The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus

By Washington Irving | Go to book overview

Heaven to work out the success of his enterprise. Without this seeming disaster, he should never have remained to find out the secret wealth of the island, but should merely have touched at various parts of the coast, and passed on. As a proof that the particular hand of Providence was exerted in it, he cites the circumstance of his having been wrecked in a perfect calm, without wind or wave, and the desertion of the pilot and mariners, when sent to carry out an anchor astern, for, had they performed his orders, the vessel would have been hauled off, they would have pursued their voyage, and the treasures of the island would have remained a secret. But now he looked forward to glorious fruits to be reaped from this seeming evil; "for he hoped," he said, "that when he returned from Spain, he should find a ton of gold collected in traffic by those whom he had left behind, and mines and spices discovered in such quantities that the sovereigns, before three years, would be able to undertake a crusade for the deliverance of the holy sepulchre;" the grand object to which he had proposed that they should dedicate the fruits of this enterprise.

Such was the visionary, yet generous, enthusiasm of Columbus, the moment that prospects of vast wealth broke upon his mind. What in some spirits would have awakened a grasping and sordid avidity to accumulate, immediately filled his imagination with plans of magnificent expenditure. But how vain are our attempts to interpret the inscrutable decrees of Providence! The shipwreck, which Columbus, considered an act of divine favor, to reveal to him the secrets of the land, shackled and limited all his after discoveries. It linked his fortunes, for the remainder of his life, to this island, which was doomed to be to him a source of cares and troubles, to involve him in a thousand perplexities, and to becloud his declining years with humiliation and disappointment.


CHAPTER XI.
REGULATION OF THE FORTRESS OF LA NAVIDAD—DEPARTURE OF
COLUMBUS FOR SPAIN.

So great was the activity of the Spaniards in the construction of their fortress, and so ample the assistance rendered by the natives, that in ten days it was sufficiently complete for ser-

-156-

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