“I’m not going,” said Uncle Samuel, quietly.
Charles knew that Uncle Samuel had wanted to talk with him alone. Now he understood why.
But Peter and Laurence, as well as the priest, had just walked by and stopped, surprised at his outburst.
In spite of them, Uncle Samuel pressed on. “Charles, God has spoken to me. I’m not traveling on with you.”
“Then where are you going? Back? How? There’s no way to get back to Spain!” He had never thought his uncle was a coward! Charles couldn’t believe he would give up the journey!
“I’m not going back either. I’m staying here. To share with these people about Jesus. To learn their language. God has shown me what He wants me to do, Charles.”
The boy was thunderstruck. But Laurence put a hand on his shoulder. “Your uncle is right. ”
Charles turned on him. “But what about you! I thought you were the one that wanted to preach to these people about God. Why don’t you stay instead of Uncle Samuel?” Charles hardly knew what he was saying, he was so upset.
But Laurence understood. “God told me no. I have a family to provide for. I must go on, and make enough money to take care of them. But perhaps later, I’ll come back with my family or with my son, and minister to some of these people. Besides, I want to stay on board and watch out for—them.”
Charles followed his gaze to the six natives who had just arrived on shipboard. The admiral had insisted on taking them as slaves. He felt it would be better for them. They would hear the gospel in Europe, be educated. And since he’d found no gold yet, they would be proof to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella that he really had found land.
Laurence did not agree. “They’ll still be slaves—and it’s wrong. When we do things against God’s laws, it can only go wrong. Even if the admiral treats them well, what about later? Is he going to keep them with him for the rest of their lives? No. They’ll be sold.”
The man shuddered at the thought. “I’d buy them myself if it came to that, and free them. But unless I find a great deal of gold, I could never afford it—or be able to keep them safe. I have eight children to care for as it is.”
He shook his head sadly, and the three moved on to get their supper.
“I’ve thought and prayed a lot about this,” Uncle Samuel told Charles, when they were alone again. “And I want to share Christ with these people here, in their own village. The chief wants to hear of our God. He’s invited me to stay. And of course I’ve talked to the admiral, and he’s relieving me from my duties. And you will carry on with Simon, the new navigator. You will learn and educate yourself, so that you will have some skills for the future.”
Charles was starting to get used to the idea, just a little. He liked the work he’d been doing in navigation.
“I don’t know how your mother would feel about my leaving you, but you’ve got friends here. Men to help you and advise you. Trust Laurence. I know people think he’s strange, but I feel he has a great deal of God’s wisdom. So does Sandy, our priest. And Peter will be a good friend to you. The admiral says he will stop here on the way back to Spain. To see if I want to leave.”
Charles was relieved to hear this, at least.
“I won’t, I’m sure. This is God’s mission for me. But we’ll see each other and talk. Here’s money. I won’t need it here.”
Uncle Samuel dug into his pouch. All he’d be taking from the ship were a change of clothes and his journal.
And a gift from Sandy. The priest had given him a portion of the Scriptures, printed in the new way, on the wonderful new printing press that had been invented some years ago. Sandy had paid a great deal of money for the book, but he wanted Uncle Samuel to have it.
“Perhaps someday I’ll be able to translate it into the Indian’s language,” said Uncle Samuel, excitedly.
Later that day, they embraced, and Uncle Samuel climbed down to the dinghy. The sailors would bring back one last load of fruit for the journey, and leave Uncle Samuel.
Charles’ friends were gathered around him—Peter, and Sandy, and Laurence. Blackie barked excitedly. They watched until the boat had reached the island. Uncle Samuel raised his arm in a final wave, at least Charles imagined it was his uncle, for he was very far away.
Would he ever see Uncle Samuel again?
“I don’t really understand,” said Charles to Peter, as the other men went off to their duties. “I know some of our group came to share the gospel. Uncle Samuel, especially. But some of the men are saying these people don’t seem to need it. They’re friendly and peaceful. They have a good life.”
“I wondered about that, too, but Laurence and Sandy agree on this. That a civilization without the true God is steeped in sin. We in Europe are sinful people, too, even though we know of God. There’s sin everywhere and unless we choose right, it brings darkness and sorrow. But in Europe, at least many of us love and serve the true God, and those who don’t, have the chance to learn of Him if they want to.”
“But those boys I made friends with—they seemed happy.”
Peter shook his head, earnestly. “We were starting to see more than just the peaceful, simple existence they appeared to have. From what the chief seemed to be saying, there’s others who are not peace-loving—who are very dangerous. He was showing us pictures, —of violence and fighting and much worse.”
“Those paintings in the cave?”
Peter nodded. “They seem to be in a safe place for now, but I think there’s been a lot of trouble, and pain, and fear, and superstition in their past. That kind of thing is caused by sin and wickedness. Only God can change that.”
It gave Charles a lot to think about.
Everyone missed Uncle Samuel, but no one more than Charles. But he was proud of his uncle, too. And everyone thought it would be a good thing to have someone back there learning the language, so they could really understand what these people were saying.
“And they’ll finally be able to tell us where to find the gold!” said one impatient sailor.
“I think they were hiding it. I think they knew all along what we were saying! We should go back and make them tell!” exclaimed another.
They’d stopped at other islands, and met other natives. Some not as friendly as the Taino people.They all seemed to imply that there was gold—but in other places, on other islands. So the admiral kept moving on.
And much to Laurence’s dismay, they talked of perhaps taking on more slaves as well. Many more. And though Laurence had hoped to make friends with the six they already had, they were needed on the Santa Maria with the admiral.
Though the six were learning many things, most treated them as servants already. Even though the admiral considered them as his guides, those who could help him talk to the people they met, the sailors seemed to think the natives were inferior and ordered them about.
“I wonder if they just thought they were going on a little trip with us. I wonder if they even understand that we’re taking them back to Europe,” said Laurence, shaking his head.
The priest wasn’t worried though. “They’ll get a good home. There have been slaves for centuries, and there always will be. They’ll have their needs provided for. They’ll be fine.”
“They provided for themselves on the island,” replied Laurence in his wise, gentle way. “And they were with their families and friends.”
But Sandy just turned, and stalked off.
“It’s the Admiral, and he looks angry!” said Peter, as they watched the small boat from the flagship come up beside them.
It was very late. What could have brought their leader here at this time of night?
As he climbed the ladder and clambered aboard, the Admiral did indeed have a furious look on his face. Captain Pinzon hurried to meet him, and Columbus burst out, “Martin is gone! Did you know about this? Will you leave me, too?”
“The Pinta is gone! They’ve deserted us!”
“Sir,” The captain shook his head, “my brother is a hothead. You know that. No gold. No silks or spices yet. Only these few slaves….”
“So will you desert me too?”
“I will not. We may not have found Japan or China yet, only these tiny islands but we will. We will, sir!”
The admiral relaxed, and put a hand on the captain’s shoulder, perhaps in apology. They retreated into the captain’s cabin, and no more could be heard. Finally an hour later the admiral emerged, and returned to his own ship. But everyone, even the most rebellious of them, were in shock at this news.
The Pinta had gone on alone.
Another dark night. A shout and everyone raced to the port side!
“She’s run aground!”
It was the Santa Maria! And it looked bad as waves rushed over the ship that was stuck fast and breaking apart!
The captain was suddenly there, barking orders. The boats were let down, and sailors rowed to the rescue. Charles stayed with the navigator, as they worked feverishly to be sure they didn’t run aground on any hidden sandbar or some such thing, as well.
It suddenly seemed that everything was going wrong. Nothing was happening as expected.
Charles wondered if God was with them in this journey, after all.
To be continued….
By Carol Bennett
This story and characters are fictional, though based on the voyages of Christopher Columbus.