Christopher Columbus by Filson Young, v2
Filson Young

This etext was produced by David Widger

[NOTE: There is a short list of bookmarks, or pointers, at the end of the
file for those who may wish to sample the author's ideas before making an
entire meal of them. D.W.]






The man to whom Columbus proposed to address his request for means with
which to make a voyage of discovery was no less a person than the new
King of Portugal. Columbus was never a man of petty or small ideas; if
he were going to do a thing at all, he went about it in a large and
comprehensive way; and all his life he had a way of going to the
fountainhead, and of making flights and leaps where other men would only
climb or walk, that had much to do with his ultimate success. King John,
moreover, had shown himself thoroughly sympathetic to the spirit of
discovery; Columbus, as we have seen, had already been employed in a
trusted capacity in one of the royal expeditions; and he rightly thought
that, since he had to ask the help of some one in his enterprise, he
might as well try to enlist the Crown itself in the service of his great
Idea. He was not prepared, however, to go directly to the King and ask
for ships; his proposal would have to be put in a way that would appeal
to the royal ambition, and would also satisfy the King that there was
really a destination in view for the expedition. In other words Columbus
had to propose to go somewhere; it would not do to say that he was going
west into the Atlantic Ocean to look about him. He therefore devoted all
his energies to putting his proposal on what is called a business
footing, and expressing his vague, sublime Idea in common and practical

The people who probably helped him most in this were his brother
Bartholomew and Martin Behaim, the great authority on scientific
navigation, who had been living in Lisbon for some time and with whom
Columbus was acquainted. Behaim, who was at this time about forty eight
years of age, was born at Nuremberg, and was a pupil of Regiomontanus,
the great German astronomer. A very interesting man, this, if we could
decipher his features and character; no mere star-gazing visionary, but a
man of the world, whose scientific lore was combined with a wide and
liberal experience of life. He was not only learned in cosmography and
astronomy, but he had a genius for mechanics and made beautiful
instruments; he was a merchant also, and combined a little business with
his scientific travels. He had been employed at Lisbon in adapting the
astrolabe of Regiomontanus for the use of sailors at sea; and in these
labours he was assisted by two people who were destined to have a weighty
influence on the career of Columbus--Doctors Rodrigo and Joseph,
physicians or advisers to the King, and men of great academic reputation.
There was nothing known about cosmography or astronomy that Behaim did
not know; and he had just come back from an expedition on which he had
been despatched, with Rodrigo and Joseph, to take the altitude of the sun
in Guinea.

Columbus was not the man to neglect his opportunities, and there can be
no doubt that as soon as his purpose had established itself in his mind
he made use of every opportunity that presented itself for improving his
meagre scientific knowledge, in order that his proposal might be set
forth in a plausible form. In other words, he got up the subject. The
whole of his geographical reading with regard to the Indies up to this
time had been in the travels of Marco Polo; the others--whose works he
quoted from so freely in later years were then known to him only by name,
if at all. Behaim, however, could tell him a good deal about the
supposed circumference of the earth, the extent of the Asiatic continent,
and so on. Every new fact that Columbus heard he seized and pressed into
the service of his Idea; where there was a choice of facts, or a
difference of opinion between scientists, he chose the facts that were
most convenient, and the opinions that fitted best with his own beliefs.
The very word "Indies" was synonymous with unbounded wealth; there
certainly would be riches to tempt the King with; and Columbus, being a
religious man, hit also on the happy idea of setting forth the spiritual
glory of carrying the light of faith across the Sea of Darkness, and
making of the heathen a heritage for the Christian Church. So that, what
with one thing and another, he soon had his proposals formally arranged.

Imagine him, then, actually at Court, and having an audience of the King,
who could scarcely believe his ears. Here was a man, of whom he knew
nothing but that his conduct of a caravel had been well spoken of in the
recent expedition to Guinea, actually proposing to sail out west into the
Atlantic and to cross the unknown part of the world. Certainly his
proposals seemed plausible, but still--. The earth was round, said
Columbus, and therefore there was a way from East to West and from West
to East. The prophet Esdras, a scientific authority that even His
Majesty would hardly venture to doubt, had laid it down that only one-
seventh of the earth was covered by waters. From this fact Columbus
deduced that the maritime space extending westward between the shores of
Europe and eastern coast of Asia could not be large; and by sailing
westward he proposed to reach certain lands of which he claimed to have
knowledge. The sailors' tales, the logs of driftwood, the dead bodies,
were all brought into the proposals; in short, if His Majesty would grant
some ships, and consent to making Columbus Admiral over all the islands
that he might discover, with full viceregal state, authority, and profit,
he would go and discover them.

There are two different accounts of what the King said when this proposal
was made to him. According to some authorities, John was impressed by
Columbus's proposals, and inclined to provide him with the necessary
ships, but he could not assent to all the titles and rewards which
Columbus demanded as a price for his services. Barros, the Portuguese
historian, on the other hand, represents that the whole idea was too
fantastic to be seriously entertained by the King for a moment, and that
although he at once made up his mind to refuse the request he preferred
to delegate his refusal to a commission. Whatever may be the truth as to
King John's opinions, the commission was certainly appointed, and
consisted of three persons, to wit: Master Rodrigo, Master Joseph the
Jew, and the Right Reverend Cazadilla, Bishop of Ceuta.

Before these three learned men must Columbus now appear, a little less
happy in his mind, and wishing that he knew more Latin. Master Rodrigo,
Master Joseph the Jew, the Right Reverend Cazadilla: three pairs of cold
eyes turned rather haughtily on the Genoese adventurer; three brains much
steeped in learning, directed in judgment on the Idea of a man with no
learning at all. The Right Reverend Cazadilla, being the King's
confessor, and a bishop into the bargain, could speak on that matter of
converting the heathen; and he was of opinion that it could not be done.
Joseph the Jew, having made voyages, and worked with Behaim at the
astrolabe, was surely an authority on navigation; and he was of opinion
that it could not be done. Rodrigo, being also a very learned man, had
read many books which Columbus had not read; and he was of opinion that
it could not be done. Three learned opinions against one Idea; the Idea
is bound to go. They would no doubt question Columbus on the scientific
aspect of the matter, and would soon discover his grievous lack of
academic knowledge. They would quote fluently passages from writers that
he had not heard of; if he had not heard of them, they seemed to imply,
no wonder he made such foolish proposals. Poor Columbus stands there
puzzled, dissatisfied, tongue-tied. He cannot answer these wiseacres in
their own learned lingo; what they say, or what they quote, may be true
or it may not; but it has nothing to do with his Idea. If he opens his
mouth to justify himself, they refute him with arguments that he does not
understand; there is a wall between them. More than a wall; there is a
world between them! It is his 'credo' against their 'ignoro'; it is, his
'expecto' against their 'non video'. Yet in his 'credo' there lies a
power of which they do not dream; and it rings out in a trumpet note
across the centuries, saluting the life force that opposes its
irresistible "I will" to the feeble "Thou canst not" of the worldly-wise.
Thus, in about the year 1483, did three learned men sit in judgment upon
our ignorant Christopher. Three learned men: Doctors Rodrigo, Joseph the
Jew, and the Right Reverend Cazadilla, Bishop of Ceuta; three risen,
stuffed to the eyes and ears with learning; stuffed so full indeed that
eyes and ears are closed with it. And three men, it would appear, wholly
destitute of mother-wit.

After all his preparations this rebuff must have been a serious blow to
Columbus. It was not his only trouble, moreover. During the last year
he had been earning nothing; he was already in imagination the Admiral of
the Ocean Seas; and in the anticipation of the much higher duties to
which he hoped to be devoted it is not likely that he would continue at
his humble task of making maps and charts. The result was that he got
into debt, and it was absolutely necessary that something should be done.
But a darker trouble had also almost certainly come to him about this
time. Neither the day nor the year of Philippa's death is known;
but it is likely that it occurred soon after Columbus's failure at the
Portuguese Court, and immediately before his departure into Spain. That
anonymous life, fulfilling itself so obscurely in companionship and
motherhood, as softly as it floated upon the page of history, as softly
fades from it again. Those kind eyes, that encouraging voice, that
helping hand and friendly human soul are with him no longer; and after
the interval of peace and restful growth that they afforded Christopher
must strike his tent and go forth upon another stage of his pilgrimage
with a heavier and sterner heart.

Two things are left to him: his son Diego, now an articulate little
creature with character and personality of his own, and with strange,
heart-breaking reminiscences of his mother in voice and countenance and
manner--that is one possession; the other is his Idea. Two things alive
and satisfactory, amid the ruin and loss of other possessions; two
reasons for living and prevailing. And these two possessions Columbus
took with him when he set out for Spain in the year 1485.

His first care was to take little Diego to the town of Huelva, where
there lived a sister of Philippa's who had married a Spaniard named
Muliartes. This done, he was able to devote himself solely to the
furtherance of his Idea. For this purpose he went to Seville, where he
attached himself for a little while to a group of his countrymen who were
settled there, among them Antonio and Alessandro Geraldini, and made such
momentary living as was possible to him by his old trade. But the Idea
would not sleep. He talked of nothing else; and as men do who talk of an
idea that possesses them wholly, and springs from the inner light of
faith, he interested and impressed many of his hearers. Some of them
suggested one thing, some another; but every one was agreed that it would
be a good thing if he could enlist the services of the great Count
(afterwards Duke) of Medini Celi, who had a palace at Rota, near Cadiz.

This nobleman was one of the most famous of the grandees of Spain, and
lived in mighty state upon his territory along the sea-shore, serving the
Crown in its wars and expeditions with the power and dignity of an ally
rather than of a subject. His domestic establishment was on a princely
scale, filled with chamberlains, gentlemen-at-arms, knights, retainers,
and all the panoply of social dignity; and there was also place in his
household for persons of merit and in need of protection. To this great
man came Columbus with his Idea. It attracted the Count, who was a judge
of men and perhaps of ideas also; and Columbus, finding some hope at last
in his attitude, accepted the hospitality offered to him, and remained at
Rota through the winter of 1485-86. He had not been very hopeful when he
arrived there, and had told the Count that he had thought of going to the
King of France and asking for help from him; but the Count, who found
something respectable and worthy of consideration in the Idea of a man
who thought nothing of a journey in its service from one country to
another and one sovereign to another, detained him, and played with the
Idea himself. Three or four caravels were nothing to the Count of Medina
Eeli; but on the other hand the man was a grandee and a diplomat, with a
nice sense of etiquette and of what was due to a reigning house. Either
there was nothing in this Idea, in which case his caravels would be
employed to no purpose, or there was so much in it that it was an
undertaking, not merely for the Count of Medina Celi, but for the Crown
of Castile. Lands across the ocean, and untold gold and riches of the
Indies, suggested complications with foreign Powers, and transactions
with the Pope himself, that would probably be a little too much even for
the good Count; therefore with a curious mixture of far-sighted
generosity and shrewd security he wrote to Queen Isabella, recommending
Columbus to her, and asking her to consider his Idea; asking her also,
in case anything should come of it, to remember him (the Count), and to
let him have a finger in the pie. Thus, with much literary circumstance
and elaboration of politeness, the Count of Medina Celi to Queen

Follows an interval of suspense, the beginning of a long discipline of
suspense to which Columbus was to be subjected; and presently comes a
favourable reply from the Queen, commanding that Columbus should be sent
to her. Early in 1486 he set out for Cordova, where the Court was then
established, bearing another letter from the Count in which his own
private requests were repeated, and perhaps a little emphasised.
Columbus was lodged in the house of Alonso de Quintanilla, Treasurer to
the Crown of Castile, there to await an audience with Queen Isabella.

While he is waiting, and getting accustomed to his new surroundings, let
us consider these two monarchs in whose presence he is soon to appear,
and upon whose decision hangs some part of the world's destiny. Isabella
first; for in that strange duet of government it is her womanly soprano
that rings most clearly down the corridors of Time. We discern in her a
very busy woman, living a difficult life with much tact and judgment, and
exercising to some purpose that amiable taste for "doing good" that marks
the virtuous lady of station in every age. This, however, was a woman
who took risks with her eyes open, and steered herself cleverly in
perilous situations, and guided others with a firm hand also, and in
other ways made good her claim to be a ruler. The consent and the will
of her people were her great strength; by them she dethroned her niece
and ascended the throne of Castile. She had the misfortune to be at
variance with her husband in almost every matter of policy dear to his
heart; she opposed the expulsion of the Jews and the establishment of the
Inquisition; but when she failed to get her way, she was still able to
preserve her affectionate relations with her husband without disagreement
and with happiness. If she had a fault it was the common one of being
too much under the influence of her confessors; but it was a fault that
was rarely allowed to disturb the balance of her judgment. She liked
clever people also; surrounded herself with men of letters and of
science, fostered all learned institutions, and delighted in the details
of civil administration. A very dignified and graceful figure, that
could equally adorn a Court drawing-room or a field of battle; for she
actually went into the field, and wore armour as becomingly as silk and
ermine. Firm, constant, clever, alert, a little given to fussiness
perhaps, but sympathetic and charming, with some claims to genius and
some approach to grandeur of soul: so much we may say truly of her inner
self. Outwardly she was a woman well formed, of medium height, a very
dignified and graceful carriage, eyes of a clear summer blue, and the red
and gold of autumn in her hair--these last inherited from her English

Ferdinand of Aragon appears not quite so favourably in our pages, for he
never thought well of Columbus or of his proposals; and when he finally
consented to the expedition he did so with only half a heart, and against
his judgment. He was an extremely enterprising, extremely subtle,
extremely courageous, and according to our modern notions, an extremely
dishonest man; that is to say, his standards of honour were not those
which we can accept nowadays. He thought nothing of going back on a
promise, provided he got a priestly dispensation to do so; he juggled
with his cabinets, and stopped at nothing in order to get his way; he had
a craving ambition, and was lacking in magnanimity; he loved dominion,
and cared very little for glory. A very capable man; so capable that in
spite of his defects he was regarded by his subjects as wise and prudent;
so capable that he used his weaknesses of character to strengthen and
further the purposes of his reign. A very cold man also, quick and sure
in his judgments, of wide understanding and grasp of affairs; simple and
austere in dress and diet, as austerity was counted in that period of
splendour; extremely industrious, and close in his observations and
judgments of men. To the bodily eye he appeared as a man of middle size,
sturdy and athletic, face burned a brick red with exposure to the sun and
open air; hair and eyebrows of a bright chestnut; a well-formed and not
unkindly mouth; a voice sharp and unmelodious, issuing in quick fluent
speech. This was the man that earned from the Pope, for himself and his
successors, the title of "Most Catholic Majesty."

The Queen was very busy indeed with military preparations; but in the
midst of her interviews with nobles and officers, contractors and state
officials, she snatched a moment to receive the person Christopher
Columbus. With that extreme mental agility which is characteristic of
busy sovereigns all the force of this clever woman's mind was turned for
a moment on Christopher, whose Idea had by this time invested him with a
dignity which no amount of regal state could abash. There was very
little time. The Queen heard what Columbus had to say, cutting him
short, it is likely, with kindly tact, and suppressing his tendency to
launch out into long-winded speeches. What she saw she liked; and, being
too busy to give to this proposal the attention that it obviously
merited, she told Columbus that the matter would be fully gone into and
that in the meantime he must regard himself as the guest of the Court.
And so, in the countenance of a smile and a promise, Columbus bows
himself out. For the present he must wait a little and his hot heart
must contain itself while other affairs, looming infinitely larger than
his Idea on the royal horizon, receive the attention of the Court.

It was not the happiest moment, indeed, in which to talk of ships and
charts, and lonely sea-roads, and faraway undiscovered shores. Things at
home were very real and lively in those spring days at Cordova. The war
against the Moors had reached a critical stage; King Ferdinand was away
laying siege to the city of Loxa, and though the Queen was at Cordova she
was entirely occupied with the business of collecting and forwarding
troops and supplies to his aid. The streets were full of soldiers;
nobles and grandees from all over the country were arriving daily with
their retinues; glitter and splendour, and the pomp of warlike
preparation, filled the city. Early in June the Queen herself went to
the front and joined her husband in the siege of Moclin; and when this
was victoriously ended, and they had returned in triumph to Cordova, they
had to set out again for Gallicia to suppress a rebellion there. When
that was over they did not come back to Cordova at all, but repaired at
once to Salamanca to spend the winter there.

At the house of Alonso de Quintanilla, however, Columbus was not
altogether wasting his time. He met there some of the great persons of
the Court, among them the celebrated Pedro Gonzalez de Mendoza,
Archbishop of Toledo and Grand Cardinal of Spain. This was far too great
a man to be at this time anything like a friend of Columbus; but Columbus
had been presented to him; the Cardinal would know his name, and what his
business was; and that is always a step towards consideration. Cabrero,
the royal Chamberlain, was also often a fellow-guest at the Treasurer's
table; and with him Columbus contracted something like a friendship.
Every one who met him liked him; his dignity, his simplicity of thought
and manner, his experience of the sea, and his calm certainty and
conviction about the stupendous thing which. he proposed to do, could
not fail to attract the liking and admiration of those with whom he came
in contact. In the meantime a committee appointed by the Queen sat upon
his proposals. The committee met under the presidentship of Hernando de
Talavera, the prior of the monastery of Santa Maria del Prado, near
Valladolid, a pious ecclesiastic, who had the rare quality of honesty,
and who was therefore a favourite with Queen Isabella; she afterwards
created him Archbishop of Granada. He was not, however, poor honest
soul! quite the man to grasp and grapple with this wild scheme for a
voyage across the ocean. Once more Columbus, as in Portugal, set forth
his views with eloquence and conviction; and once more, at the tribunal
of learning, his unlearned proposals were examined and condemned. Not
only was Columbus's Idea regarded as scientifically impossible, but it
was also held to come perilously near to heresy, in its assumption of a
state of affairs that was clearly at variance with the writings of the
Fathers and the sacred Scriptures themselves.

This new disappointment, bitter though it was, did not find Columbus in
such friendless and unhappy circumstances as those in which he left
Portugal. He had important friends now, who were willing and anxious to
help him, and among them was one to whom he turned, in his profound
depression, for religious and friendly consolation. This was Diego de
DEA, prior of the Dominican convent of San Estevan at Salamanca, who was
also professor of theology in the university there and tutor to the young
Prince Juan. Of all those who came in contact with Columbus at this time
this man seems to have understood him best, and to have realised where
his difficulty lay. Like many others who are consumed with a burning
idea Columbus was very probably at this time in danger of becoming
possessed with it like a monomaniac; and his new friends saw that if he
were to make any impression upon the conservative learning of the time to
which a decision in such matters was always referred he must have some
opportunity for friendly discussion with learned men who were not
inimical to him, and who were not in the position of judges examining a
man arraigned before them and pleading for benefits.

When the Court went to Salamanca at the end of 1486, DEA arranged that
Columbus should go there too, and he lodged him in a country farm called
Valcuebo, which belonged to his convent and was equi-distant from it and
the city. Here the good Dominican fathers came and visited him, bringing
with them professors from the university, who discussed patiently with
Columbus his theories and ambitions, and, himself all conscious,
communicated new knowledge to him, and quietly put him right on many a
scientific point. There were professors of cosmography and astronomy in
the university, familiar with the works of Alfraganus and Regiomontanus.
It is likely that it was at this time that Columbus became possessed of
d'Ailly's 'Imago Mundi', which little volume contained a popular resume
of the scientific views of Strabo, Pliny, Ptolemy, and others, and was
from this time forth Columbus's constant companion.

Here at Valcuebo and later, when winter came, in the great hall of the
Dominican convent at Salamanca, known as the "De Profundis" hall, where
the monks received guests and held discussions, the Idea of Columbus was
ventilated and examined. He heard what friendly sceptics had to say
about it; he saw the kind of argument that he would have to oppose to the
existing scientific and philosophical knowledge on cosmography. There is
no doubt that he learnt a good deal at this time; and more important even
than this, he got his project known and talked about; and he made
powerful friends, who were afterwards to be of great use to him. The
Marquesa de Moya, wife of his friend Cabrera, took a great liking to him;
and as she was one of the oldest and closest friends of the Queen, it is
likely that she spoke many a good word for Columbus in Isabella's ear.

By the time the Court moved to Cordova early in 1487, Columbus was once
more hopeful of getting a favourable hearing. He followed the Court to
Cordova, where he received a gracious message from the Queen to the
effect that she had not forgotten him, and that as soon as her military
preoccupations permitted it, she would go once more, and more fully, into
his proposals. In the meantime he was attached to the Court, and
received a quarterly payment of 3000 maravedis. It seemed as though the
unfavourable decision of Talavera's committee had been forgotten.

In the meantime he was to have a change of scene. Isabella followed
Ferdinand to the siege of Malaga, where the Court was established; and as
there were intervals in which other than military business might be
transacted, Columbus was ordered to follow them in case his affairs
should come up for consideration. They did not; but the man himself had
an experience that may have helped to keep his thoughts from brooding too
much on his unfulfilled ambition. Years afterwards, when far away on
lonely seas, amid the squalor of a little ship and the staggering buffets
of a gale, there would surely sometimes leap into his memory a brightly
coloured picture of this scene in the fertile valley of Malaga: the
silken pavilions of the Court, the great encampment of nobility with its
arms and banners extending in a semicircle to the seashore, all
glistening and moving in the bright sunshine. There was added excitement
at this time at an attempt to assassinate Ferdinand and Isabella, a
fanatic Moor having crept up to one of the pavilions and aimed a blow at
two people whom he mistook for the King and Queen. They turned out to be
Don Alvaro de Portugal, who was dangerously wounded, and Columbus's
friend, the Marquesa de Moya, who was unhurt; but it was felt that the
King and Queen had had a narrow escape. The siege was raised on the 18th
of August, and the sovereigns went to spend the winter at Zaragoza; and
Columbus, once more condemned to wait, went back to Cordova.

It was here that he contracted his second and, so far as we know, his
last romantic attachment. The long idle days of summer and autumn at
Cordova, empty of all serious occupation, gave nature an opportunity for
indulging her passion for life and continuity. Among Christopher's
friends at Cordova was the family of Arana, friendly hospitable souls,
by some accounts noble and by others not noble, and certainly in somewhat
poor circumstances, who had welcomed him to their house, listened to his
plans with enthusiasm, and formed a life-long friendship with him. Three
members of this family are known to us--two brothers, Diego and Pedro,
both of whom commanded ships in Columbus's expeditions, and a sister
Beatriz. Columbus was now a man of six-and-thirty, while she was little
more than a girl; he was handsome and winning, distinguished by the
daring and importance of his scheme, full of thrilling and romantic talk
of distant lands; a very interesting companion, we may be sure. No
wonder she fell in love with Christopher; no wonder that he, feeling
lonely and depressed by the many postponements of his suit at Court, and
in need of sympathy and encouragement, fell in these blank summer days
into an intimacy that flamed into a brief but happy passion. Why
Columbus never married Beatriz de Arana we cannot be sure, for it is
almost certain that his first wife had died some time before. Perhaps he
feared to involve himself in any new or embarrassing ties; perhaps he
loved unwillingly, and against his reason; perhaps--although the
suggestion is not a happy one--he by this time did not think poor Beatriz
good enough for the Admiral-elect of the Ocean Seas; perhaps (and more
probably) Beatriz was already married and deserted, for she bore the
surname of Enriquez; and in that case, there being no such thing as a
divorce in the Catholic Church, she must either sin or be celibate. But
however that may be, there was an uncanonical alliance between them which
evidently did not in the least scandalise her brothers and which resulted
in the birth of Ferdinand Columbus in the following year. Christopher,
so communicative and discursive upon some of his affairs, is as reticent
about Beatriz as he was about Philippa. Beatriz shares with his
legitimate wife the curious distinction of being spoken of by Columbus to
posterity only in his will, which was executed at Valladolid the day
before he died. In the dry ink and vellum of that ancient legal document
is his only record of these two passions. The reference to Beatriz is as

"And I direct him [Diego] to make provision for Beatriz Enriquez,
mother of D. Fernando, my son, that she may be able to live
honestly, being a person to whom I am under very great obligation.
And this shall be done for the satisfaction of my conscience,
because this matter weighs heavily upon my soul. The reason for
which it is not fitting to write here."

About the condition of Beatriz, temporal and spiritual, there has been
much controversy; but where the facts are all so buried and inaccessible
it is unseemly to agitate a veil which we cannot lift, and behind which
Columbus himself sheltered this incident of his life. "Acquainted with
poverty" is one fragment of fact concerning her that has come down to us;
acquainted also with love and with happiness, it would seem, as many poor
persons undoubtedly are. Enough for us to know that in the city of
Cordova there lived a woman, rich or poor, gentle or humble, married or
not married, who brought for a time love and friendly companionship into
the life of Columbus; that she gave what she had for giving, without
stint or reserve, and that she became the mother of a son who inherited
much of what was best in his father, and but for whom the world would be
in even greater darkness than it is on the subject of Christopher
himself. And so no more of Beatriz Enriquez de Arana, whom "God has in
his keeping"--and has had now these many centuries of Time.

Thus passed the summer and autumn of 1487; precious months, precious
years slipping by, and the great purpose as yet unfulfilled and seemingly
no nearer to fulfilment. It is likely that Columbus kept up his
applications to the Court, and received polite and delaying replies.
The next year came, and the Court migrated from Zaragoza to Murcia, from
Murcia to Valladolid, from Valladolid to Medina del Campo. Columbus
attended it in one or other of these places, but without result. In
August Beatriz gave birth to a son, who was christened Ferdinand, and who
lived to be a great comfort to his father, if not to her also. But the
miracle of paternity was not now so new and wonderful as it had been; the
battle of life, with its crosses and difficulties, was thick about him;
and perhaps he looked into this new-comer's small face with conflicting
thoughts, and memories of the long white beach and the crashing surf at
Porto Santo, and regret for things lost--so strangely mingled and
inconsistent are the threads of human thought. At last he decided to
turn his face elsewhere. In September 1488 he went to Lisbon, for what
purpose it is not certain; possibly in connection with the affairs of his
dead wife; and probably also in the expectation of seeing his brother
Bartholomew, to whom we may now turn our attention for a moment.

After the failure of Columbus's proposals to the King of Portugal in
1486, and the break-up of his home there, Bartholomew had also left
Lisbon. Bartholomew Diaz, a famous Portuguese navigator, was leaving for
the African coast in August, and Bartholomew Columbus is said to have
joined his small expedition of three caravels. As they neared the
latitude of the Cape which he was trying to make, he ran into a gale
which drove him a long way out of his course, west and south.

The wind veered round from north-east to north-west, and he did not
strike the land again until May 1487. When he did so his crew insisted
upon his returning, as they declined to go any further south. He
therefore turned to the west, and then made the startling discovery that
in the course of the tempest he had been blown round the Cape, and that
the land he had made was to the eastward of it; and he therefore rounded
it on his way home. He arrived back in Lisbon in December 1488, when
Columbus met his brother again, and was present at the reception of Diaz
by the King of Portugal. They had a great deal to tell each other, these
two brothers; in the two years and a half that had gone since they had
parted a great deal had happened to them; and they both knew a good deal
more about the great question in which they, were interested than they
had known when last they talked.

It is to this period that I attribute the inception, if not the
execution, of the forgery of the Toscanelli correspondence, if, as I
believe, it was a forgery. Christopher's unpleasant experiences before
learned committees and commissions had convinced him that unless he were
armed with some authoritative and documentary support for his theories
they had little chance of acceptance by the learned. The, Idea was
right; he knew that; but before he could convince the academic mind, he
felt that it must have the imprimatur of a mind whose learning could not
be impugned. Therefore it is not an unfair guess--and it can be nothing
more than a guess--that Christopher and Bartholomew at this point laid
their heads together, and decided that the next time Christopher had to
appear before a commission he would, so to speak, have something "up his
sleeve." It was a risky thing to do, and must in any case be used only
as a very last resource; which would account for the fact that the
Toscanelli correspondence was never used at all, and is not mentioned in
any document known to men written until long after Columbus's death.

But these summers and winters of suspense are at last drawing to a close,
and we must follow Christopher rapidly through them until the hour of his
triumph. He was back in Spain in the spring of 1489, his travelling
expenses being defrayed out of the royal purse; and a little later he was
once more amid scenes of war at the siege of Baza, and, if report is
true, taking a hand himself, not without distinction. It was there that
he saw the two friars from the convent of the Holy Sepulchre at
Jerusalem, who brought a message from the Grand Soldan of Egypt,
threatening the destruction of the Sepulchre if the Spanish sovereigns
did not desist from the war against Granada; and it was there that in his
simple and pious mind he formed the resolve that if ever his efforts
should be crowned with success, and he himself become rich and powerful,
he would send a crusade for the rescue of the Holy Sepulchre. And it was
there that, on the 22nd of December, he saw Boabdil, the elder of the two
rival Kings of Granada, surrender all his rights and claims to Spain.
Surely now there will be a chance for him? No; there is another
interruption, this time occasioned by the royal preparations for the
marriage of the Princess Isabella to the heir of Portugal. Poor
Columbus, sickened and disappointed by these continual delays, irritated
by a sense of the waste of his precious time, follows the Court about
from one place to another, raising a smile here and a scoff there, and
pointed at by children in the street. There, is nothing so ludicrous as
an Idea to those who do not share it.

Another summer, another winter, lost out of a life made up of a limited
number of summers and winters; a few more winters and summers, thinks
Christopher, and I shall be in a world where Ideas are not needed, and
where there is nothing left to discover! Something had to be done. In
the beginning of 1491 there was only one thing spoken of at Court--the
preparations for the siege of Granada, which did not interest Columbus at
all. The camp of King Ferdinand was situated at Santa Fe, a few miles to
the westward of Granada, and Columbus came here late in the year,
determined to get a final answer one way or the other to his question.
He made his application, and the busy monarchs once more adopted their
usual polite tactics. They appointed a junta, which was presided over by
no less a person than the Cardinal of Spain, Gonzales de Mendoza: Once
more the weary business was gone through, but Columbus must have had some
hopes of success, since he did not produce his forged Toscanelli
correspondence. It was no scruple of conscience that held him back, we
may be sure; the crafty Genoese knew nothing about such scruples in the
attainment of a great object; he would not have hesitated to adopt any
means to secure an end which he felt to be so desirable. So it is
probable that either he was not quite sure of his ground and his courage
failed him, or that he had hopes, owing to his friendship with so many of
the members of the junta, that a favourable decision would at last be
arrived at. In this he was mistaken. The Spanish prelates again quoted
the Fathers of the Church, and disposed of his proposals simply on the
ground that they were heretical. Much talk, and much wagging of learned
heads; and still no mother-wit or gleam of light on this obscurity of
learning. The junta decided against the proposals, and reported its
decision to the King and Queen. The monarchs, true to their somewhat
hedging methods when there was anything to be gained by hedging, informed
Columbus that at present they were too much occupied with the war to
grant his requests; but that, when the preoccupations and expenses of the
campaign were a thing of the past, they might again turn their attention
to his very interesting suggestion.

It was at this point that the patience of Columbus broke down. Too many
promises had been made to him, and hope had been held out to him too
often for him to believe any more in it. Spain, he decided, was useless;
he would try France; at least he would be no worse off there. But he had
first of all to settle his affairs as well as possible. Diego, now a
growing boy nearly eleven years old, had been staying with Beatriz at
Cordova, and going to school there; Christopher would take him back to
his aunt's at Huelva before he went away. He set out with a heavy heart,
but with purpose and determination unimpaired.



It is a long road from Santa Fe to Huelva, a long journey to make on
foot, and the company of a sad heart and a little talking boy, prone to
sudden weariness and the asking of innumerable difficult questions, would
not make it very much shorter. Every step that Christopher took carried
him farther away from the glittering scene where his hopes had once been
so bright, and were now fallen to the dust; and every step brought him
nearer that unknown destiny as to which he was in great darkness of mind,
and certain only that there was some small next thing constantly to be
done: the putting down of one foot after another, the request for food
and lodging at the end of each short day's march, the setting out again
in the morning. That walk from Santa Fe, so real and painful and
wearisome and long a thing to Christopher and Diego, is utterly blank and
obliterated for us. What he thought and felt and suffered are things
quite dead; what he did-namely, to go and do the immediate thing that it
seemed possible and right for him to do--is a living fact to-day, for it
brought him, as all brave and honest doing will, a little nearer to his
destiny, a little nearer to the truthful realisation of what was in him.

At about a day's journey from Huelva, where the general slope of the land
begins to fall towards the sea, two small rivers, the Odiel and the
Tinto, which have hitherto been making music each for itself through the
pleasant valleys and vineyards of Andalusia, join forces, and run with a
deeper stream towards the sea at Palos. The town of Palos lay on the
banks of the river; a little to the south of it, and on the brow of a
rocky promontory dark with pine trees, there stood the convent of Our
Lady of La Rabida. Stood, on this November evening in the year 1491;
had stood in some form or other, and used for varying purposes, for many
years and centuries before that, even to the time of the Romans; and
still stands, a silent and neglected place, yet to be visited and seen by
such as are curious. To the door of this place comes Christopher as
darkness falls, urged thereto by the plight of Diego, who is tired and
hungry. Christopher rings the bell, and asks the porter for a little
bread and water for the child, and a lodging for them both. There is
some talk at the door; the Franciscan lay brother being given, at all
times in the history of his order, to the pleasant indulgence of
gossiping conversation, when that is lawful; and the presence of a
stranger, who speaks with a foreign accent, being at all times a incident
of interest and even of excitement in the quiet life of a monastery. The
moment is one big with import to the human race; it marks a period in the
history of our man; the scene is worth calling up. Dark night, with sea
breezes moaning in the pine trees, outside; raying light from within
falling on the lay brother leaning in the doorway and on the two figures
standing without: on Christopher, grave, subdued, weary, yet now as
always of pleasant and impressive address, and on the small boy who
stands beside him round-eyed and expectant, his fatigue for the moment
forgotten in curiosity and anticipation.

While they are talking comes no less a person than the Prior of the
monastery, Friar Juan Perez, bustling round, good-natured busybody that
he is, to see what is all this talk at the door. The Prior, as is the
habit of monks, begins by asking questions. What is the stranger's name?
Where does he come from? Where is he going to? What is his business?
Is the little boy his son? He has actually come from Santa Fe? The
Prior, loving talk after the manner of his kind, sees in this grave and
smooth-spoken stranger rich possibilities of talk; possibilities that
cannot possibly be exhausted to-night, it being now hard on the hour of
Compline; the stranger must come in and rest for tonight at least, and
possibly for several nights. There is much bustle and preparation; the
travellers are welcomed with monkish hospitality; Christopher, we may be
sure, goes and hears the convent singing Compline, and offers up devout
prayers for a quiet night and for safe conduct through this vale of
tears; and goes thankfully to bed with the plainsong echoing in his ears,
and some stoic sense that all days, however hard, have an evening, and
all journeys an end.

Next morning the talk begins in earnest, and Christopher, never a very
reserved man, finds in the friendly curiosity of the monks abundant
encouragement to talk; and before very long he is in full swing with his
oft-told story. The Prior is delighted with it; he has not heard
anything so interesting for a long time. Moreover, he has not always
been in a convent; he was not so long ago confessor to Queen Isabella
herself, and has much to communicate and ask concerning that lady.
Columbus's proposal does not strike him as being unreasonable at all;
but he has a friend in Palos, a very learned man indeed, Doctor Garcia
Hernandez, who often comes and has a talk with him; he knows all about
astronomy and cosmography; the Prior will send for him. And meanwhile
there must be no word of Columbus's departure for a few days at any rate.

Presently Doctor Garcia Hernandez arrives, and the whole story is gone
over again. They go at it hammer and tongs, arguments and counter-
arguments, reasons for and against, encouragements, and objections. The
result is that Doctor Garcia Hernandez, whose learning seems not yet
quite to have blinded or deafened him, thinks well of the scheme; thinks
so well of it that he protests it will be a thousand pities if the chance
of carrying it out is lost to Spain. The worthy Prior, who has been
somewhat out of it while the talk about degrees and latitudes has been
going on, here strikes in again; he will use his influence. Perhaps the
good man, living up here among the pine trees and the sea winds, and
involved in the monotonous round of Prime, Lauds, Nones, Vespers, has a
regretful thought or two of the time when he moved in the splendid
intricacy of Court life; at any rate he is not sorry to have an
opportunity of recalling himself to the attention of Her Majesty, for the
spiritual safety of whose soul he was once responsible; perhaps, being
(in spite of his Nones and Vespers) a human soul, he is glad of an
opportunity of opposing the counsels of his successor, Talavera. In a
word, he will use his Influence. Then follow much drafting of letters,
and laying of heads together, and clatter of monkish tongues; the upshot
of which is that a letter is written in which Perez urges his daughter in
the Lord in the strongest possible terms not to let slip so glorious an
opportunity, not only of fame and increment to her kingdom, but of
service to the Church and the kingdom of Heaven itself. He assures her
that Columbus is indeed about to depart from the country, but that he
(Perez) will detain him at La Rabida until he has an answer from the

A messenger to carry the letter was found in the person of Sebastian
Rodriguez, a pilot of the port, who immediately set off to Santa Fe.
It is not likely that Columbus, after so many rebuffs, was very hopeful;
but in the meantime, here he was amid the pious surroundings in which the
religious part of him delighted, and in a haven of rest after all his
turmoils and trials. He could look out to sea over the flecked waters of
that Atlantic whose secrets he longed to discover; or he could look down
into the busy little port of Palos, and watch the ships sailing in and
out across the bar of Saltes. He could let his soul, much battered and
torn of late by trials and disappointments, rest for a time on the rock
of religion; he could snuff the incense in the chapel to his heart's
content, and mingle his rough top-gallant voice with the harsh croak of
the monks in the daily cycle of prayer and praise. He could walk with
Diego through the sandy roads beneath the pine trees, or through the
fields and vineyards below; and above all he could talk to the company
that good Perez invited to meet him--among them merchants and sailors
from Palos, of whom the chief was Martin Alonso Pinzon, a wealthy
landowner and navigator, whose family lived then at Palos, owning the
vineyards round about, and whose descendants live there to this day.
Pinzon was a listener after Columbus's own heart; he not only believed in
his project, but offered to assist it with money, and even to accompany
the expedition himself. Altogether a happy and peaceful time, in which
hopes revived, and the inner light that, although it had now and then
flickered, had never gone out, burned up again in a bright and steady

At the end of a fortnight, and much sooner than had been expected, the
worthy pilot returned with a letter from the Queen. Eager hands seized
it and opened it; delight beamed from the eyes of the good Prior. The
Queen was most cordial to him, thanked him for his intervention, was
ready to listen to him and even to be convinced by him; and in the
meantime commanded his immediate appearance at the Court, asking that
Columbus would be so good as to wait at La Rabida until he should hear
further from her. Then followed such a fussing and fuming, such a
running hither and thither, and giving and taking of instructions and
clatter of tongues as even the convent of La Rabida had probably never
known. Nothing will serve the good old busybody, although it is now near
midnight, but that he must depart at once. He will not wait for
daylight; he will not, the good honest soul! wait at all. He must be off
at once; he must have this, he must have that; he will take this, he
will leave that behind; or no, he will take that, and leave this behind.
He must have a mule, for his old feet will not bear him fast enough; ex-
confessors of Her Majesty, moreover, do not travel on foot; and after
more fussing and running hither and thither a mule is borrowed from one
Juan Rodriguez Cabezudo of Moguer; and with a God-speed from the group
standing round the lighted doorway, the old monk sets forth into the

It is a strange thing to consider what unimportant flotsam sometimes
floats visibly upon the stream of history, while the gravest events are
sunk deep beneath its flood. We would give a king's ransom to know
events that must have taken place in any one of twenty years in the life
of Columbus, but there is no sign of them on the surface of the stream,
nor will any fishing bring them to light. Yet here, bobbing up like a
cork, comes the name of Juan Rodriguez Cabezudo of Moguer, doubtless a
good worthy soul, but, since he has been dead these four centuries and
more, of no interest or importance to any human being; yet of whose life
one trivial act, surviving the flood of time which has engulfed all else
that he thought important, falls here to be recorded: that he did,
towards midnight of a day late in December 1491 lend a mule to Friar Juan

Of that heroic mule journey we have no record; but it brought results
enough to compensate the good Prior for all his aching bones and
rheumatic joints. He was welcomed by the Queen, who had never quite lost
her belief in Columbus, but who had hitherto deferred to the apathy of
Ferdinand and the disapproval--of her learned advisers. Now, however,
the matter was reopened. She, who sometimes listened to priests with
results other than good, heard this worthy priest to good purpose. The
feminine friends of Columbus who remembered him at Court also spoke up
for him, among them the Marquesa de Moya, with whom he had always been a
favourite; and it was decided that his request should be granted and
three vessels equipped for the expedition, "that he might go and make
discoveries and prove true the words he had spoken."--Moreover, the
machinery that had been so hard to move before, turned swiftly now.
Diego Prieto, one of the magistrates of Palos, was sent to Columbus at La
Rabida, bearing 20,000 maravedis with which he was to buy a mule and
decent clothing for himself, and repair immediately to the Court at Santa
Fe. Old Perez was in high feather, and busy with his pen. He wrote to
Doctor Garcia Hernandez, and also to Columbus, in whose letter the
following pleasant passage occurs:

"Our Lord has listened to the prayers of His servant. The wise and
virtuous Isabella, touched by the grace of Heaven, gave a favourable
hearing to the words of this poor monk. All has turned out well.
Far from despising your project, she has adopted it from this time,
and she has summoned you to Court to propose the means which seem
best to you for the execution of the designs of Providence. My
heart swims in a sea of comfort, and my spirit leaps with joy in the
Lord. Start at once, for the Queen waits for you, and I much more
than she. Commend me to the prayers of my brethren, and of your
little Diego. The grace of God be with you, and may Our Lady of La
Rabida accompany you."

The news of that day must have come upon Columbus like a burst of
sunshine after rain. I like to think how bright must have seemed to him
the broad view of land and sea, how deeply the solemn words of the last
office which he attended must have sunk into his soul, how great and glad
a thing life must have been to him, and how lightly the miles must have
passed beneath the feet of his mule as he jogged out on the long road to
Santa Fe.



Once more; in the last days of the year 1491, Columbus rode into the
brilliant camp which he had quitted a few weeks before with so heavy a
heart. Things were changed now. Instead of being a suitor, making a
nuisance of himself, and forcing his affairs on the attention of
unwilling officials, he was now an invited and honoured guest; much more
than that, he was in the position of one who believed that he had a great
service to render to the Crown, and who was at last to be permitted to
render it.

Even now, at the eleventh hour, there was one more brief interruption.
On the 1st of January 1492 the last of the Moorish kings sent in his
surrender to King Ferdinand, whom he invited to come and take possession
of the city of Granada; and on the next day the Spanish army marched into
that city, where, in front of the Alhambra, King Ferdinand received the
keys of the castle and the homage of the Moorish king. The wars of eight
centuries were at an end, and the Christian banner of Spain floated at
last over the whole land. Victory and success were in the air, and the
humble Genoese adventurer was to have his share in them. Negotiations of
a practical nature were now begun; old friends--Talavera, Luis de
Santangel, and the Grand Cardinal himself--were all brought into
consultation with the result that matters soon got to the documentary
stage. Here, however, there was a slight hitch. It was not simply a
matter of granting two, or three ships. The Genoese was making a
bargain, and asking an impossible price. Even the great grandees and
Court officials, accustomed to the glitter and dignity of titles, rubbed
their eyes with astonishment, when they saw what Columbus was demanding.
He who had been suing for privileges was now making conditions. And what
conditions! He must be created Admiral of all the Ocean Seas and of the
new lands, with equal privileges and prerogatives as those appertaining
to the High Admiral of Castile, the supreme naval officer of Spain. Not
content with sea dignities, he was also to be Viceroy and Governor-
General in all islands or mainlands that he might acquire; he wanted a
tenth part of the profits resulting from his discoveries, in perpetuity;
and he must have the permanent right of contributing an eighth part of
the cost of the equipment and have an additional eighth part of the
profits; and all his heirs and descendants for ever were to have the same
privileges. These conditions were on such a scale as no sovereign could
readily approve. Columbus's lack of pedigree, and the fact also that he
was a foreigner, made them seem the more preposterous; for although he
might receive kindness and even friendship from some of the grand
Spaniards with whom he associated, that friendship and kindness were
given condescendingly and with a smile. He was delightful when he was
merely proposing as a mariner to confer additional grandeur and glory on
the Crown; but when it came to demanding titles and privileges which
would make him rank with the highest grandees in, the land, the matter
took on quite a different colour. It was nonsense; it could not be
allowed; and many were the friendly hints that Columbus doubtless
received at this time to relinquish his wild demands and not to overreach

But to the surprise and dismay of his friends, who really wished him to
have a chance of distinguishing himself, and were shocked at the
impediments he was now putting in his own way, the man from Genoa stood
firm. What he proposed to do, he said, was worthy of the rewards that he
asked; they were due to the importance and grandeur of his scheme, and so
on. Nor did he fail to point out that the bestowal of them was a matter
altogether contingent on results; if there were no results, there would
be no rewards; if there were results, they would be worthy of the
rewards. This action of Columbus's deserves close study. He had come to
a turning-point in his life. He had been asking, asking, asking, for six
years; he had been put off and refused over and over again; people were
beginning to laugh at him for a madman; and now, when a combination of
lucky chances had brought him to the very door of success, he stood
outside the threshold bargaining for a preposterous price before he would
come in. It seemed like the densest stupidity. What is the explanation
of it?

The only explanation of it is to be found in the character of Columbus.
We must try to see him as he is in this forty-second year of his life,
bargaining with notaries, bishops, and treasurers; we must try to see
where these forty years have brought him, and what they have made of him.
Remember the little boy that played in the Vico Dritto di Ponticello,
acquainted with poverty, but with a soul in him that could rise beyond it
and acquire something of the dignity of that Genoa, arrogant, splendid
and devout, which surrounded him during his early years. Remember his
long life of obscurity at sea, and the slow kindling of the light of
faith in something beyond the familiar horizons; remember the social
inequality of his marriage, his long struggle with poverty, his long
familiarity with the position of one who asked and did not receive; the
many rebuffs and indignities which his Ligurian pride must have received
at the hands of all those Spanish dignitaries and grandees--remember all
this, and then you will perhaps not wonder so much that Columbus, who was
beginning to believe himself appointed by Heaven to this task of
discovery, felt that he had much to pay himself back for. One must
recognise him frankly for what he was, and for no conventional hero of
romance; a man who would reconcile his conscience with anything, and
would stop at nothing in the furtherance of what he deemed a good object;
and a man at the same time who had a conscience to reconcile, and would,
whenever it was necessary, laboriously and elaborately perform the act of
reconciliation. When he made these huge demands in Granada he was
gambling with his chances; but he was a calculating gambler, just about
as cunning and crafty in the weighing of one chance against another as a
gambler with a conscience can be; and he evidently realised that his own
valuation of the services he proposed to render would not be without its
influence on his sovereign's estimate of them. At any rate he was
justified by the results, for on the 17th of April 1492, after a deal of
talk and bargaining, but apparently without any yielding on Columbus's
part, articles of capitulation were drawn up in which the following
provisions were made:--

First, that Columbus and his heirs for ever should have the title and
office of Admiral in all the islands and continents of the ocean that he
or they might discover, with similar honours and prerogatives to those
enjoyed by the High Admiral of Castile.

Second, that he and his heirs should be Viceroys and Governors-General
over all the said lands and continents, with the right of nominating
three candidates for the governing of each island or province, one of
whom should be appointed by the Crown.

Third, that he end his heirs should be entitled to one-tenth of all
precious stones, metals, spices, and other merchandises, however
acquired, within his Admiralty, the cost of acquisition being first

Fourth, that he or his lieutenants in their districts, and the High
Admiral of Castile in his district, should be the sole judge in all
disputes arising out of traffic between Spain and the new countries.

Fifth, that he now, and he and his heirs at all times, should have the
right to contribute the eighth part of the expense of fitting out
expeditions, and receive the eighth part of the profits.

In addition to these articles there was another document drawn up on the
30th of April, which after an infinite preamble about the nature of the
Holy Trinity, of the Apostle Saint James, and of the Saints of God
generally in their relations to Princes, and with a splendid trailing of
gorgeous Spanish names and titles across the page, confers upon our
hitherto humble Christopher the right to call himself "Don," and finally
raises him, in his own estimation at any rate, to a social level with his
proud Spanish friends. It is probably from this time that he adopted the
Spanish form of his name, Christoval Colon; but in this narrative I shall
retain the more universal form in which it has become familiar to the
English-speaking world.

He was now upon a Pisgah height, from which in imagination he could look
forth and see his Land of Promise. We also may climb up with him, and
stand beside him as he looks westward. We shall not see so clearly as he
sees, for we have not his inner light; and it is probable that even he
does not see the road at all, but only the goal, a single point of light
shining across a gulf of darkness. But from Pisgah there is a view
backward as well as forward, and, we may look back for a moment on this
last period of Christopher's life in Spain, inwardly to him so full of
trouble and difficulty and disappointment, outwardly so brave and
glittering, musical with high-sounding names and the clash of arms; gay
with sun and shine and colour. The brilliant Court moving from camp to
camp with its gorgeous retinues and silken pavilions and uniforms and
dresses and armours; the excitement of war, the intrigues of the
antechamber--these are the bright fabric of the latter years; and against
it, as against a background, stand out the beautiful names of the Spanish
associates of Columbus at this time--Medina Celi, Alonso de Quintanilla,
Cabrero, Arana, DEA, Hernando de Talavera, Gonzales de Mendoza, Alonso de
Cardenas, Perez, Hernandez, Luis de Santangel, and Rodriguez de
Maldonado--names that now, in his hour of triumph, are like banners
streaming in the wind against a summer sky.



The Palos that witnessed the fitting out of the ships of Columbus exists
no longer. The soul is gone from it; the trade that in those days made
it great and busy has floated away from it into other channels; and it
has dwindled and shrunk, until to-day it consists of nothing but a double
street of poor white houses, such almost as you may see in any sea-coast
village in Ireland. The slow salt tides of the Atlantic come flooding in
over the Manto bank, across the bar of Saltes, and, dividing at the
tongue of land that separates the two rivers, creep up the mud banks of
the Tinto and the Odiel until they lie deep beside the wharves of Huelva
and Palos; but although Huelva still has a trade the tides bring nothing
to Palos, and take nothing away with them again. From La Rabida now you
can no longer see, as Columbus saw, fleets of caravels lying-to and
standing off and on outside the bar waiting for the flood tide; only a
few poor boats fishing for tunny in the empty sunny waters, or the smoke
of a steamer standing on her course for the Guadalquiver or Cadiz.

But in those spring days of 1492 there was a great stir and bustle of
preparation in Palos. As soon as the legal documents had been signed
Columbus returned there and, taking up his quarters at La Rabida, set
about fitting out his expedition. The reason Palos was chosen was an
economical one. The port, for some misdemeanour, had lately been
condemned to provide two caravels for the service of the Crown for a
period of twelve months; and in the impoverished state of the royal
exchequer this free service came in very usefully in fitting out the
expedition of discovery. Columbus was quite satisfied, since he had such
good friends at Palos; and he immediately set about choosing the ships.

This, however, did not prove to be quite such a straightforward business
as might have been expected. The truth is that, whatever a few monks and
physicians may have thought of it, the proposed expedition terrified the
ordinary seafaring population of Palos. It was thought to be the wildest
and maddest scheme that any one had ever heard of. All that was known
about the Atlantic west of the Azores was that it was a sea of darkness,
inhabited by monsters and furrowed by enormous waves, and that it fell
down the slope of the world so steeply that no ship having once gone down
could ever climb up it again. And not only was there reluctance on the
part of mariners to engage themselves for the expedition, but also a
great shyness on the part of ship-owners to provide ships. This
reluctance proved so formidable an impediment that Columbus had to
communicate with the King and Queen; with the result that on the 23rd of
May the population was summoned to the church of Saint George, where the
Notary Public read aloud to them the letter from the sovereigns
commanding the port to furnish ships and men, and an additional order
summoning the town to obey it immediately. An inducement was provided in
the offer of a free pardon to all criminals and persons under sentence
who chose to enlist.

Still the thing hung fire; and on June 20 a new and peremptory order was
issued by the Crown authorising Columbus to impress the vessels and crew
if necessary. Time was slipping away; and in his difficulty Columbus
turned to Martin Alonso Pinzon, upon whose influence and power in the
town he could count. There were three brothers then in this family-
Martin Alonso, Vincenti Yanez, and Francisco Martin, all pilots
themselves and owners of ships. These three brothers saw some hope of
profit out of the enterprise, and they exerted themselves on
Christopher's behalf so thoroughly that, not only did they afford him
help in the obtaining of ships, men, and supplies, but they all three
decided to go with him.

There was one more financial question to be settled--a question that
remains for us in considerable obscurity, but was in all probability
partly settled by the aid of these brothers. The total cost of the
expedition, consisting of three ships, wages of the crew, stores and
provisions, was 1,167,542 maravedis, about L950(in 1900). After all
these years of pleading at Court, all the disappointments and deferred
hopes and sacrifices made by Columbus, the smallness of this sum cannot
but strike us with amazement. Many a nobleman that Columbus must have
rubbed shoulders with in his years at Court could have furnished the
whole sum out of his pocket and never missed it; yet Columbus had to wait
years and years before he could get it from the Crown. Still more
amazing, this sum was not all provided by the Crown; 167,000 maravedis
were found by Columbus, and the Crown only contributed one million
maravedis. One can only assume that Columbus's pertinacity in
petitioning the King and Queen to undertake the expedition, when he
could with comparative ease have got the money from some of his noble
acquaintance, was due to three things--his faith and belief in his Idea,
his personal ambition, and his personal greed. He believed in his Idea
so thoroughly that he knew he was going to find something across the
Atlantic. Continents and islands cannot for long remain in the
possession of private persons; they are the currency of crowns; and he
did not want to be left in the lurch if the land he hoped to discover
should be seized or captured by Spain or Portugal. The result of his
discoveries, he was convinced, was going to be far too large a thing to
be retained and controlled by any machinery less powerful than that of a
kingdom; therefore he was unwilling to accept either preliminary
assistance or subsequent rewards from any but the same powerful hand.
Admiralties, moreover, and Governor-Generalships and Viceroyships cannot
be conferred by counts and dukes, however powerful; the very title Don
could only be conferred by one power in Spain; and all the other titles
and dignities that Columbus craved with all his Genoese soul were to be
had from the hands of kings, and not from plutocrats. It was
characteristic of him all his life never to deal with subordinates, but
always to go direct to the head man; and when the whole purpose and
ambition of his life was to be put to the test it was only consistent in
him, since he could not be independent, to go forth under the protection
of the united Crown of Aragon and Castile. Where or how he raised his
share of the cost is not known; it is possible that his old friend the
Duke of Medina Celi came to his help, or that the Pinzon family, who
believed enough in the expedition to risk their lives in it, lent some of
the necessary money.

Ever since ships were in danger of going to sea short-handed methods of
recruiting and manning them have been very much the same; and there must
have been some hot work about the harbour of Palos in the summer of 1492.
The place was in a panic. It is highly probable that many of the
volunteers were a ruffianly riff-raff from the prisons, to whom personal
freedom meant nothing but a chance of plunder; and the recruiting office
in Palos must have seen many a picturesque scoundrel coming and taking
the oath and making his mark. The presence of these adventurers, many of
them entirely ignorant of the sea, would not be exactly an encouragement
to the ordinary seaman. It is here very likely that the influence of the
Pinzon family was usefully applied. I call it influence, since that is a
polite term which covers the application of force in varying degrees;
and it was an awkward thing for a Palos sailor to offend the Pinzons,
who owned and controlled so much of the shipping in the port. Little by
little the preparations went on. In the purchasing of provisions and
stores the Pinzons were most helpful to Columbus and, it is not
improbable, to themselves also. They also procured the ships;
altogether, in the whole history of the fitting out of expeditions,
I know nothing since the voyage of the Ark which was so well kept within
one family. Moreover it is interesting to notice, since we know the
names and places of residence of all the members of the expedition,
that the Pinzons, who personally commanded two of the caravels, had them
almost exclusively manned by sailors from Palos, while the Admiral's ship
was manned by a miscellaneous crew from other places. To be sure they
gave the Admiral the biggest ship, but (in his own words) it proved "a
dull sailer and unfit for discovery"; while they commanded the two
caravels, small and open, but much faster and handier. Clearly these
Pinzons will take no harm from a little watching. They may be honest
souls enough, but their conduct is just a little suspicious, and we
cannot be too careful.

Three vessels were at last secured. The first, named the Santa Maria,
was the largest, and was chosen to be the flagship of Columbus. She was
of about one hundred tons burden, and would be about ninety feet in
length by twenty feet beam. She was decked over, and had a high poop
astern and a high forecastle in the bows. She had three masts, two of
them square-rigged, with a latine sail on the mizzen mast; and she
carried a crew of fifty-two persons. Where and how they all stowed
themselves away is a matter upon which we can only make wondering
guesses; for this ship was about the size of an ordinary small coasting
schooner, such as is worked about the coasts of these islands with a crew
of six or eight men. The next largest ship was the Pinta, which was
commanded by Martin Alonso Pinzon, who took his brother Francisco with
him as sailing-master. The Pinta was of fifty tons burden, decked only
at the bow and stern, and the fastest of the three ships; she also had
three masts. The third ship was a caravel of forty tons and called the
Nina; she belonged to Juan Nino of Palos. She was commanded by Vincenti
Pinzon, and had a complement of eighteen men. Among the crew of the
flagship, whose names and places of residence are to be found in the
Appendix, were an Englishman and an Irishman. The Englishman is entered
as Tallarte de Lajes (Ingles), who has been ingeniously identified with a
possible Allard or AEthelwald of Winchelsea, there having been several
generations of Allards who were sailors of Winchelsea in the fifteenth
century. Sir Clements Markham thinks that this Allard may have been
trading to Coruna and have married and settled down at Lajes. There is
also Guillermo Ires, an Irishman from Galway.

Allard and William, shuffling into the recruiting office in Palos,
doubtless think that this is a strange place for them to meet, and rather
a wild business that they are embarked upon, among all these bloody
Spaniards. Some how I feel more confidence in Allard than in William,
knowing, as I do so well, this William of Galway, whether on his native
heath or in the strange and distant parts of the world to which his
sanguine temperament leads him. Alas, William, you are but the first of
a mighty stream that will leave the Old Country for the New World; the
world destined to be good for the fortunes of many from the Old Country,
but for the Old Country itself not good. Little does he know, drunken
William, willing to be on hand where there is adventure brewing, and to
be after going with the boys and getting his health on the salt water,
what a path of hope for those who go, and of heaviness for those who stay
behind, he is opening up . . . . Farewell, William; I hope you were
not one of those whom they let out of gaol.

June slid into July, and still the preparations were not complete. Down
on the mud banks of the Tinto, where at low water the vessels were left
high and dry, and where the caulking and refitting were in hand, there
was trouble with the workmen. Gomaz Rascon and Christoval Quintero, the
owners of the Pinta, who had resented her being pressed into the service,
were at the bottom of a good deal of it. Things could not be found; gear
mysteriously gave way after it had been set up; the caulking was found to
have been carelessly and imperfectly done; and when the caulkers were
commanded to do it over again they decamped. Even the few volunteers,
the picked hands upon whom Columbus was relying, gave trouble. In those
days of waiting there was too much opportunity for talk in the shore-side
wine-shops; some of the volunteers repented and tried to cry off their
bargains; others were dissuaded by their relatives, and deserted and hid
themselves. No mild measures were of any use; a reign of terror had to
be established; and nothing short of the influence of the Pinzons was
severe enough to hold the company together. To these vigorous measures,
however, all opposition gradually yielded. By the end of July the
provisions and stores were on board, the whole complement of eighty-seven
persons collected and enlisted, and only the finishing touches left for
Columbus. It is a sign of the distrust and fear evinced with regard to
this expedition, that no priest accompanied it--something of a sorrow to
pious Christopher, who would have liked his chaplain. There were two
surgeons, or barbers, and a physician; there were an overseer, a
secretary, a master-at-arms; there was an interpreter to speak to the
natives of the new lands in Hebrew, Greek, German, Chaldean or Arabic;
and there was an assayer and silversmith to test the quality of the
precious metals that they were sure to find. Up at La Rabida, with the
busy and affectionate assistance of the old Prior, Columbus made his
final preparations. Ferdinand was to stay at Cordova with Beatriz, and
to go to school there; while Diego was already embarked upon his life's
voyage, having been appointed a page to the Queen's son, Prince Juan, and
handed over to the care of some of the Court ladies. The course to be
sailed was talked over and over again; the bearings and notes of the
pilot at Porto Santo consulted and discussed; and a chart was made by
Columbus himself, and copied with his own hands for use on the three

On the 2nd of August everything was ready; the ships moored out in the
stream, the last stragglers of the crew on board, the last sack of flour
and barrel of beef stowed away. Columbus confessed himself to the Prior
of La Rabida--a solemn moment for him in the little chapel up on the
pine-clad hill. His last evening ashore would certainly be spent at the
monastery, and his last counsels taken with Perez and Doctor Hernandez.
We can hardly realise the feelings of Christopher on the eve of his
departure from the land where all his roots were, to a land of mere faith
and conjecture. Even today, when the ocean is furrowed by crowded
highways, and the earth is girdled with speaking wires, and distances are
so divided and reduced that the traveller need never be very long out of
touch with his home, few people can set out on a long voyage without some
emotional disturbance, however slight it may be; and to Columbus on this
night the little town upon which he looked down from the monastery, which
had been the scene of so many delays and difficulties and vexations, must
have seemed suddenly dear and familiar to him as he realised that after
to-morrow its busy and well-known scenes might be for ever a thing of the
past to him. Behind him, living or dead, lay all he humanly loved and
cared for; before him lay a voyage full of certain difficulties and
dangers; dangers from the ships, dangers from the crews, dangers from
the weather, dangers from the unknown path itself; and beyond them, a
twinkling star on the horizon of his hopes, lay the land of his belief.
That he meant to arrive there and to get back again was beyond all doubt
his firm intention; and in the simple grandeur of that determination the
weaknesses of character that were grouped about it seem unimportant. In
this starlit hour among the pine woods his life came to its meridian;
everything that was him was at its best and greatest there. Beneath him,
on the talking tide of the river, lay the ships and equipment that
represented years of steady effort and persistence; before him lay the
pathless ocean which he meant to cross by the inner light of his faith.
What he had suffered, he had suffered by himself; what he had won, he had
won by himself; what he was to finish, he would finish by himself.

But the time for meditations grows short. Lights are moving about in the
town beneath; there is an unwonted midnight stir and bustle; the whole
population is up and about, running hither and thither with lamps and
torches through the starlit night. The tide is flowing; it will be high
water before dawn; and with the first of the ebb the little fleet is to
set sail. The stream of hurrying sailors and townspeople sets towards
the church of Saint George, where mass is to be said and the Sacrament
administered to the voyagers. The calls and shouts die away; the bell
stops ringing; and the low muttering voice of the priest is heard
beginning the Office. The light of the candles shines upon the gaudy
roof, and over the altar upon the wooden image of Saint George
vanquishing the dragon, upon which the eyes of Christopher rested during
some part of the service, and where to-day your eyes may rest also if you
make that pilgrimage. The moment approaches; the bread and the wine are
consecrated; there is a shuffling of knees and feet; and then a pause.
The clear notes of the bell ring out upon the warm dusky silence--once,
twice, thrice; the living God and the cold presence of dawn enter the
church together. Every head is bowed; and for once at least every heart
of that company beats in unison with the rest. And then the Office goes
on, and the dark-skinned congregation streams up to the sanctuary and
receives the Communion, while the blue light of dawn increases and the
candles pale before the coming day. And then out again to the boats with
shoutings and farewells, for the tide has now turned; hoisting of sails
and tripping of anchors and breaking out of gorgeous ensigns; and the
ships are moving! The Maria leads, with the sign of the Redemption
painted on her mainsail and the standard of Castile flying at her mizzen;
and there is cheering from ships and from shore, and a faint sound of
bells from the town of Huelva.

Thus, the sea being--calm, and a fresh breeze blowing off the land, did
Christopher Columbus set sail from Palos at sunrise on Friday the 3rd of
August 1492.



"In nomine D.N. Jesu Christi--Friday, August 3, 1492, at eight
o'clock we started from the bar of Saltes. We went with a strong
sea breeze sixty miles,--[Columbus reckoned in Italian miles, of
which four = one league.]--which are fifteen leagues, towards the
south, until sunset: afterwards to the south-west and to the south,
quarter south-west, which was the way to the Canaries."

With these rousing words the Journal

[The account of Columbus's first voyage is taken from a Journal
written by himself, but which in its original form does not exist.
Las Casas had it in his possession, but as he regarded it (no doubt
with justice) as too voluminous and discursive to be interesting, he
made an abridged edition, in which the exact words of Columbus were
sometimes quoted, but which for the most part is condensed into a
narrative in the third person. This abridged Journal, consisting of
seventy-six closely written folios, was first published by
Navarrette in 1825. When Las Casas wrote his 'Historie,' however,
he appears here and there to have restored sections of the original
Journal into the abridged one; and many of these restorations are of
importance. If the whole account of his voyage written by Columbus
himself were available in its exact form I would print it here; but
as it is not, I think it better to continue my narrative, simply
using the Journal of Las Casas as a document.]

of Columbus's voyage begins; and they sound a salt and mighty chord which
contains the true diapason of the symphony of his voyages. There could
not have been a more fortunate beginning, with clear weather and a calm
sea, and the wind in exactly the right quarter. On Saturday and Sunday
the same conditions held, so there was time and opportunity for the three
very miscellaneous ships' companies to shake down into something like
order, and for all the elaborate discipline of sea life to be arranged
and established; and we may employ the interval by noting what aids to
navigation Columbus had at his disposal.

The chief instrument was the astrolabe, which was an improvement on the
primitive quadrant then in use for taking the altitude of the sun. The
astrolabe, it will be remembered, had been greatly improved, by Martin
Behaim and the Portuguese Commission in 1840--[1440 D.W.]; and it was
this instrument, a simplification of the astrolabe used in astronomy
ashore, that Columbus chiefly used in getting his solar altitudes. As
will be seen from the illustration, its broad principle was that of a
metal circle with a graduated circumference and two arms pivoted in the
centre. It was made as heavy as possible; and in using it the observer
sat on deck with his back against the mainmast and with his left hand
held up the instrument by the ring at the top. The long arm was moved
round until the two sights fixed upon it were on with the sun. The point
where the other arm then cut the circle gave the altitude. In
conjunction with this instrument were used the tables of solar
declination compiled by Regiomontanus, and covering the sun's declination
between the years 1475 and 1566.

The compass in Columbus's day existed, so far as all essentials are
concerned, as it exists to-day. Although it lacked the refinements
introduced by Lord Kelvin it was swung in double-cradles, and had the
thirty-two points painted upon a card. The discovery of the compass, and
even of the lodestone, are things wrapt in obscurity; but the lodestone
had been known since at least the eleventh century, and the compass
certainly since the thirteenth. With the compass were used the sea
charts, which were simply maps on a rather larger and more exact scale
than the land maps of the period. There were no soundings or currents
marked on the old charts, which were drawn on a plane projection; and
they can have been of little--practical use to navigators except in the
case of coasts which were elaborately charted on a large scale. The
chart of Columbus, in so far as it was concerned with the ocean westward
of the Azores, can of course have contained nothing except the
conjectured islands or lands which he hoped to find; possibly the land
seen by the shipwrecked pilot may have been marked on it, and his failure
to find that land may have been the reason why, as we shall see, he
changed his course to the southward on the 7th of October. It must be
remembered that Columbus's conception of the world was that of the
Portuguese Mappemonde of 1490, a sketch of which is here reproduced.
This conception of the world excluded the Pacific Ocean and the continent
of North and South America, and made it reasonable to suppose that any
one who sailed westward long enough from Spain would ultimately reach
Cathay and the Indies. Behaim's globe, which was completed in the year
1492, represented the farthest point that geographical knowledge had
reached previous to the discoveries of Columbus, and on it is shown the
island of Cipango or Japan.

By far the most important element in the navigation of Columbus, in so
far as estimating his position was concerned, was what is known as "dead-
reckoning" that is to say, the computation of the distance travelled by
the ship through the water. At present this distance is measured by a
patent log, which in its commonest form is a propeller-shaped instrument
trailed through the water at the end of a long wire or cord the inboard
end of which is attached to a registering clock. On being dragged
through the water the propeller spins round and the twisting action is
communicated by the cord to the clock-work machinery which counts the
miles. In the case of powerful steamers and in ordinary weather dead-
reckoning is very accurately calculated by the number of revolutions of
the propellers recorded in the engine-room; and a device not unlike this
was known to the Romans in the time of the Republic. They attached small
wheels about four feet in diameter to the sides of their ships; the
passage of the water turned the wheels, and a very simple gearing was
arranged which threw a pebble into a tallypot at each revolution. This
device, however, seems to have been abandoned or forgotten in Columbus's
day, when there was no more exact method of estimating dead-reckoning
than the primitive one of spitting over the side in calm weather, or at
other times throwing some object into the water and estimating the rate
of progress by its speed in passing the ship's side. The hour-glass,
which was used to get the multiple for long distances, was of course the
only portable time measurer available for Columbus. These, with a rough
knowledge of astronomy, and the taking of the altitude of the polar star,
were the only known means for ascertaining the position of his ship at

The first mishap occurred on Monday, August 6th, when the Pinta carried
away her rudder. The Pinta, it will be remembered, was commanded by
Martin Alonso Pinzon, and was owned by Gomaz Rascon and Christoval
Quintero, who had been at the bottom of some of the troubles ashore; and
it was thought highly probable that these two rascals had something to do
with the mishap, which they had engineered in the hope that their vessel
would be left behind at the Canaries. Martin Alonso, however, proved a
man of resource, and rigged up a sort of steering gear with ropes. There
was a choppy sea, and Columbus could not bring his own vessel near enough
to render any assistance, though he doubtless bawled his directions to
Pinzon, and looked with a troubled eye on the commotion going on on board
the Pinta. On the next day the jury-rigged rudder carried away again,
and was again repaired, but it was decided to try and make the island of
Lanzarote in the Canaries, and to get another caravel to replace the
Pinta. All through the next day the Santa Maria and the Nina had to
shorten sail in order not to leave the damaged Pinta behind; the three
captains had a discussion and difference of opinion as to where they
were; but Columbus, who was a genius at dead-reckoning, proved to be
right in his surmise, and they came in sight of the Canaries on Thursday
morning, August 9th.

Columbus left Pinzon on the Grand Canary with orders to try to obtain a
caravel there, while he sailed on to Gomera, which he reached on Sunday
night, with a similar purpose. As he was unsuccessful he sent a message
by a boat that was going back to tell Pinzon to beach the Pinta and
repair her rudder; and having spent more days in fruitless search for a
vessel, he started back to join Pinzon on August 23rd. During the night
he passed the Peak of Teneriffe, which was then in eruption. The repairs
to the Pinta, doubtless in no way expedited by Messrs. Rascon and
Quintera, took longer than had been expected; it was found necessary to
make an entirely new rudder for her; and advantage was taken of the delay
to make some alterations in the rig of the Nina, which was changed from a
latine rig to a square rig, so that she might be better able to keep up
with the others. September had come before these two jobs were
completed; and on the 2nd of September the three ships sailed for Gomera,
the most westerly of the islands, where they anchored in the north-east
bay. The Admiral was in a great hurry to get away from the islands and
from the track of merchant ships, for he had none too much confidence in
the integrity of his crews, which were already murmuring and finding
every mishap a warning sign from God. He therefore only stayed long
enough at Gomera to take in wood and water and provisions, and set sail
from that island on the 6th of September.

The wind fell lighter and lighter, and on Friday the little fleet lay
becalmed within sight of Ferro. But on Saturday evening north-east airs
sprang up again, and they were able to make nine leagues of westing. On
Sunday they had lost sight of land; and at thus finding their ships three
lonely specks in the waste of ocean the crew lost heart and began to
lament. There was something like a panic, many of the sailors bursting
into tears and imploring Columbus to take them home again. To us it may
seem a rather childish exhibition; but it must be remembered that these
sailors were unwillingly embarked upon a voyage which they believed would
only lead to death and disaster. The bravest of us to-day, if he found
himself press-ganged on board a balloon and embarked upon a journey, the
object of which was to land upon Mars or the moon, might find it
difficult to preserve his composure on losing sight of the earth; and the
parallel is not too extreme to indicate the light in which their present
enterprise must have appeared to many of the Admiral's crew.

Columbus gave orders to the captains of the other two ships that, in case
of separation, they were to sail westward for 700 leagues-that being the
distance at which he evidently expected to find land--and there to lie-to
from midnight until morning. On this day also, seeing the temper of the
sailors, he began one of the crafty stratagems upon which he prided
himself, and which were often undoubtedly of great use to him; he kept
two reckonings, one a true one, which he entered in his log, and one a
false one, by means of which the distance run was made out to be less
than what it actually was, so that in case he could not make land as soon
as he hoped the crew would not be unduly discouraged. In other words, he
wished to have a margin at the other end, for he did not want a mutiny
when he was perhaps within a few leagues of his destination. On this day
he notes that the raw and inexperienced seamen were giving trouble in
other ways, and steering very badly, continually letting the ship's head-
fall off to the north; and many must have been the angry remonstrances
from the captain to the man at the wheel. Altogether rather a trying day
for Christopher, who surely has about as much on his hands as ever mortal
had; but he knows how to handle ships and how to handle sailors, and so
long as this ten-knot breeze lasts, he can walk the high poop of the
Santa Maria with serenity, and snap his fingers at the dirty rabble

On Monday they made sixty leagues, the Admiral duly announcing forty-
eight; on Tuesday twenty leagues, published as sixteen; and on this day
they saw a large piece of a mast which had evidently belonged to a ship
of at least 120 tons burden. This was not an altogether cheerful sight
for the eighteen souls on board the little Nina, who wondered ruefully
what was going to happen to them of forty tons when ships three times
their size had evidently been unable to live in this abominable sea!

On Thursday, September 13th, when Columbus took his observations, he made
a great scientific discovery, although he did not know it at the time.
He noticed that the needle of the compass was declining to the west of
north instead of having a slight declination to the east of north, as all
mariners knew it to have. In other words, he had passed the line of true
north and of no variation, and must therefore have been in latitude
28 deg. N. and longitude 29 deg. 37' W. of Greenwich. With his usual
secrecy he said nothing about it; perhaps he was waiting to see if the
pilots on the other ships had noticed it, but apparently they were not so
exact in their observations as he was. On the next day, Friday, the wind
falling a little lighter, they, made only twenty leagues. "Here the
persons on the caravel Nina said they had seen a jay and a ringtail, and
these birds never come more than twenty-five leagues from land at most."
--Unhappy "persons on the Nina"! Nineteen souls, including the captain,
afloat in a very small boat, and arguing God knows what from the fact
that a jay and a ringtail never went more than twenty-five leagues from
land!--The next day also was not without its incident; for on Saturday
evening they saw a meteor, or "marvellous branch of fire" falling from
the serene violet of the sky into the sea.

They were now well within the influence of the trade-wind, which in these
months blows steadily from the east, and maintains an exquisite and balmy
climate. Even the Admiral, never very communicative about his
sensations, deigns to mention them here, and is reported to have said
that "it was a great pleasure to enjoy the morning; that nothing was
lacking except to hear the nightingales, and that the weather was like
April in Andalusia." On this day they saw some green grasses, which the
Admiral considered must have floated off from some island; "not the
continent," says the Admiral, whose theories are not to be disturbed by a
piece of grass, "because I make the continental land farther onward."
The crew, ready to take the most depressing and pessimistic view of
everything, considered that the lumps of grass belonged to rocks or
submerged lands, and murmured disparaging things about the Admiral.
As a matter of fact these grasses were masses of seaweed detached from
the Sargasso Sea, which they were soon to enter.

On Monday, September 17th, four days after Columbus had noted it, the
other pilots noted the declination of the needle, which they had found on
taking the position of the North star. They did not like it; and
Columbus, whose knowledge of astronomy came to his aid, ordered them to
take the position of the North star at dawn again, which they did, and
found that the needles were true. He evidently thought it useless to
communicate to them his scientific speculations, so he explained to them
that it was the North star which was moving in its circle, and not the
compass. One is compelled to admit that in these little matters of
deceit the Admiral always shone. To-day, among the seaweed on the ship's
side, he picked up a little crayfish, which he kept for several days,
presumably in a bottle in his cabin; and perhaps afterwards ate.

So for several days this calm and serene progress westward was
maintained. The trade-wind blew steady and true, balmy and warm also;
the sky was cloudless, except at morning and evening dusk; and there were
for scenery those dazzling expanses of sea and sky, and those gorgeous
hues of dawn and sunset, which are only to be found in the happy
latitudes. The things that happened to them, the bits of seaweed and
fishes that they saw in the water, the birds that flew around them, were
observed with a wondering attention and wistful yearning after their
meaning such as is known only to children and to sailors adventuring on
uncharted seas. The breezes were milder even than those of the Canaries,
and the waters always less salt; and the men, forgetting their fears of
the monsters of the Sea of Darkness, would bathe alongside in the limpid
blue. The little crayfish was a "sure indication of land"; a tunny fish,
killed by the company on the Nina, was taken to be an indication from the
west, "where I hope in that exalted God, in whose hands are all
victories, that land will very soon appear"; they saw another ringtail,
"which is not accustomed to sleep on the sea"; two pelicans came to the
ship, "which was an indication that land was near"; a large dark cloud
appeared to the north, "which is a sign that land is near"; they saw one
day a great deal of grass, "although the previous day they had not seen
any"; they took a bird with their hands which was like a jay; "it was a
river bird and not a sea bird"; they saw a whale, "which is an indication
that they are near land, because they always remain near it"; afterwards
a pelican came from the west-north-west and went to the south-east,
"which was an indication that it left land to the west-north-west,
because these birds sleep on land and in the morning they come to the sea
in search of food, and do not go twenty leagues from land." And "at dawn
two or three small land birds came singing to the ships; and afterwards
disappeared before sunrise."

Such beautiful signs, interpreted by the light of their wishes, were the
events of this part of the voyage. In the meantime, they have their
little differences. Martin Alonso Pinzon, on Tuesday, September 18th,
speaks from the Pinta to the Santa Maria, and says that he will not wait
for the others, but will go and make the land, since it is so near; but
apparently he does not get very far out of the way, the wind which wafts
him wafting also the Santa Maria and the Nina.

On September the 19th there was a comparison of dead-reckonings. The
Nina's pilot made it 440 leagues from the Canaries, the Pinta's 420
leagues, and the Admiral's pilot, doubtless instructed by the Admiral,
made it 400. On Sunday the 23rd they were getting into the seaweed and
finding crayfish again; and there being no reasonable cause for complaint
a scare was got up among the crew on an exceedingly ingenious point. The
wind having blown steadily from the east for a matter of three weeks,
they said that it would never blow in any other direction, and that they
would never be able to get back to Spain; but later in the afternoon the
sea got up from the westward, as though in answer to their fears, and as
if to prove that somewhere or other ahead of them there was a west wind
blowing; and the Admiral remarks that "the high sea was very necessary to
me, as it came to pass once before in the time when the Jews went out of
Egypt with Moses, who took them from captivity." And indeed there was
something of Moses in this man, who thus led his little rabble from a
Spanish seaport out across the salt wilderness of the ocean, and
interpreted the signs for them, and stood between them and the powers of
vengeance and terror that were set about their uncharted path.

But it appears that the good Admiral had gone just a little too far in
interpreting everything they saw as a sign that they were approaching
land; for his miserable crew, instead of being comforted by this fact,
now took the opportunity to be angry because the signs were not
fulfilled. The more the signs pointed to their nearness to land, the
more they began to murmur and complain because they did not see it. They
began to form together in little groups--always an ominous sign at sea--
and even at night those who were not on deck got together in murmuring
companies. Some, of the things that they said, indeed, were not very far
from the truth; among others, that it was "a great madness on their part
to venture their lives in following out the madness of a foreigner who to
make himself a great lord had risked his life, and now saw himself and
all of them in great exigency and was deceiving so many people." They
remembered that his proposition, or "dream" as they not inaptly call it,
had been contradicted by many great and lettered men; and then followed
some very ominous words indeed. They held

[The substance of these murmurings is not in the abridged Journal,
but is given by Las Casas under the date of September 24.]

that "it was enough to excuse them from whatever might be done in the
matter that they had arrived where man had never dared to navigate, and
that they were not obliged to go to the end of the world, especially as,
if they delayed more, they would not be able to have provisions to
return." In short, the best thing would be to throw him into the sea
some night, and make a story that he had fallen, into the water while
taking the position of a star with his astrolabe; and no one would ask
any questions, as he was a foreigner. They carried this talk to the
Pinzons, who listened to them; after all, we have not had to wait long
for trouble with the Pinzons! "Of these Pinzons Christopher Columbus
complains greatly, and of the trouble they had given him."

There is only one method of keeping down mutiny at sea, and of preserving
discipline. It is hard enough where the mutineers are all on one ship
and the commander's officers are loyal to him; but when they are
distributed over three ships, the captains of two of which are willing to
listen to them, the problem becomes grave indeed. We have no details of
how Columbus quieted them; but it is probable that his strong personality
awed them, while his clever and plausible words persuaded them. He was
the best sailor of them all and they knew it; and in a matter of this
kind the best and strongest man always wins, and can only in a pass of
this kind maintain his authority by proving his absolute right to it.
So he talked and persuaded and bullied and encouraged and cheered them;
"laughing with them," as Las Casas says, "while he was weeping at heart."

Probably as a result of this unpleasantness there was on the following
day, Tuesday, September 25th, a consultation between: Martin Alonso
Pinzon and the Admiral. The Santa Maria closed up with the Pinta, and a
chart was passed over on a cord. There were islands marked on the chart
in this region, possibly the islands reported by the shipwrecked pilot,
possibly the island of Antilla; and Pinzon said he thought that they were
somewhere in the region of them, and the Admiral said that he thought so
too. There was a deal of talk and pricking of positions on charts; and
then, just as the sun was setting, Martin Alonso, standing on the stern
of the Pinta, raised a shout and said that he saw land; asking (business-
like Martin) at the same time for the reward which had been promised to
the first one who should see land: They all saw it, a low cloud to the
southwest, apparently about twenty-five leagues distant; and honest
Christopher, in the emotion of the moment, fell on his knees in gratitude
to God. The crimson sunset of that evening saw the rigging of the three
ships black with eager figures, and on the quiet air were borne the
sounds of the Gloria in Excelsis, which was repeated by each ship's

The course was altered to the south-west, and they sailed in that
direction seventeen leagues during the night; but in the morning there
was no land to be seen. The sunset clouds that had so often deceived the
dwellers in the Canaries and the Azores, and that in some form or other
hover at times upon all eagerly scanned horizons, had also deceived
Columbus and every one of his people; but they created a diversion which
was of help to the Admiral in getting things quiet again, for which in
his devout soul he thanked the merciful providence of God.

And so they sailed on again on a westward course. They were still in the
Sargasso Sea, and could watch the beautiful golden floating mass of the
gulf-weed, covered with berries and showing, a little way under the clear
water, bright green leaves. The sea was as smooth as the river in
Seville; there were frigate pelicans flying about, and John Dorys in the
water; several gulls were seen; and a youth on board the Nina killed a
pelican with a stone. On Monday, October 1st, there was a heavy shower
of rain; and Juan de la Cosa, Columbus's pilot, came up to him with the
doleful information that they had run 578 leagues from the island of
Ferro. According to Christopher's doctored reckoning the distance
published was 584 leagues; but his true reckoning, about which he said
nothing to a soul, showed that they had gone 707 leagues. The breeze
still kept steady and the sea calm; and day after day, with the temper of
the crews getting uglier and uglier, the three little vessels forged
westward through the blue, weed-strewn waters, their tracks lying
undisturbed far behind them. On Saturday, October 6th, the Admiral was
signalled by Alonso Pinzon, who wanted to change the course to the south-
west. It appears that, having failed to find the, islands of the
shipwrecked pilot, they were now making for the island of Cipango, and
that this request of Pinzon had something to do with some theory of his
that they had better turn to the south to reach that island; while
Columbus's idea now evidently was--to push straight on to the mainland of
Cathay. Columbus had his way; but the grumbling and murmuring in creased
among the crew.

On the next day, Sunday, and perhaps just in time to avert another
outbreak, there was heard the sound of a gun, and the watchers on the
Santa Maria and the Pinta saw a puff of smoke coming from the Nina, which
was sailing ahead, and hoisting a flag on her masthead. This was the
signal agreed upon for the discovery of land, and it seemed as though
their search was at last at an end. But it was a mistake. In the
afternoon the land that the people of the Nina thought they had seen had
disappeared, and the horizon was empty except for a great flight of birds
that was seen passing from the north to the south-west. The Admiral,
remembering how often birds had guided the Portuguese in the islands in
their possessions, argued that the birds were either going to sleep on
land or were perhaps flying from winter, which he assumed to be
approaching in the land from whence they came. He therefore altered.
his course from west to west-south-west. This course was entered upon an
hour before sunset and continued throughout the night and the next day.
"The sea was like the river of Seville," says the Admiral; "the breezes
as soft as at Seville in April, and very fragrant." More birds were to
be seen, and there were many signs of land; but the crew, so often
disappointed in their hopeful interpretations of the phenomena
surrounding them, kept on murmuring and complaining. On Tuesday, October
9th, the wind chopped round a little and the course was altered, first to
south-west and then at evening to a point north of west; and the journal
records that "all night they heard birds passing." The next day Columbus
resumed the west-southwesterly course and made a run of fifty-nine
leagues; but the mariners broke out afresh in their discontent, and
declined to go any farther. They complained of the long voyage, and
expressed their views strongly to the commander. But they had to deal
with a man who was determined to begin with, and who saw in the many
signs of land that they had met with only an additional inducement to go
on. He told them firmly that with or without their consent he intended
to go on until he had found the land he had come to seek.

The next day, Thursday, October 11th, was destined to be for ever
memorable in the history of the world. It began ordinarily enough, with
a west-south-west wind blowing fresh, and on a sea rather rougher than
they had had lately. The people on the Santa Maria saw some petrels and
a green branch in the water; the Pinta saw a reed and two small sticks
carved with iron, and one or two other pieces of reeds and grasses that
had been grown on shore, as well as a small board. Most wonderful of
all, the people of the Nina saw "a little branch full of dog roses"; and
it would be hard to estimate the sweet significance of this fragment of a
wild plant from land to the senses of men who had been so long upon a sea
from which they had thought never to land alive. The day drew to its
close; and after nightfall, according to their custom, the crew of the
ships repeated the Salve Regina. Afterwards the Admiral addressed the
people and sailors of his ship, "very merry and pleasant," reminding them
of the favours God had shown them with regard to the weather, and begging
them, as they hoped to see land very soon, within an hour or so, to keep
an extra good look-out that night from the forward forecastle; and adding
to the reward of an annuity of 10,000 maravedis, offered by the Queen to
whoever should sight land first, a gift on his own account of a silk

The moon was in its third quarter, and did not rise until eleven o'clock.
The first part of the night was dark, and there was only a faint
starlight into which the anxious eyes of the look-out men peered from the
forecastles of the three ships. At ten o'clock Columbus was walking on
the poop of his vessel, when he suddenly saw a light right ahead. The
light seemed to rise and fall as though it were a candle or a lantern
held in some one's hand and waved up and down. The Admiral called Pedro
Gutierrez to him and asked him whether he saw anything; and he also saw
the light. Then he sent for Rodrigo Sanchez and asked him if he saw the
light; but he did not, perhaps because from where he was standing it was
occulted. But the others were left in no doubt, for the light was seen
once or twice more, and to the eyes of the anxious little group standing
on the high stern deck of the Santa Maria it appeared unmistakably. The
Nina was not close at hand, and the Pinta had gone on in front hoping to
make good her mistake; but there was no doubt on board the Santa Maria
that the light which they had seen was a light like a candle or a torch
waved slowly up and down. They lost the light again; and as the hours in
that night stole away and the moon rose slowly in the sky the seamen on
the Santa Maria must have almost held their breath.

At about two o'clock in the morning the sound of a gun was heard from the
Pinta, who could be seen hoisting her flags; Rodrigo de Triana, the look-
out on board of her, having reported land in sight; and there sure enough
in the dim light lay the low shores of an island a few miles ahead of

Immediately all sails were lowered, except a small trysail which enabled
the ships to lie-to and stand slowly off and on, waiting for the
daylight. I suppose there was never a longer night than that; but dawn
came at last, flooding the sky with lemon and saffron and scarlet and
orange, until at last the pure gold of the sun glittered on the water.
And when it rose it showed the sea-weary mariners an island lying in the
blue sea ahead of them: the island of Guanahani; San Salvador, as it was
christened by Columbus; or, to give it its modern name, Watling's Island.



During the night the ships had drifted a little with the current, and
before the north-east wind. When the look-out man on the Pinta first
reported land in sight it was probably the north-east corner of the
island, where the land rises to a height of 120 feet, that he saw. The
actual anchorage of Columbus was most likely to the westward of the
island; for there was a strong north-easterly breeze, and as the whole of
the eastern coast is fringed by a barrier reef, he would not risk his
ships on a lee shore. Finding himself off the north end of the island at
sunrise, the most natural thing for him to do, on making sail again,
would be to stand southward along the west side of the island looking for
an anchorage. The first few miles of the shore have rocky exposed
points, and the bank where there is shoal water only extends half a mile
from the shore. Immediately beyond that the bottom shelves rapidly down
to a depth of 2000 fathoms, so that if Columbus was sounding as he came
south he would find no bottom there. Below what are called the Ridings
Rocks, however, the land sweeps to the south and east in a long sheltered
bay, and to the south of these rocks there is good anchorage and firm
holding-ground in about eight fathoms of water.

We may picture them, therefore, approaching this land in the bright
sunshine of the early morning, their ears, that had so long heard nothing
but the slat of canvas and the rush and bubble of water under the prows,
filled at last with the great resounding roar of the breakers on the
coral reef; their eyes, that had so long looked upon blue emptiness and
the star-spangled violet arch of night, feasting upon the living green of
the foliage ashore; and the easterly breeze carrying to their eager
nostrils the perfumes of land. Amid an excitement and joyful
anticipation that it is exhilarating even to think about the cables were
got up and served and coiled on deck, and the anchors, which some of them
had thought would never grip the bottom again, unstopped and cleared.
The leadsman of the Santa Maria, who has been finding no bottom with his
forty-fathom line, suddenly gets a sounding; the water shoals rapidly
until the nine-fathom mark is unwetted, and the lead comes up with its
bottom covered with brown ooze. Sail is shortened; one after another the
great ungainly sheets of canvas are clewed up or lowered down on deck;
one after another the three helms are starboarded, and the three ships
brought up to the wind. Then with three mighty splashes that send the
sea birds whirling and screaming above the rocks the anchors go down; and
the Admiral stands on his high poop-deck, and looks long and searchingly
at the fragment of earth, rock-rimmed, surf-fringed, and tree-crowned, of
which he is Viceroy and Governor-General.

Watling's Island, as it is now called, or San Salvador, as Columbus named
it, or Guanahani, as it was known to the aborigines, is situated in
latitude 24 deg. 6' N., and longitude 74 deg 26' W., and is an
irregularly shaped white sandstone islet in about the middle of the great
Bahama Bank. The space occupied by the whole group is shaped like an
irregular triangle extending from the Navidad Bank in the Caribbean Sea
at the south-east corner, to Bahama Island in Florida Strait on the
north, about 200 miles. The south side trends west by north for 600
miles, and the north side north-west by north 720 miles. Most of the
islands and small rocks in this group, called Keys or Cays, are very low,
and rise only a few feet above the sea; the highest is about 400 feet
high. They are generally situated on the edge of coral and sand banks,
some of which are of a very dangerous character. They are thinly wooded,
except in the case of one or two of the larger islands which contain
timber of moderate dimensions. The climate of the Bahamas is mild and
temperate, with refreshing sea breezes in the hottest months; and there
is a mean temperature of 75 deg. from November to April. Watling's
Island is about twelve miles in length by six in breadth, with rocky
shores slightly indented. The greater part of its area is occupied by
salt-water lagoons, separated from one another by small wooded hills from
too to 140 feet high. There is plenty of grass; indeed the island is now
considered to be the most fertile in the Bahamas, and raises an excellent
breed of cattle and sheep. In common with the other islands of the group
it was orginally settled by the Spaniards, and afterwards by the British,
who were driven from the Bahamas again by the Spanish in the year 1641.
After a great deal of changing hands they were ceded to Great Britain in
1783, and have remained in her possession ever since. In 1897 the
population of the whole group was estimated at 52,000 the whites being in
the proportion of one to six of the coloured population. Watling's
Island contains about 600 inhabitants scattered over the surface, with a
small settlement called Cockburn Town on the west side, nearly opposite
the landfall of Columbus. The seat of the local government is in the
island of New Providence, and the inhabitants of Watling's Island and of
Rum Cay unite in sending one representative to the House of Assembly. It
is high water, full and change, at Watling's Island at 7 h. 40 m., as it
was in the days of Columbus; and these facts form about the sum of the
world's knowledge of and interest in Watling's Island to-day.

But it was a different matter on Friday morning, October 12, 1492,

[This date is reckoned in the old style. The true astronomical date
would be October 21st, which is the modern anniversary of the

when, all having been made snug on board the Santa Maria, the Admiral of
the Ocean Seas put on his armour and his scarlet cloak over it and
prepared to go ashore. The boat was lowered and manned by a crew well
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.


All days, however hard, have an evening, and all journeys an end
Freed by force and with guns
If there were no results, there would be no rewards
Learn the blessings of Christianity under the whip
Never to deal with subordinates
Nothing so ludicrous as an Idea to those who do not share it
She must either sin or be celibate
Stuffed so full indeed that eyes and ears are closed


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