| 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 FARED FORTH UPON THE SEA OF DARKNESS AND CAME TO PLEASANT LANDS BEYOND
 AT first the voyage upon which Columbus and his daring companions
now set forth lay through seas already known; but soon the last
land-mark was left behind, and the three little vessels, smaller
than river craft of to-day, were alone upon the trackless waste of
waters. And when the men saw the last trace of land vanish their
hearts sank, and they shed bitter tears, weeping for home and the
loved ones they thought never more to see.
On and on they sailed, and as day after day no land appeared the
men grew restless. Seeing them thus restless, and lest they should
be utterly terrified at being so far from home upon this seemingly
endless waste of waters, Columbus determined to keep them from
knowing how far they had really gone. So he kept two reckonings.
One, in which the real length of the ships' daily journey was given
he kept to himself: the other, in which the journey was given as
much shorter, he showed to the sailors.
A month went past, six weeks went past, and still there was no
trace of land. Then at length came signs. Snow birds which never
ventured far to sea flew round the ships. Now the waves bore to
them a rudely carved stick, now the ships ploughed a way through
masses of floating weeds. All these signs were at first greeted
with joy and hope, and the sailors took heart. But as still the
days went past and no land appeared, they lost heart again.
 The fields of weeds which they had at first greeted with joy now
became an added terror. Would they not be caught in this tangle
of weeds, they asked, and never more win a way out of it? To their
fearful and superstitious minds the very breeze which had borne
them softly onward became a menace. For if the wind always blew
steadily from the east how was it possible ever to return to Spain? So
Columbus was almost glad when a contrary wind blew. For it proved
to his trembling sailors that one at least of their fears was
groundless. But it made little difference. The men were now utterly
given over to gloomy terrors.
Fear robbed them of all ambition. Ferdinand and Isabella had
promised a large sum of money to the man who should first discover
land. But none cared now to win it. All they desired was to turn
home once more.
Fear made them mutinous also. So they whispered together and planned
in secret to rid themselves of Columbus. It would be easy, they
thought, to throw him overboard some dark night, and then give out
that he had fallen into the sea by accident. No one would know. No
one in Spain would care, for Columbus was after all but a foreigner
and an upstart. The great ocean would keep the secret. They would
be free to turn homeward.
Columbus saw their dark looks, heard the murmurs of the crews, and
did his best to hearten them again. He spoke to them cheerfully,
persuading and encouraging, "laughing at them, while in his heart
Still the men went sullenly about their work. But at length one
morning a sudden cry from the Pinta shook them from out their sullen
It was the captain of the Pinta who shouted. "Land, land, my lord!"
he cried. "I claim the reward."
And when Columbus heard that shout his heart was filled with joy
and thankfulness, and baring his head he sank upon his knees, giving
praise to God. The crew
fol-  lowed his example. Then, their hearts
suddenly light and joyous, they swarmed up the masts and into the
rigging to feast their eyes upon the goodly sight.
All day they sailed onward toward the promised land. The sun sank
and still all night the ships sped on their joyous way. But when
morning dawned the land seemed no nearer than before. Hope died
away again, and sorrowfully as the day went on the woful truth
that the fancied land had been but a bank of clouds was forced upon
Again for days the ships sailed on, and as still no land appeared
the men again began to murmur. Then one day when Columbus walked
on deck he was met, not merely with sullen looks, but with angry
words. The men clamoured to return. And if the Admiral refused,
why, so much the worse for him. They would endure no longer.
THE VOYAGE OF COLUMBUS
Bravely the Admiral faced the mutineers. He talked to them cheerfully.
He reminded them of what honour and gain would be theirs when they
returned home having found the new way to India, of what wealth
they might win by trading. Then he ended sternly:
"Complain how you may," he said, "I have to go to the Indies, and
I will go on till I find them, so help me God."
For the time being the Admiral's stern, brave words cowed
the mutineers. But not for much longer, Columbus knew right well,
would they obey him if land did not soon appear. And in his heart
he prayed God that it might not be long delayed.
The next night Columbus stood alone upon the poop of the Santa
Maria. Full of anxious thoughts he gazed out into the darkness.
Then suddenly it seemed to him that far in the distance he saw a
glimmering light appear and disappear once and again. It was as if
some one walking carried a light. But so fearful was Columbus lest
his fervent hopes had caused him to imagine this light that
 he would
not trust his own eyes alone. So he called to one of his officers
and asked him if he saw any light.
"Yes," replied the officer, "I see a light."
Then Columbus called a second man. He could not at first see the
light, and in any case neither of them thought much of it. Columbus,
however, made sure that land was close, and calling the men about
him he bade them keep a sharp look-out, promising a silken doublet
to the man who should first see land.
So till two o'clock in the morning the ships held on their way. Then
from the Pinta there came again a joyful shout of "Land! Land!"
This time it proved no vision, it was land indeed; and at last the
long-looked-for goal was reached. The land proved to be an island
covered with beautiful trees, and as they neared the shore the men
saw naked savages crowding to the beach.
In awed wonder these savages watched the huge white birds, as the
ships with their great sails seemed to them. Nearer and nearer
they came, and when they reached the shore and folded their wings
the natives fled in terror to the shelter of the forest. But
seeing that they were not pursued, their curiosity got the better
of their fear, and returning again they stood in silent astonishment
to watch the Spaniards land.
First of all came Columbus; over his glittering steel armour he
wore a rich cloak of scarlet, and in his hand he bore the Royal
Standard of Spain. Then, each at the head of his own ship's crew,
came the captains of the Pinta and the Nina, each carrying in his
hand a white banner with a green cross and the crowned initials
of the King and Queen, which was the special banner devised for
the great adventure. Every man was dressed in his best, and the
gay-coloured clothes, the shining armour, and fluttering banners
made a gorgeous pageant. Upon it the sun shone
 in splendour and the
blue sky was reflected in a bluer sea: while scarlet flamingoes,
startled at the approach of the white men, rose in brilliant flight.
As Columbus landed he fell upon his knees and kissed the ground,
and with tears of joy running down his cheeks he gave thanks to
God, the whole company following his example. Then rising again to
his feet, Columbus drew his sword, and solemnly took possession of
the island in the name of Ferdinand and Isabella.
When the ceremony was over the crew burst forth into shouts of
triumph and joy. They crowded round Columbus, kneeling before him
to kiss his hands and feet praying forgiveness for their insolence
and mutiny, and promising in the future to obey him without question.
For Columbus it was a moment of pure joy and triumph. All his long
years of struggle and waiting had come to a glorious end.
Yet he knew already that his search was not finished, his triumph
not yet complete. He had not reached the eastern shores of India,
the land of spice and pearls. He had not even reached Cipango, the
rich and golden isle. But he had at least, he thought, found some
outlying island off the coast of India, and that India itself could
not be far away. He never discovered his mistake, so the group of
islands nowhere near India, but lying between the two great Continents
of America, are known as the West Indies.
Columbus called the island upon which he first landed San Salvador,
and for a long time it was thought to be the island which is still
called San Salvador or Cat Island. But lately people have come to
believe that Columbus first landed upon an island a little further
south, now called, Watling Island.
From San Salvador Columbus sailed about and landed upon several
other islands, naming them and taking possession of them for Spain.
He saw many strange and beautiful fruits: "trees of a thousand
sorts, straight and
 tall enough to make masts for the largest ships
of Spain." He saw flocks of gaily coloured parrots and many other
birds that sang most sweetly. He saw fair harbours so safe and
spacious that he thought they might hold all the ships of the world.
But of such things Columbus was not in search. He was seeking for
gold and jewels, and at every place he touched he hoped to find
some great eastern potentate, robed in splendour and seated upon
a golden throne; instead everywhere he found only naked savages.
They were friendly and gentle, and what gold they had—but it was
little indeed—they willingly bartered for a few glass beads, or
little tinkling bells.
By signs, however, some of these savages made Columbus understand
that further south there was a great king who was so wealthy that
he ate off dishes of wrought gold. Others told him of a land where
the people gathered gold on the beach at night time by the light of
torches; others again told him of a land where gold was so common
that the people wore it on their arms and legs, and in their ears
and noses as ornaments. Others still told of islands where there
was more gold than earth. But Columbus sought these lands in vain.
In his cruisings Columbus found Cuba, and thought at first it must
be the island of Cipango, but finding himself mistaken he decided
at length that he had landed upon the most easterly point of India.
He could not be far, he thought, from the palace of the Grand Khan,
and choosing out two of his company he sent them as ambassadors
to him. But after six days the ambassadors returned, having found
no gold; and instead of the Grand Khan having seen only a savage
These ambassadors found no gold, but, had they only known it, they
found something quite as valuable. For they told how they had met
men and women with
fire-  brands in their hands made of herbs, the end
of which they put in their mouths and sucked, blowing forth smoke.
And these fire-brands they called tabacos.
The Spaniards also discovered that the natives of these islands used
for food a root which they dug out of the earth. But they thought
nothing of these things. For what were roots and dried herbs to
those who came in search of gold, and gems, and precious spices?
So they brought home neither potatoes nor tobacco.
So far the three little vessels had kept together, but now the
captain of the Pinta parted company with the others, not because
of bad weather, says Columbus in his diary, but because he chose,
and out of greed, for he thought "that the Indians would show him
where there was much gold." This desertion grieved Columbus greatly,
for he feared that Pinzon might find gold, and sailing home before
him cheat him of all the honour and glory of the quest. But still
the Admiral did not give up, but steered his course "in the name
of God and in search of gold and spices, and to discover land."
So from island to island he went seeking gold, and finding everywhere
gentle, kindly savages, fair birds and flowers, and stately trees.
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