As he approached the house, a powerful Indian—son of the cacique— rushed out and struck him a blow; but Mendez producing a box of ointment, pacified him. Though unable to gain access to the cacique, he escaped without further injury to the boat, and he and his companion made their way down to the harbour.
It was evident that the natives intended hostilities, and from an Indian who had become attached to the Spaniards they learned that Quibian intended to surprise the Spaniards by night, to burn the vessels and houses, and make a general massacre. To prevent him carrying out his plan, the Adelantado offered to go up the river and capture him and his principal chiefs and family during the night, and to bring them in chains on board.
Taking Diego Mendez, with seventy men and an interpreter, he set off on the 30th of March. Reaching the neighbourhood of the village, he left the rest of his people, and, accompanied by Diego Mendez and four others, went forward. The remainder, two and two, climbed the hill. It was arranged that upon the discharge of an arquebus they were to surround the dwelling and suffer no one to escape.
As the Adelantado approached, Quibian came out to meet him, and seated himself in the porch; Don Bartholomew telling Mendez and his companions to remain at a little distance, and that when they should see him take the cacique by the arm, to rush immediately to his assistance.
He then advanced with his Indian interpreter, and after a short conversation, pretending to examine the cacique's wound, he took him by the arm.
At the concerted signal four of the Spaniards rushed forward, the fifth discharged his arquebus. The cacique attempted to get loose, but was held firm in the iron grasp of the Adelantado. A violent struggle ensued, but Diego Mendez and the rest coming up, Quibian was bound hand and foot; and at the report of the arquebus the main body of the Spaniards surrounded the house and seized all who were within, the wives and children of Quibian included. When the savages saw their chief a captive, with loud cries they implored his liberty, offering a rich treasure as his ransom.
The Adelantado, deaf to their entreaties, carried off Quibian and the other prisoners to the boat, committing them to the charge of Juan Sanchez, the principal pilot, while he remained on shore with part of his men to secure the Indians who had escaped.
The night was dark, and as the boats proceeded down the river Quibian pretended that the cord which bound him to a bench hurt his limbs, and the pilot loosed it.
The wily Indian, watching his opportunity, plunged into the water, and in the darkness and confusion it was not known whether he sank or reached the bank. Sanchez, crestfallen, returned in the boats to the ships.
The next morning the Adelantado, seeing from the nature of the country that it would be impossible to overtake the fugitives, contented himself with carrying off all the coronets, necklaces, and plates of gold found in the cacique's mansion, to the value of three hundred ducats, and got safely on board.
Columbus, believing that Quibian had perished and that the vigorous measures of the Adelantado had succeeded in quelling the natives, made preparations for sailing. The river having swollen, he got three of the caravels over the bar by landing their cargoes, but left the fourth for the use of the settlement. Taking leave of his brother, and making his final arrangements, he set sail. The wind, however, continued adverse, and on the 6th of April, wishing to communicate with his brother, he sent a boat on shore under the command of Diego Tristan, captain of one of the caravels.
As Tristan approached the shore he found his countrymen, some on board the caravel, some on the sea-shore looking at the ships, and others scattered about the houses, when suddenly a vast number of Indians rushed forward with yells and howls, launching their javelins through the windows and roofs, or thrusting them through the crevices of the woodwork, wounding some of those who were within.
At the first alarm the Adelantado, seizing a lance, sallied forth with seven or eight men, and being joined by Diego Mendez and others, they drove the enemy into the forest, killing and wounding many of them. In spite of their furious sallies the savages could not withstand the keen edge of the Spanish swords and the attacks of a fierce bloodhound, and fled howling through the forest, leaving a number dead on the field, having, however, killed one Spaniard and wounded eight, among the latter of whom was the Adelantado.
Tristan had been afraid to approach the land lest his countrymen should spring on board and sink the boat, and when the Indians had been put to flight he proceeded up the river in quest of fresh water, disregarding the warnings of his friends on shore. He had get up some way, and was passing through a narrow channel between high, rocky, and wooded banks, when he was suddenly assailed by showers of darts and arrows. As the crew, losing all presence of mind, made no attempt to row away, only covering themselves with their bucklers, in a short time he and the whole of them, with the exception of one man, were massacred. The survivor, springing overboard, gained the bank of the river unperceived, and made his way down to the settlement with the tidings of the death of his captain and comrades.
The Spaniards were dismayed. They were few in number in the midst of exasperated savages. The Admiral, ignorant of their misfortunes, they said, would sail away, and leave them to perish. In vain the Adelantado remonstrated. They insisted on embarking in the caravel and following Columbus. The water, however, had fallen, and she could not be got over the bar. They attempted to put off in the boat, but a heavy surf rolling on the shore made this impossible.
In the meantime the Indians, instigated by Quibian, who had escaped, again attacked the Spaniards, rushing out from their coverts in the woods, and hurling their javelins and darts. As the huts were so near the woods that they might at any moment be surprised, a spot was chosen on the shore, where a breastwork was thrown up formed of the boats, casks, and cases, in the embrasures of which were placed two small pieces of artillery. Here, when the Indians came on, they were received with so warm a fire from the arquebuses and guns that they quickly took to flight. The little garrison knew, however, that before long their ammunition would fail and their provisions be exhausted, and that they could anticipate nothing but destruction in the end.
Columbus all this time was not aware what was taking place on shore. He became anxious, however, at the non-appearance of Diego Tristan and his party, but as there was one boat only remaining, he was afraid of sending her off lest she should be overwhelmed by the surf breaking on the beach.
A fearful circumstance now occurred. The prisoners were confined at night in the forecastle of the caravel, the hatchway of which was generally secured by a strong chain and padlock. Several of the crew slept on this hatchway, and as it was so high as to be considered out of the reach of those beneath, they neglected to fasten the chain.
The Indians, discovering their negligence, made a heap of stones from the ballast directly under the hatchway. Several of their most powerful warriors then mounting on the top, and bending their backs, by a sudden effort forced up the hatch. In an instant the greater part of the Indians sprang forth, some plunging into the sea and swimming for the shore. Several were seized and forced back into the forecastle, when the hatchway was chained down and a guard was set for the remainder of the night.
In the morning the Spaniards, on lifting the hatch, found to their horror that their captives were all dead. Some had hanged themselves with the ends of ropes, their knees touching the floor, while others lay strangled, having drawn the ropes tight with their feet. Columbus, fearing that the prisoners who had escaped would stimulate their countrymen to some act of vengeance, was anxious to communicate with his brother. It still seemed impossible for the boat to reach the shore, when Pedro Ledesma, a pilot of Seville, volunteered to swim to the beach if the boat would carry him outside the breakers and wait his return.
Stripping himself, he plunged into the sea, and buffeting the surges, reached the shore. He here found the intended settlers verging on despair, and also heard the fate of Diego Tristan.
With a message from the Adelantado, the brave pilot made his way back to the boat. Columbus, on receiving the alarming intelligence brought by the pilot, was thrown into a state of the greatest anxiety. Rather than allow the settlement to be broken up, he would have joined the Adelantado with all his people; but how, then, could he send tidings of his important discovery to the sovereigns? After much trouble of mind he resolved to embark the people and abandon the settlement.
Bad weather and a heavy sea rendered this for a long time impossible. At length the wind going down, the sea became calm, and he was able to send the boat on shore. Every exertion was at once made to bring off the people. The zealous Diego Mendez had been actively employed in making sacks to hold the biscuit. He also constructed a raft, which greatly facilitated the conveyance of the stores, arms, and ammunition.
The caravel was also dismantled. Her provisions and stores were got off, so that nothing remained but her hull. The joy of the Spaniards when they found themselves safe on board was unbounded, and the Admiral, as a reward for his services, gave the command of the caravel, vacant by the death of the unfortunate Diego Tristan, to the zealous Diego Mendez.
By the end of April, with a favourable wind, Columbus left the disastrous shores of Veragua; but his ships, honeycombed by the teredo, could with difficulty be kept afloat. To the surprise of his pilots, instead of standing northwards towards Hispaniola, he steered due east, knowing that the the current, which has a strong set into the Caribbean Sea, would have swept him far away out of his intended course.
He continued on to Puerto Bello, where he found that one of his caravels was so pierced by the teredo that he was compelled to leave her behind, and to divide her crew between the two remaining vessels. He then proceeded on as far as what is now known as the Gulf of Darien.
Having struggled in vain against contrary winds and currents, he on the ist of May stood northward in quest of Hispaniola. As the wind was easterly, with a strong current setting to the west, he kept as near the wind as possible. So ignorant were the pilots that they fancied all this time that they were to the east of the Caribbean Islands, whereas the Admiral feared truly that he should fall to the westward of Hispaniola.
Sailing across the Caribbean Sea, he at length sighted two small islands to the north-west of Hispaniola, which he called the Tortugas, from the quantity of turtles seen about them, though now known as the Caymans. Passing west of these, he found himself among the islands to the south of Cuba which he had called the Queen's Gardens. Here he cast anchor. His crews were almost worn out, and the only provisions left were a little biscuit, oil, and vinegar, while they were obliged to labour incessantly at the pumps.
Suddenly a tempest burst upon them. Three of their anchors were lost, and the vessels, driving together, nearly knocked each other to pieces. With the greatest difficulty they were separated, and the Admiral's ship anchored with his sole remaining cable, which in the morning was found nearly worn asunder. At the end of six days, the weather moderating, he sailed eastwards for Hispaniola.
Contrary winds, however, compelled him at length to stand across for Jamaica, where, on the 23rd of June, the caravels put into Puerto Bueno, now called Dry Harbour. No natives being found, the following day they sailed eastward, and entered another harbour, called Porta Santa Gloria. Here, at length, Columbus was compelled to give up his arduous struggle against the elements; his ships, reduced to mere wrecks, could no longer be kept afloat, and he ordered them to be run aground within bowshot of the shore, and fastened side by side. Here they soon filled with water to the deck. Cabins were therefore erected at the bow and stern, for the accommodation of the crews, and the vessels were placed in the best possible state of defence against any sudden attack of the natives.
To prevent his men roving about the neighbourhood, he ordered that no one should go on shore without a special licence, and every other possible precaution was taken to prevent giving offence to the Indians. Scarcely had these arrangements been made, than the natives appeared in vast numbers, bringing provisions to barter. That no disputes might arise, two persons were appointed to superintend all such trading transactions. It was feared, however, that the food thus furnished would soon fall short, in which case the Spaniards would be reduced to famine. In this emergency, Diego Mendez, with his accustomed zeal, offered to set off with three men on a foraging expedition. He was everywhere treated with the utmost kindness by the natives, who supplied him and his companions with meat and drink; and he made arrangements with the cacique of a numerous tribe that his subjects should hunt and fish, and bring cassava bread every day to the harbour. They were to receive, in exchange, various articles which they most valued.
This arrangement being made, Mendez dispatched a message to apprise the Admiral, and then proceeded upon his journey, during which he visited three different caciques, who all agreed to his proposals.
Having now sent back his companions, Mendez made his way to the eastern end of the island, where he found a powerful cacique, named Ameyro. He won over this chief by his ingratiating manner, and, having purchased a canoe, induced him to send six Indians to navigate it. He made a successful trip, and when he rejoined the Admiral, he found that the canoes of the friendly chief had already arrived with abundance of provisions.
The great desire of Columbus was now to get from the island. But his ships were like sieves, and he had but one small boat. The idea occurred to him that he might send Diego Mendez, in the canoe lately obtained, to Hispaniola. He broached the subject to his worthy follower, who at once agreed to perform the hazardous voyage, provided no better man was to be found to undertake it.
All were perfectly ready to let Mendez go. He accordingly embarked, the Admiral's despatches being ready, with one Spaniard and six Indians. The brave officer at first paddled to the east end of the island, where he remained waiting for calm weather. When here, he and his men were seized by a party of savages, who were about to kill them, when Mendez, making his escape, reached his canoe and got back to the harbour. Still undaunted, he resolved to make another attempt, and being joined by Bartholomew Fiesco, a Genoese devoted to the Admiral, in another canoe, he and his associates set off, escorted by the Adelantado, to the east end of the island, with an armed party to prevent the savages from molesting them. The weather being serene, they once more set off, hoping to reach Hispaniola in four or five days.
Soon after this sickness broke out among the crews of the two caravels, while many bitterly blamed the Admiral, considering that all their misfortunes were owing to him.
Week after week went by, and no ships appearing, Columbus, with too much reason, feared that his friends had perished.
It had been arranged that Mendez, as soon as he could send off a vessel, was to proceed on to Spain with the Admiral's despatches giving an account of his new discoveries, and that Fiesco was to return in a vessel to take him and his companions off from Jamacia.
Meantime, two brothers, Porras by name, the eldest of whom was a captain of one of the caravels, had concocted a vile plot to seize Columbus, capture the largest Indian canoes to be found, and go on in them to Hispaniola.
The Admiral was in his cabin, confined to his bed by gout, when, on the 2nd of January, 1504, Francisco de Porras entered, and, uttering bitter complaints, accused him of having no intention of returning to Spain.
Columbus maintained his calmness, and suggested that the officers should meet together, and decide what measures should be pursued. Porras, however, replied that there was no time for further consultations, and told the Admiral that he must either embark, or remain by himself. He then shouted, "I am for Castile! Those who choose may follow me!"
"I will follow you, and I, and I!" answered the crew, brandishing their weapons.
Columbus leapt from his bed, but fell. A few of his faithful adherents gathered round him, while the Adelantado sallied forth, lance in hand, to take the whole brunt of the assault. Columbus entreated that no blood might be shed, and told the mutineers that they might depart peaceably.
Hearing this, they at once prepared for embarking in ten canoes, which had been purchased of the Indians. Many who had not taken part in the mutiny joined the deserters, and the whole set off along the coast. As they proceeded they landed and committed outrages upon the Indians, robbing them of their provisions and whatever else they coveted. As they did so they told the Indians that Columbus would pay them, and advised them to kill him if he did not.
Reaching the eastern end of the island they put off, intending to stand across the gulf; but a heavy sea arose, and fearing that their light canoes would be swamped, they threw the helpless Indians, whom they had taken to paddle them, overboard. When some of the natives attempted to seize the gunwales and save themselves, the barbarians cut off their hands and stabbed them with their swords.
The deserters, on reaching land, took up their abode in an Indian village, the inhabitants of which they treated in their usual tyrannical manner. They then wandered from village to village, a dissolute gang, supporting themselves by robbery, and passing like a pestilence through the island.
Columbus, meantime, supported by conscious rectitude, devoted himself to relieving the sufferings of his sick companions who remained with him. The good faith with which he had ever acted towards the natives now produced a beneficial effect, and supplies of provisions were brought from time to time, which were scrupulously paid for. As, however, the trinkets lost their value, the supplies fell off, and at length entirely ceased. Every day the difficulty of procuring food increased, and when any was brought, a ten times higher price than formerly was asked for it. The atrocities committed by Porras and his party had produced an injurious effect on the minds of the natives, even against the Admiral, and they hoped that, by withholding provisions, either to starve him and his people, or to drive them from the island.
At this juncture Columbus ascertained that there would be a total eclipse of the moon in the early part of the night, and he, in consequence, conceived a device, which, according to the erroneous notions of those days, he probably considered a pious and excusable fraud. To make the natives believe in his superior powers, he invited the principal cacique and his followers to a conference, when he told them that the white men worshipped a great divinity, who would be displeased if his votaries were allowed to starve; and, lest they should despise his warning, the moon would be ordered to change its colour and gradually lose its light that very night. Many of the Indians were alarmed, others treated the prediction with derision.
When, however, they saw a dark shadow steal over the moon, seized with terror, they hurried to the ships, and entreated Columbus to intercede for them. He promised to do so, and, retiring to his cabin, waited until he saw that the eclipse was about to diminish, when, coming forth, he assured them that they would be pardoned, provided they fulfilled their promise, in sign of which he would withdraw the darkness from the moon.
The Indians once more seeing the planet shining brightly? came with all reverence to Columbus to propitiate him with gifts, and from that time forward there was no lack of provisions.
Many months went by, and at length more of his followers became desperate, and another conspiracy was formed by an apothecary Bernado, who, with two confederates, designed seizing the remaining canoes, and making their way to Hispaniola.
The mutiny was on the point of breaking out, when, just eight months after the arrival of the two shattered barks in the harbour, a vessel was seen in the offing. She stood in and a boat approached, in which was Diego de Escobar, a wretch who had been condemned to death by Columbus and pardoned by Bobadilla.
Putting a letter on board for the Admiral from Ovando, he then withdrew to a distance, and shouted out that he had been sent by the Governor to express his concern for the sufferings of Columbus, and his regret that he had no vessel of sufficient size to bring him off, but would send one as soon as possible.
This was the first intimation that Columbus had received of the safe voyage of Mendez and Fiesco. In writing an answer to Ovando, he vividly depicted the dangers of his situation, and recommended Mendez and Fiesco to his favour, assuring him that they were only sent to apply for succour. Escobar receiving the letter, returned on board, and making all sail, was soon lost to sight.
Columbus well knew that jealousy was the cause of Ovando's cruel conduct, and that he had sent Escobar as one who would have no sympathy with his sufferings. Diego Mendez and his companions had nearly perished on their voyage across the channel, but he had at length reached the western end of Hispaniola, from whence he set off to coast in his canoe one hundred and thirty leagues to San Domingo. After proceeding eighty leagues against adverse currents and in danger from hostile tribes, he was informed on landing that the Governor was at Xaragua, fifty leagues away.
Undaunted by difficulties, he proceeded on foot through forests and over mountains, until he arrived at Xaragua, having achieved one of the most perilous expeditions ever undertaken by a devoted follower for the safety of his commander.
Ovando received him kindly, but kept him seven months under various pretexts, until he at length had permission to go to San Domingo, where he hoped to purchase a vessel to go to the rescue of his beloved commander.
When left in doubt, after the appearance of Escobar, as to whether assistance would really be sent, Columbus endeavoured by kind measures to win back Porras and his rebel crew to their allegiance.
Porras, however, who had formed a plan to attack and plunder the stranded caravels and make the Admiral prisoner, persuaded his men to hold out. On this the sturdy Adelantado resolved to try the effect of force, and taking with him fifty followers, he set out for the camp of the traitor.
On approaching he sent two messengers, who had before accepted the offer of pardon, to treat with Porras; but he would not permit them to approach, and he and his men, brandishing their weapons, defied the Adelantado, six of them vowing that they would put him to death. Two of the strongest of their number, however, quickly fell beneath his flashing sword; and many others lay killed or wounded, when Porras, rushing forward, struck at the Adelantado's shield, in which his sword remained fixed. Before he could withdraw it, several of the Adelantado's party closing on him, made him prisoner. His followers, seeing this, fled, and Don Bartholomew returned in triumph with his prisoner to the Admiral.
Next day the fugitives sent a petition, couched in abject terms, for pardon, swearing that they would for ever afterwards remain faithful.
At length, after a year of alternate hope and despondency, the Spaniards saw two vessels approaching the harbour. One had been fitted out by Diego Mendez, and the other was sent by Ovando, placed under the command of Salcedo, the Admiral's agent at San Domingo.
Joy filled the hearts of the exiles as they approached. Columbus nobly forgave the rebels, and all were received on board, Porras alone being still kept a prisoner, while the Indians wept when they beheld the departure of their guests, having experienced nothing but just and gentle treatment from Columbus.
The vessel set sail on the 28th of June for San Domingo. Adverse winds and currents still opposed his progress, and it was not until the 3rd of August that Columbus reached the little island of Beata, on the coast of Hispaniola, and not, in consequence of the same cause, until the 13th that he anchored in the harbour of San Domingo. Here a strong reaction in his favour took place, and many of those who had jeered as he was led away a prisoner in chains, now came forward to welcome him with every mark of respect. He was lodged in the house of Ovando, who, however, set at liberty the traitor Porras, and even talked of punishing the Admiral's followers for having, in the fray at Jamaica, killed several of the mutineers.
Columbus had much cause for grief when he saw the desolation brought upon the island by the cruel treatment of the natives, and heard of the horrible massacres which had been perpetrated by Ovando and his agents. He was eager to depart, and as soon as the vessels which had brought him from Jamaica could be repaired, he put one under charge of the Adelantado, while he, with his son and domestics, embarked on board the other.
Most of his late crew remained at San Domingo, and even the most violent of the rebels were helped from his purse. Scarcely had he left the harbour than the mast of his vessel was carried away; so sending her back, he embarked on board that commanded by the Adelantado.
The caravel continued her voyage, sorely buffeted by storms, during which one of her masts was sprung, he all the time lying prostrated by sickness in his cabin. It was not until the end of several weeks that the tempest-tossed barks anchored, on the 7th of November, in the harbour of San Lucar.
Thus ended the last voyage undertaken by the great navigator. From San Lucar he was conveyed to Seville, where he hoped to obtain rest after all his toils; but on arriving there he found his affairs in confusion, as they had been ever since his property had been seized by Bobadilla. His great anxiety was to get to Court to defend himself from the malignant accusations of his enemies; but his patroness, the magnanimous Isabella, fell ill and died. Ferdinand, though he treated him with respect, made constant excuses for not attending to his requests.
At length King Philip with Juana arrived from Flanders to take possession of their throne of Castile, and the Admiral, trusting that in the daughter of Isabella he would once more find a patroness, being too ill to leave his bed, sent his brother the Adelantado to petition for the restoration of his honours and estates.
It was the last time he was to see his gallant brother. Before the return of Don Bartholomew, feeling his end approaching, leaving his eldest son Don Diego his heir, he made his dying bequests in the presence of his faithful followers, Mendez and Fiesco, and on the 20th of May, 1506, at the age of seventy years, he yielded up his dauntless spirit to his Maker.
VOYAGE OF VASCO DA GAMA, TO FIND A WAY TO INDIA BY SEA, AND TO DISCOVER THE KINGDOM OF PRESTER JOHN—A.D. 1497.
Early voyages of Portuguese to coast of Africa—Prince Henry of Portugal—Cape Bojador discovered—Madeira visited by Gonzales—Dom Joao the Second—Bartholomew Diaz discovers Cape of Storms, called by the King Cape of Good Hope—Envoys sent to Prester John—King Manuel fits out a squadron—Appoints Vasco da Gama to command them—Paulo da Gama— Nicholas Coelho—Grand ceremony at leave-taking—Squadron sails—Meet at Cape de Verde Islands—Enter a bay on African coast—Intercourse with natives—Veloso nearly caught by them—Ships stand off the land—Terror of the crews—Wish to return—Da Gama refuses—The Cape of Good Hope doubled—Ships stand along south coast of Africa—No natives seen—A tremendous gale—Clamours to return—Mutiny suppressed by a device of Coelho's—Da Gama puts his pilots in irons.
Nearly a century before Vasco da Gama sailed on his renowned voyage, a spirit of discovery had been aroused in the breasts of the rulers of Portugal. Prince Enrique, who had accompanied his father, King Joao, on an expedition against Cueta in Africa, had obtained from several Moors much information concerning the coasts of that dark continent, which had fired his ambition to ascertain more about it. Hitherto Europeans had not ventured beyond the Cape, to which was given the name of Cabo Nao, signifying in Portuguese, No, or in other words, This cape is not to be passed.
Prince Enrique, believing this idea to be a bugbear, fitted out two vessels in A.D. 1417, with orders to their commanders to push beyond the dreaded cape. This they succeeded in doing; but on finding the sea breaking furiously on another cape farther to the south, to which they gave the name of Bojador, they also turned back.
The next year the Prince sent a second expedition under Joao Gonzales. Being driven off the African coast by a gale, the ships put into the harbour of Porto Santo in a small island a little to the northward of Madeira, and then returned home. The Prince, on hearing of this, dispatched a ship carrying some colonists provided with agricultural instruments, plants, and seeds, as well as cattle and other animals. Among the latter were a couple of rabbits, which increased so prodigiously, that the corn and plants of all descriptions were destroyed by them, and as they could not be got rid of, it became necessary to remove the human inhabitants.
The next year, by order of the Prince, Gonzales, again sailing, re-discovered the island of Madeira, at which the Englishman, Lionel Machin, with the hapless Arabella Darcy, two centuries before, had landed and died. The Portuguese gave to it the name of Madeira, which means Wood, in consequence of finding it overgrown with trees. To clear a part for settlement they set the wood on fire, but being of a dry character, the trees burned until the whole were destroyed.
Several years passed, when Prince Enrique dispatched an experienced seaman, Captain Gilianez, charging him to pass the dreaded Cape of Bojador. Gilianez proceeded thirty leagues beyond it, but dreaded to go farther. He turned back, therefore, satisfied at having performed his commission. Next year he proceeded another twelve leagues to the south, to a part of the coast where a number of sea-wolves, or rather seals, were taken.
Thus, year by year, expeditions were sent out, each gaining, step by step, a knowledge of the African coast, until in the reign of Dom Joao the Second, in 1486, Bartholomew Diaz sailed with three ships, resolved to proceed farther than any of his predecessors. Touching at several places on the coast, he at length reached an until then unknown cape, to which he gave the name of Il Cabo Tormentoso, or the Cape of Storms, on account of the furious gales and heavy seas he there encountered.
The seamen, frightened by the weather, and believing that Nature had set a barrier against their further progress, insisted on returning, although Diaz was convinced that he had reached the southern end of the continent. On the arrival of Diaz at Lisbon, the King, delighted with his discovery, gave to the cape the name of Cabo de Boa Esperanza, or Cape of Good Hope. Dom Joao had in the meantime dispatched overland two envoys with directions to visit the kingdom of Prester John, and was preparing to send out an expedition by sea, when death put a stop to his projects.
His successor, Dom Manoel, resolved, however, to carry them out, but before doing so he set to work to obtain all the information in his power. On consulting a Jewish astronomer, Zacato, he learned the cause of the ill success many of the expeditions had met with. He could not understand why some of his captains had in certain latitudes encountered storms, while others had passed through them in fine weather. The Jew suggested that as the ocean is very large, in some parts it is summer and in others winter, and that his ships following the same course, some might arrive in a region where winter prevails and meet with storms, and when the other reaches the same latitude it may be summer, and perfectly fine weather be enjoyed. Thus, he continued, when navigators have obtained more experience, they will know when to sail so as to obtain summer during the whole of the voyage, and will then be able to come from and go to the Cape of Good Hope without difficulty.
Notwithstanding the valuable information the astronomer Zacato had given the King, he was compelled, with other Jews, to fly from Portugal, on account of the persecution to which they were subjected. The King, Dom Manoel, at once gave orders for the completion of the ships which Dom Joao had commenced, and directed that they should be as strong and serviceable as possible. The sailors who had gone on a previous expedition were collected, and the ships were supplied with double the usual amount of sails and tackling, as well as with artillery, munitions, and provisions, including all sorts of fruits, especially preserves, for the use of the sick, nor were priests for confession forgotten.
Rich merchandise, and gold and silver articles, goblets, swords and daggers, shields and spears, all highly ornamented, fit to present to the rulers of the countries to be visited, were also collected. All the slaves to be found, who could speak Eastern languages, were purchased, that they might act as interpreters. The King having made these preparations, had next to fix on a leader for the expedition. Among the cavaliers who attended his Court was one who had already seen much service at sea, Vasco da Gama, a man of noble lineage, son of Estevan da Gama, formerly Comptroller of the Household of King Dom Alfonso. The King, summoning Vasco into his presence, offered him the command of the squadron he proposed sending out to discover a way to the East Indies by sea.
The cavalier at once gladly accepted the honourable charge, saying at the same time that he had an elder brother, named Paulo da Gama, whom he requested the King to appoint as Captain-Major to carry the royal standard. The King, pleased with his modesty, and satisfied that he was a man especially fitted for the undertaking, granted him his request, but desired that he himself should carry out all the arrangements for the expedition.
Paulo, in consequence of a quarrel with the chief magistrate of Lisbon, had been compelled to quit the city. He was summoned back, and a free pardon granted him. The two brothers having selected a particular friend, Nicholas Coelho, to command one of the ships, the three, without loss of time, set to work to prepare them for the voyage. They were named respectively the Saint Miguel, the Saint Gabriel, and Saint Raphael. The crews were at once directed to learn the arts of carpenters, rope-makers, caulkers, blacksmiths, and plank-makers, receiving additional pay as an encouragement, while they were furnished with all the tools necessary for their crafts. Da Gama also selected the most experienced masters and pilots, who now, instead of being guided by their charts, would have to depend upon their own sagacity, their compasses, and lead-lines, for running down strange coasts and entering hitherto unknown harbours. To save the officers and trained seamen as much as possible from risking their lives, da Gama begged the King to order six men who had been condemned to death to be put on board each ship, that they might be sent ashore in dangerous regions, or left in certain places, to acquire a knowledge of the language and habits of the people. These cut-throat gentlemen were, as may be supposed, afterwards a source of no small trouble and anxiety to the commanders of the ships.
The preparations for the voyage being completed, the King and Queen, with their Court and many of the nobles of the land, assembled in the cathedral of Lisbon, to hear Mass, and bid farewell to the gallant explorers. The three captains, richly dressed, advanced to the curtain behind which the Royal Family had sat during the service, and dropping on their knees, kissed their sovereign's hand, and expressed their readiness to expend their lives in the important undertaking with which he had entrusted them. They then, mounting their horses, and accompanied by numerous nobles and gentlemen, as well as by a procession of priests and monks, with tapers in their hands, chanting a litany, to which a great concourse of people uttered responses, rode down to the harbour. The King went with them in his barge as they joined their several ships, bestowing on them his blessing, and earnestly praying that they might enjoy a prosperous voyage and return home in safety. Vasco da Gama embarked in the Saint Raphael, Paulo in the Saint Gabriel, and Nicholas Coelho in the Saint Miguel. The ships were all of the same size, measuring about one hundred and twenty tons, and each carried about eighty persons, officers and men. They were accompanied by a store ship of two hundred tons, under the command of Gonzalo Nunez, which was to continue with them only a part of the way, and to supply them with provisions and stores. It was on Saturday, the 8th of July, 1497, the anchors being weighed and the sails loosed, that Vasco da Gama proceeded down the Tagus on his memorable voyage.
He first steered so as to reach the Cape de Verde Islands, where he had ordered the ships to rendezvous in case of separation.
Having sighted the African coast, they again stood out to the westward, meeting with a heavy gale, against which they had to beat for several days, until the crews were almost worn out, and the ships received no little damage. Being separated, as it was expected would be the case, they all steered for the Cape de Verde, where Paulo da Gama, Coelho, Diaz, and Nunez rejoined one another, but the Captain-Major had not arrived.
At length his ship made her appearance, when, to show their joy, they saluted him with salvoes from their artillery, for fears had been entertained that he was lost.
Having taken in water and repaired the damaged spars and rigging, they again sailed. Here Diaz parted from his friends to proceed on his separate voyage.
After battling with wind and waves for five months, they entered a bay to which the name of Saint Elena was given. Here they set up an astrolabe of wood three spans in diameter, which they mounted on as many poles in the manner of shears, to ascertain the sun's altitude.
While Vasco da Gama was thus employed with his pilots, he observed behind a hill two negroes, apparently gathering herbs. He immediately ordered his people to surround them, which they did, one being caught.
As the poor captive was too frightened to understand the signs made, the Captain-Major sent for two negro boys from his ship, and made them sit by him and eat and drink, to banish his fears. At length the negro appeared to have overcome his alarm, on which da Gama induced him to point out by signs where his people were to be found. Having given him a cap and some beads and bells, the Captain-Major ordered him to be set at liberty, making signs to him to return to his companions and tell them that if they would come they would receive similar articles.
The negro, fully comprehending what was desired, set off, and returned with a dozen men, to whom various presents were made. They appeared, however, not to value articles of gold and silver and spices. The next day upwards of forty more came, and were so familiar, that a man-at-arms named Fernando Veloso begged permission to accompany them, and obtain more information about their country. While he was gone, Coelho remained on shore to look after the crews, who were collecting wood and catching lobsters, while da Gama, not to be idle, went in chase of some young whales. Having speared a whale, the rope being made fast to the bow of the boat, the animal in its struggles nearly upset her, but fortunately running into shallow water, offered no further resistance.
As it was getting late in the day, the boats were about to return to the ships, when, just as they were shoving off, Vasco da Gama saw Fernando Veloso, who was somewhat of a braggadocio, coming rapidly down the hill, looking every now and then behind him. On this the Captain-Major directed Coelho, whose boat was nearest, to pull in and take him off. The sailors, however, for the sake of frightening Fernando, rowed on slowly.
Before he reached the beach two negroes sprang out and seized him, when, as matters were becoming serious, some sailors leaping on shore struck right and left at Fernando's assailants in a way which brought blood from their noses. Perceiving how their companions were being treated, a number of other negroes rushed out, very nearly catching the boaster, and began throwing stones and shooting arrows at Coelho's boat. Fearing that matters might grow serious, Vasco da Gama rowed in to try and pacify the natives; but before he could do so he received an arrow through his leg, and the master of the Saint Gabriel and two seamen were also wounded.
Finding that nothing could induce the natives to be friendly, and Veloso, having been rescued, Vasco da Gama ordered the boats to return to the ship, and then sent back a party of crossbow-men to chastise the savages.
No information about the cape or the people had been gained, for Fernando could only describe the dangers he had encountered. Accordingly, the anchors were weighed and the squadron stood out to sea. The wind, however, blew hard from the southward, while tremendous waves rose up, threatening destruction to the vessels, and, as they could only sail on a bowline, they continued for many days standing off land. They then tacked and stood back, when once more they put about close hauled, so that they at length reached a far southern latitude. The heavy sea still running and the wind blowing harder than ever, the crews suffered greatly; still the Captain-Major insisted on continuing his course. Once more tacking and making the land, the masters and pilots became much alarmed from seeing it extending away to the west, and they declared that it went across the sea, and had no end to it.
Vasco da Gama, on hearing of their complaints, assured them that the cape was near, and that by making another tack on their return they would find that they had doubled it. He accordingly ordered the ships to be put about, doing his utmost to raise the sinking courage of his companions.
On the ships sailed, day after day, in spite of the heavy winds and seas. He himself took no repose, sharing the hardships his men were enduring, never failing to come on deck, as they did, at the sound of the boatswain's pipe. The terrified and disheartened crews of the several ships clamoured loudly to return to Portugal, but their captains told them that they had resolved to follow the fortunes of their leader.
At length the pilots and masters entreated Vasco da Gama to tack back again, on the plea that the days were short, the nights long, and the vessels leaky, while the wind blew strongly, and cold rain and sleet came beating in their faces. He accordingly ordered the ships to be put about, declaring at the same time, should he find that they had not weathered the cape, he should again tack, as he would never turn back until he had accomplished his object.
The weather now happily began to moderate, and the crews believing that they were approaching the land, their spirits rose. Vasco da Gama's wish was to keep close hauled; but at night, when he was asleep, the pilot kept away, hoping thus to ease the ship and more quickly to get sight of land. As the admiral carried a huge lantern at the poop, the others followed, each showing a light one to another.
Finding that they did not make the land, they were convinced that their great object was accomplished—the dreaded Cape of Storms, now joyfully called the Cape of Good Hope, doubled. So it was, and Vasco da Gama had established for himself a name imperishable on the page of history. With great joy, they praised God for delivering them from the dangers to which they had been exposed.
Sailing free, with all canvas spread, they one morning sighted a range of lofty mountains, their peaks touching the clouds, at which, falling on their knees, they returned thanks to Heaven. Though they ran on all day, they were yet unable to reach the land till the evening. At night they continued along the coast, which here trended from west to east. During the night they sailed on under single canvas to the eastward. They passed several large bays and rivers, from which fresh water came forth with powerful currents. They also found many fish, which they killed with spears.
A bright look-out was kept in the fore-top for shoals which might be ahead, while the pilots hove the lead, but found no bottom. At night they stood off shore under easy sail.
Thus for three days they ran on, until they discovered the mouth of a large river, when, shortening sail, they entered it, a boat going before and sounding. At length they came to an anchor. Here they found good fishing, but no beach was to be seen, rocks and crags forming the shore.
Vasco da Gama and Coelho then went on board Paulo's ship, where the three captains dined together, and talked cheerfully over the dangers they had encountered and their prospects for the future. The Captain-Major next day sent Coelho up the river in a boat; but after proceeding twenty leagues, finding no inhabitants, he returned, when the ships got up their anchors, and, aided by the current, the boats towing, they sailed once more into the open ocean.
They now continued their course along the land, entering several other great rivers and bays, but meeting with no one on shore nor any boats at sea, and keeping all the time a good look-out so as not to run on the rocks or on shoals. As the country appeared to be unpeopled, the Captain-Major determined to enter no more rivers. All day long they ran on in sight of the shore in the hope of at length seeing some towns and villages, and at night they stood away to sea, shortening sail.
After being becalmed for some time, another heavy gale arose, and, fearful of being driven on shore, they again stood off land. When they had got, as they supposed, far enough out, they sent down the loftier spars, secured the lower masts and yards with additional stays, and, with all canvas furled except their foresails, prepared to weather the storm. On finding the fierce wind which began to blow, the pilot and master urged the Captain-Major, for fear the ships should founder, to run back along the coast and enter the river which they had before discovered; but he replied that he would not allow such words to be spoken, for, as he was going over the bar at Lisbon, he had sworn not to turn back a single foot of the way he had once gained, and whoever should dare to counsel such a proceeding should be hove overboard.
Notwithstanding that the tempest increased he remained firm. The gale now blew from one quarter, now from another. At times the wind fell, but the sea continued tossing about with such power that the ships, labouring severely, were in great danger, now lurching on one side, now on another; while the men had to secure themselves from being washed overboard or dashed along the decks. As yet things had not grown to their worst. It became difficult even to work the pumps, while the water came in both from above and below, and many of the crew sank and died. Again the pilots and masters of the other vessels urged their captains to put back; but they received the same answer as before, that as long as Vasco da Gama set the example they could not accede to their request, while he declared that even should he see a hundred die before his eyes, return he would not, for that by so doing they would lose all their labours. He reminded them that having already doubled the Cape of Storms, they were in that region in which India was to be discovered. "Trust in God, He will deliver us," he added.
Notwithstanding the brave words of their leader, the seamen continued to clamour; but even though the sea began to go down and the wind to abate, and the ships were able to get nearer each other, the crews with loud cries insisted that they should seek for some harbour where they might be repaired.
On this Vasco da Gama again swore by the life of the King, that from that spot he would not turn back a span's breadth until they had obtained the information they had come to seek. The sailors shouted that they were many, and that they feared death, though their captain took no account of it. Vasco da Gama replied that he took the same account of death as any of them, but that they had heard his resolution, and he intended to keep to it.
At this juncture a furious blast struck the ships, the sea again getting up in such a way that they were frequently hidden from the sight of each other, and could only be perceived as they rose to the top of a sea before again falling into the trough.
Lights were hung out so that they might keep together, for the Captain-Major had been warned before sailing of the danger of separating, and his friends and relatives on board the other ships were ever on the watch to prevent such a catastrophe.
Mutiny was nearly breaking out on board the ship of Nicholas Coelho; but he was warned by a young boy who had overheard the discussions of the malcontents, and he therefore took all the means in his power to defeat their objects. Passing near the Captain's ship, the brave Coelho warned him in language which the mutineers could not understand of their intentions, and at the same time told him that it would be as well to put about, since they had determined on doing so.
Vasco da Gama immediately comprehended the meaning of Coelho's words, and replied, so that those on board his own ship might hear, that he could not withstand the tears and lamentations of his people, nor did he wish to have to give an account to God of their lives, and that he had begged them to labour on for their own safety; observing that should the weather again become bad, he would put back, but that to exculpate himself with the King, he should draw up a document explaining his reasons for returning, and should require them to put their signatures to it.
On going to his cabin he desired his secretary to draw up the paper, and then ordered three of the seamen who were the most clamourous to come in and sign it. Immediately they did so they were seized and put in irons, and the master and pilots were treated in the same manner. He then returned on deck, and addressing his crew, told them that they had no longer a master or pilot, that he himself would take charge of the ship and direct her course aright.
Still further to convince his crew that he did not depend on the master or pilots, he ordered their nautical instruments to be brought to him, when, taking them in his hands, he threw them one by one into the sea, exclaiming as he did so, "I need no other pilot save God, and will from henceforth direct the course of our ships."
On hearing this the crew were still more afraid, and entreated him not to put the prisoners to death.
To this Vasco da Gama consented, saying that he did so in consequence of their entreaties; and to prove that he did not require the services of those officers, he ordered them to remain in their cabins, still in irons, and forbade them to give any instructions for the navigation of the ship, except for the trimming of the sails. He then, running alongside the other ships, told their crews that he had put his master and pilots in irons, and promised that he would conduct them back in safety.
Nicholas Coelho, on hearing this, was rejoiced, but feigning sorrow, told his ship's company that he regretted what had happened, and that he would entreat the Captain-Major, when the ships next met, to liberate the prisoners.
Paulo da Gama spoke in the same way, and with much urbanity, to his people, also promising to intercede for the prisoners. Thus, the crews being tranquillised, they promised to obey the orders of their superiors.
VOYAGE OF VASCO DA GAMA, CONTINUED—A.D. 1498.
The squadron sails along the coast on Christmas Day—That part is named Natal—Reaches the "River of Mercy"—Careen ships—The Saint Miguel broken up—Coelho ascends the river—Meets natives, who come on board—A column erected—A native vessel sighted—Chase another—Davane, a Moorish broker, captured—Offers to conduct them to Cambay—A zambuk taken—Davane engaged in the service of the Portuguese—Squadron enters harbour of Mozambique—The sheikh visits the Saint Raphael—Promises to send pilots—His intended treachery—Machado left on shore—Voyage along coast continued—The pilots plot to wreck the ships—Anchor off Mombas—Two convicts sent on shore—Narrow escape of the Saint Raphael—A zambuk taken, with her owner and his wife—Melonda reached— Friendly reception by the King of Nicholas—Coelho visits him—The captains pay him a visit in great state—The King comes on board the Saint Raphael—Pleasant intercourse with the people.
At length, the wind moderating and there being a great want of water, in consequence of the casks having broken or become leaky, Vasco da Gama stood close in for the land, to look for some harbour into which he might run to repair the ships, as well as to obtain a supply of that great necessary of life.
The end of the year 1497 was approaching, and at Christmas, called by the Portuguese Natal, the squadron passed that part of the coast, to which they in consequence gave the name it has since retained. At length, at early dawn, they came off the mouth of a large river, into which the Captain-Major led the ships, and dropping their anchors, the crews exclaimed "The mercy of the Lord!" for which reason the name of the "River of Mercy" was bestowed on it.
Paulo, coming on board his brother's ship, entreated that the prisoners might be set at liberty. The Captain-Major consented on condition that if God should bring them back to Lisbon, they would agree again to be put in chains, and be thus presented to the King to receive his pardon.
The crews then proceeded to careen their ships, but on examining the Saint Miguel, commanded by Nicholas Coelho, she was found to be so severely damaged, many of her ribs and knees being broken, that she could not be repaired. It was therefore decided to break her up, and to make use of her masts, timbers, and planks in repairing the others.
They now set to work on the Captain-Major's ship, first discharging all the lighter stores into that of Paulo, when everything heavy below decks was placed on one side, which caused her to heel over, and with the aid of a tackle fixed to the mainmast, they canted her so much that her keel was laid bare. Stages being formed, the crew got on them, some cleaning the planks from the growth of seaweed, some extracting the caulking which was rotten, when the caulkers put in fresh oakum, and pitched it over. The officers took upon themselves the task of supplying the men with food and drink while they were at work, and so much dispatch was used that in one day and night they had finished one side. They then turned her over, and performed the same work on the other.
The Saint Raphael being once more loaded, Paulo's ship was next repaired and strengthened with additional knees and ribs and inner planking. The stores of the Saint Miguel being divided between the two ships, the Captain-Major received Coelho on board his own. They then, having taken all the planking and timber they required from the Saint Miguel, set her on fire, that the nails might be secured. This important work being accomplished, Nicholas Coelho was sent with twenty men up the river. After ascending it for two leagues he found the banks covered with woods, and discovered some canoes fishing. The men on board them were dark, but not very black, being almost naked, with the exception of a kilt of leaves round their middles. Without the slightest hesitation they entered the boat, and several canoes followed her as she returned to the ship, while some of the natives ran back to take the news to their villages.
The people came on board without showing the slightest fear, and on biscuits, with slices of bread and marmalade, being given them, they did not seem to understand that the food was to be eaten until they saw the Portuguese eat, when they devoured it eagerly. Meantime, a number of other canoes came alongside. The people were so numerous that the Captain-Major would not allow more than a dozen or so to come on board at a time. The first who had been entertained went down the side very unwillingly. They brought some birds resembling hens, and a yellow fruit, which had the appearance of walnuts. The latter the Portuguese would not touch until they saw the natives eat them, when, following their example, they were much pleased with the taste. Biscuits and wine were then offered to the savages, but they would not touch the latter until they saw the Portuguese drink.
The Captain-Major then gave them a looking-glass. When they saw it they were much amused, and as they gazed into the mirror, they laughed heartily and made jokes, telling their companions in the canoes. On being allowed to carry it away, they were highly delighted, and left six of the birds and much of the fruit.
In the afternoon they returned, bringing a quantity of the birds, which they willingly exchanged for pieces of shirts, which the seamen cut up to give them, or for any trifles.
The birds, when killed and dried in the sun, kept well. A mass of stone being found at the entrance of the river, a hole was made in it, into which a marble pillar was fixed, six of which having been brought out for the purpose of being thus erected. On the base of each pillar were two escutcheons, one the arms of Portugal, and on the opposite side a representation of the globe, together with an inscription, "Of the Lordship of Portugal, Kingdom of Christians."
Vasco da Gama, pleased with the diligence shown by his officers and men, called them together, entreating them to be of good courage, and not to allow the thoughts of treason—so hateful to God—to enter their hearts; and, being aware that it was from faint-heartedness that they had given way before, he forgave them. He pictured to them the joy they would feel when, on their return to Portugal, he would present them to the King, and describe their dangers and labours.
With tears of joy they exclaimed, "May the Lord, in His great mercy, so will it!" Returning to their ships, the anchors were weighed, and, with a fair breeze, on the 24th of February, 1498, they sailed out of the river.
After running along the coast for some distance, they sighted a sail, which, on observing, they stood out to sea; but it was lost sight of during the night. Proceeding on, when close to land they arrived off a large creek, near the mouth of which they saw a zambuk at anchor. On this Vasco da Gama ordered the ships to heave to, and sent a boat in chase of a canoe which was seen leaving the zambuk, carrying her crew, who were trying to escape, on shore. She was soon overtaken, when the six blacks who were on board her threw themselves into the sea. One Moor alone remained on board, he being unable to swim. He wore on his head a round skull-cap, made of silk of various colours, sewn with gold thread, and small rings in his ears. His shirt was of white stuff, and a girdle of coloured cloth was fastened round his waist.
The Portuguese, taking him into their boat, went to the zambuk; but she was empty, the Moor having been about to freight her with a cargo for a certain merchant, for whom he acted as agent.
Returning with their captain to the ship, the Portuguese were delighted at finding a man from whom they could obtain information about the country. They then set sail, and continued their course. The Moor was well entertained, and seemed perfectly contented with his lot. Great difficulty was, however, found in carrying on a conversation with him, as the only interpreter on board was an African slave, who spoke Arabic, of which the Moor understood but a few words. He made his captors comprehend, however, by signs, that farther on there were people who understood that language. Vasco da Gama offered him cakes of sugar, olives, and wine. He freely ate of everything, but would not touch the wine. The Captain-Major then presented him with a long robe, with which he appeared highly pleased, and examined with curiosity everything he saw. On showing him spices, he gave the Portuguese to understand that he could fill their ships with such things. He was, as it turned out, a broker, and being an intelligent man, with a keen eye to business, he at once determined to become the broker of the Portuguese, hoping to make a good profit by loading their ships. He offered to conduct them to Cambay, of which he was a native, and showed much satisfaction when they agreed to go there with him.
Sailing on, the ships came off the banks and shoals of Sofala, when the Moor, by signs, warned them to keep a look-out for danger ahead. Standing out to sea, the shoals were passed during the night. Shortly afterwards they sighted another sail ahead, when the Saint Raphael, edging out to sea to prevent her escape, quickly got up with her. The boat being sent alongside, two blacks—cafres, as the Portuguese called them—were brought on board the Saint Raphael. Immediately a boat was dispatched to Paulo da Gama's ship to bring a black, a native of Guinea, who sailed with him, that he might interpret. The blacks, though from opposite sides of the coast, perfectly understood each other, showing that at that period the language of Congo extended from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean.
The zambuk was laden with pigeons' dung, and was bound for Cambay, where it is used in dyeing stuffs. The Captain-Major gave the blacks biscuit, salt fish, and wine, which they ate and drank with evident satisfaction, not refusing the wine as the Moor had done.
The vessel called a zambuk was probably the style of craft similar to the dhow of the present day, with a high stern, the bow sharp and low, and either perfectly open or partially decked over with light planking.
The Moor, Davane—which he said was his name—now informed the Captain-Major that farther on they should come to a place of large size, thickly peopled and with much trade, and that from thence he would conduct them to Cambay, where he would load the ships with full cargoes of drugs and spices, as it was a rich country, and the greatest kingdom in the world.
The Captain-Major replied that he considered himself fortunate in having met him, and swore that he would reward him richly for the work he performed. Davane then advised him to follow the zambuk, the crew of which, being acquainted with the navigation, would pilot the ships clear of all dangers. Six Portuguese sailors were therefore sent on board her, that no treacherous trick might be played, and the same number of blacks brought to the Saint Raphael.
Although the zambuk's sails were of matting, she made better way than either of the ships. After steering on for twenty days, they arrived towards the end of March, 1498, off Mozambique, and, piloted by the zambuk, entered the harbour, where they dropped anchor in a spot sheltered from the sea winds.
On the shore a large number of houses covered with thatch and many people were seen. The Portuguese sailors were now brought from the zambuk, and the blacks, rewarded with pieces of white stuff, were sent to their own vessel. The blacks having gone on shore and reported how well they had been treated, canoes came off from the beach with cocoa-nuts and hens. The Moor Davane, having received a present of a scarlet cap and a string of coral beads, was carried on shore by Nicolas Coelho, with directions to obtain fresh provisions and to learn where the ships could water.
Davane informed the Sheikh, who acted as governor for the King of the country, that the Portuguese were making a voyage to Cambay to obtain cargoes of pepper and drugs, and that they were, he understood, Christians. Not crediting the account, the Sheikh told the Moor that he intended to visit the ships himself. It was found that many Moors were settled in the country as merchants, carrying on an extensive commerce in silver, gold, ivory, and wax; indeed, that most of the kings and rulers of these countries were Moors and Mohammedans.
After some delay, the Sheikh came off to the Saint Raphael in a vessel composed of two canoes lashed together, upon which rested poles and blankets, forming a deck, which was canopied by mats affording shade.
The Sheikh was seated on a low round stool, covered with a silk cloth, with a cushion for his feet, while his attendant Moors were squatted round him. He was a well made, dark man, dressed in a jacket of velvet, and a blue cloth trimmed with braid and gold thread wrapped round him, his drawers being of white stuff, reaching down to the ankles. Round his waist he wore a silk sash, in which was stuck a silver-mounted dagger; and in his hand he carried a sword, also mounted with silver. He wore on his head a turban of many colours, with braid and fringes of gold thread wrapped round a dark-coloured skull-cap. His attendants were dressed in the same fashion. Some were fair, and others very dark, being the sons of black women and white Moorish merchants who had for a long time been established in the country. A couch covered with a carpet for the Moors to sit upon, and chairs being placed on the quarter-deck, the Captains in their richest costumes stood ready to receive the Sheikh as he arrived alongside. The trumpets then sounded, and the sailors assisted him to ascend on board.
The Sheikh, taking the right hand of Paulo de Gama, pressed it between both of his, and raised it to his breast. He then took his seat on one of the chairs in the middle, while his attendants occupied the bench. The Captains sat on either side of him. The Moor Davane, as interpreter, remained standing and ready to explain what was said.
The Sheikh looked round with astonishment at all he saw, and expressed his pleasure at the arrival of the strangers, inquiring of what country they were, and what they came for.
Vasco da Gama explained that they were from a far-off country, and servants of the greatest king of the Christians that existed in the world, who had sent out a vast fleet to seek for merchandise, but that they had been separated from their companions in a storm, and that they were unacquainted with the land to which they were going for cargoes.
The Sheikh inquired what they would do if they could not find the country. Vasco da Gama replied that they would sail about the sea until they died, because, should they return without bringing the merchandise they were in search of, their king would cut off their heads.
The Sheikh requested to be shown the sort of merchandise of which they were in search. The Captain-Major then exhibited some pepper, cinnamon, and ginger. The Sheikh, laughing to his own people, replied that he would send pilots who would conduct them to where they could fill their ships with as much as they required, and then asked what merchandise they had brought to purchase the articles they wanted. The Captain-Major replied that it was on board the other ships, but that they had gold and silver to pay for what they bought. The Sheikh observed that with gold and silver they could obtain all over the world whatever they required, and he then requested the Captain-Major to order the trumpets to sound, as he and his people much liked to hear them.
On taking his leave, he promised to send pilots who would faithfully serve his visitors. A handsome present was then offered to him, consisting of five ells of fine scarlet cloth, five of satin, two scarlet caps, four highly ornamented Flemish sheath-knives, and a mirror.
Davane was now sent on shore to bring off the pilots, who each received payment in advance, and he then went back to obtain provisions. The Sheikh took this opportunity of cross-questioning him, and learning the force and means of defence possessed by the two ships.
Believing that they were richly-laden, and that he could capture them, he forthwith laid a plan to effect his object.
Davane did not know the whole plan at the time, but suspecting that treachery of some sort was intended, on his return on board immediately warned Vasco da Gama, and advised him to be on his guard. The Sheikh soon after sent off requesting the Captain-Major and his officers to visit him, and offering to take charge of their sick. His plan was, as soon as the boats should go to the watering-place, to seize the crews, and then, having secured them and the chief officers, to sail out, with four Moorish vessels in the harbour, and attack the Portuguese ships.
When, therefore, a boat was sent on shore, by Davane's advice, two guns were placed in her, and a screen fitted which could be raised to shelter the crew from arrows. Nicolas Coelho went in command of her, with ten seamen and twelve men-at-arms with crossbows.
One of the Moorish pilots, who was taken in the boat to conduct her to the watering-place, instead of steering for it, during the whole night led her through numerous creeks, intending to run her ashore, as the tide was falling, when, had he succeeded, she and all on board would have become an easy prey to his treacherous countrymen.
Coelho, on discovering the design of the pilot, was on the point of killing him, when, just as the boat got into the bay at early morning, the traitor threw himself into the sea, and coming up again at a distance from the boat, swam rapidly for the shore. The Portuguese rowed after him, but he kept ahead, and as the boat approached the beach, a concourse of people came down, discharging flights of arrows and stones from slings at her. This being seen from the ships, Vasco da Gama declared that he would go at once and burn the Moorish vessels; but he was overruled by his brother, who represented that their men might thus be exposed to danger, and that though it would be easy to send the vessels to the bottom with their artillery, should they do so in a new country, they would be looked upon as pirates, and the help they required denied them.
In consequence it was resolved to send on shore a complaint to the Sheikh of the outrage; but Davane declined going, on the plea that he should very likely, if he did so, be killed. It was deemed prudent, therefore, to leave the place.
Soon after the anchors were got up, and the ships were under sail, a boat came off with a white flag, bearing a message from the Sheikh, who complained of the attempt made to kill his pilot, and of his visitors going away without any sufficient cause for their departure. He promised, should anyone have done them injury, to inflict summary justice on the offender.
On this the Captain-Major ordered one Joao Machado, a convict, who understood a little Arabic, to go on shore in the canoe, and explain to the Sheikh that they had been deceived by the pilot, and that when the Portuguese tried to catch him, his people had come out with arms in their hands to fight, and that it was on account of the want of sincerity in the Sheikh and his countrymen that the Portuguese were going away. It was intended that Joao Machado should remain in the country in older that on their return he should be able, should he live, to give them full information about the people.
While the Saint Raphael was hove to, she struck upon a shoal, and was with difficulty got off, in consequence of which it was afterwards named the Banks of Saint Raphael.
Vasco da Gama, irritated at being unable to punish the chief, put the pilot in irons to prevent his escape. The wind being contrary, the ships brought up off an island about a league from Mozambique, where the Admiral awaited the return of his messenger. Machado, however, did not come back,—the Sheikh, being highly pleased at having it in his power to do so, kept him as a captive. He was also afraid that the people in the canoe would be seized and detained as hostages until the Portuguese prisoner had been returned.
It may be as well here to relate that Joao Machado, the first of his countrymen who ever resided in that part of the world, exchanged his condition much for the better. He quickly learned the language, and being honourably treated, ultimately was enabled to travel through many countries until he reached Cambay. From this place he went to others, the languages of which he acquired; and being a man of great intelligence and fine appearance, he gained the good-will of the Sheikh and his followers, and so raised himself that he was ultimately able greatly to benefit his fellow-countrymen.
There being no inhabitants on the islands, the crews landed, and Mass was performed by the two priests, the only survivors of six who had embarked. The crews also confessed and received the Sacrament, and a Mass was offered in praise of Vasco da Gama's patron Saint George.
The Captain-Major, who was a hot-tempered man, angry that the Sheikh had not further communicated with him, then took it into his head to send Nicolas Coelho back to Mozambique in a boat with cannon and well-armed men, to ask him for a pilot; and should he refuse to supply one, to fire at the Moorish vessels, and send them to the bottom.
In this, however, he was overruled by his brother Paulo. The wind becoming favourable, they proceeded on their voyage along the coast. The remaining pilot told them that he would conduct the ships to a great city named Quiloa, abounding in wealth, where he stated that numerous Christian traders resided. This he said with a treacherous design, intending, in revenge for having been put in irons, to deliver them into the hands of the people, hoping that they would all be killed.
Again Davane, who by this time could express himself very clearly in Portuguese, warned the Captain-Major of the pilot's treacherous plan.
The pilots and masters were therefore charged to be on the watch, Vasco da Gama threatening to put out the eyes of the pilot should the ship strike upon a shoal. Notwithstanding this, the pilot, even though he should die on the spot, had resolved to wreck the ships.
Sailing on, they came off Quiloa, where it was the intention of the pilot to carry out his design; but a contrary wind springing up, the ships were driven out to sea, and so, avoiding the danger, continued on along the coast until they reached Bombaza (Mombas), a large commercial city. Unable to enter the river, the ships came to an anchor outside the bar. The King of Mombas had already received a message from the Sheikh of Mozambique, saying that the Portuguese were Christians and robbers, and came as spies to the countries they visited. The King consequently, though resolved to destroy them, to throw them off their guard, treacherously sent a large boat laden with fowls, sheep, sugarcanes, citrons, and large sweet oranges, with an envoy inviting them to enter the harbour, and sending also two pilots to conduct them.
Excusing himself, Vasco da Gama sent two convicts, intelligent men, to see the city, and ascertain if there were any Christians residing there. The men were courteously received by the King, and conducted about the city by an old Moor, who took them to the house of two merchants, Abyssinian Christians, by whom they were courteously received. One of them was the next morning sent back by the King to give a favourable report of their treatment on shore, and to request the Captain-Major to enter without further delay.
On this, not believing any harm was intended, he ordered the anchor to be weighed; but on the sails being set, the ships missed stays and were being driven by a current towards a bank, when the anchors were let fall and the sails furled.
The holloaing and shouting raised by the Portuguese while performing these manoeuvres so frightened the pilots, that believing their treachery was discovered, they slipped overboard and swam to the shore.
One, however, was detained, and in order to make him confess, according to the cruel custom of the times, he was tortured by having boiling grease dropped on his body until he acknowledged that he and his companions had been commanded by the King to let the ships drift on the banks.
Returning thanks to Heaven for their miraculous preservation as it was considered, as soon as the tide turned, it being moonlight, the Captain-Major ordered the anchors to be weighed and the ships to stand out to sea. In weighing, however, one of the cables broke, and the anchor remained behind. One of the convicts afterwards reported that the King punished the pilots for running away.
Having left Mombas, they steered northward, along the coast as before, until they sighted two zambuks, one of which was captured. She had on board eighty men, and was laden with ivory. The captain had his wife on board, a very pretty woman, richly dressed, with four women to attend on her; he had besides a chest full of jewels and money.
The old Moorish captain, to whom the name of Dias was given, with his wife and her attendants, were brought on board the Saint Raphael, where they were treated so courteously by da Gama, that he completely won their hearts.
The crew of the zambuk were divided among the two ships, and ten Portuguese were put into her, with directions to touch nothing, and not to lose sight of the squadron.
In less than three days the squadron reached Melinda, situated on a plain close to the sea, and consisting of numerous fine buildings surrounded by walls. The ships dropped anchor among a number of vessels, all dressed out in flags, while flags were also exhibited on the walls, to show the pleasure the King of Melinda felt at their arrival.
Next morning a canoe came off, bringing a well-dressed personage, who said that the King desired to know what they wanted in his country, that he might send whatever they had need of from the city.
The Captain-Major replied that he required a good many things, but without the King's leave he would not enter the port.
The old Moor, Captain Dias, who had been taken out of the zambuk, now requested that he might be sent on shore, promising to bring back a report of whatever the King had to say. This being approved of, he was put into a skiff which was passing and conveyed on shore.
Captain Dias, on his arrival at the palace, informed the King that the Portuguese had escaped the snares laid for them at other places, that they had injured no one, and that he was directed to say that if leave was not given them to enter the port, they would sail away at once.
The King, evidently pleased with this, immediately dispatched a boat laden with refreshments of all sorts to the Captain-Major, requesting him to enter, sending a pilot at the same time to conduct in the ships. Vasco da Gama, however, thought it prudent before weighing anchor to dispatch Davane to ascertain the real temper of the King.
Davane accordingly went on shore in the boat which had brought the provisions, dressed in a red robe, so as to look as dignified as possible, and presented himself at the palace. After some conversation with the King, satisfied that his intentions were honest, he thanked his Majesty for the refreshments he had sent, and said the Captain-Major, accepting his invitation, would enter when the pilots thought fit.
Several persons of distinction came on board, among them the principal priest of the mosque, who was honourably received: preserves in a silver vase, and water with a napkin, being presented to him. The pilots having taken in the ships and anchored them in a secure place, they were decked out with flags. The crews then fired a salute with all their artillery, so that the very city shook. Several of the larger guns being discharged to seaward, the shots went skimming and ricochetting over the water, causing great amusement to the people collected on the beach, while the trumpets sounded and the men cheered.
When the priest was about to be sent on shore he informed the Captain-Major that he had been directed to remain there as a hostage until all arrangements were completed. On this the Captain-Major assured him that he required no hostages, as he was convinced of the good intentions of the King.
Soon after this the old Moor Dias, who had been captured in the zambuk, presented himself to the King, and entreated that he would make interest to have himself, his wife, and crew restored to liberty, observing that none of his property had been touched, nor had any harm been done them. The King accordingly sent a message to Vasco da Gama, who immediately directed Davane to take a boat and tow the zambuk, with the old Moor and all his property, to the city, and present them to the King.
When Captain Dias and the others heard this, they exclaimed, raising their hands to heaven, "May God reward you and all your company, and restore you to your country in health and safety!"
By this and other judicious measures, Vasco da Gama secured the friendship of the King. Nicolas Coelho was also sent on shore, richly dressed, accompanied by Davane, to pay a visit of ceremony to the King, who was highly pleased at seeing him, and bade him sit on the same carpet on which he himself was seated, a stool inlaid with ivory and worked with gold being placed for him.
The sagacious Coelho did not fail to impress the King with the great power and dignity of the sovereign of Portugal, whom he represented as the chief Christian monarch of the world. After the interview, Coelho was carried on board the Saint Raphael in the King's barge of state, richly adorned and gilt. The King also presented him with some fine coloured cloths, and with a ring having a blue stone set in it.
Everything the ships required was purchased on shore, and paid for with silver testoons, which went for double their worth. The honest Coelho's visit having been so successful, it was arranged that the King should have an interview with the two chief Captains. The day being fixed, they dressed themselves in their most splendid costumes, all the men they took with them being likewise handsomely clothed.
Each Captain went in his boat, seated on a chair covered with crimson velvet, with a carpet underneath, the sides of the boats being covered with rugs, on which the men sat. The boat, adorned with several flags, had also two swivel guns, and two cannoneers ready to discharge them.
A salute being fired as they left the ships, they proceeded side by side to the shore, where the King was waiting for them with his attendants, the people crowding the walls, the houses, and beach.
The King then came on board Vasco da Gama's boat, where a carpet had been spread and a chair placed for him to sit upon. The usual complimentary speeches having been exchanged, the Captains falling on their knees tried to kiss his hand, when the King made them rise, on which the crews of the boats shouted "Welcome, the Lord be praised!" The trumpets sounded and the great guns saluted as had been arranged. On hearing the trumpets the King seemed highly delighted.
The King having landed, the two brothers returned to their ships, and gave an account to Nicolas Coelho of what had passed.
The next day Vasco da Gama paid a visit to the King at his palace, where his Majesty made him sit down on a silk dais, and the same sort of compliments passed as before.
The chief drawback to the satisfaction of the voyagers was that, although furnished with a variety of provisions, they were unable to obtain flour, which was not produced in the country.