« AnteriorContinuar »
to burst out into open mutiny. He retained, however, perfect presence of mind. He affected to seem ignorant of their machinations. Notwithstanding the agitation and solicitude of his own mind, he appeared with a cheerful countenance, like a man satisfied with the progress which he had made, and confident of success. Sometimes he employed all the arts of insinuation to soothe his men. Sometimes he endeavoured to work upon their ambition or avarice, by magnificent descriptions of the fame and wealth which they were about to acquire. On other occasions, he assumed a tone of authority, and threatened them with vengeance from their sovereign, if, by their daftardly behaviour, they should defeat this noble effort to promote the glory of God, and to exalt the Spanish name above that of every other nation. Even with feditious sailors, the words of a man whom they had been accustomed to reverence, were weighty and persuasive, and not only restrained them from those violent excesses, which they meditated, but prevailed with them to accompany their admiral for fome time longer.
As they proceeded, the indications of approaching land seemed to be more certain, and excited hope in proportion. The birds began to appear in flocks, making towards the fouth-west. Columbus, in imitation of the Portuguese navigators, who had been guided, in several of their discoveries, by the motion of birds, altered his course from due weft to: wards that quarter whither they pointed their flight. But, after holding on for several days in this new direction, without any better success than formerly, having seen no object, during thirty days, but the sea and the sky, the hopes of his companions subsided faster than they had risen ; their fears revived with additional force; impatience, rage, and despair, appeared in every countenance. All sense of subordination was loft ; the officers, who had hitherto concurred with Columbus in opinion, and supported his authority, now took part with the private men; they assembled tumultuously on the deck, expoftulated with their commander, mingled threats with their expoftulations, and required him instantly to tack about and to return to Europe. Columbus perceived that it would be of no avail to have recourse to any of his former arts, which having been tried fo often, had lost their effect; and that it was impoflible to rekindle any zeal for the success of the expedition among men, in whose breasts fear had extinguished every generous sentiment. He saw that it was no less vain to think of employing either gentle or severe meafures, to quell a mutiny fo general and fo violent. It was necessary, on all these accounts, to soothe passions which he could no longer command, and to give way to a torrent too impetuous to be checked. He pro
mised folemnly to his men that he would comply with their request, provided they would accompany him, and obey his commands for three days longer, and if, during that time, land were not discovered, he would then abandon the enterprise, and direct his course towards Spain.
Enraged as the sailors were, and impatient to turn their faces again towards their native country, this proposition did not appear to them unreasonable. Nor did Columbus hazard much in confining himself to a term fo short. The presages of discovering land were now so numerous and promising, that he deemed them infallible. For some days the founding line reached the bottom, and the soil which it brought up indicated land to be at no great distance. The flocks of birds increased, and were composed not only of sea fowl, but of such land birds as could not be supposed to fly far from the shore. The crew of the Pinta observed a cane floating, which seemed to have been newly cut, and like. wise a piece of timber artificially carved. The sailors aboard the Nigna took up the branch of a tree with red berries, perfe&tly fresh. The clouds around the setting fun assumed a new appearance ; the air was more mild and warm, and, during night, the wind became unequal and' variable. From all these symptoms, Columbus was so confident of being near land, that on the evening of the eleventh of October, after public prayers for success, he ordered the fails to be furled, and the thips to lie to, keeping strict watch, left they should be driven ashore in the night. During this interval of suspence and expectation, no man fut his eyes, all kept upon deck, gazing intently towards that quarter where they expected to discover the land, which had been so long the object of their wishes.
About two hours before midnight, Columbus standing on the furecaftle, observed a light at a distance, and privately printed it out to Pedro Guttierez, a page of the queen's wardrobe. . Guttierez perceived it, and calling to Salcedo, comptroller of the fleet, all three faw it in motion, as if it were carried from place to place. A little after midnight, the joyful sound of land, land, was heard from the Pinta, which kept always ahead of the other ships. But, having been so often deceived by fallacious appearances, every man was now become flow of belief, and waited, in all the anguish of uncertainty and impatience, for the return of day. As soon as morning dawned, Friday, October 12, all doubts and fears were dispelled. From every ship an island was seen about two leagues to the north, whose flat and verdant fields, well stored with wood, and watered with many rivalets, presented the aspect of a delightful country. The crew of the Pinta instantly began the Te Deum, as a hymn of thanksgiving to God, and were joined by those
of the other ships, with tears of joy and transports of congratalatíorts This office of gratitude to Heaven was followed by an act of justice to their commander. They threw themselves at the feet of Columbus, with feelings of self-condemnation mingled with reverence. They implored him to pardon their ignorance, incredulity, and insolence, which had created him so much unnecessary disquiet, and had fo often obfructed the prosecution of his well-concerted plan; and paffing, in the warmth of their admiration, from one extreme to another, they now pronounced the man, whom they had so lately reviled and threatened, to be a person inspired by Heaven with fagacity and fortitude more than human, in order to accomplish a design, fo far beyond the ideas and conception of all former ages.
As soon as the sun arose, all their boats were manned and arred. They rowed towards the island with their colours displayed, with warlike music, and other martial pomp. As they approache coast, they saw it covered with a multitude of people, whom the novelty of the spectacle had drawn together, whose attitudes and gestures expressed wonder and astonishment at the strange objects which presented themselves to their view. Columbus was the first European who set foot in the New World which he had discovered. He landed in a rich dress, and with a naked sword in his hand. His men followed, and kneeling down, they all kissed the ground which they had so long defered to fee. They next erected a crucifix, and proftrating themselves before it, returned thanks to God for conducting their voyage to such an happy issue. They then took folemn pofseffion of the country for the crown of Castile and Leon, with all the formalities which the Portuguese were accustomed to observe in acts of this kind, in their new discoveries.
The Spaniards, while thus employed, were surrounded by many of the natives, who gazed, in filent admiration, upon actions which they could not comprehend, and of which they did not foresee the consequences. The dress of the Spaniards, the whiteness of their skins, their beards, their arms, appeared ftrange and surprising. The vast machines in which they had traversed the ocean, that seemed to move upon the waters with wings, and uttered a dreadful found resembling thunder, accompanied with lightning and smoke, ftruck them with such terror, that they began to respect their new guests as a superior order of beings, and concluded that they were children of the Sun, who had descended to visit the earth,
The Europeans were hardly less amazed at the scene now before them. Every herb, and thrub, and tree, was different from those which 3
lourished in Europe. The soil seemed to be rich, but bore few marks of cultivation. The climate, even to Spaniards, felt warm, though extremely delightful. The inhabitants appeared in the simple innocence of nature, entirely naked. Their black hair, long and uncurled, floated upon
their shoulders, or was bound in treffes around their heads. They had no beards, and every part of their bodies was perfectly smooth. Their complexion was of a dusky copper colour, their features fingular, rather than disagreeable, their aspect gentle and timid. Though not tall, they were well shaped, and active. Their faces, and several parts of their body, were fantastically painted with glaring colours. They were shy at first through fear, but soon became familiar with the Spaniards, and with transports of joy received from them hawks-bells, glass beads, or other baubles, in return for which they gave such provisions as they had, and some cotton yarn, the only commodity of value that they could produce. Towards evening, Columbus returned to his ships, accompanied by many of the islanders in their boats, which they called canoes, and though rudely formed out of the trunk of a fingle tree, they rowed them with surprising dexterity. Thus, in the first interview between the inhabitants of the old and new worlds, every thing was conducted amicably, and to their mutual fatisfaction. The former, enlightened and ambitious, formed already vast ideas with respect to the advantages which they might derive from the regions that began to open to their view. The latter, fimple and undiscerning, had no foresight of the calamities and desolation which were approaching
Columbus, who now assumed the title and authority of admiral and viceroy, called the island which he had discovered San Salvador. It is better known by the name of Guanahani, which the natives gave to it, and is one of that large cluster of islands called the Lucaya or Bahama ifles. It is situated above three thousand miles to the west of Gomera, from which the squadron took its departure, and only four degrees to the south of it; so little had Columbus deviated from the westerly course, which he had chosen as the most proper.
Columbus employed the next day in visiting the coasts of the island; and from the universal poverty of the inhabitants, he perceived that this was not the rich country for which he fought. But, comformably to his theory concerning the discovery of those regions of Afia which stretched towards the east, he concluded that San Salvador was one of the illes which geographers described as situated in the great ocean adjacent to India. Having observed that most of the people whom he had seen wore small plates of gold, by way of ornament, in their nofE
trils, he eagerly inquired where they got that precious metal. They pointed towards the south, and made him comprehend by figns, that gold abounded in countries situated in that quarter. Thither he immediately determined to direct his course, in full confidence of finding there those opulent regions which had been the object of his voyage, and would be a recompence for all his toils and dangers. He took along with him seven of the natives of San Salvador, that, by acquiring the Spanish language, they might ferve as guides and interpreters; and those innocent people considered it as a mark of distinction when they were selected to accompany him.
He saw several islands, and touched at three of the largest, on which he bestowed the names of St. Mary of the Conception, Fernandina, and Isabella. But as their foil, productions, and inhabitants, nearly refembled those of San Salvador, he made no stay in any of them. He inquired every where for gold, and the signs that were uniformly made by way of answer, confirmed him in the opinion that it was brought from the fouth. He followed that course, and soon discovered a country which appeared very extensive, not perfectly level, like those which he had already visited, but so diversified with rising grounds, hills, rivers, woods, and plains, that he was uncertain whether it might prove an island, or part of the continent. The natives of San Salvador, whom he had on board, called it Cuba ; Columbus gave it the name of Juanna. He entered the mouth of a large river with his squadron, and all the inhabitants fed to the mountains as he approached the shore. But as he resolved to eareen his tips in that place, he sent some Spaniards, together with one of the people of San Salvador, to view the interior parts of the country. They, having advanced above fixty miles from the shore, reported upon their return, that the soil was sicher and more cultivated than any they had hitherto discovered ; that, befides many scattered cottages, they had found one village, containing above a thousand inhabitants; that the people, though naked, seemed to be more intelligent than those of San Salvador; but had treated them with the same respectful attention, kissing their feet, and honouring them as faered beings allied to Heaven; that they had given them to eat a certain root, the taste of which resembled roasted chesnuts, and likewise a singular fpecies of corn called maize, which, either wheb. roasted whole or ground into meal, was abundantly palatable ; that there feemed to be no four-footed animals in the country, but a fpecies of dogs, which could not bark, and a creature resembling a rabbit, but of a much smaller size; that they had observed fome ornaments of gold among the people, but of no great value,