On July fifth, we sighted land to the south of us that seemed pleasant and less snow-covered than any other we had thus far seen in this strait. The master came on deck carrying his charts and maps. He was an explorer who made sure that he charted his way so that others could follow after him. He called for the helmsman to direct the ship toward the land, all the while looking at it through his long glass. As we closed with it though, our eyes showed us that we could never land, for the ice lay thick about the shoreline. The ice was thick and broken into fragments large enough to tear any boat’s hull to shreds.
Hudson called to me and bade me hold his charts while he carefully sketched in the details of this land. He had a skilled hand at this delicate work, though he drew slowly and with obvious care.
“Are we going in?” called Moore. He and several others stood below the quarterdeck by the rail. Their weary lined faces showed their wish to go ashore.
“Nay, not through that ice field,” answered Hudson quickly, hardly glancing up from his charts at the waiting man.
“The gig could make it in, I’m sure it could sir,” offered Lodlo. “It’s shallow-hulled and light. We could slide in and out easy.”
“Stay your hand, Mr. Lodlo!” called Hudson sharply, as the seaman had begun hauling on the line to the gig that was being towed from a line at the stern.
“Aye sir.” Stepping back, Lodlo, Moore and the others cast dark looks at the master and no doubt were cursing him also, but they remained at the rail still.
Hudson looked longingly at the land himself and I knew that he too wished to go ashore here, where for the first time there was green land and not mere ice. He lowered his glass and then, curiously, he handed it to me.
“A champagne land, that. Gorgeous.” He spoke as I looked through the glass and I had to agree. The land was covered, not with green grass or trees, but with great vines heavily laden with their fruit. Reluctantly I tore my gaze away and returned his glass. He looked again at the land.
Juet joined us and was offered the glass, which he took without comment. More richly dressed than Hudson, his beard finely trimmed and scented, he better fit the picture of a master at sea than did Hudson, who was ill-dressed in a large cloak, torn stockings and badly stained breeches.
“A most pleasant sight, Mr. Juet. What a fine land that must be!” Hudson exclaimed.
“Its hardly your Indies sir. But it be pleasant enough, mayhaps a bit too pleasant to be forced to go by without landing here, but that seems to be the way of this land.”
“We can’t go in any closer man! Do ye curse this whole unknown land because of the ice?” Hudson cried.
“Aye. The crew cries to go ashore and the ice denies them. They chip the ice every day we sail. This be the gateway to Hell itself. Naught but the devil lives in this land. Only him and his creatures can abound in such a world. Since Greenland and its fires the crew has felt it. A feeling of evil, a sense of foreboding. Nay! Take not my word for it, ask young Woodhouse there!”
His long, bejeweled finger pointed like a dagger at me, but Hudson never took his gaze away from Juet. “I’ll have no more of this talk!”
“Oh! Why then does this land beckon, invite us to go ashore, yet if we dared the attempt it would send us to our graves? I tell ye the land is evil!”
“Not so! It be far north and cold, but hardly the devil’s own!”
“If ye continue on your present course, we shall know what this land will bring us. I say death!”
“We shall not discover what this land will bring us, for we stay on our course!” Glaring at Juet, Hudson raised his voice. “Steer clear! Set course due north by northwest!”
“May I live to see ye perish in this land!” cried Juet. Turning on his booted heel, he spun away and pushed through the gathering men to the foc’sle.
I stood uneasy at this breach of courtesy, but Hudson merely blinked in surprise, muttered something and then turned back to his charts. I was aghast. He should have run Juet through, or at least called him on this, but he did nothing. He seemed more concerned with his charts than with any actions of crew or officers.
“I would make land if we could do so safely. It would greatly ease the men’s hearts to be on shore and see what blessings this land offers us. I cannot vision a land with evil only.”
“Nor I, but save for this land, all else offers little.”
“True enough. I wish we had never raised this land, for it doth make for trouble and naught else. Tell me, if ye were to name this land, how would ye call it?” he asked as he lettered in the name with meticulous flourishes.
“Why I think ye ’ave said it yourself. ‘Tis a champagne land for sure. And so I would chart if for all those that may follow,” I answered, well pleased with my reply.
“A fine choice, but in these waters and under these extreme conditions that the crew lives with, I ’ave chosen another name for it.”
I took the offered chart, seeing at once the already frozen ink that mapped the green land of grapes. The name ‘Desire Provoketh’ was written in near the left side at the bottom. I bowed slightly to him.
“Well named sir. Well named.”