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ignorant, and extended, by degrees, to those who were better informed, or more resolute. The contagion spread, at length, from ship to ship. From secret whispers and murmurings, they proceeded to open cabals and loud complaints.
They charged their sovereign with foolish credulity, in relying on the vain promises and rash conjectures of an indigent foreigner. They affirmed that they had fully performed their duty by venturing in an hopeless cause, and that it would be justifiable in refusing any longer to follow such a desperate adventurer to certain destruction. They contended that it was high time to think of returning to Spain, while their crazy vessels were still in a condition to keep the sea, but they feared the attempt would be impracticable, as the wind which hitherto had been favourable in their course, would make it impossible to sail in an opposite direction.
They all agreed that Columbus should be compelled by force to adopt a measure, on which their safety depended. Some were for throwing him overboard, and getting rid of his remonstrances, being persuaded that, upon their return to Spain, his death would excite little concern, and be enquired into with no curiosity. Columbus was not ignorant of his perilous situation; he saw that the disaffection of his crew was ready to burst forth into open mutiny. He affected to scem ignorant of all their designs, and appeared with a cheerful countenance like a man fully satisfied with the progress he had made, and confident of success. Sometimes he endeavoured to work upon their ambition and avarice, by magnificent descriptions of the fame and wealth which they would in all probability acquire. On other occasions he assumed a tone of authority, and threatened them with vengeance from their sovereign, if by their cowardly behaviour, they should defeat the most noble effort to promote the glory of God, and exalt the Spanish name over every other nation.
The words of a man, they were accustomed to obey, and reverence, were weighty and persuasive. They not only restrained them from violent excesses, but prevailed with them to accompany their admiral some time longer.
As they advanced in their course, signs of approaching land were frequent. Birds appeared in flocks, and directed their flight towards the south west. In imitation of the Portuguese, who in their several discoveries were guided,
by the motion of birds, Columbus altered his course from due west, to that quarter whither they pursued their flight. Holding on in this direction for several days, but with no better success than formerly, and having seen no land for thirty days, their hopes subsided quicker than they had arisen; their fears revived with additional force ; impatience, rage, and despair were visible in every counte
All subordination was lost; the officers had hitherto concurred in opinion with Columbus, but now took part with the men; they assembled, and mixed threats with expostulations, and required him instantly to tack about, and return to Spain.
Columbus perceived it would be in vain to practice his former arts, or to endeavour to rekindle any zeal for the enterprize in men, in whose breasts fear had extinguished every noble sentiment. It was therefore necessary, to soothe passions, which it was impossible to command, and give way to a torrent too impetuous to be checked. He therefore solemnly promised them, that if they would continue to obey his commands, and accompany him three days longer, and if during that time, land were not discovered, he would then abandon the enterprize, and direct his course towards Spain.
This proposition did not appear to them unreasonable: enraged as they were, they yielded to the proposition. Columbus saw the presages of approaching land so numerous, and certain, that he did not hazard much in confining himself to so short a term. For some days the sounding line reached the bottom, and the soil which it brought up was a strong indication that land was at no great distance. The land birds which made their appearance, confirmed their hopes.
The crew of La Pinta observed a cane floating, which seemed to be newly cut, and likewise a piece of timber artificially carved. The sailors on board La Nigna, took up the branch of a tree with red berries, perfectly fresh. The air was more mild, and warm, and the clouds around the setting sun assumed a new appearance.
Columbus was now so confident of being near land, that on the evening of the eleventh of October, after public prayers for success, he ordered the ships to lie by, and a strict watch kept, lest they should be driven on shore in the night. During this interval of suspense, and anxious expectation, no man closed his eyes; but all kept on deck
looking intently towards that part from whence they supposed land would appear, which had been so long the object of their most anxious wishes.
About two hours before midnight, Columbus standing on the forecastle, observed a light at a distance, and privately pointed it out to Pedro Guttierez, a page of the queen's wardrobe. Guttierez perceived it, and called to Salcedo, comptroller of the fleet, all three saw it move as from place to place. A little after midnight, the joyful sound of Land! Land! was heard from La Pinta, which always kept a-head of the other ships. Deceived so often, by fallacious appearances, they were slow of belief, and waited in anxious suspense for the return of day.
When the morning dawned, all their doubts and fears were dispelled; they discovered an island about two leagues to the north, whose verdant fields and woods watered with many rivulets, presented to them the aspect of a delightful country,
The crew of La Pinta instantly began the Te Deum, as a hymn of thanksgiving to God; and were joined by the crews of the other ships, with tears of joy, and transports of congratulation. This act of devotion, was followed by an act of justice to their commander: they fell at his feet with feelings of self-condemnation, inspired with reverence. They implored his pardon for their ignorance, incredulity, and insolence, which had created him so much unnecessary disquiet, and passing from one extreme to another, in the warmth of their imagination they now pronounced him whom they had lately reviled and threatened, to be a person divinely inspired with sagacity and fortitude more than human, that could accomplish a design beyond the ideas and conceptions of all former ages.
When the sun arose, the boats were all manned and armed, with colours displayed, warlike music, and other martial pomp; they rowed towards the shore: as they approached, they saw a multitude of people, whose gestures expressed wonder and astonishment at the novel and strange objects which presented themselves to their view.
Columbus was the first European that set his foot on the New World. He landed in a rich dress, and with his drawn sword in his hand. His men followed, with the royal standard displayed, and kneeling down, kissed the ground they bad so long desired to see. They then erected a crucifix, and prostrating themselves before it, returned
thanks to God, for thus conducting their voyage to so hap
py an issue.
They then, in a solemn manner, took possession of the country for the crown of Castile and Leon, with all the formalities usual with the Portuguese to observe in all their discoveries. While the Spaniards were thus employed, they were surrounded by the natives, who, in silent admiration, gazed upon actions, the meaning of which they could not comprehend, or foresee the consequences.
The dress of the Spaniards, the whiteness of their skin, their beards, arms and accoutrements, appeared strange and surprizing. The vast machines, in which they traversed the ocean, that appeared to move upon the waters with wings uttering a dreadful sound, like thunder accompanied with lightning and smoke, filled them with terror, and inspired them with a belief that their new guests were a superior order of beings, concluding they were children of the sun, who had descended to visit the earth.
The Spaniards were as much amazed at the scene before them. The trees, the shrubs, the herbage, were all different from those which were of European growth. The climate was 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 tresses round their heads. They had no beards, and every part of their bodies was perfectly smooth, of a copper colour, their features not disagreeable, of a gentle and timid aspect. They were well shaped and active. Their faces and bodies were painted in a fantastical manner, with glaring colours. They appeared shy at first, but soon became familiar, and with transports of joy received glass beads and other baubles, in return for which they gave such provisions as they had, and some cotton yarn, the only commodity of value they had to trade with.
In the evening Columbus returned to his ships in com. pany with many of the islanders in their canoes, which they managed with surprizing dexterity.
Every circumstance relating to this first interview, between the inhabitants of the old and new world was conducted with harmony and satisfaction. The former enlightened, and influenced by ambition, forined vast ideas respecting the future advantages that would likely accrue
from the discovery. The latter, simple and unsuspecting, had no forethought of the calamities and desolation which
were soon to overwhelm their country. Columbus, as admiral and viceroy, called the island San Salvador. It is nevertheless better known by the name of Guanahani, which the natives gave to it, and is one of the Bahama isles. It is situated above three thousand miles to the west of Gomera, from which the squadron took its departure, and only four degrees south of it. Columbus employed the next day in visiting the coasts of the island, and from the general poverty of the inhabitants, he was assured that this was not the rich country which he sought.
Having observed small plates of gold, which most of the people wore by way of ornament, pendent in their nos. trils, he eagerly enquired where they found that precious metal. They pointed towards the south and south west, and made him comprehend by signs, that there was abundance of gold, in countries situated in that quarter.
Animated with hope, he determined to direct his course thither, in full expectation of finding those wealthy regions which had been the main object of his voyage. With this view he again set sail, taking with him seven of the innocent natives, to serve as interpreters, who esteemed it a mark of distinction when they were selected to accom
In his course he passed several islands, and touched at three of them which he called Mary, Ferdinanda, and Isabella. But as the soil and inhabitants resembled those of San Salvador, he made no stay there. He enquired every where for gold, and was answered as before that it was brought from the south. Following that course he soon discovered a country of vast extent diversified with rising grounds....hills, rivers, woods, and plains. He was uncertain whether it would prove an island or part of the continent. The natives 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 the natives all filed to the mountains as he approached the shore.
Intending to careen his ships in that place, Columbus sent some Spaniards, together with one of the San Salvador Indians, to view the interior parts of the country.
Having advanced above sixty miles from the shore, they reported upon their return, that the soil was richer and more cultivated, than what they had already discovered ;