Puslapio vaizdai

soled, deeming his choice a special grace of heaven. This duty to his Maker being performed, Columbus turned his attention to men; and, in order that the memory of the discovery might not perish, he wrote it down amid the storm, and, wrapping his scroll in a waxed cloth, sealed it up in a keg, which he cast overboard, trusting that, by God's grace, his precious secret might float to shore, and somewhere fall into good hands.

On the 15th of February they sighted land, but what coast they knew not. However, seeing land and landing were, under the circumstances, by no means the same thing. The sea still ran very high, and, as Las Casas says, the ships could only tack with the utmost difficulty. On closer examination they supposed themselves to be near one of the Azores. Columbus by this time was worn to a shadow by fasting, loss of sleep, and exposure, sustaining life by the sheer force of fevered excitement, although well nigh exhausted by the wet and cold. From the 15th to the 18th they stood off and on without being able to run inshore; but on this latter day they landed, and found that the island was called Santa María. Columbus naturally looked for a hearty welcome from its people. Saved as by a miracle from the dashing billows, the land he saw seemed to him almost supernatural. His newly discovered islands, opening fresh fields for the islanders of that region, assured him of triumph, and not repulse. Indeed, the first demonstrations were friendly and joyful, and the islanders showed the greatest delight on hearing of the discovery and beholding the discoverer. But beneath their show of glad welcome lurked a base treachery. Notwithstanding Castile had made peace with Portugal, the Portuguese king could not resign himself to the thought that so great an enterprise had slipped from his grasp. As, on the setting out of the expedition, it had been reported that he was resolved to prevent the exploration, so now, on its return, the fruits of the resentment born of his own want of insight and judgment became apparent. But in all that the Lusitanian monarch did in this regard is noticeable a spirit of indecision that explains his failures, for great resolves demand not only firmness of will, but fixity of purpose and clearness of plan. Dom John could not rightfully ascribe to Columbus the burden of his own error; mute indeed was the conscience of such a man not to confess the true responsibility for the irreparable blunder, which in the sight of history rests only on the king himself. Columbus sent three men ashore, and they did not return, being detained by the eagerness of the islanders to hear their marvelous story; but two messengers from the captain of the island came to the caravel, bringing fowls and other fresh sup

plies for the crew. The admiral showed them great courtesy and told them how, in fulfilment of a vow, half his crew would go the next morning in solemn penance to the nearest hermitage. They so went, but, to their keen surprise, were assailed by the Portuguese, who, gathered on foot and on horseback, invaded the sanctuary during the mass, with threatening gestures and ribald cries, and seized as enemies their allies and guests. An equal surprise was in store for Columbus. While awaiting the return of the pilgrims in order that he might himself perform the like duty, the Portuguese captain put out in a boat, and told how he had imprisoned them all. Indignant at this incredible outrage, and after announcing his titles of admiral and viceroy, and exhibiting the letters patent of his sovereigns calling upon all friends and allies to lend customary aid to him, Columbus wound up by threatening the offenders with the wrath of Castile, mighty to avenge wounded honor, until not one stone should be left upon another. Fearing lest his moorings should be cut by the rocky bottom, Columbus determined to quit the spot. He had no ballast, however, having been obliged to make use instead of casks filled with sea water; nor even sailors enough, for all his ablest seamen were prisoners on shore. The thick horizon and swollen sea, and the reduction of his able-bodied crew to three skilled sailors, were enough to dismay Columbus, and to make him turn with longing eyes to the fair islands he had quitted, as to an earthly paradise. The sea rolled furiously inshore, and so tossed the ships as to add bodily discomfort to mental anguish. Yet he gave thanks to God even now, for had he been forced to encounter heavy cross-seas instead of broadside rollers, he would inevitably have foundered. The admiral went in search of better shelter at an island called San Miguel, but could not find it. He dreaded to return to Santa María, yet, despite the injuries there suffered, he put back, whereupon several men called to him from the craggy shore, and begged to be taken on board. Soon a skiff put out, manned by five sailors, two priests, and a notary, who asked to see the royal letters and commissions of which he had spoken. Columbus refused, distrusting their intentions; but not having evil means at command, he resorted to good, and, exhibiting the letters, demanded the restoration of the prisoners, which was at length accomplished, to the great satisfaction of all concerned and to his own keen relief. Once a prisoner of the Portuguese king, as Columbus averred he would have been, when could he have regained freedom? Unbounded, indeed, must have been his gratitude to God for having thus happily escaped this fresh affliction.

Taking his men aboard, he turned prow to

ward Castile on Sunday, the 24th of February. He encountered variable weather until the first days of March, when a violent tornado again struck him, and brought him within two fingers' breadth of loss and ruin. He vowed more pilgrimages to various shrines of the Virgin, while to his God he offered the sacrifice of patient submission to the divine decrees. The mountainous waves, whose fury no poetic trope can depict, overtook and dashed madly upon the frail bark, tossing it aloft as though to crush it, and again hurling it down into the depths. He sighted land amid the thick pall of inky clouds lit by the lightning-bolts, and gave orders to shorten sail, since it was exceedingly dangerous to be offshore in such a storm and darkness. The gale soon blew itself out, and on one hand appeared the white dunes that hem the harbor-mouth of Lisbon, in front lay the broad emboguement of the Tagus girt with golden sands and white with the lacery of the surges, while near by was the picturesque port of Cascaes, an intermingling of cabins and skiffs, of fishing-nets and plows; and, greater than all, the lovely Rock of Cintra, damascened with gardens, bright with flowers, and fragrant with balsamic odors. Columbus would much rather have hit upon lands where floated the banner of Castile, for he was inspired with slender confidence in a state whose authorities had so rudely treated him in its outlying possessions, and whose king had sworn to charge upon others acts for which a right conscience could himself hold alone accountable. But he could not avoid anchoring in the Tagus. The crested waves still pursued him, and storms violent beyond the experience of man prevailed, so that in those days some five and twenty ships of Flanders with many trusty seamen were swallowed up. On entering the mouth of the river, fearing an attack by the people of the shore, Columbus asked permission to moor in front of Lisbon itself. There he found at anchor a powerful royal ship, of heavy tonnage and armament, under command of that skilful master Bartolomé Diaz, who came in his long-boat to the caravel, and bade him follow whither he would take him. Columbus resisted this command, as befitted his exalted rank and powers, merely exhibiting the letters patent in virtue whereof he might enter at will the ports of any state in alliance or amity with Castile. His high office being made known, every courtesy was shown him. The captain of the Lusitanian ship visited him, attended by musicians and in great pomp, paying him much attention and sharing in his rejoicing; the folk of Lisbon crowded to see and to acclaim him for having dispelled so vast a mystery by his daring, and for revealing to the world so strange a land by bringing back with him liv

ing examples of its primitive race. Dom Martin de Noronha, a Portuguese hidalgo, brought him a letter from Dom John II., inviting him to the court, where he was notably welcomed; the villagers of Sacamben, where he passed a night on his way to the king's seat, greeted him with all sorts of festivities; the prior of Crato, the foremost personage of the neighborhood, entertained him as a guest in obedience to Dom John's orders; the king seated him at his own table with the greatest respect, and listened attentively to the narrative of his discoveries; and even the queen, then temporarily sojourning in the convent of San Antonio, would not permit him to depart without hearing from his own lips that epic of the sea, marvelous beyond any fancied and sung by poets in their loftiest flights; and thus he who had quitted Portugal as a poor madman returned thither to be reverently hailed as a demigod. This contrast, more than all else, wounded the heart of Dom John. Every new report of the discoverer stung him like an envenomed dart, and the conviction of his frustrated grandeur racked his brain. The thought that all those pearl-seas and golden lands, those spice-islands fair and stainless as a newfound paradise, might have been his, and had been lost through his heeding not the man to whom he now listened with envy, filled his bewildered mind with plans impossible of realization, and schemes of recklessness and violence strove for the mastery in his halting will. In the course of his conversation with the admiral, the rash thought possessed him that the new islands might belong in reality to him, the conqueror of Bojador and Guinea, in virtue of old treaties with Castile and of papal bulls. But Columbus readily met such arguments with the masterful skill of one in whom the divinations of genius were joined to learning and research. Some assert that in secret, and baffling the scrutiny of Columbus as far as he might, Dom John brought from the caravel an Indian native of the first-discovered island, and bade him show by means of stones and pebbles set in due order the number and position of the islands of that beauteous archipelago. When he saw the great group of the Bahamas and the vast and fabulously fertile Cuba, with Española large as Portugal, beyond reef-girt Salvador, Fernandina with its thrifty tribes. and the poetic isles of Concepcion and Isabella, all coral-rooted in the sea and rearing their crowns of palms heavenward, he was smitten with such despair that he turned against the discoverer all the reproach that he himself alone deserved. Deep, indeed, must his rage have been when his courtiers, ever on the alert to pander to what they divined to be the royal desire, plotted to assassinate Colum

bus and, seizing his caravel, to brave anew the now explored sea, and to set upon the islands discovered for Castile the standard of Portugal. But some remnant of conscience in the king, and some lingering fear of the Catholic Sovereigns, led him to allow Columbus to depart whither he would, and so he bade him a courteous and ceremonious farewell, charging him with congratulations to the Castilian rulers for the new and marvelous empire they had won. The delicate sensitiveness of his nature was displayed by Columbus now, as often before, by his turning first to the spot whence he had set sail, thronged though it was with sad memories of his former obscurity and poverty, rather than to the court whence the first aid toward his undertaking had come and where dazzling rewards awaited its success. True it is that the pains and trials whereby success is won enhance beyond measure its material and moral value. The humble stranger-pilot; the wandering Genoese; the obscure sojourner in a petty village of the coast; the plebeian kinsman of an unknown family; the unhappy father for whom his elder son was become a grievous burden through his inability to maintain him as his deep heart's love prompted; the sorcerer, comprehended only by the wisdom of Garci-Fernandez the physician, and the intuition of Fray Juan Perez the penitent, doubtless found in the remembrance of the trials that had so hardly beset him the motives of a higher satisfaction at the fame he had won, and a deeper appreciation of his rank of admiral and viceroy achieved by the heroic force of his will and his inspiration. What countless vigils! What bitter jeers remembered in the solitude of the cloister! What yearnings as he beheld life and hope waning! What of those long days of Juan Perez's mission to Granada? What of his lack of means, even after so favorable a compact as that with the sovereigns at Santa Fé? What of the desertion of his crews, his parting from his child, his last look upon the cliff-set monastery when the unknown wastes were yawning before him, the daring discoverer? Contrast the penitential procession before his setting forth with the triumphal pageantry of his return; that requiem-like mass celebrated by the solitary Padre Juan with the glad "Te Deum" of the crowds that now awaited him; the heart-rending wailings of farewell at his departure with the joyous acclaim of triumph; the scoffs heaped upon his mad schemes with the benedictions attending his assured success; the lamentations of the bygone time with the present rejoicings,-the one is as the day of Calvary, the other as the day of the paschal resurrection! He who had most contributed to the success of the Columbian plans, Pinzon, reached Puerto sadly and alone, and like a hunted felon slunk to his home, to

die! Ah! Martin Alonso fell a victim to his failure to realize the greatness of his share in the work, and to his having coveted the glory ofit for himself. How splendid were Lucifer had he not fallen! How great Martin Alonso had he not aspired to be Columbus! He had amassed the wherewithal to complete the equipment of the voyage; assembled by his authority the three caravels and their crews; accomplished the task of organization when even the deputed powers of the sovereigns had been in vain; subdued the disaffected sailors; restored order when all seemed lost, dispelled moral tempests more terrible than those of ocean; shown amid all difficulties exceptional qualities worthy from their very dissimilarity of being ranked with the superhuman-endowments of his prescient rival; but all his shrewd foresight, his firmness of will, his patience, his heroic valor, his faculties of administration and command, were commingled with such mad jealousy, such poignant envy, such hostile rivalry, as to drag him to this shameful end and forever to tarnish his glorious life. His quitting Columbus to go in quest of the wealth which the Indians of San Salvador reported to lie hidden in the heart of Haïti was an act of insubordination, unpardonable anywhere, but most so upon the seas when ruin impends if all yield not the most passive obedience. Neither should he, upon his return, have coveted the high laurels due to the greater originator, for even in his subordinate place peerless fame and benefits awaited him. The punishment befitted the deed. When he reached Bayona, in Galicia, near the mouth of the Miño, Columbus was already in the Tagus; when he arrived at the harbor of Saltes, Columbus had already landed long before him, and received his merited welcome. Naught was left Pinzon but to die. Even in that tragical and obscure ending of his woes and his despair, is seen the high resolve of the sailor who faces death as all things else. Columbus perchance might not be overpaid by all that Castile could bestow; but the fault of Pinzon was requited beyond measure. Some, nevertheless, would excuse the pilot's error by the greed of the admiral, who could not brook that any of his sailors might share in the benefits of an enterprise which so conspicuously obeyed the instincts of barter and the lust of gain. From the time of sighting the first island until the last reefs of Española sank from sight, Columbus thought of naught save amassing gold, and spoke of naught save gold. How scanty his inquiries of the Indians in regard to their religion, laws, and customs; how endless concerning gold-mines! He himself confesses that Pinzon, when they parted company, had gathered much gold by barter with the natives, and had distributed it in proportionate shares

among his sailors, reserving a goodly part for himself. But Columbus kept for himself all that he found. Every prospect of profit in his pathway tempted him and called forth his imperious resolve, when he deemed the occasion propitious, to grasp it. He had well nigh lost all at Santa Fé, by his inordinate demands for more profitable conditions. His failure at the court of Lisbon, so propitious a field for all discoveries, is attributed by some to his tenacious and overweening claims for his own benefit in comparison with the share to fall to the crown. He could not even relinquish the paltry prize and slender pittance offered to him who should earliest sight land. There is no doubt whatever that the first man actually to behold the celebrated Lucayan shore, discovered in the morning hours of the 12th of October, was Rodrigo de Triana; yet, because the admiral saw a faint gleam of light in the distance, a fact not even well attested, he appropriated the pension, to the grievous discontent of the good Rodrigo, who, wounded by this attack upon his fame and his pocket, quitted the service of his sovereigns, and went over to the Moors. As the curious volume of his Prophecies1 shows, Columbus persistently dreamed of buying back Jerusalem from the Grand Turk, but only in the event of his finding seas of pearls, cities of gold, streets paved with sapphires, mountains of emeralds, rivers of diamonds, wealth such as had never fallen to Croesus or Solomon, the treasures of all the Indies far beyond aught that philosopher could compute or even poet feign. The sovereigns themselves discerned these failings in Columbus, when, in writing him the solemn epistle whereby they congratulated him upon his discovery, they first speak of the service done to God and his king, and again of the things he had accomplished for religion and his country, and conclude by referring at considerable length to the profits reaped by the discoverer, his several titles, his numerous benefits, and his enormous share in the revenues to his own behoof. More fittingly should this first letter after the splendid achievement have been a hymn of praise, and not a business reckoning. But it was a reckoning, and not a hymn, because the sovereigns well knew the greed of the discoverer and his disposition to grasp even the uttermost scrap of his bargained privileges. Pinzon, naturally more liberal than Columbus, more generous by national traits and domestic training, free-handed to give, as is shown by the fact of his not having asked even a receipt for the large contributions he brought to the common enter1 This Book of Prophecies remains inedited. The manuscript is in the Columbian Library at Seville-a portentous folio," two fingers thick," entitled "Coleccion de las Profecías de la recuperacion de la Santa Cibdad de Hierusalen y del descubrimiento de las

prise, must at the last have become vexed at the covetousness of the admiral, and convinced that he would endeavor to turn everything to his own personal advantage and lasting renown. But they who so persistently charge this vice upon Columbus ignore the main characteristics of a nature and temperament such as his, and shut their eyes to the exceptional end whereto he was born and reared. The New World would never have been discovered if to the divine impulses springing from the warmth of a self-contained semi-religious ideal had not been joined the paltry but continuous incentives of more sordid motives, serving to spur the will to vigilant effort and tireless activity. Providence and nature joined in guiding alike the nobler and higher part of Columbus and the lower and more animal part, in order that he might realize an almost fabulous ideal, in obedience to all the impelling mainsprings of the human will. If any one thing be lacking, the totality of the work is marred. These strangely composite men, so lofty, yet so contradictory. while possessing in the higher attributes of their being more of the angel than other mortals, have likewise in their lower traits much more of the animal. These mixed traits were congenital to the men of that time, when the ancient feudal chivalry was expiring and modern mercantile self-interest springing up; to the natives of such a city as Genoa, alike artistic and commercial; to the calling of a sailor, which by its dual aspects looks upon the sea as a temple and a mart, and upon life as a truceless combat and a business transaction; to the artists and learned men of the Renaissance in whom imagination, poetic impulse, the intuitive faculties, sovereign inspirations, esthetic motives, the revelations of philosophy, profound thought, superhuman art, and the worship of the true and the beautiful attained vast proportions, at the expense of morality and conscience,—if I may venture to hint such a thing in regard to a sublime revealer who has even been very generally proposed for canonization.

FROM memory-haunted Palos, Columbus went to Seville and thence by land to Barce lona, where the sovereigns awaited him. It be ing his good hap to journey through the fairest and richest region of the peninsula, there is no need of telling how he was received by Andalusians, Murcians, Levantines, and Catalans in his triumphal progress. One who has not had the good fortune to witness a Levantine feste val can scarce form a conception of the joy of the populace. April having already opened Indias." To Navarrete and Harrisse, only the leaf seemed to be in Columbus's own handwritig It was written mainly in 1501. A summary is in Ne varrete's "Coleccion," II., 289.-TRANSLATOR.

when the admiral took his way through that enchanting Eden, it need scarce be said that orange-blossoms showered upon him amid the endless rejoicings, as the applause of innumerable crowds smote his ear. From every wayside nook he could discern through the garlanded almonds and pomegranates his own Mediterranean blue stretching beyond the figs and aloes. Upon his stately entry into any town, the booming of cannon, the peal of bells, the strains of sweet music, the acclaim of the crowds, the clash of timbrels and the melody of lutes, the homage of the civic authorities surrounded by their picturesque alguacils, the joyful halleluiahs chanted by monks and priests in solemn procession, the fragrance of the streets strewn with rosemary and lavender, the portals wreathed with flowers, the housefronts hung with boughs and the frondage of the cane, the crimson damask and snowy drapery falling from casement and balcony in graceful folds, the countless streamers and banners that waved above, the stretched awnings softening the glare with delicate gleams and grateful shadows, made such a succession of bright pictures as art might strive in vain to represent truly. At length the discoverer drew nigh to Barcelona. The city in its festal attire was a sight to see. All the luxury of the civilization of that day was gathered there in wondrous splendor. A deputation of nobles had received him beyond the city's gates, and attended him to where the civic authorities stood in waiting, each preceded by his mace-bearer. What a sublime meeting of the Old World and the New! The procession was headed by the crews of the caravels, bronzed by the sun and tanned by the salt waves, exciting popular enthusiasm by their brave sailor-like tread and the vigor of their embrowned features; after came, borne upon men's shoulders, those strange plants so different from any then known among us-the maize with its golden ears, the yet unnamed yucca, the cocoa-palms, the broadleaved plantain, and the farinaceous tubers we now call potatoes. To this Indian flora succeeded the novel fauna, some living, others for the most part dried and mounted. All were amazed by the manatees, like huge aquatic oxen, the iguanas, like gentler crocodiles, and the sirens, fleshy of body and by no means as lovely as fable tells. Next came the birds, parrakeets of many kinds, with brilliant silken plumage, mounted on lofty perches; and after these, the Indians, on foot, naked and gaily painted with crowns of feathers on their heads and breech-clouts on their loins, much startled at the dismay they themselves caused, yet obedient to the glance and smile of the discoverer, who led them where he would amid the astonished crowd. After the Indians came the

gold, the primitive jewelry, and the strings of seed-pearls given by the caciques, all artfully displayed. Lastly came an attendant escort of the ship's officers, and then Columbus, adorned with all the insignia of his various offices, a true cavalier upon a spirited charger, haughtily erect despite his years, and heedful of every mark of honor shown him, a smile of gratitude upon his lips, the furrows of deep thought upon his brow, and in his eagle glance the reflected splendor of his soul. We need not dilate upon how those Barcelonese, famed for urbanity and finished types of the culture of their day, vied with one another in proving their comprehension of the transcendency of the incredible event. From the pavement of the streets to the cornices of the houses, a compact multitude was gathered, delirious with an enthusiasm finding vent in never-ending acclamations that, rising and echoing through all the air, spread the electric thrill of a common yearning in which, as it were, the soul of the whole city was condensed. In this poem of the discovery of the New World-an epic indeed, though history must perforce narrate it in prose-the choice of Barcelona for the reception of Columbus appears intentional and not mere chance, for none of our towns had so good a right to usher in the new age of labor and barter as that exceptional city of the toiler and the artisan, whose nautical and mercantile renown competes with the greatest fame of the cities of Italy and Hellas.

Beneath a canopy of rich brocade and upon a throne of Persian fabrics sat the two sovereigns, attended by the most splendid court of all Christendom. Gonzalez Oviedo, the chronicler, with his minute attention to details, says that, even as at Santa Fé he had witnessed the melancholy exile of Boabdil, so now a year and a half later he beheld the triumphal entry of Columbus. And rightly did he couple these memories, for the history of man records few events of such importance. The discoverer dismounted, and advancing, bonnet in hand, beneath the standard he had planted upon the reefs of Salvador in the name of Castile, entered the royal audience-hall, with a deep emotion such as frail human nature could scarce endure. By the royal dais stood the Prince Don John, in whose honor Columbus had given to Cuba the name of Juana, and amid the assembled court were doubtless gathered the great patrons of Columbus, foremost among them the Cardinal of Spain, Pedro de Mendoza. A murmur of admiring surprise greeted the discoverer, whose brimming eyes, quick to discern the pathways of the ocean, could scarce trace his path in that splendid hall. Moved by an irresistible impulse, the sovereigns cast royal etiquette aside, and stood

« AnkstesnisTęsti »