1 These enclosed dates under a name show, except when otherwise stated, the year of birth and death.
2 Christopher Columbus (Kris'tof-er Ko-lum'bus).
3 Genoa (Jen'o-ah); see map in paragraph 21.
4 Wool-comber: before wool can be spun into thread and woven into cloth the tangled locks must be combed out straight and smooth; once this was all done by hand.
In this exciting life, full of adventure and of danger, Columbus grew to manhood. The rough experiences he then had did much toward making him the brave, determined captain and explorer that he afterwards became.
5 Mediterranean (Med'i-ter-ra'ne-an).
6 Explorer: one who explores or discovers new countries.
He then went to the port of Lisbon. There he married the daughter of a famous sea-captain. For a long time after his marriage Columbus earned his living partly by drawing maps, which he sold to commanders of vessels visiting Lisbon, and partly by making voyages to Africa, Iceland, and other countries.
7 Lisbon: see map in paragraph 21.
8 See map in this paragraph.
On the southern coast of Spain there is a small port named Palos. Within sight of the village of Palos, and also within plain sight of the ocean, there was a convent,—which is still standing,—called the Convent of Saint Mary.
One morning a tall, fine-looking man, leading a little boy by the hand, knocked at the door of this convent and begged for a piece of bread and a cup of water for the child. The man was Columbus,—whose wife was now dead,—and the boy was his son.
It chanced that the guardian of the convent noticed Columbus standing at the door. He liked his appearance, and coming up, began to talk with him. Columbus frankly told him what he was trying to do. The guardian of the convent listened with great interest; then he gave him a letter to a friend who he thought would help him to lay his plans before Ferdinand and Isabella, the king and queen of Spain.
9 Palos (Pa'los); see map in paragraph 12.
10 Convent: a house in which a number of people live who devote themselves to a religious life.
11 Isabella (Iz-ah-bel'ah).
After hearing what Columbus had to say, these men thought that it would be foolish to spend money in trying to reach the other side of the ocean.
People who heard what this captain from Lisbon wanted to do began to think that he had lost his reason, and the boys in the streets laughed at him and called him crazy. Columbus waited for help seven years; he then made up his mind that he would wait no longer. Just as he was about leaving Spain, Queen Isabella, who had always felt interested in the brave sailor, resolved to aid him. Two rich sea-captains who lived in Palos also decided to take part in the voyage. With the assistance which Columbus now got he was able to fit out three small vessels. He went in the largest of the vessels—the only one which had an entire deck—as admiral or commander of the fleet.
12 Admiral (ad'mi-ral).
We may be pretty sure that the guardian of the convent was one of those who watched the sailing of the little fleet. From the upper windows of the convent he could plainly see the vessels as they left the harbor of Palos.
At length all was ready, and he again set out on his voyage toward the west. When the sailors got so far out on the ocean that they could no longer see any of the islands, they were overcome with fear. They made up their minds that they should never be able to get back to Palos again. They were rough men, used to the sea, but now they bowed down their heads and cried like children. Columbus had hard work to quiet their fears and to encourage them to go forward with the voyage which they already wanted to give up.
13 Canaries (Ka-na'rez); see map in paragraph 12.
Twice, indeed, there was a joyful cry of Land! Land! but when they got nearer they saw that what they had thought was land was nothing but banks of clouds. Then some of the sailors said, Let us go to the admiral and tell him that we must turn back. What if he will not listen to us? asked others; Then we will throw him overboard and say when we reach Palos that he fell into the sea and was drowned.
But when the crew went to Columbus and told him that they would go no further, he sternly ordered them to their work, declaring that whatever might happen, he would not now give up the voyage.
But one of the crew on the other vessel found something better even than the thorn-branch; for he drew out of the water a carved walking-stick. Every one saw that such a stick must have been cut and carved by human hands. These two signs could not be doubted. The men now felt sure that they were approaching the shore, and what was more, that there were people living in that strange country.
Columbus himself stood on a high part of his ship, looking steadily toward the west. About ten o'clock he saw a moving light; it seemed like a torch carried in a man's hand. He called to a companion and asked him if he could see anything of the kind; yes, he, too, plainly saw the moving light, but presently it disappeared.
Two hours after midnight a cannon was fired from the foremost vessel. It was the glad signal that the long-looked-for land was actually in sight. There it lay directly ahead, about six miles away.
Then Columbus gave the order to furl sails, and the three vessels came to a stop and waited for the dawn. When the sun rose on Friday, October 12th, 1492, Columbus saw a beautiful island with many trees growing on it. That was his first sight of the New World.
He found that it was inhabited by a copper-colored people who spoke a language he could not understand. These people had never seen a ship or a white man before. They wore no clothing, but painted their bodies with bright colors. The Spaniards made them presents of strings of glass beads and red caps. In return they gave the Spaniards skeins of cotton yarn, tame parrots, and small ornaments of gold.
After staying here a short time Columbus set sail toward the south, in search of more land and in the hope of finding out where these people got their gold.
14 San Salvador (San Sal-va-dor'): meaning the Holy Redeemer or Saviour.
Next, he came to the island of Hayti, or San Domingo. Here his ship was wrecked. He took the timber of the wreck and built a fort on the shore. Leaving about forty of his crew in this fort, Columbus set sail for Palos in one of the two remaining vessels.
15 Hayti (Ha'ti).
16 San Domingo (San Do-min'go); see map in paragraph 17.
The king and queen were then in the city of Barcelona, a long distance from Palos. To that city Columbus now went. He entered it on horseback, attended by the proudest and richest noblemen of Spain. He brought with him six Indians from the West Indies. They were gaily painted and wore bright feathers in their hair. Then a number of men followed, carrying rare birds and plants, with gold and silver ornaments, all found in the New World. These were presents for the king and queen. Ferdinand and Isabella received Columbus with great honor. When he had told them the story of his wonderful voyage, they sank on their knees and gave praise to God; all who were present followed their example.
17 Barcelona (Bar-se-lo'na); see map in paragraph 12.
Columbus was now an old man; his health was broken, he was poor, in debt, and without a home. Once he wrote to the king and queen, saying, "I have not a hair upon me that is not gray, my body is weak, and all that was left to me ... has been taken away and sold, even to the coat which I wore."
Not long after he had come back to Spain to stay, the queen died. Then Columbus felt that he had lost his best friend. He gave up hope, and said, "I have done all that I could do: I leave the rest to God."
He was at first buried in Spain; then his body was taken up and carried to San Domingo, where he had wished to be buried. Whether it rests there to-day, or whether it was carried to Havana and deposited in the cathedral or great church of that city, no one can positively say. But wherever the grave of the great sailor may be, his memory will live in every heart capable of respecting a brave man; for he first dared to cross the "Sea of Darkness," and he discovered America.
18 Havana (Ha-van'ah): a city of Cuba.
When and where was Columbus born? What did he do when he was fourteen? What about his sea-fight? What did he do in Lisbon? How much of the world was then known? How did Columbus think he could reach Asia and the Indies? Why did he want to go there? What did he try to do in Portugal? Why did he go to Spain? Where did he first go in Spain? How did Columbus get help at last? When did he sail? What happened on the first part of the voyage? What happened after that? What is said about signs of land? What about the discovery of land? What did Columbus name the island? What did he find on it? What is said of other islands? What is said of the return of Columbus to Spain? What about the last voyages of Columbus? Did he ever land on any part of what is now the United States? What about his old age? What is said of his death and burial?