The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus

By Washington Irving | Go to book overview

CHAPTER V.
RETURN Of CALUMBUS ALONG THE SOUTHERN COAST Of CUBA.

[ 1494.]

The opinion of Columbus, that he was coasting the continent of Asia, and approaching the confines of eastern civilization, was shared by all his fellow-voyagers, among whom were several able and experienced navigators. They were far, however, from sharing his enthusiasm. They were to derive no glory from the success of the enterprise, and they shrunk from its increasing difficulties and perils. The ships were strained and crazed by the various injuries they had received, in running frequently aground. Their cables and rigging were worn, their provisions were growing scanty, a great part of the biscuit was spoiled by the sea-water, which oozed in through innumerable leaks. The crews were worn out by incessant labor, and disheartened at the appearance of the as before them, which continued to exhibit a mere wilderness of islands. They remonstrated, therefore, against persisting any longer in this voyage. They had already followed the coast far enough to satisfy their minds that it was a continent, and though they doubted not that civilized regions lay in the route they were pursuing, yet their provisions might be exhausted, and their vessels disabled, before they could arrive at them.

Columbus, as his imagination cooled, was himself aware of the inadequacy of his vessels to the contemplated voyage; but felt it of importance to his fame and to the popularity of his enterprises, to furnish satisfactory proofs that the land he had discovered was a continent. He therefore persisted four days longer in exploring the coast, as it bent to the south-west, until every one declared there could no longer be a doubt on the subject, for it was hapossible so vast a continuity of land should belong to a mere island. The admiral was determined, however, that the fact should not rest on his own assertion merely, having had recent proofs of a disposition to gainsay his statements, and depreciate his discoveries. He sent round, therefore, a public notary, Fernand Perez de Luna, to each of the vessels, accompanied by four witnesses, who demanded formally of every person on board, from the captain to the ship-boy,

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