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as he was about to sail, a young Indian came off to the ship, and begged that the Spaniards would take him with them to their country. He was followed by his relatives and friends, supplicating him to abandon his purpose. For some time he was distracted between concern for their distress, and an ardent desire to see the home of the wonderful strangers. Curiosity, and the youthful propensity to rove, at length prevailed; he tore himself from the embraces of his friends, and took refuge in a secret part of the ship, from the tears and entreaties of his sisters. Touched by this scene of natural affection, and pleased with the confiding spirit of the youth, Columbus ordered that he should be treated with especial kindness.
It would have been interesting to have known something more of this curious savage, and of the effect which the first sight of the land of the white men had upon his mind: whether it equalled his hopes; or whether, as is usual with savages, he pined, amidst the splendours of cities, for his native forests; and whether he ever returned to the arms of his family. The Spanish voyagers, however, were indifferent to these matters: no further mention is made in their narratives of this youthful ad
Having steered again for Cuba, Columbus, on the 18th of May, arrived at a great cape, to which be gave the name of Cabo de la Cruz, which it still retains. Coasting to the west he soon got entangled in a complete labyrinth of small islands and keys; some of them were low, naked, and sandy, others covered with verdure, and others tufted with lofty and beautiful forests. To this
archipelago, which extended as far as the eye could reach, and, in a manner, enamelled the face of the ocean with variegated verdure, he gave the name of the Queen's Garden. He persuaded himself that these were the islands mentioned by Sir John Mandeville, and Marco Polo, as fringing the coast of Asia; if so, he must soon arrive at the dominions of the Grand Khan.
There was much in the character of the scenery to favour the idea. As the ships glided along the smooth and glassy channels which separated the islands, the magnificence of their vegetation, the soft odours wafted from flowers, and blossoms, and aromatic shrubs, the splendid plumage of scarlet cranes, flamingoes, and other tropical birds, and the gaudy clouds of butterflies, all resembled what is described of oriental climes.
Emerging from the labyrinth of the Queen's Garden, Columbus pursued his voyage with a prosperous breeze along that part of the southern side of Cuba, where, for nearly thirty-five leagues, the navigation is free from banks and islands: to his left was the broad and open sea, whose darkblue colour gave token of ample depth; to his right extended a richly-wooded country, called Ornofay, with noble mountains, frequent streams, and numerous villages. The appearance of the ships spread wonder and joy along the coast. The natives came off swimming, or in canoes, to offer fruits and other presents. After the usual evening shower, when the breeze blew from the shore, and brought off the sweetness of the land, it bore with it also the distant songs of the natives, and the sound of their rude music, as they were probably celebrating, with
their national chants and dances, the arrival of these wonderful strangers on their coasts
Animated by the delusions of his fancy, Columbus continued to follow up this supposed continent of Asia; plunging into another wilderness of keys and islets towards the western end of Cuba, and exploring that perplexed and lonely coast, whose intricate channels are seldom visited, even at the present day, except by the lurking bark of the smuggler and the pirate.
In this navigation he had to contend with almost incredible difficulties and perils; his vessels having to be warped through narrow and shallow passages, where they frequently ran aground. He was encouraged to proceed by information which he received, or fancied he received, from the natives, concerning a country farther on called Mangon, where the people wore clothing, and which he supposed must be Mangi, the rich Asiatic province described by Marco Polo. He also understood from them, that among the mountains to the west there was a powerful king, who reigned in great state over many populous provinces; that he wore a white garment which swept the ground, that he was called a saint, and never spoke, but communicated his orders to his subjects by signs. In all this we see the busy imagination of Columbus interpreting the imperfectly understood communications of the Indians, into unison with his preconceived ideas. This fancied king with a saintly title was probably conjured up in his mind by some descriptions which he thought accorded with what he had read of that mysterious potentate Prester John, who had long figured, sometimes as a monarch,
sometimes as a priest, in the narrations of all eastern travellers. His crews seem to have partaken of his delusion. One day a party being sent on shore for wood and water, while they were employed in cutting wood and filling their water casks, an archer strayed into the forest, with his crossbow, in search of game, but soon returned, flying in breathless terror. He declared that he had seen through an opening glade a man dressed in long white robes, followed by two others in white tunics, reaching to their knees, and that they had complexions as fair as Europeans.
Columbus was rejoiced at this intelligence, hoping that he had found the clothed inhabitants of Mangon. Two parties were despatched, well armed, in quest of these people in white: the first returned unsuccessful; the other brought word of having tracked the footprints of some large animal with claws, supposed by them to have been either a lion or a griffin; but which most probably was an alligator. Dismayed at the sight, they hastened back to the sea-side. As no tribe of Indians wearing clothing was ever discovered in Cuba, it is probable the men in white were nothing else than a flock of cranes, seen by the wandering archer. These birds, like the flamingoes, feed in company, with one stationed at a distance as a sentinel. When seen through an opening of the woodlands, standing in rows in a shallow glassy pool, their height and erectness give them, at first glance, the semblance of human figures.
COLUMBUS now hoped, by continuing on, to arrive ultimately at the Aura Chersonesus of the ancients; doubling which he might make his way to the Red Sea, thence to Joppa, and so by the Mediterranean to Spain; or might circumnavigate Africa, pass triumphantly by the Portuguese as they were groping along the coast of Guinea, and after having thus circumnavigated the globe, furl his adventurous sails at the Pillars of Hercules, the ne plus ultra of the ancient world. But, though his fellow voyagers shared his opinion that they were coasting the continent of Asia, they were far from sharing his enthusiasm, and shrunk from the increasing perils of the voyage. The ships were strained and crazed by frequently running aground. The cables and rigging were much worn, the provisions nearly exhausted, and the crews worn out and disheartened by incessant labour. The admiral, therefore, was finally persuaded to abandon all further prosecution of the voyage; but, before he turned back, he obliged the whole of the officers and seamen to sign a deposition, declaring their perfect conviction that Cuba was a continent, the beginning and the end