Christopher Columbus by Edgar Wilson Nye

Story type: Essay

Probably few people have been more successful in the discovering line than Christopher Columbus. Living as he did in a day when a great many things were still in an undiscovered state, the horizon was filled with golden opportunities for a man possessed of Mr. C.’s pluck and ambition. His life at first was filled with rebuffs and disappointments, but at last he grew to be a man of importance in his own profession, and the people who wanted anything discovered would always bring it to him rather than take it elsewhere.

And yet the life of Columbus was a stormy one. Though he discovered a continent wherein a millionaire attracts no attention, he himself was very poor.

Though he rescued from barbarism a broad and beautiful land in whose metropolis the theft of less than half a million of dollars is regarded as petty larceny, Chris himself often went to bed hungry. Is it not singular that the gray-eyed and gentle Columbus should have added a hemisphere to the history of our globe, a hemisphere, too, where pie is a common thing, not only on Sunday, but throughout the week, and yet that he should have gone down to his grave pieless!

Such is the history of progress in all ages and in all lines of thought and investigation. Such is the meagre reward of the pioneer in new fields of action.

I presume that America to-day has a larger pie area than any other land in which the Cockney English language is spoken. Right here where millions of native born Americans dwell, many of whom are ashamed of the fact that they were born here and which shame is entirely mutual between the Goddess of Liberty and themselves, we have a style of pie that no other land can boast of.

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From the bleak and acid dried apple pie of Maine to the irrigated mince pie of the blue Pacific, all along down the long line of igneous, volcanic and stratified pie, America, the land of the freedom bird with the high instep to his nose, leads the world.

Other lands may point with undissembled pride to their polygamy and their cholera, but we reck not. Our polygamy here is still in its infancy and our leprosy has had the disadvantage of a cold, backward spring, but look at our pie.

Throughout a long and disastrous war, sometimes referred to as a fratricidal war, during which this fair land was drenched in blood, and also during which aforesaid war numerous frightful blunders were made which are fast coming to the surface–through the courtesy of participants in said war who have patiently waited for those who blundered to die off, and now admit that said participants who are dead did blunder exceedingly throughout all this long and deadly struggle for the supremacy of liberty and right–as I was about to say when my mind began to wobble, the American pie has shown forth resplendent in the full glare of a noonday sun or beneath the pale-green of the electric light, and she stands forth proudly to-day with her undying loyalty to dyspepsia untrammeled and her deep and deadly gastric antipathy still fiercely burning in her breast.

That is the proud history of American pie. Powers, principalities, kingdoms and hand-made dynasties may crumble, but the republican form of pie does not crumble. Tyranny may totter on its throne, but the American pie does not totter. Not a tot. No foreign threat has ever been able to make our common chicken pie quail. I do not say this because it is smart; I simply say it to fill up.

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But would it not do Columbus good to come among us to-day and look over our free institutions? Would it not please him to ride over this continent which has been rescued by his presence of mind from the thraldom of barbarism and forked over to the genial and refining influences of prohibition and pie?

America fills no mean niche in the great history of nations, and if you listen carefully for a few moments you will hear some American, with his mouth full of pie, make that remark. The American is always frank and perfectly free to state that no other country can approach this one. We allow no little two-for-a-quarter monarchy to excel us in the size of our failures or in the calm and self-poised deliberation with which we erect a monument to the glory of a worthy citizen who is dead, and therefore politically useless.

The careless student of the career of Columbus will find much in these lines that he has not yet seen. He will realize when he comes to read this little sketch the pains and the trouble and the research necessary before such an article on the life and work of Columbus could be written, and he will thank me for it; but it is not for that that I have done it. It is a pleasure for me to hunt up and arrange historical and biographical data in a pleasing form for the student and savant. I am only too glad to please and gratify the student and the savant. I was that way myself once and I know how to sympathize with them,

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P.S.–I neglected to state that Columbus was a married man. Still, he did not murmur or repine.

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