« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
displayed, the king yielded his tardy concurrence, but Isabella was the soul of this grand enterprise. She was prompted by lofty and generous enthusiasm, whilst the king remained cold and calculating in this as in all his other undertakings.
A perfect understanding being thus effected with the sovereigns, articles of agreement were drawn out by the royal secretary, appointing Columbus viceroy of the countries he might discover, and granting him one-tenth of all free profits arising from the merchandise and productions of these countries. This agreement was signed on the 17th of April, 1492. All the royal documents issued in consequence bore equally the signatures of Ferdinand and Isabella, but her separate crown of Castile defrayed all
Columbus did not set out on this voyage so much to discover a new continent as to reach the extremity of Asia or India by another way. The kingdom of China was then unknown, and the eastern portion of Asia was supposed to consist of the dominions of the Grand Khan of Tartary. Marco Polo, a Venetian traveller, had given glowing accounts of the wealth of these provinces. Columbus hoped to spread the light of the true faith among these barbarians, and letters were actually given him by the Spanish sovereigns for the Grand Khan of Tartary.
The port of Palos, in Andalusia, was chosen as the place where the expedition was to be fitted out. The community of this place were obliged, in consequence of some misdemeanour, to serve the crown for one year with two armed caravels. A royal order was issued commanding the authorities of Palos to have these caravels ready for sea within ten days, and to yield them and their crews to the command of Columbus. :
Thus gratified in his dearest wishes, Columbus took leave of the court on the 12th of May, 1492, and set out joyfully for Palos. Let those who are disposed to faint under difficulties, in the prosecution of any great and worthy undertaking, remember that eighteen years elapsed after Columbus conceived his enterprise before he was enabled to carry it into effect ; that the most of that time was past in almost hopeless solicitation, amidst poverty, neglect, and taunting ridicule ; that the prime of his life had wasted away in the struggle ; and that when his perseverance was
finally crowned with success, he was about fifty-six years of age. His example should teach the enterprising never to despair.
Nothing oould equal the astonishment and horror of the people of Palos when they heard of the nature of the expedition in which they were ordered to engage. They considered the ships and crews demanded of them in the light of sacrifices devoted to destruction. In spite of the mandates of the sovereigns, nothing could be effected till a wealthy navigator, named Martin Alonzo Pinzon, came forward and engaged personally in the expedition. It is supposed that he and his brother furnished Columbus (who was very poor) with funds to pay the eighth share of the expense which he was to advance. They furnished two of the vessels required, and determined to sail with Columbus. Their example and persuasions had a wonderful effect : a great many of their friends and relations agreed to embark, and the vessels were ready for sea within a month after they had engaged in the enterprise.
There were three vessels—two light barques called caravels, not superior to river and coasting craft of modern days. Only one of the three, called the Santa Maria, was completely decked, on board of which Columbus hoisted his flag. Martin Alonzo Pinzon commanded one of the caravels, called the Pinta, and was accompanied by his brother, Francisco Martin, as mate or pilot. The other, called the Nina, was commanded by Vicente Janez Pinzon. The whole number of persons embarked was one hundred and twenty.
The squadron being ready to put to sea, Columbus confessed himself to the Friar Juan Perez, and partook of the communion, and his example was followed by the officers and crews committing themselves, with the most devout and affecting ceremonials, to the especial guidance and protection of heaven in this perilous enterprise. A deep gloom was spread over the whole community of Palos, for almost every one had some relation or friend on the squadron. The spirits of the seamen, depressed by their own fears, were still more cast down at beholding the affiiction of those they left behind, who took leave of them with tears and lamentations and dismal forebodings, as of men they were never again to behold.
N the wilds of the Hartz Forest there is a high moun
tain, where the fairies and goblins dance by night, and where they say the great Emperor Frederic Barbarossa still holds his court among the caverns. Now when he shows himself and punishes those whom he dislikes, or gives some rich gift to the lucky
wight whom he takes it into his head to befriend, he sits on a throne of marble, with his red beard sweeping on the ground, and once or twice in a long course of years rouses himself for a while from the trance in which he is buried, but soon falls again into his former forgetfulness. Strange chances have befallen many who have strayed within the range of his court. You shall hear one of them.
A great many years ago there lived in the village at the foot of the mountain one Peter, a goatherd. Every morning he drove his flock to feed upon the green spots that are here and there found on the mountain's side, and in the evening he sometimes thought it too far to drive his charge home ; so he used, in such cases, to shut it up in a spot among the woods where an old ruined wall was left standing, high enough to form a fold, in which he could count his goats and rest in peace for the night. One evening he found that the prettiest goat of his flock had vanished soon after they were driven into this fold, but was there again in the morning. Again, and again, he watched, and the same thing happened. He thought he would look still more narrowly, and soon found a cleft in the old wall, through which it seemed that his favourite made her way. Peter followed, scrambling as well as he could down the side of the rock, and wondered not a little, on overtaking his goat, to find it employing itself very much at its ease in a cavern eating corn, which kept dropping from some place above. He went into the cavern and looked about him to see where all this corn, that rattled about
his ears like a hailstorm, could come from; but all was dark, and he could find no clue to this strange business.
At last, as he stood listening, he thought he heard the neighing and stamping of horses. He listened again-it was plainly so ; and after a while he was sure that horses were feeding above him, and that the corn fell from their mangers. What could these horses be which were thus kept in a mountain, where none but the goat's foot ever trod ? Peter pondered a while ; but his wonder only grew greater and greater when, on a sudden, a little page came forth and beckoned him to follow. He did so, and at last came to a courtyard surrounded by an old wall. The spot seemed the bosom of the valley ; above rose on every hand high masses of rock; wide branching trees threw their arms overhead, so that nothing but a glimmering twilight made its way through ; and here, on the cool shaven turf, were twelve old knights, who looked very grave and sober, but were amusing themselves with a game of nine-pins.
Not a word fell from their lips, but they ordered Peter by dumb sigus to busy himself in setting up the pins as they knocked them down. At first his knees trembled as he dared to snatch a stolen sidelong glance at the long beards and oldfashioned dresses of the worthy knights. Little by little, however, he grew bolder; and, at last, he plucked up his heart so far as to take his turn in the draught at the can which stood beside him, and sent up the smell of the richest old wine. This gave him new strength for his work, and as often as he flagged at all he turned to the same kind friend for help in his need.
Sleep at last overpowered him, and when he awoke he found himself stretched out upon the old spot where he had folded his flock. The saine green turf was spread beneath, and the same tottering walls surrounded him. He rubbed his eyes, but neither dog nor goat was to be seen ; and when he had looked about him again the grass seemed to be longer under his feet, and trees hung over his head which he had either never seen before or had forgotten.
Shaking his head, and hardly knowing whether he were in his right mind, he wound his way among the mountain steeps, through paths where his flocks were wont to wander ; but still not a goat was to be seen. Below him in the plain lay the village where his home was; and at length he took the downward path, and set out, with a heavy heart, in search of his flock. The people who met him as he drew near to the village were all unknown to him ; they were not even dressed as his neighbours were, and they seemed as if they hardly spoke the same tongue; and when he eagerly asked after his goats they only stared at him and stroked their chins. At last he did the same too, and what was his wonder to find that his beard was grown at least a foot long!
“ The world,” thought he now to himself, “ is turned over, or, at any rate, bewitched ;” and yet he knew the mountain, as he turned round to gaze upon its woody heights; and he knew the houses and cottages also, with their little gardens, all of which were in the same places he had always known them. He heard some children, too, call the village by its old name, as a traveller that passed by was asking his way.
Again he shook his head, and went straight through the village to his own cottage. Alas ! it looked sadly out of repair ; and in the courtyard lay an unknown child, in a ragged dress, by the side of a rough toothless dog, whom he thought he ought to know, but who snarled and barked in his face when he called him to him. He went in at an opening in the wall, where a door had once stood, but found all so dreary and empty that he staggered out again like a drunken man, and called his wife and children loudly by their names; but no one heard—at least, no one answered him.
A crowd of women and children soon flocked round the old greybearded man, and all broke out upon him at once with the questions, “Who are you?” “Whom do you want ?” It seemed so odd to ask other people at his own door after his wife and children, but in order to get rid of the crowd he named the first man that came into his head. “Hans, the blacksmith,” said he. Most held their tongues and stared, but at last an old woman said, “He went these seven years ago to a place you will not reach to-day.” “Frank, the tailor, then." “ Heaven rest his soul !' said an old beldame upon crutches ; "he has lain these ten years in a house that he'll never leave.”
Peter looked at the old woman, and shuddered as he saw her to be one of his old friends, only with a strangely-altered face.