“Come on up, Charles! Come see!”
Charles had put away his mop and bucket carefully, for the bos’n was strict about that. He looked out over the deck—it was scrubbed clean. His job was done, and he was free to do as he pleased!
He gleefully scampered up the yardarm to join his new friend Peter.
He knew Mother would be horror-struck to see him up here, far above deck, but Uncle Samuel wasn’t alarmed. He felt that Charles should get to know every nook and cranny of the ship.
He watched as the Canary Islands grew smaller and smaller. Off to port was the Pinta—ahead was the flag ship, the Santa Maria.
They were off—finally—into the wide open sea. Who knew what they would come upon in the future? But Charles didn’t care. He was on board, with his uncle and his new friend, and that’s all he cared about.
They were explorers. They were treasure hunters. That’s what Charles hoped for. Gold enough to keep his family for a long time to come. Oh, yes, the adults wanted to open a new trade route by sea to the Indies and China. There would be spices and all manner of products for trading there. It would surely be an easier route than going over land with all its hardships, including bandits.
Charles glanced down to where his uncle was charting courses and figuring distances. For Uncle Samuel, and even the admiral himself, there was an even more important goal—that of spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, and helping others to know Him.
Charles didn’t think too much about that, though he was a Christian. He had always known God was to be worshiped and served. And some people even seemed to love Him. Charles had to admit that out here on the ocean, God’s majesty seemed greater than ever—
“What’s keeping you?” Peter interrupted his thoughts. “You can look at the ocean up here as well as down there!”
Charles gazed up to where Peter hung on to a rope with one hand. He was a daredevil, that one. And he wouldn’t understand his thoughts about God. Peter was one who cared only about money. He was eager to bring lots of treasure home—and he didn’t want to bother with spices and silks either.
The boy was older than Charles, but not as old as the rest of the sailors. He’d already been on one ocean voyage.
“But the admiral started even earlier than me,” Peter had told him when they first met. “He’d been on four journeys by the time he was my age.”
Since this was Peter’s second journey, he knew the ropes and could tell Charles everything he needed to know about sea life.
Finally, after some time of chatting and enjoying the wind in their faces, Peter yawned. “Better get some sleep,” he said. “I’m on night duty.”
Charles looked down, and caught a glimpse of something.
No, it couldn’t be. He squinted and followed Peter down, curious. And a little worried. Of course from this height, he couldn’t really see—oh, he had to be wrong!
The boy clambered down hurriedly.
He jumped to the deck and hurried to a large coil of rope, peering behind it. He was suddenly bombarded as a dog jumped upon him gleefully, licking his face and barking excitedly.
“Shh, shh, shh!” Charles hissed. “What are you doing here! Oh, we’re in so much trouble!”
The black and white spaniel wagged his tail excitedly, and shook all over in spite of this not so eager welcome.
“Shhh! Come on! Oh, what am I going to do with you?” He scooped up the dog in his arms and headed –where could he go? The hold!
That must be where the dog had been all this time. He backed behind the coil of rope until it was safe, but it was too late!
“What is this?” It was the bo’sun, but along with him was the jolly second mate named John.
“Aha! I thought I saw something black sneaking around down in the hold. Did he come on at the Islands?” asked John.
“No—i-i-t’s my dog, B-Blackie. He came on when we left. I guess he’s been hiding all this time.”
The man chuckled as the dog licked him happily. “He’s sure not hiding now. He’s friendly, isn’t he? He must have found something to eat down there, or he’d be starving by now.”
“I’m sorry, sir. I didn’t let him on. Honestly.”
The bos’un frowned, “a stowaway! There’s no place for a dog on shipboard! I say throw him overboard.”
“Now, now,” said the second mate. “I had a dog myself,” this as Charles gripped the dog tightly. “I can’t see the harm as long as he doesn’t get underfoot.”
“Well, his food will have to come out of Charles’s rations. We have none to waste. Water, too.”
“All right,” agreed Charles, quickly.
The bos’un stomped off, but Jack patted the spaniel’s head. “I think you’ll find that the men will like him, and help out with his food. Just keep him below.”
“Yes, Sir. Thank you, Sir.”
Ship life went on. The second mate was right. The men did throw scraps to Blackie often, and he took his place among them. It was hard keeping the dog below, though. He was forever sneaking up, but one day, his position among them was sealed, and he would no longer be banned to the hold.
The first storms had come. The men were not afraid, insisting that this was normal. To Charles, who was holding tightly to Blackie, the squall seemed like a hurricane.
Suddenly the blackened sky and howling winds increased, and the rain pounded down.
A glowing streak of lightening hit the deck directly in front of Peter, who gave a yell, and jumped back. At the same time, the Nina tipped, and a huge wave swept over the railing.
The young man disappeared.
“Peter!” screamed Charles.
“Charles! Get below!” shouted his uncle.
Men were quickly extinguishing a small fire that the lightening bolt had started. Others were reaching for ropes, and peering over the rail for the boy.
“Can’t see him, Hurry! Get the rope out there!”
Suddenly the dog in Charles arms broke loose.
But he was gone, jumping into the water.
Uncle Samuel put his arm around Charles. “They’ll never make it, lad. Those waves are just too strong. Go on down below before we lose you, too, in this wind.”
But before Charles could obey, there was a shout.
“The dog’s got him! Look, now Peter’s got the rope! Pull them in!”
Peter still gripped the dog sometime later as he lay on deck, catching his breath.
“The Lord God was there with me,” he finally gasped. “He sent the dog but He was there, too! I never really believed in Him before, but I knew I couldn’t make it back up through those waves, and somehow He helped me! Then I saw the dog, and grabbed him!”
The sailors stared at each other in astonishment. This was the boy who wanted nothing to do with God. What had happened to him?
To be continued….
By Carol Bennett
This story and all characters, other than Christopher Columbus, are fictional.