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Christopher Columbus and the New World

The Voyage Home
Columbus did not stand out to sea on his homeward course immediately, but still coasted
along the shores of the island as though he were loth to leave it, and as though he might
still at some bend of a bay or beyond some verdant headland come upon the mines and
jewels that he longed for. The mountain that he passed soon after starting he called Monte
Christi, which name it bears to this day; and he saw many other mountains and capes and
bays, to all of which he gave names. And it was a fortunate chance which led him thus to
stand along the coast of the island; for on January 6th the sailor who was at the masthead,
looking into the clear water for shoals and rocks, reported that he saw the caravel Pinta
right ahead. When she came up with him, as they were in very shallow water not suitable
for anchorage, Columbus returned to the bay of Monte Christi to anchor there. Presently
Martin Alonso Pinzon came on board to report himself—a somewhat crestfallen Martin,
we may be sure, for he had failed to find the gold the hope of which had led him to break
his honour as a seaman. But the Martin Alonsos of this world, however sorry their
position may be, will always find some kind of justification for it. It must have been a
trying moment for Martin Alonso as his boat from the Pinta drew near the Nina, and he
saw the stalwart commanding figure of the white-haired Admiral walking the poop. He
knew very well that according to the law and custom of the sea Columbus would have
been well within his right in shooting him or hanging him on the spot; but Martin puts on
a bold face as, with a cold dread at his heart and (as likely as not) an ingratiating smile
upon his face he comes up over the side. Perhaps, being in some ways a cleverer man
than Christopher, he knew the Admiral's weak points; knew that he was kind-hearted, and
would remember those days of preparation at Palos when Martin Alonso had been his
principal stay and help. Martin's story was that he had been separated from the Admiral
against his will; that the crew insisted upon it, and that in any case they had only meant to
go and find some gold and bring it back to the Admiral. Columbus did not believe him
for a moment, but either his wisdom or his weakness prevented him from saying so. He
reproached Martin Alonso for acting with pride and covetousness "that night when he
went away and left him"; and Columbus could not think "from whence had come the
haughty actions and dishonesty Martin had shown towards him on that voyage." Martin
had done a good trade and had got a certain amount of gold; and no doubt he knew well
in what direction to turn the conversation when it was becoming unpleasant to himself.
He told Columbus of an island to the south of Juana—[Cuba]—called Yamaye,—
[Jamaica]—where pieces of gold were taken from the mines as large as kernels of wheat,
and of another island towards the east which was inhabited only by women.
The unpleasantness was passed over as soon as possible, although the Admiral felt that
the sooner he got home the better, since he was practically at the mercy of the Pinzon
brothers and their following from Palos. He therefore had the Pinta beached and
recaulked and took in wood and water, and continued his voyage on Tuesday, January
8th. He says that "this night in the name of our Lord he will start on his journey without
delaying himself further for any matter, since he had found what he had sought, and he
 
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