History is Philosophy teaching by examples. — Thucydides

Story of the Thirteen Colonies - Helene Guerber




The Fountain of Youth

The Spaniards, as we have seen, immediately began planting colonies in the West Indies, and in a few years they took possession of all the islands, and made the natives their slaves. These poor creatures were forced to work hard for their new masters, who, thirsting for gold, made them wash the sands of all their streams, and toil without ceasing.

The Spaniards in Cuba and Haiti, hearing many tales of the gold to be found in the west, soon sent out several expeditions. They also planted a few colonies along the coast of Central America, but at first these did not thrive.

Among the colonists in Haiti there was a Spaniard named Balboa. He was poor but very daring, and wished to join an expedition bound for the mainland. As he could not pay for his passage, he hid in a cask and had himself carried on board ship as freight. When far out at sea Balboa crept out of his hiding place, won the captain's forgiveness, and soon made so many friends that he became a leader in the settlement they founded on the Isthmus of Darien, or Panama.

Balboa discovers the South Sea
BALBOA DISCOVERS THE SOUTH SEA.


After a time he learned from the natives that a great ocean lay on the other side of the ridge of mountains. He therefore made his way through the tangled underbrush and rank tropical growth, bidding his men wait at the foot of the mountain, while he climbed up alone.

On reaching the top, he gazed southward and beheld a great stretch of water, which he called the Great South Sea (1513). Falling down upon his knees, he gave thanks to God, and then made joyful signs to his followers to come up and join him.

Accompanied by these men, Balboa next went down the opposite slope, and, reaching the shore, waded out into the ocean, with a flag in one hand and his drawn sword in the other. Standing thus in the waters of the Great South Sea, he took possession of it in the name of Spain, declaring that all the countries it bathed belonged to his sovereigns.

That same year one of the former companions of Columbus, Ponce de Leon, started out from Puerto Rico. Like many other men of his time, he believed that all the stories he had heard were true, and that somewhere in the world there was a magic spring called the Fountain of Youth. He thought that if one drank of its waters, or bathed in them, one would be sure to become young again, and as he was rapidly growing old he longed to find and try it.

After vainly seeking the fountain on the newly discovered islands, he fancied, from what the natives told him, that it might be situated on the mainland, so he set out in quest of it. On Easter Sunday (Pascua florida), he landed in a beautiful country, which, in honor of the day, he called Florida. After taking possession of it for Spain, he began exploring; but although he drank from every spring, and bathed in every stream, he could not find the Fountain of Youth, and kept growing older and older.

After several years he made another journey to Florida, to continue his search, and to make a settlement; but as there were no roads through the dense forests and treacherous marshes, he and his men suffered greatly from hunger and heat. Finally Ponce de Leon was sorely wounded in a fight with the Indians, and his men carried him back to Cuba. There he died, a wrinkled old man, still regretting that he had not been able to find the Fountain of Youth. His friends, who admired his bravery, and often said he was as bold as his namesake the lion, wrote upon his tomb: "In this sepulcher rest the bones of a man who was Leon [lion] by name and still more by nature."

While Ponce de Leon was seeking the magic fountain, some of his countrymen were exploring the Gulf coast, from Florida to Mexico, under the leadership of Pineda. In 1519, also, a Portuguese, named Magellan, took a Spanish fleet down the coast of South America. After a time he came to the strait bearing his name, and, sailing through it, beheld the Great South Sea.

Magellan was such a brave seaman that he steered boldly across this unknown expanse of water. It was so much smoother than the Atlantic that he called it the Pacific, or "Peaceful "Ocean, a name which it has borne ever since, and which suits it much better than the one given by Balboa. After a journey of a year and a half, Magellan finally reached the Philippine Islands, where he was killed in a fight with the natives.

One of his officers now took command, and went on till he reached India. Thence, by way of the Cape of Good Hope, he came to Spain, sailing for the first time all around the globe. Besides proving that the earth is round, this voyage showed that South America is separated from India by a great stretch of water. Magellan's journey took three years, but now, thanks to steamboats and railroads, it can be made in about two months.



Contents

Front Matter

Our Country Long Ago
The Barbarous Indians
The Mounds
Where the Northmen Went
The Northmen in America
Queer Ideas
Prince Henry the Navigator
Youth of Columbus
Columbus and the Queen
"Land! Land!"
Columbus and the Savages
Home Again
Columbus Ill-treated
Death of Columbus
How America Got its Name
The Fountain of Youth
"The Father of Waters"
The French in Canada
French and Spanish Quarrels
The Sky City
Around the World
Nothing but Smoke
Smith's Adventures
The Jamestown Men
Smith Wounded
Pocahontas Visits England
Hudson and the Indians
The Mayflower
Plymouth Rock
The First Thanksgiving
Snake Skin and Bullets
The Beginning of Boston
Stories of Two Ministers
Williams and the Indians
The Quakers
The King-Killers
King Phillip's War
The Beginning of New York
Penn and the Indians
The Catholics in Maryland
The Old Dominion
Bacon's Rebellion
A Journey Inland
The Carolina Pirates
Charter Oak
Salem Witches
Down the Mississippi
La Salle's Adventures
Indians on the Warpath
Two Wars with the French
Washington's Boyhood
Washington's Journey
Washington's First Battle
Stories of Franklin
Braddock's Defeat
Wolfe at Quebec
England and her Colonies
The Stamp Tax
The Anger of the Colonies
The Boston Tea Party
The Minutemen
The Battle of Lexington
Bunker Hill
The Boston Boys
The British leave Boston
Declaration of Independence
A Lady's Way of Helping
Christmas Eve
The Fight at Bennington
Burgoyne's Surrender
Winter at Valley Forge
The Quaker Woman
Putnam's Adventures
Indian Cruelty
Boone in Kentucky
Famous Sea Fights
The "Swamp Fox"
The Poor Soldiers
The Spy
A Traitor's Death
Two Unselfish Women
Surrender of Cornwallis
British Flag hauled down
Washington's Farewell