ON and on the ship sailed. How wide the water seemed.
Some days were full of sunshine: then the little children could play upon the deck. They loved to watch the sunset across the wide ocean. Then the sky was bright with purple and gold. Each wave caught the colors from the clouds until the whole world seemed aglow.
They loved to watch the stars come out in the evening. At first only two or three of the biggest, bravest ones peeped forth, to see if the sun had gone. Then a few others looked timidly out. Yes, the sun was really gone, and his glory of red and gold was quickly following him.
Then troops of little stars burst from their hiding places. They twinkled merrily at the little Pilgrims, as if to say, “See we are going with you to your new home. We went with you to Holland; we will go with you to America. Do not be lonely.”
But it grew colder, for the winter was drawing near. Many days the deck was too cold and icy to play upon. Then the children must stay in the dark, crowded cabin.
Poor little Pilgrims! Many were ill, and all wished the long voyage ended. There were but few games they could play in the little cabin, and they had no toys or story books. How they longed for the green fields and shady woods!
Then Priscilla told them stories of the sunny land where she once lived. Did only pleasant things happen in that wonderful country? If there were any unhappy times there, Priscilla never spoke of them. The stories she told were such merry tales they brought sunshine into the gloomiest little faces.
Even tired mothers, who were too far away to hear the story, would smile as they looked into Priscilla’s laughing eyes. “What a comfort that child is,” they often said.
Then Mary Chilton, who had grown to be a large girl now, played games with them. John Alden whittled out a wonderful puzzle for them, and every one tried to make the voyage pleasant.
But nine weeks is a long time to be shut up on a boat, and be tossed about by the rough waves. The little ones were so tired, it seemed to them they could not stand it any longer.
Then what do you think happened away out there on the ocean? Two dear little baby boys were born. Oh, how happy the children were! They forgot to be tired then.
You may be sure those babies never lacked nurses. It was such fun to hold them and sing to them softly until they closed their eyes and went to sleep.
Of course, every one wanted to help name the babies. Each thought of the very best name he knew, but it was hard to suit all.
Giles Hopkins wished to name his baby brother Jan, after a friend in Holland, but that name did not suit his parents at all. They did not want to give their baby a Dutch name.
“Those babies never lacked nurses”
Mistress Hopkins thought he should be named Stephen for his father.
“No,” said Master Hopkins, “if he were given my name he would be called ‘little Stephen’ until he grew to be a man. I believe no child was ever born here before. I wish he might have a name no other has ever had.”
What could it be? Some spoke of “Mayflower,” but others thought that a better name for a little girl.
A week passed and still the baby was not named. “This will never do,” said his mother. “Constance, you have not said what you would like to name your little brother.”
Constance said she had been thinking “Ocean” would be a good name for this baby.
“Ocean!—Ocean!” whispered the mother to herself. It was certainly a very suitable name, but it had a queer sound. Surely no other child had ever borne that name.
When Elder Brewster heard about the new name he said, “I know of a word in another language which means ocean. It is Oceanus. Perhaps you would like that name better.”
“Oceanus!” That seems like a queer name for a child, but the pilgrims often gave their children names which seem strange to us. This did not sound so strange to them. They thought “Oceanus Hopkins” a very good name for the baby, and so it was decided.
Then came the other wee baby. He too must have a suitable name. What should it be?
After many names had been considered, Mary Allerton said she thought “Wandering” would be a good name for the baby, because the Pilgrims were wandering in search of a home.
Mistress White did not quite like “Wandering” for a name, but she asked Elder Brewster if he did not know another word which meant the same thing.
And so this baby was named “Peregrine.” Peregrine White and Oceanus Hopkins! “Those are very large names for such very tiny babies,” thought little Love Brewster.
IT was now nine weeks since the Pilgrims sailed from England. No one had thought the voyage would be so long. The captain felt sure they must be coming near land, but he could not tell just where they were.
Many times a day, a sailor climbed high up on the mast to look for land. Still there was nothing to be seen but the wide sea,—not an island, nor even a ship.
At daybreak one cold November morning, a glad shout rang through the ship. “Land! Land!”
Yes, there lay the land—that new land which was to be their home and ours.
There were no rocky cliffs like those of England. Before them rose tall, green pine trees, and great oaks still wearing their dress of reddish brown.
Not a town or a single house could they see. No smoke rose from the forest to tell them where a village lay hidden. Not a sound was heard but the whistling of the cold wind through the ropes and masts, and the lapping of the water about the boat.
“This is not the sunny southland we had hoped to find,” said their governor, John Carver. “The storms have driven us too far north for that.”
“No, this is not the sunny southland, but land of any sort is a joyful sight after our long voyage,” replied Elder Brewster. “Let us not forget to thank God, who has brought us safe to this new land.”
It was too near winter to sail farther south. Near by the Pilgrims must find the best place to make their home. So the little ship sailed into the quiet bay and dropped anchor. Perhaps it, too, was glad the long voyage was ended.
The water in the bay was so shallow that the ship could not reach the shore. So the men quickly lowered the small boat the “Mayflower” carried. Then Miles Standish, William Bradford, John Alden, and several of the others climbed down the rope ladder into their boat and rowed away. They carried their guns and axes, and had an empty keg which they hoped to fill with fresh water. That which they brought from England was almost gone, and all were thirsty for a drink of cold, fresh water.
The sun had gone under a cloud, and the wind was wild and cold. The icy water dashed over the hands of the men as they rowed. When they reached the shore, they pulled the boat upon the sand that it might not drift away.
“I think two or three would better stay near the boat while the others go into the forest,” said Captain Standish. “We should be in a sad plight if natives were to steal our boat while we are all gone.”
So John Alden and William Bradford stayed near the boat. Floating on the shallow water, or flying through the air, were hundreds of wild fowl. The Pilgrims had not tasted fresh meat since they left England. What a treat some of these wild birds would be!
The two men knelt behind their boat and kept very still. After a while the birds came near to the boat. Bang! Bang! flashed the guns, and bang!—bang!—bang! rang the echo.
Away flew the birds, but John ran along the shore, and waded into the water, picking up the ducks they had killed. “We will have a supper fit for a king, to-night,” said John to himself, as he carried the birds back to the boat.
Then they built a fire of dry branches, to warm their stiffened fingers and dry their clothes. When the wood was all ablaze they piled green pine branches upon the fire. There was a sharp, crackling sound, and a cloud of black smoke arose.
“If the men get lost in the forest they will see this smoke and know which way to go,” thought Bradford, as he piled on the sweet-smelling pine.
Then they cut some dry wood to carry back to the “Mayflower,” for the fuel was all gone, and the cabin was very cold. In the bottom of the boat was a pile of clams which the men had dug from the sand.
It was almost night when Captain Standish and his men came out of the forest. They carried some rabbits, and their keg was full of fresh water which they had found not far from the shore.
All day they had not seen a house or a person. When they reached the top of the hill, one man took a glass and climbed a tall pine tree. He was surprised to see that the ocean lay on both sides of the forest. The land seemed like a long arm stretched into the sea.
This was not a good place to make their home. The harbor was too shallow and there were no rivers or large brooks where they could always get fresh water. The little ponds they had found would dry up in the summer.
The next day was the Sabbath. They would spend it quietly on the ship, and on Monday perhaps they could look farther.