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Mary Johnston
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 304 pages of information about 1492.
look.  Gifts were being sorted out.  There were aboard rich things, valued in any land of ours, for gifts to the Grand Khan and his ministers, or the Emperor of Cipango and his.  For Queens and Empresses and Ladies also.  And there was a wondrous missal for Prester John did we find him!  But this was evidently a little island afar, and these were naked, savage men.  The expedition was provident.  It had for all.  The Portuguese, our great navigators, had taught what the naked African liked.  A basket stood at hand filled with pieces of colored cloth, beads, caps, hawk bells, fishhooks, toys of sorts.  For that we might have trouble, four harquebus men and four crossbows were going.  The Santa Maria carried two cannon.  Now at the Admiral’s signal, one of these was discharged.  It was a voice not heard before in this world.  If he wished to produce awe that should accompany him like the ancient pillars of cloud and fire, he had success.  When the smoke cleared we saw the wild men prostrate upon the ivory beach as though a scythe had cut them down.  They lay like fallen grain, then rose and made haste for the wood.  We could thinly hear their shouting.

Christopherus Columbus descended into the boat of the Santa Maria, Fray Ignatio after him.  Diego de Arana, Roderigo Sanchez, Escobedo, Gutierrez and Juan Lepe the physician followed.  Juan de la Cosa stayed with the ship, it not being wise to take away all authority.  Our armed men came after and the rowers.  We drew off and the small boat filled.  Boats of the Pinta and the Nina joined us.  The great banner over us, the Admiral’s hand upon its standard, we rowed for Asia.

Nearer and nearer.  The water hung about us, plain marvel, not dark blue, but turquoise and clear as air.  We could see the strange, bright-hued fish and the white bottom.  The air breathed Maytime, and now we thought we could tell the spices.  And so ivory-white it was, the long curved beach, and so gayly bright the emerald of the wood!  There were many palms with other trees we knew not.  It was low, the island, and it shone before us silver and green, and the trees moved gently in a wind more sweet, we thought, than any Andalusian zephyr.  Pedro Gutierrez stared.  “Paradise—­Paradise!”

It was not what we had looked for, but it was good enough.  It seemed divine, that morning!

Nearer we drew, nearer.  The beach was now bare.  We made out the dark, naked folk at edge of the wood, in tree shadows, watching us.  Were they strange to us, be sure we were stranger to them!

The azure water, so marvelous, met that sand white like crushed bone, strewn with delicate shells.  Never was wind so sweet as that which blew this morning!  Green plumes, the palms brushed the sky; there seemed to us fruit trees also, with satin stems and wide-laden boughs.  When we looked over shoulder the Santa Maria, the Pinta and the Nina each rode double, mast and hull in sky, mast and hull in mirror sea.  Something strange and divine was about us, over us.  We wished to laugh, we wished to weep.

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