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and munificence of the white men.
When he had
finished, the Indians crowded round the Spaniards, touched and examined their skin and raiment, and kissed their hands and feet in token of adoration. There was no appearance of gold, or any other article of great value, among them; and when they were shown specimens of various spices, they said there was nothing of the kind to be found in the neighbourhood, but far off to the south-west.
Finding no traces of the city and court they had anticipated, the envoys returned to their ships: on the way back they beheld several of the natives going about with firebrands in their hands, and certain dried herbs which they rolled up in a leaf, and lighting one end put the other in their mouths, and continued inhaling and puffing out the smoke. A roll of this kind they called a tobacco; a name since transferred to the weed itself. The Spaniards were struck with astonishment at this singular and apparently preposterous luxury, although prepared to meet with wonders.
The report of the envoys put an end to many splendid fancies of Columbus, about this barbaric prince and his capital; all that they had seen betokened a primitive and simple state of society; the country, though fertile and beautiful, was wild, and but slightly and rudely cultivated; the people were evidently strangers to civilized man, nor could they hear of any inland city, superior to the one they had visited.
As fast as one illusion passed away, however, another succeeded. Columbus now understood from the signs of the Indians, that there was a country
to the eastward where the people collected gold along the river banks by torch-light, and afterwards wrought it into bars with hammers. In speaking of this place, they frequently used the words Babeque and Bohio, which he supposed to be the names of islands or provinces. As the season was advancing, and the cool nights gave hints of approaching winter, he resolved not to proceed further to the north, and turning eastward, sailed in quest of Babeque, which he trusted might prove some rich and civilized island.
After running along the coast for two or three days, and passing a great cape to which he gave the name of Cape Cuba, he stood out to sea in the direction pointed out by the Indians. The wind, however, came directly ahead, and after various ineffectual attempts he had to return to Cuba. What gave him great uneasiness was, that the Pinta, commanded by Martin Alonzo Pinzon, parted company with him during this attempt. She was the best sailer, and had worked considerably to windward of the other ships. Pinzon paid no attention to the signals of Columbus to turn back, though they were repeated at night by lights at the masthead: when morning dawned, the Pinta was no longer to be
Columbus considered this a wilful desertion, and was much troubled and perplexed by it. Martin Alonzo had for some time shown impatience at the domination of the admiral. He was a veteran navigator of great abilities, and accustomed from his wealth and standing to give the law among his nautical associates. He had furnished two of the
ships, and much of the funds for the expedition, and thought himself entitled to an equal share in the command: several disputes, therefore, had occurred between him and the admiral. Columbus feared he might have departed to make an independent cruise, or might have the intention to hasten back to Spain, and claim the merit of the discovery. These thoughts distracted his mind, and embarrassed him in the farther prosecution of his discoveries.
For several days he continued exploring the coast of Cuba, until he reached the eastern end, to which, from supposing it the extreme point of Asia, he gave the name of Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. While steering at large beyond this cape, undetermined which course to take, he descried high mountains towering above the clear horizon to the south-east, and giving evidence of an island of great extent. He immediately stood for it, to the great consternation of his Indian guides, who assured him by signs that the inhabitants had but one eye, and were fierce and cruel cannibals.
In the transparent atmosphere of the tropics, objects are descried at a great distance, and the purity of the air and serenity of the deep-blue sky give a magical charm to scenery. Under these advantages, the beautiful island of Hayti revealed itself to the eye as they approached. Its mountains were higher and more rocky than those of the other islands, but the rocks rose from among rich forests. The mountains swept down into luxuriant plains and green savannahs, while the appearance of cul
tivated fields, with the numerous fires at night, and the columns of smoke which rose in various parts by day, all showed it to be populous. It rose before them in all the splendour of tropical vegetation, one of the most beautiful islands in the world, and doomed to be one of the most unfortunate.