Charles stood at the rail watching the deepening sunset. As darkness fell, the talk always grew more disturbing. The men were gloomy, angry, even scared.
“Maybe they’re afraid of the dark,” he said to Peter, with a laugh.
These strong, sturdy sailors that had endured dangers and storms, and lived for adventure?
But they were afraid of some things, that was for sure.
“Falling off the earth!” Peter scorned. “How ridiculous. We’ve known for years that the earth is round.”
“They didn’t prove it though. How can we really know?” asked Charles, mimicking some of the men, just to tease his friend.
“We can believe the Scriptures,” said Sandy, who served as their priest on the voyage. He and Uncle Samuel joined them at the rail. “The prophet Isaiah talks about the earth being a sphere.”
“But what about the sea monsters they’re always on about,” chuckled Peter.
“Well, the Bible does speak of large sea creatures, but we don’t even know if they still exist–or how big they really were,” said Uncle Samuel.
“Whales are big enough for me,” Charles said, as the bell rang for Vespers.
Peter led the way, though in the past he had tried every scheme he could think of to stay away from evening prayers.
Now Peter loved spending time with God, whether privately or in worship with the others. He spent hours talking about the Scriptures with those who had been Christians for years. And a good deal of time telling others the good news of Jesus Christ. After his near-death experience, he wanted everyone to be ready to meet the Almighty.
“I don’t want to hear it! Bah! You and your religion,” one sailor always scoffed, and others agreed.
But some wanted to hear and learn more. Unfortunately, many of them were distracted lately with talk of mutiny.
“No land in sight. No treasure. He’s not giving us anything he promised!” they stormed.
Even though Vespers was mandatory for sailors who were not on watch or sleeping, the mood was grumpy tonight. As Sandy led in song, off key as usual, some of the sailors didn’t even participate.
“We’d better come to some land soon,” said the priest, as they all scattered later to their sleep, or drinking, or games, “before there really is trouble.”
“These waters are unchartered. Admiral Columbus doesn’t know what’s out there. That’s what we’re here for—exploration,” said Uncle Samuel, in frustration.
“We must pray for God’s mercy to keep the violence at bay,” said Sandy.
Charles, relaxing later behind the bulkhead, with his dog beside him, decided to do just that. He was more afraid of mutiny then of silly tales of sea monsters, or dropping off the end of a flat earth.
He had come a long way in his relationship with God. Rather than just believing that God existed and was up there somewhere demanding allegiance, he was starting to really know Him and even love Him.
Suddenly Charles heard a whisper, and he put his hand on Blackie’s head to stop his low growl.
Uncle Samuel and Sandy had wandered off, but someone else was on the other side of the bulkhead. Someone that Blackie didn’t like.
Then came more whispers, and Charles could make out the voices. It was old Michael, who had been pardoned from evil deeds of some kind to go on this voyage.
Then there was Paul, from France. He’d somehow got on the wrong side of the king, and had fled throughout Europe, finally settling in Spain. Some said he’d been a soldier, and he certainly had the bearing of one. Neither man liked Blackie and took any opportunity to give him a kick.
“Listen,” came Paul’s voice, “two nights from now—after midnight. The men that are on watch that night are with us. The rest will be asleep.”
“But not for long,” put in old Michael, gleefully. “We’ll subdue Captain Pinzon first. We’ll do this before we go over the edge. Who knows what’s at the bottom—or if we’d even survive the fall.”
“That old tale of a flat earth is foolish,” scoffed Paul. “But sea monsters aren’t. My old uncle saw one. They hushed it up, claiming it was nothing more than an octopus, but he knew better. He saw the tentacles fifty feet out.”
“Fifty feet! That’s impossible! He was the ones telling tales!”
Paul ignored this. “And we’re running out of rations. There’s nothing out here. No Indies—no land of any kind. We can make a good life back at the Canary Islands.”
“But what about the Santa Maria. Columbus won’t let mutiny go down without punishment. We could all be dead if they catch us.”
“That old tub? We’re much faster. We’ll outrun them, hide for a while in some rocky cove, and then backtrack to the Islands and live it up.”
“Wait! We’re not faster than the Pinta though. They could catch us.”
“They’re unhappy too,” snapped Paul. “A good many of them will go with us. Leave old Columbus to his journey. He’ll starve before he comes to land, mark my word.”
And with rustling and the clink of a dagger they were gone.
Charles sat, horror struck. Blackie had stayed quiet under his hand, but now he sensed the boy’s mood and gave a sharp bark.
But the men had moved on. As Charles rose silently, and peered around the bulkhead, he saw them heading down to the hold. Most of the crew slept up here on deck, except in foul weather, so he didn’t know what they were going below for. But he was glad for he needed to do something! But what?
Uncle Samuel. He must find Uncle Samuel!
Two nights later, in the deepest hours of darkness, several shadowy figures rose from their blankets and crept forward, toward the captain’s small cabin. Charles saw it all, raising his head and watching carefully. The men on watch had been given extra weapons earlier. He and Peter had noted the exchange as Paul slipped a hand gun to one. The old man, Micheal gave a short knife to another.
Charles crept up and went to his post, letting down a rope ladder. Below, as he expected, was a small boat filled with sailors from the flagship. He was, however, surprised to see the admiral, Columbus himself. The men quietly scaled the ladder and came aboard, silently scattering into dark hiding places as the mutinous watchmen concentrated on the other end of the ship. They were peering out over the water, looking for help from the Pinta.
Instead, the dinghy from the Pinta was joining Columbus and his men. The sailors hurried up the ladder and were soon in place. The admiral gave Charles a nod and the boy nearly burst with happiness that the great man noticed him.
He quickly moved to his appointed spot, out of the way, but brandishing a brand new knife that his uncle had given him–just in case. Blackie stood beside him, alert and quiet, as if understanding the mission.
The dark shadows moved stealthily toward the captain’s cabin. One man grasped the door handle, carefully opened it, and slipped in. Charles could just get a glimpse inside from his hiding place.
It was Paul who made for the bed, meaning to wake the captain—at gunpoint. Another stayed to guard the door. Old Michael looked about for the cabin boy, to subdue him.
Suddenly a candle glowed! And three men from the darkest corners of the room jumped the intruders. One was Captain Pinzon. They held the guard and Michael fast, snapping manacles on their wrists. More light came up as lanterns were lit.
Suddenly Paul twisted and ran, escaping those who grabbed for him, and bounding out of the cabin. Peter burst out from behind a huge coil of rope, and raced after him.
Then everything broke loose. The sleeping men awoke with a start. The men on watch were suddenly in the fight of their lives as sailors from the Pinta and Santa Maria attacked.
Peter was distracted by an enemy coming at him, and suddenly Charles realized that no one was watching Paul any longer. The Frenchman stopped, and headed stealthily for the rail.
He was going to jump, and make for one of the boats. And there was so much noise that no one heard Charles shout.
He ran toward the man, hoping to at least pull him back long enough for someone to notice. If the man jumped, he might get away!
But Blackie was quicker.
The dog streaked by Charles, and grabbed at the man’s leg. Paul went for his dagger, but Charles reached him and knocked it out of his hand. Then Peter was there to help.
It was all over in a matter of minutes. And later, when the two boats were about to return to their ships, there were five men in shackles on board.
The admiral looked down upon Charles.
“Thank you for your service, young man. It was a good thing we took you on in Spain, wasn’t it? And your dog, too.”
As the man climbed down to the boat, Charles glanced at Uncle Samuel who was beaming with pride. Charles suddenly had the thought that there were more important things than treasure and fame on this journey. He and Blackie would be honored now, for weren’t all the men congratulating him? But he found that all he really cared about was that his captain had been saved, and their mission could continue.
“The Almighty was with us this night, boy,” said Sandy, putting a hand on his shoulder.
Yes, He certainly was, thought Charles. And he wondered what would come next on this amazing voyage.
To be continued….
By Carol Bennett
Bo’sun-boatswain, a man in charge of the deck crew, anchors, etc.
Hatch-an opening to descend to the hold
Carrack-a type of ship in Columbus’ day, with a large hold that could carry a good deal of cargo. The flagship, Santa Maria, was a carrack.
Caravel-a smaller, faster ship with less cargo space. It could sail closer to shore. The Pinta and Nina were caravels.
What’s the Big Deal About Spices?
The explorers were searching for a better route to the east. They were hunting for gold, and wanted to trade for silks and spices. They were thrilled to reach the Spice Islands!
It doesn’t seem like a big deal to us—but do you like garlic and pepper on your pizza and chicken, or cinnamon in your cookies and cakes? Most people have all these spices in their kitchen cupboards, and your parents use them all the time to flavor food.
In those days, people in Europe had discovered pepper and other spices in the eastern countries. These spices were popular with those who could afford them. They also liked cloves, ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon. With the holidays coming, what would we do without some of these to flavor our Thanksgiving and Christmas desserts?
After Columbus’ voyages, the Spanish explorers also began to bring back chilies and cayenne pepper from America.
Remember…this story of Charles and his dog is fictional. The only true historical characters are Columbus and the captains of the Nina and Pinta, who were brothers.