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(From 1435 A.D. to 1492 A.D.)
Birth of Columbus.—Early Life.—Struggles and Disappointments.—His Cause
adopted by Isabella.—Sailing of the Expedition.—The Voyage.—Mutinous
Conduct of the Crew.—Land discovered.
 WHILE Ferdinand and Isabella were at Santa Fé, the city which they had reared in front of
Granada, a very extraordinary man, then about fifty-five years of age, arrived at the
camp, whose career in connection with the history of Spain deserves particular mention. He
was a native of Genoa, Christopher Colombo by name. According to the custom of the times,
he Latinized it into Christopher Columbus, and finally, adopting the Spanish form, signed
his name Christopher Colon.
The date of the birth of Columbus is not certainly known, but it was near the year 1435.
His father was a wool-comber, an industrious and worthy man, who labored hard for the
support of his household. The shipping in the harbor of Genoa excited the imagination of
the boy, and created in him a passion for adventure. At fourteen years of age he became a
The Atlantic Ocean was then a region unexplored. The Mediterranean was almost the only
scene of nautical enterprise. A few bold navigators had crept along the shores of Africa,
but, appalled by the imaginary terrors of the vast Atlantic, even the most intrepid did
 far from land. It was a rude period of the world. Piratic warfare raged so generally that
the merchant and the corsair were often the same. Every mariner was a warrior. Wherever
he went he was liable to meet a foe. His guns were always loaded, and pikes and cutlasses
were at hand. Through this rough tutelage Christopher grew to manhood. He was in many
conflicts, and through them all manifested the same serene spirit and unflinching courage
which embellished his subsequent life.
In the course of his wanderings Christopher found himself at length at Lisbon, the capital
of Portugal. He was then a tall, serious, dignified man, about thirty-five years of age.
He had married a lady of congenial character, but without fortune. By the construction of
maps and charts, then in great demand, he obtained an ample competence, and no little
celebrity. His profession led him to study all that was then known of geography. Every
intelligent mariner who returned from a distant cruise was put under contribution by
Columbus for more accurate information respecting the land and the sea.
A small portion only of our globe had then been visited. As Columbus sat at his table,
constructing his charts, he became profoundly excited in contemplating those vast regions
of which nothing was known. His pencil rapidly sketched the shores of the Mediterranean,
and the coast of Africa from Cape Blanco to Cape Verde. He then dotted down the Canary,
the Madeira, and the Cape Verde Islands. Then pushing out three hundred leagues into the
Atlantic, he sketched the Azores. Here his maritime knowledge terminated. Pencil in hand,
he paused and pondered, and grew excited. What is there beyond? Is the earth a plain?
Where, then, does it end? Is it a
 globe? How large, then, is it? If it take the sun so many hours to pass from the eastern
to the western end of the Mediterranean, how large a space could it traverse in
twenty-four hours, from noon to noon.
His whole soul became engrossed in the exciting study. Rumors were continually reaching
his ears of islands which had been dimly discerned in the western horizon. Excited
mariners had transformed the clouds of sunset into fairy lands with towering mountains and
COLUMBUS IN HIS STUDY.
There was a general interest at that time in new discoveries. The boldest adventurers
were frequently in the studio of Columbus, to obtain charts and to communicate
 intelligence in reference to the realms which they had visited, or which they imagined to
exist. Devoting himself to these studies, Columbus became convinced that the earth was
round, and that it was about as large as it has since been proved to be. He consequently
inferred that, by sailing directly west, one could reach the eastern shore of Asia. The
great island of Japan was then dimly known. Columbus judged that Japan was in about the
situation of Florida, and he expected to find many islands in the ocean between.
Columbus, as we have said, was a devout man. Religious enthusiasm influenced him above
all other considerations. "These realms," said he, "are peopled by immortal beings, for
whom Christ has died. It is my mission to search them out, and to carry to them the Gospel
of salvation. Wealth will also flow in from this discovery. With this wealth we can raise
armies and rescue the holy sepulchre at Jerusalem from the hands of the infidels."
Columbus was quite unable to undertake the fitting out of an expedition himself. It was
not to be supposed that private individuals could be induced to run the necessary risk.
His only hope was in governmental favor. A sovereign state would not only, by the
discovery, obtain wealth and power, but would also be enabled to confer upon him those
titles and that authority which he deemed essential for the accomplishment of his
religious and philanthropic plans.
He consequently applied to the Portuguese Government, and succeeded in obtaining an
audience with King John II. The king listened with interest to his statement. But when
Columbus demanded, as a reward, that he should be appointed viceroy of the realms he might
 that he should receive one-tenth of the profits of the expedition, the king declined
embarking in the enterprise. He was, however, so much impressed by the statements of
Columbus that he assembled a council of the most scientific men in Lisbon to consider the
matter. The majority of the council pronounced the views of Columbus visionary.
The king then stooped to a measure exceedingly ignoble. Taking advantage of the
information which Columbus had communicated, he fitted out a secret expedition, which was
sent ostensibly to the Cape Verde Islands, but with orders to the commander to push on in
the track which Columbus had marked out. The captain obeyed. But the sailors became
terrified in a fierce Atlantic tempest which arose, and he was compelled to return.
This dishonorable act roused the indignation of Columbus. He resolved no longer to remain
in a land whose court could be guilty of such perfidy. Disappointed, deeply wounded, but
with purpose still unshaken, he took his only child, Diego, his wife being dead, and
returned to his native city of Genoa. This was the home of his boyhood. Columbus was
destined here to find the truth of the adage, "A prophet is not without honor save in his
own country, and in his own house." He applied to the Genoese Government to aid him in
his undertaking. But his application was contemptuously rejected, he not being able to
obtain even a respectful hearing.
Columbus was now in a state of deep poverty. But the one idea still filled his mind. After
forming and abandoning several plans, he decided to try his fortune in Spain. Embarking
at Genoa with his little son, Diego, he landed at Palos, a small Spanish sea-port near the
mouth of the River Tinto. Ferdinand and Isabella were then at Cor-
 dova, about one hundred miles distant, superintending the war against the Moors. It was an
unpropitious moment to interest them in an expensive, hazardous, and novel enterprise.
Columbus, pale, thin, pensive, with coarse and thread-bare garments, and with no luggage
to encumber him, took Diego by the hand, and set out to traverse the weary leagues to
Cordova. Having walked about a mile and a half they came to the gate of a convent. Diego
was hungry and thirsty. The father knocked at the gate and asked for a cup of water and a
slice of bread for his child.
COLUMBUS AT THE DOOR OF THE CONVENT.
The prior of the convent chanced at that moment to
 pass. Struck with the dignified air and intellectual features of the stranger, he entered
into conversation with him. The prior, an intelligent man, was much impressed with the
earnest character of Columbus, and with the grandeur of his views. He detained him as a
guest, and sent for a scientific physician in the neighborhood to meet him.
In the quiet cloisters of La Rabida these three men pondered the enterprise of the
discovery of a new world. The prior, a man of influence in the Court as well as in the
Church, detained Columbus and his son for some time with generous hospitality. He took
charge of the education of the child, and gave the father a letter of introduction to
the confessor of the queen. Cheered by this good-fortune, Columbus again set out for
Cordova. The Court presented the aspect of a military camp. All the chivalry of Spain were
there congregated in battle array. Plumes and banners gleamed in the sunlight. Martial
strains from the military bands filled the air. Squadrons of horse and vast masses of
artillery crowded the streets of the city, and were encamped around the walls.
Undismayed by the aspect of affairs, Columbus presented his letter to the confessor,
Fernando Talavera. But Talavera was a cold, calculating man, unsusceptible of generous
impulses. After listening with silent civility to the statement of Columbus, he dismissed
him, saying that he should deem it an intrusion to present so chimerical a project to the
sovereigns when oppressed with the weighty cares of war. The courtiers, contrasting the
magnificent plans of Columbus with his threadbare aspect and his poverty, made themselves
merry at his expense. Columbus found no encouragement at Cordova. Soon both of the
 sovereigns advanced with their armies into the province of Granada, where the Moors had
their last foothold, and through the summer the war was prosecuted with uninterrupted
In the fall they returned to Cordova, exulting over their victory. After a few days of
public rejoicing they repaired to Salamanca, nearly three hundred miles distant, to pass
the winter. Columbus remained all this time at Cordova, unable to approach the court, and
gaining a frugal living by designing maps and charts. He had, however, in the mean time
produced a deep impression upon the minds of many thinking men in Cordova by the dignity
of his demeanor, the elevation of his views, and by the remarkable conversational
eloquence with which he advocated them.
A wealthy and intelligent gentleman became so much interested in him that he received him
to his house as a guest, and introduced him to the grand cardinal, who had more influence
than any other man in the councils of the sovereigns. The cardinal listened with profound
attention to Columbus; and, deeming his project worthy of state consideration, secured for
him the long-wished-for audience with the king. This interview was to the enthusiastic
adventurer an hour of intense yet solemn exaltation. Deeming himself the heaven-chosen
instrument for the most important of earthly enterprises, even the splendors of royalty
could not dazzle him. Eloquently he plead his cause.
The king, shrewd, sagacious, and ambitious, was excited by the idea of discoveries and
acquisitions which would place Spain in the foreground of all the nations. With
characteristic caution, he declined forming any judgment himself, but appointed a council
of the most learned
as-  tronomers and cosmographers of the kingdom to hold an interview with Columbus, carefully
to examine his plan, and to report their opinion.
COLUMBUS BEFORE THE COMMISIONERS.
The conference was held in a large hall in the old Convent of St. Stephen's at Salamanca.
The assembly, convened by royal missives, was imposing in numbers and in dignity. Exalted
functionaries of the Church, professors in the universities, and statesmen of high rank
presented .an array which must have overawed any plain man of ordinary capacity.
Columbus, a simple mariner, with unaffected majesty of demeanor and of utterance, and
with every fibre of his soul vibrating, in the intensity of his zeal presented himself
before his examiners, sanguine of success.
 But he soon found, to his extreme chagrin, that learned men may be full of prejudice and
bigotry. His statements were assailed with what were deemed antagonistic citations from
the sacred prophets and the Psalms, and with extracts from the religious writings of the
Catholic fathers. The declaration that the earth was round was declared to be absurd.
"What!" exclaimed several of these sages of the fifteenth century, "can any one be so
foolish as to believe that the world is round, and that there are people on the side
opposite to ours, who walk with their heels upward, and their heads hanging down, like
flies clinging to the ceiling? that there is a part of the world where trees grow with
their branches hanging downward, and where it rains, hails, and snows upward?"
The doctrine of Columbus was stigmatized not only as absurd, but also as heretical; since
to maintain that there were inhabitants in those distant lands would be an impeachment of
the Bible; for it was deemed impossible that any descendants of Adam could have wandered
Others, in the pride of philosophy, with great complacency urged the objection that,
admitting the world to be round, should a ship ever succeed in reaching the other side, it
could never return, since no conceivable strength of wind could force a ship up the
mountainous rotundity of the globe.
Columbus, far in advance of his age, gave to the theological objection the same answer
which is now given when the revelations of science seem to militate against the
declarations of God's word. To the self conceited philosophers he replied with arguments
which, though unanswerable, were not to them convincing.
 The reasoning of Columbus produced, however, a profound impression upon some minds in that
assembly. Diego de Deza, a divine of noble character, who afterwards became Archbishop of
Seville, warmly espoused his cause. The majority were hostile to his views, and they drew
up a report declaring that it was both false and heretical to assume that land could be
found by sailing west from Europe. And this was but about four hundred years ago.
Columbus was bitterly disappointed, but still not discouraged. The conference had made
his scheme widely known. The attention of all the learned in the realm and of all the
dignitaries about the court was called to the subject. And though Columbus was insulted
with lampoons and jests, still individuals of exalted worth in increasing numbers
supported and consoled him.
Columbus had been received as an attache to the court during the months in which, with
many interruptions, this all-important question was under discussion. The vicissitudes of
the war against the Moors caused the court to move from place to place. There were but few
moments of repose when Columbus could get any one to listen to his story. During the
summer of 1487, when the king and queen were with the army encamped before Malaga,
conducting its memorable siege, Columbus could be seen silently moving about amidst all
the pomp and pageantry of the embattled host, entering tent after tent, urging his claim
whenever he could find a listening ear.
In September, Malaga having surrendered, the court returned to Cordova, and then, for
eighteen months, it was constantly on the move, still surrounded by the din of arms.
Columbus followed the court, vainly seeking again to obtain hearing. In the spring of 1489
be succeeded in
 obtaining from the king an order for another conference of learned men to be assembled at
Seville. But suddenly a new campaign was opened, and the meeting of the council was
postponed, as all the energies of the Government were engrossed in the siege of Baza.
Another year of tumultuous war passed away. Columbus during many of these weary months
lingered at Cordova, still supported at the expense of the court.
As the king and queen were making preparations, on the grandest scale, for the siege of
Granada, Columbus, conscious that when the campaign was once fairly opened no thought
could be turned to him, with renewed zeal pressed his suit. At length he received the
disheartening reply that no more attention could be given to the subject until the
conclusion of the war. The blow fell heavily upon Columbus. But with an indomitable spirit
he made no surrender to despair. Resolute, yet saddened, he now looked around for his
There were at this time in Spain many feudal nobles, rich and powerful. From their own
impregnable castles they led strong armies of retainers into the field. One of these, the
Duke of Medina Sidonia, furnished for the siege of Malaga quite an army of cavaliers, a
hundred vessels, and large sums of money. Columbus turned to him. At first the duke
listened eagerly to his suggestions, but closed the interview by contemptuously declaring
the scheme nothing but the dream of an Italian visionary. To another duke Columbus
applied, but with similar results.
He now resolved to try his fortune at the Court of France. Before setting out for Paris,
he desired to visit the Convent of La Rabida, at Palos, to take leave of his son Diego,
who was still there. Again he approached the gates
 of the hospitable convent. His purse was empty, and his thread-bare clothes were covered
with the dust of travel. Seven years of incessant toil and disappointment had passed
since he first asked for a cup of water at that gate. Care and sorrow had whitened his
locks, and ploughed deep furrows in his cheeks. The worthy prior received him with
sympathy and affection.
Upon learning that Columbus was about to direct his footsteps to Paris, he was alarmed at
the thought that Spain would thus lose the glory of so great a discovery. He immediately
sent for the physician of whom we have before spoken, and for other influential friends,
to hold a consultation. Among the rest came Martin Alonzo Pinzon, the illustrious head of
a family which had obtained wealth and renown through maritime adventures. Pinzon could
appreciate the views of Columbus. He warmly espoused his cause, and freely pledged his
purse to aid him in his further prosecution of his suit at court.
The prior, as we have mentioned, had formerly been confessor to Isabella. He immediately
wrote to the queen in the most earnest terms, urging that Spain might not lose so grand an
opportunity. An old sailor mounted a mule and carried the letter to Isabella, who was then
about one hundred and fifty miles distant, at Santa Fé, conducting the siege of Granada.
The queen returned an encouraging reply, requesting the prior to come and see her. This
response excited intense joy in the hearts of the little coterie at the convent, and the
worthy prior, though it was midwinter, saddled his mule and departed from the court-yard
to urge the claims of Columbus upon Isabella. It was a glorious mission, and the good old
Catholic ecclesiastic was worthy of it.
 The queen had a warm heart as well as a strong mind. Her affections came to the aid of her
intellect, and she listened sympathizingly to the plea of her revered confessor. She had
never heard the cause thus plead before. She had never been thus personally and directly
appealed to. She was the independent sovereign of Castile. Her husband was King of
Aragon. She immediately took Columbus under her care, requested him to come to Santa Fé,
and, with woman's thoughtful kindness, sent him a sum of money that he might purchase a
mule and provide himself with raiment suitable for his appearance at court.
Great was the joy which these tidings infused to the world-weary heart of Columbus. He was
speedily mounted upon his mule, and was trotting along over the hills and valleys of
Andalusia to the city of Granada. He arrived there just in time to see the Moorish banner
torn down and the flag of Spain unfurled upon the towers of the Alhambra. It was the most
exultant hour in Spanish history.
In the midst of these rejoicings Columbus was introduced to the cabinet of the queen.
With unaffected majesty he presented himself before her, feeling by no means that he was
a needy adventurer imploring alms, but that he was a heaven-sent ambassador, with a world
in his gift, which he would bequeath to Spain if Spain were worthy of the legacy.
"I wish," said he, "for a few ships and a few sailors to traverse between two and three
thousand miles of the ocean, thus to point out a new and short route to India, and to
reveal new nations majestic in wealth and power. I ask only, in return, that I may be
appointed viceroy over the realms I discover, and that I shall receive one-tenth of the
profits which may accrue."
 The courtiers of the queen were astonished at what they deemed such audacious demands.
They urged upon Isabella that it was the extreme of arrogance that an obscure sailor,
merely the captain of a successful maritime expedition, should demand wealth and honors
which would place him next in rank to the crown. Isabella, influenced by these
representations, offered him terms more moderate, yet honorable. But Columbus refused to
make any abatement whatever in his requisitions. He would not go forth the discoverer of
a world as merely the hireling of any prince.
Sadly yet resolutely he saddled his mule and rode out from Santa Fé to return to his
friends in Palos, thence to go and offer his services to the King of France. But
"blessings brighten as they take their flight." The queen was troubled by the departure of
Columbus. The character of the man had produced a profound impression upon her mind. She
was bewildered in contemplating the magnitude of the loss to her crown and to her fame
should the scheme of Columbus prove a reality. Ferdinand came into the cabinet. She
expressed her anxiety to him. He replied,
"The royal finances are absolutely drained by the war. We have no money in the treasury
for such an enterprise."
The enthusiastic response burst from the lips of the queen, "I will undertake the
enterprise for my own crown of Castile, and I will pledge my own private jewels to raise
the necessary funds."
The thing was settled. Columbus was triumphant. And yet how little at that moment was he
conscious of his victory! He was then on his mule, four miles from Santa Fé, toiling
through the sand, returning in the deepest
 disappointment to his friends in Palos. A
courier overtook him just as he was entering a gloomy defile among the mountains. For a
moment Columbus hesitated whether to return. The disappointments of eighteen years had
led him to distrust the encouragement of courts. Assured, however, by the courier, his
sanguine temperament again rose buoyantly, and, turning his mule, he spurred back to Santa
Fé. The queen received hint with great kindness, and immediately assented to all the
demands he had made.
He was appointed admiral and viceroy of all the realms he should discover, and was to
receive one-tenth of all the profits which might accrue. These honors were to be
transmitted to his heirs. He was also to contribute, through his friend Pinzon, one-eighth
of the expenses of the expedition, for which he was to receive one-eighth of the profits.
The matter being thus settled, Columbus again set out for Palos, probably the happiest man
in the world. A royal decree was issued for the town of Palos to furnish two small
vessels, suitably victualled and manned for the voyage. Columbus succeeded in obtaining
three small vessels, two furnished by the Government, and one by Martin Alonzo Pinzon. Two
of these vessels were light barks, called caravals, without decks, but with forecastles
and cabins for the crews. The third vessel, upon which Columbus embarked, was larger, and
completely decked. The total number of persons who joined the expedition was one hundred
and twenty. The enterprise was deemed so hazardous that it was with extreme difficulty
that the crew could be obtained. Many of the seamen were impressed by authority of the
As the sun was rising over the waves of the
Mediter-  ranean, on the 3rd of August, 1492, the little squadron unfurled its sails for the
world-renowned voyage. Anthems were sung, prayers were offered, and the sacrament of the
Lord's Supper was partaken of by both officers and crew before the anchor was raised. No
huzzahs resounded from the groups upon the shore. No acclamations were heard from the
ships. Tears, lamentations, and dismal forebodings oppressed nearly all hearts.
Columbus steered first for the Canary Islands. A strong wind drove them swiftly along, and
as the hills of Spain sank rapidly beneath the horizon, the terror of the seamen
increased. There were many indications of mutiny. On the third day out one of the vessels
was disabled by the unshipping of the rudder, which was supposed to have been
intentionally done by some on board. The injury was, however, soon repaired to such a
degree that the crippled vessel could keep up with the others by their shortening sail.
At the close of the week they arrived at the Canaries, about one thousand miles from the
port of Palos. Here they were detained three weeks in obtaining a new vessel for the one
which was disabled, which was found in other respects unfit for service, and in making
On the 6th of September Columbus again spread his sails. He was now fairly embarked upon
his voyage. The Canaries were on the frontiers of the known world. All beyond was
unexplored. A calm kept the vessels rolling for three days within sight of the islands.
But on the 9th the wind sprung up, and in a few hours the mountains of Ferro disappeared
beneath the horizon. It was the Sabbath, serene, sunny, and beautiful. But on board the
vessels it was a day of lamentation.
 As we have mentioned, many of the sailors were forced to embark. As they took their last
view of land they uttered murmurs loud and deep, which reached the ears of the admiral.
He did every thing in his power to inspire them with his own enthusiasm, but in vain. By
threats and promises he succeeded, however, in maintaining his authority. Perceiving that
every league of distance intervening between them and their homes would but increase
their terror, he resorted to the artifice of keeping two records of their daily progress,
one correct, for himself, the other for the public eye, in which he made their advance
much less than it in reality was.
Day after day passed on, while the intrepid navigator urged his ships through the billows
towards the long-wished-for goal. Every object was watched with the keenest scrutiny. A
weed upon the water, a bird, the color of the sea, of the sky, the form of the clouds, the
rain, the variations of the wind, every thing was examined with the closest attention.
The lead was often thrown, but no bottom could be found.
By the first of October they had sailed two thousand three hundred miles nearly due west;
but according to the reckoning shown to the crew they had sailed only seventeen hundred
miles. The weather was delightfully mild and serene. They had fallen in with the
trade-winds, which blowing incessantly from the same direction, bore them prosperously on
their way. But this phenomenon added still more to the alarm of the seamen, for they
thought that it would be impossible for them ever to return.
At one time the murmurs of the crew became so intense that they even contemplated open
mutiny, and a plan was
 formed to throw Columbus overboard. Still the admiral, by combined firmness and
gentleness, held them in subjection. Another anxious week passed away. To inspirit the
seamen, a reward had been offered of about a hundred and twenty-five dollars to the one
who should first discover land. But there had been so many false alarms that Columbus
announced that whosoever should give the startling cry of land, and it not prove to be
true, should thenceforth forfeit all claim to the reward. The massive clouds were often
piled up in the western heavens in forms so strikingly resembling mountains and valleys
as to deceive the most practised eye.
The murmurs of the crew at length became so loud that the situation of Columbus was all
but desperate. He was compelled to assume the attitude of defiance, and to declare that
no consideration should tempt him to abandon the enterprise upon which he had entered, and
which he was sure perseverance would conduct to a successful termination. The next
morning they met with several indications of their vicinity to land. Fresh seaweed
floated by them. A branch of a shrub with leaves and berries upon it was picked up, and a
small piece of wood, curiously carved, was also found drifting upon the water.
The sailors, like children easily elated and depressed, were now all exultation. Their
fears were dispelled, their murmurs forgotten, and with perfect subjection they yielded
themselves to the dominion of their commander. From the commencement of the voyage every
evening religious services had been observed on board the vessel of the admiral. The
vesper hymn floated solemnly over the wide waste of waters, and the voice of prayer
ascended to God.
The evening after witnessing these indications of land,
 Columbus, at the hour of vespers, stood upon the poop of his vessel, with the mariners
assembled around him, and in an impressive address pointed out to them the goodness of
their Heavenly Father in bearing them thus far on their way, and set strongly before them
the evidences that their great achievement was now upon the eve of accomplishment. He
told them that he thought it probable that before the sun should rise they would make the
land. He urged them to keep a vigilant lookout, and promised to the one who should first
make the discovery a velvet doublet in addition to the purse of gold. It is remarkable
that Columbus should have found the land almost exactly where he expected to have found
it. His only error was in supposing that Asia extended its unbroken surface to where the
line of the American continent is found.
Sixty-seven days had now passed since the highlands of Spain had disappeared from their
view. It was the 11th of October, 1492. The evening was brilliant, the fresh breeze was
balmy and invigorating. Intense excitement pervaded every heart. Not an eye was closed in
either of the ships that night. As the sun went down, and the short twilight disappeared,
and the stars came out in the ebon sky, Columbus took his station upon the poop of his
vessel, and with anxious glance ranged the horizon.
About ten o'clock he was startled by the gleam of a torch, far in the distance. For a
moment it burned with a clear flame, then suddenly disappeared. Was it a meteor? Was it an
optical illusion, or was it a light from the land? Suddenly the light again beamed forth
distinct and indisputable. Columbus, intensely agitated, called to some companions and
pointed it out to them. They also saw it
 gleaming like a fitful star for an instant, when it again disappeared, and was seen no
The darkness of a moonless night again brooded over the solitary ships, and nothing was
heard but the moan of the wind and the sweep of the wave. Rapidly the frail barks rose and
fell over the billows as the hours of the night wore on, while the prow of every vessel
was crowded with the crew, each one hoping to be the first to catch a glimpse of the
shore. The Pinta, being the best sailor of the three, was in the advance. At two o'clock
in the morning a seaman from its mast-head discerned the obscure but indisputable outline
of the land. He shouted land, land, land. Every voice echoed the cry. In a few moments
more all eyes beheld the mountains dark and sombre, but clearly defined, and not two miles
distant from them. They immediately took in sail and laid to, while the report of a cannon
booming over the waves conveyed the transporting tidings to the two ships in the rear.
It is in vain to attempt to imagine the feelings of Columbus during the hours in which he
impatiently awaited the dawn of the morning. He was then probably about fifty-six years of
age. The energies of nearly his whole life, while struggling against ridicule, contempt,
and the most terrible disappointments, had been devoted to the attainment of this one
object. And now was he to find barrenness, solitude, and desolation—a gloomy
wilderness, silent and unpeopled, or was he to find powerful nations, with a new
civilization, and all the embellishments of wealth, splendor, and power?