The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus

By Washington Irving | Go to book overview

that Columbus had been sent by the Castilian sovereigns, a bearer of letters and a present, which he was to deliver personally, for the purpose of establishing an amicable intercourse between the powers. They were likewise to inform themselves accurately about the situation and distances of certain provinces, ports, and rivers, which the admiral specified by name from the descriptions which he had of the coast of Asia. They were moreover provided with specimens of spices and drugs, for the purpose of ascertaining whether any articles of the kind abounded in the country. With these provisions and instructions the ambassadors departed, six days being allowed them to go and return. Many, at the present day, will smile at this embassy to a naked savage chieftain in the interior of Cuba, in mistake for an asiatic monarch; but such was the singular nature of this voyage, a continual series of golden dreams, and all interpreted by the deluding volume of Marco Polo.


CHAPTER IV.
FURTHER COASTING OF CUBA.

While awaiting the return of his ambassadors, the admiral ordered the ships to be careened and repaired, and employed himself in collecting information concerning the country. On the day after their departure, he ascended the river in boats for the distance of two leagues, until he came to fresh water. Here landing, he climbed a hill to obtain a view of the interior. His view, however, was shut in by thick and lofty forests, of wild but beautiful luxuriance. Among the trees were some which he considered linaloes; many were odoriferous, and he doubted not possessed valuable aromatic qualities. There was a general eagerness among the voyagers to find the precious articles of commerce which grow in the favored climes of the East, and their imaginations were continually deceived by their hopes.

For two or three days the admiral was excited by reports of cinnamon-trees, and nutmegs, and rhubarb; but on examination they all proved fallacious. He showed the natives specimens of those and various other spices and drugs, and understood from them that those articles abounded to the south-east.

-127-

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