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LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
A TROPICAL RIVER SCENE
(Frontispiece) CATHEDRAL OF SAN DOMINGO LANDING-PLACE OF CORTEZ, VERA CRUZ
THE GOVERNOR GENERAL'S PALACE, HAVANA
282 OLDEST HOUSE IN THE UNITED STATES, SANTA FÉ. 296 ON THE BORDER OF LAKE CHALCO .
302 HOUSE OF MAXIMILIAN AT QUERÉTARO
THE ISLES OF BEAUTY BEYOND
THE 12th of October, 1492, ranks very high among the important dates in the history of the world. For on that day men from Europe, then the centre of civilization, first gazed on a rich new land beyond the seas, a great virgin continent, destined to become the seat of flourishing civilizations and to play a leading part in the later history of the world. Little did Columbus and his companions, when they saw before them on that famous morning a beautiful island, rising like a pearl of promise from the sparkling tropical sea, dream of what time held in store for that newfound land, foreordained to become the “New World' of the nations, the hope of the oppressed, and the pioneer dwelling-place of liberty and equality.
But we are here concerned with only what they saw, and this was a green and populous island, so covered with fresh verdure that it seemed to their eyes like a continual orchard.
An orchard it was, for many of the trees were laden with new and strange fruits, of rare color and attractive form. Never had they breathed air
and fresh, and never had they beheld seas of such crystal clearness or verdure of more emerald hue ;
and it is not surprising that their eyes sparkled with joy and their souls were filled with wonder and delight as they gazed on this entrancing scene after their long and dreaded journey over a vast and unknown ocean.
Not less strange to the new-comers were the people who flocked in numbers from the woods and ran to the shore, where they stood gazing in simple wonder on the ships, winged marvels which had never met their eyes before. No clothing hid their dusky, copper-colored skins, of a hue unknown to their visitors, and they looked like the unclad tenants of some new paradise. Their astonishment turned into fright when they saw boats leave these strange monsters of the deep, in them men clad in shining steel or raiment of varied color. Their white faces, their curling beards, their splendid clothing, as it appeared to these simple denizens of the forest, and especially the air of dignity of their leader, with his ample cloak of scarlet, added to their amazement, and they viewed the strangers as divine visitors, come to them from the skies.
Not less was their surprise when they saw the wonderful strangers kneel and kiss the soil, and then uplift a great and gleaming banner, of rich colors and designs that seemed magical to their untaught eyes. And deep was their delight when these strange beings distributed among them wonderful gifts,—glass beads, hawk's bells, and other trifles,—which seemed precious gems to their untutored souls. They had nothing to offer in return,