| American History Stories, Volume I|
|by Mara L. Pratt|
|Stories of early exploration and founding of American colonies, conflicts over religion, and troubles with the Indians, culminating in the French and Indian War. Ages 8-12 |
THE DEPARTURE OF COLUMBUS FROM SPAIN
 With Isabella's aid and a little money which
Columbus himself had, three ships
out. These were not tall, stout ships such as
you see lying at our wharves with their broad
sails, huge wooden sides and wide decks.
They were small, frail craft, not so large as
those you may see to-day sailing up and
down rivers and small lakes.
 On Friday, August 3, 1492, three small vessels, the
Santa Maria, the Pinta and the Nina
with twenty men on board set
sail from Spain.
They sailed for weeks across the unknown
waters, keeping all the time to the west, until at last
the sailors began to be frightened at the thought of their
distance from home. They threatened to throw Columbus
overboard if he did not turn back; and at length
Columbus promised them that if they did not see land in
three days he would return to Spain. You can imagine
how anxious Columbus must have been during those three
days. He felt that land was near, although he could
not prove it to the sailors. To turn back now would have
been a terrible disappointment.
But fortunately for Columbus signs of land
began to appear. Birds came and rested on
 the masts of their ships; a large branch of a tree floated
by; and even the dullest sailor could not fail to believe
At last, one morning at daybreak, the cry of
"Land! Land!" was heard from the foremost ship;
and in a few hours more they reached the shores of a small
island, which they called San Salvador.
THE SHIPS OF COLUMBUS
When Columbus set foot upon the dry land,
 he at once set up the Spanish flag and took possession in
the name of Spain. A few days later they set sail for a
larger island in the distance, and safely anchored in one of
its harbors. They named this island Hispaniola, but it is
now called Hayti. A beautiful island it proved to be, for
the climate was soft and mild; there was an abundance of
rich fruit, and there were many strange trees and flowers.
When the natives saw the white sails of the vessels, they
rushed down to the shores, yelling with astonishment, for
they never had seen a ship before, and of course were
terribly frightened. Some thought they were great birds with
white wings, some thought the "Great Spirit" had come.
They were glad to see Columbus and his men, and they said
to them in their strange language, "Welcome, white men."
And from that time they were
 very kind to Columbus and his men, and helped them not a
little in exploring the island and in hunting for food.
Columbus at first treated them kindly; and it would have
been well had all white men continued to do so.
Columbus, however, soon returned to Spain, and told of his
great discovery and of the wonderful copper-colored people,
some of whom he had brought back with him, with their
straight black hair and head-dresses of
feathers and faces streaked with paint. All Spain
was filled with wonder; and it was not long before
shiploads of men were sent over to the new country; so
that very soon the island was settled by Spanish people.
COLUMBUS'S RETURN TO SPAIN AFTER HIS FIRST VOYAGE
I wish that I could tell you that Spain
was so proud of Columbus and so grateful to him for his
gift that he was ever after treated with
 great honor; that he never again wanted for anything which
money and favor could buy; and that he died peacefully at
last, loved and
honored by all. This is certainly what you might expect to
hear of so brave a man.
But there were jealous, envious men in
Spain, who plotted against Columbus; and
when, a few years later, he went again to the
islands he had discovered, he was seized by
 one of these Spaniards who had been sent out to govern the
colony which had settled there, was put into chains and sent
back a prisoner to Spain.
When they heard of this cruel treatment, the people of Spain
were indignant, and insisted that he be restored to his
rights. The queen is said to have been moved to tears by
Columbus made two more voyages of discovery, but sickness
and disappointment had undermined his health, and he died
shortly after at Valladolid, on the 20th of May, 1506.
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