| This Country of Ours|
|by H. E. Marshall|
|Stories from the history of the United States beginning with a full account of exploration and settlement and ending with the presidency of Woodrow Wilson. The 99 chapters are grouped under 7 headings: Stories of Explorers and Pioneers, Stories of Virginia, Stories of New England, Stories of the Middle and Southern Colonies, Stories of the French in America, Stories of the Struggle for Liberty, and Stories of the United States under the Constitution. Ages 10-14 |
HOW COLUMBUS RETURNED HOME IN TRIUMPH
 CHRISTMAS Eve came, and the Admiral, being very weary, went below
to sleep, leaving a sailor to steer the ship. But this sailor thought
he too would like to sleep, so he gave the tiller in charge of a
Now throughout the whole voyage the Admiral had forbidden this.
Whether it was stormy or calm he had commanded that the helm was
never to be entrusted to a boy. This boy knew very little of how
to steer a ship, and being caught in a current it was cast upon a
sand-bank and wrecked. By good luck every one was saved and landed
upon the island of Haiti. But Columbus had now only one little
vessel, and it was not large enough to carry all the company. Many
of them, however, were so delighted with the islands that they
wanted to stay there, and they had often asked the Admiral's leave
to do so.
Columbus therefore now determined to allow some of his men to
remain to found a little colony, and trade with the Indians, "and
he trusted in God that when he came back from Spain—as he intended
to do—he would find a ton of gold collected by them, and that
they would have found a gold mine, and such quantities of spices
that the Sovereigns would in the space of three years be able to
undertake a Crusade and conquer the Holy Sepulchre."
So out of the wreck of the Santa Maria Columbus built a fort, and
from the many who begged to be left behind he chose forty-four,
appointing one of them, Diego de Arana, as Governor. He called the
fort La Navida or The Nativity
 in memory of the day upon which it
was founded. The island itself he called Espaņola or Little Spain.
Then on Friday the 4th of January, 1493, the Nina spread her sails
and slowly glided away, leaving in that far island amid the unknown
seas the first colony of white men ever settled in the west.
Two days after Columbus set forth upon his homeward voyage, he
fell in again with the Pinta. The master had found no gold, so he
determined to join Columbus once more. He now came on board and
tried to make his peace with Columbus, but the Admiral received him
coldly, for he had little faith in his excuses. And now once more
together, the two little vessels sailed homeward. But soon storms
arose, the ships were battered by wind, tossed about hither and
thither by waves, and at length separated again. More than once
Columbus feared that his tiny vessel would be engulfed in the stormy
seas, and the results of his great enterprise never be known. But
at length the shores of Portugal were sighted, and on Friday, the
15th of March, 1493, he landed again at Palos, in Spain, from whence
he had set forth more than seven months before.
The people of Palos had hardly hoped to see again those who had
sailed away on so desperate an adventure. Now, when they saw only
one of the three vessels return their joy was mingled with grief.
When, however, they learned that Columbus returned in triumph, and
that India had been reached, their joy knew no bounds. Shops were
closed, bells were rung, and all the people in holiday attire thronged
to the harbour, and with shouts and cheers they bore Columbus in
triumph to the church, there to give thanks to God for his safe and
glorious return. And ere the shouts had died away, a second vessel
was seen approaching. It was the Pinta which, though parted from the
Nina, had also weathered the storms and now came safely to port.
 At once on landing Columbus had sent a letter to the King and
Queen telling them of his return. Now he received an answer; it
was addressed to Don Christopher Columbus, our Admiral of the Ocean
Sea, Viceroy and Governor of the Islands discovered in the Indies.
It bade him to come at once to court. It told him that a new expedition
would immediately be fitted out; so with a heart overflowing with
joy and pride, Columbus set forth to Barcelona where the King and
Queen then were.
The great news of his voyage and discovery had outsped him, and
the people of Barcelona received him with every mark of respect
and honour. As he passed through the streets, riding on a splendid
horse and surrounded by the greatest nobles of Spain, they cheered
him again and again. They gazed in wonder also at the dark-skinned
savages, the gayly coloured parrots, and other strange things he
had brought with him from out the Sea of Darkness.
Sitting on a throne of state beneath a canopy of cloth of gold,
with the young Prince of Spain beside them , the King and Queen
received Columbus. At his approach they rose, and standing they
welcomed back to their realm as a mighty prince he who had gone
forth a simple sailor. And as Columbus would have knelt to kiss
their hands they raised him, and bade him be seated beside them as
an equal. Seldom did the haughty rulers of Spain show such great
honour even to the proudest nobles in the land.
And so while King, and Queen, and courtiers listened breathlessly
Columbus told of all he had done, of all the marvels he had seen,
of the richness and fairness of the lands he had found and claimed
for Spain. And when he had finished the King and Queen fell upon
their knees, and clasping their hands they raised eyes filled with
tears of joy to heaven, giving thanks to God for His great mercies.
The courtiers too fell upon their knees and joined their
to those of the King and Queen, while over all the triumphant notes
of the Te Deum rang out.
So ended the great voyage of Columbus. He had shown the way across
the Sea of Darkness; he had proved that all the stories of its
monsters and other dangers were false. But even he had no idea
of the greatness of his discovery. He never realised that he had
shown the way to a new world; he believed to the day of his death
that he had indeed found new islands, but that his greatest feat
was that of finding a new way to the Old World. Yet now being made
a noble, he took for his coat of arms a, group of golden islands
in an azure sea, and for motto the words, "To Castile and Leon,
Columbus gave a New World."
Now began a time of pomp and splendour for Columbus. He who had
gone forth a penniless sailor now rode abroad in gorgeous array;
often he might be seen with the Queen on one hand and John, the
young Prince of Spain, on the other. Sometimes even the King himself
would ride with him, and seeing him so high in royal favour all the
greatest and proudest nobles of the land were eager to make much
of him. So they fêted him, flattered him, and spread banquets for
him. But some were jealous of the great fame of Columbus, and they
made light of his discoveries.
It is told how, one day at a banquet when every one talked of these
wonderful deeds, one of the guests spoke slightingly of them. "It
is all very well," he said to Columbus, "but in a great country like
Spain, where there are such numbers of daring sailors and learned
folk besides, many another man might have done the same as you. We
should have found the Indies even if you had not."
To this speech Columbus answered nothing, but he asked for an egg
to be brought to him. When it was brought he placed it on the table
saying, "Sirs, I will lay a wager with any of you that you cannot
make this egg stand up without anything at all to support it."
 One after the other they tried, but no one could do it. At length
it came round to Columbus again. And he, taking it in his hand,
struck it sharply on the table so that one end was chipped a little,
and it stood upright.
"That, my lord, is my answer," he said, looking at the courtier
who had scoffed. And all the company were silent. For they saw he
was well answered. Columbus had shown that after a deed is once done
it is simple, and every one knows how to do it. What he had done
in sailing across the Sea of Darkness was only wonderful because
no one else had thought of doing it.
Portugal was now very jealous of Spain's success, and King Ferdinand
of Spain was fearful lest King John of Portugal should seize the
new islands which Columbus had discovered. So he appealed to the
Pope to settle the matter. And the Pope decided that all new lands
discovered west of an imaginary line drawn through the Atlantic
Ocean west of the Azores and from pole to pole should belong to
Spain. All discoveries east of this line should belong to Portugal.
If you will look at a map of the world you will see that this gave
to Spain all the Americas with their islands (except a little bit
of Brazil) and to Portugal the whole of Africa.
But almost before this matter was settled Columbus had set forth
again on another voyage across the great ocean, now no longer the Sea
of Darkness: this time he had no difficulty in getting a company.
For every one was eager to go with him, even many of the sons of
great nobles. This time too the passage was made without any doubts
and fears, but with joyful expectations.
Columbus had hoped great things of the little colony that he had
left behind him. But when he cast anchor one night before the fort
his heart sank. All was dark and silent on shore. Yet still hoping,
he ordered two cannon to be fired as a signal to the colonists.
The cannon boomed through
 the still, warm darkness of the night,
and slowly the echoes died away. But there was no answer save the
sighing of the sea, and the scream of the startled birds. From
the fort there came no sound or any sign of life, and with sad
forebodings the Spaniards waited for the dawn.
Then it was seen that the fort was a ruin. It had been burned and
sacked. Torn clothing and broken vessels were strewn around, but
as the Spaniards wandered sadly among the ruins they found no trace
of their companions save eleven graves with the grass growing above
At first no natives would come near the white men, for they feared
their anger. But at length, tempted by the offer of gifts and
other friendly signs, they came. They told how the Spaniards had
quarrelled amongst themselves, how the fort had been attacked by
unfriendly Indians from another island, and how all the white men
had been slain.
Thus ended the first white colony ever planted in Western lands.
All traces of it have vanished, and upon the spot where La Navida
stood there is now a little fishing village called Petit Anse.
Columbus founded other colonies, but they succeeded no better than
the first one. In all he made four voyages across the Atlantic,
and in the third he landed upon the coast of South America, near
the mouth of the Orinoco. But Columbus did not know that at last
he had discovered the great double Continent of America. He thought
that he had merely discovered another island, and he named it La
Isla Santa. Afterwards he was so delighted at the beauty of the
land that he thought he must have found the Garden of Eden, so he
became certain that he had landed on the eastern corner of Asia.
In 1506 Columbus died. And it is sad to think that he who, by his
great faith and great daring, led the way across the Sea of Darkness,
and gave a New World to the Old died in poverty and neglect. The
men who had wept for
 joy at the news of his discovery shed no tear
over his grave. He died "unwept, unhonoured and unsung." Years passed
before men recognised what a great man had dwelt among them: years
passed before any monument was raised to his memory. But indeed he
had scarce need of any, for as has been well said, "The New World
is his monument." And every child of the New World must surely
honour that monument and seek never to deface it.
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics