M ORE than three hundred years ago, in a little town on the shores of the sea, there lived an English lad whose name was Walter Raleigh. This Walter was a very bright, happy boy, active and brave. He loved all kinds of sports. He loved to run and fight and play. He loved to breathe in the cool, fresh air, as every evening he ran along the lonely country roads; but most of all he loved the sea. Every day the young Walter could be found in the blue water, swimming near the shore, or rowing in a boat, or sailing before the wind. He loved the sea, and was not afraid of it, even in the stormiest weather.
Now, Walter was not the only English boy who loved the sea. All the little English lads loved it. The English at this time did not live in great cities as they do to‑day. Many of them, like Walter Raleigh, lived in little towns and villages right on the shores of the sea. They could look at the water every day when it was blue and quiet and the sky was clear, and also when the sea was rough and angry and storms broke out from the clouds overhead. There were many bold fishermen in those days, and these fishermen would sometimes take the little lads out with them in their boats; and so it happened that at this time many of the English boys knew a great deal about the sea and became good sailors.
The young Walter used to listen to long stories about the great English sailors who were taking their ships to all the seas but the stories he loved most to hear were of two brave young Englishmen, named Francis Drake and John Hawkins. These sailors hated the Spaniards, who were then the strongest and most cruel people in the world. So these brave English sailors used to fight against the cruel Spaniards and lay in wait to capture their vessels and all the gold and silver that was in them. Sometimes I think the English sailors were just as cruel as the Spaniards with whom they fought; but they were very brave, these English sailors were, and when the young Walter heard about them, he, too, wanted to go to sea and fight the Spaniards and take their gold.
But the time had not yet come. The young Walter was only fourteen years old, and he had much yet to learn. A boy should learn many things before he becomes a man. So the young Walter was sent to the great University of Oxford, where he was taught a great many things. He used to study out of big books, that were so heavy that a boy could hardly carry them. It was a very beautiful place, this Oxford, and Walter met there many lads from all over England. They told him wonderful stories about the great men of England, the soldiers and sailors, the poets and the great lords who lived in London and saw the Queen every day, and helped to rule the kingdom. Walter longed to grow up to be a lord, so he, too, could see the Queen and help to rule the kingdom.
Now, Walter loved to study; but, more than anything else, he wanted to go out into the great world and be a man. So at seventeen he left the beautiful school at Oxford and went to France, where a great war was going on. He fought for six years, doing many brave acts and becoming a great soldier. Then he went to Holland and helped the people of that country to fight against the Spaniards; and everywhere he went the people loved him, because he was so brave and handsome and witty.
But Raleigh loved the sea even more than he loved fighting, and when he was twenty-six years of age, he left the army and went on a ship to America. He wanted to go to Newfoundland, which is an island many miles north of this country, because he thought he could sail further and find a river or strait that would lead right through America to the Pacific Ocean. If he could find such a river or strait, then he could sail right through America to the Indies, and do what Columbus tried to do so many years before.
Well, there isn't any such strait in all America, and so Raleigh never could have found it; but he did not even get the chance. The Spaniards saw his little vessels and sailed after him, and he lost one of his ships and his other ships were damaged; so the brave Raleigh had to come home again.
Then there happened a little thing that made Walter Raleigh the most famous man in all England. One day, while he was in London, he saw the Queen walking along the street. Now the Queen, whose name was Elizabeth, was very proud and very fond of clothes. She had over a thousand dresses, and many of these were embroidered with beautiful jewels. I do not know how many shoes and slippers and silk stockings she had, but I do know that she had very many. Now, just as Walter looked up, he saw that the Queen stopped in front of a muddy place in the street. She did not want to get her new shoes wet. The great lords who were with the Queen looked worried. They did not know what to do; but young Walter sprang forward, took off his handsome cloak, the most beautiful cloak he had, and, kneeling down before the queen, spread the cloak on the muddy spot in the road, so that she could walk on without getting her shoes dirty.
Walter sprang forward and spread his handsome cloak on the muddy spot.
Well, the Queen was very much pleased. She smiled at the handsome young man at her feet, and, telling him to rise, asked, "What is your name, young man?" "May it please your majesty," he replied, bowing very low, "my name is Walter Raleigh." "Well, Master Raleigh," replied the Queen, "you have done a very gracious act. Ask of me what you will and you may have it."
Now, this was the way in which queens spoke in those days when they were pleased with anything you did; and sometimes the man would ask for a suit of armor, and sometimes for a horse, and sometimes for a hundred pieces of gold. But Walter Raleigh asked for none of these.
"May it please your majesty," he said, "if I may have anything I wish, then I ask for the cloak upon which your majesty has just deigned to step." By this he meant that it was a great honor for the Queen to walk on his cloak.
Now, Queen Elizabeth was very much surprised.
"Why, Master Raleigh," she answered, "the cloak is not mine to give; it is yours and has always been yours."
"Not so," replied Walter Raleigh; "not so, your majesty. The cloak was mine until your royal foot touched it, but in that moment it became yours. And this is what I ask of your majesty, that you give to me my cloak that I may always look on it and remember this day."
So the Queen gave Raleigh his cloak, but she gave him many other things besides. She made him a knight, which was something that all men wanted to be, and she let him have lands and gold and many beautiful things. She made it a law that no man in all England could sell broadcloth or wines except only Walter Raleigh, which made the young man even richer than before.
Those were good days for Walter Raleigh, or, as he was now called, Sir Walter Raleigh. He was the greatest man in all England. His clothes were the finest in the kingdom. Even the band around his hat had pearls on it, and he wore diamonds and rubies and beautiful feathers, and the white ribbons that tied his shoes had beautiful, gleaming jewels sewed all over them. He even had a suit of armor that was made all of silver. Indeed, he had so many things that I cannot remember them all.
Of course, Raleigh loved to be a great lord among the English and help to rule the kingdom, but he loved the sea even more. "Now, that I am rich," he said, "I wish to buy ships and sail to America. There I can find a new land for England, and in after years Englishmen will bless the name of Walter Raleigh."
So Sir Walter Raleigh went to the Queen and told her of his plan. "Yes," said the Queen, "I shall be glad if you send your ships to America and find new lands for England; but you cannot go yourself, Sir Walter. I want you to stay in England and help me rule the kingdom."
She said this because she was very fond of Sir Walter, and was afraid he might die on the long journey, or be killed by the Indians in America. Now, the Queen's words made Sir Walter very sad. He wanted to go with the ships to the new land, because ever since he was a little boy he had loved the sea; but he had to do as the Queen said, so the ships sailed without him.
Now these ships went to America and came home again. The sailors brought back with them a string of white, gleaming pearls, skins of strange animals, and two Indians, to show Englishmen what red men looked like. They told Sir Walter wonderful stories of the beauty of the country, and when Sir Walter heard the stories of the sailors, he wanted to go to this new land more than ever; so the next year he sent out more ships. Now, on these second ships went one hundred brave men, who, when they saw the new land, called it Virginia. The Indians told Ralph Lane, the Governor of this colony, many strange stories. They told him of a beautiful city, back in the forest, where the walls were made of pearl, and where there was gold and silver in the streets. Now, we know that there was no such city; but the Governor believed the Indians, and instead of planting corn for the winter, he and his men searched and searched for the walls of pearl. Everything went badly with the little colony. There was not enough food to eat, and many of the men starved to death. The Indians, too, became unfriendly, though at first they had been very kind to the white men. I will tell you why they changed. One day an Indian stole a silver cup from an Englishman, and instead of punishing the thief, the white men burned all the corn that all the Indians had planted, and set fire to all their houses, till the whole village was in ashes; so the poor Indians had nothing to eat, and no place to sleep, and I, for one, don't blame them for not being friendly to the white men.
Every day things grew worse, and at last the little band of Englishmen went back to their own country. They had not found gold or silver, but they had found what was much better, tobacco, potatoes and corn. These things had never been known in England before, though to‑day all the people in Europe use them just as the Americans do. Sir Walter himself liked tobacco very much, and, being a grown man, he used to smoke every day out of a great, long pipe. One day a very funny thing happened. He had hired a new servant, a man who had never seen tobacco in all his life. Sir Walter sent him out to bring in a great pitcher of beer, and when he came back he saw smoke coming out of his master's mouth and nose, and he thought that he must be on fire. So what do you think he did? He poured the pitcher of beer over Sir Walter's head to put out the fire. Of course the fire did not go out, but all of Sir Walter's clothes were spoiled; but Sir Walter had more clothes, and so he only laughed.
The ships which Sir Walter had sent to America all came back, but he did not lose hope, and after a while he sent out a third colony to the new land. In this colony there were one hundred and fifty men, seventeen women, and eleven little children, and Captain John White was their Governor. But the people of this colony, too, were cruel to the Indians, and so, of course, the Indians were unfriendly to them.
After a little while all their food gave out, and as the Indians would not give them corn, they asked Captain White to go to England and come back with more food. Now, Captain White did not want to go on this long journey. His little granddaughter, the first English child ever born in America, was only a few weeks old, and Captain White didn't wish to leave her; but if he did not go back, the people would die of hunger. So one fine day he set sail for England.
Now, at this time, there was a great war going on in England against the Spaniards, and all English ships had to be used in the fight; so Captain White's vessels were taken from him, and he could not go back to his little granddaughter, Virginia Dare, nor to the men and women and children he had left in Virginia. It was three years before he could get ships to cross the great ocean, and when he did make the long journey, the people he had left so long ago had all been lost. What became of them no man ever knew. Perhaps they died of hunger or were killed by the Indians. It was all so many, many years ago, and the people that were alive then are now all dead; so we shall never know what did become of the little band whom Sir Walter Raleigh sent to America, or of the dear little baby, Virginia Dare.
After a few years, Raleigh, who still loved the sea, got the Queen to let him leave England. This made him very happy, and, buying some ships, he sailed across the ocean to South America. Here he landed in a country called Guiana, not a rich country, but where there were many Indians. Of course, these Indians told him wonderful stories, and, of course, these stories were not true. A tribe of Indians, they said, who lived up the river, were so rich that they sprinkled gold dust on their bodies; and back in the forest were other tribes who had eyes in their shoulders and mouths in their chests. Raleigh believed these foolish stories, because in those days people were not so wise as they are to‑day, and so he sailed up the great river in search of these riches.
Well, as there was no gold or wonderful city, of course, Sir Walter Raleigh could not find them, though he hunted a long time, and so, after a few months, he went back to England a very sad man.
Now, as Sir Walter Raleigh grew older, this is what happened. Queen Elizabeth, as queens sometimes do, grew tired of her friend, and one day poor Sir Walter was thrown into prison. Of course, the Queen let him out again, but, by this time, everyone had turned against him. Now, many men hated Sir Walter because of his great pride; so, when Queen Elizabeth died, and a new King, King James, ruled over England, the King heard many stories against Sir Walter. He believed these stories, and so, for the second time, Sir Walter was put in prison. Here he stayed for twelve sad years. That was a long time to stay in prison; but, I suppose, Sir Walter would have been there even longer had he not thought of a plan by which to get out.
You see, Sir Walter knew that King James was very fond of gold; so he sent a man to the King to say, "In South America is much gold. If your majesty will let me out of prison, I will go to that country, and after a short time will return to England with my ships full of gold." This plan pleased King James very much, so he let Sir Walter out of prison, and gave him ships, and sent him to South America. But we cannot always do what we promise to do; and though Sir Walter tried very hard, he could not find any gold in South America. Instead, he became very sick, and some great Spanish vessels, seeing how small his ships were, chased him, and forced him to return home. Poor Sir Walter Raleigh!—you may well believe that he was sad at the thought of meeting his angry King.
And the King was angry when he found that Sir Walter had not brought the promised gold. He threw him into prison, and then a little later ordered his head to be cut off. By this you see how very angry the King was.
Now, Sir Walter was always brave. He was brave as a little boy, brave as a soldier, and brave when he came to die. Touching the edge of the axe that was to cut off his head, he said, "This is a sharp medicine, but a sound cure for all diseases." By this he meant that after death his troubles would all be over.
And so they were. Though the cruel King James cut off the head of this brave man, he could not make people forget him. Even to‑day we remember Sir Walter Raleigh. We have a city named Raleigh in memory of him, and in all parts of our country the children are told of the brave little English boy who loved the sea.