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Discovery of the New World.—WASHINGTON IRVING.
In the evening, when, according to invariable custom on board of the admiral's ship, the mariners had sung the Salve Regina, or vesper hymn to the Virgin, Columbus made an impressive address to his crew. He pointed out the goodness of God in thus conducting them by soft and favoring breezes across a tranquil ocean, cheering their hopes continually with fresh signs, increasing as their fears augmented, and thus leading and guiding them to a promised land. He now reminded them of the orders he had given on leaving the Canaries, that, after sailing westward seven hundred leagues, they should not make sail after midnight. Present appearances authorized such a precaution. He thought it probable they should make land that very night; he ordered, therefore, a vigilant look-out to be kept from the forecastle, promising, to whomsoever should make the discovery, a doublet of velvet, in addition to the pension to be given by the sovereigns.
The breeze had been fresh all day, with more sea than usual, and they had made great progress. At sunset they had stood again to the west, and were ploughing the waves at a rapid rate, the Pinta keeping the lead from her superior sailing. The greatest animation prevailed throughout the ships; not an eye was closed that night. As the evening darkened, Columbus took his station on the top of the castle or cabin on the high poop of his vessel. However he might carry a cheerful and confident countenance during the day, it was to him a time of the most painful anxiety, and now, when he was wrapped by the shades of night from observation, he maintained an intense and unremitting watch, ranging his eye along the dusky horizon, in search of the most vague indication of land,
Suddenly, about ten o'clock, he thought he beheld a light glimmering at a distance.
Fearing that his eager hopes might deceive him, he called to Pedro Gutierrez, gentleman of the king's bed-chamber, and demanded whether he saw a light in that direction ; the latter replied in the affirmative. Columbus, yet doubtful whether it might not be some delusion of the fancy, called Rodrigo Sanchez of Segovia, and made the same inquiry. By the time the latter had ascended the round-house, the light had disappeared. They saw it once or twice afterwards, in sudden and passing gleams, as if it were a torch in the bark of a fisherman, rising and sinking with the waves, or in the hand of some person on shore, borne up and down as he walked from house to house. So transient and uncertain were these gleams, that few attached any importance to them. Columbus, however, considered them as certain signs of land, and, moreover, that the land was inhabited.
They continued their course until two in the morning, when a gun from the Pinta gave the joyful signal of land. It was first descried by a mariner named Rodrigo de Triana; but the reward was afterwards adjudged to the admiral, for having previously perceived the light. The land was now clearly seen about two leagues distant, whereupon they took in sail, and laid to, waiting impatiently for the dawn.
The thoughts and feelings of Columbus, in this little space of time, must have been tumultuous and intense. At length, in spite of every difficulty and danger, he had accomplished his object. The great mystery of the ocean was revealed ; his theory, which had been the scoff even of sages, was triumphantly established; he had secured to himself a glory which must be as durable as the world itself.
It is difficult even for the imagination to conceive the feelings of such a man, at the moment of so sublime a discovery. What a bewildering crowd of conjectures must have thronged upon his mind, as to the land which lay before him, covered with darkness! That it was fruitful, was evident from the vegetables which floated from its shores. He thought, too, that he perceived in the balmy air the fragrance of aromatic groves. The moving light which he had beheld had proved that it was the residence of man.
But what were its inhabitants? Were they like those of the other parts of the globe; or were they some strange and monstrous race, such as the imagination in those times was prone to give to all remote and unknown regions? Had he come upon some wild island far in the Indian sea ; or was this the famed Cipango itself, the object of his golden fancies ? A thousand speculations of the kind must have swarmed upon him, as, with his anxious crews, he waited for the night to pass away; wondering whether the morning light would reveal a savage wilderness, or dawn upon spicy groves, and glittering fanes, and gilded cities, and all the splendor of oriental civilization,
The morning dawned that was to give Columbus the first view of the new worlil. As objects gradually became visible, he beheld before him a level and beautiful island, several leagues in extent, of great freshness and verdure, and covered with trees like a continual orehard. Though every thing appeared in the wild luxuriance of untamed nature, yet the island was evidently populous, for the inhabitants were seen issuing from the woods, and running from all parts to the shore, where they stood gazing at the ships. They were all perfectly naked, and, from their attitudes and gestures, appeared to be lost in astonishment. Columbus made signal for the ships to cast anchor, and the boats to be manned and armed. He entered his own boat, richly attired in scarlet, and bearing the royal standard; whilst Martin Alonzo Pinzon, and Vincent Yañez his brother, put off in company in their boats, each bearing the banner of the enterprise emblazoned with a green cross, having on each side the letters F. and Y. surmounted by crowns, the initials of the Castilian monarchs Fer nando and Ysabel.
As they approached the shores, they were refreshed by the sight of the ample forests, which, in those climates, have extraordinary beauty of vegetation. They beheld fruits of tempting hue, but unknown kind, growing among the trees which overhung the shores. The purity and suavity of the atmosphere, the crystal transparency of the seas which bathe these islands, give them a wonderful beauty, and must have had their effect upon the susceptible feelings of Columbus. No sooner did he land, than he threw himself upon his knees, kissed the earth, and returned thanks to God with tears of joy. His example was followed by the rest, whose hearts, indeed, overflowed with the same feelings of gratitude. Columbus then, rising, drew his sword, displayed the royal standard, and, assembling round him the two captains, with Rodrigo de Escobedo, notary of the armament, Rodrigo Sanchez, and the rest who had landed, he took solemn possession in the name of the Castilian sovereigns, giving the island the name of San Salvador. It was on the morning of Friday, 12th of October, that this memorable event took place. Having complied with the requisite forms and ceremonies, Columbus called upon all present to take the oath of obedience to him, as admiral and viceroy, representing the persons of the sovereigns.
The feelings of the crew now burst forth in the most extravagant transports. They had recently considered themselves devoted men, hurrying forward to destruction ; they now looked upon themselves as favorites of fortune, and gave themselves up to the most unbounded joy. They thronged around the admiral in their overflowing zeal. Some embraced him, others kissed his hands. Those who had been most mutinous and turbulent during the voyage, were now most devoted and enthusiastic. Some begged favors of him, as of a man who had already wealth and honors in his gift. Many abject spirits, who had outraged
him by their insolence, now crouched as it were at his feet, begging pardon for all the trouble they had caused him, and offering for the future the blindest obedience to his commands.
Reception of Columbus on his Return to Spain.
The fame of his discovery had resounded throughout the nation, and as his route lay through several of the finest and most populous provinces of Spain, his journey appeared like the progress of a sovereign. Wherever he passed, the surrounding country poured forth its inhabitants, who lined the road and thronged the villages. In the large towns, the streets, windows and balconies were filled with eager spectators, who rent the air with acclamations. His journey was continually impeded by the multitude pressing to gain a sight of him, and of the Indians, who were regarded with as much admiration as if they had been natives of another planet. It was impossible to satisfy the craving curiosity which assailed himself and his attendants, at every stage, with innumerable questions : popular rumor, as usual, had exaggerated the truth, and had filled the newly-found country with all kinds of wonders.
It was about the middle of April that Columbus arrived at Barcelona, where every preparation had been made to give him a solemn and magnificent reception. The beauty and serenity of the weather, in that genial season and favored climate, contributed to give splendor to this memorable ceremony. As he drew near the place, many of the more youthful courtiers, and hidalgos of gallant bearing, together with a vast concourse of the populace, came forth to meet and welcome him. His entrance into this noble city has been compared to one of those triumphs