| Our Empire Story|
|by H. E. Marshall|
|Vivid and picturesque account of the principal events in the building of the British Empire. Traces the development of the British colonies from days of discovery and exploration through settlement and establishment of government. Includes stories of the five chief portions of the Empire: Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and India. Ages 10-16 |
HOW BRAVE MEN WENT SAILING UPON UNKNOWN SEAS
 CENTURIES passed. India suffered many changes. It
was overrun and conquered by Mohammedans and
Turks. Its temples were destroyed, its people slain or
carried away captive.
But through all the changes, through battle and war,
revolt and massacre, the trade of India continued, and
merchants vied with each other for the possession of
it. Nearly all of it, however, was in the hands of Arabs
and Moors, and, except for the merchants of Venice,
few Christians had a share in it The Moors brought
the goods from India in their ships to Suez. There
camels were laden, and by them the merchandise was
carried through Egypt to Alexandria. And at Alexandria
the Venetian merchants took it in their ships to
the ports of the Mediterranean.
The old trade-routes to India and the East were by
the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. These being in the
hands of heathen peoples, Christian sailors and adventurers
turned their thoughts ever more and more to the finding
of a new way to the East.
In the fifteenth century the Portuguese were a great
and powerful people. Among the bold adventurers who
sailed the unknown seas their sailors were the most
daring. And one of their greatest sailors and explorers
was Prince Henry the Navigator, the fifth son of King
 John I. He did much to make his country great in
trade, and was called the "Father of Discovery."
Prince Henry sent out many expeditions, and although
the new way to India was not discovered, many new
lands and islands were, and were added to Portugal.
The Pope, too, who was very powerful in those days,
issued a Bull, as it was called, saying that all lands and
islands which might be discovered between Cape Bojador
on the west coast of Africa and the shores of India
should belong to Portugal for ever.
After Prince Henry died, the people of Portugal still
eagerly sought for the new way to India. But for many
a long year they sought in vain. It was in 1486 that a
sailor called Bartholomew Diaz set out. Southward and
southward he sailed down the coast of Africa until,
driven by storms, he and his sailors lost sight of land.
For thirteen days they sailed they knew not whither,
battered by wind and waves, fleeing with furled sails
before the storm. At length the sea grew calm again,
the wind sank. Then Diaz turned eastward, hoping
soon to come in sight of the coast of Africa, from
which he had been driven.
For many days he sailed along and saw no land.
So he turned northward, and at length came in sight of
what is now known as Flesh Bay.
Without knowing it Diaz had rounded the Cape of
Good Hope. He had passed it so far to the south as
to be out of sight of laud. The adventurous sailor still
sailed on, not knowing where he was, for now land lay
west of him instead of east. After many days he
reached the mouth of a great river. It is now known
as the Great Fish River. Here he was obliged to turn
back, for his sailors, fearful of the unknown regions into
which they were drifting, were unwilling to go further.
 Once again the Cape was safely rounded, and Diaz,
mindful of the dangers through which he had passed
there, called it the Cape of Storms.
But when they at length reached home and King
John II heard the tale, he named it the Cape of Good
Hope, for now he had good hope that the long-looked-for
road to India was indeed discovered.
For some years after this King John was unable
to send out any more expeditions. And meanwhile
Christopher Columbus, sailing westward, discovered what
he believed to be the further shore of India, and
claimed it for the King of Spain. Then the King of
Spain asked the Pope to grant to him all lands which
might be discovered by sailing westward even as he had
granted to the King of Portugal all lands which might
be discovered by sailing eastward. This being done, the
King of Spain and the King of Portugal agreed to share
between them all the world which might be still
After the discovery of Columbus, the Portuguese
became more eager than ever to find the way to India.
King John ordered three ships to be built, tall and
strong such as should be able to withstand the storms
of the Cape of Good Hope. Bartholomew Diaz himself
made the plans, for none knew better what stout ships
were needful, for only he and his men in all the world
had passed that stormy cape.
Before the ships were ready to sail, King John died.
His cousin Manuel, however, who succeeded him, was
as eager as his uncle had been that Portugal should be
great and prosperous, so he ordered that the ships should
A noble called Vasco da Gama was chosen to be
leader of the expedition, and one bright spring day in
 1497 the King and courtiers, monks and priests, and a
great crowd of people followed Vasco da Gama and his
sailors to the shore, and there took leave of them with
prayers and cheers and thunder of guns. But the
rejoicings were mingled with such tears and sobs of
those who thought never to see their dear ones again,
that the place was afterwards called the Shore of
When the last farewell had been said, these brave
men sailed out into unknown seas, there to meet many
dangers and perils, danger from wind and waves, from
fierce dark savage peoples, from strange and terrible
Nor were the dangers all from without. Within the
ships were dangers too. For the men grew weary of
the long struggle with storms, fearful of what might lie
before them, and prayed their leader to return. "But
nay," he cried sternly, "if I saw an hundred deaths
before mine eyes, yet would I sail right on. To India
we shall go, or die."
Then, seeing that they could not move their commander to return, the sailors mutinied. But Vasco da
Gama was both bold and quick. Seizing the ringleaders,
he loaded them with fetters on hands and feet, and thrust
them prisoner into the darkness of the hold. Then taking
the chart and all the instruments which helped him to
find his way across the pathless ocean, he cast them
overboard. "I need neither pilot nor guide, but God
alone," he cried. "If so we merit it, He will lead us safely
to our journey's end."
Thus the fearless leader crushed the mutiny, and
continued his voyage.
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