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Life of Columbus,
IDGED FROM IRVING'S LIFE.)
OLUMBUS likewise read an important work written
by Marco Polo, a Venetian traveller, who, in the fourteenth century, had penetrated the remote parts of Asia, and had given a magnificent description of what he had seen. He speaks in very glowing language of the grandeur of the monarch of a
country since ascertained to be China, and the wonders of an island supposed to be Japan. This island is represented to abound in gold, precious stones, and spices, and the palace of the king is declared to be covered with plates of gold. In all his voyages, Columbus was continually flattering himself with the hopes of arriving some day at the island of which he had been reading. Columbus also made inquiries from experienced sailors, and from them he was assured that tracts of land lay westward. He was confirmed in this belief by the appearance of pieces of carved wood and trunks of huge pine trees, which had been wafted to the Azores by westerly winds. The inhabitants of these islands also informed him that the bodies of two men had been cast up from the sea, whose features were very different from those of any known race of people.
Columbus had now fully made up his mind to undertake a voyage westward, and he would allow nothing to turn him from his
purpose. He never spoke in doubt or hesitation, but with as much certainty as if his eyes had beheld the promised land.
Several years elapsed before he was enabled to carry out his bold and noble design. . An enterprise of this kind required the assistance of some wealthy king, who could furnish the necessary means, could take possession of the lands to be discovered, and could reward the discoverer.
At this period John II. ascended the throne of Portugal.
This monarch very graciously listened to Columbus .while he explained his project. He solicited the king to provide him with ships and men, and he assured him he would conduct them by a shorter route to the rich countries of the east. The king was greatly interested in the scheme, but his councillors strongly opposed it.
Certain of these councillors acted treacherously towards Columbus. They prevailed upon Columbus to give them a detailed plan of his proposed voyage, and led him to believe that they would assist him. While they held him in suspense, awaiting their decision, they privately despatched a ship to pursue the route which had been marked out by Columbus. The weather grew stormy, and the pilots having no zeal to stimulate them, and seeing nothing but an unbounded waste of wild tumbling waves extending before them, lost all courage, and returned to Lisbon, ridiculing the idea as extravagant and irrational.
Columbus was very angry at the deception which had been practised upon him, and when the king desired to speak to him upon the subject he resolutely declined to accept his aid.
His wife being dead, he left Portugal in 1484, taking with him his little boy Diego, and went first to Genoa, and afterwards to Venice—important towns in Italy. While in Genoa he visited his aged father, and having made such arrangements for his comforts as his poor means afforded, he departed once more to try his fortunes in foreign courts.
About this time he sent his brother Bartholomew to England to obtain the help of Henry VII., whom he had heard spoken of for his wisdom and wealth. He himself turned his steps towards Spain, where he arrived in great poverty; and it is said that he had to beg his way from court to court to offer to princes the discovery of a world. One day, Columbus with his little boy stopped at the gate of a convent, which was situated near the little seaport of Palos, in Andalusia, and he asked of the porter a little bread and water for his child. While receiving this humble refreshment, the guardian of the convent, happening to pass by, was struck with the appearance of the stranger, and, observing that he was a foreigner, entered into conversation with him. He became deeply interested in the schemes of Columbus, and felt convinced of their truth. Columbus was strongly advised to proceed at once to court and lay his plans before the king and queen. The king of Spain was Ferdinand, and was a man of great genius. The Spaniards called him “ the wise and prudent.” His wife, Isabella, was a handsome woman, and possessed many excellent qualities. She was always working for the good of her country, and encouraging literature and the arts.
When Columbus arrived at Cordova he found it in the bustle of military preparation. He knew it was impossible to obtain an audience of the king at that time, and therefore determined to wait for a more favourable opportunity. He supported himself by making charts and maps. People scoffed at him as a mere dreamer ; others called him an adventurer; and the very children pointed to their foreheads as he passed, being taught to consider him a kind of madman. Because he was a foreigner and was dressed in humble apparel, he was not believed. This made him very unhappy.
By degrees he obtained friends, who encouraged him to persevere. Among these was the Archbishop of Toledo, a very learned man, and one who possessed great influence at court. Through his intercession, Columbus obtained a hearing of the king. Ferdinand had great faith in the statements of Columbus, and he called together the learned men of the country to hold a conference with him. Columbus now considered the day of success at hand, for he felt assured that the council would support his views.
This important meeting took place at Salamanca, the great seat of learning in Spain. Columbus had many difficulties to contend against. He found great opposition from those whom he expected would be friendly to him. Our juvenile readers would be inclined to laugh were they to read all the objections urged against the opinions entertained by Columbus. Some said it was great presumption in an ordinary man to suppose that there remained new worlds to discover, while so many able navigators had been voyaging about the world for ages, and had made no discovery. Others disputed the possibility of the existence of antipodes in the southern hemisphere. They quoted from the writings of a learned man to support their views : “Is there any one so foolish, as to believe that there are antipodes with their feet opposite to ours; people who walk with their heels upwards, and their heads hanging down that there is a part of the world in which all things are topsy-turvey ; where the trees grow with their branches downward, and where it rains, hails, and snows upward ? The idea of the roundness of the earth was the cause of inventing this fable.” These men were ignorant of the laws of gravitation, or they would not have made such foolish statements. There were others who said it was contrary to the teaching of the Bible to affirm the rotundity of the earth. The most absurd objection was, that should a ship succeed in reaching the extremity of India she could never get back again, for the roundness of the globe would present a kind of mountain, up which it would be impossible for her to sail with the most favourable wind.
Sixpence a Day.
HERE is now an old man in an almshouse in Bristol
who states that for sixty years he spent 6d. a day in drink, but was never intoxicated. A gentleman who heard this statement was somewhat curious to ascertain how much this sixpence a day, put by every year, at five per cent compound interest, would amount to in sixty years. Putting down
the first year's saving (three hundred and sixtyfive sixpences) nine pounds sterling eleven shillings and sixpence, he added the interest, and thus went on year by year, until he found that in the sixtieth year the sixpence a day reached the startling sum of three thousand two hundred and twenty-five pounds sterling, nineteen shillings and ninepence. Judge of the old man's surprise when told that, had he saved his sixpence a day, and allowed it to accumulate at compound interest, he might now have been worth the above noble sum ; so that, instead of taking refuge in an almshouse, he might have comforted himself with a house of his own, and fifty acres of land, and have left the legacy among his children and grandchildren, or used it for the welfare of his fellow-men!
Sagacity of x Bear,
HE captain of a Greenland whaler being anxious to
procure a bear without wounding the skin, made trial of the stratagem of laying the noose of a rope in the snow and placing a piece of kreng within in. A bear ranging the neighbouring ice was soon attracted to the spot by the smell of the burning
meat. He perceived the bait, approached, and seized it in his mouth; but his foot at the same time, by a jerk of the rope, being entangled in the noose, he pushed it off with his and deliberately retired. After having eaten the piece he had carried away with him, he returned. The noose, with another piece of kreng, being replaced, he pushed the rope aside, and again walked triumphantly off with the kreng. A third time the noose was laid; but, excited to caution by the evident observation of the bear, the sailors buried the rope beneath the snow, and laid the bait in a deep hole dug in the centre. The bear once more approached, and the sailors were assured of their
But Bruin, more sagacious than they expected, after snuffing about the place for a few moments, scraped the snow away with his paw, threw the rope aside, and again escaped unhurt with his prize.
THE FATHER AND HIS TWO DAUGHTERS : A FABLE.—A man who had two daughters married one to a gardener, the other to a potter. After awhile he paid a visit to the gardener's, and asked his daughter how she was, and how it fared with her. “Excellently well,” said she ; we have everything that we want: I have but one prayer—that we may have a heavy storm of rain to water our plants.” Of he set to the potter's, and asked his other daughter how matters went with her. “There is not a thing we want," she replied ; "and I only hope this fine weather and hot sun may continue, to bake our tiles.” Alack," said the father, “ if you wish for fine weather, and your sister for rain, which am I to pray for myself ?"--Æsop.