I could not find a patch of turf to bury him in among these mangroves, so I dropped him over the side of the boat we have been sharing for what seems like the entirety of eternity now. For a terrible moment I feared I had made a mistake, for he seemed to come alive with silent flails and spasms and sent up great gushes of water before cracking against the roots of a tree, wedging there for a time, shuddering. But it was only one of the great lizards that float like logs in the waters here, dragging him down to its larder. Now it is only I that remains, I alone of the ten that set out to find a route through these fetid waters – I, the mosquitoes, the serpents, the heat, my hunger, and the trees.
Poor soul, he was distraught at the end, and full of fever. In his delirium he insisted we had been deceived by the devil in a fine suit. This was, he believed, because we desired more from this life than we were owed. He said, “He told us we would find a city here, but there was only death.”
He had lost his faith, but I have not lost mine nor will I, for I do not want more than I am owed and never have. He was a wealthy gentleman who had invested his money as well as his life. No doubt he had dreams of becoming a powerful man in this new nation we are to build here. I do not have such dreams, nor have I ever been rich. I only want my patch of soil, a better life for my wife and our wee Gracie, that and to be my own master as I have never been before. If that is more than I am owed, it cannot be but half of what our sweet, pure, little daughter deserves.
Nor have I ever doubted that great man, Thomas MacWillis, for he showed me proof of our new nation, Pascua, in maps and newspaper articles and I myself found several books that told of its great bounty – the fertile soil, the broad rivers that cut through the great green plains, the fruits that grow abundantly in the lush trees, the game that runs through the forests, and the helpful, peaceful natives so grateful to learn of Our Lord and saviour. That the honourable Thomas MacWillis was a well-dressed and fine gentleman is only to be expected, being that he is a prince in this new land of ours. It surely is no fault of his that our navigator proved himself to be incompetent, whatever that fool’s protestations to the contrary. It is the navigator’s fault and no one else’s that we were wrecked on a desolate, rocky outcrop, assaulted on two sides by the sea, with a great cliff on the third and swamps on the remainder. Thomas MacWillis cannot be blamed for that. In fact, I am certain that he is at this very moment standing at the bow of the second ship, leading them safely and steadfastly towards Port Pascua.
And even should I be a doubter of that great man, I would still know that the poor dead soul spoke wrongly, for I have seen the promised land with my own two eyes, climbing to the top of cliff as I did – slicing my hands and feet and knees to shreds on the sharp rocks, I might add – and seeing as I did, hazy in the distance, the great green plains, silver rivers glittering like filaments throughout, the land awaiting our touch to bring it alive with crops, to introduce abundance to this new home of ours, to birth a country that will surely prosper. I told him so, before he died, but he insisted my eyes had deceived me along with the devil and would not be convinced otherwise. Poor soul, to die in such despair. I will neither die, nor despair, for I have faith and know the land is there, on the other side of these mangroves, awaiting me.
Poor soul, to die in such despair. I will neither die, nor despair, for I have faith and know the land is there, on the other side of these mangroves, awaiting me.
The light is failing. It fades early under these trees and now I can barely see as I write. The paper, furthermore, is damp and rips repeatedly, making the task that much more difficult. I have no way of telling what time it may be. I doubt I will sleep much either way, for the wild creatures here are very loud at night and it is insufferably hot even after sundown. The air sticks in your throat, as if refusing to be breathed. Nevertheless, I will continue searching for a way through, as soon as there is light enough to see the hand in front of my eyes.