| Thirty More Famous Stories Retold|
|by James Baldwin|
|This volume was written by the author in answer to the requests of hundreds of children for more stories like the ones they had enjoyed in Fifty Famous Stories Retold. This volume includes stories of historical events, scientific discoveries, and legendary heroes. The richer vocabulary and more complicated plot elements in these stories gradually accustom children to following a longer narrative. Ages 7-10 |
THE FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH
 AMONG the Spaniards who flocked to America in the hope
of finding gold, there was a certain officer whose name
was Juan Ponce de Leon. He had distinguished himself in
the Spanish army and was very rich. He also had much
influence with the king—so much, in fact, that he was
soon appointed governor of all the eastern part of
 While attending to his duties in Haiti, he learned that
at some distance farther eastward there was a rich
island abounding in gold and other precious metals. The
Indians called this island Borinquen; it was the same
land which Columbus had discovered a few years before
and called Porto Rico.
Ponce de Leon was so much pleased by the reports which
were brought to him of the great wealth of Porto Rico
that he at once made up his mind to get that wealth for
himself. The king of Spain was very willing to please
him and to have a share of the profits, and therefore
appointed him governor of Porto Rico. Ponce was not a
man to waste time in any undertaking. With eight stanch
ships and several hundred men, he at once set sail for
his new province and in due time landed upon the
The natives were kind and gentle. They welcomed the
white men to their pleasant country and tried to help
them in such ways as they could. Ponce de Leon repaid
them as the Spaniards at that time usually repaid a
kindness,—he robbed them of all they had and made
slaves of as many as he could. Then at length the
harassed savages turned against their oppressors and
tried to drive them from the island; but what could
they do against enemies so cunning and strong?
 Ponce was as heartless and unfeeling as any wild beast.
Soon the once happy island was filled with distress and
terror. The Indians were hunted from their homes.
Thousands of them were killed, and the rest became the
slaves of their conquerors.
Ponce began to form a settlement at a place now called
Pueblo Viejo; but he soon changed his plans and removed
to a fine harbor on the north shore of the island.
There he laid out the city of San Juan. He built for
himself, near the mouth of the harbor, a grand house
which he called Casa Blanca, or the White Castle; and
there he made his home for some time.
But, with all his wealth, Ponce was not happy. He had
lived so carelessly and wildly that his youth went from
him early. At fifty years of age he was a miserable old
man. There was no more joy in the world for him.
One day as he was sitting unhappy in the White Castle,
a thing occurred that kindled a spark of hope in his
despairing mind. He overheard an Indian slave say, "In
Bimini no one grows old."
"Bimini! What is Bimini?" he asked.
"It is a beautiful island that lies far, far to the
north of us," was the answer.
"Tell me about it."
 "There is a fountain there, a spring of clear water,
the most wonderful in the world. Every one that bathes
in it becomes as young and strong as he was in his best
days. No one grows old in Bimini."
"Have you ever been there?"
"Ah, no. It is too far away for any of our people to
make the voyage. But we have heard talk of the fountain
all our lives."
Ponce asked other Indians about Bimini and its magic
fountain. All had heard of it. It. was a land fragrant
with flowers. It lay far to the northwest—too far for
frail canoes to venture. But the great ships of the
white men could easily make the voyage in a few days.
Ponce made up his mind to discover the fountain. He
first got the king's permission to conquer Bimini,
wherever it might be. Then with three ships and a
number of followers he sailed toward the northwest. He
passed through the great group of islands known as the
Bahamas; and, wherever there were natives living, he
stopped and made inquiries.
"Where is Bimini? Where is the magic fountain of
They pointed to the northwest. It was always a little
farther and a little farther. No one had
 ever seen the fountain, but Ponce understood that every
one had heard of it.
At length, after leaving the Bahamas far behind them,
the Spaniards discovered a strange coast where the land
seemed to be covered with flowers. Was this Bimini?
Nobody could tell. The coast stretched so far northward
and southward that Ponce felt sure it was no island but
the mainland of a continent. The day was Easter Sunday,
which in Spain is called Pascua de Flores, or the Feast
of Flowers. For this reason, and also because of the
abundance of flowers, the Spaniards named the land
Ponce de Leon went on shore at many places and sought
for the wonderful fountain. He drank from every clear
spring. He bathed in many a limpid stream. But his lost
youth did not come back to him.
He sailed southward and around to the western coast of
Florida, asking everywhere,—
"Is this Bimini? And where is the fountain of youth?"
But the Indians who lived there had never heard of
Bimini, and they knew of no fountain of youth. And so,
at last, the search was given up, and Ponce returned
disappointed to Porto Rico.
 Nine years passed, and then he sailed again for
Florida. This time he took a number of men with him in
order to conquer the country and seize upon whatever
treasures he might find there. More than this, he
expected to explore its woods and rivers and seek again
for the mysterious fountain of youth.
The Florida Indians did not have any treasures; but
they were brave and loved their homes. They would not
be conquered and enslaved without a struggle. They
therefore fell upon the Spaniards when they landed, and
drove them back to their ships.
Ponce de Leon was struck by an arrow. He was wounded in
"Take me back to Spain," said he, "for I shall never
find the fountain of youth."
His ship carried him to Cuba; but no skill could heal
his wound. He lingered in pain for a long time, and
then died, bewailing his lost youth.
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