The Lost Colony

 By Katherine Givens

The fighting between Spain and England had kept John White away for three

years. Three years prior, he promised the people of the settlement that he would sail to

England and return with additional supplies. He promised to return in the spring of that

year. He promised to come back, but the pompous Philip II of Spain had an agenda.

Philip was once a suitor of Elizabeth I, but she rebuffed him on several occasions.

The man was once married to her half-sister for god’s sake! This could have been

partially why the king of Spain had craved for war. The other reason was as a staunch

Catholic, Philip felt it was his duty to dispose of the Protestant Elizabeth and restore

Catholicism to England. That and because he coveted the English crown.

 

The animosity between the two countries was already growing when John arrived in

England. With the anticipated arrival of the Spanish Armada, there were no available sea

vessels for a trip back to Roanoke Island. Anything that could float was to be used for the

impending battle. As the war continued, White struggled to find vessels for his mission.

After many years of waiting and searching, he was able to find a ship willing to take him

back to Roanoke Island along with the promised supplies.

 

After all his struggles and trials, John White could see the outlines of the island

through the terrible storm. Anticipation filled his core as he considered the home he was

about to return to. He hoped all was well with his fellow settlers. He hoped they had

found a way to live without him. He hoped the primitive Indians were peaceful towards

his countrymen. He hoped that his own family was alive and well.

 

The one person he yearned to see most was his precious granddaughter Virginia, who

was born shortly before his departure for England. She was a babe when he lost saw her,

last held her. She would now be three, a toddler. He likely missed her first steps, her first

words. He would not miss another moment more of her life. With a small smile, John

could not wait to reclaim the title of “grandfather.”

 

The island was only a few hundred yards in the distance. John could make out the

meager settlement from where he stood on the ship. The tall wooden logs that

compromised the walls of the colony towered in the distance. The eminent forests

surrounded the human invasion into nature. The ocean waves lapped the shores.

Surrounding sections of the walls were logs and trees. They were possibly left there from

a terrible storm or the colonists were working on making improvements to the fort.

 

Odd, thought John.

 

The one thing missing from his homecoming was a crowd of colonists eager to greet

him. The shore was completely abandoned of any humanity.

   

Strange. Perhaps no one has spotted our sails.

 

As the ship came closer, John realized that the logs and trees surrounding the

settlement were not from a storm or additions to the wall. Sections of the walls had been

torn down and destroyed. It was as if they were decimated by someone who wished to

come in.

 

What made the day worse was the landing on the outer banks. The storm that had

been raging all day made it more difficult to land. Seven of the sailors, some of the best

men on the ship, were killed from the poor weather. A bad omen of things to come.

When they finally landed, no settlers came to greet the arriving party. There were no

shining faces glad to have additional supplies come after what must have been three years

of difficulties and hardships. There were no men huddling about eager to take the

supplies into the settlement. There were no women holding their swaddling babes, babes

that might have been born while John had been away, and shouting their appreciation.

There were no children running about.  Not even John’s family came to greet him. There

was absolutely no one.

 

Clambering from the ship, White walked in the direction of the colony. As he came

closer, he was able to peer through a torn section of the wall. Many of the houses were

torn down. The roofs of buildings were caved in. Lumber was scattered about the ground.

Possessions, such as books, oil lamps, dinnerware, clothing, and so much more, were

strewn about the dirt.

   

What has happened?

 

White rushed to the ruins, sailors from the ships ambling after him. Standing about

the destruction, he looked around for any sign of life.

 

“Hello, there! It is I, John White! I have returned from England!” he called.

 

Only the whispering of the wind responded to him. All else was silent.

 

My family. My granddaughter.

 

His mind repeated the phrase like a prayer as he scrambled towards one house. The

door was ripped from the entrance, pushed into the only room of the house. He scanned

the house. Nothing.

 

He ran to another house in which the roof had collapsed. Searching the rubble, he

tossed aside shards of splintered wood, broken china, and the pages of books. Not even a

human body could be found in the pile.

   

My family. My granddaughter.

 

With a racing heart, he rushed to the ruins of a third house. In a serious case of

hysterics, he flipped over chairs and a table. He searched every nook and cranny for

someone. Anyone. Running out a backdoor, he looked out into the wilderness. Even

Mother Nature was mocking him with silence.

 

A sailor laid a hand on White’s shoulder. The fellow asked, “Is this your home?”

 

Taken aback by his discovery, White could only manage a “Yes.”

 

“What has happened?”

 

White looked about. “I have not an inkling.”

 

“We must search the area,” White said without hesitation.

 

The sailor nodded. “Of course. The crew will assist you in anything you need.”

 

The man scurried back to the other crew hands to rally a search party. The crew hands

grumbled at the aspect. The mysterious disappearance of dozens of men, women, and

children was unsettling. Whatever happened to those unfortunate souls could befall

them. Regardless, the men did as they were told.

 

White recalled an agreement he had made with the other colonists before his

departure three years ago. He made them swear that if they were moved by force, they

would need to carve a Maltese cross into a tree.

 

He immediately rushed into the forest. The sailor who pledged his help came running

after him.

 

“Why are you running as if Satan were chasing you?” called the sailor.

 

“I am looking for a carving.”

 

Befuddled, the sailor asked, “What?”

 

As he looked at the trunks of nearby trees, White explained, “A Maltese cross. Before

I departed the settlement, I made the others swear to leave an image in the trunk of a

tree if they were moved by force. Since there are no bodies by the buildings, perhaps they

were taken by those savages that wonder the woods.”

 

The sailor seemed to understand, for he ordered his comrades to start searching for a

Maltese cross. As the welcoming storm passed and the afternoon sun shined through

stray clouds, the party looked for several hours. When nothing was found, some men

returned to the ship. Others went back to the settlement to look for clues.

 

“John, I do not think we will find anything. We have already examined every nearby

tree,” said a burly crew hand.

 

White shook his head. “There must be a sign. There must be.”

 

It was at that moment White found a carving in the trunk of a tree, but it was not that

of a cross. It was the word “CRO.”

 

“Look!” exclaimed White.

 

He rushed over to the tree and ran his fingers over the etched words. A few nearby

men crowded behind him.

 

“What does it mean?” asked one man.

 

“Cro…they must mean Croatoan. It is the name of a nearby island. They must have

moved there!” shouted White, unable to contain his excited relief.

 

“What of the cross?” asked another.

 

“They must have forgotten to carve it, or perhaps they were not forced from the

settlement. They might have willingly relocated, and meant to notify me with this one

word.”

 

“Then, why is the settlement crumbling? Why are buildings torn down and

belongings smashed?” asked a fat man.

 

“The savages might have raided it once my comrades abandoned the site.”

 

The men shrugged, thinking this a viable answer. A shout made all their heads snap

in the direction of the settlement. Beckoned over by a crew hand, White raced back. If

anything, he was fit for his elderly age.

 

As he approached, a man was pointing at a post on the fort. White did not need an

explanation. Carved into the post was the word “Croatoan.”

 

John White and the crew were able to reach Croatoan Island in search of the lost

colonists. The entire island was scoured by the party, but nothing and no one was ever

found. For weeks, adjacent islands were searched.

 

Foul weather impeded the search. The weather did not improve. Although White

insisted that their search continue, the captain of the ship disagreed. He had already lost

three anchors and a few of his best men. Further losses could not be tolerated, especially

with being the only white men in a savage land far from civilization.  It was time to turn

back, despite the agony wrenching at White’s heart.

 

By October the vessel had returned to Plymouth in England, not to be confused with

Plymouth, Massachusetts which had yet to be discovered. For the rest of White’s life, he

suffered from the tragic loss of his fellow colonists and his family. Although he found a

livelihood creating maps for the tenants of Sir Walter Raleigh, he never fully recovered.

Never did he doubt that his family was still alive in the New World, the land that once

held so much of his hope and enthusiasm. Never did he doubt that Ananias, his son-in-

law, was taking care of his girls. Never did he doubt that Eleanor, his tender daughter,

was still clucking over his granddaughter. Never did he doubt that Virginia, whom he

held a few times as a squirming babe, was growing into a beautiful woman.

 

John died never seeing his family again. To this day, the disappearance of the

Roanoke Island colonists remains unknown. There are many theories as to what

happened. They could have been enslaved by Indians. They could have tried to return to

England in makeshift boats and drowned in the process. They could have been destroyed

by the Spanish, who were raiding along the coast. There are many theories and

speculations as to what became of the colonists. One thing is for sure, the colonists have

yet to be found.

________________________________________________________________

Katherine Givens is a college student but a writer at heart. Her fiction will be in upcoming issues of The Enchanted File Cabinet and The Rusty Nail. Her poetry has appeared in Inclement Poetry Magazine, Literary Juice, BareBack Magazine, and Miracle ezine, and her forthcoming publications will be in Blood Moon Rising Magazine and The Rusty Nail.

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