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List Of Contents | Contents of Captain John Smith by, Charles Dudley Warner
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The name ends in by, the Danish word for hamlet or small village, and
we can measure the progress of the Danish invasion of England by the
number of towns which have the terminal by, distinguished from the
Saxon thorpe, which generally ends the name of villages in Yorkshire.
The population may be said to be Danish light-haired and blue-eyed.
Such was John Smith.  The sea was the natural element of his
neighbors, and John when a boy must have heard many stories of the
sea and enticing adventures told by the sturdy mariners who were
recruited from the neighborhood of Willoughby, and whose oars had
often cloven the Baltic Sea.

Willoughby boasts some antiquity.  Its church is a spacious
structure, with a nave, north and south aisles, and a chancel, and a
tower at the west end.  In the floor is a stone with a Latin
inscription, in black letter, round the verge, to the memory of one
Gilbert West, who died in 1404.  The church is dedicated to St.
Helen.  In the village the Wesleyan Methodists also have a place of
worship.  According to the parliamentary returns of 1825, the parish
including the hamlet of Sloothby contained 108 houses and 514
inhabitants.  All the churches in Lincolnshire indicate the existence
of a much larger population who were in the habit of attending
service than exists at present.  Many of these now empty are of size
sufficient to accommodate the entire population of several villages.
Such a one is Willoughby, which unites in its church the adjacent
village of Sloothby.

The stories of the sailors and the contiguity of the salt water had
more influence on the boy's mind than the free, schools of Alford and
Louth which he attended, and when he was about thirteen he sold his
books and satchel and intended to run away to sea: but the death of
his father stayed him.  Both his parents being now dead, he was left
with, he says, competent means; but his guardians regarding his
estate more than himself, gave him full liberty and no money, so that
he was forced to stay at home.

At the age of fifteen he was bound apprentice to Mr. Thomas S.
Tendall of Lynn.  The articles, however, did not bind him very fast,
for as his master refused to send him to sea, John took leave of his
master and did not see him again for eight years.  These details
exhibit in the boy the headstrong independence of the man.

At length he found means to attach himself to a young son of the
great soldier, Lord Willoughby, who was going into France.  The
narrative is not clear, but it appears that upon reaching Orleans, in
a month or so the services of John were found to be of no value, and
he was sent back to his friends, who on his return generously gave
him ten shillings (out of his own estate) to be rid of him.  He is
next heard of enjoying his liberty at Paris and making the
acquaintance of a Scotchman named David Hume, who used his purse--ten
shillings went a long ways in those days--and in return gave him
letters of commendation to prefer him to King James.  But the boy had
a disinclination to go where he was sent.  Reaching Rouen, and being
nearly out of money, he dropped down the river to Havre de Grace, and
began to learn to be a soldier.

Smith says not a word of the great war of the Leaguers and Henry IV.,
nor on which side he fought, nor is it probable that he cared.  But
he was doubtless on the side of Henry, as Havre was at this time in
possession of that soldier.  Our adventurer not only makes no
reference to the great religious war, nor to the League, nor to
Henry, but he does not tell who held Paris when he visited it.
Apparently state affairs did not interest him.  His reference to a
"peace" helps us to fix the date of his first adventure in France.
Henry published the Edict of Nantes at Paris, April 13, 1598, and on
the 2d of May following, concluded the treaty of France with Philip
II. at Vervins, which closed the Spanish pretensions in France.  The
Duc de Mercoeur (of whom we shall hear later as Smith's "Duke of
Mercury" in Hungary), Duke of Lorraine, was allied with the Guises in
the League, and had the design of holding Bretagne under Spanish
protection.  However, fortune was against him and he submitted to
Henry in February, 1598, with no good grace.  Looking about for an
opportunity to distinguish himself, he offered his services to the
Emperor Rudolph to fight the Turks, and it is said led an army of his
French followers, numbering 15,000, in 1601, to Hungary, to raise the
siege of Coniza, which was beleaguered by Ibrahim Pasha with 60,000

Chance of fighting and pay failing in France by reason of the peace,
he enrolled himself under the banner of one of the roving and
fighting captains of the time, who sold their swords in the best
market, and went over into the Low Countries, where he hacked and
hewed away at his fellow-men, all in the way of business, for three
or four years.  At the end of that time he bethought himself that he
had not delivered his letters to Scotland.  He embarked at Aucusan
for Leith, and seems to have been shipwrecked, and detained by
illness in the "holy isle" in Northumberland, near Barwick.  On his
recovery he delivered his letters, and received kind treatment from
the Scots; but as he had no money, which was needed to make his way
as a courtier, he returned to Willoughby.

The family of Smith is so "ancient" that the historians of the county
of Lincoln do not allude to it, and only devote a brief paragraph to
the great John himself.  Willoughby must have been a dull place to
him after his adventures, but he says he was glutted with company,
and retired into a woody pasture, surrounded by forests, a good ways
from any town, and there built himself a pavilion of boughs--less
substantial than the cabin of Thoreau at Walden Pond--and there he
heroically slept in his clothes, studied Machiavelli's "Art of War,"
read "Marcus Aurelius," and exercised on his horse with lance and
ring.  This solitary conduct got him the name of a hermit, whose food
was thought to be more of venison than anything else, but in fact his
men kept him supplied with provisions.  When John had indulged in
this ostentatious seclusion for a time, he allowed himself to be
drawn out of it by the charming discourse of a noble Italian named
Theodore Palaloga, who just then was Rider to Henry, Earl of Lincoln,
and went to stay with him at Tattershall.  This was an ancient town,
with a castle, which belonged to the Earls of Lincoln, and was
situated on the River Bane, only fourteen miles from Boston, a name
that at once establishes a connection between Smith's native county
and our own country, for it is nearly as certain that St. Botolph
founded a monastery at Boston, Lincoln, in the year 654, as it is
that he founded a club afterwards in Boston, Massachusetts.

Whatever were the pleasures of Tattershall, they could not long
content the restless Smith, who soon set out again for the
Netherlands in search of adventures.

The life of Smith, as it is related by himself, reads like that of a
belligerent tramp, but it was not uncommon in his day, nor is it in
ours, whenever America produces soldiers of fortune who are ready,
for a compensation, to take up the quarrels of Egyptians or Chinese,
or go wherever there is fighting and booty.  Smith could now handle
arms and ride a horse, and longed to go against the Turks, whose
anti-Christian contests filled his soul with lamentations; and
besides he was tired of seeing Christians slaughter each other.  Like
most heroes, he had a vivid imagination that made him credulous, and
in the Netherlands he fell into the toils of three French gallants,
one of whom pretended to be a great lord, attended by his gentlemen,
who persuaded him to accompany them to the "Duchess of Mercury,"
whose lord was then a general of Rodolphus of Hungary, whose favor
they could command.  Embarking with these arrant cheats, the vessel
reached the coast of Picardy, where his comrades contrived to take
ashore their own baggage and Smith's trunk, containing his money and
goodly apparel, leaving him on board.  When the captain, who was in
the plot, was enabled to land Smith the next day, the noble lords had
disappeared with the luggage, and Smith, who had only a single piece
of gold in his pocket, was obliged to sell his cloak to pay his

Thus stripped, he roamed about Normandy in a forlorn condition,
occasionally entertained by honorable persons who had heard of his
misfortunes, and seeking always means of continuing his travels,
wandering from port to port on the chance of embarking on a man-of-
war.  Once he was found in a forest near dead with grief and cold,
and rescued by a rich farmer; shortly afterwards, in a grove in
Brittany, he chanced upon one of the gallants who had robbed him, and
the two out swords and fell to cutting.  Smith had the satisfaction
of wounding the rascal, and the inhabitants of a ruined tower near
by, who witnessed the combat, were quite satisfied with the event.

Our hero then sought out the Earl of Ployer, who had been brought up
in England during the French wars, by whom he was refurnished better
than ever.  After this streak of luck, he roamed about France,

viewing the castles and strongholds, and at length embarked at
Marseilles on a ship for Italy.  Rough weather coming on, the vessel
anchored under the lee of the little isle St. Mary, off Nice, in

The passengers on board, among whom were many pilgrims bound for
Rome, regarded Smith as a Jonah, cursed him for a Huguenot, swore
that his nation were all pirates, railed against Queen Elizabeth, and
declared that they never should have fair weather so long as he was
on board.  To end the dispute, they threw him into the sea.  But God
got him ashore on the little island, whose only inhabitants were
goats and a few kine.  The next day a couple of trading vessels
anchored near, and he was taken off and so kindly used that he
decided to cast in his fortune with them.  Smith's discourse of his
adventures so entertained the master of one of the vessels, who is
described as "this noble Britaine, his neighbor, Captaine la Roche,

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