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Printable Columbus Day Story for kids - The True Story of Christopher ColumbusColumbus Day Stories

The True Story of Christopher Columbus
- A Chapter Book

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

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Christopher Columbus True Stories for Teachers
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Home > Holidays > Columbus Day > The True Story of Christopher Columbus > Chapter 13

Chapter 13 - The End of the Story

Any one who is sick, as some of you may know, is apt to be anxious and fretful and full of fears as to how he is going to get along, or who will look out for his family. Very often there is no need for this feeling; very often it is a part of the complaint from which the sick person is suffering.

In the case of Columbus, however, there was good cause for this depressed and anxious feeling. King Ferdinand, after Queen Isabella's death, did nothing to help Columbus. He would not agree to give the Admiral what he called his rights, and though Columbus kept writing letters from his sick room asking for justice, the king would do nothing for him. And when the king's smile is turned to a frown, the fashion of the court is to frown, too.

So Columbus had no friends at the king's court. Diego, his eldest son, was still one of the royal pages, but he could do nothing. Without friends, without influence, without opportunity, Columbus began to feel that he should never get his rights unless he could see the king himself. And sick though he was he determined to try it.

It must have been sad enough to see this sick old man drag himself feebly to the court to ask for justice from the king whom he had enriched. You would think that when King Ferdinand really saw Columbus at the foot of the throne, and when he remembered all that this man had done for him and for Spain, and how brave and persistent and full of determination to do great things the Admiral once had been, he would at least have given the old man what was justly due him.

But he would not. He smiled on the old sailor, and said many pleasant things and talked as if he were a friend, but he would not agree to anything Columbus asked him; and the poor Admiral crawled back to his sick bed again, and gave up the struggle. I have done all that I can do, he said to the few friends who remained faithful to him; I must leave it all to God. He has always helped me when things were at the worst.

And God helped him by taking him away from all the fret, and worry, and pain, and struggle that made up so much of the Admiral's troubled life. On the twentieth of May, 1506, the end came. In the house now known as Number 7 Columbus Avenue, in the city of Valladolid; in Northern Spain, with a few faithful friends at his side, he signed his will, lay back in bed and saying trustfully these words: Into thy hands, O Lord, I commit my spirit! the Admiral of the Ocean Seas, the Viceroy of the Indies, the Discoverer of a New World, ended his fight for life. Christopher Columbus was dead.

He was but sixty years old. With Tennyson, and Whittier, and Gladstone, and De Lesseps living to be over eighty, and with your own good grandfather and grandmother, though even older than Columbus, by no means ready to be called old people, sixty years seems an early age to be so completely broken and bent and gray as was he. But trouble, and care, and exposure, and all the worries and perils of his life of adventure, had, as you must know, so worn upon Columbus that when he died he seemed to be an old, old man. He was white-haired, you remember, even before he discovered America, and each year he seemed to grow older and grayer and more feeble.

And after he had died in that lonely house in Valladolid, the world seems for a time to have almost forgotten him. A few friends followed him to the grave; the king, for whom he had done so much, did not trouble himself to take any notice of the death of his Admiral, whom once he had been forced to honor, receive and reward. The city of Valladolid, in which Columbus died, was one of those fussy little towns in which everybody knew what was happening next door, and talked and argued about whatever happened upon its streets and in its homes; and yet even Valladolid hardly seemed to know of the presence within its gates of the sick "Viceroy of the Indies." Not until four weeks after his death did the Valladolid people seem to realize what had happened; and then all they did was to write down this brief record: "The said Admiral is dead."

To-day, the bones of Columbus inclosed in a leaden casket lie in the Cathedral of Santo Domingo. People have disputed about the place where the Discoverer of America was born; they are disputing about the place where he is buried. But as it seems now certain that he was born in Genoa, so it seems also certain that his bones are really in the tomb in the old Cathedral at Santo Domingo, that old Haytian city which he founded, and where he had so hard a time.

At least a dozen places in the Old World and the New have built monuments and statues in his honor; in the United States, alone, over sixty towns and villages bear his name, or the kindred one of Columbia. The whole world honors him as the Discoverer of America; and yet the very name that the Western Hemisphere bears comes not from the man who discovered it, but from his friend and comrade Americus Vespucius.

Like Columbus, this Americus Vespucius was an Italian; like him, he was a daring sailor and a fearless adventurer, sailing into strange seas to see what he could find. He saw more of the American coast than did Columbus, and not being so full of the gold-hunting and slave-getting fever as was the Admiral, he brought back from his four voyages so much information about the new-found lands across the sea, that scholars, who cared more for news than gold, became interested in what he reported. And some of the map-makers in France, when they had to name the new lands in the West that they drew on their maps--the lands that were not the Indies, nor China, nor Japan--called them after the man who had told them so much about them--Americus Vespucius. And so it is that to-day you live in America and not in Columbia, as so many people have thought this western world of ours should he named.

And even the titles, and riches, and honors that the king and queen of Spain promised to Columbus came very near being lost by his family, as they had been by himself. It was only by the hardest work, and by keeping right at it all the time, that the Admiral's eldest son, Diego Columbus, almost squeezed out of King Ferdinand of Spain the things that had been promised to his father.

But Diego was as plucky, and as brave, and as persistent as his father had been; then, too, he had lived at court so long--he was one of the queen's pages, you remember that he knew just what to do and how to act so as to get what he wanted. And at last he got it.

He was made Viceroy over the Indies; he went across the seas to Hayti, and in his palace in the city of Santo Domingo he ruled the lands his father had found, and which for centuries were known as the Spanish Main; he was called Don Diego; he married a high-born lady of Spain, the niece of King Ferdinand; he received the large share of "the riches of the Indies" that his father had worked for, but never received. And the family of Christopher Columbus, the Genoese adventurer--under the title of the Dukes of Veragua--have, ever since Don Diego's day, been of what is called "the best blood of Spain."

If you have read this story of Christopher Columbus aright, you must have come to the conclusion that the life of this Italian sea captain who discovered a new world was not a happy one. From first to last it was full of disappointment. Only once, in all his life, did he know what happiness and success meant, and that was on his return from his first voyage, when he landed amid cheers of welcome at Palos, and marched into Barcelona in procession like a conqueror to be received as an equal by his king and queen.

Except for that little taste of glory, how full of trouble was his life! He set out to find Cathay and bring back its riches and its treasures. He did not get within five thousand miles of Cathay. He returned from his second voyage a penitent, bringing only tidings of disaster. He returned from his third voyage in disgrace, a prisoner and in chains, smarting under false charges of theft, cruelty and treason. He returned from his fourth voyage sick unto death, unnoticed, unhonored, unwelcomed.

From first to last he was misunderstood. His ideas were made fun of, his efforts were treated with contempt, and even what he did was not believed, or was spoken of as of not much account. A career that began in scorn ended in neglect. He died unregarded, and for years no one gave him credit for what he had done, nor honor for what he had brought about.

Such a life would, I am sure, seem to all boys and girls, but a dreary prospect if they felt it was to be theirs or that of any one they loved. And yet what man to-day is more highly honored than Christopher Columbus? People forget all the trials and hardships and sorrows of his life, and think of him only as one of the great successes of the world--the man who discovered America.

And out of his life of disaster and disappointment two things stand forth that all of us can honor and all of us should wish to copy. These are his sublime persistence and his unfaltering faith. Even as a boy, Columbus had an idea of what he wished to try and what he was bound to do. He kept right at that idea, no matter what might happen to annoy him or set him back.

It was the faith and the persistence of Columbus that discovered America and opened the way for the millions who now call it their home. It is because of these qualities that we honor him to-day; it is because this faith and persistence ended as they did in the discovery of a new world, that to-day his fame is immortal.

Other men were as brave, as skillful and as wise as he. Following in his track they came sailing to the new lands; they explored its coasts, conquered its red inhabitants, and peopled its shores with the life that has made America today the home of millions of white men and millions of free men. But Columbus showed the way.

 

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