Obrázky stránek

proposition, proposal.

the year A.D. 250. He was a Genoese, a native of Genoa-a celebrated teacher of eloquence.

famous seaport, northern Italy. ambassador, deputy. Columbus, a native of Genoa. navigators, seamen. cogent, irresistible.

achieved, accomplished. adhesion, attraction.

speculation, theory. credence, belief.

enterprise, undertaking. visionary, fanciful or imaginary. frivolity, trifling conduct. Lactantius, one of the fathers of benedictions, blessings.

the Latin Church, born about presentiment, foreboding.

What reasons did Don Gomez advance in proof that the earth is not a sphere? How did Columbus reply? What reasons did Columbus give for his belief that he would discover land by sailing in a westerly direction? How did Queen Isabella meet the difficulty of want of funds ?


1. At sunrise, on the second day, some rushes recently torn up were seen near the vessels. A plank, evidently hewn by an axe, a stick skilfully carved by some cutting instrument, a bough of hawthorn in blossom; and lastly, a bird's nest built on a branch which the wind had broken, and full of eggs, on which the parent bird was sitting amid the gently-rolling waves, were seen floating past on the waters. The sailors brought on board these living and inanimate witnesses of their approach to land. They were a voice from the shore confirming the assurances of Columbus. Before the land actually appeared in sight, its neighbourhood was inferred from these marks of life.

2.. The mutineers fell on their knees before the Admiral whom they had insulted but the day before, craved pardon for their mistrust, and struck up a hymn of thanksgiving to God for associating them with this triumph. Night fell on these songs welcoming a new world. The Admiral gave orders that the sails should be close-reefed, and the lead kept going; and that they should sail slowly, being afraid of breakers and shoals, and feeling certain that


the first gleam of daybreak would discover land under their bows.

3. On the last anxious night none slept. Impatient expectation had removed all heaviness from their eyes; the pilots and the seamen, clinging about the masts, yards, and shrouds, each tried to keep the best place and the closest watch to get the earliest sight of the new hemisphere. The Admiral had offered a reward to the first who should cry“ Land,” provided his announcement was verified by its actual discovery.

4. Providence, however, reserved to Columbus himself this first glimpse, which he had purchased at the expense of twenty years of his life, and of untiring perseverance. While walking the quarter-deck alone, at midnight, and sweeping the dark horizon with his keen eye, a gleam of fire passed and disappeared, and again showed itself on the level of the waves. Fearful of being deceived by the phosphorescence of the sea, he quietly called a Spanish gentleman of Isabella's court, in whom he had more confidence than in the pilots, pointed out the direction in which he had seen the light, and asked him whether he could discern anything there.

5. He replied that he did, indeed, see a flickering light in that quarter.

To make the fact still more sure, Columbus called another in whom he had confidence to look in the same direction. He said he had no hesitation in pronouncing there was a light on the horizon. But the blaze was hardly seen before it again disappeared in the ocean, to show itself anew the next moment. Whether it was the light of a fire on a low shore, alternately appearing and disappearing beyond the broken horizon, or whether it was the floating beacon of a fisherman's boat, now rising on the waves, and now sinking in the trough of the sea, they could not determine.

6. Thus both land and safety appeared together in the shape of fire to Columbus and his two friends, on the night between the 11th and 12th of October, 1492. The Admiral, enjoining silence, kept his observation to himself, for fear of again raising false hopes, and giving a bitter disappointment to his ships' companies. He lost :sight of the light, and remained on deck until two in the morning, praying, hoping, and despairing alone, awaiting the triumph or the return on which the morrow was to decide.

7. He was seized with that anguish which precedes the great discoveries of truth, when suddenly a cannon-shot, sounding over the sea a few hundred yards in advance of him, burst upon his ear the announcement of a new-born world, which made him tremble and fall upon his knees. It was the signal of land in sight! made by firing a shot, as had been arranged with the Pinta, which was sailing in advance of the squadron to guide their course and take soundings.

8. At this signal a general shout of Land ho!” arose from all the yards and riggings of the ships. The sails were furled, and daybreak was anxiously awaited. The mystery of the ocean had breathed its first whisper in the bosom of the night. Daybreak would clear it up openly to every eye. Delicious and unknown perfumes reached the vessels from the outline of the shore, with the roar of the waves upon the reefs and the soft land breezes.

9. The fire seen by Columbus indicated the presence of man, and of the first element of civilization. Never did the night appear so long in clearing away from the horizon; for this horizon was to Columbus and his companions the second creation of God. The dawn, as it spread over the sky, gradually raised the shores of an island from the

Its distant extremities were lost in the morning mist. It ascended gradually, like an amphitheatre, from the low beach to the summit of the hills, whose dark green covering contrasted strongly with the blue heavens.

10. Within a few paces from where the foam of the waves breaks on the yellow sand, forests of tall and unknown trees stretched away, one above another, over the successive terraces of the island. Green valleys and bright clefts in the hollows afforded a half-glimpse into these mysterious wilds. Here and there could be dis


covered a few scattered huts, which, with their outlines and roofs of dry leaves, looked like bee-hives, and thin columns of blue smoke rose above the tops of the trees. Half-naked groups of men, women, and children, more astonished than frightened, appeared among the thickets near the shore, advancing timidly, and then drawing back, exhibiting by their gestures and demeanour as much fear as curiosity and wonder, at the sight of these strange vessels, which the previous night had brought to their shores.

11. Columbus, after gazing in silence on this foremost shore of the land so often determined by his calculations, and so magnificently coloured by his imagination, found it to exceed even his own expectations. He burned with impatience to be the first European to set foot on the sand, and to plant the flag of Spain—the standard of the conquest of God and of his sovereigns, effected by his genius. But he restrained the eagerness of himself and of his crew to land, being desirous of giving to the act of taking possession of a new world a solemnity worthy of the greatest deed, perhaps, ever accomplished by a seaman; and, in default of men, to call God and His angels, sea, earth, and sky, as witnesses of his conquest of an unknown hemisphere.

12. He put on all the insignia of his dignities as Admiral of the Ocean, and the Viceroy of these future realms; he wrapped himself in his purple cloak, and taking in his hand an embroidered flag, in which the initials of Ferdinand and Isabella were interlaced, like their two kingdoms, and, surmounted by a crown, he entered his boat and pulled toward the shore, followed by the boats of his two lieutenants.

13. On landing, he fell on his knees, to acknowledge, by this act of humility and worship, the goodness and

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