O UR hero of Jamestown, Virginia, was such a remarkable character that it is well for us to learn something of his adventures before he came to the New World.
As a boy, he was strong, active, and full of daring. When he was fourteen years of age, he ran away from home to join in the wars of Holland. For four years he served as a soldier; then, getting tired of obeying orders, he left his company and built for himself a hut in the woods. Here he did all his own work, cooked, and studied military tactics. He was determined to be a great soldier.
He now set out for the East to join the Christians who were fighting the Turks. As he passed through France, our young hero lost his money, and had a hard time to keep himself from starving. Finally he reached a port, after walking many miles and begging food along the road, and he boarded a vessel bound for Italy.
After they had been out at sea for a few days, a storm arose, and the ship looked as though she were about to go down. The sailors were so frightened they began praying. One of them said, "We have a lad here, not of our religion. He has brought on the storm. Overboard with him!" Thereupon, they seized John Smith, and cast him into the sea. But Smith was the best swimmer of his day, and the water was like land to him. So he swam for many hours, and finally landed on a strange shore.
We next hear of him in Austria, where he joined the army and again set out on his way to fight the Turks. Smith won a great name for himself in the following way: A Turkish officer, to amuse the ladies in his camp, sent a challenge to the Austrian army for single combat with any man they might send against him.
"I will accept the challenge," said Smith, and rode out in front of both armies. He dared the Turkish officer to come forth. They fought on horseback, and, as they rushed together, Smith directed his lance so that the point of it went through the eye of his opponent. The Turkish officer fell dead, and Smith cut off his head, carrying it away on his spear. This so enraged the Turkish soldiers that another officer rode out to avenge his comrade's death. But he shared a like fate, and Smith carried his head away on the end of his spear. Then with a great show of daring he rode up to the Turkish lines, and challenged another to come out and give him battle.
Nothing daunted, a third Turk, big and fierce, came forth on a fresh horse. Smith was tired out by this time, having killed two men, but he spurred his horse into the combat. As the two came together, Smith fell to the ground, and his companions thought he was dead.
The Turkish officer leaped from his horse to complete the victory, but Smith was up in a hurry and, sword in hand, awaited his enemy. Fiercely they fought for an hour, at the end of which time Smith's sword went through the body of the big Turk, and his head also was carried off the field.
By now the Turks had had enough fighting, and the ladies declared they were sufficiently amused for the day.
In one of the battles which occurred, Smith fell into the hands of the Turks and was made a slave, according to the custom of those days. He wore a ring around his neck, and worked about the house for his Turkish mistress. She was so much pleased with him that she sent him as a present to her brother, who lived in a distant town.
Smith found his new master very cruel indeed, and his life was hard. One day a bitter quarrel ensued between them, in which Smith slew his master. Taking off the dead man's clothes, he dressed himself up as a Turk, and marched away, out of captivity. No one molested him, for he spoke the Turkish language, and acted in every way as though he were a Turk.
Soon he came to the border of Russia, and from there went peaceably through Germany, France and Spain, finally making his way back to England, where he told everybody about the wonderful adventures which had befallen him.