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For most of the voyage, their weather-luck held. Heading southwest, they avoided the northern tempests John Dee had foretold, and which he continued to insist would have been the Armada's ruin had it been forced past the Straits of Dover into the North Sea. Then, while still well north of the Canaries, they took a starboard tack and struck out into the trackless spaces of the Atlantic.

Columbus and everyone who had followed him had swung far to the south and let the currents and the prevailing winds carry them to the Indies. But Dee insisted that his projected route, more direct if not so effortless, would be quicker if it worked at all. Of course, he could not determine their longitude accurately—an inability that irritated him extremely, even though the problem was equally intractable to everyone else. But he assured Winslow that their progress was as his theories predicted, and everything seemed to bear him out.

The Queen, far from burdening Winslow with complaints, seemed to be actually enjoying the voyage, and thriving on it. The only feminine whining came from the ladies-in-waiting, and most of their complaints concerned the looks they imagined the sailors kept giving them, which may not have been entirely imaginary; they were both distinctly middle-aged, but seamen acquire new standards of beauty. Walsingham, whose health was never robust, suffered stoically, as it befitted a Puritan to endure without complaint whatever inflictions God saw fit to send as tests.

Even Shakespeare managed to make himself fairly useful. Heron's hurried departure had left them short of fresh-caught landsmen, and the grudging help of the Queen's guards didn't altogether make up the difference. The young actor was willing to learn, and fared better among the sailors than Winslow would have expected. He'd probably had experience with decidedly mixed company in the theatrical stews of Southwark.

Once, on a day of exceptionally fine weather, Winslow was strolling the upper deck amidships, where Shakespeare was working at the daily chore of manning the bilge pump. "So, Will, shall we make a seaman of you yet?"

Shakespeare paused, leaned on the pump, and sighed. "At the moment, Captain, I'd give a thousand furlongs of sea for an acre of barren ground." His features took on the look they sometimes did after he'd said something: an instant of intense concentration followed by a quick, satisfied nod. "Never again will I venture so far from home."

"Oh, come! You're no stay-at-home—you left Warwickshire for London. What was it? Many things send men to sea. Desire to see the world, or a nagging wife, are frequently named."

"You see through me, Captain. In truth, it was both of those. At eighteen I married a woman six years my senior. We had three children—a daughter, and then boy and girl twins. But afterwards . . ." Shakespeare sighed again. "If there be no great love in the beginning, heaven may decrease it upon better acquaintance." Concentration and nod. "I left, and for a time supported myself as a schoolmaster, and in other ways, before joining a company of actors. But I've also supported my family, sending them money the while."

"A common enough arrangement," Winslow nodded. And so it was, as young men moved to the burgeoning metropolis of London like iron filings to a magnet.

"So common as to include yourself, Captain?" Shakespeare inquired.

"Eh? No, I have no wife. I could never have supported a family while working my way up from the forecastle. And since I've achieved my captaincy . . . well, the occasion has never arisen." Winslow suddenly wondered why he had let himself be drawn into conversation by the lowliest member of his crew. Of course, Shakespeare was also an educated man, which made it difficult to know how to deal with him, as he lay outside the usual social categories. And there was something about him that encouraged confidences—indeed, drew them out. Still . . .  "Well, back to the pump," Winslow commanded, strangely aware that he sounded stuffy, and even more strangely embarrassed by the fact. He moved on.

Yes, he reflected, turning his mind to other things and gazing at the placid sky, the weather has favored this voyage. God must approve of the quest on which we are embarked.

It was, of course, exactly the wrong thing to think. The gods of the sea, far older than the one God who had supplanted them and all their kin, hate nothing so much as self-satisfaction in mortals.


Winslow knew they were in for a storm when the clouds began scudding across the sky from west to east. That also told him that the coast on which they might be wrecked was not too far remote. He could only order the sails hauled in and hope for the best.

When the storm struck, it did not disappoint. Gales buffeted them for days, and rain choked the decks with water that sloshed back and forth as the ships pitched and heaved. Even many of the experienced seamen were sick, and the landsmen suffered terribly. Walsingham had, at this worst possible time, gotten the flux from drinking water that had gone bad as it always did on long voyages. The combination of that and seasickness left Winslow and Dee fearing for his life. The Queen was sick too, but bore it tight-lipped. The ladies-in-waiting were in too much agony even to complain.

John White suffered as much as any of them. But through it all he had only one obsessive concern: the towed shallops. If those craft were lost, he declared, they all might just as well have stayed in England.

The only member of their company who seemed to find any redeeming feature in the storm was Shakespeare. During one brief lull in the rains, Winslow was inspecting the weather deck when he saw the young actor clutching the handle of the bilge pump and retching. But when his stomach was emptied, his look was the familiar one that suggested he was committing a line to memory. Over the moaning of the winds and the rumbling of the thunder, Winslow caught: "And thou, all-shaking thunder, strike flat the thick rotundity o'the world!" Shakespeare gave a particularly self-satisfied nod.

"So you can find inspiration even in this, Will?" Winslow shouted over the noise.

Shakespeare looked up, wiped the residue of vomit from his mouth, and actually smiled. "Oh, yes, Captain. How could it be otherwise, in the midst of something this . . . vivid?"

" 'Vivid!' You might have other words for it if we're shipwrecked. Most of the islands people used to think dotted the Atlantic have turned out to be fables, but you never know."

"Ah—fables. The very word! Just think: we might be shipwrecked on a fabulous island of magical beings!"

"I'd prefer that we not be shipwrecked anywhere, thank you very much."

"But think of the possibilities!" Shakespeare took on a faraway look that a renewed gust of wind and rain did nothing to disturb. "A magician, living on the island in exile . . . and his daughter, who has never seen men other than her aged father, and knows only monsters and faërie . . . what a brave new world, she would think, that had such people in it . . ."

Winslow sighed, gathered his cloak around him against the renewed rain, and resumed his inspection.

When the storm finally lifted, Greyhound was nowhere to be seen. But a shore lay ahead. John White peered at it.

"Cape Fear," he announced.

"Good name," Gorham was heard to mutter.

"Congratulations, Dr. Dee," said Winslow. "We've arrived only a little south of our destination."

"Only a little distance," White cautioned, "but a great deal of difficulty. I well recall my second voyage to these shores, with their riptides."

His dourness was justified. The winds were still contrary, and they wasted days beating around the hazardous shoals of Cape Fear before they could begin following the coast northward. The smells wafting seaward from the marshes and pine forests to port tantalized them.

Presently, they sighted the barrier islands. The weather was still blustery and unsettled, and when a break in the sandbars appeared Winslow was sorely tempted to take Heron through it into the sheltered waters of the sound beyond.

"No, Captain," insisted White. "I recognize that island over there—Wococon, the Indians call it. On the second expedition, we tried what you're thinking of. Believe me, these waters are far more hazardous than what we went through at Cape Fear. All we accomplished was to run aground, under the pilotage of that rogue Simon Fernandez. No, we must continue up the coast to Port Ferdinando." He said the name with obvious distaste. Walsingham, who had recovered sufficiently to stand on the quarterdeck with the rest of them, was carefully expressionless.

"But from what you've told us, Heron can't enter there in safety any more than here."

"No. But if you anchor just outside Port Ferdinando, you can actually see Roanoke Island in the distance. The shallops won't have far to go . . . although honesty compels me to say that the going is treacherous."

"Is there any other kind along this damned coast?" Winslow demanded irritably. But when he made eye contact with Walsingham, the Principal Secretary nodded. Their hopes rested on White's hard-won knowledge. "Very well," he said without any great enthusiasm. "We'll proceed northward."

They continued up the coast, constantly taking depth soundings, while Winslow watched the horizon for Greyhound. He had hoped the storm would have carried the smaller ship to the same stretch of coast, but so far there was no sign of her, and he began to fear the worst.

Soon they were passing another barrier island that aroused White's memories of the earlier voyages. "Croatoan," he told them. "Birthplace of Manteo, the Secotan Indian who was such a help to us, and who journeyed to England with us after our first expedition here, four years ago." His face wore its frequent expression of uncomprehending hurt, of blighted hopes. "It was almost as though we had ventured into the Garden of Eden, or the Golden Age of which the pagan poets tell. The Secotan welcomed us with civility and friendship. Granganimeo, brother of King Wingina of the Secotan, made us welcome. Both are dead now, thanks to that madman Ralph Lane, who left this land in chaos."

"And yet," Winslow ventured, "didn't you go to Croatoan last year, after you and the colonists had been left on Roanoke Island?"

"Yes. My first task as governor was to order the houses repaired in Lane's fort, which fifteen of his soldiers had been left to hold when Drake evacuated everyone else. All we found of them was the bleaching skeleton of one. Once that had been attended to, I persuaded Captain Stafford, commander of the pinnace that had been left to us, to take some of us, including Manteo, to Croatoan. Manteo had many kindred still living there, including his mother. I needed to know if the Croatoans were still disposed to friendship toward us, in spite of everything Lane had done. At first I despaired, for they seemed hostile, and fled when we went for our guns. But then Manteo called to them—they hadn't recognized him in his English clothes, you see—and after that all was well as soon as we pledged not to plunder any of their food as Lane had. They promised to intercede for us with the rest of the Secotan—the people of Secota and Aquascogoc and Pomioc and other places. But in the end, the Croatoans couldn't mend the damage done by Lane's murder of Wininga. We were attacked. One of us, George Howe, was killed. We retaliated—I should have resisted the demands for that, but I didn't, to my shame. By the time I went back to England for help, Croatoan was the only place left where our people had any hope of finding friendship."

"Thanks to Manteo," Winslow observed.

"Indeed. Aside from the birth of my granddaughter, my only pleasurable memory of my final days of Roanoke Island is that I was able to reward Manteo in some measure for his faithful service. You see, Sir Walter had decided to exercise his powers under Her Majesty's grant and make him feudal lord of Roanoke, to hold that coast in Her Majesty's name while we went north and settled on the Chesapeake Bay as originally planned. So, after he was baptized, I exercised my powers as Sir Walter's deputy and declared him Lord of Roanoke and Dasemunkepeuc."

"Uh . . . Das . . . ?"

"Nobody else could pronounce it either," White admitted. "So we just called him Lord Manteo. He is now his people's governor as Her Majesty's vassal. I look forward to seeing him again almost as much as I do to greeting my own people."

The weather continued unsettled, and at the northern end of Croatoan Winslow sent the shallops to do soundings in search of a breach. But the shoals were too labyrinthine, and White was no help here. So they worked their way onward to the north, with infinite caution now that Heron was a vessel alone, containing all their lives as well as the hope of England.

Finally they sighted what White, with visible joy, declared to be Hatorask Island. Beyond was the open water of Port Ferdinando. To the west of it stretched the shallow waters of the protected sound. And in the distance, a speck against the mysterious continent beyond, an island could be glimpsed. White stood at the port rail and stared at it longingly.

"Roanoke Island," Winslow stated rather than asked.

White nodded, without taking his eyes off that barely visible island.

"Well," said Winslow, squinting at the westering sun, "it's too late to try for it now. Tomorrow morning we'll launch the shallops."

White nodded again, as though barely hearing. Winslow doubted he would get much sleep.

In the morning, Walsingham and Dee both wanted to be in the shore party, the former from a sense of duty and the latter out of sheer curiosity. Winslow, asserting his authority as captain, overruled them. He knew the passage, however short it seemed, would not be without its risks. Only able seamen—including Winslow himself—would accompany White in one of the shallops. The other would go in the opposite direction to nearby Hatorask, for the fresh water of which they were desperately in need.

"Fire the sakers and minions," he ordered Gorham, "with a few seconds spacing between each shot. That should let them know we're here."

"Yes," White agreed avidly. "They'll probably acknowledge by building a fire on the shore."

The guns' crashing report echoed across the water, filling the air with the rotten-eggs smell of burned powder and sending flocks of startled seabirds screeching aloft. The landing party got awkwardly into the boat. The weather was still more unsettled than Winslow liked, and the boat pitched alarmingly in the choppy water. A man fell over the side, and it took time to retrieve him. It took still more time to maneuver away from Heron, and when they approached the Port Ferdinando breach it became apparent that the inrushing water of the rising tide, which they could see breaking over the bar, had turned the channel into a churning cauldron. They hung on grimly, the men straining at the oars while Winslow struggled to keep the craft bow-on into the swells lest they capsize.

Finally they crossed the breach, and Winslow could spare a glance at the distant island in search of the anticipated signal fire. But no smoke was to be seen.

It took hours to row across the unsettled waters of the sound. All the while, White stared fixedly ahead as though by sheer will he could force the appearance of smoke. Finally the shallop ground ashore onto the sand of Roanoke Island.

No one was in sight. The lack of any human sound made the noise of the wind and the waves and the birds seem like dead silence.

"Well, Master White," said Winslow, a little too loudly, "do you know where you are?"

"I think so." White's features were a study in mixed eagerness and bewilderment. "The settlement should be in this direction. It's where Lane had built his fort. We found it dismantled after being left here, but built new cottages there."

They set out along the sand and scrub, following the shore around the north end of the island, skirting the aromatic forest of loblolly pine. Presently, White sprinted ahead, scrambling up a sandy bank he clearly recognized. Before the rest of them could catch up to him, he had stopped dead.

There was a clearing ahead. But that wasn't what White was staring at. Just in front of him was a tree. Carved in its bark were the letters "CRO."

"What does it mean, Master White?" demanded Winslow. "Is it in a code?"

"No." White shook his head. His face was a sea of conflicting emotions, but he spoke calmly. "At the time I returned to England for help, the colonists were considering going to the mainland and moving to some place perhaps fifty miles inland, away from danger from the Secotan villages Lane had provoked into being our enemies. In order that I could find them on my return, it was agreed that they would carve the name of the place they had gone on trees, or on the doors of their cottages. And if they were in distress, they were to carve beside it a Maltese cross. There is no such cross here!" For an instant, hope came uppermost in the chaotic struggle his face reflected.

Winslow shook his head. "But where is 'CRO'?"

"I don't know. It is meaningless. So if they are gone . . . how will we find them?" White's look of hope vanished in panic like the sun going behind a dark cloud. With an inarticulate cry, he sprang forward. Winslow and the seamen could only follow.

This time, White was on his knees. His face reflected a despair too absolute for weeping.

A clearing was before them, holding a crude wooden palisade, dilapidated, overgrown with weeds, and quite obviously deserted. No one, Winslow estimated, had been here for at least a year.

"My daughter Eleanor," White whispered. "And her husband Ananias Dare. And their baby girl Virginia. And the baby boy born afterwards to Dyonis and Margery Harvie. And all the others. Gone. Even the houses. Gone."

Disinclined to disturb such utter desolation, Winslow walked around him and looked around. Nothing.

The sailors also dispersed about the clearing, looking about curiously. Inside the palisade they found a scatter of items—iron bars, shot for the sakers that had been left behind, and other items that might well have been left behind as too heavy to carry. All was overgrown with grass and weeds.

Suddenly, one of the men called out to Winslow. "Cap'n! These here look like fair letters. Can you . . . ?"

"Let's have a look, Grimson." Winslow walked over to where the illiterate sailor was pointing—a post by the right side of the entrance to the palisade. He stared for a moment, then released a whoop of laughter. "Master White! Come here. I think this is a sight that will make your heart sing."

White stumbled to his feet and joined Winslow. At first he simply stared. Then he fell to his knees again, but this time in an attitude of thanks to God. And this time his tears flowed.

"Croatoan!" he shouted. "Of course! That was what 'CRO' meant, but someone never had the chance to finish it. So now we know where they went. And . . . no Maltese cross! They are safe, with our Secotan friends on Croatoan Island!"

The sailors crowded around White, pummeling his back and shouting rough congratulations. He stood up and faced Winslow, his face a blazing sun of joy. "Captain, now we know where they are. If only we had fired signal guns when we passed Croatoan! But we must go there at once!"


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