Sometimes small incidents, rather than glorious exploits, give us the best evidence of character. So, as portrait painters are more exact in doing the face, I must give particular attention to the marks of the souls of men. — Plutarch

America First - Lawton Evans




The Fountain of Youth

Ponce de leon was a brave Spanish soldier who came over with Columbus on his second voyage. He was so fine a soldier that he was made governor of a part of Hispaniola. One day he stood on a high hill, and saw the fair shores of Porto Rico. "I will conquer that island," said he, and forthwith sailed across the waters, annexing it as one of his possessions and establishing himself as governor.

Like all the early Spaniards he was cruel to the Indians and greedy for gold. He made the poor natives work hard, and slew them for the slightest offenses. In consequence, De Leon was hated as were all the Spanish oppressors of that period.

De Leon was getting old; his hair was white, his strength was waning, and he longed for the vigor and fire of youth. One time he complained to an Indian of his coming age. The cunning savage replied: "Across the sea, only a few days' sail from here, there is a beautiful land full of flowers and fruit and game. It is the most beautiful place in the world, far more lovely than this island. Somewhere yonder there is a fountain of magic water, in which, if one bathes, his hair will become black and his limbs will become strong. He then can carry his sword without fatigue, and conquer his enemies with his strong arm. He will again be a young man!"

De Leon listened gladly to the story of this wily savage who was merely trying to get him and his men to leave Porto Rico. He resolved to find the beautiful country, so that he might bathe in the Fountain of Youth. He called his men to him at once and told them about the wonderful water. In a few days he set sail on his quest, full of foolish hope and pride.

It was in the early spring; the breeze was soft and the air was mild. In a short while the ship came to land, and De Leon named it Florida. He anchored his ship, and his men rowed him to shore. The spot where they landed was near the mouth of the St. John River, not far from where St. Augustine now stands. They were the first white men to set foot on the soil of the mainland of North America, since the days of the Northmen, five hundred years before.

Now began the vain search for the Fountain of Youth. Deep into the forests the soldiers plunged, wondering at the gorgeous flowers, the abundant fruit, and the plentiful game. The Indians scurried away at the approach of the strange white faces. De Leon and his men were bent on other things than Indians and flowers; they were hunting for their lost youth! In every stream, brook, river, and creek they bathed. Up and down the coast they wandered, trying the waters everywhere. They had never bathed as much before in all their lives, but it was all in vain!

No matter where or how often he bathed, Ponce de Leon's hair remained white, his skin was dried and his limbs were bent with age and fatigue. In vain he tried a hundred places, and at last exclaimed, "There is no such fountain here; we must return to Porto Rico."

Accordingly, he set sail for the island from whence he had departed, just as old, just as white haired, and just as foolish in his belief as when he had started out on his fruitless mission. If De Leon did not find his Fountain of Youth, he at least did discover a beautiful country, and give a name to one of the future states of our Union.

For nearly a year afterwards, De Leon and his men wandered up and down the coast of Florida. Perhaps they were still seeking the Fountain of Youth. One day, they were attacked by the Indians, and De Leon was wounded by an arrow. His followers put him on board ship and sailed away to Cuba. Here De Leon died of his wounds, with all his hopes unfulfilled.



Contents

Front Matter
Review

Leif, the Lucky
Spaniards Conquer Mexico
Conquest of Peru
The Fountain of Youth
De Soto and the Mississippi
Sir Walter Raleigh
The Lost Colony
Adventures of John Smith
More about John Smith
Pilgrims and Puritans
Miles Standish
Building a Canoe
Roger Williams
Old Silver Leg
William Penn
The Charter Oak
Bloody Marsh
Saving of Hadley
Sir William Phips
Hannah Dustin
Israel Putnam
A Young Surveyor
Young Washington
Indians and Major Putnam
How Detroit was Saved
Acadia
Blackbeard the Pirate
Daniel Boone
Sunday in the Colonies
The Salem Witches
Traveling by Stage-coach
King George and the Colonies
Patrick Henry
Paul Revere
Green Mountain Boys
Father of his Country
Nathan Hale
Elizabeth Zane
Capturing the Hessians
Lafayette Comes to America
Lydia Darrah
Captain Molly Pitcher
The Swamp Fox
Outwitting a Tory
Supporting the Colors
Nancy Hart
Mad Anthony
Execution of Major Andre
How Schuyler was Saved
An Indian Trick
Winning the Northwest
Benjamin Franklin
Nolichucky Jack
Eli Whitney
Thomas Jefferson
Burning of the Philadelphia
Lewis and Clark
Colter's Race for Life
Pike Explores Arkansas Valley
How Pumpkins Saved a Family
Old Ironsides
Tecumseh
Star Spangled Banner
Traveling by Canal
Lafayette Returns
Osceola, Seminole Chief
Journey by Railroad
Old Hickory
Daniel Webster
Henry Clay
Plantation Christmas
John C. Calhoun
Heroes of the Alamo
Freedom for Texas
Electric Telegraph
Gold in California
Crossing Continent
The Pony Express
Boy Who Saved Village
Rescue of Jerry
Abraham Lincoln
Robert E. Lee
Stonewall Jackson
Stealing a Locomotive
Sam Davis
Escape from Prison
Running the Blockade
Heart of the South
Surrender of Lee
Laying the Atlantic Cable
The Telephone
Thomas A. Edison
Clara Barton
Hobson and the Merrimac
Dewey at Manila Bay
Conquering Yellow Fever
Sinking of Lusitania
Private Treptow
Frank Luke, Aviator
Sergeant York