The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus

By Washington Irving | Go to book overview

being wearied with rowing, and the island not appearing to the admiral of sufficient importance to induce colonization, he returned to the ships, taking seven of the natives with him, that they might acquire the Spanish language and serve as interpreters.

Having taken in a supply of wood and water, they left the island of San Salvador the same evening, the admiral being impatient to arrive at the wealthy country to the south, which he flattered himself would prove the famous island of Cipango.


CHAPTER II.
CRUISE AMONG THE BAHAMA ISLANDS.

[ 1492.]

On leaving San. Salvador Columbus was at a loss which way to direct his course. A great number of islands, green and level and fertile, invited him in different directions. The Indians on board of his vessel intimated by signs that they were innumerable, well peopled, and at war with one another. They mentioned the names of above a hundred. Columbus now had no longer a doubt that he was among the islands described by Marco Polo as studding the vast sea of Chin, or China, and lying at a great distance from the main-land. These, according to the Venetian, amounted to between seven and eight thousand, and abounded with drugs and spices and odoriferous trees, together with gold and silver and many other precious objects of commerce.*

Animated by the idea of exploring this opulent archipelago, he selected the largest island in sight for his next visit; it appeared to be about five leagues' distance, and he understood from his Indians that the natives were richer than those of San Salvador, wearing bracelets and anklets and other ornaments of massive gold.

The night coming on, Columbus ordered that the ships should lie to, as the navigation was difficult and dangerous among these unknown islands, and he feared to venture upon a strange

____________________
*
Marco Polo, book iii. chap. 4; Eng. translation by W. Marsden.

-115-

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