The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus

By Washington Irving | Go to book overview

As a proof of the gigantic vegetation, Columbus mentions the enormous size of the canoes formed from single trunks of trees. One that he saw was capable of containing one hundred and fifty persons. Among other articles found in the Indian dwellings was a cake of wax, which he took to present to the Castilian sovereigns, "for where there is wax," said he, "there must be a thousand other good things."* It is since supposed to have been brought from Yucatan, as the inhabitants of Cuba were not accustomed to gather wax.

On the 5th of December he reached the eastern end of Cuba, which he supposed to be the eastern extremity of Asia; he gave it, therefore, the name of Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. He was now greatly perplexed what course to take. If he kept along the coast as it bent to the south-west, it might bring him to the more civilized and opulent parts of India; but if he took this course, he must abandon all hope of finding the island of Babeque, which the Indians now said lay to the northeast, and of which they still continued to give the most marvellous accounts. It was a state of embarrassment characteristic of this extraordinary voyage, to have a new and unknown world thus spread out to the choice of the explorer, where wonders and beauties invited him on every side; but where, whichever way he turned, he might leave the true region of profit and delight behind.


CHAPTER VI.
DISCOVERY OF HISPANIOLA.

[ 1492.]

While Columbus was steering at large beyond the eastern extremity of Cuba, undetermined what course to take, he descried land to the south-east, gradually increasing upon the view; its high mountains towering above the clear horizon, and giving evidence of an island of great extent. The Indians, on beholding it, exclaimed Bohio, the name by which Columbus understood them to designate some country which abounded in gold.

____________________
*
Journal of Columbus. Narvarrete, tom. i.
Herrera, Hist. Ind., decad. i.

-135-

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