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the land the Nina made signals for, the Admiral shifted his course, about evening, towards the west-south-west, with a determination to sail two days in that direction. The reason for making this change was from watching the flight of the birds. The Portuguese had discovered most of their islands in this manner, and Columbus noticed that the flocks which passed them all flew from the north to the south-west. He inferred from ihis that land was situated in that quarter. After sailing a day or two, they found the air as soft as that of Seville in April, and wonderfully fragrant; the weeds appeared very fresh, and many land birds were taken. The men, however, had lost faith in all signs of land, and did not cease to murmur and complain. The Admiral encouraged them in the best manner he could, representing the riches they were about to acquire, and adding that it was to no purpose to complain; for, having come so far, they had nothing to do but to continue, till, by the assistance of Heaven, they should arrive at the Indies.
On the 11th of October, they met with signs of land that could not be mistaken; and all began to regain spirits and confidence. The crew of the Pinta saw a cane and a log, and picked up a stick, which appeared to have been carved with an iron instrument, a small board, and abundance of weeds that had been newly washed from the banks. The crew of the Nina saw other similar signs, and found, beside, a branch of a thorn full of red berries. Convinced, by these tokens, of the neighborhood of land, Columbus, after evening prayers, made an address to his crew, reminding them of the mercy of God in bringing them so long a voyage with such fair weather, and encouraging them by signs that were every day plainer and plainer. He repeated the instructions that he had previously given, that when they had sailed seven hundred leagues to the westward without discovering land, they should lie by from midnight till daybreak. He told them that, as they had strong hopes of finding land that night, every one should watch in his place; and, besides the thirty crowns a year, which the Spanish sovereigns had promised to the first discoverer, he would give him a velvet doublet.
About ten o'clock that evening, while Columbus was keeping an anxious look-out from the top of the cabin, he thought he eld a light glimmering at a great distance. Fearing that his hopes might deceive him, he called two of his companions to confirm him. One of them came in season to observe it, but the other was too late. It had disappeared. From this they supposed it might be the torch of some fisherman, raised up and then suddenly dropped again. They were all confident of being near land. About two o'clock in the morning, the Pinta gave the signal of land. It was first perceived by a sailor named Rodrigo de Triana ; the thirty pounds a year were not granted to him, but to the Admiral, who had first seen the light in the midst of darkness. His son says, “ that this signified the spiritual light he was spreading in those dark regions.” When the day appeared, they perceived before them a large island, quite level, full of green trees and delicious waters, and, to all appearance, thickly inhabited. Numbers of the people immediately collected together, and ran down to the shore. They were very much astonished at the sight of the ships, which they believed to be living creatures. The ships immediately came to anchor. The Admiral went ashore in his boat, well armed, and bearing the royal standard. The other captains each took a banner of the green cross; containing the initials of the names of the King and Queen on each side, and a crown over each letter. The Admiral called upon the two captains, and he rest of the crew who landed, to bear witness that he took possession of that island for his sovereigns. They all gave thanks to God, kneeling upon the shore, shedding tears of joy for the great mercy received. The Admiral rose, and called the island San Salvador. The Indians called it Guanahani, and it is now called Cat Island, and belongs to the group of the Bahamas. Many of the natives came down to witness this ceremony. They were very peaceable and quiet people, and the Admiral gave them some red caps, glass beads, and a few other trifles of small value, with which they were much delighted. They imagined that the strangers had descended from heaven, and valued the slightest token they could receive from them, as of immense worth.
When the Admiral and his companions returned to their vessels, the natives followed them in large numbers. Some swam; others went in
their canoes, carrying parrots, spun cotton, javelins, and other articles, to exchange for hawks' bells, and strings of beads. They went entirely naked, seeming to be very poor and simple. They were generally young, of good stature, with thick and short black hair. Their features were good, and their countenances pleasant, though an extreme highness of the forehead gave them rather a wild appearance. Some were painted black, others with white and red; some on the face only, others over the whole body. They had no knowledge of weapons, and grasped the swords which were shown to them by the blades. Their javelins were made of sticks, with points hardened at the fire, and armed with fish bones instead of iron. They easily learned the words that were spoken to them. No beasts were seen upon the island, and no birds but parrots, in which the sailors and the Indians continued trafficing till night.
Columbus pursued his voyage among the many green, fertile, and populous islands which cluster in the seas he had reached. He had hoped to find great wealth of gold, and the information he received by signs from the Indians seemed always to confirm this opinion, and to send him on some expedition where he was confident of finding rocks sparkling with riches, and rivers flowing over golden sands. But he was continually deceived, or continually deceived himself
. At an island they called Isabella, he remained several days in the vain expectation of procuring some gold. The Indians had told his people stories of a rich king dressed in splendid garments, and covered with golden ornaments and they were in hopes that he would be civil enough to visit them, and bring a great many valuable things with him. But no person of that description appeared, and they began to grow tired of waiting; and taking in a fresh supply of water, they set sail for some other island, in search of the rich king and the gold mines.
They directed their course towards Cuba, where they felt sure of finding the land of spices, silks, and precious metals, of which they were in quest. With this island they were exceedingly delighted, though they still found it by no means the promised land. On the northern coast they sailed into a beautiful river, twelve fathoms deep at its mouth. The banks of this river, upon both sides, were covered with trees of a most rich and luxuriant foliage, and with beautiful shrubs and flowers of every description. They ascended the river some distance, and the Admiral says it was exceedingly pleasant to behold the delightful verdure which presented itself, and to listen to the songs, and admire the variegated plumage, of the birds. The island was full of pleasant mountains, and the grass grew, long and green, down to the very edge of the water.
On the 24th of December, the weather being very calm, and the vessel lying about a league off the Holy Cape, Columbus, at about eleven o'clock at night, retired to rest. It was so very calm, that the man whom the Admiral had left in charge of the helm, contrary to express orders, committed it to a boy, and went to sleep. Columbus says that the sea was as still as water in a dish, so that there was not a seaman awake on board of the ship, when the current carried them directly upon breakers that were roaring with a noise that might have been heard a league off. As the rudder struck, the fellow at the helm cried out, and Columbus immediately awoke and ran upon deck. The master, whose watch it was, then came out, and the Admiral ordered him and the other sailors to take the boat, and carry out an anchor astern. Instead of obeying his command, they immediately rowed off to the other caravel, at that time half a league distant. On perceiving this desertion, Columbus ordered the masts to be cut away, and the vessel lightened as much as possible. But all was in vain ; she continued fast a-ground, and was rapidly filling with
water. The men on board the other caravel would not receive the · deserters in the boat, but obliged them to put back to their own ship.
As it was impossible, by this time, to preserve the vessel, Columbus was only anxious to save the men. They went to the other caravel, and on the succeeding day, with the assistance of the natives, and their canoes. they preserved every thing of value. The Indians were very honest and kind, every thing being guarded by them with extreme care, at the
express order of the King; they lamented as much as if the loss had been their own.
The chief King of the place gave the adventurers three houses, in which to store the articles they had saved from the wreck. Perceiving the desire of the Admiral to procure gold, he informed him there was a place in the neighborhood, where it might be found in large quantities. Columbus entertained the King on board of the caravel, and received an invitation to a feast upon shore. The Indian monarch treated the Admiral with every honor, feasting him with several sorts of shrimps, game, and other viands, and with the bread which they called cassavi. He afterwards conducted him into an arbor near his house, where they were attended by more than a thousand persons. The King wore a shirt and a pair of gloves, which Columbus had presented to him, and with which he was very much pleased. He was very neat in his manner of taking food, rubbing his hands with herbs, and washing them after the repast. They then went down to the shore, when Columbus sent for a Turkish bow and some arrows. These were given to one of his crew, who happened
to be very expert in their use. The people were astonished with this exhibition, as they knew nothing of these weapons; but they spoke of some people called Caribs, who were accustomed to come and attack them with bows and arrows. Upon which Columbus told the King, that the sovereigns of Castile would send people to fight against the Caribs, and take them prisoners. By order of Columbus, several guns were then fired. The King was astonished, and his followers were very much frightened, falling upon the ground in terror and wonder. Afterwards, a mask was brought, with pieces of gold at the eyes and ears, and in other places. This was given to the Admiral, together with other jewels of gold, which were placed upon his head and neck. Many other presents were also made to the Spaniards. All these things contributed to lessen the grief of the Admiral at having lost his vessel; and he began to be convinced that the accident had providentially happened, in order that thi place might be selected for a settlement.
Many of his crew were very desirous to remain, and the Admiral accordingly chose a situation for a fort. He thought this necessary, because the territory was at such a distance from Spain, that the natives ought to be held in obedience, by fear as well as by love.” The Spaniards were so active in building the fort, and the Indians so diligent in assisting them, that it was erected in ten days. A large vault was dug, over which a strong wooden tower was built, and the whole sur. rounded by a wide ditch. In the account of the voyage, drawn up for his sovereigns, Columbus says that he hopes, on his return from Castile
, to find a ton of gold collected by the men left here, by trading with the natives; and that he believes they will have discovered mines and spices in such abundance, that before three years, the King and Queen may undertake the recovery of the Holy Sepulchre. “For I have before protested to your majesties,” says he," that the profits of this enterprise shall be employed in the conquest of Jerusalem, at which your majesties smiled, and said you were pleased, and had the same inclinations."
Columbus left thirty-nine men in the island, with seed for sowing, and provision to last a twelvemonth; he left there also the long boat of the ship, and goods to traffic with. To the fortress, the adjacent village, and the harbor, he gave the name of La Navidad, or the Nativity, in memory of their having escaped the perils of shipwreck on Christmas day. After cruising about among the islands till the 16th of January, they set sail directly for Spain. After one or two violent storms, a visit to St. Mary, one of the Azores, a penitential pilgrimage to a hermitage on that island, and an interview with the King of Portugal at Valparaiso, Columbus entered and anchored in the harbor of Palos, on the 15th of March.
After receiving the congratulations of his friends at Palos, Columbus immediately set out to meet his sovereigns, whom he found at Barcelona. To this place, he made a sort of triumphal entry, surrounded by the haughty nobility of Spain, vying with each other in the honors they could pay to the Discoverer. He was received publicly by the sovereigns, in a splendid saloon, seated on the throne, and encircled by a magnificent court. On his entrance they rose to greet him, and would hardly allow him to kiss their hands, considering it too unworthy a mark of vassalage. Columbus then gave an account of his discoveries, and exhibited the different articles which he had brought home with him. He described the quantity of spices, the promise of gold, the fertility of the soil, the delicious climate, the never-fading verdure of the trees, the brilliant plumage of the birds, in the new regions which his own enterprise had acquired for his sovereigns. He then drew their attention to the six natives of the New World, whom he had brought with him, and described their manners and dispositions. He exhibited their dresses and ornaments, their rude utensils, their feeble arms, which corresponded with his description of them, as naked and ignorant barbarians. To this he added, that he had observed no traces of idolatry or superstition among them, and that they all seemed to be convinced of the existence of a Supreme Being, and concluded with saying, “ that God had reserved for the Spanish monarchs, not only all the treasures of the New World, but a still greater treasure, of inestimable value, in the infinite number of