Stories of the Pilgrims - M. B. Pumphrey


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 savages 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.