“It’s vellum,” Don said quietly, his fingers caressing the edges of the thick book reverently.
“Calf-hide stretched into a fine skin. It was used as paper for ages. Oldest known writings have lasted over a thousand years.”
“They used deerskin in early America.”
“Is it authentic?”
“It’s vellum. It’s deerskin. It’s old.”
“But is it real? Is it that old?”
Are you asking me if this is another hoax? Something buried for us fools to find?”
Don slowly opened the first page, breath catching in his throat.
“It can’t be,” he muttered, his fingertips brushing over the written words as if he were reading brail.
The letters stood out from the page just as they should when ink was written on vellum. It felt so incredibly old, so incredibly real, like an ancient mummy. He swallowed hard as he stared at the text and felt a shiver pass through him.
“Don, your hands are shaking! Let me have a look,” Archie demanded, his stubby body hopping with excitement as his hands clawed for the book.
“Archie, look at the date!”
“April 26, 1587.” Archie pulled a magnifying glass off his desk and peered at the book again. “How extraordinary.”
“It’s not just that, Don. Look at the date!”
“I know, Archie. It’s around the time of the Roanoke Colony. I’ll have to examine this further to even fathom a guess. If it’s a forgery, it’s a damn good one.”
“Did all my years of teaching and lectures go to waste? Look at the date!”
“I see it Archie. I know what it could mean.”
“Don, give me the book.”
Archie sighed, chest rumbling as he placed the book gingerly on his desk, still open at page one. Neither had read another word.
“My boy, this isn’t just any date. On April 26, 1587, three ships sailed from Portsmouth, England, bound for Chesapeake Bay in the New World. They were Sir Walter Raleigh’s fleet, meant to colonize Virginia.”
“They never made it.”
“Correct. Most of that party was never seen again.”
“The Lost Colony of Roanoke!”
Don pulled the magnifying glass from Archie’s hand and bent over the script, slowly reading the first few blurry lines.
April 26, 1587
Clear day, with no sign of rain. We boarded the good ship “Lion” with all our worldly belongings, which amounted to very little in fact. Now they are stowed away below after being humped along the quay by two dockhands, both of which showed their distaste for the task and us, whom they no doubt considered true Londoners.