| In Story-land|
|by Elizabeth Harrison|
|A collection of fifteen original stories ideally suited for young children. Each of the stories features a light-filled being whose radiance illumines the path for those who follow. Meant to be suggestive to the parent or teacher of the types of stories that can be told to children to inspire them to grow in goodness. Ages 6-8 |
STORY OF CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS FOR LITTLE CHILDREN
 Once upon a time, far across the great
ocean there lived a little boy named Christopher. The
city in which he lived was called Genoa. It was on
the coast of the great sea, and from the time that little
Christopher could first remember he had seen boats come and
go across the water. I doubt not that he had little boats of
his own which he tried to sail, or paddle about on the small
pools near his home.
Soon after he was old enough to read books, which in those
days were very scarce and very much valued, he got hold of
an account of the wonderful travels of a man named Marco
Polo. Over and over again little Christopher read the
marvelous stories told by this old traveler, of the strange
cities which he had seen and of the dark-colored people whom
he had met; of the queer houses; of the wild and beautiful
animals he had encountered; of the jewels and perfumes and
flowers which he had come across.
 All day long the thoughts of little Christopher were busy
with this strange far-away land which Marco Polo
described. All night long he dreamed of the marvelous
sights to be seen on those distant shores. Many a time he
went down to the water's edge to watch the queer ships as
they slowly disappeared in the dim distance, where the sea
and sky seemed to meet. He listened eagerly to everything
about the sea and the voyages of adventure, or of trade
which were told by the sailors near.
When he was fourteen years old he went to sea with an uncle,
who was commander of one of the vessels that came and went
from the port of Genoa. For a number of years he thus lived
on a vessel, learning everything that he could about the
sea. At one time the ship on which he was sailing had a
desperate fight with another ship; both took fire and were
burned to the water's edge. Christopher Columbus, for that
was his full name, only escaped, as did the other sailors,
by jumping into the sea and swimming to the shore.
Still this did not cure him of his love for the ocean life.
We find after a time that he left Italy, his native country,
and went to live in Portugal,
 a land near the great sea, whose people were far more
venturesome than had been those of Genoa. Here he married a
beautiful maiden, whose father had collected a rich store of
maps and charts, which showed what was then supposed to be
the shape of the earth and told of strange and wonderful
voyages which brave sailors had from time to time dared to
make out into the then unknown sea. Most people in those
days thought it was certain death to any one who ventured
very far out on the ocean.
There were all sorts of queer and absurd ideas afloat as to
the shape of the earth. Some people thought it was round
like a pancake and that the waters which surrounded the land
gradually changed into mist and vapor and that he who
ventured out into these vapors fell through the mist and
clouds down into—they knew not where. Others believed that
there were huge monsters living in the distant waters ready
to swallow any sailor who was foolish enough to venture near
But Christopher Columbus had grown to be a very wise and
thoughtful man and from all he could learn from the maps of
his father-in-law and the books which he read, and from the
long talks which he had with some other
 learned men, he grew more and more certain that the world
was round like an orange, and that by sailing westward from
the coast of Portugal one could gradually go round the world
and find at last the wonderful land of Cathay, the strange
country which lay far beyond the sea, the accounts of which
had so thrilled him as a boy.
We, of course, know that he was right in his belief
concerning the shape of the earth, but people in those days
laughed him to scorn when he spoke of making a voyage out on
the vast and fearful ocean. In vain he talked and reasoned
and argued, and drew maps to explain matters. The more he
proved to his own satisfaction that this must be the shape
of the world, the more other people shook their heads and
called him crazy.
He remembered in his readings of the book of Marco Polo's
travels that the people whom he had met were heathen who
knew little about the dear God who had made the world, and
nothing at all about His son, Christ Jesus, and as
Christopher Columbus loved very dearly the Christian
religion, his mind became filled with a longing to carry it
across the great seas to this far-away country. The more he
thought about it the more he wanted
 to go, until his whole life was filled with the one thought
of how to get hold of some ships to prove that the earth was
round, and that these far-away heathens could be reached.
Through some influential friends he obtained admission to
the court of the King of Portugal. Eagerly he told the
rich monarch of the great enterprise which filled his heart.
It was of little or no use, the King was busy with other
affairs, and only listened to the words of Columbus as one
might listen to the wind. Year after year passed by,
Columbus' wife had died, and their one little son, Diego,
had grown to be quite a boy. Finally Columbus decided he
would leave Portugal and would go over to Spain, a rich
country near by, and see if the Spanish monarchs would not
give him boats in which to make his longed-for voyage.
The Spanish King was named Ferdinand, and the Spanish Queen
was a beautiful woman named Isabella. When Columbus told
them of his belief that the world was round, and of his
desire to help the heathen who lived in this far-off country,
they listened attentively to him, for both King Ferdinand
and Queen Isabella were very earnest people and very
desirous that all the world should become
 Christians; but their ministers and officers of state
persuaded them that the whole thing was a foolish dream of
an enthusiastic, visionary man; and again Columbus was
disappointed in his hope of getting help.
Still he did not give up in despair. The thought was too
great for that. He sent his brother over to England to see
if the English King would not listen to him and give the
necessary help, but again he was doomed to disappointment.
Only here and there could he find any one who believed that
it was possible for him to sail round the earth and reach
the land on the other side. Long years passed by.
Columbus grew pale and thin with waiting and hoping, with
planning and longing.
Sometimes as he walked along the
streets of the Spanish capital people would point their
fingers at him and say: "There goes the crazy old man who
thinks the world is round." Again and again Columbus
tried to persuade the Spanish King and Queen that if they
would aid him, his discoveries would bring great honor and
riches to their kingdom, and that they would also become
the benefactors of the world by helping to spread the
knowledge of Christ and His religion. Nobody believed in
 Nobody was interested in his plan. He grew poorer and
At last he turned his back on the great Spanish court, and
in silent despair he took his little son by the hand and
walked a long way to a small seaport called Palos, where
there was a queer old convent in which strangers were often
entertained by the kind monks who lived in it. Weary and
footsore he reached the gate of the convent. Knocking
upon it he asked the porter, who answered the summons, if
he would give little Diego a bit of bread and a drink of
water. While the two tired travelers were resting, as the
little boy ate his dry crust of bread, the prior of the
convent, a man of thought and learning, whose name was Juan
Perez, came by and at once saw that these two were no common
beggars. He invited them in and questioned Columbus closely
about his past life. He listened quietly and thoughtfully to
Columbus and his plan of crossing the ocean and converting
the heathen to Christianity.
Juan Perez had at one time been a very intimate friend of
Queen Isabella; in fact, the priest to whom she told all her
sorrows and troubles. He was a quiet man and
 talked but little. After a long conference with Columbus, in
which he was convinced that Columbus was right, he borrowed
a mule and getting on his back rode for many miles across
the open country to the palace in which the Queen was then
staying. I do not know how he convinced her of the truth of
Columbus' plan, when all the ministers and courtiers and
statesmen about her considered it the absurdly foolish and
silly dream of an old man; but, somehow, he did it.
He then returned on his mule to the old convent at Palos,
and told Columbus to go back once more to the court of Spain
and again petition the Queen to give him money with which to
make his voyage of discovery. The State Treasurer said the
Queen had no money to spare, but this noble-hearted woman,
who now, for the first time, realized that it was a grand
and glorious thing Columbus wished to do, said she would
give her crown jewels for money with which to start
Columbus on his dangerous journey across the great ocean.
This meant much in those days, as queens were scarcely
considered dignified or respectable if they did not wear
crowns of gold inlaid
 with bright jewels on all public occasions, but Queen
Isabella cared far more to send the gospel of Christ over to
the heathen than how she might look, or what other people
might say about her. The jewels were pawned and the money
was given to Columbus. With a glad heart he hastened back
to the little town of Palos where he had left his young son
with the kind priest Juan Perez.
But now a new difficulty arose. Enough sailors could not be
found who would venture their lives by going out on this
unknown voyage with a crazy old man such as Columbus was
thought to be. At last the convicts from the prisons were
given liberty by the Queen on condition that they would go
with the sailors and Columbus. So, you see, it was not
altogether a very nice crew, still it was the best he could
get, and Columbus' heart was so filled with the great work
that he was willing to undertake the voyage no matter how
great or how many the difficulties might be. The ships were
filled with food and other provisions for a long, long
Nobody knew how long it would be before the land on the
other side could be reached, and many people thought there
was no possible hope of its ever being found.
 Early one summer morning, even before the sun had risen,
Columbus bade farewell to the few friends who had gathered
at the little seaport of Palos to say good-bye to him. The
ships spread their sails and started on the great untried
voyage. There were three boats, none of which we would
think, nowadays, was large enough or strong enough to dare
venture out of sight and help of land and run the risk of
encountering the storms of mid-ocean.
The names of the boats were the Santa Maria, which was the
one that Columbus himself commanded, and two smaller boats,
one named the Pinta and the other the Nina.
Strange, indeed, must the sailors have felt, as hour after
hour they drifted out into the great unknown waters, which
no man ever ventured into before. Soon all land faded from
their sight, and on, and on, and on they went, not knowing
where or how the voyage would end. Columbus alone was filled
with hope, feeling quite sure that in time he would reach
the never before visited shores of a New World, and would
thus be the means of bringing the Christian religion to
these poor, ignorant people. On and on they sailed, day
 day—far beyond the utmost point which sailors had ever
Many of the men were filled with a strange dread and begged
and pleaded to return home. Still on and on they went, each
day taking them further and further from all they had ever
known or loved before. Day after day passed, and week after
week until two months had elapsed.
The provisions which they had brought with them were getting
scarce, and the men now dreaded starvation. They grew angry
with Columbus, and threatened to take his life if he did not
command the ships to be turned back toward Spain, but his
patience did not give out, nor was his faith one whit the
less. He cheered the hearts of the men as best he could. Often
telling them droll, funny stories to distract their
thoughts from the terrible dread which now filled all minds.
He promised a rich reward to the first man who should
discover land ahead. This somewhat renewed their courage,
and day and night watches were set and the western horizon
before them was scanned at all hours. Time and again they
thought they saw land ahead, only to find they had
mistaken a cloud upon
the horizon for the longed-for shore. Flocks
 of birds flying westward began to be seen. This gave some
ground for hope. For surely the birds must be flying toward
some land where they could find food, and trees in which to
build their nests. Still fear was great in the hearts
of all, and Columbus knew that he could not keep the men
much longer in suspense, and that if land did not appear
soon they would compel him to turn around and retrace his
steps whether he wished to or not.
Then he thought of all the benighted heathen who had never
heard of God's message of love to man through Christ, and he
prayed almost incessantly that courage might be given him
to go on. Hour after hour he looked across the blue water,
day and night, longing for the sight of land. In fact, he
watched so incessantly that his eyesight became injured and
he could scarcely see at all.
At last one night as he sat upon the deck of the ship he was
quite sure that a faint light glimmered for a few moments in
the distant darkness ahead. Where there is a light there
must be land, he thought. Still he was not sure, as his
eyesight had become so dim. So he called one of the more
faithful sailors to him and asked him what he saw. The
 "A light, a light!"
Another sailor was called, but by this time the light had
disappeared and the sailor saw nothing, and Columbus' hopes
again sank. Still he felt they must be nearing land. About 2
o'clock that night the commander of one of the other boats
started the cry:
"Land! land ahead!"
You can well imagine how the shout was taken up, and how the
sailors, one and all, rushed to the edge of their ships,
leaning far over, no doubt, and straining their eyes for the
almost unhoped-for sight.
Early the next morning some one of the sailors picked up a
branch of a strange tree, lodged in the midst of which was a
tiny bird's nest. This was sure evidence that they were
indeed near land, for branches of trees do not grow in
Little by little the land came in sight. First it looked
like a dim ghost of a shore, but gradually it grew distinct
and clear. About noon the next day the keel of Columbus'
boat ground upon the sand of the newly discovered country.
No white man had ever before set eyes upon it. No ship had
ever before touched this coast.
At last after a long life of working and
 of hoping and planning, of trying and failing, and
trying yet again, he had realized his dream.
The great mystery of the ocean was revealed, and Columbus
had achieved a glory which would last as long as the world
lasted. He had given a new world to mankind!
He had reached
the far distant country across the ocean, which scarcely
any of his countrymen had even believed to have any existence.
He now knew that the whole round world could in time
have the Christian religion.
He sprang upon the shore, and dropping on his knees he first
stooped and kissed the ground, and then he offered a fervent
prayer of thanks to God.
A learned attorney who had come with him across the water
next planted the flag of Spain upon the unknown land, and
claimed the newly discovered country in the name of King
Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain.
Wonderful, wonderful indeed were the things which Columbus
and the sailors now saw! Strange naked men and women of a
copper, or bronze color, strange new birds with gorgeous
tails that glittered like gems such as they had never seen
before; beautiful and
un-  known fruits and flowers met their gaze on every side.
The savages were kind and gentle and brought them food and
water. They had little else to offer as they had no houses,
nor streets, nor carriages, nor cars, nor conveniences of
any kind. Do you know, my dear children, that this
strange, wild, savage country which Columbus had traveled
so far and so long to discover was our country, America?
But it was not long until after Columbus had gone back to
Europe and told the people there of the wonderful things
which he had seen in this far, far away land that
ship-loads of white people, who were educated and who had
been taught to love God and to keep his commandments, came
over and settled in this wild, new country. They plowed the
land and planted seed; they built houses for themselves,
their wives and little ones, and in time they made
school-houses for the children, and
churches in which to worship God. Long and hard was
the struggle which these first white men had to make in this
strange, new country.
Year after year more and more white men came. These new
settlers prospered, and new towns were built, and roads were
 one town to another, and stores and manufactories began to
At last the little handful of people had grown so strong
that they established a government of their own, which
welcomed all newcomers, providing they were law-abiding
citizens. The poor and oppressed, the persecuted and
discouraged in other lands came to this new shore, where
they found wealth if they were willing to work for it.
Here they need no longer fear the persecutions from which
they had suffered. Here they gained new hope and became
honored and respected citizens.
Little by little the small country grew into a great nation,
the greatest on earth, because it is the freest, and each
citizen in it has his rights respected. But for the courage
and determination and self-sacrifice of Columbus this great
new world might have remained for hundreds of years unknown
Four hundred years afterwards the children of the children's
children of these early settlers, had a grand celebration
in honor of the brave old man, Christopher Columbus, whom
the people of his day called crazy, and all the nations of
the earth were invited to bring
 their most beautiful, their richest and rarest products to
this celebration, in order that not we of America alone, but
the whole world might celebrate the wisdom and the courage
of the great Columbus, "the finder of America."
In the rejoicing and in the celebration the nations did not
forget the good Queen Isabella, who was willing to give up
her most precious jewels in order that she might help
Columbus in his voyage of discovery.
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics