In Florence things can go badly for the rich if they don't run the state. — Lorenzo de Medici

Story of the Thirteen Colonies - Helene Guerber

Columbus and the Savages

Although Columbus could not understand one word of the language the savages spoke, and although they did not know Spanish, he tried to talk to them. As you can readily imagine, this was not an easy thing to do; but by making signs, Columbus soon made the Indians understand that he would give them more of his trinkets in exchange for fruit, a kind of bread they showed him, and the yellow ornaments they wore.

When Columbus found out that these ornaments were of pure gold, he felt more convinced than ever that he was near Cipango, Cathay, and India, and he asked the natives where they had found the precious metal. As they kept pointing southward, and said words which he fancied sounded like Cathay and Cipango, he imagined they were trying to tell him about those countries, and about a king in the south, who was so rich that all his dishes were of gold.

The desire to reach this country and to visit Asia's ruler—for whom he had brought letters from Ferdinand and Isabella—made Columbus set out early on the morrow. He took with him seven happy natives, whom he intended to use as interpreters; but they fancied he was carrying them off to heaven.

Coming to some more small islands, Columbus took possession of them also; and on the way to a larger one he overtook a savage in a light canoe. The Spaniards drew the man on board with his skiff, and as they found in the latter a gourd of water, some bread, red paint such as the savages used to beautify themselves, and a string of the beads they had brought, they concluded he was going to announce their coming to some friends.

When they drew near the coast, therefore, they sent this man ashore in his little canoe, and, landing themselves the next morning, found the savages assembled and ready to exchange gold and food for worthless European trinkets.

After visiting several of these islands, Columbus steered southward in search of a larger island, which was Cuba, but which he at first mistook for Japan. Here the savages fled at his approach; but Columbus, anxious to make friends with them, went into their huts, and left a few beads in each, forbidding his men to carry anything away.

Still searching for the wonderful city of the fabulous ruler who ate and drank from vessels of pure gold, Columbus coasted along Cuba. As he saw nothing but mean huts, he fancied that the city must be far inland, and that none but poor fishermen lived on the shore. He therefore sent an expedition inland; but his men were sorely disappointed to find a collection of mud huts instead of the grand palaces they had expected to behold.

The savages here did something which greatly puzzled the Spaniards. Taking a certain kind of dried leaf, they rolled it up, and, lighting one end, stuck the other between their lips. Then they drew into their mouths and blew out a strangely perfumed smoke! Seeing that the savages seemed to enjoy it, the Spaniards tried it also, and thus became acquainted with the tobacco plant and learned to smoke.

[Illustration] from Story of the Thirteen Colonies by Helene Guerber

It was now so late in the season that Columbus did not dare to wait any longer to secure the cargo of silks, pearls, spices, and gold which he had hoped to carry home. He therefore determined to sail back to Spain, make known his discovery to the king and queen, and fit out a larger expedition for trading.

On his way home he discovered and took possession of Haiti, which he called Hispaniola, or "Little Spain." His best ship, the Santa Maria, having been wrecked, forty men were left behind in a fort there. Columbus bade them be good to the savages, and learn their language, so they could tell him all about the great king when he came back.


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