The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus

By Washington Irving | Go to book overview

their assistance, that in a little while the vessel was unloaded. The cacique himself, and his brothers and relatives, rendered all the aid in their power, both on sea and land, keeping vigilant guard that everything should be conducted with order, and the property secured from injury or theft. From time to time he sent some one of his family, or some principal person of his attendants, to console and cheer the admiral, assuring him that everything he possessed should be at his disposal.

Never, in a civilized country, were the vaunted rights of hospitality more scrupulously observed than by this uncultivated savage. All the effects landed from the ships were deposited near his dwelling, and an armed guard surrounded them all night, until houses could be prepared in which to store them. There seemed, however, even among the common people, no disposition to take advantage of the misfortune of the stranger. Although they beheld what must in their eyes have been inestimable treasures, cast, as it were, upon their shores, and open to depredation, yet there was not the least attempt to pilfer, nor, in transporting the effects from the ships, had they appropriated the most trifling article. On the contrary, a general sympathy was visible in their countenances and actions; and to have witnessed their concern, one would have supposed the misfortune to have happened to themselves.*

"So loving, so tractable, so peaceable are these people," says Columbus in his journal, "that I swear to your majesties, there is not in the world a better nation, nor a better land. They love their neighbors as themselves; and their discourse is ever sweet and gentle, and accompanied with a smile; and though it is true that they are naked, yet their manners are decorous and praiseworthy."


CHAPTER IX.
TRANSACTIONS WITH THE NATIVES.

[ 1492.]

On the 26th of December Guacanagari came on board of the caravel. Niña to visit the admiral, and observing him to be very much dejected was moved to tears. He repeated the message

____________________
*
Hist. del Almirante, cap. 32. Las Casas, lib. i. cap. 9.

-148-

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