Christopher Columbus by Filson Young - V3

Christopher Columbus by Filson Young - V3

CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS BY FILSON YOUNG - V3 FILSON YOUNG THE NEW WORLD BOOK 3 CHAPTER I THE ENCHANTED ISLANDS Columbus did not intend to remain long at San Salvador. His landfall there although it signified the realisation of one part of his dream was only the starting-point of his explorations in the New World. Now that he had made good his undertaking to "discover new lands" he had to make good his assurance that they were full of wealth and would swell the revenues of the King and Queen of Spain. A brief survey of this first island was all he could afford time for; and after the first exquisite impression of the white beach and the blue curve of the bay sparkling in the sunshine and the soft prismatic colours of the acanthus beneath the green wall of the woods had been savoured and enjoyed he was anxious to push on to the rich lands of the Orient of which he believed this island to be only an outpost. On the morning after his arrival the natives came crowding down to the beach and got down their canoes which were dug out of the trunk of a single tree and some of which were large enough to contain forty or forty-five men: They came paddling out to the ship sometimes in the case of the smaller canoes which only held one man being upset by the surf and swimming gaily round and righting their canoes again and bailing them out with gourds. They brought balls of spun cotton and parrots and spears. All their possessions indeed were represented in the offerings they made to the strangers. Columbus whose eye was now very steadily fixed on the main chance tried to find out if they had any gold for he noticed that some of them wore in their noses a ring that looked as though it were made of that metal; and by making signs he asked them if there was any more of it to be had. He understood them to say that to the south of the island there dwelt a king who had large vessels of gold and a great many of them; he tried to suggest that some of the natives should come and show him the way but he "saw that they were not interested in going." The story of the Rheingold was to be enacted over again and the whole of the evils that followed in its glittering train to be exemplified in this voyage of discovery. To the natives of these islands who guarded the yellow metal and loved it merely for its shining beauty it was harmless and powerless; they could not buy anything with it nor did they seek by its aid to secure any other enjoyments but the happiness of looking at it and admiring it. As soon as the gold was ravished from their keeping however began the reign of lust and cruelty that always has attended and always will attend the knowledge that things can be bought with it. In all its history since first it was brought up from the dark bowels of the earth to glitter in the light of day there is no more significant scene than this that took place on the bright sands of San Salvador so long ago--Columbus attentively examining the ring in the nose of a happy savage and trying to persuade him to show him the place that it was brought from; and the savage "not interested in going." From his sign-conversation with the natives Columbus understood that there was land to the south or the south-west and also to the north- west and that the people from the north-west went to the south-west in search of gold and precious stones. In the meantime he determined to spend the Sunday in making a survey of the island while the rest of Saturday was passed in barterings with the natives who were very happy and curious to see all the strange things belonging to the voyagers; and so innocent were their ideas of value that "they give all they have for whatever thing may be given them." Columbus however who was busy making calculations would not allow the members of the crew to take anything more on their own account ordering that where any article of commerce existed in quantity it was to be acquired for the sovereigns and taken home to Spain. Early on Sunday morning a boat was prepared from each ship and a little expedition began to row north about the island. As they coasted the white rocky shores people came running to the beach and calling to them; "giving thanks to God" says Columbus although this is probably a flight of fancy. When they saw that the boats were not coming to land they threw themselves into the water and came swimming out to them bringing food and drink. Columbus noticed a tongue of land lying between the north-west arm of the internal lagoon and the sea and saw that by cutting a canal through it entrance could be secured to a harbour that would float "as many ships as there are in Christendom." He did not apparently make a complete circuit of the island but returned in the afternoon to the ships having first collected seven natives to take with him and got under way again; and before night had fallen San Salvador had disappeared below the north-west horizon. About midday he reached another island to the southeast. He sailed along the coast until evening when he saw yet another island in the distance to the south-west; and he therefore lay-to for the night. At dawn the next morning he landed on the island and took formal possession of it naming it Santa Maria de la Concepcion which is the Rum Cay of the modern charts. As the wind chopped round and he found himself on a lee- shore he did not stay there but sailed again before night. Two of the unhappy prisoners from Guanahani at this point made good their escape by swimming to a large canoe which one of the natives of the new island had rowed out--a circumstance which worried Columbus not a little; since he feared it would give him a bad name with the natives. He tried to counteract it by loading with presents another native who came to barter balls of cotton and sending him away again. The effect of all that he was seeing of the bridge of islands that seemed to be stretching towards the south-west and leading him to the region of untold wealth was evidently very stimulating and exciting to Columbus. His Journal is almost incoherent where he attempts to set down ...