with trees, and the long, low sloping shore was of pure white sand. They called it Markland, which means Woodland. Again they sailed on, until at length they came to a place where a great river flowed into the sea. There they made up their minds to stay for the winter.

So they cast anchor and left the ship and put up their tents upon the shore. Then they built a house of wood in which to live. In the river they found fish in great plenty, and in the plains grew wild corn. So they suffered neither from cold nor hunger.

When the great house was finished, Lief spoke: "I will divide my men into two bands," he said. "One band shall stay at home and guard the house. The other shall walk abroad and search through the land to discover what they may."

So it was done. Sometimes Lief stayed with the men at home. Sometimes he went abroad with those who explored.

Thus the Northmen passed the winter, finding many wonderful things in this strange new land. And when spring came they sailed homeward to tell the people there of all the marvels they had seen and all that they had done. Then the people wondered greatly. And Lief they called Lief the Fortunate.

Afterwards many people sailed from Greenland and from Norway to the fair new lands in the west. This land we now call North America, and the parts of it which Lief discovered and called Hellaland and Markland we now call Labrador and Nova Scotia. So it was that five hundred years before Columbus lived, America was known to these wild sea-kings of the north.


Front Matter

Part I—Canada
Lief the Son of Eric
Westward! Westward! Westward!
A Breton Sailor in Canada
The Story of Henry Hudson
The Father of New France
The Founding of Quebec
A Bold Answer Saves Quebec
Union Jack upon the Fort
Feast of Eat-Everything
A Knight of New France
The Hudson Bay Company
Adventures of La Salle
La Salle (cont)
Count Frontenac
Madeleine de Vercheres
War of the Boundary Line
The Pathy of Glory
For the Empire
The Story of Laura Secord
Red River Settlement
Louis Riel
Part II—Australia
Nothing New under the Sun
The Founding of Sydney
Bass and Flinders
A Little Revolution
First Traveller in Queensland
Through the Great Unknown
Tracts of Thirst and Furnace
The Finding of Gold
The Bushrangers
Part III—New Zealand
A Great White Bird
The Apostle of New Zealand
Hongi the Warrior
The Maoris
The Wild Cabbage Leaf
The Flagstaff War
The Warpath
Storming of the Bat's Nest
Taming of Wild Cabbage Leaf
King of the Maoris
Sound of the War-Song
The Hau Haus and Te Kooti
Part IV—South Africa
Early Days
The Coming of the Dutch
The Coming of the French
The Coming of the British
Rebellion of Slachter's Nek
The Great Witch Doctor
About the Black Napoleon
The Great Trek
Dingaan's Treachery
The War of the Axe
The Wreck of the Birkenhead
Founding of Two Republics
Story of a False Prophet
A Story about a Pretty Stone
Facing Fearful Odds
Upon Majuba's Height
The Gold City
War and Peace
Part V—India
Alexander Invades India
How Brave Men Went Sailing
Success at Last
Dutch and English
Ambassador Goes to Court
The Hatred of the Dutch
The French in India
The Siege of Arcot
The Black Hole
The Battle of Plassey
Times of Misrule
Warren Hastings—Governor
Warren Hastings—War
Tippoo Sultan
Warrior Chieftains
The Mutiny of Vellore
The Ghurkas
Pindaris and the Maratha War
The First Burmese War
The Siege of Bhurtpore
Sati and Thags
The First Afghan War
The Sikhs
The Mutiny—Delhi
The Mutiny—Cawnpore
The Mutiny—Lucknow
The Empress of India