The most odious slanders thought up by the envious, all the shame and all the mocking, all the scorn and all the vexations, the ingratitude of the prince to whom he had just brought riches and glory, nothing had discouraged Columbus. Hardly out of prison and henceforth deprived of all titles, the illustrious old man wanted to make a fourth voyage to the new world, which would be his last.
   Christopher Columbus led this last expedition with the same daring and the same courage as in former times. Very aged by sorrows he had lost none of his material and moral vigour. He was still too the remarkable scholar who by the extent and depth of his learning, by the precision and loftiness of his studies, had led him to make the marvelous discovery that brought him great honour and which, in that era, took a miracle and a prodigy.
   Always navigating by the movements of the stars that he understood with remarkable precision, he rapidly guided his fleet along the course that he had travelled three times already; and now during this crossing he had no need to display his coolness, his presence of mind that were a true mark of greatness in this man when he put down a mutiny that put not only his life in danger but also the very possibility of his discoveries, with dignity and the firmness of his attitude; because now his crew were putting all their faith in him, loved him and venerated him as a superior being and in whom seemed to depend some of the most important concerns of the day. But on their entrance to the straits of Cuba, a storm suddenly assailed Columbus's fleet and his ships that were tossed for several days on the furious waves came to be run aground in Jamaica; Columbus landed there and sent some of his companions to look for a vessel in Saint-Domingue. At first they were well received in Jamaica by the natives. He had discovered this island in 1494, and ever since it had belonged to Spain. But some days after their arrival, while a party of his companions was at Saint-Domingue, whether they wanted to seize this opportunity to free themselves from a domination they were weary of, whether they had been mistreated by the great explorer's sailors, whether in actual fact their rebellion was the work of Columbus's enemies, of those who Ferdinand the Catholic had placed in the government of Antilles and thought that he would regain his favour and honours from this expedition, the natives revolted.
   Columbus only had about fifty sailors with him, when more than ten thousand natives came and surrounded his camp. Columbus's companions took fright, wanted to flee, but they had no ship to leave this enemy island. And besides, how to get through this wall of bodies and swords that surrounded them? Columbus ordered them to place their faith in him; he thought to himself and wondered what he was going to say to these men, but stayed calm and steady; suddenly there was a flash of light in his eyes that were saddened and diminished with sadness and the years; he walked briskly out of his hut, followed by his terrified men; his noble and courageous attitude imposed itself on the natives who interrupted their cries for a moment to let the old man speak.
   "Men of the Caribbean," he said in a firm, untrembling voice, "you are revolting against your lord and master, the king of Spain; but divine wrath will be brought down upon you and in a few hours the moon which is now shining so brightly, will veil itself and God will plunge you into the most profound darkness." Columbus meant by that that there would be a lunar eclipse as revealed to him by his calculations. The physiognomy of the great man soon took on a calm and gentle expression that gave him the feeling that it must come to pass and the consciousness that he really had perhaps saved human life.
   But the savages were little moved by what they considered vain threats; however they waited, impelled by a feeling of curiosity habitual to these people. The brilliant, clear moon in the middle of a pure sky studded with stars shed over the fertile plains of the island large bands of pale and mysterious light. It was one of those beautiful pure and cloudless nights that only in equatorial lands extend their calm and their majesty. And all these naked and copper-coloured bodies, armed with sparkling swords, this old man with a long white beard who was gazing up at the sky, that luxuriant and extraordinary Jamaican vegetation, even down to the bottom of the still, silent and azure sea, this poignant and poetic picture took on beneath this diffusion of celestial light strange and fairy-like hues. Presently a small black cloud drifted gently across the azure and immaculate sky like a stain; it approached the moon and soon cut into the silver disc. Then little by little the shining globe disappeared completely behind a dense black veil. The Red-skins were then seized with terror; aghast, they threw themselves at the feet of Columbus begging him for pardon.
   And it was a touching spectacle to see those poor savages, mad with anguish imploring Columbus to let them see their beloved star again. Columbus readily pardoned them and the air rang for a long time once again with the joyous stamping of the Caribbeans, yet still anxious, because the moon was still concealed.
   But soon, a small prick of light, then little by little the whole star gradually emerged from its veil, and the glittering and majestic moon returned to illuminate this splendid and symbolic scene, in which the pacified savages, still on their knees in front of Columbus, seemed like a living image of barbarity adoring and deifying civilization.

This manuscript is entirely in the hand of Mme Adrienne Proust. At the top she has written: "Marcel, March 1886". During the school year 1885-1886 Proust should have sat his second year at Condorcet, but his health kept him almost constantly at home, where he received special lessons and where his mother set him work. He resat his second school year the following year. - We notice in the second part of this essay an imitation, perhaps unconscious, of Chateaubriand's descriptions.


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