Page:Romance of History, Mexico.djvu/22

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had faded from the minds of men, this same spirit, thrilling through Western Europe, led the venturesome to yet greater quests on the broad bosom of the ocean. Has this mighty sea no bourne, they questioned, save the bottomless abyss? Does the sunset hold no mystery? Or is there, perchance, as the creators of Atlas declared, far out in the gleaming West a new Atlantis inestimably rich with the gifts of Mother Nature?

To seek an answer the sailor left the safe shores of Europe and perilled his life on the dangerous deep. Foremost in this quest for the unknown were the Portuguese, driven to the sea by their narrow land. In his castle near Cape St. Vincent, whence he could gaze on the Atlantic, Prince Henry, the Navigator, gathered round him the most learned geographers and skilled seamen of his day. Sunny Madeira, green and fertile, was discovered by his ships, which, venturing farther voyage by voyage, explored the coasts of Africa itself even to the torrid zone. For long the Portuguese feared to sail south of the river Senegal, for might not the vertical rays of a flaming sun consume them in their wooden boats? But they steered boldly westwards into the open sea, and came to the Azores, nine hundred miles from any continent. The death of Prince Henry checked for a time the ardour for exploration, but in the reign of his grand-nephew John II., Portuguese vessels dared to cross the line, and followed the coast in its eastern bend, until at last Cabo Tormentoso, the Stormy Cape, was sighted far away in the south. Like wildfire through Europe flew the story of this great achievement, and in all