The True Story of Christopher Columbus HTML version
How The Admiral Played Robinson Crusoe
While the terrible storm that wrecked the great gold fleet of the governor was raging so
furiously, Columbus with his four ships was lying as near shore as he dared in a little bay
farther down the coast of Hayti. Here he escaped the full fury of the gale, but still his
ships suffered greatly, and came very near being shipwrecked. They became separated in
the storm, but the caravels met at last after the storm was over and steered away for the
island of Jamaica.
For several days they sailed about among the West India Islands; then they took a
westerly course, and on the thirtieth of July, Columbus saw before him the misty outlines
of certain high mountains which he supposed to be somewhere in Asia, but which we
now know were the Coast Range Mountains of Honduras. And Honduras, you remember,
is a part of Central America.
Just turn to the map of Central America in your geography and find Honduras. The
mountains, you see, are marked there; and on the northern coast, at the head of a fine bay,
you will notice the seaport town of Truxillo. And that is about the spot where, for the first
time, Columbus saw the mainland of North America.
As he sailed toward the coast a great canoe came close to the ship. It was almost as large
as one of his own caravels, for it was over forty feet long and fully eight feet wide. It was
paddled by twenty-five Indians, while in the middle, under an awning of palm-thatch sat
the chief Indian, or cacique, as he was called. A curious kind of sail had been rigged to
catch the breeze, and the canoe was loaded with fruits and Indian merchandise.
This canoe surprised Columbus very much. He had seen nothing just like it among the
other Indians he had visited. The cacique and his people, too, were dressed in clothes and
had sharp swords and spears. He thought of the great galleys of Venice and Genoa; he
remembered the stories that had come to him of the people of Cathay; he believed that, at
last, he had come to the right place. The shores ahead of him were, he was sure, the
coasts of the Cathay he was hunting for, and these people in "the galley of the cacique"
were much nearer the kind of people he was expecting to meet than were the poor naked
Indians of Hayti and Cuba.
In a certain way he was right. These people in the big canoe were, probably, some of the
trading Indians of Yucatan, and beyond them, in what we know to-day as Mexico, was a
race of Indians, known as Aztecs, who were what is called half-civilized; for they had
cities and temples and stone houses and almost as much gold and treasure as Columbus
hoped to find in his fairyland of Cathay. But Columbus was not to find Mexico. Another
daring and cruel Spanish captain, named Cortez, discovered the land, conquered it for
Spain, stripped it of its gold and treasure, and killed or enslaved its brave and intelligent