Friday, October 8, 2010

A Long Line of Golden Cliffs

Elizabeth Bay (later James Bay)
July 1587

It was a morning beyond glorious. The sun was coming up behind them, cutting through the fog, and the red light sparkled on the water. Directly in front of them the sea was dark under the boat's shadow. And rising out of the horizon ahead were a long line of golden cliffs, broken in one place.

"Head for the gap," said John White. The captain called out to the man at the tiller and the ship creaked as the sails caught the wind.

White walked down the deck to where his daughter and son-in-law were standing, gazing at the approaching land. Eleanor was in a simple seaworthy gown, staring at the cliffs as if she were trying to see the future.

"There it is," said White. "We should be in Elizabeth Bay in a few hours. How are you feeling?"

Eleanor said nothing. Her husband Ananias grinned and said, "I'm ready, sir. A whole new world there."

"A world still untouched by the true servants of God," said White. "We will bring this land holiness and civilization."

"Father," said Eleanor, "you know I love you..."

She paused, and White waited with his usual patience.

"But I am afraid," she said at last.

"I am too," said White. "But God will protect us, and..."

"Listen to me," she said sharply, and White and Ananias glanced at each other — Eleanor was not usually one to speak boldly. "Father, the men you left here under Ralph Lane were also under God's protection, and where are they now?"

"They may be alive still," said White. "We left Grenville's men to look for them. They may have found them -- "

"Maybe," said Eleanor. "Or Grenville's men may be lost, too." She turned to face him, and the light of the rising sun caught her hair. "Father, I am your only daughter. I am carrying your only grandchild. This new world has taken lives before and it will take them again."

"Ellie," said White, "we spoke of all this before. We talked about the dangers before we came. And we agreed -- "

"You convinced me," said Eleanor, and there was a new bitterness in her voice. "You convinced me because I am your daughter, and I wanted to please you and Ananias, and... And yes, I wanted to bear the New World's first native English Christian."

The golden cliffs loomed to their left and right. Their distance was difficult to judge -- they seemed close, and yet the trees marching up their slopes were so huge that they tricked the eye.

"Has that changed?" asked White quietly.

Elizabeth Bay opened up before them, like a vast inland sea, its shores black with its tremendous trees.

"Father," she whispered, "how can you ask that? This new world will change everything."

The captain stepped up behind them, and saluted as they turned. "Gentlemen, my lady," he said. Then he threw out his hands to encompass the vast bay, the great mountains as tall as the Alps, the trees, the cloudless sky, the fire of the sun licking the waves in the dawn. "In the name of the Queen, I give you -- Virginia."

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