RUPERT S. HOLLAND
Author of "The Count at Harvard," "Builders of United Italy," etc.
Philadelphia George W. Jacobs & Company Publishers
Copyright, 1909, by George W. Jacobs and Company Published October, 1909 All rights reserved Printed in U.S.A.
To the dear memory of L.B.R.
The thanks of the author are due the Century Company for permission to reprint certain of these stories which appeared in Saint Nicholas in shorter form.
I. CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS The Boy of Genoa
II. MICHAEL ANGELO The Boy of the Medici Gardens
III. WALTER RALEIGH The Boy of Devon
IV. PETER THE GREAT The Boy of the Kremlin
V. FREDERICK THE GREAT The Boy of Potsdam
VI. GEORGE WASHINGTON The Boy of the Old Dominion
VII. DANIEL BOONE The Boy of the Frontier
VIII. JOHN PAUL JONES The Boy of the Atlantic
IX. MOZART The Boy of Salzburg
X. LAFAYETTE The Boy of Versailles
XI. HORATIO NELSON The Boy of the Channel Fleet
XII. ROBERT FULTON The Boy of the Conestoga
XIII. ANDREW JACKSON The Boy of the Carolinas
XIV. NAPOLEON BONAPARTE The Boy of Brienne
XV. WALTER SCOTT The Boy of the Canongate
XVI. JAMES FENIMORE COOPER The Boy of Otsego Hall
XVII. JOHN ERICSSON The Boy of the Goeta Canal
XVIII. GARIBALDI The Boy of the Mediterranean
XIX. ABRAHAM LINCOLN The Boy of the American Wilderness
XX. CHARLES DICKENS The Boy of the London Streets
XXI. OTTO VON BISMARCK The Boy of Goettingen
The Fleet of Columbus Nearing America
Walter Raleigh and the Fisherman of Devon
Peter the Great
Mrs. Washington Urges George Not to Enter the Navy
Daniel Boone's First View of Kentucky
Paul Jones Capturing the "Serapis"
Mozart and His Sister Before Maria Theresa
Lafayette Tells of His Wish to Aid America
Nelson Boarding the "San Josef"
Robert Fulton's First Experiment with Paddle Wheels
Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans
The Snow Fort at Brienne
Napoleon as a Cadet in Paris
Street in Edinburgh Where Scott Played as a Boy
Birthplace of Abraham Lincoln
Charles Dickens at Eighteen
Christopher Columbus The Boy of Genoa: 1446(?)-1506
A privateer was leaving Genoa on a certain June morning in 1461, and crowds of people had gathered on the quays to see the ship sail. Dark-hued men from the distant shores of Africa, clad in brilliant red and yellow and blue blouses or tunics and hose, with dozens of glittering gilded chains about their necks, and rings in their ears, jostled sun-browned sailors and merchants from the east, and the fairer-skinned men and women of the north.
Genoa was a great seaport in those days, one of the greatest ports of the known world, and her fleets sailed forth to trade with Spain and Portugal, France and England, and even with the countries to the north of Europe. The sea had made Genoa rich, had given fortunes to the nobles who lived in the great white marble palaces that shone in the sun, had placed her on an equal footing with that other great Italian sea city, Venice, with whom she was continually at war.
But all the ships that left her harbor were not trading vessels. Genoa the Superb had many enemies always on the alert to swoop down upon her trade. So she had to maintain a great war-fleet. In addition to this danger, the Mediterranean was then the home of roving pirates, ready to seize any vessel, without regard to its flag, which promised to yield them booty.
The life of a Genoese boy in those days was packed full of adventures. Most of the boys went to sea as soon as they were old enough to hold an oar or to pull a rope, and they had to be ready at any moment to drop the oar or rope and seize a sword or a pike to repel pirates or other enemies. There was always the chance of a sudden chase or a secret attack on a Christian boat by savage Mussulmen, and so bitter was the endless war of the two religions that in such cases the victors rarely spared the lives of the vanquished, or, if they did, sold them in port as slaves. Moreover the ships were frail, and the Mediterranean storms severe, and many barks that contrived to escape the pirates fell victims to the fury of head winds. The life of a Genoese sailor was about as dangerous a life as could well be imagined.
On this June morning a large privateer was to set sail from the port, and the families of the men and boys who were outward bound had come down to say good-bye. The centre of one little group was a boy about fifteen, strong and broad for his years, though not very tall, with warm olive skin, bright black eyes, and fair hair that fell to his ears. His name was Christopher Colombo, and he was going to sail with a relative called Colombo the Younger who commanded a ship in the service of Genoa.
The young Christopher had always loved to be upon the sea. Among the first sights that he remembered were glimpses of the Mediterranean in fair and stormy weather, the first tales he had heard were stories of strange adventures that had befallen sailors. His home had sprung from the waves, its glory had been drawn from the inland sea, the great chain of high mountains at its back cut it off from the land and the pursuits of other cities. Christopher thought of the sea by day, and dreamed of it by night, and was already planning when he grew up to go in search of some of those strange adventures the old bronzed mariners were so fond of describing.
The boy's mother and father kissed him good-bye, and his younger brothers and sister looked at him enviously as he left them with a wave of his hand and went on board the ship. The latter was very clumsy, according to our ideas. She rode high in the water, with a great deck at the stern set like a small house up in the air, and with a great bow that bore the figurehead of the patron saint of the sea, Saint Christopher. Her sails were hung flat against the masts and were painted in broad stripes of red and yellow. She was very magnificent to look upon, but not very seaworthy.
The marble of Genoa's palaces dropped astern. The ship was sailing south, and under favoring breezes soon lost sight of land. Constant watch was kept for other vessels; any that might appear was more apt to be an enemy than a friend, because Genoa was at war then with many rivals, chief among them Naples and Aragon. Ships had been sailing constantly of late from Genoa to prey upon the commerce of Naples, in revenge for what the Neapolitans had once done to Genoa.
Colombo the captain was fond of his young kinsman Christopher, and at the start of the voyage had him in his cabin and told him some of his plans. The captain said he had orders to sail to Tunis to capture the Spanish galley Fernandina. The galley was richly laden, and each sailor would have a large share of booty. The boy listened with sparkling eyes; this would be his first chance to have a hand in a fight at sea.
The winds of June were favoring, and Colombo's ship soon reached the island of San Pietro off Sardinia. Here the captain went ashore to try and learn news of the Fernandina. He found friendly merchants who had word from all the Mediterranean ports, and they told him that the galley was not alone, but accompanied by two other Spanish ships. Colombo was a born fighter, and this news did not frighten him. The more ships he might capture the greater would be his own share of glory and of prize money.
When the captain told his news to the sailors on his return from shore, there was great consternation. The men had no liking to attack two fighting ships besides the galley. At first they simply murmured among themselves, but the longer they discussed the desperate nature of the plan the more alarmed they grew. By the time that the ship was ready to sail southward from Sardinia they had determined to go no farther, and sent three of their leaders to speak to Colombo.
The captain was with Christopher studying a map of the Mediterranean when the men came before him. They told him that they positively refused to sail south and insisted that he put in at Marseilles for more ships and men. Colombo saw that he could not force them to sail farther, so, with what grace he could, he gave his consent to alter the course.
The men left the cabin, and after a few minutes' thought the captain spoke to the boy. "Christopher," said he, "bring me the great compass from its box near the helmsman's stand. Bring it secretly. The men should all be on the lower deck making ready to sail. Let no one see thee with it."
The boy left the cabin and climbed the ladder to the great poop-deck at the stern where the helmsman had a view far over the sea. He waited until no one was about, and then quickly took the compass from its box, and hiding it under the loose folds of his cloak, brought it to the captain. He placed it on the table. Then he fastened the door so that none might enter.
Colombo opened the compass-case, and drew a pot of paint and a brush toward him. The boy watched breathlessly while the captain painted over the marks of the compass with thick white paint, and then on top of that drew in new lines and figures in black. He was changing the compass completely.
When the work was done Christopher bore the case back to its box as secretly as he had taken it. Then Colombo went out to the sailors and gave them orders to spread sail. It was rapidly growing dark as they left the coast of Sardinia.
At sunrise, when Christopher came on deck to stand his watch, he knew that their ship must be off the city of Carthagena, although all the crew supposed they well on their way to Marseilles. Not long after, as they were drawing nearer to the shore, the lookout signaled a vessel. She was soon seen to be flying the flag of Naples. Fortunately this ship was alone at the time, and the sailors were not afraid to attack her.
Orders were quickly given to sail as close to her as possible, and preparations were made to board her. The other ship seemed no less eager to engage in battle, and in a very short time grappling-irons were thrown out and the ships were fastened close together. Then a fierce combat followed between the two crews as each in turn tried to scale the sides of the other vessel.
A sea-fight in the fifteenth century was fought hand to hand, each ship being like a fort from which small attacking parties rushed out to climb the other's battlements. When men met on the decks they used sword and pike and dagger just as they would have on shore. Fire was thrown from one ship into the rigging and sails of the other, and flames soon caught and greedily devoured the woodwork of the boats. It was wild work; the blazing sails, the broken cheers of the men, the fierce struggle over the two decks.
Christopher fought bravely whenever chance offered, but the captain kept him close to his hand to carry messages. It soon appeared that the enemy were the stronger, and they bore the Genoese back and back farther from their bulwarks and across their decks. As the enemy gained a foothold they held torches to everything that would burn, and soon Colombo's ship was wrapped in fire and the only choice seemed to be between surrender and jumping into the sea.
A burning rope fell from a mast and set fire to Christopher's cloak. He tore the cloak from him. He saw that the Neapolitans must win and he had no desire to be carried off to Naples as a prisoner. The flames were gaining fast as he leaped to the rail on the free side of the ship, and dove overboard. He came up free from the wreckage and found a long sweep-oar floating near him. With that support he struck out for the shore of Africa, only a short distance away. His first sea-fight had nearly proved his last.
Self-reliance was the corner-stone of this young mariner's character. He could take care of himself on whatever shore he was thrown. He landed on the beach of Carthagena and told the story of his adventures to the group of sailors who crowded about him on the sands. There is a strong sense of comradeship among seamen, and so, although none of the men who heard the boy's tale were from Genoa, they fitted him out with dry clothes and found enough money to keep him in food and shelter.
There he stayed for some time, waiting until some Genoese bark should put into port. Meanwhile he was very much interested in the stories the seafarers of all lands told to people who would listen to them. Again and again he heard mariners wondering whether there might not be a shorter passage to the rich Indies of the East than the long overland route through China. The question interested him, and he took to studying it with care.
One day an old sailor on the beach told him of his voyages in the western ocean, and how once his ship had come so close to the edge of the world that but for the miracle of a sudden change in the wind they must certainly have been carried over the side. The same bearded seaman told Christopher many other curious things; how he had himself seen beautiful pieces of carved wood, cut in some strange fashion, floating on the western sea, and had picked up one day a small boat which seemed to be made of the bark of a tree, but of a pattern none had ever seen before.
Then, and here his voice would sink and his eyes grow large with wonder, he told Christopher how men who were explorers were certain that somewhere in that unsailed western sea, just before one came to the edge, was an island rich in gold and gems and rare, delicious fruits, where men need never work if they chose to stay there, or if they came home might bring such treasures with them as would put to shame the richest princes of all Europe. It was said that there one caught fish already cooked, and that there people of great beauty lived, with dark red skins and wearing feathers in their hair.
"And is no one certain of this?" asked Christopher, his eyes wide with excitement. "Not even the men who have found the African coast and the isle of Flores?"
The old sailor shook his head. "Nay, nay, boy. The wonderful island lies so close to the world's edge that 'tis a perilous thing to try to find it."
"Still," said Christopher, "'twould be well worth the finding, and some time when I'm a man and can win a ship of my own I'm going to make the venture."
But the sailor shook his head. "Better leave the unknown sea to itself, lad," said he. "A whole skin is worth more to a man than all the gold of King Solomon's mines."
"Is it true," asked the boy after a time, "that there are terrible monsters in the Dark Sea?" That was the name given in those days to the ocean that stretched indefinitely to the west. "I've seen pictures of strange creatures on ships' maps, but never saw the like of any of them."
"No, nor would you be likely to, lad," said the sailor, "for such as see those monsters don't come back. But true they are. A great captain told me once that part of the Dark Sea was black as pitch, and that great birds flew over it looking for ships. You've heard of the giant Roc that flies through the air there, so strong that it can pick up the biggest ship that ever sailed in its beak, and carry it to the clouds? There it crushes ship and men in its talons, and drops men's limbs, armor, timber, all that's left, down to the Dark Sea monsters who wait to devour the wreckage in their huge jaws. Ugh, 'tis an ugly thought, and enough to keep any man safe this side the world."
"In some places fair, in some dark," mused Christopher. "It would be worth sailing out there to find which was the truth."
"Where would be the good of finding that if you never came back, boy?"
Christopher shrugged his shoulders. "Just for the fun of finding out, perhaps," he said.
* * * * *
A month later Christopher saw a galley flying the flag of Genoa enter the harbor. When the captain came on shore the boy went to him, and telling him who he was, asked for a chance to go as sailor back to Genoa. The captain knew the boy's father, Domenico Colombo, and gave Christopher a place on the galley. She was sailing north, homeward bound, and a few days later, having safely avoided all hostile ships and storms, the galley came into sight of the beautiful white city in its nest against the hills.
It was a happy day when the young sailor landed and surprised his father and mother by walking in upon them. News of Colombo's defeat by the ship of Naples had come to Genoa, and Christopher's family had given him up as lost.
But narrow as his escape on that voyage had been, such chances were part of the sailor's life in that age, and Christopher was quite ready to take his share of privation and danger with his mates. It was only by weathering such storms that he could ever hope to be put in charge of rich merchantmen or to command his own vessel in his city's defense. So he sailed again soon after, and in a year or two had come to know the Mediterranean Sea as well as the back of his hand.
Captains found he was good at making maps, and paid him to draw them, and when he was on shore he spent all his time studying charts and plans, and soon became so expert that he could support himself by preparing new charts. Yet, in spite of all his study, he found that the maps covered only a small part of the sea, and gave him no knowledge of the waters to the west. There he now began to believe the long-looked-for sea passage to the East Indies must lie.
Christopher grew to manhood, and then a chance shipwreck threw him in Lisbon, the capital of Portugal. The Portuguese were the great sailors of the age, and the young man met many famous captains who were planning trips to the western coast of Africa and about the Cape of Good Hope.
Some of the captains took an interest in the sailor who made such splendid maps and was so eager to go on dangerous exploring trips, and they brought him to the notice of the King of Portugal. One of them, Toscanelli, wrote of the young Christopher's "great and noble desire to pass to where the spices grow," and listened with interest to his plans to reach those rich spice lands by sailing west.
The ideas of Columbus seemed too visionary to most princes, and it was years before he was able to persuade the Spanish sovereigns, Ferdinand and Isabella, to grant him three small ships and enough men to start upon his voyage. But on August 3, 1492, he finally set sail from Palos, in Spain.
All the world knows the history of that great voyage, of the tremendous difficulties that beset Columbus, how his men grew fearful and would have turned back, how he had to change the ship's reckoning as he had seen his cousin change the compass, how he had sometimes to plead with his men and sometimes to threaten them.
In time he found boughs with fresh leaves and berries floating on the sea, and caught the odor of spices from the west. Then he knew he was nearing that magic land of riches sailors dreamt of, and thought he had found the shortest passage to the East Indies and Cathay. That would have been a wonderful discovery, but the one he was actually making was infinitely greater. Instead of a new sea passage he was reaching a new continent, and adding a hemisphere to the known world.
Such was the result of the dreams and ambitions of the boy born and bred in the old seaport of Genoa.
The Boy of the Medici Gardens: 1475-1564
The Italian city of Florence was entering on the Golden Age of its history toward the end of the fifteenth century. Lorenzo, called the Magnificent, was head of the house of Medici, and first citizen of the proud Republic. He was himself an artist, a poet, and a philosopher; he loved the beautiful things of life, and had gathered about him a little court of men of genius.
Florence at that time was also a great business city, and among the prominent merchant families was that of the Buonarotti. Ludovico Buonarotti had several sons, and he had named his second child Michael Angelo, and had planned that he should follow him in trade. Fortunately for the world, however, the boy had a will of his own.
Even while he was still in charge of a nurse, and was just beginning to learn to use his hands, he would draw simple pictures and paint them whenever he had the chance. His father had little use for a painter, and sent the boy to the grammar school of Francesco d'Urbino, in Florence, thinking to make a scholar of him. There were, however, many studios in the neighborhood of the school, and many artists at work in them, and the boy would neglect his studies to haunt the places where he might see how grown men drew and painted.
Watching the artists, young Michael Angelo soon formed a lasting friendship with a boy of great talent a few years older than himself, by name Francesco Granacci. This boy was a pupil of Domenico Ghirlandajo, a very great painter. The more Michael Angelo saw Granacci and his work in the studio the more he longed for a chance to study painting. He could think of nothing else; he begged his father and uncles to let him be an artist instead of a merchant or a scholar. But the father and uncles, coming from a long line of successful merchants, treated the boy's requests with scorn.
Michael Angelo was determined to be an artist, however, and finally, though with the greatest reluctance, his father signed a contract with Ghirlandajo by which the boy was to study drawing and painting in his studio and do whatever other work the master might desire. The master was to pay the boy six gold florins for the first year's work, eight for the second, and ten for the third.
The young Buonarotti found plenty of work to be done in his master's studio. Besides the regular day's work he was constantly painting sketches of his own, and trying his hand at a dozen different things. His eye and hand were most surprisingly true. Time and again the master or some of the older students, coming across the boy at work, would be held spellbound by his skill.
One day when the men had left work the boy drew a picture of the scaffolding on which they had been standing and sketched in portraits of the men so perfectly that when his master found the drawing he cried to a friend in amazement, "The boy understands this better than I do myself!"
There was little in the world about him that this boy failed to see. He soon painted his first real picture, choosing a subject that was popular in those days, the temptation of St. Antony. All kinds of queer animals figured in the picture, and that he might get the colors of their shining backs and scales just right he spent days in the market eagerly studying the fish there for sale. Again the master was amazed at his pupil's work, and now for the first time began to feel a certain envy of him.
This feeling rapidly increased. The scholars were often given some of Ghirlandajo's own studies to copy, and one day Michael Angelo brought the artist one of the studies which he had himself corrected by adding a few thick lines. Beyond all doubt the picture was improved. It was hard, however, for the master to be corrected by his own apprentice, and soon after that the boy's stay in the studio came to an end. Fortunately his friend Granacci had already interested the great patron, Lorenzo de' Medici, in the young Buonarotti and he was now invited to join the band of youths of talent who made the Medici's palace their home.
In Lorenzo's palace young Michael Angelo was very happy. He was fond of the Medici's sons, boys nearly his own age; like almost all the rest of Florence he worshiped the citizen-prince whose one desire seemed to be that Florence should be beautiful; and he was happiest of all in the chance to study his own beloved art.
In May of each year Lorenzo gave a pageant, and the spring in which Michael Angelo came to the palace Lorenzo placed the carnival in charge of the boy's friend, Francesco Granacci. Day by day the boys planned for the great procession. At noon they were free from their teachers, and then they would scatter to the gardens.
One such May noon, when the sun was hot, a group of them ran out from the palace, and threw themselves on the grass in the shade of a row of poplars. They were all absorbed in the one subject; their tongues could scarcely keep pace with their nimble fancies.
"What shalt thou go as, Paolo?" said one. "I heard Messer Lorenzo say that thou shouldst be something marvelously fine; but what can be so fine as Romulus in a Roman triumph?"
"I am to be the thrice-gifted Apollo, dressed as your Athenians saw him, with harp and bow, and the crown of laurel on my head. That will be a sight for thee, Ludovico mio, and for the pretty eyes of thy Bianca also." Paolo laughed as one who well knew the value of his yellow locks and blue eyes in a land of brown and black. "What art thou to be in Messer Lorenzo's coming pageant, Michael?"
The young Michael, a slim, black-haired youth, was lying on his back, his head resting in his hands, his eyes watching the circling flight of some pigeons.
"I?" he said dreamily. "Oh, I have given little thought to that, I shall be whatever Francesco wishes; he knows what is needed better than any one else."
As he spoke a tall youth came into the garden and sat down in the middle of the group. He had curious, smiling eyes, and hands that were fine and pointed like a woman's. He answered all questions easily, telling each what part he was to play in the triumphal procession of Paulus AEmilius that was to dazzle the good people of Florence on the morrow. He had become chief favorite in the little court of young people that the Medici loved to have about him, and his remarkable talent for detail had made him the leader in all entertainments.
The boy Michael listened for a time to the flowing words of young Granacci, then rose and wandered to where some stone-masons had lately been at work. He stopped in front of a block of marble that was gradually taking the form of the mask of a faun.
Near the block stood an antique mask, a garden ornament, and this the boy studied for a few moments before he picked up one of the mason's deserted tools and began to cut the stone himself.
The gay chatter under the poplars went on, but the boy with the chisel, lost in thought, his heavy brows bent into a bow, chipped and cut, forgetful of everything else. A half hour passed, and a long shadow fell across the marble. Michael looked up to see his patron, Lorenzo, standing beside him. The boy glanced from the fine, keen face of the Medici to the marble mask of the old faun in front of him.
"Well, sirrah," said Lorenzo, half seriously, half in jest, "what wilt thou be up to next?"
"Jacopo, one of the builders, gave me a stone," answered the boy, "and told me I might do what I would with it. Yonder is my copy, the old figure there."
"But," said Lorenzo, critically, "your faun is old, and yet you have given him all his teeth; you should have known in a face as aged as that some of the teeth are wanting."
"True," said the young sculptor, and taking his chisel, with a few strokes he made such a gap in the mouth as no master could have improved.
The Medici watched, and when the change was made, broke into laughter. "Right, boy!" he cried. "'Tis perfect; Praxiteles himself could not have bettered that!" Then, with a quizzical smile, he looked the youth over. "I knew thou wert a painter; and now a sculptor; what will thy clever hand be doing next?"
"Bearing arms in your worship's cause, an' the saints be good!" exclaimed the boy, his deep eyes, full of admiration, on his patron's face.
"Ah," said Lorenzo, "so? Well, perhaps the day will come. Florence is like a rose-bed, but I cannot cure the city as I would of thorns." He fell into thought, then roused again. "But thou, young Michael Angelo, dost know what a time I had to make thy father let thee be a painter, and now thou addest to thy sins and cuttest in marble. Where will be the end of thy infamy?"
The boy caught the gleam in his friend's eyes, and his serious face broke into smiles.
"In Rome, Signor Lorenzo, in the Holy Father's house. There I shall go some day."
"And why to Rome?"
"Every one goes to Rome; thy marvelous pageants are Roman; art lives there."
"Yes," mused Lorenzo, "Rome on its hills is still the Eternal City. And yet in those far days to come I doubt if thou wilt be as happy as in Lorenzo's gardens. How sayest thou, boy?"
"I know not," was the answer. "Only I know that I shall go."
The laughter of the other boys came to their ears, and Lorenzo turned. "Thy faun is done; to-morrow will I speak with Poliziano of our new sculptor. What is Granacci saying over there? Come with me and listen." So, the prince's arm resting affectionately on the boy's shoulder, they crossed the garden to the noisy group.
Life was gay then in Florence. Lorenzo de' Medici was ruling the turbulent city by keeping it occupied with merrymaking, by beautifying its squares with priceless treasures, by helping its poor but ambitious children to win their heart's desires, by mingling with the citizens at all times, and writing them ballads to sing, and giving them masques to act. His house was open to the great men of Italy; on his entertainments he lavished his wealth, set no bounds to the means he gave Granacci and the others to make the pageants gorgeous, and superintended everything with his own wonderfully keen eye for beauty.
The triumphal procession of Paulus AEmilius on the morrow after the little scene in the gardens was an all-day revel. The good folk of Florence left their shops and homes and lined the streets, and for hours floats drawn by prancing horses and picturing great scenes in Roman history passed before the delighted people's eyes. Among the warriors, the heroes, the nymphs and fauns, they recognized their neighbors' children or their own sons and daughters; they were all parcel of it; it was their own triumph as well as Rome's. Girls sang and danced and smiled, boys posed and cheered and played heroic parts, the whole youth of the city spent the day in fairy-land.
Chief among the boys was the little group of artists who were studying in Lorenzo's mansion, and chief among these Granacci, who was Master of the Revels, Paolo Tornabuoni, who made a wonderful Apollo, seated on a golden globe playing upon a lyre, and the dark-browed Michael Angelo, clad in a tunic, one of the noble youth of early Rome. His father, Ludovico Buonarotti, and his mother, Francesca, were in the crowd that watched him pass.
"Yonder he goes," cried the proud mother; "dost see thy son, Ludovico?" But her husband scowled; he had little use for a son of his who had rather be painter than merchant.
A year of happiness passed for the boys in the Medici gardens, and then the skies of Florence darkened. A monk from San Marco named Savonarola raised his voice to shame the gay people of their extravagance, and his bitter tongue sought out Lorenzo the Magnificent as chief offender. The boy Michael Angelo went to hear Savonarola preach, and came away heavy of mind and heart. He heard the beautiful things of the world assailed as sinful, and his beloved master called a servant of the Evil One. A winter of reproach came upon the city, and when it ended, and Lent was over, darkness fell, for Lorenzo lay dead at his summer home of Careggi, in 1492—the year when Columbus discovered America.
For a long time Michael Angelo, stunned by his patron's loss, could do no work, and when at last he found the heart to take up his brush and palette it was no longer in the great house of the Medici, but in a little room he had arranged for himself as a studio under his father's roof.
He was not long left to work there in peace; the three sons of Lorenzo, boys of nearly his own age, who had been playmates with him in the gardens, and had studied with him under the same masters, needed his help. The great Medici had said, long before, that of his three sons one was good, one clever, and the third a fool. Giulio, now thirteen years old, was the good one; Giovanni, seventeen years old, already a Prince Cardinal of the Church, was the clever one, and Piero, the oldest, now head of the family in Florence, was the fool.
The storm raised by Savonarola was ready to break about Piero de' Medici's head, and such friends as were still faithful to him he gathered about him at his house. Michael Angelo, his old playmate, was among the number, and so he again moved to the palace. For a brief time they sought to win back the favor of the people by a return to the old-time magnificence.
With no wise head to guide, the youths were soon in sore straits. Their love of art, their study of the poets, their attempt to revive the history of Greece and Rome were all scorned and mocked at as so much wanton dissipation. The boys drew closer together; the fate of their house hung trembling in the balance.
Then one morning a young lute-player named Cardiere came to Michael Angelo and, drawing him aside from the others, told him that in a dream the night before, Lorenzo had appeared to him, robed in torn black garments, and in deep, melancholy tones had ordered him to tell Piero, his son, that he would soon be driven out from Florence, never to return. Michael Angelo told the musician to tell Piero, but the latter was too frightened to obey.
A few days later he came again to Michael Angelo, this time pale and shaking with fear, and said that Lorenzo had appeared to him a second time, had repeated what he had said to him before, and had threatened him with dire punishment if he dared again to disobey his strict command.
Alarmed at the news Michael Angelo spoke his mind to Cardiere and bade him set off at once to see Piero, who was at Careggi, and give him his father's warning. Cardiere, half-way to Careggi, met Piero and some friends riding in toward Florence. The minstrel stopped their way and besought Piero to hear his story. The young Medici bade him speak, but when he had heard the warning he laughed, and his friends laughed with him.
Bibbiena, one of Piero's closest friends, and later to be the subject of one of Raphael's masterpieces, cried aloud in scorn to Cardiere: "Fool! Dost think that Lorenzo gives thee such honor before his own son that he would thus appear to thee rather than to Piero?" With laughter at Cardiere's crestfallen face the gay troop rode on, and the poor messenger of evil tidings returned slowly with his news to Michael Angelo.
By now the boy sculptor was thoroughly alarmed. Like almost every one else of that age he believed in portents and visions; he therefore took Cardiere's story to heart, and in addition he could see for himself that the foolish, headstrong Piero was taking no steps to turn the growing discontent. He hated to leave his friends, but knew that they would pay no heed to his warnings. So, after much hesitation, he decided, with two comrades of about his own age, to go to Venice and seek work in that quieter city.
Ordinarily it would have taken the three boys about a week to ride from Florence to Venice, but at that time French troops were scattered through the country, and they had to follow a roundabout course to reach the city by the sea. They had very little money, and had gone only a short distance when this small amount was exhausted. By that time they had reached the city of Bologna, and there they turned aside.
Like most of the Italian cities Bologna tried to keep itself independent, and to this end the ruling family had made a strange law with regard to foreigners. Every stranger entering the city gates had to present himself before the governor and receive from him a seal of red wax on the thumb. If a stranger neglected to do this, he was liable to be thrown into prison and fined.
The boy Michael Angelo and his two friends knew nothing of this odd law, and entered the city gaily, without having the necessary wax on their thumbs. As soon as this was noticed they were seized, taken before a judge, and sentenced to pay six hundred and fifty lire. They had not that much money between them, and so for a short time were placed under lock and key.
Fortunately news of the boys' arrest came to a nobleman of the city who was much interested in art and who had already heard of Michael Angelo's ability. He at once had the boys set free, and invited Michael Angelo to visit him at his home. But Michael did not wish to leave his friends, and felt that it would be an imposition for the three of them to accept the invitation.
When he spoke in this fashion to the nobleman the latter was very much amused. "Ah, well," said he, "if things stand so I must beg of you to take me also with your two friends to roam about the world at your expense." The joke showed the boy the absurd side of the matter. He gave his friends the little money he had left, said good-bye to them, and accepted the invitation to stay in Bologna.
A very short time after, Piero de' Medici, driven from Florence by an angry people, came to Bologna and met his old friend of Lorenzo's gardens. For a short time the boys were together, then the young Medici set out to seek aid from other cities, in an attempt to rebuild his family fortunes.
Meanwhile the nobleman who had offered Michael Angelo a home was delighted with his young friend. He found him keenly interested in Dante and Petrarch, and equally gifted as a sculptor and painter. He gave him work to do in the Church of San Petronio, and Michael did so well there that the artists of Bologna grew jealous of him, and at the end of the year forced him to leave the city.
Then the boy artist went back to his home, only to find it changed unspeakably. Florence, that had been a city of delight, was now a city of dread. Savonarola held the people's ear, and had taught them to destroy what Lorenzo had led them to love. The monks of San Marco made bonfires of their paintings, priceless manuscripts had met with the same fate, and Lorenzo's house had been robbed of all its sculpture. The gardens were strewn with broken statues that had once been Michael Angelo's delight. He walked through them sadly, and realized that he alone was left of that group who had found so much happiness there only a few years before. The words that he had spoken to Lorenzo on the day he chiseled the faun came back to him, "To Rome I shall go some day," and thither he now set his face.
Thereafter the Eternal City claimed Michael Angelo. Cardinal after cardinal, pope after pope, employed his marvelous genius to beautify the capital of the world. As he had said, he found work to do in the Holy Father's house. Whatever else they might do, the Italians of that age worshiped art, and there were two stars in their sky, Raphael and Michael Angelo.
Again Fate's wheel turned, and at last Michael Angelo returned to Florence, loaded with honors, this time again the guest of a Medici, Giulio, the playmate of his youth, ruling as autocrat where his father had ruled as a mere citizen. A little later, and the shrewdest of the three boys, Giovanni, became Pope Leo X.
As men the friends of boyhood differed, but they were alike in their devotion to Florence and the things they had learned in her school years before. At the height of his power Michael Angelo turned his hand to the Medici Chapel and built there lasting monuments to their glory and his genius, a wonderful return for the rare days of his boyhood in their gardens.
The Boy of Devon: 1552-1618
Summer was over England, and the county of Devon, running down to Cornwall between two seas, was painted in bright hues. The downs were softly carpeted with purple and yellow gorse and heather that made a wonderful soft mist as one looked across the fields. Low hills, brilliant green ridges against the sky, ran inland from the sea, and in the little hollows here and there nestled small straw-thatched cottages with shining white walls, or the more pretentious Tudor farmhouses with red or brown roofs, and much half-timbered decoration.
The Devon winters were long, with heavy snow, and men had to build so that they might have all possible protection from the winds that swept across the open upland country. So they built down in the valleys and in the long low inlets from the sea that were called combes, and as a result one might stand on the high moors looking across country, and never know there was a house within a mile. It is a country full of surprises.
On a fine morning when Devon was looking its best, a boy came out of a dwelling that was half farmhouse, half manor-house, and that lay in a cup of low hills on the edge of a tract of moorland. The house belonged to a man named Walter Raleigh, of Fardell, a gentleman of good family whose fortunes had sunk to a low ebb. It was one-storied, with thatched roof, gabled wings, and a projecting central porch. Here lived Mr. Raleigh of Fardell with his wife Katherine, four sons and a daughter. It was a large family for such a small estate, and already the father was wondering what would happen to the younger boys when the little property should have descended, according to the law of the land, to the oldest son.
It was the boy Walter, youngest of the sons, who had come out of the house, and stood looking about him. He was a good-looking fellow, with fair hair, blue eyes, and the ruddy English skin. It did not take him long to decide which way to go this morning. He made straight for an oak wood that lay before the house, and followed a little path that led through it. Two miles and a half through the wood lay Budleigh Salterton Bay, and Walter liked that best of all the places near his home.
He passed the oaks and came out into open country. Here, where the gorse made a soft carpet on the ground, the salt of the sea blew freshly in to him. He gave a great shout, and pulling off his cap, ran as fast as he could, down to the shore of the bay. A few boats swung at anchor there, and an old man sat on the beach, mending a fishing net.
The boy swept the sea with his eyes from point to point of the bay, looked longingly at the boats, then walked over to the old mariner.
"Good-morning, gaffer," said he. "It's a fine sailing breeze out on the bay."
"And good-morning to ye, Master Walter," said the old man, glancing up from his nets. "A fine breeze it be, an' more's the pity when there's work to be done on shore."
"So say I," said the boy, throwing himself down on the sand by the sailor. "I'd dearly like to sail across to France to-day."
"How comes it you're not to school?" asked the man.
"School's done. Next month I go to Oxford, to Oriel College. Methinks 'tis a great shame to spend one's time studying when there's so much else to be done in the world. The only books I like are those that tell of far-away lands and adventures and such things. But to Oxford I must go, says father, like a gentleman's son, and so I suppose I must."
He lay out on the sand, his head resting in his hands, his eyes gazing up to the sky. "Tell me, gaffer, if you had your choice of the two, would you rather be a sailor, or a gentleman of the court, and live at London, near Queen Elizabeth?"
The man laughed. "I a courtier!" he cried. "I'd die of fright most like. I've never been to London town, but they say it's a terrible place!"
"Would you rather sail out to the west,—to the Indies, or perhaps to Guiana?" asked Walter.
The man nodded. "The savages be'nt so terrifyin' to a sailor as the folk o' London town."
"And in London they might throw you into the Tower," mused Walter. "You're right, gaffer. 'Tis better to be free, and your own man, even if 'tis only among savages. Think you England will be at war soon?"
The sailor looked up from his net, and glanced out across the bay. "I figure you'll live long enough to do some fightin', lad. Them Spanish dons be plannin' for to sweep the seas of Englishmen."
Walter sat up, and followed the man's gaze out to sea. "That they'll never do," said he, "as long as there are Devon men to build a boat and man it. But if there is a war I'm going to it, aye, as certain as we two be sitting here in Budleigh Bay."
"War's a fearsome thing, lad," said the sailor. "I've fought the pirates in the south, and I've seen sights would turn a man's hair gray in a night. 'Tis no holiday work to fight across your decks."
"Tell me about it," begged the boy, sitting up and clasping his knees in his hands. "I love to hear of fights and strange adventures."
So, while the sailor worked over his net he talked of his wanderings, of his cruises, of his battles, of his flights, and the boy, his eyes wide with admiration, drank in the yarns. Mariner never found a better audience than this small boy of the Devon coast.
It was long past noon when the sailor and Walter left the beach. The boy went back through the wood to the house, and made his lunch in the pantry off of bread and cheese. The family were used to Walter's wanderings, and never waited for him. Now, in his holiday time, he was free to go where he would.
Mr. Raleigh of Fardell wanted all his sons brought up as the sons of a gentleman should be, and so, although he was quite poor, he managed to send Walter that autumn to the University of Oxford. Walter was only fifteen, but boys went to college at that age in those days.
Oxford in 1567 was something like the Eton of to-day. There were not many college buildings, and the students in cap and gown looked quite as young as schoolboys do now. Oriel College was near the broad Christ Church meadows that led down to the river, and from there Walter could look across to the fields where the boys practiced their favorite sport of archery, to the silver thread of the little river as it wound in and out among the trees, and across it to the park where a herd of deer roamed free.
The Oxford country, inland and not far from the centre of England, was very different from his beloved Devonshire. Here there were many gentlemen's parks, with well-kept lawns and gardens, lots of small woods, and meadows broken now and again by little sparkling brooks. Everything was very neat and beautifully cared for. But in Devon was the wide sweep of the high moorlands, the herds of grazing ponies, the glorious carpet of the heather, the salt smell of the sea.
Often the boy was homesick for that more barren country, and that shore from which he loved to watch the sails, and very often he was tempted to leave Oriel and go out to seek his fortune by himself. He did not give in to the desire, however. He stayed on for three years, holding his own in his studies, and winning the reputation of a good speaker.
Walter's chance for adventure came full soon. His mother's family, the Champernouns, were related to the French Huguenot house of Montgomerie. The Catholics and the Huguenots were at war in France, and Walter's cousin Henry obtained permission of Queen Elizabeth to raise a troop of a hundred gentlemen in England to fight with him in France. He asked Raleigh at Oriel to join him, and the boy eagerly accepted. So he left Oxford, and with a number of others of good family, many scarcely older than himself, he crossed the Channel and entered France.
The moment was not a good one. The Huguenots had just lost the battle of Moncontour, and a little time after their great chief, the Prince of Conde, fell at Jarnac. But the small band of English gentlemen adventurers was not at all cast down. The Huguenot cause did not mean a great deal to them, and they speedily consoled themselves for Conde's loss.
When they actually took the field they found the warfare a very irregular sort of fighting, a sudden swoop down upon the Catholics in some ill-defended town, a quick retreat at the approach of regular troops, an occasional short skirmish in the open. Walter was sent into Languedoc, and joined in the chase of Catholics through the hills.
The country was full of steep cliffs, and there were many caves hidden in them. Fugitives would escape through the open country and meet in these recesses, and the Englishmen would follow, tracking them after the manner of hunters of wild game. Sometimes they would come to the top of a cliff, overlooking a cave in which they had seen men hide. Then they would lower lighted bundles of straw by iron chains until they came opposite the mouth of the cave. In a short time the men in hiding would be smoked out, and compelled to surrender. Often they had hidden treasures of money or plate in the caves, and these would fall into the captors' hands. This lure of booty added spice to the hunt.
It was rough, wild work, but it was a rough age, and men had few scruples when it came to dealing with their enemies. Young Raleigh proved a good fighter, fond of the hunts through the hills, and always ready for any wild expedition. He cared little enough for the cause for which the troop was supposed to be fighting. It was the opportunity to advance himself that concerned him most.
When he came back from France he found that there was no place for him at the manor-house in Devon. As a younger son he must fight his own way in the world. He had always loved London next after the Devon coast, and so he went there now, hoping that he might find some favor with the court. Queen Elizabeth liked to have youths of good family and good looks about her, and there were many of them living in London who used her court as a sort of club.
Walter made many friends of his own age, and lived as most of them did, mixing in all the excitements of city life. He was now rather a wild, reckless young blade, as willing to draw his sword in a street fight as to pay compliments to a pretty maid of honor. One day he got into a fight at a tavern with a noisy braggart. He managed to throw the man into a chair and bind him with a rope. Then he knotted the man's beard and moustache together so that his mouth was sealed. The rest of the tavern applauded him for his neat manner of silencing the boaster.
He did not always come out on top, however. On one occasion he fought in the street with Sir Thomas Perrot, and was arrested by the town watch. He was brought to trial, and sent to the Fleet prison for six days. The imprisonment meant very little to him, it was simply part of the life of adventure he was so fond of living.
We must remember that all England, in this age of Elizabeth, was full of this same spirit of adventure. Young men were rising rapidly; there were a hundred ways to gain distinction, and many of them, although ways which we might consider rather doubtful nowadays, were then regarded as quite proper. Walter Raleigh kept his eyes wide open, and when he saw a promising chance, he was always ready to accept it. The first adventure that offered was to take part in a seafaring expedition.
Englishmen of fortune in those days were in the habit of fitting out privateers to roam the seas, much like pirates. Sir Humphrey Gilbert had planned to send some such ships to the banks of Newfoundland to capture any Portuguese or Spanish vessels that might have gone there for the fishing. He intended to bring his prizes back to some Dutch port, and there sell them. Walter liked this plan and he talked it over with Sir Humphrey, but for some reason the plan failed.
A very little while afterward, however, Sir Humphrey asked him to sail in an expedition that was supposed to be searching for the northwest passage to Cathay, but which in reality was intended to seize any heathen lands it might find and occupy them in the name of England. The fleet sailed, but soon fell in with a Spanish squadron that was looking for just such English rovers. Sir Humphrey's fleet was beaten, and forced to return home. So for a time young Raleigh's chances of winning fortune on the seas were ended.
He went back to London, and took up his former life at court. Very soon he was sent with some troops to Ireland, and there again he had a chance at the same sort of fighting he had known in France. He proved himself a good soldier; he shunned no toil nor danger. But the life he had to lead was a hard one, and very poorly paid, and Raleigh saw no chance to make his fortune in that path.
Now, however, Raleigh was known to many powerful men. When he gave up the Irish fighting and went back to court he found that people there had heard of what he had accomplished and that he had a reputation for courage bordering on recklessness. That was a quality the English of that day much admired. The great lords were almost all reckless adventurers, plundering wherever they could, and they were glad to find young men who would do their bidding without asking questions.
By this time young Raleigh had become typical of his age, having its virtues and its vices. The age was wild, coveting money in order to fling it away on mad schemes, reveling in the dangers as well as the glories of battle and exploration, of plundering Spanish galleons, or of hunting untold riches in the world across the sea. Queen Elizabeth liked daring men, and Raleigh took every opportunity to bring himself before her notice.
The young courtier had learned all the arts that helped to make men's fortunes. He was tall and very handsome, a splendid swordsman, and a wit who could hold his own with poets and with statesmen. He still spoke with the strong broad accent of Devon, and when he learned that the Queen liked his unusual accent he was very careful to see that he never lost it. He studied each chance to please.
Elizabeth was extremely vain and extremely fond of romance. One day as she walked with certain of her lords and ladies she came to a marshy place, and stopped in hesitation, fearing to soil her slippers. This was the young courtier's chance. Raleigh had been in the background, but seeing the Queen hesitate he sprang forward, and sweeping his new plush cloak from his shoulders, spread it in the mire, so that she might cross. The Queen's face lighted up with pleasure at the graceful act, and she thanked the youthful gallant. Later she saw that he was given many court suits for the cloak he had so admirably ruined.
Having thus won her attention Raleigh next sought to fix himself in his Queen's mind. He wrote on the window of a room in which she passed much time the line:
"Fain would I climb, yet fear I to fall."
Elizabeth learned who was author of the writing, and scratched the answer underneath:
"If thy heart fails thee, climb not at all."
Raleigh had no fear whatever of falling, but a becoming modesty sat well upon him. The Queen remembered the young man now for these two qualities, his gallantry and his becoming modesty, and saw to it that a man of such spirit should be kept at court. The ardent boy of Devon, the restless Oxford student, the wild Huguenot trooper, had grown to be a man worthy of notice.
He was now, as Walter Scott pictures him in "Kenilworth," the young seeker after royal favor, graceful, slender, restless, somewhat supercilious, with a sonnet ever ready on his lips to delight his friends or an epigram to sting his enemies.
We shall see him turn his many talents to great uses. He fell to planning voyages across the Atlantic to discover and settle parts of North America much as Sir Humphrey Gilbert had done, and as another young man about court, Sir Francis Drake, was doing. From the Queen, and from one noble or another who was interested in his marvelous schemes, he obtained the money to fit out several expeditions. Each in turn landed near what is now the Roanoke River, and each brought back rich gifts to the great English Queen. Among other things the explorer saw the Indians smoking a dried leaf called tobacco, tried the custom, liked it, and brought it back with him to England.
Raleigh had a stroke of genius when he named his colony Virginia, in honor of Elizabeth the Virgin Queen. It pleased her to think that a great empire in the western world should be named for her. She gave Raleigh whatever he asked, making him practically governor of all the English domain in America, and for a long time Virginia was supposed to cover even part of what later became New England. He started to colonize the land, but his colonies did not succeed, and he lost all the money he put into them. Nevertheless his Virginian scheme brought him a great deal of fame, which he now craved, and kept London talking of him.
London was soon to talk still more about this daring, brave, and brilliant Westcountryman. The prophecy of the old sailor at Budleigh Salterton Bay came true, and for a brief time all England held its breath while the famous Spanish fleet, called the Armada, bore down upon her coast. Then all over the country gentlemen of fortune manned ships and put to sea, but especially the men of Devon, of Somerset, and Cornwall, counties famed for their sailors.
Among these men was Raleigh; his advice was eagerly sought by the Queen's ministers, and when it came to the actual Channel fighting he made one of many gallant captains. The great Armada came to grief upon the English coast, and Raleigh had added another to his record of achievements.
Having been courtier, colonizer, warrior, Raleigh now blossomed forth as a poet, and became a friend and patron of Edmund Spenser. He had much skill in verse, and he was never lacking in imagination. But his real talents did not lie in that direction, and as in so many other things, he soon found himself distracted elsewhere.
The story of Raleigh's manhood belongs to history. Turn to tales of Elizabeth's court and you will find his name on almost every page. Now he is high in favor, braving it with the great Earl of Leicester, now down upon his luck, locked in some royal prison, writing verses to his many friends. His was a strange career; at one time there was no man in England whose favor was more sought, yet at the end he died upon the scaffold charged with treason. Time proved him guiltless of the charge, and almost at once the English people began to realize how great a light had been extinguished.
Through all his varying career he himself was the same brave, dreamy, ambitious man, the perfect type of that age which we call the Elizabethan. He could not stay in his native land of Devon; much as he loved its moorland and its bays, he had to listen to the call of London and the sea, and follow where their voices led him. Each way the road was set with many strange adventures, but he met and passed through them all with the high spirits that were part of his age. His courage never failed him, nor his joy in fighting his way to fortune with his own sharp wits.
Peter the Great
The Boy of the Kremlin: 1672-1725
The halls of the Kremlin, the Czar's palace in Moscow, were filled with a wild rabble of soldiers on a winter afternoon near the end of the seventeenth century. The guards of the late Czar Alexis were storming through the maze of corridors and state apartments, breaking statues, tearing down tapestries, and piercing and cutting to pieces invaluable paintings with their spears and swords.
They were big, savage-faced men, pets of the half-civilized Russian rulers, and were called the Streltsi Guard.
They had broken into the Kremlin in order to see the boy who was now Czar, so that they might be sure that his stepmother had not hidden him away, as the rumor went, in order that her own son Peter might have the throne for himself. But once inside the Kremlin many of the soldiers devoted themselves to pillage, until the ringleaders raised the cry, "Where is the Czar Ivan? Show him to us! Show the boy Ivan to us! Where is he?"
In a small room on one of the higher floors a little group of women and noblemen, all thoroughly frightened, were gathered about two boys. The noise of the attack on the palace had come to their ears some time before; they had seen from the windows the mutinous soldiers climbing the walls and beating down the few loyal servants who had withstood them. The din was growing more terrific every instant. It was the matter of only a few minutes before the rioters would break into the room.
"We must decide at once, friends," said the Czarina Natalia. "If they enter this room they'll not stop at killing any of us."
The smaller of the two boys, a sturdy lad of eleven years, spoke up: "Let me go out on to the Red Staircase with Ivan, mother. When they see that we are both here they'll be satisfied."
A dozen objections were raised by the frightened men and women of the court. It was much too dangerous to trust the lives of the two boys to the whim of such a maddened mob.
"Nevertheless Peter is right," said Natalia. "It's the only chance left to us. They think I have done some harm to Ivan. The only way to prove that false is for him to stand before them, and my son must go with him."
The small boy who had spoken before took these words as final. "Come, Ivan," said he, and took the other's hand in his. Ivan, a tall, delicate boy, whose face was white with fear, gripped Peter's hand hard. He was used to trusting implicitly to his half-brother, although the latter was two years younger than he.
One of the noblemen opened the door, and the two boys went out of the room and crossed the hall to the top of the great Red Staircase. They looked down on the mob of soldiers who were gradually surging up the stairs, brandishing swords and halberds, fighting among each other for the possession of some treasure, and calling continually, "The Czar! Where are the boys Ivan and Peter? Where are they?"
At first in their excitement no one noticed the two boys on the stairway. Ivan, who was by nature timid, shrank away from their sight as much as he could, but Peter, who was of a different make, stood out in full view, and held fast to his brother's hand. He had inherited the iron nerve of the strongest of his ancestors. He looked at the mutinous rioters with bold, fearless eyes.
Presently a soldier caught sight of the younger boy and raised a cry loud above the general din. "There is the boy Peter, but where is Ivan? The Czar! The Czar!"
A score of voices took up the cry as all eyes were turned on the landing, and many men started up the stairs. "There is Peter, but where is the boy Ivan?" came the deafening chorus.
"Ivan is here with me," said Peter, his voice clear and high. He tried to pull Ivan nearer to him so that the men might see him. "Stand up where they can see you, Ivan!" he begged. "There's nothing to be afraid of. They only want to see their new Czar."
Trembling with fear the older boy, who had inherited all the weakness of his race, and none of its strength, was finally induced to step close to Peter. So, side by side, their hands clasped, the two looked down on the crowded stairway, and faced the mob of soldiers. They made a strange picture, two small boys, standing quite alone, fronting that sea of passionate, angry faces.
At sight of Ivan another cry arose. "There's the Czar! Hail Ivan! Hail the son of the great Alexis!"
For a moment the onward rush of the mob was checked, but only for a moment. Three or four soldiers started up the stairs, their lances pointed at Peter, shouting, "What shall we do with the son of the false woman Natalia?" They came so close to the boy that their spears almost touched him before they stopped. Had he turned to run no one can say what might have happened, but he did not turn, he did not even draw back nor show a single sign of fear.
"I am the son of the Czar Alexis also, and I am not afraid of any of you!"
The boy's calm eyes fronted the nearest soldiers steadily. The men heard his words and hesitated.
"Peter, the son of Alexis, is not afraid of his own father's guards!" the boy continued. "That is why I came out here when you called me."
In the hush that had followed his first words his voice carried clear to all the crowding men. When he finished there came a silence, and then of a sudden cheer on cheer rose on the stairs and through the hall. "Peter, the son of Alexis! Hail Peter! Hail the two boy Czars!"
The nearest soldiers dropped the points of their spears and joined in the shouting. A flush came into the younger boy's face and he smiled, and squeezed Ivan's hand tighter. He knew that the danger had passed.
Slowly the soldiers who had climbed nearest to the boys drew back down the stairs. Swords were returned to scabbards, harsh voices grew quieter, and within a quarter of an hour the Red Staircase and the great hall were empty of men.
Then the door of the room from which the two boys had come opened, and Natalia and her women stepped out. The Czarina, a woman of courage herself, took Peter in her arms. "My brave son," she murmured, "thou art worthy of thy father. I would have stood beside thee, but the people hate me, and it would have been worse for us all."
"I needed no one, little mother," said Peter. "If I am ever to be a ruler I must not fear to face my own men." Then his face grew more serious. "But if I ever am Czar they will not break into the Kremlin this way, mother, nor wilt thou need to hide thyself from them."
"God grant it be so, Peter!" answered Natalia. "I think they've learned much from thee this very day."
The Streltsi had indeed learned that the boy Peter was no coward, and their dislike changed to affection; but there were others in Moscow who plotted and planned against him, because the family of the late Czar's first wife were very powerful in Russia and they hated his second wife Natalia, and her son, who had been his father's favorite.
Everything that conspirators could do to break the boy's spirit was done; he was time and again placed in peril of his life; he was threatened and tempted and slandered to the people, but all to no avail. His mother did her best to shield him from his enemies, but when she found that her care was not enough she trusted to his own remarkable judgment and courage. These never failed either the boy or his mother.
As time passed it grew more and more clear that Peter was as strong as his poor stepbrother Ivan was weak, and in order to satisfy the people the younger boy was made joint-Czar with the elder.
The real power in Russia then, however, was the Princess Sophia, Peter's half-sister, a bitter enemy of both the boy and his mother. She did her best to break her stepbrother's spirit, hoping that he might come to some untimely end, as so many of the royal family had already done. She knew that Ivan was simply a weak tool in her hands, and so bent all her energies to try and ruin the younger Czar by taking away all restraint from over him, and letting him indulge every pleasure and whim.
He was given a palace of his own in a small village outside Moscow, and Sophia selected fifty boys of his own age to be his playmates. She had his former teachers dismissed and chose such comrades for him as she thought would grow up idle, vicious men.
Fortunately Peter's character was not so easily ruined. His mother and his old teachers had given him the beginning of an education and instead of falling into Sophia's snares, he immediately started to turn his playmates into scholars.
He formed a sort of military school, where the boys practiced all the discipline necessary in camp. He himself set to work to learn to use different tools, and in general he studied the trades of his people. He managed to get teachers who could instruct the boys in history and geography, and as a result instead of being good for nothing the circle of boys in the little palace became unusually energetic and active-minded. When he finally left the palace it had become a well-organized military school, and continued to be run as such for a long time afterward.
When the Princess Sophia realized that these plans of hers were failing, she decided on a more desperate measure. On the night of August 7, 1689, Peter was suddenly waked in the middle of night by fugitive soldiers coming from the Kremlin, who warned him that Sophia had gathered a band of soldiers to come out to his palace and kill him. The boy, realizing his extreme peril, jumped out of bed, and throwing on a few clothes ran to the stables, where he found his favorite horse and set out with some comrades into the neighboring forest.
There they stayed practically in hiding until officers came from the palace bringing him food and clothing, and gradually gathering about him until he had quite a small body-guard. By this time he had made up his mind what to do.
Feeling sufficiently strong with his friends, he finally set out for a monastery, thinking to find safe refuge there until the storm should pass. Here more friends came to join him, and as the news of Sophia's plot to kill the boy Czar was spread through the country, a new enthusiasm for the youthful Peter sprang up, and the very troops that had formerly sided with the Princess now denounced her as a traitor to Russia. Peter wrote to his stepsister asking for explanations about the plot at the Kremlin, but the Princess could make no satisfactory reply.
The monastery was now crowded with officers of the court who had come to realize that Sophia's power was gone and that the boy Czar's strength was rising rapidly. The time had come when he was strong enough to strike. He marched on the Kremlin and captured Sophia and those who had been in the conspiracy with her. Some of the Streltsi Guard who had taken part against him were tried and executed, and the Princess Sophia was shut up in a convent for the remainder of her life.
Such events did not tend to make the boy a merciful ruler, but surrounded as he was by traitors and spies he was compelled to rule with an iron hand if he was to rule at all.
From this time dates the beginning of his real influence in Russia. The army had been poorly organized. Now the young King set to work to drill it as effectively as he had drilled his playmates. He learned how cannon were built, and studied the manufacture of all kinds of firearms. About the same time he became deeply interested in ship-building, and determined to build a fleet of war-vessels on Lake Plestcheief.
He took some young men of his own age with him to the bank of the lake and there built a one-storied wooden house, a very primitive building, the windows filled with mica instead of glass, and set a double-headed eagle with a gilt wooden crown over the door to show it was the Czar's residence. Here he worked hard all one winter, he himself taking a hand in all the building that was done, laboring like any carpenter and enjoying the work far more than the state ceremonies he was obliged to go through with at the Kremlin.
But even when he was so far from Moscow and so actively engaged, he sent continual messages to the mother who had so often shielded him from harm. Once he wrote to her as follows:
"To my best beloved, and, while bodily life endures, my dearest little mother, the Lady Czarina and Grand Duchess Natalia Kirilovna. Thy little son, now here at work, Petrushka, asks thy blessing and wishes news of thy health. We, through thy prayers, are all well, and the lake has been cleared of ice to-day, and all the boats, except the big ship, are finished, only we have to wait for ropes. Therefore I beg thy kindness that these ropes, seven hundred fathoms long, be sent from the artillery department without delay, for our work is waiting for them, and our stay here is so much prolonged."
The Russians of that day knew little about building ships, and so Peter finally went to Amsterdam. Here he dressed like a Dutch sea-captain and spent his time with sailors and ship-builders, and thoroughly enjoyed the difference between this new life and that at home. Many of his native customs he now learned to look upon as uncouth. The Russians had poor taste in dress; the Imperial Guards wore old-fashioned uniforms consisting of a long gown, which made it very difficult for them to move rapidly. Peter saw some French soldiers and at once decided to adopt their smarter and more serviceable style of dress.
In the same way he changed the old Russian military drill to something resembling that of the other European countries. He had new carriages and furniture and foods imported from France and England, and tried to make Moscow more like a modern city than like the semi-barbarous Asiatic village it had been. The Russian men almost all wore long, flowing beards, and this fashion Peter quickly changed, insisting that the men about him should adopt the fashion of the French court.
It is hard to realize how far behind the rest of the countries of Europe the Russia of those days was; yet it is due almost entirely to the young Czar Peter that this great northern country finally came out from semi-darkness. It must not be supposed that these great changes were at first popular with the court; there was tremendous opposition to almost everything Peter did, but the people gradually realized that he was really working for their benefit and that he was deeply interested in improving their condition. Slowly his popularity grew with the middle and lower classes, until finally they spoke of their "little Czar," as they called him affectionately, almost as though he were really one of themselves.
Few rulers have had a harder task than did Peter. All during his youth the nobles plotted against him, and as he grew to manhood he escaped assassination again and again by the narrowest of chances, but every time he had to face danger he grew more self-reliant and more determined, and gradually his grip on the men of both court and army grew so strong that they realized places had changed, and that they were as absolutely his servants as he was their master.
In time Peter became a great king, a fearless, purposeful ruler who knit his people together as no other Czar had ever been able to do. He led the armies he had himself drilled to many victories. He built a great fleet in the Baltic Sea. He established a new capital near the shores of the Baltic, and named it after his own patron saint, St. Petersburg.
The history of his life is full of tremendous difficulties and dangers, but he fronted each one as he had fronted the riotous Streltsi Guards when he was a boy of eleven, and so history has given him the title of most powerful of all Russian Czars and has called him "Peter the Great."
Frederick the Great
The Boy of Potsdam: 1712-1788
A little boy and girl sat playing on a harpsichord in one of the great stiffly-furnished and lofty-ceilinged rooms of the Potsdam Palace, outside Berlin. The boy wore his yellow hair in long curls, his eyes were merry and he laughed often, while his sister, who was a little older, seemed quite as happy. The children were practicing for their music lesson, and only too glad to be free of their teachers for a time, because music was dearest to them both.
Without a word of warning the door of the room was thrown open, and a big, heavy-faced man stood on the threshold.
"What's all this?" he cried, his voice snarling with anger, and his small eyes shot with red. "Haven't I given orders that you're never to touch that thing again?"
At the sound of the man's voice both children had jumped from their chairs and stood, stiff as ramrods, facing the speaker. The boy had raised his hand to the side of his head in salute.
"Please, sir," said the girl, "we're both so very fond of music."
"Silence," commanded the man, who was no other than their father, Frederick William, King of Prussia. "Fritz can speak for himself; he doesn't need a girl to defend him."
"Wilhelmina has told you, sir," said the boy, "how much we both love music. Indeed I'd rather listen to it than do anything else, and I want to learn how to play it for myself. I don't care anything about being a soldier."
The King's face was almost purple with anger. He looked as though he would box the boy's ears on the spot, but he held himself in check.
"You little brat!" he cried. "A soldier you shall be, and nothing else! Do you think the kingdom of Prussia can be ruled by a crazy fool of a musician? Don't talk to me of harpsichords, or books, or pictures. You're not to be a woman, but a king!"
The boy knew his father too well to attempt any answer; there was no one in Prussia who would dare speak freely before King Frederick William.
After scowling at his son in silence for some minutes the man spoke again. "Listen to my orders and see that you obey them. From to-day your music-masters are discharged, every instrument is moved from the palace, and if either of you two is found playing such things I will have you locked in your rooms for a week to live on barley and water. Now, sir, step before me to the hair-dresser. I'll have those locks of yours shorn so that you'll look less like a girl and more like a grenadier."
Fritz, keeping back the tears in mingled shame and terror, walked to the door and paced down the hall before his father. He tried to hold himself straight like a soldier, but it was hard when he felt as though he were being marched to execution.
The King handed the boy over to the hair-dresser, and in fifteen minutes the curls were all gone and Fritz's hair was close-cropped like a man's. As soon as he was free he ran to his mother's room, and there the gentle Queen, Sophia Dorothea, took him in her arms and comforted him. She knew how sensitive her little son was, how absolutely different from his father, and she could sympathize with both the children's suffering under the King's cruelty.
For once the mother dared to disobey her husband. The next week she told the two children to go to a distant part of the palace grounds where there was a deep wood, and see what they should find there. They obeyed, and ran eagerly down the path to the forest where they had often played under the trees and in the caves in the rocks. They came to a little greenwood circle completely hidden from the roads and there found their music-master. He led them to a cave, and showed them Wilhelmina's little spinnet, and Fritz's flute lying on it. That was their mother's surprise. She had arranged that the children's music teacher should meet them out there and give them the lessons they wanted. Boy and girl were happy again; they took up their music eagerly, and were soon playing as of old. Perhaps the very secrecy lent the lessons charm.
The hours spent in the forest and cave were a great success, but one day Fritz found a small drum at the palace, and forgetting the King's orders he started to march about the halls beating it, followed by the admiring Wilhelmina. Suddenly, in the middle of the triumphal procession, the King came upon them. Poor Fritz dropped the drumsticks and stood at attention, while Wilhelmina, behind him, grew white with fear of what should happen.
To their amazement the King's stern face softened; he smiled, then he laughed and clapped his hands. "Ah, Fritz, now you're a soldier! I mistook you for one of my own guard, boy."
The King was delighted. He thought that at last his son was fired with martial fervor. While the boy went back through the halls beating his drum Frederick called the Queen to watch his soldier son, and immediately ordered the court artist to paint a picture of the scene on canvas. A day or two later he told Fritz of a plan he had in store. He would form a military company of boys of his own age for him, build them an arsenal on the palace grounds, and have them drilled by officers of the army.
With the King to speak was to act. A month had not passed before the small boy, dressed in a general's uniform, found himself in command of about three hundred youths of his own age, all properly equipped with uniforms and arms, and known as "The Crown Prince Cadets." They made a remarkable contrast to that other regiment of which King Frederick William was so proud, which was made up of giants, men all over six feet six inches tall, seized wherever they were found in Prussia and elsewhere and forced into his army.
The boy general and his cadets were drilled hours at a time day after day by the Prussian officers, in the hope of making soldiers of them and nothing else. Fritz hated it; he wanted to read and to learn music, and day by day he found less and less time to steal off to those wonderful meetings in the woods or to romp with Wilhelmina in the schoolroom. The French governess who had taught him was taken away, and he was placed under military tutors who made him learn gunnery and battle tactics at the arsenal which his father had built for him on the grounds.
When the boy was ten the King started to take him to all the military reviews. In going from garrison to garrison the King rode on a hard wagon called a sausage-car, which was simply a padded pole about ten feet long on which the riders sat astride. Ten or more men would jolt over the roads on such cars with the King summer and winter, and he made the boy ride in front of him, through the broiling sun or the winter snow, waking him whenever he fell asleep by pulling his ear and saying, "Too much sleep stupefies a fellow."
In such iron fashion the father did his best to change the sensitive, gentle nature of his son to something like his own.
At the age of ten Fritz's days were marked out hour by hour by Frederick William. Not even Sunday was free. He was marched from teacher to teacher, all sports were denied him, and he was never allowed to read or play. His hair was kept close cut, his clothes were heavy and coarse, he was treated more like a prisoner than a prince. To the boy's masters the King gave one direction: "Teach him to seek all glory in the soldier profession." When his mother or sister dared to interfere the King would turn on them in a rage; Wilhelmina was sent time and again to her room, to be starved until she grew more docile.
The boy's time was divided between Berlin and the Palace of Wusterhausen, a country seat some twenty miles outside of the capital. The palace was a very simple dwelling set in the middle of swampy fields, with a fringe of thickets. In the grounds were many natural fish-ponds, and game of all kinds was plentiful in the woods. The somber old monarch loved this place, and had built there a fountain with stone steps, where he liked to sit in the evening and smoke his long porcelain pipe. He often had his dinner served by the fountain, and afterward would throw himself down on the grass for a nap. Aside from this simple entertainment, the King's only pleasure lay in hunting in the woods.
The children and their mother found Wusterhausen very unattractive. The only pets they were allowed were two black bears, very ugly and vicious. They had no comforts indoors, and were treated as though they were children of the meanest peasant. Some boys might have found sport in the fish-ponds, the groves and the streams about the place, filled as they were with fish and game, but Fritz cared nothing for such things. Their loneliness drew the two children closer and closer together, and their dislike of their father increased with each year that he took them out to Wusterhausen.
The father, on his part, was growing more and more contemptuous of his son. He found Fritz cared nothing for the army, nothing for the chase, that the hardship and exposure of rough life were torture to him. Worse than that, he had discovered some verses in French that Fritz had written, and spoke of him scornfully to the men of his court as "the French flute-player and poet." It would have been very hard for the boy if he had not had a mother and sister who were so devoted to him, and did everything they possibly could to protect him from his father's tyranny.
When he was fourteen, Frederick William appointed Fritz captain of his Grenadier Guards. This was the regiment made up of giants, and was one of the most singular passions of the very singular old King. He sent men through the whole of Europe and Asia to search for very tall men. Some of the regiment were almost nine feet high. When a foreign monarch wished to curry favor with the King of Prussia he would send him a giant. The King showered favors on these men. He had court painters paint portraits of each one of them. They were the very centre of that great army which was the sole pride of the old warrior, and which he was building up so that it should become the greatest military force in Europe.
Fritz tried to do his duty as captain of the regiment, and gradually acquired something of a military bearing. For a short time his father was pleased, but his pleasure did not last long; for the boy could not keep away from the fascinations of music and of books, and all of the various arts which were constantly coming into Prussia from France.
The flute was Fritz's favorite instrument, and it so happened that a very celebrated teacher of the flute came from Dresden about this time, and gave lessons in the Prussian capital. As soon as Fritz learned that this man was a splendid teacher he arranged to have him come secretly to his room at Potsdam. The boy's mother knew of this plan, and did her best to keep his secret; but it was a very dangerous matter, for the old King was growing more and more suspicious, and also more and more fierce. A friend of Fritz's, who was about his own age, stood guard outside the boy's room, while he was having his lessons on the flute, and another guard was stationed at the entrance to the palace grounds with orders to send word at once if the King should appear.
When Fritz was satisfied of his safety, he would go up to his own room, throw aside the tight, heavy military coat which he hated, and put on a flowing French dressing-gown, scarlet colored, and embroidered with gold. Then, dressed to suit himself, he would take his music lesson, and enjoy every minute of the stolen pleasure.
One day, however, in the middle of his playing, the friend at the door rushed into the room announcing that the King was coming. This boy and the teacher seized the flutes and music books and ran into a wood-closet, where they stood shaking with fear. Fritz threw off his dressing-gown, pulled on his military coat and sat down at a table, opening a book.
Now the old King, his brows bent with anger, burst into the room. The sight of his delicate son reading seemed like fuel to his rage. He never minced his words, and proceeded to heap abuse on the head of the poor Prince, when all of a sudden he caught sight of the end of the scarlet gown sticking out from behind a screen. "What is that?" he cried, and stepping across the room pulled the gown out. Beside himself with rage he crammed it into the fireplace, and threw after it many of the ornaments the boy had used to decorate his room. Then he walked to the bookshelves and swept all the volumes to the floor, saying that he would have a bookseller buy the library next day, because his son was to be a soldier and not a scholar. For an hour he stayed there, pacing up and down the room, lecturing Fritz until the boy was almost sick with shame. Finally he left, and the two in the wood-closet were able to come out, both of them almost as badly frightened as the Prince himself.
But if the King treated his son so badly, he treated his daughter Wilhelmina none the less so. He could hardly stand the sight of her at times, and her mother had to arrange a series of screens in her room so that when Frederick William came to see her the daughter could escape behind them. After such scenes Fritz and Wilhelmina would try to comfort each other, but the boy was gradually growing more sullen and rebellious.
Again and again the boy thought of escape; he would have been only too glad to give up his position as Prince in exchange for the chance to live simply in some foreign land, free to follow his own tastes as other boys did theirs. He would have made the attempt, but he knew only too well that should he escape his father's hand would fall in terrible wrath on his dear sister Wilhelmina. He decided to stay and bear the burdens of this life the King had planned for him rather than desert his mother and sister. He was not a coward even if he was not made of iron.
At last the boy felt that he must act in self-defense. His father, suffering from the gout, took to flogging Fritz in the very presence of the lords and ladies of the court. The boy had pride, though his father had done his best to kill it. Once, after striking blows at Fritz's head before the assembled court, the King cried, "Had I been so treated by my father, I would have blown my brains out. But this fellow has no honor. He takes all that comes."
Fritz could stand such treatment no longer. Praying that Wilhelmina might not suffer he planned an escape with a friend.
His father was taking him on a journey to the Rhine in the company of a small guard of soldiers who were told to treat the boy like a prisoner. Three officers were ordered to ride in the same carriage with Fritz, and never to leave him alone. The King was a hard traveler, and seemed positively to wish for extra hardships and fatigues, the party scarcely stopping for food or sleep. At one place, however, a short stay was made, and there Fritz planned to escape.
They had arrived at the town very late, and the boy with his officers slept in a barn, as was not infrequently the case. The usual hour for starting in the morning was three o'clock. A little after midnight Fritz saw that his companions were sound asleep, and rose and crept out into the open air. He had made arrangements with a servant to meet him with horses on the village green. The boy reached the green and found the horses, but at the same moment one of the guards, who had been awakened by the noise Fritz made in leaving the barn, caught up with him, and demanded of the servant who held the horses: "Sirrah! What are you doing with those beasts?"
The man answered, "I am getting the horses ready for the start."
"We do not start till five o'clock. Take them back at once to the stable." The officer pretended not to see Fritz, who had to slink back at his heels to the barn, fully conscious that his chance to escape was gone.
News of this attempt reached the King, and the next day, when he met his son, he said sarcastically, "Ah, you are still here then? I thought that by this time you would have been in Paris."