A Celebration of Women Writers

"Part I, Chapter 4." by Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall (1876-)
From: This country of ours; the story of the United States by Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall (1876-) New York, George H. Doran company, 1917.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom


CHAPTER 4
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 boy.

 

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.

The wreck of the Santa Maria

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 Española 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.

Columbus sails homeward

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.

The arrival

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 gaily 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.

Columbus is received in state by the King and Queen;

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 prayers 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.

he lives in splendour;

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.

he rebukes a scoffer

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.

The Pope's decree

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 sets forth again;

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 them.

finds his fort in ruins

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 quarreled 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.

Columbus discovers South America;

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.

he dies neglected

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Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

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Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom