Six beautiful islands were seen during the day, to one of which he gave the name of Marigalante, the name of his ship. It was overspread with trees, some in full bloom, others laden with unknown fruits.
Sailing on to a larger island with a volcanic peak in the centre, they saw a cataract, of prodigious height, descending from the mountain-side. The Admiral called this island Guadaloupe, in fulfilment of a promise to the monks of the convent of Guadaloupe in Estremadura to call some newly-discovered place after it.
Landing here, the Spaniards visited a village, the inhabitants of which fled, some leaving their children behind. These were soothed by binding hawks' bells and trinkets round their arms. The huts were formed with the trunks of trees, interwoven with twigs and branches, and thatched with palm-leaves. They were square, and each had its portico, one of which was decorated with images of serpents tolerably well carved in wood. Hammocks of cotton netting were hung up, and their utensils were formed of calabashes or earthenware. There were great quantities of cotton and many bows and arrows, as also domestic geese and large parrots of blue, green, white, and scarlet plumage.
Here the Spaniards first met with the anana, or pineapple, with the fragrance and flavour of which they were delighted. In another house was the sternpost of a vessel, probably part of a wreck driven across from the coast of Africa. The voyagers, however, were struck with horror at the sight of what they took to be human bones and skulls, convincing them that the island was inhabited by Caribs, supposed to be cannibals.
Leaving this spot, Columbus sailed some miles along the coast. The boat landing succeeded in taking and bringing off a boy and several women. From them he understood that this was one of the islands of the Caribs, and that it was their custom to make descents on the neighbouring islands, in order to carry off the youngest and best-looking women, and to murder and eat the men.
He had just gained this information when it was reported to him that Diego Marques, the captain of one of the caravels, and eight men were missing. They had landed in the morning, and strayed into the woods. The night passed away, and they did not appear. The next morning parties were sent in quest of them, each with a trumpeter to sound calls, and guns were fired from the ships.
The searching parties found, as they supposed, human limbs suspended from the beams of houses, and some declared that they saw the head of a young man recently killed, while parts of his body were roasting before a fire.
The natives were seen on shore, looking with wonder at the ships. When the boats approached, they fled to the woods. Several women, however, came off, and some were captured. Columbus ordered that they should be decorated with hawks' bells and other baubles, and sent on shore to entice off the men. They soon, however, returned to the boats stripped of their ornaments, imploring to be taken on board again. The greater portion of the male inhabitants were, they informed the Spaniards, on a cruise in search of prisoners and booty.
Anxious to continue his course to Hispaniola, Columbus was much annoyed at the absence of the wanderers. At length Alonzo de Ojeda, a brave young cavalier, offered to go in search of them. Ojeda and his party had great difficulty in making their way through the tangled forest. In vain they sounded their trumpets and shot off their arquebuses. No reply was received, and they returned on board without tidings of the stragglers.
Several days passed, and the fleet was about to sail, when the missing ones appeared on the beach, their haggard looks showing how much they had suffered.
They had been lost in the trackless forest, too dense to allow them to see any distance ahead, until they had reached the sea-shore, keeping along which they had made their way to the ships.
Leaving Guadaloupe on the 10th, Columbus passed Mont Serrat and Antigua, and, the weather becoming boisterous, anchored off an island, to which he gave the name of Santa Cruz. Here a boat was sent on shore, and the crew visited a village, deserted by the men, but secured a few women and boys, most of them captives from other islands. On returning they saw a canoe, the people in which—two of whom were women—were so entranced at the sight of the ships that the boat got close up before they perceived it. The Indians now attempted to escape, but, finding their retreat cut off, they plied their bows and arrows so rapidly that two Spaniards were wounded, the women fighting as fiercely as the men. Though the canoe was upset, the savages still, while swimming, discharged their arrows at their foes. They were, however, captured and brought on board, some of them wounded.
One of them was evidently their Queen. She was accompanied by her son, a young man strongly made, with a frowning brow and a lion's face. The hair of these savages was long and coarse, and their eyes were encircled with paint, so as to give them a hideous expression.
Though captives in chains, they still retained their defiant air. They were afterwards carried prisoners to Spain. One of the Spaniards died of a wound from a poisoned arrow shot by one of the women.
After this Columbus reached a group of upwards of fifty small islands, to which the name of Saint Ursula and the Eleven Thousand Virgins was given. Continuing his course, he came off a beautiful island, covered with forests and indented with fine havens. It is now known by the name of Porto Rico. This was the island from which most of the captives who had fled to the ships had been taken by the Caribs.
After running for a whole day along this beautiful coast, the squadron anchored in a bay at the west end, abounding in fish.
On landing they found an Indian village constructed round a common square like a market-place, with one large and well-built house in it. A wide road led thence to the sea-shore, fenced on either side.
The whole place had an air of great neatness. Not a human being, however, was to be seen, the natives having concealed themselves.
After remaining here two days Columbus stood for Hispaniola. This ended his cruise among the Caribbean Islands, the inhabitants of which he described as cannibals, and the most warlike people hitherto met with.
On the 22nd of November the squadron came off the eastern end of Hispaniola, or Hayti, and the sailor who had died of his wound was here sent on shore to be buried.
Several natives came off with a message from the cacique of the neighbourhood inviting Columbus to land, and promising great quantities of gold, but, anxious to reach La Navidad, he continued his course. The next place he put into was Las Flechas, where he landed one of the young Indians, who it was supposed had been converted to Christianity, handsomely apparelled and loaded with trinkets. But the youth either forgot his promises or was murdered on account of his finery, as nothing more was heard of him.
Only one young Indian, who had been sent by Guacanagari, and who, having been to Spain, had been baptised and named after the Admiral's brother, Diego Colon, remained on board, and he continued always devoted to the Spaniards.
On the 25th Columbus anchored in the harbour of Monte Cristo, wishing to form a settlement in the neighbourhood of the stream to which he had before given the name of the Golden River.
Near this, on the green banks of a rivulet, the bodies of a man and boy were found, the former with a cord of Spanish grass about his neck, his arms extended and tied by the wrists to a stake in the form of a cross.
It was impossible, from the state of decay in which they were found, to ascertain whether they were European or Indians. Painful doubts, however, were raised, and the following day two other bodies were discovered, one of which was evidently the corpse of a white man.
Gloomy forebodings were now raised as to the fate which might have befallen Arana and his garrison. The frank and fearless conduct, however, of the natives who came off to the ships somewhat allayed the suspicions of Columbus. He sailed on, hoping to find the greater part of the garrison alive, until he arrived off the harbour of La Navidad, late on the evening of the 27th. Two guns were fired, but no reply was received. While waiting in dismal suspense for the morning, about midnight a canoe approached the fleet; but the people in it would not come on board until they perceived the Admiral standing on the deck of his ship, when they came up the side without hesitation. One of them was a cousin of the cacique Guacanagari. He brought a present of two masks ornamented with gold.
To the inquiries of Columbus as to what had become of the garrison, the Indians replied that several had died of sickness, others had fallen in a quarrel among themselves, and others had removed to different parts of the island, where they had married native wives. He added that Guacanagari had been attacked by the fierce cacique of the Golden Mountains of Cibao, who had wounded him in battle and burnt his village, and that he still remained ill of his wound in a neighbouring hamlet. Columbus was greatly relieved on finding that the cacique and his people still remained faithful, and he hoped that some of the Spaniards scattered about the country, on hearing of his arrival, would quickly hasten on board.
In the morning, however, not a canoe was to be seen. The inhabitants, too, kept out of the way. A boat was therefore sent on shore. On landing, the crew hastened to the fortress. It was a ruin. The palisades were beaten down, and the whole presented the appearance of having been sacked, burnt, and destroyed.
Columbus, on visiting the ruins the next morning, discovered no dead bodies, but broken utensils and torn vestments were found scattered here and there among the grass.
In vain cannon and arquebuses were fired. Proceeding along the coast in a boat for about a league, Columbus came to a hamlet, the inhabitants of which had fled with their goods. In their houses, however, were found European articles, such as stockings, pieces of cloth, and a Moorish robe. While he was absent the bodies of eleven Europeans were discovered buried in different places, evidently some time dead, as grass had grown over their graves.
At length the Indians, recovering from their alarm, came up to the Spaniards, and from them the fate of the garrison was in some measure ascertained.
With the exception of Arana and two or three others, the people left behind had disobeyed all the orders given by Columbus. The simple natives soon discovered that the beings they had at first worshipped as gods were gross sensualists, who carried off their wives and daughters, and possessed themselves of their gold and property by fraud and violence.
In vain Arana interposed his authority. His lieutenants deserted him and set off on an expedition to the mines of Cibao, where they were captured by Caonabo and put to death. Others, abandoning the fortress, lived carelessly about the neighbourhood, and Caonabo burst upon the fortress while the residue of the garrison were asleep, and, setting it on fire, massacred some, while others fled to the sea and were drowned.
Guacanagari and his people had fought faithfully in defence of their guests, but were easily routed, and the cacique being wounded, his village was burnt to the ground.
Columbus afterwards visited the unfortunate Guacanagari, who received him in the same friendly spirit as before; but Father Boyle and others declared their belief that he was acting a treacherous part, and advised, when he afterwards returned the Admiral's visit, that he should be detained. Columbus, however, rejected the counsel of his followers as contrary to sound policy and honourable faith. The cacique, seeing that he was mistrusted, took his departure, and for long kept out of the way of the Spaniards.
Finding that this was not a suitable place for a settlement, Columbus weighed anchor on the 7th of December, but in consequence of adverse weather he put into a harbour about ten leagues east of Monte Cristo. He was here struck by the advantages of its spacious harbour, there being also two rivers watering a green and beautiful plain, while the soil appeared to be fertile, and excellent fish were found. It was also at no great distance from the mountains of Cibao.
It being considered, therefore, that no situation more favourable for the projected colony could be found, the troops and labourers were landed with their provisions, articles for traffic, guns, ammunition, and live stock of all sorts, and an encampment was formed round a sheet of water.
Streets and squares were projected; a church, public storehouse, and a residence for the Admiral were commenced. These were built of stone. The other houses were constructed of wood, plaster, and reeds; and for a short time every one exerted himself with the utmost zeal.
To the first Christian city in the New World thus founded Columbus gave the name of Isabella, in honour of his royal patroness. Sickness, however, soon broke out among the colonists, several died, and even Columbus was confined for many weeks to his bed.
Notwithstanding his illness, he continued to give directions, superintending the building of the city and the management of the fleet. His mind, however, was oppressed with the thought that, in consequence of the destruction of the fortress, he should be compelled to send back the ships empty, instead of laden with gold and spices, to the great disappointment of the sovereigns. Before dispatching them, therefore, he sent Ojeda, at the head of an expedition, to the Golden Mountains, to try and obtain some of the precious metal. Another young cavalier was also sent away on a similar expedition, and both returned with favourable reports as to the inexhaustible wealth of the district. Thus, with more satisfaction than he had expected, Columbus was able to send back the ships to Spain. He recommended various persons to the notice of the sovereigns, to whom he sent a petition for provisions, wine, medicine, clothing, arms, horses, to be dispatched to the colony with all speed. He sent also the men, women, and children taken in the Caribbean Islands, recommending that they should be carefully instructed in the Spanish language and the Christian faith. In his ignorant zeal for promulgating that faith, he proposed to establish an exchange of the cannibal pagans as slaves, against live stock to be furnished to the colony, fancying that these slaves would be thus converted to the Catholic faith.
The sovereigns, however, did not agree with his ideas, but ordered that the Caribs should be converted like the rest of the islanders.
The city of Isabella having made considerable progress, the church being open for service, Columbus prepared to lead an expedition to the mountains of Cibao.
Jealousy of Columbus' superior merits and the rewards he had received had been for some time rankling in the hearts of some of his officers. As he was about to set off on his expedition, a mutiny was designed, but discovered before it broke out, and the leader, Bernal Diaz, was confined on board one of the ships, to be sent to Spain for trial.
Columbus now commenced the proposed expedition, leaving his brother Don Diego in command of the city and the ships. He was well received by the natives wherever he went, and was fully satisfied that the region was prolific in gold. To secure it he built a fortress called Saint Thomas, to the command of which he appointed Pedro Margarite, and garrisoned it with fifty-six men.
Delighted with all he had seen, Columbus returned to Isabella on the 29th of March. Great progress had been made, and many of the seeds had already sprung up, bearing fruit. Unfortunately, however, bread had become scarce, and there was no means of grinding wheat. Disease also had attacked the settlers, and many persons of all ranks had died. He was, however, anxious to proceed on his voyage of discovery, and supposing that he could trust his subordinates, he left ample instructions for their conduct. He directed Margarite, with a strong force, to explore the province of Cibao, while Ojeda was to assume the command of Saint Thomas. One of the objects of the expedition was to secure the persons of any chiefs who had exhibited hostile feelings towards the Spaniards. Several were thus captured and sent in chains to Isabella. At length Columbus, satisfied that the colony would go on well, set sail, intending to visit the coast of Cuba at the point where he had abandoned it, and thence to explore it on the south side. He, it must be remembered, supposed it to be the extreme end of Asia, and that by following its shores he must at length arrive at Cathay, and those other rich countries described by Mandeville and Marco Polo.
Having visited La Navidad, where Guacanagari kept out of the way, he continued his course westward, until he reached the port of Saint Nicholas, whence he beheld the extreme point of Cuba. Having crossed the channel, he sailed along the southern coast of that island for a distance of twenty leagues, until he entered a harbour, which from its size he called Puerto Grande. Going on shore, he arrived at some cottages, where, although the inhabitants had fled, great quantities of fish, utias, and iguanas were found, some hung up, others roasting before the fires. The Spaniards, who had long been fasting, satisfied their appetites on the food, and then set out to explore the country. On their way they saw a party of Indians, collected on the top of a rock, looking down upon them with astonishment.
Though most of the natives ran off, one remained, whose apprehensions were quickly dispelled by the friendly way the young Lucayan interpreter spoke to him. Going after his companions, he soon brought them back. They assured Columbus that he was welcome to the food which had been consumed; but he, with his usual liberality, directed that ample compensation should be made to them.
The next harbour in which he brought up he called Saint Jago de Cuba. Here he was treated with the usual simple hospitality of the natives. Wherever he went he inquired for gold, and the natives invariably pointed to the south, intimating that the country abounded with gold in that direction.
He therefore, without delay, steered in search of this reported island. He had not sailed many leagues before the summits of lofty mountains were seen rising above the horizon. As he approached the island he was struck with the beauty of its scenery, the majesty of its forests, the fertility of its valleys, and the number of its villages.
In a short time seventy canoes filled with savages, gaily-painted, and decorated with feathers, paddled off a league from the shore, uttering loud yells, and brandishing lances of pointed wood. They were quickly soothed, however, by the interpreter, and a few gifts bestowed upon them, so that they did not molest the ship.
Coasting westward, Columbus, finding a sheltered harbour, made preparations for careening the ship, which leaked. As he was entering, the boats sounding ahead, two canoes came up, filled with Indians, who hurled their darts; but wishing to avoid any act of hostility, he ordered the boats to return and, standing on, came to an anchor.
Directly afterwards the whole beach was covered with savages, painted chiefly with black, and all wearing coronets of feathers. They showed their hostile intentions by hurling their javelins towards the ship, making the shores ring with their war-whoops.
As further forbearance might have been mistaken for cowardice, the Admiral sent a boat on shore full of well-armed men, who let fly a volley of arrows from their crossbows, wounding several Indians, and throwing the rest into confusion. They then sprang on shore and let loose a dog, who pursued them with sanguinary fury. This was the first time bloodhounds had been used against the natives, afterwards to be employed with such cruel effect by the Spaniards in their Indian wars.
Columbus then landed and took formal possession of the island, which he called Santiago, but it has retained its original Indian name of Jamaica.
Notwithstanding this unpleasant commencement, the natives soon entered into a friendly intercourse with their visitors. Columbus was struck with the appearance of their canoes, which were carved and painted, many of them being of large size, formed of the trunk of a single tree. He measured one, which was ninety-six feet long and eight broad, hollowed out of a species of mahogany-tree.
He now coasted along the northern shore of Jamaica, the natives everywhere coming off and trading without fear. At the last place where he touched in Jamaica a young Indian came off and begged the Spaniards to take him to their country. Notwithstanding the tears and supplications of his friends, he persisted in his request, and Columbus ordered that he should be received on board and treated with kindness.
As the wind at the western end of Jamaica was found to be contrary, Columbus resolved to return to Cuba, and not to leave it until he had explored its coast sufficiently to determine whether it was terra firma or an island.
SECOND VOYAGE OF COLUMBUS CONTINUED—A.D. 1494.
Again off Cuba—The numerous keys—Inhabitants hide—Sees a canoe— Curious mode of fishing—Intercourse with the friendly cacique of Ornofay—Believes that he is approaching Asia—The natives welcome the strangers—Sailing west, the Spaniards land near some mountains—The archer's report of white-robed natives—Columbus believes that he shall soon reach the Indian Ocean—Error as to the extent of Cuba—Returns eastward—Visited by a cacique and his venerable minister—Stands across to Jamaica—Coasts along it—A cacique with his family come off to the ships requesting to be taken to Spain—The squadron stands across to Hispaniola—Natives show signs of hostility, but become friendly— Columbus struck down with illness—Carried to Isabella—His brother Bartholomew meets him—Efforts to improve the colony—Traitorous designs formed against Columbus—Accusations sent home—Aguado sent out to investigate his conduct—Columbus resolves to return to Spain—A rich gold-mine discovered—Sets sail—Detained by contrary winds—Puts into Guadaloupe—Attacked by Amazons—Huts plundered—Some of the Amazons captured—Again sails—Prolonged passage—Spaniards propose to kill the prisoners—Prevented by Columbus—The vessels reach Cadiz—Finds a squadron about to sail for Isabella—Honourably received by the sovereigns.
Standing across to Cuba, Columbus reached Cabo de la Cruz, near which, landing, he was cordially received by the cacique and his subjects, who had long since heard of him. The Admiral endeavoured to ascertain from the cacique whether Cuba was an island or a continent. The reply was such as to induce him to believe that it was the latter.
Meeting with a storm, fortunately of short duration, he soon found himself among a labyrinth of keys and small islands, so numerous that it was impossible to count them. To these he gave the name of The Queen's Gardens. At first he thought of leaving this archipelago to the right, and standing out to sea; but he recollected that Sir John Mandeville and Marco Polo had mentioned that the coast of Asia was fringed with islands to the number of several thousands, and persuading himself that he was among that cluster, he hoped soon to arrive at the dominion of the Grand Khan.
The weather became unfavourable, adding greatly to the difficulties of navigation. These islands were generally uninhabited, but on the 22nd of May he came to one to which he gave the name of Santa Marta. Here was a large village abandoned by its inhabitants.
Quantities of fish were found in their dwellings, as also domesticated parrots, scarlet cranes, and some dumb dogs, which they fattened as an article of food. One day a number of natives were seen in a canoe, occupied in fishing. They employed a small fish, tied by the tail, the flat head of which was furnished with numerous suckers, by which it attached itself so firmly to any object as to be torn to pieces rather than abandon its hold. In this way the Spaniards witnessed the taking of a tortoise of enormous size. The same mode of fishing is said to be employed on the eastern coast of Africa. The natives led the Admiral to suppose that the sea was full of islands south and west, and that Cuba ran to the west without any termination.
Having extricated himself from this archipelago, Columbus steered for a mountainous part of Cuba, and landing at a large village, he was received with the same kindness which invariably distinguished its inhabitants. He found them mild, hospitable, and pacific; even the animals were tamer as well as larger and better than those seen elsewhere. Here stock doves were brought to him, whose crops were found to contain several spices. The cacique told him that the name of his province was Ornofay, and that farther on to the west was the province of Mangon, whose inhabitants would give him more ample information. He was struck by the sound of the name. It resembled that of Mangi, the richest province of the Grand Khan bordering the ocean. He understood the Indians to say that it was inhabited by people who had tails, and wore garments to conceal them. He recollected that Sir John Mandeville had recorded a story to the same effect as current among certain naked tribes, who could not conceive that people would wear clothes unless to conceal some defect. He flattered himself, therefore, that he should soon come to the rich province of Mangi and the long-robed inhabitants of the empire of Tartary. He therefore sailed on, animated by one of the pleasing illusions of his imagination, along a coast where, for thirty-five leagues, the navigation is unembarrassed by banks or islands. The shores were thickly populated. As the vessels glided by, the natives came off in their canoes to offer fruits and other productions of the land. Often too the sound of their loud music could be heard, as they celebrated the arrival of the white men.
It is sad to think that this whole district was soon depopulated, the simple inhabitants destroyed by the ruthless hand of the cruel and bigoted Spaniard. Again the vessels were entangled among sand-banks, and the water appeared as white as milk. This appearance was produced by fine sand raised from the bottom by the agitation of the waves and currents, but the seamen, unable to account for it, entreated that they might return to the east. Columbus, however, would not consent to relinquish his voyage, believing, as he did, that he was on the eve of a brilliant discovery. The caravel was sent ahead to explore. Only by the greatest caution, toil, and peril did he succeed in making his way through the narrow channels.
At length, with a fair wind, he steered towards some mountains seen rising close to the coast, and came to an anchor near a beautiful grove of palm-trees. Here a party was sent on shore to obtain wood and water. While they were thus employed an archer, who had gone into the forest with his crossbow in search of game, came hurrying back, declaring that he had seen, through an open glade, a man in a long white dress, two others following in white tunics reaching to their knees, their complexions as fair as those of Europeans. Behind these appeared many more, to the number of thirty, armed with clubs and lances. They gave no signs, he confessed, of hostile intentions, the man in the long white dress alone advancing.
The watering party having no wish to encounter so many armed men, hastened back to the ship. Columbus, on hearing the story, was fully persuaded that they were the clothed inhabitants of Mangon.
The following day he sent a strong force to penetrate into the interior. They, however, found it impossible to get far on account of the matted grass and creeping vegetation, and at length returned, wearied and exhausted, to the ships. The next day another party was dispatched, but they came back, some declaring that they had seen the tracks of a lion, others of a griffon. Probably the marks were produced by alligators, while the supposed white-robed natives were no doubt tall white cranes, of which the bold archer had suddenly come in sight. The only inhabitants seen on the coast were perfectly naked. Columbus attributed this circumstance to their being mere fishermen, and supposed that the civilised regions lay in the interior.
For several days Columbus continued exploring the coast, until he perceived that it took a bend to the south-west. This accorded with the descriptions given by Marco Polo of the remote coasts of Asia. He was now sure that he was on that part of the Asiatic continent beyond the limits of the Old World laid down by Ptolemy, and that by continuing his course he should arrive at the point where this range of toast terminated in the Aurea Chersonesus of the ancients. Doubling this, he would emerge into the seas bordered by the luxurious nations of the East. Stretching across the Gulf of the Ganges, he might continue on to the Straits of Babel Mandel, and arrive on the shores of the Red Sea. Thence he might make his way by land to Jerusalem, taking ship at Joppa, and traverse the Mediterranean to Spain, or sail round the whole coast of Africa, and thus circumnavigate the globe.
These notions, though not his enthusiasm, were shared by many of the able navigators on board; but they considered the vessels, strained and leaky, with rigging worn out, totally inadequate to the undertaking. Of this Columbus himself became convinced, and after exploring the coast for four days longer, and finding it still trending to the south-west, all declared that it was impossible so extensive a continuity of land should belong to a mere island.
That no one might afterwards blame him for abandoning the enterprise, he made each pilot and master sign a document expressing his opinion on the subject, and as he had no other opportunity of verifying this idea, he died in the belief that Cuba was the extremity of the Asiatic coast.
From this point, escaping numerous perils, he now again steered eastward, until on the 7th of July he anchored in the mouth of a fine river, intending to give the crews rest and recreation after their confinement of two months on board. He was here visited by the cacique and his venerable minister of fourscore years, who brought a string of beads, to which he attached a mystic value, and a calabash of a delicate kind of fruit. These he presented in token of amity.
The people also brought utias, large pigeons, bread, and rich fruits; indeed, they and the chief cacique received him with mingled demonstrations of joy and reverence.
In all remarkable places Columbus visited he erected crosses in conspicuous situations. Here a large one of wood was elevated on the bank of a river. Mass was then performed, and after it was concluded, the old counsellor approached, and expressed his satisfaction that the strangers thus gave thanks to God.
"Be not vainglorious," he added, "at all you have accomplished. Know that there are two places to which the souls of men go: the one dismal, foul, and dark, prepared for those who have been unjust and cruel; the other pleasant and full of delight for such as have promoted peace on earth. Beware, then, that you wrongfully hurt no man, and do no harm to those who have done no harm to thee."
The Admiral, greatly moved, assured him that he rejoiced to hear his doctrine respecting the future state, and told him that he had been sent by his sovereigns to teach them the true religion, and to help them subdue their enemies the cannibals, and therefore that all peaceable men might look to him as their protector.
The old man then offered to embark with the Admiral, seized with a desire to visit the wonderful country from which he and his followers came, and only with great reluctance, moved by the lamentations of his wife and children, would he abandon his project.
After remaining several days here, Columbus put to sea; but unable to fetch Hispaniola, stood over to Jamaica, intending to finish its circumnavigation. The inhabitants came off, exhibiting the most friendly disposition whenever the vessels neared the shore, and Diego Colon, the interpreter, never failed to expatiate on the wonders he had seen in Spain, and the prowess of the Spaniards who had defeated the dreaded Caribs.
As the ships were one day standing along the coast under easy sail, with a light wind, three canoes came off. In the largest, handsomely carved and painted, sat a cacique, his wife, two daughters, two sons, and his five brothers. One of the daughters, eighteen years of age, was beautiful in form and countenance, and though destitute of clothing, was of modest demeanour. In the prow stood the standard-bearer, clad in a mantle of variegated feathers, with a tuft of gay plumes on his head, while he bore in his hand a fluttering white banner. Two Indians, with caps of feathers, their faces painted, beat upon drums, while two others, with caps of green feathers, blew their trumpets of black wood ingeniously carved. There were six others in caps of white feathers, who appeared to be guards to the cacique.
Having arrived alongside the Admiral's ship, he came on board with all his train. He wore on his head a band of small green stones, joined in front by a large jewel of gold; two plates of gold were suspended to his ears; to a necklace of white beads hung a large metal plate, resembling gold, in the form of a fleur de lys, while a girdle of variegated stones completed his costume; though his wife and daughters, with the exception of girdles, to which were suspended tablets of coloured stones, were unadorned.
The chief, warmly greeting the Admiral, told him that his object in coming was to accompany him to Spain, to do homage to the King and Queen. Columbus, knowing the dangers that the simple savage and his people would be exposed to, was touched with compassion, and determined not to take them from their native land. He therefore told him that as he had many places to visit, he could not take him then, but would at some future time fulfil his desire. Reluctantly the cacique and his family re-embarked in his canoe and returned to the shore, while the ships continued their cruise.
Columbus now stood across to Hispaniola. On sending a boat on shore near a large village, the inhabitants issued forth with bows and arrows, while others came provided with cords to bind their expected prisoners. These were the natives of the eastern province. Their hostility, however, was only in appearance, for directly the crew landed they threw aside their arms, and readily brought provisions, asking for the Admiral, whose fame had spread over the whole island. Shortly after this he was weatherbound for several days in a harbour formed by an island close to the coast.
When once free, and in seas now well known, being relieved from all anxiety and the excitement which had so long existed, his mind and body sank exhausted by his almost superhuman exertions. He was struck by a sudden malady, which deprived him of his memory, sight, and all his faculties, and he fell into a deep lethargy, resembling death itself. In that state he was borne back to Isabella. Soon after arriving there he recovered consciousness, and his heart was cheered by seeing his much-loved brother Bartholomew, from whom he had been separated many years, standing over him.
Bartholomew had in the meantime made a voyage to Africa, and visited Henry the Seventh of England and Charles the Eighth of France, and on his arrival in Spain had been sent out in command of three ships, freighted with supplies for the colony.
He had arrived just after his brother had sailed, and since had been waiting for his return. On his recovery, aided by his two excellent brothers, Bartholomew and Diego, Columbus took the most energetic steps for the benefit of the colony. A turbulent spirit existed among the settlers, and many of the natives had been driven into hostility. By an inexcusable stratagem of Ojeda, one of the most powerful caciques, Caonabo was captured. Several others were afterwards taken prisoners. The Spaniards, however, quarrelled among themselves, and neglecting the excellent regulations of Columbus, set his authority at defiance, while some of those he had most trusted openly rebelled. Margarite, one of the principal officers, and the cunning friar Boyle, with other worthless men, sent home insidious reports regarding his administration of the government. He, aware of the accusations against him, forwarded counter reports, and, in the meantime, endeavoured to obtain all the gold to be procured to satisfy the cupidity of Ferdinand. He built several fortresses, both in the gold region and other parts of the country, and in a short time the whole of the inhabitants were reduced to a helpless state of slavery, for, though he intended that they should be treated with justice and kindly, the heartless and greedy Spaniards thought only how they could obtain the largest amount of profit from their labours.
In spite of all his representations, his enemies so contrived to poison the mind of Ferdinand, that a commissioner, Juan Aguado, armed with supreme authority, was sent out to investigate the behaviour of Columbus, and to administer the government.
The Admiral received him with calmness and courtesy, and gave him no opportunity of creating a quarrel. All the rebels and dissatisfied spirits, however, thronged round Aguado and brought their accusations against Columbus, who, finding that Aguado was about to return to Spain, resolved likewise to go there, in order to defend himself.
As Aguado was about to sail, a fearful hurricane burst over the island and destroyed his four ships. Columbus on this ordered that the Nina, which was in a shattered and leaky condition, should be prepared, and another vessel constructed out of the wrecks.
At this juncture a young Spaniard, who, in consequence of wounding a man, had fled from the settlement and concealed himself among the natives near the mountains, where he married, had, by the aid of his wife, discovered a rich gold region.
Knowing that he should be pardoned, he returned and reported the discovery to Columbus, who, highly elated, fully believed that the mines were those of the ancient Ophir.
The Santa Cruz, the new caravel, being finished and the Nina repaired, Columbus appointed his brother, Don Bartholomew, as Adelantado, to govern the island, and going on board, set sail on the 12th of March, 1496. Aguado went on board the other vessel, and between the two were two hundred and twenty-five passengers, all those who wished to return to the old country, as well as thirty Indians, with the cacique Caonabo, one of his brothers, and a nephew. Even captivity could not crush the spirit of the haughty chief till he fell ill, and died before the termination of the voyage.
After meeting with baffling winds for a long time, on the 6th of April Columbus found himself still in the neighbourhood of the Carib Islands, his crew sickly and his provisions diminishing. He bore away, therefore, in search of supplies, and after touching at Maregalante, made sail for Guadaloupe. Here a boat going ashore to obtain wood and water, a large number of females, decorated with tufts of feathers and armed with bows and arrows, as if to defend their shores, were seen issuing from the forest. The natives on board having explained to these Amazonian dames that the object of the Spaniards was barter, they referred them to their husbands, who, they said, were in a different part of the island.
As the boats pulled along the beach numbers of natives approached, shouting and yelling, and brandishing their weapons, and discharging flights of arrows.
A few shots from the firearms of the Spaniards drove them off. The boat when landing met with no further opposition, and, contrary to the injunctions of the Admiral, they plundered and destroyed the native huts. Honey and wax were found in the houses, and hatchets made of hard and heavy stone. One of the seamen declared that he found a human arm roasting, but this statement was probably made to excuse himself and his companions for the wanton mischief they had committed.
While some of the men were obtaining wood and water, Columbus dispatched a strongly-armed party of forty into the interior. Here they encountered a number of women of large and powerful form, their long hair flowing loose upon their shoulders, and their heads decorated with plumes of various colours. Ten women and three boys were brought back. Among the former was a woman of great strength and of proud spirit, who endeavoured to escape, but being pursued by a Spaniard, was overtaken while attempting to strangle him, and was captured.
After they were brought on board Columbus ordered them to be restored to the island, but the chieftainess, whose heart had been touched by the misfortunes of Caonabo, insisted on remaining to comfort him, and was thus carried captive to Spain.
Guadaloupe was left on the 20th of April, but a whole month was spent beating against contrary winds and currents, so that water and provisions began to fail, and the people were put upon short allowance. So reduced were they at last that some of the Spaniards proposed, as an expedient, that they should kill and eat their Indian prisoners. Others suggested that they should throw them into the sea.
Columbus had to exert all his authority to prevent this atrocious act. He urged them to wait with patience, and assured them that in a short time they would see Cape Saint Vincent.
Many scoffed, declaring that they were on a different part of the coast, but on the 10th he ordered that sail should be taken in at night, and on the next morning they were in sight of the very land he had predicted.
After a dreary voyage of three months, on the 11th of June the vessels anchored in the Bay of Cadiz. He found three caravels on the point of sailing, to carry provisions to the colony. Nearly a year had passed without relief of any kind having been sent out, as four vessels which had sailed in January had been lost. By this squadron he wrote to his brother, the Adelantado, urging him to bring the island into a peaceful and productive state, and to send to Spain all Indians who should injure any of the colonists.
Columbus was honourably treated by the sovereigns, although the mind of Ferdinand was evidently poisoned by the representations of his enemies. Notwithstanding the cruel opposition of his foes, the great navigator, refusing to take the repose his health so much required, bent on prosecuting his discoveries, employed all his energies to obtain forthwith the command of another expedition.
THIRD VOYAGE OF COLUMBUS—A.D. 1498.
Columbus, after many delays, fits out another squadron, and sails on his third voyage, 30th May, 1498—Touches at Gomara—Retakes a prize to a French privateer—Off the Cape de Verdes—Sends three of his ships to Hispaniola, and steers south-west with the remainder—Long becalmed— Steers west and sights Trinidad—Sees mainland of South America—Natives come off—Alarmed by music—A bore threatens to destroy the ships— Enters the Serpent's Mouth—Sails up the Gulf of Paria—Mistakes the promontory for an island—Anchors at the mouth of the river—Natives come off—Pearls seen among them—Large quantities procured—Passes through the Dragon's Mouth—Natives seen fishing for pearls—Three pounds weight obtained—His eyesight failing, steers for Hispaniola— Makes the land fifty leagues more to the west than he had expected— Reaches Isabella—Disastrous state of the settlement—Bobadilla sent out to supersede Columbus—Summoned to Isabella—Columbus and his brothers sent in chains to Spain—Arrival—Reaction in his favour—Honourably received at Court—Ovando sent out to supersede Bobadilla—The belief of Columbus that a passage into the Indian Ocean was to be found—Obtains authority to fit out another fleet.
It was not without numerous wearying delays that Columbus at length succeeded in getting another squadron fitted out to prosecute his discoveries. He at length obtained six vessels, with which he set sail on the 30th of May, 1498. Having heard that a French squadron was cruising off Cape Saint Vincent, he first stood to the south-west, touching at the islands of Porto Santo and Madeira, and then continued his course to the Canary Islands. As he approached Gomara on the 19th of June, he saw at anchor a French privateer with two Spanish prizes. The former put to sea in all haste, followed by her prizes, one of which had only four men on board, besides six Spanish prisoners. Though he sent three of his vessels in pursuit, the privateer and one of the prizes escaped, but the six Spaniards on board the other, rising on their captors, she was retaken and brought back to the port.
Leaving Gomara, Columbus dispatched three of his ships to carry supplies to Hispaniola, and with the three remaining vessels prosecuted his voyage towards the Cape de Verde Islands. Though suffering from sickness, he continued to keep his reckoning and make his observations with his usual minuteness.
Touching at the Cape de Verdes, he was disappointed at not obtaining the goats, sheep, and cattle he had expected. The weather was sultry and depressing, and he and his crew suffered greatly. Steering south-west for about one hundred and twenty leagues, he reached the fifth degree of north latitude, the region known among seamen by the name of the "calm latitudes." Suddenly the wind fell, a dead calm commenced, which lasted for eight days. The air was like a furnace, the tar melted, the seams of the ships yawned, the salt meat became putrid, the wheat was parched, the hoops round some of the casks of wine and water shrank, while others burst, letting out their contents.
To get out of this latitude he steered to the south-west, hoping to find a milder temperature farther on. In this he was not disappointed. At length a cool breeze filled the sails of the vessels, and they again made good progress.
Columbus intended to have stood first to the south and then westward, but the heat had made the vessels leak so excessively that it was necessary to find a harbour as soon as possible. The provisions were also spoiled, and the water nearly exhausted. On the 31st of July but one cask of water remained in each ship, when about midday a seaman at the masthead hailed that he saw the summits of three mountains rising above the horizon.
Columbus had before determined to give the name of the Trinity to the first land he should behold, and was struck by the appearance of these three mountains united in one. He therefore called the island La Trinidad. Steering to its eastern extremity, he saw a rock resembling a galley under sail off a headland, which, in consequence, he called Punta de la Galera. No safe anchorage appearing, he coasted westward in search of a harbour and water. Instead of a sterile land, he saw the country covered with groves of palm-trees, cultivated in many places, and enlivened by hamlets and scattered habitations, while streams came rushing down the hill-sides.
At length anchoring, abundance of water was obtained from a limpid brook, and traces of animals were seen, which must have been those of deer, though supposed to be those of goats.
When coasting the island, he now for the first time saw, stretching away to the south, that mighty continent of which he had so long been in search, it being the land near the many mouths of the Oronoco; supposing it, however, to be an island, he called it La Isla Santa. On the 2nd of August he cast anchor near the south-west portion of Trinidad. As the ships approached this place, a large canoe, with five and twenty Indians on board, put off from the shore.
He in vain tried to induce the savages to come on board, by offering them looking-glasses, glass, beads of polished metal, and glittering trinkets. They remained gazing in mute wonder at the ships, but kept their paddles ready to make off at the least attempt to approach them. They were young, well formed, and naked, excepting fillets of cotton bound round their heads, and coloured cloths about their loins. Besides their bows and arrows, they carried bucklers,—an article of armour now first seen among the inhabitants of the New World.
Believing that they might be affected by music, Columbus ordered the band to strike up; but the Indians, mistaking the sounds as a sign of hostility, seized their bows and let fly a shower of arrows. The discharge of a couple of crossbows, however, put them to flight. They afterwards approached the other ships, but had conceived an especial fear of that of the Admiral.
Columbus, supposing himself to be in the seventh degree of latitude, though actually in the tenth, expected to find the inhabitants similar to the natives of Africa, under the same parallel,—black, with crisp hair,—and was astonished at finding these natives even fairer than those met with farther north.
The ships brought up at Point Arenal, the nearest to the mainland, between which and the island Columbus observed, night and day, a current flowing at a tremendous speed, boiling and raging to such a degree that he thought it was crossed by a reef of rocks. From its dangerous appearance he gave to it the name of Boca del Sierpe—the Serpent's Mouth. He feared that the current from the east would prevent his return, while his ships might be lost on the supposed rocks, should he attempt a passage.
That night, while kept awake by his illness, he heard a terrible roaring from the south, and beheld the sea heaped up and covered with foam, like a huge watery ridge the height of the ships, rolling towards them. As this furious surge approached, rendered more terrible in appearance by the obscurity of night, he trembled for the safety of his vessels. His own ship was lifted up to such a height that he feared she would be overturned, while another was torn from her anchorage. The crews expected to be swallowed up, but the surge passed on and gradually subsided.
Early in the morning he sent the boats to sound the water at the Serpent's Mouth, and to his great joy several fathoms were found; the currents and tides setting both ways, either to enter or return. A favourable breeze springing up, he entered the tranquil expanse between Trinidad and the mainland of Paria, and, to his great surprise, he here found the water fresh.
He continued northward towards a mountain at the north-west point of the island, and here beheld two lofty capes, one projecting from the island of Trinidad, the other at the end of the long promontory of Paria, which, supposing it to be an island, he named Isla de Gracia. Between these capes was another channel beset with rocks, among which the current forced its way with roaring turbulence, to which he gave the name of Boca del Dragon.
Not wishing to encounter it, he steered along the inner side of the promontory, round which, fancying that it was an island, he expected to get, and then to be able to strike northward for Hispaniola.
The country appeared to be cultivated in some places, and in others covered with fruit-trees and plants, and abounding with monkeys. He was, however, greatly astonished at finding the water still fresh, and that it became more and more so the farther he proceeded. It was that season, however, when the rivers which empty themselves into the Gulf of Paria are swollen by rains. He was surprised also at the calmness of the sea, not being aware that the only two entrances were by the Serpent's and Dragon's Mouths into this large expanse of water.
For some time no inhabitants were met with. At length the ships brought up at the mouth of the river, and immediately a canoe with three Indians came off to the caravel anchored nearest the shore, when the captain, springing in, upset her, and the people, as they were swimming, were secured. Being brought to the Admiral, they were presented with beads, hawks' bells, and sugar. The report they gave in consequence, on returning on shore, induced many other natives to come off. They were tall, finely formed, and graceful in their movements, being armed with bows and arrows and targets. The men wore cotton cloths of various colours about their heads and loins, but the women were destitute of clothing. They brought maize and other eatables, with beverages, some white, made from maize, others green, expressed from various fruits. They judged of everything by the sense of smell. As they came near they smelt the boat, then smelt the people, as they did all the articles offered them. Although setting little value on the beads, they were delighted with the hawks' bells, and still more so with anything of brass. Taking some of the people as guides, he proceeded west for eight leagues, to a point which he called the Needle. So beautiful was the country, that he gave it the name of The Garden.
Here many natives came off, and invited the Admiral on shore in the name of their King. Many wore collars and burnished plates of that inferior kind of gold, called by the Indians guanin, and they pointed to a land in the west, from whence they said it came; but the cupidity of the Spaniards was excited by strings of pearls round the arms of some of them. These, they said, were procured at the sea-coast on the northern side of Paria, and they showed the mother-of-pearl shells from which they were taken.
To secure specimens to be sent to Spain, Columbus dispatched some boats to that part of the shore. Numbers of the natives came down, and treating the Spaniards as beings of a superior order, regaled them with bread and various fruits of excellent flavour. They had among them tame parrots, one of light green with a yellow neck, and the tips of the wings of a bright red, others of a vivid scarlet, except some azure feathers in the wing. These they gave to the Spaniards, who, however, cared for nothing but pearls, many necklaces and bracelets of which were given by the Indian women in exchange for hawks' bells or articles of brass.
The Spaniards returned on board highly delighted at the way they had been treated, while the quantity of pearls seen among the natives raised the sanguine anticipations of Columbus, who was anxious to send the finest specimens to the sovereigns.
Still believing the peninsula of Paria to be an island, he sailed on westward until compelled, by finding the water more shallow as he advanced, to anchor, when he sent a caravel to explore. She returned the following day with a report that at the end of the gulf there was an opening of two leagues, which led into an inner gulf, into which flowed a quantity of fresh water by four openings. It was in reality the mouth of the large river now called the Paria. To the inner gulf Columbus gave the name of the Gulf of Pearls.
Finding no passage to the westward, the ships proceeded in an opposite direction for the Boca del Dragon. On the 13th of August they anchored in a fine harbour, to which Columbus gave the name of Puerto de Gatos. Here also were seen mangroves growing in the water with oysters clinging to the branches, their mouths open, as the Spaniards supposed, to receive the dew which was afterwards thought to be transformed into pearls. That they were thus formed was believed until comparatively late years.
The passage through which he was about to pass is extremely dangerous after the rainy season, and the water which rushes through it foams and roars as if breaking on rocks. Scarcely had the ships entered than the wind died away, and shipwreck appeared imminent, but they were at length carried through by the current of fresh water into the open sea.
Columbus now stood to the westward, running along the northern coast of Paria, still supposing it to be an island, intending to visit the Gulf of Pearls. To the north-east he saw the two islands of Tobago and Granada, and on the 15th those of Margarita and Cubagua, afterwards famed for their pearl fishing.
On approaching the latter, a number of Indians were seen fishing for pearls. A boat being sent to communicate with them, a seaman offered a broken piece of gaily-painted porcelain to a woman who had round her neck a string of pearls, which she readily gave in exchange.
On this the Admiral sent people on shore, who with beads and hawks' bells soon procured three pounds weight of pearls, some of very large size.
The coast still trending to the westward, and rising into lofty ranges of mountains, Columbus began to suspect that he was off the mainland of India; but his eyesight failing, he was reluctantly compelled to steer for Hispaniola to seek for needed rest. On making land, after a sail of five days, he found that he was fifty leagues to the westward of his destination, having been driven across by the strong steady current which sets in from the east, and assists to give an impetus to the Gulf Stream.
Sending on shore for an Indian messenger to take a letter to his brother the Adelantado, a canoe came off with several Indians, one of whom carried a Spanish crossbow. As this was not an article of traffic, the Admiral feared that fresh troubles had arisen, and that the weapon had fallen into the Indian's hands by the death of a Spaniard.
Sailing, he arrived near the mouth of the river on the 30th of August, when a caravel, appeared, on board of which came the Adelantado. The brothers met with mutual joy, but the latter grieved to see the great navigator so broken down in health, a mere wreck of himself, though with his spirit still rising superior to all bodily affliction.
Though considerable progress had been made in the building of Isabella, now called San Domingo, at the mouth of the Ozema, the Adelantado had sad accounts to give of the state of the island. Rebellion had been rife among the colonists in all directions. The Indians had been barbarously treated, and all authority had been set at defiance. Attempts had been made to murder the Adelantado, and the leaders had sent home the most serious accusations against him and Columbus and their brother Diego. They had succeeded too well in raising suspicions in the mind of Ferdinand as to the loyalty of Columbus, and an officer of the royal household, Don Francisco de Bobadilla, was sent out nominally to investigate the causes of the rebellion, but with power to arrest the persons and sequestrate the effects of those he might consider guilty; while he was to take upon himself the government of the island, and to demand the surrender of all fortresses, ships, and other royal property.
Columbus had gone into the interior to arrange matters, while the Adelantado and his brother had almost succeeded in overcoming the rebellion, when Bobadilla, accompanied by a guard of twenty-five men and six friars, who had charge of a number of Indians sent back to their country, appeared off Saint Domingo on the 23rd of August, 1500. Landing, without stopping to investigate the conduct of Columbus and his brothers, he instantly commenced the most arbitrary proceedings. He took up his residence in the house of Columbus, of whose whole property, gold, plate, jewels, horses, together with his public and even private letters and manuscripts, he at once possessed himself.
Don Diego was seized, thrown into irons, and confined on board a caravel. Columbus was summoned to San Domingo; he came, almost unattended, when, being at once seized, Bobadilla gave orders that he should be put in irons, and confined him in the fortress.
When the irons were brought, every one present shrank at the task of putting them on the limbs of the venerable and illustrious prisoners, either from a sentiment of compassion at so great a reverse of fortune, or out of habitual reverence for his person. A wretched cook named Espinosa was the only person found to rivet the fetters. The great navigator conducted himself with the magnanimity which might have been expected. The injustice and ingratitude of the sovereigns alone wounded his spirit, and he bore all his present misfortunes in silence.
Though the Adelantado was at the head of a strong force when summoned to San Domingo, he returned unattended, and was treated as his brother had been. Columbus had expected to have suffered on the scaffold, and was greatly relieved when he found himself conducted on board a caravel commanded by a worthy captain—Alonzo de Villejo—who told him that he had orders to carry him to Spain.
He and his brother embarked, amidst the scoffs and shouts of a miscreant rabble, who took a brutal joy in heaping insult on his venerable head.
Villejo, touched by the sufferings of Columbus, treated him with much respect, and would have relieved him of his shackles, but he answered, "No: their Majesties commanded me to submit to whatever Bobadilla might devise; by their authority he has put upon me these shackles. I will wear them until they direct them to be taken off, and I will preserve them as relics and memorials, as the reward of my services."
The page of history presents no sadder picture than Columbus in chains crossing the ocean from those lands discovered by his genius, boldness, and perseverance.
The voyage was favourable and of moderate duration. In a short time the ship, with her illustrious prisoner on board, arrived at Cadiz. Columbus a prisoner and in chains produced almost as great a sensation as his triumphant return from his first voyage. A reaction took place, and a strong sympathy was expressed, against which it would have been odious for the Government to contend. The ignominious manner in which Columbus had been treated created murmurs of astonishment at the Court at Grenada, and a letter written by him on board reached the noble-minded Isabella before the document sent home by Bobadilla. She saw how grossly Columbus had been wronged and the royal authority abused, and her heart was filled with mingled sympathy and indignation.
The Queen and Ferdinand instantly sent off to Cadiz, directing that the prisoners should be set at liberty and treated with all distinction; and they wrote a letter to Columbus, expressing their grief at what he had suffered, and inviting him to Court. Conscious of his integrity, his heart was cheered, and he anticipated an immediate restitution of all his rights and dignities.
He appeared in Grenada, not as a disgraced man, but richly dressed, and attended by a noble retinue. He was received with unqualified favour and distinction, and as he beheld tears in the benign eyes of Isabella, he threw himself on his knees, and for some time could not utter a word for the violence of his tears and sobbing. Enabled to speak, he defended himself fully; indeed, the imputations of his enemies had been his best advocate.
Meantime the Pinzons and several other explorers had sailed forth, chiefly in search of pearls and gold.
While we feel indignant at the treatment received by Columbus, we must not forget the miseries of the helpless natives his discoveries had brought within the power of so-called civilised Europeans.
The excellent Las Casas gives a vivid and faithful picture of the tyranny exercised over the Indians by worthless Spaniards; wretches who in their own country had been the vilest of the vile, but had in the New World assumed the tone of grand cavaliers. Over much of their conduct it is necessary to draw the veil. Their very pleasures were attended with cruelty. At the least freak of ill humour they inflicted blows, and lashes, and even death itself, on their helpless slaves.
Such were some of the evils which had sprung up under the rule of Bobadilla. The wrongs of the natives reaching the benevolent heart of Isabella, she urged that a new governor, Don Nicolas de Ovando, should be sent out to supersede him, to inquire into the conduct of Columbus. Ovando shortly afterwards sailed in command of one of the largest fleets that had yet proceeded to the New World.
We should always bear in mind the lofty enthusiastic aspirations which influenced the mind of the great navigator. He had hoped by the wealth he should obtain to win the Holy Sepulchre from the infidels, but more practical schemes soon occupied him. The wealth brought from the East, owing to the discoveries of the Portuguese, aroused him to emulation. He had found a strong current setting westward, through the Caribbean Sea, between the coasts of Paria on the south and Cuba on the north, the latter, as he believed, being a part of the Asiatic continent stretching onwards in the same direction. He believed therefore that there must be a straight opening into the Indian Sea, and, could he discover it, he believed that he should be able to reach India by a far more easy route than any yet followed.
His plan was listened to with attention by the sovereigns, and he was authorised to fit out another armament.
He asked permission to touch at Hispaniola for supplies on the outward voyage, but the sovereigns, knowing that he had many enemies in the island, forbade him doing so. They, however, to soothe his feelings, wrote him a letter dated the 14th of March, 1502, solemnly assuring him that all his dignities should be enjoyed by him and his sons after him, and that they would bestow further honours and rewards upon him and them as well as upon his excellent brothers.
FOURTH AND LAST VOYAGE OF COLUMBUS—A.D. 1502.
Columbus sails from Cadiz the 9th of May, 1502, in command of four caravels—Reaches Martinico, and steers for San Domingo to change one of his vessels finds Bobadilla about to sail—Refused admission to the port—Warns the Governor of an impending hurricane—Keeps close in with the land—Escapes—Bobadilla's ship founders—Only one with the treasure of Columbus reaches Spain—Touching at Jamaica, stands across to Bonacca off the coast of Honduras—Visited by a cacique in a large canoe laden with numerous articles—Search for the supposed strait—Goes on shore on the mainland—The natives bring presents—Sails along the coast—Stormy weather continues—Columbus suffers from illness—Fine weather—Off the Mosquito shore—Natives offended at their presents not being accepted— Hostages brought—Frightened at seeing the notary write—Natives carried off as guides—Ships anchor in the Bay of Caribaro—Large quantities of gold seen among the natives—Reaches the coast of Veragua—Hostility of natives—Frightened into friendship—Much gold obtained—Columbus quits the gold region in search of the straits—Hears of the gold region of Ciguere—Anchors in Puerto Bello—Passes Nombre de Dios—Anchors in Cabinet Harbour—The seamen insult the natives, who attack the ships— Put to flight by the guns—Columbus sails in search of the gold-mines of Veragua.
Columbus had reached the age of sixty-eight years when he embarked upon his fourth voyage. His squadron consisted of four caravels, the smallest of fifty tons burden, the largest not exceeding seventy; the crews amounted, in all, to one hundred and fifty men. He had with him his faithful and intrepid brother, Don Bartholomew, and his younger son, Fernando. The squadron sailed from Cadiz on the 9th of May, A.D. 1502, and after touching at Ercilla, on the coast of Morocco, stood away for the Canaries, where it arrived on the 25th of May, on the evening of which day he took his departure for the New World. Without shifting a sail it reached Martinico.
Though prohibited from touching at Hispaniola, one of his vessels was so bad a sea boat that he ventured to steer for San Domingo, in order to change her for another.
Arriving off the river on the 29th of June, he found a fleet with Bobadilla on board, as well as a large amount of treasure and several unhappy Indian captives.
The agent of Columbus had shipped four thousand pieces of gold, recently collected or recovered from Bobadilla, on board one of the caravels.
Columbus immediately sent to ask permission of Ovando, who had assumed the government, to enter the harbour, stating that the weather looked threatening, and that he believed a hurricane was brewing.
Ovando most ungraciously refused the boon asked for by Columbus, who then again sent on shore, entreating that, although shelter was denied to him, the fleet about to sail might be detained in harbour until the coming tempest had spent its fury.
This request was also refused, the Governor and his officers not believing the warning. Columbus, therefore, steered along the coast, keeping as close to the shore as possible, convinced that the storm would blow from the north. The crews at once began to complain, having lost their reliance on one who was subjected to such ill treatment.
Within two days his predictions were verified. A fearful hurricane burst upon them, during which the ship carrying Bobadilla and an unfortunate cacique foundered, together with an enormous mass of gold,— the principal part of the treasure gained by the miseries of the Indians. Many other ships were lost, some returning to San Domingo sorely battered, while only one, the weakest of the fleet, with the treasure of the Admiral on board, continued her voyage to Spain.
The squadron of Columbus, though having suffered much, safely reached the port of Hermoso, at the west end of San Domingo. Here he remained several days, and then, after touching at some small islands off Jamaica swept by the current, he reached a group near the coast of Honduras, one of which he called the Isla de Pinos, now known as Guanaja, or Bonacca.
The Adelantado, on landing on its beautiful and fertile shore, saw an immense canoe approaching, eight feet wide, and of great length, though formed of the trunk of a single tree. Under a canopy of palm-leaves sat a cacique, with his wives and children, rowed by twenty-five Indians.
The canoe was filled with all kinds of articles of manufacture and natural production. The Indians, without fear, came alongside the Admiral's caravel. He was delighted to obtain, without trouble, specimens of so many important articles of this part of the New World. Among them were hatchets formed of copper, wooden swords with channels on each side of the blade, in which sharp flints were firmly fixed by cords formed of the intestines of fishes, such as were afterwards found among the Mexicans. There were bells and other articles of copper, and clay utensils; cotton shirts worked, and dyed with various colours; great quantities of cacao, a fruit as yet unknown to the Spaniards, and a beverage resembling beer, extracted from Indian corn. Their provisions consisted of maize bread, and roots of various kinds. Many of the articles they willingly exchanged for European trinkets. The women were wrapped in mantles like the female Moors of Grenada, and the men had cloths of cotton round their loins. From their being clothed, and from the superiority of their manufactures, the Admiral believed that he was approaching more civilised nations.
The natives stated that they had just arrived from a rich cultivated country, with the wealth and magnificence of which they endeavoured to impress him. His mind, however, being bent on the discovery of the strait, and believing that he could easily visit them at some future period, he determined to seek the mainland, and keep steadily on until he reached the opening between it and Paria.
Had he followed the advice of his visitors he might have discovered Mexico, and even the Southern Ocean might have been disclosed to him. He was encouraged to persist in the course he had designed by hearing from an old man, whom he had detained as pilot, that there were many places farther on abounding in gold.
Reaching the mainland on Sunday, the 14th of August, he and his officers, and many of the men, landed, and Mass was performed under the trees. On the 17th the Adelantado went ashore near the mouth of a river, and took possession of the country in the name of their Catholic Majesties. At this place upwards of a hundred Indians appeared, laden with bread, maize, fish, fowl, vegetables, and fruits.
These they laid down as presents, and then, without speaking a word, drew back. The Adelantado distributed among them various trinkets, which so pleased them that they came with still more abundant supplies. These natives had higher foreheads than those of the islands. Some were entirely naked and had their bodies tatooed, some wore coverings about the loins, and others short cotton jerkins without sleeves. The chieftains had coats of white or coloured cotton. The Indian guide asserted that some of them were cannibals.
Day after day, exposed to storms, drenching rains, and currents, Columbus made his way along the coast of Honduras, often gaining only a league or two in the day. Though suffering from gout, he still attended to his duty, having had a small cabin fitted on deck from which he could keep a look-out. Often he was so ill that he thought his end was approaching.
At length, after two months of continued gales, fine weather returned, and he doubled the Cape, to which he gave the name of Gracias a Dios, or Thanks to God. He next sailed along what is now called the Mosquito shore, seeing many rivers in which grew enormous reeds, abounding with fish, alligators, and turtles.
While the squadron was anchored near a river and the boats were on shore to obtain wood and water, a bore, or swell of the sea, occurred, by which one of them was swallowed up, and all on board perished. The name, therefore, of El Rio del Desastro was given to the river.
The next place at which the ships dropped anchor was between a beautiful island, which Columbus called La Huerta, or The Garden, and the mainland, where some way up was a native village named Cariari. The inhabitants, seeing the ships, quickly gathered on the shore, prepared to defend their country; but when the Spaniards made no attempt to land, their hostility ceased, and, waving their mantles, they invited the strangers on shore. Swimming off, they brought mantles of cotton and ornaments of guanin.
The Admiral, though he made them presents, would take nothing in exchange, and the savages, supposing that their proffered gifts were despised, retaliated, pretending indifference to the things offered them, and, on returning on shore, tied all the European articles up and left them on the beach.
The following day, while a boat cautiously approached the shore to procure water, a venerable-looking Indian appeared, bearing a white banner on the end of a staff, and leading a girl of fourteen, and another of about eight years of age. These he made signs were to be detained as hostages while the Spaniards were on shore. They were taken on board, and being kept under the care of the Admiral, were clothed and adorned with various ornaments, and on the following morning were restored to their friends, who appeared grateful for the kind way in which they had been treated, but returned all the presents they had received.
On the Adelantado approaching the beach, two of the principal natives, wading into the water, carried him ashore in their arms. Wishing to collect information, he ordered the notary of the squadron to write down their replies; but no sooner did they see the pen, ink, and paper than, supposing he was working some necromantic spell, they fled in terror. After some time they returned, scattering a fragrant powder in the air, intended, apparently, to counteract it. The Spaniards, equally ignorant, also fancied that the Indians were performing some magic rite; indeed, Columbus asserts that they believed all the hardships and foul winds they had experienced on the coast were owing to the witchcraft of the natives.
On leaving this place, Columbus carried off two of the natives, to serve as guides, promising that he would restore them, with ample remuneration, on his return.
The squadron then sailed along the coast now known as Costa Rica, and anchored in a large bay, full of islands, called Caribaro, the neighbourhood of which, the natives of Cariari had asserted, abounded with gold. The islands were covered with groves, which sent forth the fragrance of fruits and flowers; and so deep and narrow were the channels, that the spars of the vessels, as they passed on, brushed the overhanging branches. The natives were at first afraid, but, encouraged by the guides, advanced with confidence. They wore numerous ornaments of pure gold, and one of them exchanged a plate of gold, valued at ten ducats, for three hawks' bells.
The country on the mainland was hilly, the villages perched on the heights. As the boats proceeded to the bottom of the bay, they met ten canoes, the Indians in which had their heads decorated with garlands of flowers, and coronets formed of the claws of beasts and the quills of birds, while most of them wore plates of gold about their necks. Although they refused to part with the gold, they told the Spaniards it was to be had in abundance within the distance of two days' journey, mentioning, among other places, Veragua.
Columbus, eager to discover the strait, cared, at this time, very little for the gold, and sailing along the coast, now known as that of Veragua, came off the mouth of a large river. Here the natives rushed into the water, brandishing their weapons; but were quickly pacified, and bartered away seventeen plates of gold, worth one hundred and fifty ducats, for a few toys.
When the Spaniards next day went on shore, the natives exhibited a hostile disposition, but a bolt from a crossbow wounding one of them, and a cannon being fired, they fled with terror; and on being pursued, threw down their weapons, and, gentle as lambs, brought three plates of gold, meekly receiving the articles given in exchange. A similar scene was enacted at the next place, and nineteen plates of pure gold were obtained. Here, for the first time, Columbus met with signs of solid architecture, which he believed indicated his approach to civilised lands. As he ran along the coast, but was unable to land on account of the heavy sea, the guides pointed out numerous towns where gold abounded, one of them being Veragua, where they said the plates of gold were fabricated, and near which were the rich mines.
Soon after this he arrived opposite a village, where he was told the country of gold terminated, but still believing that he should discover a strait, he pushed on. He understood from the Indians that there was a magnificent country called Ciguare, situated at about ten days' journey to the west, where the people wore crowns and bracelets and necklets of gold, and used it for all domestic purposes; that they were armed like the Spaniards, with swords, bucklers, and cuirasses. He also fancied they said that the sea continued round to Ciguare, and that ten days beyond it was the Ganges. Probably they were describing Mexico or Peru.
The country was everywhere beautiful and fertile in the extreme. On the 2nd of November the squadron anchored in a commodious harbour, to which Columbus gave the name of Puerto Bello, which it still retains. They were delayed here ten days by heavy rains and stormy weather, but the painted natives brought off provisions, though few had ornaments of gold.
Again sailing eastward, they passed the point now known as Nombre de Dios, but being driven back, anchored in a harbour, which, from the large fields of Indian corn, fruits, and vegetables, was called the Port of Provision. They here remained until the 23rd, endeavouring to repair their vessels, which were fearfully pierced by the teredo. Misled by the seamen, always eager to get on shore, who went to sound it, he entered a small harbour, which he called The Cabinet. It was infested with alligators, which filled the air with a musky odour.
The natives gathered in large numbers, and at first treated their visitors with hospitality; but the rough seamen soon committed excesses which aroused their hosts to vengeance. In a short time the natives were seen approaching to attack the vessels. Not until some shotted guns were fired among them did they take to flight.
The seamen now began to murmur at the continuance of the tempestuous weather, declaring that the looked-for straits would never be found. Columbus might have begun to suspect the same, and, to the great joy of his men, he expressed his intention of relinquishing his search for the present. Sailing on the 5th of December from the Cabinet, he steered in search of the gold-mines of Veragua.
LAST VOYAGE OF COLUMBUS, CONCLUDED—A.D. 1503-6.
The squadron encounters fearful storms—Returns to Veragua—The Adelantado visits the cacique Quibian—Vessels nearly lost by a bore in the river—The Adelantado sets off for the gold-mines—During a second excursion collects much gold—Columbus resolves to form a colony—The vessels prevented from crossing the bar—Eighty men engaged in building a fort—Diego Mendez goes on a scouting expedition, and discovers the treacherous designs of Quibian—Visits the village of the cacique—The Adelantado undertakes to capture Quibian—He succeeds—The cacique escapes on his way down the river—Is supposed to be lost—Columbus prepares to sail—Indians attack the settlement—Driven off—Tristan goes up the river for water—He and his party destroyed by the Indians— Settlement again attacked—The Spaniards entrench themselves—No communication possible with the ships—Fearful tragedy on board—Gallant conduct of Ledesma—The settlement abandoned—The ships, pierced by the teredo, unseaworthy—One abandoned at Puerto Bello—Stands across to Cuba—A tempest—Narrow escape—In vain endeavouring to get westward, steers for Jamaica—The caravels run on shore and prepared for defence— Diego Mendez obtains provisions—Crosses in a canoe to Hispaniola— Mutiny of Porras and others—They put to sea in canoes—Driven back by a storm—Misconduct on shore—Instigate the Indians to withhold provisions—Columbus predicts an eclipse of the moon—A second mutiny— Arrival of Escobar—Refuses to take Columbus away—Adventures of Mendez—Porras persists in his rebellion—Porras captured by the Adelantado—Vessels arrive—Columbus reaches San Domingo—Reaction in his favour—Returns with his brother to Spain—His last illness and death.
The vessels put into Puerto Bello, then once more stood westward; but the wind, again heading them, began to blow with such terrible violence, that they were obliged once more to run back towards the port they had left; but before they could reach it, they were driven out to sea by a terrific gale. Here for days they were tossed about, while the rain poured down in a perfect deluge, and to add to the terror of the seamen a waterspout was seen approaching, from which they narrowly escaped. For a short time the tempest ceased, but again raged with greater fury than before. No serious damage, however, having occurred, the vessels at length, on the 3rd of February, 1503, came to an anchor off the river Yebra, which was within a league of another river known as the Veragua, running through the country said to abound in gold-mines.
Both rivers were sounded, and the Yebra, or Belen as Columbus called it, being somewhat the deepest, the caravels entered it at high tide. At first the natives assumed a menacing attitude, but assured by the guides of the pacific intentions of the Spaniards, they received them in a friendly way. Besides a quantity of fish and provisions, they brought also numerous golden ornaments,—objects delighting the greedy eyes of the Spaniards. The Adelantado lost no time in ascending the river in a well-armed boat to the residence of Quibian, the principal cacique of the country.
The chief, a tall powerful warrior, received him in a friendly manner, and presented him with various golden ornaments. The following day Quibian visited the Admiral, by whom he was hospitably entertained.
Suddenly, on the 24th of January, a vast mass of water came rushing down the river, forcing the ships from their anchors, and dashing them against each other with such violence that the foremast of the Admiral's vessel was carried away, and the squadron placed in great danger; a furious storm and the heavy surf on the bar preventing them from running out to sea.
When the weather moderated, the Adelantado paid another visit up the river to Quibian, who came down to meet him with a large train of his subjects unarmed, making signs of peace. The chief was naked, and painted after the fashion of the country. Seated on a stone, he received the Adelantado with great courtesy, and acceding to his wishes to visit the interior of his dominions, supplied him with three guides to conduct him to the mines.
Leaving a party to guard the boats, the Adelantado set off on foot with the remainder, sleeping one night on the road. After travelling about six leagues, they entered a forest, where the guides informed them the mines were situated. The whole soil indeed seemed to be impregnated with gold, and in the space of two hours each Spaniard had collected a considerable quantity from among the roots of the trees.
Reaching the top of a hill, the guides pointed out to the Adelantado a wide forest region, which they assured him, for a distance of twenty leagues, abounded with gold. It appeared, however, that by the directions of Quibian they had deceived him, and taken him to the mines of a neighbouring cacique, with whom he was at war, and that the real mines of Veragua were nearer and far more wealthy.
After this the indefatigable Adelantado made another exploring expedition along the coast and through the interior, from which he returned well laden with gold. Columbus, satisfied that the mines of Veragua and those of the Aurea Chersonesus were identical, considered that this would be a suitable place to found a colony and establish a mart which should become the emporium of a vast tract of mines. The Adelantado agreed with him, and offered to remain with the greater part of the people while the Admiral should return to Spain for reinforcements and supplies.
Eighty men were selected to remain, and they immediately set about building dwellings and a store-house within bowshot of the river Belen. Columbus endeavoured to conciliate the good-will of the Indians, that they might bring provisions to the colony, and he made many presents to Quibian to reconcile him to this intrusion into his territories.
When an attempt was made, however, to carry the vessels over the bar, it was found there was not sufficient water for them. They had to wait for the periodical swelling of the river before this could be accomplished.
Columbus was satisfied with the good disposition of the natives, but the chief notary, Diego Mendez, his attached friend, had some doubts about the matter, and offered to sally forth and visit a large Indian camp which it was discovered had been formed in the neighbourhood.
Rowing up the river in a strongly-armed boat, he suddenly came upon a thousand or more Indians evidently on a warlike expedition. Landing alone, he offered to accompany them. This proposition was received in a suspicious manner, and he returned to his boat. Watching narrowly during the night, he perceived that they went back to Veragua.
Hastening to the Admiral, he expressed his opinion that the Indians intended to surprise the settlement. Further to ascertain the intentions of Quibian, he undertook to penetrate to his head-quarters. Accompanied by one Rodrigo Escobar, he made his way to the mouth of the Veragua, where he induced two Indians to convey him and his companion up the river.
On reaching the village of the chief, the two Spaniards observed a bustle of warlike preparation, and heard that Quibian was confined to his house by a wound. Mendez on this announced that he was a surgeon, and offered to cure the chief of his wound. Making his way towards the chief's residence, he came upon an open space where he saw raised on posts the heads of three hundred enemies of the tribe slain in battle.