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THE DISCOVERY OF AMERICA. 1. Next morning, being Friday, the third day of August, in the year 1492, Columbus set sail, a little before sunrise, in presence of a vast crowd of spectators, who sent up their supplications to Heaven for the success of the voyage, which they wished rather than expected. Columbus steered directly for the Canary Islands, and arrived there without any occurrence that would have deserved notice on any other occasion. But in such an important voyage, every circumstance was attended to.
2. As they proceeded, the signs of proaching land seemed to be more certain. The birds began to appear in flocks, making towards the south-west. Columbus, in imitation of the Portuguese navigators, who had been guided in several of their discoveries by the motion of birds, altered his course from due west towards that point whither they pointed their flight.
3. But after holding on for several days in this new direction, without any better success than formerly, having seen no object during thirty days but the sea and the sky, the hopes of his companions subsided faster than they had risen ; their fears revived with additional force ; impatience, rage, and despair appeared in every countenance.
4. All idea of obedience was lost. The officers, who had hitherto agreed with Columbus in opinion, and supported his authority, now took part with the private men; they assembled tumultuously on the deck, expostulated with their commander, mingled threats with their expostulations, and required him to tack about and return to Europe.
5. Columbus perceived that it would be of no avail to employ either gentle or severe measures to quell a mutiny so general and so violent. He promised solemnly to his men that he would comply with their request, provided they would accompany him and obey his commands for three days longer, and if
, during that time, land were not discovered, he would then abandon the enterprise, and direct his course towards Spain.
6. Enraged as the sailors were, and impatient to turn their faces again towards their native country, this proposition did not appear to them unreasonable ; nor did Columbus hazardo much in confining himself to a term so short. The signs of land were now so numerous and promising that he deemed them infallible. For some days the sounding-line had reached the bottom, and the soil which it brought up indicated land to be at no great distance.
7. The flocks of birds increased, and were composed not only of sea-fowl, but of such land birds as could not be supposed to fly far from the shore. The crew of the Pinta observed a cane floating, which seemed to have been newly cut, and likewise a piece of timber artificially carved. The sailors aboard the Nigna took up the branch of a tree with red berries perfectly fresh. The clouds around the setting sun assumed a new appearance; the air was milder and warmer, and during night the wind became variable.
8. From all these symptoms, Columbus was so confident of being near land, that on the evening of the 11th of October he ordered the sails to be furled, and the ships to lie to, keeping strict watch lest they should be driven ashore in the night. During this interval of suspense' and expectation, no man shut his eyes, all kept upon deck, gazing intently upon that quarter where they expected to discover the land which had so long been the object of their wishes.
9. About two hours before midnight, Columbus, standing on the forecastle, observed a light at a distance, and privately pointed it out to Pedro Guttierez, a page of the queen's wardrobe. Guttierez saw it, and calling to Salcedo, comptroller of the fleet, all three saw it in motion, as if it were carried from place to place.
10. A little after midnight the joyful sound of Land! Land! was heard from the Pinta, which kept always ahead of the other ships. But from having been so often deceived by false appearances, every man was now be
come slow of belief, and waited in all the impatience of uncertainty for the return of day. As soon as morning dawned, all doubts and fears were dispelled. From every ship an island was seen about two leagues to the north, whose flat and verdant fields, well stored with wood, and watered with many rivulets, presented the aspect of a delightful country,
11. The crew of the Pinta instantly began the Te Deum, as a hymn of thanksgiving to God, and were joined by those of the other ships with tears of joy. This office of gratitude to Heaven was followed by an act of justice to their commander. They threw themselves at the feet of Columbus, with feelings of selfcondemnation, mingled with reverence.
12. They implored him to pardon their ignorance, incredulity, and insolence, which had hindered the prosecution of his plan, and passing in the warmth of their admiration, from one extreme to another, they now pronounced the man, whom they had so lately reviled and threatened, to be a person inspired by Heaven with wisdom and fortitude more than human.
13. As soon as the sun arose, all their boats were manned and armed. They rowed towards the island with their colours flying, and with warlike music. As they approached the coast, they saw it covered with a multitude of people, whom the novelty of the sight had drawn together, whose attitudes and gestures