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Christopher Columbus, Complete by Filson Young

Part 3 out of 8

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armed, and Columbus took with him Rodrigo de Escovedo, the secretary to
the expedition, and Rodrigo Sanchez his overseer; they also took on board
Martin Alonso Pinzon and Vincenti Yanez Pinzon, the captains of the other
two ships. As they rowed towards the shore they saw a few naked
inhabitants, who hid themselves at their approach. Columbus carried with
him the royal standard, and the two captains each had a banner of the
expedition, which was a square flag with an "F" and a "Y" upon either
side, each letter being surmounted by the crown of the sovereigns and a
green cross covering the whole. Columbus assembled his little band
around him and called upon them to bear witness that in the presence of
them all he was taking possession of the island for the King and Queen of
Spain; duly making depositions in writing on the spot, and having them
signed and witnessed. Then he gave the name of San Salvador to the
island and said a prayer; and while this solemn little ceremony was in
progress, the astonished natives crept out of their hiding and surrounded
the strange white men. They gesticulated and grovelled and pointed
upwards, as though this gang of armed and bearded Spaniards, with the
tall white-bearded Italian in the midst of them, had fallen from the

The first interest of the voyagers was in the inhabitants of this
delightful land. They found them well built, athletic-looking men, most
of them young, with handsome bodies and intelligent faces. Columbus,
eager to begin his missionary work, gave them some red caps and some
glass beads, with which he found them so delighted that he had good hopes
of making converts, and from which he argued that "they were a people who
would better be freed and converted to our Holy Faith by love than by
force," which sentence of his contains within itself the whole missionary
spirit of the time. These natives, who were the freest people in the
world, were to be "freed"; freed or saved from the darkness of their
happy innocence and brought to the light of a religion that had just
evolved the Inquisition; freed by love if possible, and by red caps and
glass beads; if not possible, then freed by force and with guns; but
freed they were to be at all costs. It is a tragic thought that, at the
very first impact of the Old World upon this Eden of the West, this
dismal error was set on foot and the first links in the chain of slavery
forged. But for the moment nothing of it was perceptible; nothing but
red caps and glass beads, and trinkets and toys, and freeing by love.
The sword that Columbus held out to them, in order to find out if they
knew the use of weapons, they innocently grasped by the blade and so cut
their fingers; and that sword, extended with knowledge and grasped with
fearless ignorance, is surely an emblem of the spread of civilisation and
of its doubtful blessings in the early stages. Let us hear Columbus
himself, as he recorded his first impression of Guanahani:

"Further, it appeared to me that they were a very poor people, in
everything. They all go naked as their mothers gave them birth, and
the women also, although I only saw one of the latter who was very
young, and all those whom I saw were young men, none more than
thirty years of age. They were very well built with very handsome
bodies, and very good faces. Their hair was almost as coarse as
horses' tails, and short, and they wear it over the eyebrows, except
a small quantity behind, which they wear long and never cut. Some
paint themselves blackish, and they are of the colour of the
inhabitants of the Canaries, neither black nor white, and some paint
themselves white, some red, some whatever colour they find: and some
paint their faces, some all the body, some only the eyes, and some
only the nose. They do not carry arms nor know what they are,
because I showed them swords and they took them by the edge and
ignorantly cut themselves. They have no iron: their spears are
sticks without iron, and some of them have a fish's tooth at the end
and others have other things. They are all generally of good
height, of pleasing appearance and well built: I saw some who had
indications of wounds on their bodies, and I asked them by signs if
it was that, and they showed me that other people came there from
other islands near by and wished to capture them and they defended
themselves: and I believed and believe, that they come here from the
continental land to take them captive. They must be good servants
and intelligent, as I see that they very quickly say all that is
said to them, and I believe that they would easily become
Christians, as it appeared to me that they had no sect. If it
please our Lord, at the time of my departure, I will take six of
them from here to your Highnesses that they may learn to speak.
I saw no beast of any kind except parrots on this island."

They very quickly say all that is said to them, and they will very easily
become good slaves; good Christians also it appears, since the Admiral's
research does not reveal the trace of any religious sect. And finally
"I will take six of them"; ostensibly that they may learn to speak the
language, but really that they may form the vanguard of cargo after cargo
of slaves ravished from their happy islands of dreams and sunshine and
plenty to learn the blessings of Christianity under the whip and the
sword. It is all, alas, inevitable; was inevitable from the moment that
the keel of Columbus's boat grated upon the shingle of Guanahani. The
greater must prey upon the less, the stronger must absorb and dominate
the weaker; and the happy gardens of the Golden Cyclades must be spoiled
and wasted for the pleasure and enrichment of a corrupting civilisation.
But while we recognise the inevitable, and enter into the joy and pride
of Columbus and his followers on this first happy morning of their
landing, we may give a moment's remembrance to the other side of the
picture, and admit that for this generation of innocents the discovery
that was to be all gain for the Old World was to be all loss to them.
In the meantime, decrees the Admiral, they are to be freed and converted;
and "I will take six of them that they may learn to speak."

There are no paths or footprints left in the sea, and the water furrowed
on that morning more than four hundred years ago by the keels of
Columbus's little fleet is as smooth and trackless as it was before they
clove it. Yet if you approach Guanahani from the east during the hours
of darkness you also will see a light that waxes and wanes on the
horizon. What the light was that Columbus saw is not certain; it was
probably the light from a torch held by some native woman from the door
of her hut; but the light that you will see is from the lighthouse on
Dixon Hill, where a tower of coral holds a lamp one hundred and sixty
feet above the sea at the north-east point of the island. It was erected
in no sentimental spirit, but for very practical purposes, and at a date
when Watling's Island had not been identified with the Guanahani of
Columbus's landfall; and yet of all the monuments that have been raised
to him I can think of nothing more appropriate than this lonely tower
that stands by day amid the bright sunshine in the track of the trade
wind, and by night throws its powerful double flash every half-minute
across the dark lonely sea. For it was by a light, although not of man's
kindling, that Columbus was guided upon his lonely voyage and through his
many difficulties; amid all his trials and disappointments, dimly as it
must have burned sometimes, it never quite went out. Darkness was the
name of the sea across which he took his way; darkness, from his
religious point of view, was the state of the lands to which he
journeyed; and, whatever its subsequent worth may have been, it was a
burning fragment from the living torch of the Christian religion that he
carried across the world with him, and by which he sought to kindle the
fire of faith in the lands of his discovery. So that there is a profound
symbolism in those raying beams that now, night after night, month by
month, and year after year, shine out across the sea from Watling's
Island in the direction of the Old World.

In the preparations for this voyage, and in the conduct and
accomplishment of it, the personality of the man Columbus stands clearly
revealed. He was seen at his best, as all men are who have a chance of
doing the thing for which they are best fitted. The singleness of aim
that can accomplish so much is made manifest in his dogged search for
means with which to make his voyage; and his Italian quality of
unscrupulousness in the means employed to attain a good end was exercised
to the full. The, practical seaman in him carried him through the
easiest part of his task, which was the actual sailing of his ships from
Palos to Guanahani; Martin Alonso Pinzon could have done as much as that.
But no Martin Alonso Pinzon or any other man of that time known to
history had the necessary combination of defective and effective
qualities that made Columbus, once he had conceived his glorious hazy
idea, spend the best years of his life, first in acquiring the position
that would make him listened to by people powerful enough to help him,
and then in besieging them in the face of every rebuff and
discouragement. Another man, proposing to venture across the unknown
ocean to unknown lands, would have required a fleet for his conveyance,
and an army for his protection; but Columbus asked for what he thought he
had some chance of getting, and for the barest equipment that would carry
him across the water. Another man would at least have had a bodyguard;
but Columbus relied upon himself, and alone held his motley crew in the
bonds of discipline. A Pinzon could have navigated the fleet from Palos
to Guanahani; but only a Columbus, only a man burning with belief is
himself and in his quest, could have kept that superstitious crowd of
loafers and malefactors and gaol-birds to their duties, and bent them to
his will. He was destined in after years for situations which were
beyond his power to deal with, and for problems that were beyond his
grasp; but here at least he was supreme, master of himself and of his
material, and a ruler over circumstances. The supreme thing that he had
professed to be able to do and which he had guaranteed to do was, in the
sublime simplicity of his own phrase, "to discover new lands," and luck
or no luck, help or hindrance, he did it at the very first attempt and in
the space of thirty-five days. And although it was from the Pinta that
the gun was fired, and the first loom of the actual land seen in the
early morning, I am glad to think that, of all the number of eager
watching men, it was Columbus who first saw the dim tossing light that
told him his journey was at an end.




Columbus did not intend to remain long at San Salvador. His landfall
there, although it signified the realisation of one part of his dream,
was only the starting-point of his explorations in the New World. Now
that he had made good his undertaking to "discover new lands," he had to
make good his assurance that they were full of wealth and would swell the
revenues of the King and Queen of Spain. A brief survey of this first
island was all he could afford time for; and after the first exquisite
impression of the white beach, and the blue curve of the bay sparkling in
the sunshine, and the soft prismatic colours of the acanthus beneath the
green wall of the woods had been savoured and enjoyed, he was anxious to
push on to the rich lands of the Orient of which he believed this island
to be only an outpost.

On the morning after his arrival the natives came crowding down to the
beach and got down their canoes, which were dug out of the trunk of a
single tree, and some of which were large enough to contain forty or
forty-five men: They came paddling out to the ship, sometimes, in the
case of the smaller canoes which only held one man, being upset by the
surf, and swimming gaily round and righting their canoes again and
bailing them out with gourds. They brought balls of spun cotton, and
parrots and spears. All their possessions, indeed, were represented in
the offerings they made to the strangers. Columbus, whose eye was now
very steadily fixed on the main chance, tried to find out if they had any
gold, for he noticed that some of them wore in their noses a ring that
looked as though it were made of that metal; and by making signs he asked
them if there was any more of it to be had. He understood them to say
that to the south of the island there dwelt a king who had large vessels
of gold, and a great many of them; he tried to suggest that some of the
natives should come and show him the way, but he "saw that they were not
interested in going."

The story of the Rheingold was to be enacted over again, and the whole of
the evils that followed in its glittering train to be exemplified in this
voyage of discovery. To the natives of these islands, who guarded the
yellow metal and loved it merely for its shining beauty, it was harmless
and powerless; they could not buy anything with it, nor did they seek by
its aid to secure any other enjoyments but the happiness of looking at it
and admiring it. As soon as the gold was ravished from their keeping,
however, began the reign of lust and cruelty that always has attended and
always will attend the knowledge that things can be bought with it. In
all its history, since first it was brought up from the dark bowels of
the earth to glitter in the light of day, there is no more significant
scene than this that took place on the bright sands of San Salvador so
long ago--Columbus attentively examining the ring in the nose of a happy
savage, and trying to persuade him to show him the place that it was
brought from; and the savage "not interested in going."

From his sign-conversation with the natives Columbus understood that
there was land to the south or the south-west, and also to the
north-west, and that the people from the north-west went to the
south-west in search of gold and precious stones. In the meantime he
determined to spend the Sunday in making a survey of the island, while
the rest of Saturday was passed in barterings with the natives, who were
very happy and curious to see all the strange things belonging to the
voyagers; and so innocent were their ideas of value that "they give all
they have for whatever thing may be given them." Columbus, however, who
was busy making calculations, would not allow the members of the crew to
take anything more on their own account, ordering that where any article
of commerce existed in quantity it was to be acquired for the sovereigns
and taken home to Spain.

Early on Sunday morning a boat was prepared from each ship, and a little
expedition began to row north about the island. As they coasted the
white rocky shores people came running to the beach and calling to them;
"giving thanks to God," says Columbus, although this is probably a flight
of fancy. When they saw that the boats were not coming to land they
threw themselves into the water and came swimming out to them, bringing
food and drink. Columbus noticed a tongue of land lying between the
north-west arm of the internal lagoon and the sea, and saw that by
cutting a canal through it entrance could be secured to a harbour that
would float "as many ships as there are in Christendom." He did not,
apparently, make a complete circuit of the island, but returned in the
afternoon to the ships, having first collected seven natives to take with
him, and got under way again; and before night had fallen San Salvador
had disappeared below the north-west horizon.

About midday he reached another island to the southeast. He sailed along
the coast until evening, when he saw yet another island in the distance
to the south-west; and he therefore lay-to for the night. At dawn the
next morning he landed on the island and took formal possession of it,
naming it Santa Maria de la Concepcion, which is the Rum Cay of the
modern charts. As the wind chopped round and he found himself on a
lee-shore he did not stay there, but sailed again before night. Two
of the unhappy prisoners from Guanahani at this point made good their
escape by swimming to a large canoe which one of the natives of the new
island had rowed out--a circumstance which worried Columbus not a
little; since he feared it would give him a bad name with the natives.
He tried to counteract it by loading with presents another native who
came to barter balls of cotton, and sending him away again.

The effect of all that he was seeing, of the bridge of islands that
seemed to be stretching towards the south-west and leading him to the
region of untold wealth, was evidently very stimulating and exciting to
Columbus. His Journal is almost incoherent where he attempts to set down
all he has got to say. Let us listen to him for a moment:

"These islands are very green and fertile, and the breezes are very
soft, and there may be many things which I do not know, because I
did not wish to stop, in order to discover and search many islands
to find gold. And since these people make signs thus, that they
wear gold on their arms and legs,--and it is gold, because I showed
them some pieces which I have,--I cannot fail, with the aid of our
Lord, in finding it where it is native. And being in the middle of
the gulf between these two islands, that is to say, the island of
Santa Maria and this large one, which I named Fernandina, I found a
man alone in a canoe who was going from the island of Santa Maria to
Fernandina, and was carrying a little of his bread which might have
been about as large as the fist, and a gourd of water, and a piece
of reddish earth reduced to dust and afterwards kneaded, and some
dry leaves--[Tobacco]--which must be a thing very much appreciated
among them, because they had already brought me some of them as a
present at San Salvador: and he was carrying a small basket of their
kind, in which he had a string of small glass beads and two blancas,
by which I knew that he came from the island of San Salvador, and
had gone from there to Santa Maria and was going to Fernandina. He
came to the ship: I caused him to enter it, as he asked to do so,
and I had his canoe placed on the ship and had everything which he
was carrying guarded and I ordered that bread and honey be given him
to eat and something to drink. And I will go to Fernandina thus and
will give him everything, which belongs to him, that he may give
good reports of us. So that, when your Highnesses send here, our
Lord pleasing, those who come may receive honour and the Indians
will give them of everything which they have."

This hurried gabbling about gold and the aid of our Lord, interlarded
with fragments of natural and geographical observation, sounds strangely
across the gulf of time and impresses one with a disagreeable sense of
bewildered greed--like that of a dog gulping at the delicacies in his
platter and unwilling to do justice to one for fear the others should
escape him; and yet it is a natural bewilderment, and one with which we
must do our best to sympathise.

Fernandina was the name which Columbus had already given to Long Island
when he sighted it from Santa Maria; and he reached it in the evening of
Tuesday, October 16th. The man in the canoe had arrived before him; and
the astute Admiral had the satisfaction of finding that once more his
cleverness had been rewarded, and that the man in the canoe had given
such glowing accounts of his generosity that there was no difficulty
about his getting water and supplies. While the barrels of water were
being filled he landed and strolled about in the pleasant groves,
observing the islanders and their customs, and finding them on the whole
a little more sophisticated than those of San Salvador. The women wore
mantillas on their heads and "little pieces of cotton" round their
loins-a sufficiently odd costume; and they appeared to Columbus to be a
little more astute than the other islanders, for though they brought
cotton in quantities to the ships they exacted payment of beads for it.
In the charm and wonder of his walk in this enchanted land he was able
for a moment to forget his hunger for gold and to admire the great
branching palm-trees, and the fish that

"are here so different from ours that it is wonderful. There are
some formed like cocks of the finest colours in the world, blue,
yellow, red and of all colours, and others tinted in a thousand
manners: and the colours are so fine, that there is not a man who
does not wonder at them, and who does not take great pleasure in
seeing them. Also, there are whales. I saw no beasts on land of
any kind except parrots and lizards. A boy told me that he saw a
large snake. I did not see sheep nor goats, nor any other beast;
although I have been here a very short time, as it is midday, still
if there had been any, I could not have missed seeing some."

Columbus was not a very good descriptive writer, and he has but two
methods of comparison; either a thing is like Spain, or it is not like
Spain. The verdure was "in such condition as it is in the month of May
in Andalusia; and the trees were all as different from ours as day from
night, and also the fruits and grasses and the stones and all the
things." The essay written by a cockney child after a day at the seaside
or in the country, is not greatly different from some of the verbatim
passages of this journal; and there is a charm in that fact too, for it
gives us a picture of Columbus, in spite of his hunt for gold and
precious stones, wandering, still a child at heart, in the wonders of the
enchanted world to which he had come.

There was trouble on this day, because some of the crew had found an
Indian with a piece of gold in his nose, and they got a scolding from
Columbus for not detaining him and bartering with him for it. There was
bad weather also, with heavy rain and a threatening of tempest; there was
a difference of opinion with Martin Alonso Pinzon about which way they
should go round the island: but the next day the weather cleared, and the
wind settled the direction of their course for them. Columbus, whose eye
never missed anything of interest to the sailor and navigator, notes thus
early a fact which appears in every book of sailing directions for the
Bahama Islands--that the water is so clear and limpid that the bottom can
be seen at a great depth; and that navigation is thus possible and even
safe among the rockstrewn coasts of the islands, when thus performed by
sight and with the sun behind the ship. He was also keenly alive to
natural charm and beauty in the new lands that he was visiting, and there
are unmistakable fragments of himself in the journal that speak
eloquently of his first impressions. "The singing of the little birds is
such that it appears a man would wish never to leave here, and the flocks
of parrots obscure the sun."

But life, even to the discoverer of a New World, does not consist of
wandering in the groves, and listening to the singing birds, and smelling
the flowers, and remembering the May nights of Andalusia. There was gold
to be found and the mainland of Cathay to be discovered, and a letter,
written by the sovereigns at his earnest request, to be delivered to the
Great Khan. The natives had told him of an island called Samoete to the
southward, which was said to contain a quantity of gold. He sailed
thither on the 19th, and called it Isabella; its modern name is Crooked
Island. He anchored here and found it to be but another step in the
ascending scale of his delight; it was greener and more beautiful than
any of the islands he had yet seen. He spent some time looking for the
gold, but could not find any; although he heard of the island of Cuba,
which he took to be the veritable Cipango. He weighed anchor on October
24th and sailed south-west, encountering some bad weather on the way; but
on Sunday the 28th he came up with the north coast of Cuba and entered
the mouth of a river which is the modern Nuevitas. To the island of Cuba
he gave the name of Juana in honour of the young prince to whom his son
Diego had been appointed a page.

If the other islands had seemed beautiful to him, Cuba seemed like heaven
itself. The mountains grandly rising in the interior, the noble rivers
and long sweeping plains, the headlands melting into the clear water, and
the gorgeous colours and flowers and birds and insects on land acted like
a charm on Columbus and his sailors. As they entered the river they
lowered a boat in order to go ahead and sound for an anchorage; and two
native canoes put off from the shore, but, when they saw the boat
approaching, fled again. The Admiral landed and found two empty houses
containing nets and hooks and fishing-lines, and one of the strange
silent dogs, such as they had encountered on the other island--dogs that
pricked their ears and wagged their tails, but that never barked. The
Admiral, in spite of his greed for gold and his anxiety to "free" the
people of the island, was now acting much more discreetly, and with the
genuine good sense which he always possessed and which was only sometimes
obscured. He would not allow anything in the empty houses to be
disturbed or taken away, and whenever he saw the natives he tried to show
them that he intended to do them no harm, and to win their good will by
making them presents of beads and toys for which he would take no return.
As he went on up the river the scenery became more and more enchanting,
so that he felt quite unhappy at not being able to express all the
wonders and beauties that he saw. In the pure air and under the serene
blue of the sky those matchless hues of blossom and foliage threw a
rainbow-coloured garment on either bank of the river; the flamingoes, the
parrots and woodpeckers and humming-birds calling to one another and
flying among the tree-tops, made the upper air also seem alive and shot
with all the colours of the rainbow. Humble Christopher, walking amid
these gorgeous scenes, awed and solemnised by the strangeness and
magnificence of nature around him, tries to identify something that he
knows; and thinks, that amid all these strange chorusings of unknown
birds, he hears the familiar note of a nightingale. Amid all his
raptures, however, the main chance is not forgotten; everything that he
sees he translates into some terms of practical utility. Just as on the
voyage out every seaweed or fish or flying bird that he saw was hailed by
him as a sign that land was near, so amid the beauty of this virgin world
everything that he sees is taken to indicate either that he is close upon
the track of the gold, or that he must be in Cipango, or that the natives
will be easy to convert to Christianity. In the fragrance of the woods
of Cuba, Columbus thought that he smelled Oriental spices, which Marco
Polo had described as abounding in Cipango; when he walked by the shore
and saw the shells of pearl oysters, he believed the island to be loaded
with pearls and precious stones; when he saw a scrap of tinsel or bright
metal adorning a native, he argued that there was a gold mine close at
hand. And so he went on in an increasing whirl of bewildering
enchantment from anchorage to anchorage and from island to island, always
being led on by that yellow will o'-the-wisp, gold, and always believing
that the wealth of the Orient would be his on the morrow. As he coasted
along towards the west he entered the river which he called Rio de Mares.
He found a large village here full of palm-branch houses furnished with
chairs and hammocks and adorned with wooden masks and statues; but in
spite of his gentleness and offer of gifts the inhabitants all fled to
the mountains, while he and his men walked curiously through the deserted

On Tuesday, October 30th, Martin Alonso Pinzon, whose communications the
Admiral was by this time beginning to dread, came with some exciting
news. It seemed that the Indians from San Salvador who were on board the
Pinta had told him that beyond the promontory, named by Columbus the Cape
of Palms, there was a river, four days' journey upon which would bring
one to the city of Cuba, which was very rich and large and abounded with
gold; and that the king of that country was at war with a monarch whom
they called Cami, and whom Pinzon identified with the Great Khan. More
than this, these natives assured him that the land they were on at
present was the mainland itself, and that they could not be very far from
Cathay. Columbus for once found himself in agreement with Martin Alonso.
The well-thumbed copy of Marco Polo was doubtless brought out, and
abundant evidence found in it; and it was decided to despatch a little
embassy to this city in order to gain information about its position and
wealth. When they continued their course, however, and rounded the cape,
no river appeared; they sailed on, and yet promontory after promontory
was opened ahead of them; and as the wind turned against them and the
weather was very threatening they decided to turn back and anchor again
in the Rio de Mares.

Columbus was now, as he thought, hot upon the track of the Great Khan
himself; and on the first of November he sent boats ashore and told the
sailors to get information from the houses; but the inhabitants fled
shyly into the woods. Having once postulated the existence of the Great
Khan in this immediate territory Columbus, as his habit was, found that
everything fitted with the theory; and he actually took the flight of the
natives, although it had occurred on a dozen other occasions, as a proof
that they mistook his bands of men for marauding expeditions despatched
by the great monarch himself. He therefore recalled them, and sent a
boat ashore with an Indian interpreter who, standing in the boat at the
edge of the water, called upon the natives to draw near, and harangued
them. He assured them of the peaceable intentions of the great Admiral,
and that he had nothing whatever to do with the Great Khan; which cannot
very greatly have thrilled the Cubans, who knew no more about the Great
Khan than they did about Columbus. The interpreter then swam ashore and
was well received; so well, that in the evening some sixteen canoes came
off to the ships bringing cotton yarn and spears for traffic. Columbus,
with great astuteness, forbade any trading in cotton or indeed in
anything at all except gold, hoping by this means to make the natives
produce their treasures; and he would no doubt have been successful if
the natives had possessed any gold, but as the poor wretches had nothing
but the naked skins they stood up in, and the few spears and pots and
rolls of cotton that they were offering, the Admiral's astuteness was for
once thrown away. There was one man, however, with a silver ring in his
nose, who was understood to say that the king lived four days' journey in
the interior, and that messengers had been sent to him to tell him of the
arrival of the strange ships; which messengers would doubtless soon
return bringing merchants with them to trade with the ships. If this
native was lying he showed great ingenuity in inventing the kind of story
that his questioners wanted; but it is more likely that his utterances
were interpreted by Columbus in the light of his own ardent beliefs. At
any rate it was decided to send at once a couple of envoys to this great
city, and not to wait for the arrival of the merchants. Two Spaniards,
Rodrigo de Jerez and Luis de Torres, the interpreter to the expedition
--who had so far found little use for his Hebrew and Chaldean--were chosen;
and with them were sent two Indians, one from San Salvador and the other
a local native who went as guide. Red caps and beads and hawks' bells
were duly provided, and a message for the king was given to them telling
him that Columbus was waiting with letters and presents from Spanish
sovereigns, which he was to deliver personally. After the envoys had
departed, Columbus, whose ships were anchored in a large basin of deep
water with a clean and steep beach, decided to take the opportunity of
having the vessels careened. Their hulls were covered with shell and
weed; the caulking, which had been dishonestly done at Palos, had also
to be attended to; so the ships were beached and hove down one at a time
--an unnecessary precaution, as it turned out, for there was no sign of
treachery on the part of the natives. While the men were making fires to
heat their tar they noticed that the burning wood sent forth a heavy
odour which was like mastic; and the Admiral, now always busy with
optimistic calculations, reckoned that there was enough in that vicinity
to furnish a thousand quintals every year. While the work on the ships
was going forward he employed himself in his usual way, going ashore,
examining the trees and vegetables and fruits, and holding such
communication as he was able with the natives. He was up every morning
at dawn, at one time directing the work of his men, at another going
ashore after some birds that he had seen; and as dawn comes early in
those islands his day was probably a long one, and it is likely that he
was in bed soon after dark. On the day that he went shooting, Martin
Alonso Pinzon was waiting for him on his return; this time not to make
any difficulties or independent proposals, but to show him two pieces of
cinnamon that one of his men had got from an Indian who was carrying a
quantity of it. "Why did the man not get it all from him?" says greedy
Columbus. "Because of the prohibition of the Admiral's that no one
should do any trading," says Martin Alonso, and conceives himself to have
scored; for truly these two men do not love one another. The boatswain
of the Pinta, adds Martin Alonso, has found whole trees of it. "The
Admiral then went there and found that it was not cinnamon." The Admiral
was omnipotent; if he had said that it was manna they would have had to
make it so, and as he chose to say that it was not cinnamon, we must take
his word for it, as Martin Alonso certainly had to do; so that it was the
Admiral who scored this time. Columbus, however, now on the track of
spices, showed some cinnamon and pepper to the natives; and the obliging
creatures "said by signs that there was a great deal of it towards the
south-east." Columbus then showed them some gold and pearls; and
"certain old men" replied that in a place they called Bo-No there was any
amount of gold; the people wore it in their ears and on their arms and
legs, and there were pearls also, and large ships and merchandise--all to
the south-east. Finding this information, which was probably entirely
untrue and merely a polite effort to do what was expected of them, well
received, the natives added that "a long distance from there, there were
men with one eye, and other men with dogs' snouts who ate men, and that
when they caught a man they beheaded him and drank his blood" . . .
Soon after this the Admiral went on board again and began to write up his
Journal, solemnly entering all these facts in it. It is the most
childish nonsense; but after all, how interesting and credible it must
have been! To live thus smelling the most heavenly perfumes, breathing
the most balmy air, viewing the most lovely scenes, and to be always hot
upon the track of gold and pearls and spices and wealth and dog-nosed,
blood-drinking monstrosities--what an adventure, what a vivid piece of

After a few days--on Tuesday, November 6th--the two men who had been sent
inland to the great and rich city came back again with their report.
Alas for visions of the Great Khan! The city turned out to be a village
of fifty houses with twenty people in each house. The envoys had been
received with great solemnity; and all the men "as well as the women"
came to see them, and lodged them in a fine house. The chief people in
the village came and kissed their hands and feet, hailing them as
visitors from the skies, and seating them in two chairs, while they sat
round on the floor. The native interpreter, doubtless according to
instructions, then told them "how the Christians lived and how they were
good people"; and I would give a great deal to have heard that brief
address. Afterwards the men went out and the women came in, also kissing
the hands and feet of the visitors, and "trying them to see if they were
of flesh and of bone like themselves." The results were evidently so
satisfactory that the strangers were implored to remain at least five
days. The real business of the expedition was then broached. Had they
any gold or pearls? Had they any cinnamon or spices? Answer, as usual:
"No, but they thought there was a great deal of it to the south-east."
The interest of the visitors then evaporated, and they set out for the
coast again; but they found that at least five hundred men and women
wanted to come with them, since they believed that they were returning to
heaven. On their journey back the two Spaniards noticed many people
smoking, as the Admiral himself had done a few days before; and this is
the first known discovery of tobacco by Europeans.

They saw a great many geese, and the strange dogs that did not bark, and
they saw potatoes also, although they did not know what they were.
Columbus, having heard this report, and contemplating these gentle
amiable creatures, so willing to give all they had in return for a scrap
of rubbish, feels his heart lifted in a pious aspiration that they might
know the benefits of the Christian religion. "I have to say, Most Serene
Princes," he writes,

"that by means of devout religious persons knowing their language
well, all would soon become Christians: and thus I hope in our Lord
that Your Highnesses will appoint such persons with great diligence
in order to turn to the Church such great peoples, and that they
will convert them, even as they have destroyed those who would not
confess the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit: and after their
days, as we are all mortal, they will leave their realms--in a very
tranquil condition and freed from heresy and wickedness, and will be
well received before the Eternal Creator, Whom may it please to give
them a long life and a great increase of larger realms and
dominions, and the will and disposition to spread the holy Christian
religion, as they have done up to the present time, Amen. To-day I
will launch the ship and make haste to start on Thursday, in the
name of God, to go to the southeast and seek gold and spices, and
discover land."
Thus Christopher Columbus, in the Name of God,

November 11, 1492.



When Columbus weighed anchor on the 12th of November he took with him six
captive Indians. It was his intention to go in search of the island of
Babeque, which the Indians alleged lay about thirty leagues to the
east-south-east, and where, they said, the people gathered gold out of the
sand with candles at night, and afterwards made bars of it with a hammer.
They told him this by signs; and we have only one more instance of the
Admiral's facility in interpreting signs in favour of his own beliefs.
It is only a few days later that in the same Journal he says, "The people
of these lands do not understand me, nor do I nor any other person I have
with me understand them; and these Indians I am taking with me, many
times understand things contrary to what they are." It was a fault at
any rate not exclusively possessed by the Indians, who were doubtless
made the subject of many philological experiments on the part of the
interpreter; all that they seemed to have learned at this time were
certain religious gestures, such as making the Sign of the Cross, which
they did continually, greatly to the edification of the crew.

In order to keep these six natives in a good temper Columbus kidnapped
"seven women, large and small, and three children," in order, he alleged,
that the men might conduct themselves better in Spain because of having
their "wives" with them; although whether these assorted women were
indeed the wives of the kidnapped natives must at the best be a doubtful
matter. The three children, fortunately, had their father and mother
with them; but that was only because the father, having seen his wife and
children kidnapped, came and offered to go with them of his own accord.
This taking of the women raises a question which must be in the mind of
any one who studies this extraordinary voyage--the question of the
treatment of native women by the Spaniards. Columbus is entirely silent
on the subject; but taking into account the nature of the Spanish rabble
that formed his company, and his own views as to the right which he had
to possess the persons and goods of the native inhabitants, I am afraid
that there can be very little doubt that in this matter there is a good
reason, for his silence. So far as Columbus himself was concerned, it is
probable that he was innocent enough; he was not a sensualist by nature,
and he was far too much interested and absorbed in the principal objects
of his expedition, and had too great a sense of his own personal dignity,
to have indulged in excesses that would, thus sanctioned by him, have
produced a very disastrous effect on the somewhat rickety discipline of
his crew. He was too wise a master, however, to forbid anything that it
was not in his power to prevent; and it is probable that he shut his eyes
to much that, if he did not tolerate it, he at any rate regarded as a
matter of no very great importance. His crew had by this time learned to
know their commander well enough not to commit under his eyes offences
for which he would have been sure to punish them.

For two days they ran along the coast with a fair wind; but on the 14th a
head wind and heavy sea drove them into the shelter of a deep harbour
called by Columbus Puerto del Principe, which is the modern Tanamo. The
number of islands off this part of the coast of Cuba confirmed Columbus
in his profound geographical error; he took them to be "those innumerable
islands which in the maps of the world are placed at the end of the
east." He erected a great wooden cross on an eminence here, as he always
did when he took possession of a new place, and made some boat excursions
among the islands in the harbour. On the 17th of November two of the six
youths whom he had taken on board the week before swam ashore and
escaped. When he started again on his voyage he was greatly
inconvenienced by the wind, which veered about between the north and
south of east, and was generally a foul wind for him. There is some
difference of opinion as to what point of the wind the ships of
Columbus's time would sail on; but there is no doubt that they were
extremely unhandy in anything approaching a head wind, and that they were
practically no good at all at beating to windward. The shape of their
hulls, the ungainly erections ahead and astern, and their comparatively
light hold on the water, would cause them to drift to leeward faster than
they could work to windward. In this head wind, therefore, Columbus
found that he was making very little headway, although he stood out for
long distances to the northward. On Wednesday, November 21st, occurred a
most disagreeable incident, which might easily have resulted in the
Admiral's never reaching Spain alive. Some time in the afternoon he
noticed the Pinta standing away ahead of him in a direction which was not
the course which he was steering; and he signalled her to close up with
him. No answer, however, was made to his signal, which he repeated, but
to which he failed to attract any response. He was standing south at the
time, the wind being well in the north-east; and Martin Alonso Pinzon,
whose caravel pointed into the wind much better than the unhandy Santa
Maria, was standing to the east. When evening fell he was still in
sight, at a distance of sixteen miles. Columbus was really concerned,
and fired lombards and flew more signals of invitation; but there was no
reply. In the evening he shortened sail and burned a torch all night,
"because it appeared that Martin Alonso was returning to me; and the
night was very clear, and there was a nice little breeze by which to come
to me if he wished." But he did not wish, and he did not come.

Martin Alonso has in fact shown himself at last in his true colours. He
has got the fastest ship, he has got a picked company of his own men from
Palos; he has got an Indian on board, moreover, who has guaranteed to
take him straight to where the gold is; and he has a very agreeable plan
of going and getting it, and returning to Spain with the first news and
the first wealth. It is open mutiny, and as such cannot but be a matter
of serious regret and trouble to the Admiral, who sits writing up his
Journal by the swinging lamp in his little cabin. To that friend and
confidant he pours out his troubles and his long list of grievances
against Martin Alonso; adding, "He has done and said many other things
to me." Up on deck the torch is burning to light the wanderer back
again, if only he will come; and there is "a nice little breeze" by which
to come if he wishes; but Martin Alonso has wishes quite other than that.

The Pinta was out of sight the next morning, and the little Nina was all
that the Admiral had to rely upon for convoy. They were now near the
east end of the north coast of Cuba, and they stood in to a harbour which
the Admiral called Santa Catalina, and which is now called Cayo de Moa.
As the importance of the Nina to the expedition had been greatly
increased by the defection of the Pinta, Columbus went on board and
examined her. He found that some of her spars were in danger of giving
way; and as there was a forest of pine trees rising from the shore he was
able to procure a new mizzen mast and latine yard in case it should be
necessary to replace those of the Nina. The next morning he weighed
anchor at sunrise and continued east along the coast. He had now arrived
at the extreme end of Cuba, and was puzzled as to what course he should
take. Believing Cuba, as he did, to be the mainland of Cathay, he would
have liked to follow the coast in its trend to the south-west, in the
hope of coming upon the rich city of Quinsay; but on the other hand there
was looming to the south-west some land which the natives with him
assured him was Bohio, the place where all the gold was. He therefore
held on his course; but when the Indians found that he was really going
to these islands they became very much alarmed, and made signs that the
people would eat them if they went there; and, in order further to
dissuade the Admiral, they added that the people there had only one eye,
and the faces, of dogs. As it did not suit Columbus to believe them he
said that they were lying, and that he "felt" that the island must belong
to the domain of the Great Khan. He therefore continued his course,
seeing many beautiful and enchanting bays opening before him, and longing
to go into them, but heroically stifling his curiosity, "because he was
detained more than he desired by the pleasure and delight he felt in
seeing and gazing on the beauty and freshness of those countries wherever
he entered, and because he did not wish to be delayed in prosecuting what
he was engaged upon; and for these reasons he remained that night beating
about and standing off and on until day." He could not trust himself,
that is to say, to anchor in these beautiful harbours, for he knew he
would be tempted to go ashore and waste valuable time exploring the
woods; and so he remained instead, beating about in the open sea.

As it was, what with contrary winds and his own indecision as to which
course he should pursue, it was December the 6th before he came up with
the beautiful island of Hayti, and having sent the Nina in front to
explore for a harbour, entered the Mole Saint Nicholas, which he called
Puerto Maria. Towards the east he saw an island shaped like a turtle,
and this island he named Tortuga; and the harbour, which he entered that
evening on the hour of Vespers, he called Saint Nicholas, as it was the
feast of that saint. Once more his description flounders among
superlatives: he thought Cuba was perfect; but he finds the new island
more perfect still. The climate is like May in Cordova; the tracts of
arable land and fertile valleys and high mountains are like those in
Castile; he finds mullet like those of Castile; soles and other fish like
those in Castile; nightingales and other small birds like those in
Castile; myrtle and other trees and grasses like those in Castile! In
short, this new land is so like Spain, only more wonderful and beautiful,
that he christens it Espanola.

They stayed two days in the harbour of Saint Nicholas, and then began to
coast eastwards along the shores of Espaniola. Their best progress was
made at dawn and sunset, when the land breeze blew off the island; and
during the day they encountered a good deal of colder weather and
easterly winds, which made their progress slow. Every day they put in at
one or other of the natural harbours in which that beautiful coast
abounds; every day they saw natives on the shores who generally fled at
their approach, but were often prevailed upon to return and to converse
with the natives on board the Admiral's ship, and to receive presents and
bring parrots and bits of gold in exchange. On one day a party of men
foraging ashore saw a beautiful young girl, who fled at their approach;
and they chased her a long way through the woods, finally capturing her
and bringing her on board. Columbus "caused her to be clothed"
--doubtless a diverting occupation for Rodrigo, Juan, Garcia, Pedro,
William, and the rest of them, although for the poor, shy, trembling
captive not diverting at all--and sent her ashore again loaded with beads
and brass rings--to act as a decoy. Having sown this good seed the
Admiral waited for a night, and then sent a party of men ashore, "well
prepared with arms and adapted for such an affair," to have some
conversation with the people. The innocent harvest was duly reaped; the
natives met the Spaniards with gifts of food and drink, and understanding
that the Admiral would like to have a parrot, they sent as many parrots
as were wanted. The husband of the girl who had been captured and
clothed came back with her to the shore with a large body of natives,
in order to thank the Admiral for his kindness and clemency; and their
confidence was not misplaced, as the Admiral did not at that moment wish
to do any more kidnapping. The Spaniards were more and more amazed and
impressed with the beauty and fertility of these islands. The lands were
more lovely than the finest land in Castile; the rivers were large and
wide, the trees green and full of fruit, the grasses knee-deep and
starred with flowers; the birds sang sweetly all night; there were mastic
trees and aloes and plantations of cotton. There was fishing in plenty;
and if there were not any gold mines immediately at hand, they here sure
to be round the next headland or, at the farthest, in the next island.
The people, too, charmed and delighted the Admiral, who saw in them a
future glorious army of souls converted to the Christian religion. They
were taller and handsomer than the inhabitants of the other islands, and
the women much fairer; indeed, if they had not been so much exposed to
the sun, and if they could only be clothed in the decent garments of
civilisation, the Admiral thought that their skins would be as white as
those of the women of Spain--which was only another argument for bringing
them within the fold of the Holy Catholic Church. The men were powerful
and apparently harmless; they showed no truculent or suspicious spirit;
they had no knowledge of arms; a thousand of them would not face three
Christians; and

"so they are suitable to be governed and made to work and sow and do
everything else that shall be necessary, and to build villages and
be taught to wear clothing and observe our customs."

At present, you see, they are but poor happy heathens, living in a
paradise of their own, where the little birds sing all through the warm
nights, and the rivers murmur through flowery meadows, and no one has any
knowledge of arms or desire of such knowledge, and every one goes naked
and unashamed. High time, indeed, that they should be taught to wear
clothing and observe our customs.

The local chief came on a visit of state to the ship; and the Admiral
paid him due honour, telling him that he came as an envoy from the
greatest sovereigns in the world. But this charming king, or cacique as
they called him, would not believe this; he thought that Columbus was,
for reasons of modesty, speaking less than the truth--a new charge to
bring against our Christopher! He believed that the Spaniards came from
heaven, and that the realms of the sovereigns of Castile were in the
heavens and not in this world. He took some refreshment, as his
councillors did also, little dreaming, poor wretches, what in after years
was to come to them through all this palavering and exchanging of
presents. The immediate result of the interview, however, was to make
intercourse with the natives much freer and pleasanter even than it had
been before; and some of the sailors went fishing with the natives.
It was then that they were shown some cane arrows with hardened points,
which the natives said belonged to the people of 'Caniba', who, they
alleged, came to the island to capture and eat the natives. The Admiral
did not believe it; his sublime habit of rejecting everything that did
not fit in with his theory of the moment, and accepting everything that
did, made him shake his head when this piece of news was brought to him.
He could not get the Great Khan out of his head, and his present theory
was that this island, being close to the mainland of Cathay, was visited
by the armies of the Great Khan, and that it was his men who had used the
arrows and made war upon the natives. It was no good for the natives to
show him some of their mutilated bodies, and to tell him that the
cannibals ate them piecemeal; he had no use for such information. His
mind was like a sieve of which the size of the meshes could be adjusted
at will; everything that was not germane to the idea of the moment fell
through it, and only confirmative evidence remained; and at the moment he
was not believing any stories which did not prove that the Great Khan
was, so to speak, just round the corner. If they talked about gold he
would listen to them; and so the cacique brought him a piece of gold the
size of his hand and, breaking it into pieces, gave it to him a bit at a
time. This the Admiral took to be sign of great intelligence. They told
him there was gold at Tortuga, but he preferred to believe that it came
from Babeque, which may have been Jamaica and may have been nothing at

But his theory was that it existed on Espanola only in small pieces
because that country was so rich that the natives had no need for it;
an economic theory which one grows dizzy in pondering. At any rate
"the Admiral believed that he was very near the fountainhead, and that
Our Lord was about to show him where the gold originates."

On Tuesday, December 18th, the ships were all dressed in honour of a
religious anniversary, and the cacique, hearing the firing of the
lombards with which the festival was greeted, came down to the shore to
see what was the matter. As Columbus was sitting at dinner on deck
beneath the poop the cacique arrived with all his people; and the account
of his visit is preserved in Columbus's own words.

"As he entered the ship he found that I was eating at the table
below the stern forecastle, and he came quickly to seat himself
beside me, and would not allow me to go to meet him or get up from
the table, but only that I should eat. I thought that he would like
to eat some of our viands and I then ordered that things should be
brought him to eat. And when he entered under the forecastle, he
signed with his hand that all his people should remain without, and
they did so with the greatest haste and respect in the world, and
all seated themselves on the deck, except two men of mature age whom
I took to be his counsellors and governors, and who came and seated
themselves at his feet: and of the viands which I placed before him
he took of each one as much as may be taken for a salutation, and
then he sent the rest to his people and they all ate some of it, and
he did the same with the drink, which he only touched to his mouth,
and then gave it to the others in the same way, and it was all done
in wonderful state and with very few words, and whatever he said,
according to what I was able to understand, was very formal and
prudent, and those two looked in his face and spoke for him and with
him, and with great respect.

"After eating, a page brought a belt which is like those of Castile
in shape, but of a different make, which he took and gave me, and
also two wrought pieces of gold, which were very thin, as I believe
they obtain very little of it here, although I consider they are
very near the place where it has its home, and that there is a great
deal of it. I saw that a drapery that I had upon my bed pleased
him. I gave it to him, and some very good amber beads which I wore
around my neck and some red shoes and a flask of orange-flower
water, with which he was so pleased it was wonderful; and he and his
governor and counsellors were very sorry that they did not
understand me, nor I them. Nevertheless I understood that he told
me that if anything from here would satisfy me that all the island
was at my command. I sent for some beads of mine, where as a sign I
have a 'excelente' of gold upon which the images of your Highnesses
are engraved, and showed it to him, and again told him the same as
yesterday, that your Highnesses command and rule over all the best
part of the world, and that there are no other such great Princes:
and I showed him the royal banners and the others with the cross,
which he held in great estimation: and he said to his counsellors
that your Highnesses must be great Lords, since you had sent me here
from so far without fear: and many other things happened which I did
not understand, except that I very well saw he considered everything
as very wonderful."

Later in the day Columbus got into talk with an old man who told him that
there was a great quantity of gold to be found on some island about a
hundred leagues away; that there was one island that was all gold; and
that in the others there was such a quantity that they natives gathered
it and sifted it with sieves and made it into bars. The old man pointed
out vaguely the direction in which this wonderful country lay; and if he
had not been one of the principal persons belonging to the King Columbus
would have detained him and taken him with him; but he decided that he
had paid the cacique too much respect to make it right that he should
kidnap one of his retinue. He determined, however, to go and look for
the gold. Before he left he had a great cross erected in the middle of
the Indian village; and as he made sail out of the harbour that evening
he could see the Indians kneeling round the cross and adoring it. He
sailed eastward, anchoring for a day in the Bay of Acul, which he called
Cabo de Caribata, receiving something like an ovation from the natives,
and making them presents and behaving very graciously and kindly to them.

It was at this time that Columbus made the acquaintance of a man whose
character shines like a jewel amid the dismal scenes that afterwards
accompanied the first bursting of the wave of civilisation on these happy
shores. This was the king of that part of the island, a young man named
Guacanagari. This king sent out a large canoe full of people to the
Admiral's ship, with a request that Columbus would land in his country,
and a promise that the chief would give him whatever he had. There
must have been an Intelligence Department in the island, for the chief
seemed to know what would be most likely to attract the Admiral; and with
his messengers he sent out a belt with a large golden mask attached to
it. Unfortunately the natives on board the Admiral's ship could not
understand Guacanagari's messengers, and nearly the whole of the day was
passed in talking before the sense of their message was finally made out
by means of signs. In the evening some Spaniards were sent ashore to see
if they could not get some gold; but Columbus, who had evidently had some
recent experience of their avariciousness, and who was anxious to keep on
good terms with the chiefs of the island, sent his secretary with them to
see that they did nothing unjust or unreasonable. He was scrupulous to
see that the natives got their bits of glass and beads in exchange for
the gold; and it is due to him to remember that now, as always, he was
rigid in regulating his conduct with other men in accordance with his
ideas of justice and honour, however elastic those ideas may seem to have
been. The ruffianly crew had in their minds only the immediate
possession of what they could get from the Indians; the Admiral had in
his mind the whole possession of the islands and the bodies and souls of
its inhabitants. If you take a piece of gold without giving a glass bead
in exchange for it, it is called stealing; if you take a country and its
inhabitants, and steal their peace from them, and give them blood and
servitude in exchange for it, it is called colonisation and
Empire-building. Every one understands the distinction; but so few
people see the difference that Columbus of all men may be excused for
his unconsciousness of it.

Indeed Columbus was seeing yellow at this point in his career. The word
"gold" is scattered throughout every page of his journal; he can
understand nothing that the natives say to him except that there is a
great quantity of gold somewhere about. He is surrounded by natives
pressing presents upon him, protesting their homage, and assuring him (so
he thinks) that there are any amount of gold mines; and no wonder that
the yellow light blinds his eyes and confounds his senses, and that
sometimes, even when the sun has gone down and the natives have retired
to their villages and he sits alone in the seclusion of his cabin, the
glittering motes still dance before his eyes and he becomes mad, maudlin,
ecstatic . . . . The light flickers in the lamp as the ship swings a
little on the quiet tide and a night breeze steals through the cabin
door; the sound of voices ashore sounds dimly across the water; the brain
of the Admiral, overfilled with wonders and promises and hopes, sends its
message to the trembling hand that holds the pen, and the incoherent
words stream out on the ink. "May our Lord in His mercy direct me until
I find this gold, I say this Mine, because I have many people here who
say that they know it."

On Christmas Eve a serious misfortune befell Columbus. What with looking
for gold, and trying to understand the people who talked about it, and
looking after his ships, and writing up his journal, he had had
practically no sleep for two days and a night; and at eleven o'clock on
the 24th of December, the night being fine and his ship sailing along the
coast with a light land breeze, he decided to lie down to get some sleep.
There were no difficulties in navigation to be feared, because the ship's
boats had been rowed the day before a distance of about ten miles ahead
on the course which they were then steering and had seen that there was
open water all the way. The wind fell calm; and the man at the helm,
having nothing to do, and feeling sleepy, called a ship's boy to him,
gave him the helm, and went off himself to lie down. This of course was
against all rules; but as the Admiral was in his cabin and there was no
one to tell them otherwise the watch on deck thought it a very good
opportunity to rest. Suddenly the boy felt the rudder catch upon
something, saw the ship swinging, and immediately afterwards heard the
sound of tide ripples. He cried out; and in a moment Columbus, who was
sleeping the light sleep of an anxious shipmaster, came tumbling up to
see what was the matter. The current, which flows in that place at a
speed of about two knots, had carried the ship on to a sand bank, but she
touched so quietly that it was hardly felt. Close on the heels of,
Columbus came the master of the ship and the delinquent watch; and the
Admiral immediately ordered them to launch the ship's boat--and lay out
an anchor astern so that they could warp her off. The wretches lowered
the boat, but instead of getting the anchor on board rowed off in the
direction of the Nina, which was lying a mile and a half to windward.
As soon as Columbus saw what they were doing he ran to the side and,
seeing that the tide was failing and that the ship had swung round across
the bank, ordered the remainder of the crew to cut away the mainmast and
throw the deck hamper overboard, in order to lighten the ship. This took
some time; the tide was falling, and the ship beginning to heel over on
her beam; and by the time it was done the Admiral saw that it would be of
no use, for the ship's seams had opened and she was filling.

At this point the miserable crew in the ship's boat came back, the loyal
people on the Nina having refused to receive them and sent them back to
the assistance of the Admiral. But it was now too late to do anything to
save the ship; and as he did not know but that she might break up,
Columbus decided to tranship the people to the Nina, who had by this time
sent her own boat. The whole company boarded the Nina, on which the
Admiral beat about miserably till morning in the vicinity of his doomed
ship. Then he sent Diego de Arana, the brother of Beatriz and a trusty
friend, ashore in a boat to beg the help of the King; and Guacanagari
immediately sent his people with large canoes to unload the wrecked ship,
which was done with great efficiency and despatch, and the whole of her
cargo and fittings stored on shore under a guard. And so farewell to the
Santa Maria, whose bones were thenceforward to bleach upon the shores of
Hayti, or incongruously adorn the dwellings of the natives. She may have
been "a bad sailer and unfit for discovery"; but no seaman looks without
emotion upon the wreck of a ship whose stem has cut the waters of home,
which has carried him safely over thousands of uncharted miles, and which
has for so long been his shelter and sanctuary.

At sunrise the kind-hearted cacique came down to the Nina, where Columbus
had taken up his quarters, and with tears in his eyes begged the Admiral
not to grieve at his losses, for that he, the cacique, would give him
everything that he possessed; that he had already given two large houses
to the Spaniards from the Santa Maria who had been obliged to encamp on
shore, and that he would provide more accommodation and help if
necessary. In fact, the day which had been ushered in so disastrously
turned into a very happy one; and before it was over Columbus had decided
that, as he could not take the whole of his company home on the Nina, he
would establish a settlement on shore so that the men who were left
behind could collect gold and store it until more ships could be sent
from Spain. The natives came buzzing round anxious to barter whatever
they had for hawks' bells, which apparently were the most popular of the
toys that had been brought for bartering; "they shouted and showed the
pieces of gold, saying chuq, chuq, for hawks' bells, as they are in a
likely state to become crazy for them." The cacique was delighted to see
that the Admiral was pleased with the gold that was brought to him, and
he cheered him up by telling him that there was any amount in Cibao,
which Columbus of course took for Cipango. The cacique entertained
Columbus to a repast on shore, at which the monarch wore a shirt and a
pair of gloves that Columbus had given him; "and he rejoiced more over
the gloves than anything that had been given him." Columbus was pleased
with his clean and leisurely method of eating, and with his dainty
rubbing of his hands with herbs after he had eaten. After the repast
Columbus gave a little demonstration of bow-and-arrow shooting and the
firing of lombards and muskets, all of which astonished and impressed the

The afternoon was spent in deciding on a site for the fortress which was
to be constructed; and Columbus had no difficulty in finding volunteers
among the crews to remain in the settlement. He promised to leave with
them provisions of bread and wine for a year, a ship's boat, seeds for
sowing crops, and a carpenter, a caulker, a gunner, and a cooper. Before
the day was out he was already figuring up the profit that would arise
out of his misfortune of the day before; and he decided that it was the
act of God which had cast his ship away in order that this settlement
should be founded. He hoped that the settlers would have a ton of gold
ready for him when he came back from Castile, so that, as he had said in
the glittering camp of Santa Fe, where perhaps no one paid very much heed
to him, there might be such a profit as would provide for the conquest of
Jerusalem and the recovery of the Holy Sepulchre. After all, if he was
greedy for gold, he had a pious purpose for its employment.

The last days of the year were very busy ones for the members of the
expedition. Assisted by the natives they were building the fort which,
in memory of the day on which it was founded, Columbus called La
Villa-de la Navidad. The Admiral spent much time with King Guacanagari,
who "loved him so much that it was wonderful," and wished to cover him
all over with gold before he went away, and begged him not to go before
it was done. On December 27th there was some good news; a caravel had
been seen entering a harbour a little further along the coast; and as
this could only mean that the Pinta had returned, Columbus borrowed a
canoe from the king, and despatched a sailor in it to carry news of his
whereabouts to the Pinta. While it was away Guacanagari collected all
the other kings and chiefs who were subject to him, and held a kind of
durbar. They all wore their crowns; and Guacanagari took off his crown
and placed it on Columbus's head; and the Admiral, not to be outdone,
took from his own neck "a collar of good bloodstones and very beautiful
beads of fine colours; which appeared very good in all parts, and placed
it upon the King; and he took off a cloak of fine scarlet cloth which he
had put on that day, and clothed the King with it; and he sent for some
coloured buskins which he made him put on, and placed upon his finger a
large silver ring"--all of which gives us a picturesque glimpse into the
contents of the Admiral's wardrobe, and a very agreeable picture of King
Guacanagari, whom we must now figure as clothed, in addition to his
shirt and gloves, in a pair of coloured buskins, a collar of
bloodstones, a scarlet cloak and a silver ring.

But the time was running short; the Admiral, hampered as he was by the
possession of only one small ship, had now but one idea, which was to get
back to Castile as quickly as possible, report the result of his
discoveries, and come back again with a larger and more efficient
equipment. Before he departed he had an affectionate leave-taking with
King Guacanagari; he gave him another shirt, and also provided a
demonstration of the effect of lombards by having one loaded, and firing
at the old Santa Maria where she lay hove down on the sandbank. The shot
went clean through her hull and fell into the sea beyond, and produced
what might be called a very strong moral effect, although an unnecessary
one, on the natives. He then set about the very delicate business of
organising the settlement. In all, forty-two men were to remain behind,
with Diego de Arana in the responsible position of chief lieutenant,
assisted by Pedro Gutierrez and Rodrigo de Escovedo, the nephew of Friar
Juan Perez of La Rabida. To these three he delegated all his powers and
authority as Admiral and Viceroy; and then, having collected the
colonists, gave them a solemn address. First, he reminded them of the
goodness of God to them, and advised them to remain worthy of it by
obeying the Divine command in all their actions. Second, he ordered
them, as a representative of the Sovereigns of Spain, to obey the captain
whom he had appointed for them as they would have obeyed himself. Third,
he urged them to show respect and reverence towards King Guacanagari and
his chiefs, and to the inferior chiefs, and to avoid annoying them or
tormenting them, since they were to remain in a land that was as yet
under native dominion; to "strive and watch by their soft and honest
speech to gain their good-will and keep their friendship and love, so
that he should find them as friendly and favourable and more so when he
returned." Fourth, he commanded them "and begged them earnestly" to do
no injury and use no force against any natives; to take nothing from them
against their will; and especially to be on their guard to avoid injury
or violence to the women, "by which they would cause scandal and set a
bad example to the Indians and show the infamy of the Christians."
Fifth, he charged them not to scatter themselves or leave the place where
they then were, but to remain together until he returned. Sixth, he
"animated" them to suffer their solitude and exile cheerfully and
bravely, since they had willingly chosen it. The seventh order was, that
they should get help from the King to send boat expeditions in search of
the gold mines; and lastly, he promised that he would petition the
Sovereigns to honour them with special favours and rewards. To this very
manly, wise and humane address the people listened with some emotion,
assuring Columbus that they placed their hopes in him, "begging him
earnestly to remember them always, and that as quickly as he could he
should give them the great joy which they anticipated from his coming

All of which things being done, the ships [ship--there was only the Nina]
loaded and provisioned, and the Admiral's final directions given, he
makes his farewells and weighs anchor at sunrise on Friday, January 4.,
1493. Among the little crowd on the shore who watch the Nina growing
smaller in the distance are our old friends Allard and William, tired of
the crazy confinement of a ship and anxious for shore adventures. They
are to have their fill of them, as it happens; adventures that are to
bring to the settlers a sudden cloud of blood and darkness, and for the
islanders a brief return to their ancient peace. But death waits for
Allard and William in the sunshine and silence of Espanola.



Columbus did not stand out to sea on his homeward course immediately, but
still coasted along the shores of the island as though he were loth to
leave it, and as though he might still at some bend of a bay or beyond
some verdant headland come upon the mines and jewels that he longed for.
The mountain that he passed soon after starting he called Monte Christi,
which name it bears to this day; and he saw many other mountains and
capes and bays, to all of which he gave names. And it was a fortunate
chance which led him thus to stand along the coast of the island; for on
January 6th the sailor who was at the masthead, looking into the clear
water for shoals and rocks, reported that he saw the caravel Pinta right
ahead. When she came up with him, as they were in very shallow water not
suitable for anchorage, Columbus returned to the bay of Monte Christi to
anchor there. Presently Martin Alonso Pinzon came on board to report
himself--a somewhat crestfallen Martin, we may be sure, for he had failed
to find the gold the hope of which had led him to break his honour as a
seaman. But the Martin Alonsos of this world, however sorry their
position may be, will always find some kind of justification for it. It
must have been a trying moment for Martin Alonso as his boat from the
Pinta drew near the Nina, and he saw the stalwart commanding figure of
the white-haired Admiral walking the poop. He knew very well that
according to the law and custom of the sea Columbus would have been well
within his right in shooting him or hanging him on the spot; but Martin
puts on a bold face as, with a cold dread at his heart and (as likely as
not) an ingratiating smile upon his face he comes up over the side.
Perhaps, being in some ways a cleverer man than Christopher, he knew the
Admiral's weak points; knew that he was kind-hearted, and would remember
those days of preparation at Palos when Martin Alonso had been his
principal stay and help. Martin's story was that he had been separated
from the Admiral against his will; that the crew insisted upon it, and
that in any case they had only meant to go and find some gold and bring
it back to the Admiral. Columbus did not believe him for a moment, but
either his wisdom or his weakness prevented him from saying so. He
reproached Martin Alonso for acting with pride and covetousness "that
night when he went away and left him"; and Columbus could not think "from
whence had come the haughty actions and dishonesty Martin had shown
towards him on that voyage." Martin had done a good trade and had got a
certain amount of gold; and no doubt he knew well in what direction to
turn the conversation when it was becoming unpleasant to himself. He
told Columbus of an island to the south of Juana--[Cuba]--called
Yamaye,--[Jamaica]--where pieces of gold were taken from the mines as
large as kernels of wheat, and of another island towards the east which
was inhabited only by women.

The unpleasantness was passed over as soon as possible, although the
Admiral felt that the sooner he got home the better, since he was
practically at the mercy of the Pinzon brothers and their following from
Palos. He therefore had the Pinta beached and recaulked and took in wood
and water, and continued his voyage on Tuesday, January 8th. He says
that "this night in the name of our Lord he will start on his journey
without delaying himself further for any matter, since he had found what
he had sought, and he did not wish to have more trouble with that Martin
Alonso until their Highnesses learned the news of the voyage and what he
has done." After that it will be another matter, and his turn will come;
for then, he says, "I will not suffer the bad deeds of persons without
virtue, who, with little respect, presume to carry out their own wills in
opposition to those who did them honour." Indeed, for several days, the
name of "that Martin Alonso" takes the place of gold in Columbus's
Journal. There were all kinds of gossip about the ill deeds of Martin
Alonso, who had taken four Indian men and two young girls by force; the
Admiral releasing them immediately and sending them back to their homes.
Martin Alonso, moreover, had made a rule that half the gold that was
found was to be kept by himself; and he tried to get all the people of
his ship to swear that he had been trading for only six days, but "his
wickedness was so public that he could not hide it." It was a good thing
that Columbus had his journal to talk to, for he worked off a deal of
bitterness in it. On Sunday, January 13th, when he had sent a boat
ashore to collect some "ajes" or potatoes, a party of natives with their
faces painted and with the plumes of parrots in their hair came and
attacked the party from the boat; but on getting a slash or two with a
cutlass they took to flight and escaped from the anger of the Spaniards.
Columbus thought that they were cannibals or caribs, and would like to
have taken some of them, but they did not come back, although afterwards
he collected four youths who came out to the caravel with cotton and

Columbus was very curious about the island of Matinino,--[Martinique]
--which was the one said to be inhabited only by women, and he wished very
much to go there; but the caravels were leaking badly, the crews were
complaining, and he was reluctantly compelled to shape his course for
Spain. He sailed to the north-east, being anxious apparently to get into
the region of westerly winds which he correctly guessed would be found to
the north of the course he had sailed on his outward voyage. By the 17th
of January he was in the vicinity of the Sargasso Sea again, which this
time had no terrors for him. From his journal the word "gold" suddenly
disappears; the Viceroy and Governor-General steps off the stage; and in
his place appears the sea captain, watching the frigate birds and
pelicans, noting the golden gulf-weed in the sea, and smelling the
breezes that are once more as sweet as the breezes of Seville in May. He
had a good deal of trouble with his dead-reckoning at this time, owing to
the changing winds and currents; but he made always from fifty to seventy
miles a day in a direction between north-by-east and north-north-east.
The Pinta was not sailing well, and he often had to wait for her to come
up with him; and he reflected in his journal that if Martin Alonso Pinzon
had taken as much pains to provide himself with a good mast in the Indies
as he had to separate himself from the Admiral, the Pinta would have
sailed better.

And so he went on for several days, with the wind veering always south
and south-west, and pointing pretty steadily to the north-east. On
February 4th he changed his course, and went as near due east as he
could. They now began to find themselves in considerable doubt as to
their position. The Admiral said he was seventy-five leagues to the
south of Flores; Vincenti Pinzon and the pilots thought that they had
passed the Azores and were in the neighbourhood of Madeira. In other
words, there was a difference of 600 miles between their estimates,
and the Admiral remarks that "the grace of God permitting, as soon as
land is seen, it will be known who has calculated the surest."

A great quantity of birds that began to fly about the ship made him think
that they were near land, but they turned out to be the harbingers of a
storm. On Tuesday, February 12th, the sea and wind began to rise, and it
continued to blow harder throughout that night and the next day. The
wind being aft he went under bare poles most of the night, and when day
came hoisted a little sail; but the sea was terrible, and if he had not
been so sure of the staunch little Nina he would have felt himself in
danger of being lost. The next day the sea, instead of going down,
increased in roughness; there was a heavy cross sea which kept breaking
right over the ship, and it became necessary to make a little sail in
order to run before the wind, and to prevent the vessel falling back into
the trough of the seas. All through Thursday he ran thus under the half
hoisted staysail, and he could see the Pinta running also before the
wind, although since she presented more surface, and was able to carry a
little more sail than the Nina, she was soon lost to sight. The Admiral
showed lights through the night, and this time there was no lack of
response from Martin Alonso; and for some part of that dark and stormy
night these two humanly freighted scraps of wood and cordage staggered
through the gale showing lights to each other; until at last the light
from the Pinta disappeared. When morning came she was no longer to be
seen; and the wind and the sea had if anything increased. The Nina was
now in the greatest danger. Any one wave of the heavy cross sea, if it
had broken fairly across her, would have sunk her; and she went swinging
and staggering down into the great valleys and up into the hills, the
steersman's heart in his mouth, and the whole crew in an extremity of
fear. Columbus, who generally relied upon his seamanship, here invoked
external aid, and began to offer bargains to the Almighty. He ordered
that lots should be cast, and that he upon whom the lot fell should make
a vow to go on pilgrimage to Santa Maria de Guadaloupe carrying a white
candle of five pounds weight. Same dried peas were brought, one for
every member of the crew, and on one of them a cross was marked with a
knife; the peas were well shaken and were put into a cap. The first to
draw was the Admiral; he drew the marked pea, and he made the vow. Lots
were again drawn, this time for a greater pilgrimage to Santa Maria de
Loretto in Ancona; and the lot fell on a seaman named Pedro de Villa,
--the expenses of whose pilgrimage Columbus promised to pay. Again lots
were drawn for a pilgrimage to the shrine of Santa Clara of Moguer, the
pilgrim to watch and pray for one night there; and again the lot fell on
Columbus. In addition to these, every one, since they took themselves
for lost, made some special and private vow or bargain with God; and
finally they all made a vow together that at the first land they reached
they would go in procession in their shirts to pray at an altar of Our

The scene thus conjured up is one peculiar to the time and condition of
these people, and is eloquent and pathetic enough: the little ship
staggering and bounding along before the wind, and the frightened crew,
who had gone through so many other dangers, huddled together under the
forecastle, drawing peas out of a cap, crossing themselves, making vows
upon their knees, and seeking to hire the protection of the Virgin by
their offers of candles and pilgrimages. Poor Christopher, standing in
his drenched oilskins and clinging to a piece of rigging, had his own
searching of heart and examining of conscience. He was aware of the
feverish anxiety and impatience that he felt, now that he had been
successful in discovering a New World, to bring home the news and fruits
of it; his desire to prove true what he had promised was so great that,
in his own graphic phrase, "it seemed to him that every gnat could
disturb and impede it"; and he attributed this anxiety to his lack of
faith in God. He comforted himself, like Robinson Crusoe in a similar
extremity, by considering on the other hand what favours God had shown
him, and by remembering that it was to the glory of God that the fruits
of his discovery were to be dedicated. But in the meantime here he was
in a ship insufficiently ballasted (for she was now practically empty of
provisions, and they had found it necessary to fill the wine and water
casks with salt water in order to trim her) and flying before a tempest
such as he had never experienced in his life. As a last resource, and in
order to give his wonderful news a chance of reaching Spain in case the
ship were lost, he went into his cabin and somehow or other managed to
write on a piece of parchment a brief account of his discoveries, begging
any one who might find it to carry it to the Spanish Sovereigns. He tied
up the parchment in a waxed cloth, and put it into a large barrel without
any one seeing him, and then ordered the barrel to be thrown into the
sea, which the crew took to be some pious act of sacrifice or devotion.
Then he went back on deck and watched the last of the daylight going and
the green seas swelling and thundering about his little ship, and thought
anxiously of his two little boys at school in Cordova, and wondered what
would become of them if he were lost. The next morning the wind had
changed a little, though it was still very high; but he was able to hoist
up the bonnet or topsail, and presently the sea began to go down a
little. When the sun rose they saw land to the east-north-east. Some of
them thought it was Madeira, others the rock of Cintra in Portugal; the
pilots said it was the coast of Spain, the Admiral thought it was the
Azores; but at any rate it was land of some kind. The sun was shining
upon it and upon the tumbling sea; and although the waves were still
raging mast-high and the wind still blowing a hard gale, the miserable
crew were able to hope that, having lived through the night, they could
live through the day also. They had to beat about to make the land,
which was now ahead of them, now on the beam, and now astern; and
although they had first sighted it at sunrise on Friday morning it was
early on Monday morning, February 18th, before Columbus was able to cast
anchor off the northern coast of an island which he discovered to be the
island of Santa Maria in the Azores. On this day Columbus found time to
write a letter to Luis de Santangel, the royal Treasurer, giving a full
account of his voyage and discoveries; which letter he kept and
despatched on the 4th of March, after he had arrived in Lisbon. Since it
contained a postscript written at the last moment we shall read it at
that stage of our narrative. The inhabitants of Santa Maria received the
voyagers with astonishment, for they believed that nothing could have
lived through the tempest that had been raging for the last fortnight.
They were greatly excited by the story of the discoveries; and the
Admiral, who had now quite recovered command of himself, was able to
pride himself on the truth of his dead-reckoning, which had proved to be
so much more accurate than that of the pilots.

On the Tuesday evening three men hailed them from the shore, and when
they were brought off to the ship delivered a message from the Portuguese
Governor of the island, Juan de Castaneda, to the effect that he knew the
Admiral very well, and that he was delighted to hear of his wonderful
voyage. The next morning Columbus, remembering the vow that had been
made in the storm, sent half the crew ashore in their shirts to a little
hermitage, which was on the other side of a point a short distance away,
and asked the Portuguese messenger to send a priest to say Mass for them.
While the members of the crew were at their prayers, however, they
received a rude surprise. They were suddenly attacked by the islanders,
who had come up on horses under the command of the treacherous Governor,
and taken prisoners. Columbus waited unsuspectingly for the boat to come
back with them, in order that he and the other half of the crew could go
and perform their vow.

When the boat did not come back he began to fear that some accident must
have happened to it, and getting his anchor up he set sail for the point
beyond which the hermitage was situated. No sooner had he rounded the
point than he saw a band of horsemen, who dismounted, launched the boat
which was drawn up on the beach, and began to row out, evidently with the
intention of attacking the Admiral. When they came up to the Nina the
man in command of them rose and asked Columbus to assure him of personal
safety; which assurance was wonderingly given; and the Admiral inquired
how it was that none of his own people were in the boat? Columbus
suspected treachery and tried to meet it with treachery also,
endeavouring with smooth words to get the captain to come on board so
that he could seize him as a hostage. But as the Portuguese would not
come on board Columbus told them that they were acting very unwisely in
affronting his people; that in the land of the Sovereigns of Castile the
Portuguese were treated with great honour and security; that he held
letters of recommendation from the Sovereigns addressed to every ruler in
the world, and added that he was their Admiral of the Ocean Seas and
Viceroy of the Indies, and could show the Portuguese his commission to
that effect; and finally, that if his people were not returned to him, he
would immediately make sail for Spain with the crew that was left to him
and report this insult to the Spanish Sovereigns. To all of which the
Portuguese captain replied that he did not know any Sovereigns of
Castile; that neither they nor their letters were of any account in that
island; that they were not afraid of Columbus; and that they would have
him know that he had Portugal to deal with--edging away in the boat at
the same time to a convenient distance from the caravel. When he thought
he was out of gunshot he shouted to Columbus, ordering him to take his
caravel back to the harbour by command of the Governor of the island.
Columbus answered by calling his crew to witness that he pledged his word
not to descend from or leave his caravel until he had taken a hundred
Portuguese to Castile, and had depopulated all their islands. After
which explosion of words he returned to the harbour and anchored there,
"as the weather and wind were very unfavourable for anything else."

He was, however, in a very bad anchorage, with a rocky bottom which
presently fouled his anchors; and on the Wednesday he had to make sail
towards the island of San Miguel if order to try and find a better

But the wind and sea getting up again very badly he was obliged to beat
about all night in a very unpleasant situation, with only three sailors
who could be relied upon, and a rabble of gaol-birds and longshoremen who
were of little use in a tempest but to draw lots and vow pilgrimages.
Finding himself unable to make the island of San Miguel he decided to go
back to Santa Maria and make an attempt to recover his boat and his crew
and the anchor and cables he had lost there.

In his Journal for this day, and amid all his anxieties, he found time to
note down one of his curious visionary cosmographical reflections. This
return to a region of storms and heavy seas reminded him of the long
months he had spent in the balmy weather and calm waters of his
discovery; in which facts he found a confirmation of the theological idea
that the Eden, or Paradise, of earth was "at the end of the Orient,
because it is a most temperate place. So that these lands which he had
now discovered are at the end of the Orient." Reflections such as these,
which abound in his writings, ought in themselves to be a sufficient
condemnation of those who have endeavoured to prove that Columbus was a
man of profound cosmographical learning and of a scientific mind. A man
who would believe that he had discovered the Orient because in the place
where he had been he had found calm weather, and because the theologians
said that the Garden of Eden must be in the Orient since it is a
temperate place, would believe anything.

Late on Thursday night, when he anchored again in the harbour of San
Lorenzo at Santa Maria, a man hailed them from the rocks, and asked them
not to go away. Presently a boat containing five sailors, two priests,
and a notary put off from the beach; and they asked for a guarantee of
security in order that they might treat with the Admiral. They slept on
board that night, and in the morning asked him to show them his authority
from the Spanish Sovereigns, which the Admiral did, understanding that
they had asked for this formality in order to save their dignity. He
showed them his general letter from the King and Queen of Spain,
addressed to "Princes and Lords of High Degree"; and being satisfied with
this they went ashore and released the Admiral's people, from whom he
learned that what had been done had been done by command of the King of
Portugal, and that he had issued an order to the Governors of all the
Portuguese islands that if Columbus landed there on his way home he was
to be taken prisoner.

He sailed again on Sunday, February 24th, encountering heavy winds and
seas, which troubled him greatly with fears lest some disaster should
happen at the eleventh hour to interfere with his, triumph. On Sunday,
March 3rd, the wind rose to the force of a hurricane, and, on a sudden
gust of violent wind splitting all the sails, the unhappy crew gathered
together again and drew more lots and made more vows. This time the
pilgrimage was to be to the shrine of Santa Maria at Huelva, the pilgrim
to go as before in his shirt; and the lot fell to the Admiral. The rest
of them made a vow to fast on the next Saturday on bread and water; but
as they all thought it extremely unlikely that by that time they would be
in need of any bodily sustenance the sacrifice could hardly have been a
great one. They scudded along under bare poles and in a heavy cross sea
all that night; but at dawn on Monday they saw land ahead of them, which
Columbus recognised as the rock of Cintra at Lisbon; and at Lisbon sure
enough they landed some time during the morning. As soon as they were
inside the river the people came flocking down with stories of the gale
and of all the wrecks that there had been on the coast. Columbus hurried
away from the excited crowds to write a letter to the King of Portugal,
asking him for a safe conduct to Spain, and assuring him that he had come
from the Indies, and not from any of the forbidden regions of Guinea.

The next day brought a visit from no less a person than Bartholomew Diaz.
Columbus had probably met him before in 1486, when Diaz had been a
distinguished man and Columbus a man not distinguished; but now things
were changed. Diaz ordered Columbus to come on board his small vessel in
order to go and report himself to the King's officers; but Columbus
replied that he was the Admiral of the Sovereigns of Castile, "that he
did not render such account to such persons," and that he declined to
leave his ship. Diaz then ordered him to send the captain of the Nina;
but Columbus refused to send either the captain or any other person, and
otherwise gave himself airs as the Admiral of the Ocean Seas. Diaz then
moderated his requests, and merely asked Columbus to show him his letter
of authority, which Columbus did; and then Diaz went away and brought
back with him the captain of the Portuguese royal yacht, who came in
great state on board the shabby little Nina, with kettle-drums and
trumpets and pipes, and placed himself at the disposal of Columbus. It
is a curious moment, this, in which the two great discoverers of their
time, Diaz and Columbus, meet for an hour on the deck of a forty-ton
caravel; a curious thing to consider that they who had performed such
great feats of skill and bravery, one to discover the southernmost point
of the old world and the other to voyage across an uncharted ocean to the
discovery of an entirely new world, could find nothing better to talk
about than their respective ranks and glories; and found no more
interesting subject of discussion than the exact amount of state and
privilege which should be accorded to each.

During the day or two in which Columbus waited in the port crowds of
people came down from Lisbon to see the little Nina, which was an object
of much admiration and astonishment; to see the Indians also, at whom
they greatly marvelled. It was probably at this time that the letter
addressed to Luis de Santangel, containing the first official account of
the voyage, was despatched.


"Sir: As I am sure you will be pleased at the great victory which
the Lord has given me in my voyage, I write this to inform you that
in twenty' days I arrived in the Indies with the squadron which
their Majesties had placed under my command. There I discovered
many islands, inhabited by a numerous population, and took
possession of them for their Highnesses, with public ceremony and
the royal flag displayed, without molestation.

"The first that I discovered I named San Salvador, in remembrance of
that Almighty Power which had so miraculously bestowed them. The
Indians call it Guanahani. To the second I assigned the name of
Santa Marie de Conception; to the third that of Fernandina; to the
fourth that of Isabella; to the fifth Juana; and so on, to every one
a new name.

"When I arrived at Juana, I followed the coast to the westward, and
found it so extensive that I considered it must be a continent and a
province of Cathay. And as I found no towns or villages by the
seaside, excepting some small settlements, with the people of which
I could not communicate because they all ran away, I continued my
course to the westward, thinking I should not fail to find some
large town and cities. After having coasted many leagues without
finding any signs of them, and seeing that the coast took me to the
northward, where I did not wish to go, as the winter was already set
in, I considered it best to follow the coast to the south and the
wind being also scant, I determined to lose no more time, and
therefore returned to a certain port, from whence I sent two
messengers into the country to ascertain whether there was any king
there or any large city.

"They travelled for three days, finding an infinite number of small
settlements and an innumerable population, but nothing like a city:
on which account--they returned. I had tolerably well ascertained
from some Indians whom I had taken that this land was only an
island, so I followed the coast of it to the east 107 leagues, to
its termination. And about eighteen leagues from this cape, to the
east, there was another island, to which I shortly gave the name of
Espanola. I went to it, and followed the north coast of it, as I
had done that of Juana, for 178--[should be 188]--long leagues due

"This island is very fertile, as well, indeed, as all the rest. It
possesses numerous harbours, far superior to any I know in Europe,
and what is remarkable, plenty of large inlets. The land is high,
and contains many lofty ridges and some very high mountains, without
comparison of the island of Centrefrey;--[Tenerife]--all of them
very handsome and of different forms; all of them accessible and
abounding in trees of a thousand kinds, high, and appearing as if
they would reach the skies. And I am assured that the latter never
lose their fresh foliage, as far as I can understand, for I saw them
as fresh and flourishing as those of Spain in the month of May.
Some were in blossom, some bearing fruit, and others in other
states, according to their nature.

"The nightingale and a thousand kinds of birds enliven the woods
with their song, in the month of November, wherever I went. There
are seven or eight kinds of palms, of various elegant forms, besides
various other trees, fruits, and herbs. The pines of this island
are magnificent. It has also extensive plains, honey, and a great
variety of birds and fruits. It has many metal mines, and a
population innumerable.

"Espanola is a wonderful island, with mountains, groves, plains, and
the country generally beautiful and rich for planting and sowing,
for rearing sheep and cattle of all kinds, and ready for towns and
cities. The harbours must be seen to be appreciated; rivers are
plentiful and large and of excellent water; the greater part of them
contain gold. There is a great difference between the trees,
fruits, and herbs of this island and those of Juana. In this island
there are many spices, and large mines of gold and other metals.

"The people of this island and of all the others which I have
discovered or heard of, both men and women, go naked as they were
born, although some of the women wear leaves of herbs or a cotton
covering made on purpose. They have no iron or steel, nor any
weapons; not that they are not a well-disposed people and of fine
stature, but they are timid to a degree. They have no other arms
excepting spears made of cane, to which they fix at the end a sharp
piece of wood, and then dare not use even these. Frequently I had
occasion to send two or three of my men onshore to some settlement
for information, where there would be multitudes of them; and as
soon as they saw our people they would run away every soul, the
father leaving his child; and this was not because any one had done
them harm, for rather at every cape where I had landed and been able
to communicate with them I have made them presents of cloth and many
other things without receiving anything in return; but because they
are so timid. Certainly, where they have confidence and forget
their fears, they are so open-hearted and liberal with all they
possess that it is scarcely to be believed without seeing it. If
anything that they have is asked of them they never deny it; on the
contrary, they will offer it. Their generosity is so great that
they would give anything, whether it is costly or not, for anything
of every kind that is offered them and be contented with it. I was
obliged to prevent such worth less things being given them as pieces
of broken basins, broken glass, and bits of shoe-latchets, although
when they obtained them they esteemed them as if they had been the
greatest of treasures. One of the seamen for a latchet received a
piece of gold weighing two dollars and a half, and others, for other
things of much less value, obtained more. Again, for new silver
coin they would give everything they possessed, whether it was worth
two or three doubloons or one or two balls of cotton. Even for
pieces of broken pipe-tubes they would take them and give anything
for them, until, when I thought it wrong, I prevented it. And I
made them presents of thousands of things which I had, that I might
win their esteem, and also that they might be made good Christians
and be disposed to the service of Your Majesties and the whole
Spanish nation, and help us to obtain the things which we require
and of which there is abundance in their country.

"And these people appear to have neither religion nor idolatry,
except that they believe that good and evil come from the skies; and
they firmly believed that our ships and their crews, with myself,
came from the skies, and with this persuasion,--after having lost
their fears, they always received us. And yet this does not proceed
from ignorance, for they are very ingenious, and some of them
navigate their seas in a wonderful manner and give good account of
things, but because they never saw people dressed or ships like

"And as soon as I arrived in the Indies, at the first island at
which I touched, I captured some of them, that we might learn from
them and obtain intelligence of what there was in those parts. And
as soon as we understood each other they were of great service to
us; but yet, from frequent conversation which I had with them, they
still believe we came from the skies. These were the first to
express that idea, and others ran from house to house, and to the
neighbouring villages, crying out, "Come and see the people from the
skies." And thus all of them, men and women, after satisfying
themselves of their safety, came to us without reserve, great and
small, bringing us something to eat and drink, and which they gave
to us most affectionately.

"They have many canoes in those islands propelled by oars, some of
them large and others small, and many of them with eight or ten
paddles of a side, not very wide, but all of one trunk, and a boat
cannot keep way with them by oars, for they are incredibly fast; and
with these they navigate all the islands, which are innumerable, and
obtain their articles of traffic. I have seen some of these canoes
with sixty or eighty men in them, and each with a paddle.

"Among the islands I did not find much diversity of formation in the
people, nor in their customs, nor their language. They all
understand each other, which is remarkable; and I trust Your
Highnesses will determine on their being converted to our faith, for
which they are very well disposed.

"I have already said that I went 107 leagues along the coast of
Juana, from east to west. Thus, according to my track, it is larger
than England and Scotland together, for, besides these 107 leagues,
there were further west two provinces to which I did not go, one of
which is called Cibau, the people of which are born with tails;
which provinces must be about fifty or sixty leagues long, according
to what I can make out from the Indians I have with me, who know all
the islands. The other island (Espanola) is larger in circuit than
the whole of Spain, from the Straits of Gibralter (the Columns) to
Fuentarabia in Biscay, as I sailed 138 long leagues in a direct line
from west to east. Once known it must be desired, and once seen one
desires never to leave it; and which, being taken possession of for
their Highnesses, and the people being at present in a condition
lower than I can possibly describe, the Sovereigns of Castile may
dispose of it in any manner they please in the most convenient
places. In this Espanola, and in the best district, where are gold
mines, and, on the other side, from thence to terra firma, as well
as from thence to the Great Khan, where everything is on a splendid
scale--I have taken possession of a large town, to which I gave the
name of La Navidad, and have built a fort in it, in every respect
complete. And I have left sufficient people in it to take care of
it, with artillery and provisions for more than a year; also a boat
and coxswain with the equipments, in complete friendship with the
King of the islands, to that degree that he delighted to call me and
look on me as his brother. And should they fall out with these
people, neither he nor his subjects know anything of weapons, and go
naked, as I have said, and they are the most timorous people in the
world. The few people left there are sufficient to conquer the
country, and the island would thus remain without danger to them,
they keeping order among themselves.

"In all these islands it appeared to me the men are contented with
one wife, but to their governor or king they allow twenty. The
women seem to work more than the men. I have not been able to
discover whether they respect personal property, for it appeared to
me things were common to all, especially in the particular of
provisions. Hitherto I have not seen in any of these islands any
monsters, as there were supposed to be; the people, on the contrary,
are generally well formed, nor are they black like those of the
Guinea, saving their hair, and they do not reside in places exposed
to the sun's rays. It is true that the sun is most powerful there,
and it is only twenty-six degrees from the equator. In this last
winter those islands which were mountainous were cold, but they were
accustomed to it, with good food and plenty of spices and hot
nutriment. Thus I have found no monsters nor heard of any, except
at an island which is the second in going to the Indies, and which
is inhabited by a people who are considered in all the islands as
ferocious, and who devour human flesh. These people have many
canoes, which scour all the islands of India, and plunder all they
can. They are not worse formed than the others, but they wear the
hair long like women, and use bows and arrows of the same kind of
cane, pointed with a piece of hard wood instead of iron, of which
they have none. They are fierce compared with the other people, who
are in general but sad cowards; but I do not consider them in any
other way superior to them. These are they who trade in women, who
inhabit the first island met with in going from Spain to the Indies,
in which there are no men whatever. They have no effeminate
exercise, but bows and arrows, as before said, of cane, with which
they arm themselves, and use shields of copper, of which they have

"There is another island, I am told, larger than Espanola, the
natives of which have no hair. In this there is gold without limit,
and of this and the others I have Indians with me to witness.

"In conclusion, referring only to what has been effected by this
voyage, which was made with so much haste, Your Highnesses may see
that I shall find as much gold as desired with the very little
assistance afforded to me; there is as much spice and cotton as can
be wished for, and also gum, which hitherto has only been found in
Greece, in the island of Chios, and they may sell it as they please,
and the mastich, as much as may be desired, and slaves, also, who
will be idolators. And I believe that I have rhubarb, and cinnamon,
and a thousand other things I shall find, which will be discovered
by those whom I have left behind, for I did not stop at any cape
when the wind enabled me to navigate, except at the town of Navidad,
where I was very safe and well taken care of. And in truth much
more I should have done if the ships had served me as might have
been expected. This is certain, that the Eternal God our Lord gives
all things to those who obey Him, and the victory when it seems
impossible, and this, evidently, is an instance of it, for although
people have talked of these lands, all was conjecture unless proved
by seeing them, for the greater part listened and judged more by
hearsay than by anything else.

"Since, then, our Redeemer has given this victory to our illustrious
King and Queen and celebrated their reigns by such a great thing,
all Christendom should rejoice and make great festivals, and give
solemn thanks to the Blessed Trinity, with solemn praises for the
exaltation of so much people to our holy faith; and next for the
temporal blessings which not only Spain but they will enjoy in
becoming Christians, and which last may shortly be accomplished.

"Written in the caravel off Santa Maria; on the eighteenth of
February, ninety-three."

The following postscript was added to the letter before it was

"After writing the above, being in the Castilian Sea (off the coast
of Castile), I experienced so severe a wind from south and
south-east that I have been obliged to run to-day into this port of
Lisbon, and only by a miracle got safely in, from whence I intended
to write to Your Highnesses. In all parts of the Indies I have
found the weather like that of May, where I went in ninety-three
days, and returned in seventy-eight, saving these thirteen days of
bad weather that I have been detained beating about in this sea.
Every seaman here says that never was so severe a winter, nor such
loss of ships."

On the Friday a messenger came from the King in the person of Don Martin
de Noronha, a relative of Columbus by marriage, and one who had perhaps
looked down upon him in the days when he attended the convent chapel at
Lisbon, but who was now the bearer of a royal invitation and in the
position of a mere envoy. Columbus repaired to Paraiso where the King
was, and where he was received with great honour.

King John might well have been excused if he had felt some mortification
at this glorious and successful termination of a project which had been
offered to him and which he had rejected; but he evidently behaved with
dignity and a good grace, and did everything that he could to help
Columbus. It was extremely unlikely that he had anything to do with the
insult offered to Columbus at the Azores, for though he was bitterly
disappointed that the glory of this discovery belonged to Spain and not
to Portugal, he was too much of a man to show it in this petty and
revengeful manner. He offered to convey Columbus by land into Spain; but
the Admiral, with a fine dramatic sense, preferred to arrive by sea on
board of all that was left of the fleet with which he had sailed. He
sailed for Seville on Wednesday, March 13th, but during the next day,
when he was off Cape Saint Vincent, he evidently changed his mind and
decided to make for Palos. Sunrise on Friday saw him off the bar of
Saltes, with the white walls of La Rabida shining on the promontory among
the dark fir-trees. During the hours in which he stood off and on
waiting for the tide he was able to recognise again all the old landmarks
and the scenes which had been so familiar to him in those busy days of
preparation nine months before; and at midday he sailed in with the flood
tide and dropped his anchor again in the mud of the river by Palos.

The caravel had been sighted some time before, probably when she was
standing off, the bar waiting for the tide; she was flying the Admiral's
flag and there was no mistaking her identity; and we can imagine the news
spreading throughout the town of Palos, and reaching Huelva, and one by
one the bells beginning to ring, and the places of business to be closed,
and the people to come pouring out into the streets to be ready to greet
their friends. Some more impatient than the others would sail out in
fishing-boats to get the first news; and I should be surprised to know
that a boat did not put off from the little pier beneath La Rabida, to
row round the point and out to where the Nina was lying--to beyond the
Manto Bank. When the flood began to make over the bar and to cover the
long sandbank that stretches from the island of Saltes, the Nina came
gliding in, greeted by every joyful sound and signal that the inhabitants
of the two seaports could make. Every one hurried down to Palos as the
caravel rounded the Convent Point. Hernando, Marchena, and good old Juan
Perez were all there, we may be sure. Such excitements, such triumphs as
the bronzed, white-bearded Admiral steps ashore at last, and is seized by
dozens of eager hands! Such excitements as all the wives and inamoratas
of the Rodrigos and Juans and Franciscos rush to meet the swarthy
voyagers and cover them with embraces; such disappointments also, when it
is realised that some two score of the company are still on a sunbaked
island infinitely far over the western horizon.

Tears of joy and grief, shouts and feastings, firing of guns and flying
of flags, processions and receptions with these the deathless day is
filled; and the little Nina, her purpose staunchly fulfilled, swings
deserted on the turning tide, the ripples of her native Tinto making a
familiar music under her bowsprit.

And in the evening, with the last of the flood, another ship comes
gliding round the point and up the estuary. The inhabitants of Palos
have all left the shore and are absorbed in the business of welcoming the
great man; and there is no one left to notice or welcome the Pinta. For
it is she that, by a strange coincidence, and after many dangers and
distresses endured since she had parted company from the Nina in the
storm, now has made her native port on the very same day as the Nina.
Our old friend Martin Alonso Pinzon is on board, all the fight and
treachery gone out of him, and anxious only to get home unobserved. For
(according to the story) he had made the port of Bayona on the north-west
coast of Spain, and had written a letter from there to the Sovereigns
announcing his arrival and the discoveries that he had made; and it is
said that he had received an unpleasant letter in return, reproaching him
for not waiting for his commander and forbidding him to come to Court.
This story is possible if his letter reached the Sovereigns after the
letter from the Admiral; for it is probable that Columbus may have
reported some of Martin's doings to them.

Be that as it may, there are no flags and guns for him as he comes
creeping in up the river; his one anxiety is to avoid the Admiral and to
get home as quickly and quietly as he can. For he is ill, poor Martin
Alonso; whether from a broken heart, as the early historians say, or from
pure chagrin and disappointment, or, as is more likely, from some illness
contracted on the voyage, it is impossible to say. He has endured his
troubles and hardships like all the rest of them; no less skilfully than
Columbus has he won through that terrible tempest of February; and his
foolish and dishonest conduct has deprived him not only of the rewards
that he tried to steal, but of those which would otherwise have been his
by right. He creeps quietly ashore and to his home, where at any rate we
may hope that there is some welcome for him; takes to his bed, turns his
face to the wall; and dies in a few days. So farewell to Martin Alonso,
who has borne us company thus far. He did not fail in the great matters
of pluck and endurance and nautical judgment, but only in the small
matters of honesty and decent manly conduct. We will not weep for Martin
Alonso; we will make our farewells in silence, and leave his deathbed
undisturbed by any more accusations or reproaches.



From the moment when Columbus set foot on Spanish soil in the spring of
1493 he was surrounded by a fame and glory which, although they were
transient, were of a splendour such as few other men can have ever
experienced. He had not merely discovered a country, he had discovered a
world. He had not merely made a profitable expedition; he had brought
the promise of untold wealth to the kingdom of Spain. He had not merely
made himself the master of savage tribes; he had conquered the
supernatural, and overcome for ever those powers of darkness that had
been thought to brood over the vast Atlantic. He had sailed away in
obscurity, he had returned in fame; he had departed under a cloud of
scepticism and ridicule, he had come again in power and glory. He had
sailed from Palos as a seeker after hidden wealth, hidden knowledge; he
returned as teacher, discoverer, benefactor. The whole of Spain rang
with his fame, and the echoes of it spread to Portugal, France, England,
Germany, and Italy; and it reached the ears of his own family, who had
now left the Vico Dritto di Ponticello in Genoa and were living at

His life ashore in the first weeks following his return was a succession
of triumphs and ceremonials. His first care on landing had been to go
with the whole of his crew to the church of Saint George, where a Te Deum
was sung in honour of his return; and afterwards to perform those vows
that he had made at sea in the hour of danger. There was a certain
amount of business to transact at Palos in connection with the paying of
the ships' crews, writing of reports to the Sovereigns, and so forth; and
it is likely that he stayed with his friends at the monastery of La
Rabida while this was being done. The Court was at Barcelona; and it was
probably only a sense of his own great dignity and importance that
prevented Christopher from setting off on the long journey immediately.
But he who had made so many pilgrimages to Court as a suitor could revel
in a position that made it possible for him to hang back, and to be
pressed and invited; and so when his business at Palos was finished he
sent a messenger with his letters and reports to Barcelona, and himself,
with his crew and his Indians and all his trophies, departed for Seville,
where he arrived on Palm Sunday.

His entrance into that city was only a foretaste of the glory in which he
was to move across the whole of Spain. He was met at the gates of the
city by a squadron of cavalry commanded by an envoy sent by Queen
Isabella; and a procession was formed of members of the crew carrying
parrots, alive and stuffed, fruits, vegetables, and various other
products of the New World.

In a prominent place came the Indians, or rather four of them, for one
had died on the day they entered Palos and three were too ill to leave
that town; but the ones that took part in the procession got all the more
attention and admiration. The streets of Seville were crowded; crowded
also were the windows, balconies, and roofs. The Admiral was entertained
at the house of the Count of Cifuentes, where his little museum of dead
and live curiosities was also accommodated, and where certain favoured
visitors were admitted to view it. His two sons, Diego and Ferdinand,
were sent from Cordova to join him; and perhaps he found time to visit
Beatriz, although there is no record of his having been to Cordova or of
her having come to Seville.

Meanwhile his letters and messengers to the King and Queen had produced
their due effect. The almost incredible had come to pass, and they saw
themselves the monarchs not merely of Spain, but of a new Empire that
might be as vast as Europe and Africa together. On the 30th of March
they despatched a special messenger with a letter to Columbus, whose eyes
must have sparkled and heart expanded when he read the superscription:
"From the King and Queen to Don Christoval Colon, their Admiral of the
Ocean Seas and Viceroy and Governor of the Islands discovered in the
Indies." No lack of titles and dignities now! Their Majesties express a
profound sense of his ability and distinction, of the greatness of his
services to them, to the Church, and to God Himself. They hope that he
will lose no time, but repair to Barcelona immediately, so that they can
have the pleasure of hearing from his own lips an account of his
wonderful expedition, and of discussing with him the preparations that
must immediately be set on foot to fit out a new one. On receiving this
letter Christopher immediately drew up a list of what he thought
necessary for the new expedition and, collecting all his retinue and his
museum of specimens, started by road for Barcelona.

Every one in Spain had by this time heard more or less exaggerated
accounts of the discoveries, and the excitement in the towns and villages
through which he passed was extreme. Wherever he went he was greeted and
feasted like a king returning from victorious wars; the people lined the
streets of the towns and villages, and hung out banners, and gazed their
fill at the Indians and at the strange sun-burned faces of the crew. At
Barcelona, where they arrived towards the end of April, the climax of
these glittering dignities was reached. When the King and Queen heard
that Columbus was approaching the town they had their throne prepared
under a magnificent pavilion, and in the hot sunshine of that April day
they sat and waited the--coming of the great man. A glittering troop of
cavalry had been sent out to meet him, and at the gates of the town a
procession was formed similar to that at Seville. He had now six natives
with him, who occupied an important place in the procession; sailors
also, who carried baskets of fruit and vegetables from Espanola, with
stuffed birds and animals, and a monstrous lizard held aloft on a stick.
The Indians were duly decked out in all their paint and feathers; but if
they were a wonder and marvel to the people of Spain, what must Spain
have been to them with its great buildings and cities, its carriages and
horses, its glittering dresses and armours, its splendour and luxury!
We have no record of what the Indians thought, only of what the crowd
thought who gaped upon them and upon the gaudy parrots that screeched and
fluttered also in the procession. Columbus came riding on horseback, as
befitted a great Admiral and Viceroy, surrounded by his pilots and
principal officers; and followed by men bearing golden belts, golden
masks, nuggets of gold and dust of gold, and preceded by heralds,

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